Benoît Sokal, Belgian comic book artist and creator of the adventure game series Syberia, has died at the age of 66. According to a statement from publisher Microïds (opens in new tab), Sokal died on May 28 of an unspecified long-term illness.
Sokal began creating comics about an anthropomorphic duck detective named Inspector Canardo for Franco-Belgian magazine À Suivre ("To Be Continued") in the 1970s. He repurposed a storyline from those comics as the basis for his first adventure game Amerzone, published by Microïds, in which a journalist travels to South America to prove the existence of a mysterious species of white bird not seen since 1932.
Sokal's next games, Syberia (2002) and Syberia 2 (2004), were his breakthrough, finding success years after adventure games had stopped being regular best-sellers. Starring lawyer Kate Walker, the Syberia games were a journey across Europe and Russia that showed off Sokal's gift for unusual architecture and atmospheric backdrops.
After serving as art director of Microïds, Sokal left to co-found White Bird Productions and create more adventure games like Paradise and Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals in the 2000s. None of them found quite the cult success of the Syberia series, which he returned to for Syberia 3 in 2017. Syberia: The World Before was announced in 2019, and had apparently been in development for 18 months by that point. According to Microïds, Sokal continued working on it with Koalabs Studio in the months before his death.
"Benoît contributed hugely to advancing the video game medium internationally," Microïds wrote, "through a varied and prolific output over the past 25 years."