EMPIRE OF THE ANTS: Crafting an Immersive Video Game from a Best-Selling Novel

In 2024, Microids and Tower Five studio will unveil Empire of the Ants, an extraordinary immersive real-time strategy game set in the infinitesimal realm. How does the team transition from Bernard Werber’s globally celebrated novel, translated into myriad languages, to our gaming consoles? Join us as we delve into the process in this article.

The Decision to Adapt 'Empire of the Ants', Once Again

Transporting readers deep into the heart of Fontainebleau Forest, near Paris, amidst a society of insects both peculiar and recognizable, Bernard Werber’s ‘Empire of the Ants’ captivated audiences with its remarkable concept, transcending generations. For Microids, renowned for adapting iconic franchises, the chance to develop a game inspired by ‘Empire of the Ants‘ emerged as early as 2000, coinciding with the release of a highly praised initial installment on PC.

This year, ‘Empire of the Ants‘ return, now on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, and with even greater ambition. ” It made sense for us to revive this project because we can now truly capture Bernard Werber‘s vision in a way that was beyond our wildest dreams 24 years ago,” explains Mathias Bugeon, Brand Manager at Microids. “Besides the technical considerations, our society has undergone significant changes. There’s a growing public interest in biodiversity and its preservation. Take, for instance, the AntsCanada YouTube channel, which boasts nearly 6 million subscribers, dedicated to constructing and observing ant colonies. Given this context, there couldn’t be a better time to introduce ‘The Ants’ to a fresh audience, leveraging the latest tools available to us.”

Turning 'Empire of the Ants' into a Game: Major Project Milestones

With Bernard Werber and Microids agreeing to bring ‘Empire of the Ants‘ to life in a video game, the adaptation work can begin. Laure Godron, Producer at Microids, explains the process: “Initially, we must pinpoint the most suitable game genre that aligns with the essence of the novel. For us, the strategy genre, which was selected back in 2000 for the first game, remained the natural fit. After all, ants are perpetually embroiled in territorial conflicts! And what better way to depict this than in real time, akin to Warcraft III, fostering both immersion and accessibility.

Next, another pivotal question arises: what narrative direction should the game take? Should it faithfully retell the entire story of the novel, or should it veer off into new territories? In the case of ‘Empire of the Ants,’ Microids and Tower Five opted to preserve the fundamental elements of the book while granting the game the freedom to articulate its own narrative. “For Bernard Werber, it was imperative that we incorporate protagonists like 103 683rd, settings such as the Bel-o-kan anthill, or pivotal events like the battle of the poppies,” explains Laure. “However, certain aspects of the novel, such as the human subplot, were deemed less suitable for integration into this strategy game.

To convey its intricate narrative, ‘Empire of the Ants‘ will communicate through a combination of gameplay mechanics, level design, and cinematic sequences, all spoken in the language of the ants and subtitled in human languages. The final significant decision for the game designers is determining the visual style to depict Bernard Werber‘s literary universe. “The decision to opt for photorealism was clear-cut,” reveals Laure, “owing to the fact that the author of the novel, a former science journalist, portrays a world that is both authentic and meticulously researched.

Respectful to fans while remaining accessible to newcomers

With its upcoming launch, the forthcoming game ‘Empire of the Ants‘ promises to be a true reflection of Bernard Werber‘s literary universe. The author, known for his passion for strategy games, has been directly involved in overseeing every significant aspect of its development. “We iterated on the character design of 103 683rd multiple times to ensure she embodies both uniqueness and realism, as per Bernard Werber‘s vision,” explains Laure as an example. Furthermore, readers of the novel can expect to encounter numerous references and Easter eggs throughout the game.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to note that experiencing the game without prior knowledge of the book will be entirely feasible and not restrictive,” Mathias emphasizes. “The story mode, lasting approximately twenty hours, is self-contained, and players can also jump straight into multiplayer skirmishes. Our hope is that players will be intrigued to explore our game, and perhaps it will motivate them to delve deeper into the novel experience!

watch the GDC 2024 Empire of the ants' trailer

Stay tuned to microids.com for further exclusive updates about ‘Empire of the Ants’, and be sure to add the game to your wishlist now on Steam, Epic Games Store and Playstation Store.


Team Microids