Benoît Sokal, a Belgian comic artist and creator of the Syberia adventure game series, has died at the age of 66. According to one publisher statement Microids, Sokal died on May 28 of an unspecified long-term illness.
Sokal began creating comics about an anthropomorphic duck detective named Inspector Canardo for the Franco-Belgian magazine À Suivre ("Continue") in the 1970s. He reused a story from these comics as the basis of his first adventure game Amerzone, published by Microids, in which a journalist travels to South America to prove the existence of a mysterious species of white bird that is not he had seen since 1932.
Sokal’s next games, Syberia (2002) and Syberia 2 (2004), marked his breakthrough, as he found success years after adventure games ceased to be the usual bestsellers. Starring lawyer Kate Walker, the Syberia Games were a trip to Europe and Russia that featured Sokal’s gift for unusual architecture and atmospheric backdrops.
After serving as art director for Microids, Sokal went on to co-found White Bird Productions and created more adventure games such as Paradise and Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals in the 2000s. cult success of the Syberia series, to which he returned for Syberia 3 in 2017. Syberia: The World Before was announced in 2019 and had apparently been in development for 18 months at the time. According to Microids, Sokal continued to work with Koalabs Studio in the months leading up to his death.
"Benoît has contributed enormously to advancing the video game medium internationally," wrote Microïds, "through a varied and prolific production over the last 25 years."