Format: Windows/Mac, Steam, Humble Store, GOG,

Developer: Phosfiend Systems

Of the numerous attempts to make the film Tron interactive, few have deviated from an action experience. Content mined from the movie; the light cycles, recognizers and the solar sailers are an obvious fit for a traditional game. But for a location that is so ripe for exploring, it is a wonder that we are ushered so quickly into battle on the grid.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Rez also assimilates a computer generated world. But again, astonishing as that game is; we are pushed through levels like a virtual tourist; penetrating firewalls in visceral furore. Rez may send us to synaesthesia but perhaps at the expense of recalling what happened along the way.

tron       rez

What is apparent when you first enter FRACT OSC is that the incandescent aesthetics are inspired by the above. Effulgent light boxes draw you in like a moth, but here they can actually be enjoyed at your own pace. Pools of liquid energy hum and lustrous machinery sits beneath glowing towers. They would not be misplaced in the Metroid Prime universe; on a sonically procedural planet. Surprisingly Fract is also reminiscent of Dear Esther, not in theme but in its sense of place, its verisimilitude and its effort to convey singularity with the surroundings.

You begin your journey without understanding what is required of you; FRACT does not hand-hold but is more effective because of it. Perseverance does pay off and the reward is mesmeric; you learn that the entire world is built from modulations.


The terrain is amalgamated with a giant synthesizer that the user not only traverses but interacts with and uses to compose an overarching soundtrack. Each part of the composition is isolated inside a puzzle and their completion not only unlocks other areas but also adds a phonic layer to the melody.

Phosfiend gives a nod to Myst through these enigmas but they are a lot more organic than its inspiration. You never feel funnelled into a pattern of puzzle upon puzzle, the world is interconnected with audio and visual cues, stimulating as you explore. Even when a problem does block progression the challenge is conducive to experimentation; incorrect guesses are washed away in what feels like a natural creative process.

You become immersed in metrically accented beats and spectral envelopes, elevator platforms literally rise with tonal pitches, and all of this is built with textures of sound. The whole world feels like Boards of Canada remixing John Carpenter and Vangelis soundtracks. The difference is that you control their amplitude planes and time signatures. Using these techniques is all the incentive needed to push forward, especially as these small actions build a much bigger composition.


In a stroke of genius Phosfiend have also included a separate music editor. Unconsciously, you would have already become adept at using it; just by playing through the main part of the game. The combined puzzles you solve are the bones of the editor.
Despite all of FRACT’s references, it is not a product of them. You cannot explore the code of Tron or Rez like this, there isn’t a phonic planet for Samus Aran to chart and Myst: Neon edition has yet to be released.
FRACT is something unique but it is hard to quantify; it is like a phonic art creation tool but also a music generator and then there is the exploration, the platforming and the puzzles elements.

Sometimes when we cannot articulate or convey what we experience it becomes the highest form of praise. We stumble upon the neoteric in the unknown and the aberrant, even originality and innovation are based in the unconventional. This is very much genre-less work which needs time to be contemplated and discussed.
What I do know is that Phosfiend have created something that I never knew I wanted. But now I have experienced it I need more of it.


Buy FRACT here

Buy the soundtrack by Mogi Grumbles here

Connect with Phosfiend: Twitter, Facebook, Website

Pre-vision: Blackmore

Blackmore London

Blackmore concept art

Before Metal Gear Solid ascended to eminence, one game quantified Hideo Kojima’s design philosophy. Like MGS it was heavily interspersed with film and manga references, from; Blade Runner to The Terminator, from Wicked city to Akira.

Snatcher; for devotees is the highlight in Kojima’s extensive body of work; a graphic novel that created an omnipotent sense of place through a simplistic yet engaging interface. A different kind of storytelling was introduced to the genre, one that personified an outsiders view of Japan, its traditions, its nuances and of course; Japan’s inherent quality to resemble a cyberpunk future.

To localise an English version of Snatcher would be futile; a mind just as meticulous as Kojima’s would be needed. Direct translation of the dialogue word for word would have left a chasm of ambiguity in the story. The subtleties of tonal pronunciation in the Japanese language would be lost; where emphasis is placed on ‘how’ something is said as much as ‘what’ is said. To convey sentiments accurately would be almost impossible, but I did in fact sample those details that Kojima obsessed over. Miraculously, the western release of Snatcher somehow communicates all of those intricacies, carefully and painstakingly ruminated by one man…Jeremy Blaustein.

Blackmore London

Blackmore concept art

Translator, writer, voice director and magician amongst other things, his portfolio has included seminal works such as; Shenmue, Silent Hill 2, Castlevania; symphony of the night, Phoenix Wright, Dark Cloud 2, Suikoden 2 and Valkyrie profile. If that list of games were loved because of a man demanding perfection in himself for somebody else’s work, imagine if that was channelled into his own game. That vision will be realised through his first game; Blackmore; currently seeking Kickstarter funding. Blaustein’s name is enough to warrant backing alone but amalgamated with the team he has assembled, transcends into something even more prodigious.

·         Satoshi Yoshioka; Character design for Snatcher and its spiritual successor; Policenauts

·         Motoaki Furukawa; Composer for Snatcher, Policenauts, Gradius, Super smash Bros

·         David Hayter; Voice of Snake in MGS, screenwriter for Watchmen and X-men

·         Donna Burke; Voice actor for Silent Hill and singer for MGS and Final Fantasy

The graphic adventure is about a woman named Emma Blackmore who inhabits a technologically advanced 1888 London. The time of the Whitechapel murders when the streets were bloodied by the Leather Apron, more commonly known as…Jack the Ripper. She becomes involved in the investigation of the murders with the help of her robot assistant Descartes, all presented in an intricate 2.5D.

Below is an interview with Jeremy about the concept of his vision. Speculation regarding the details of the Blackmore family and the murders are firmly coveted. The only way to uncover the Rippers identity will be to help fund the project and discover for ourselves.

Please back the kickstarter here.

Blackmore character design

Blackmore character design

What design choices are you making by using an isometric view in regards to narrative and puzzle mechanics? Will the scenes be static backgrounds or will they use 3D elements similar to Westwood’s ’97 Blade Runner graphic adventure?

The scenes will not be static backgrounds. I am not familiar with the Blade Runner graphic adventure, but the game will be made in 3D, so you can expect a degree of freedom to zoom and rotate in certain areas. The isometric view will really be used for the main game view but when the player interacts with the environment or with other characters, it will be a much closer view.

Will the ‘Ripper’s’ motivations for murder be historically accurate or refreshed for this new vision of London? If so will the murderer/murders implement the same technology that Emma uses?

 Ha, nice try, but you’re not going to trick me into revealing ANY details of the Ripper murders! I applaud you for your clever investigation tactics though!

Blackmore Prototype

Blackmore Prototype

Are Emma’s family tensions integral to story development or do they just serve as a back story?

Wow, you are good. Emma’s family tensions are an important part of her story and the player will see them played out in the game. That’s all I really want to say at this time.

Is Descartes programmed independent, to be loyal to Emma only or to the Blackmore family as a whole?

You have a real talent for asking tough questions that, unfortunately, I have to duck in order to not reveal things that I think would be more interesting to discover while playing the game. Sorry again.

Blackmore Prototype

Blackmore Prototype

1888 was a year of great innovations; will the atmosphere of Blackmore hint at greater technological advances and how would you execute that when a cyberpunk London would feel new anyway?

Yes, this is an alternative universe London and the technological advances are a bit more impressive than we actually saw in our own 1888. You can expect to see a lot of interesting applications of technology that was theorized at the time. Technology really makes possible anything that can be imagined and in the steampunk world of Blackmore, there was an earlier wave of “internationalization” that sparked a lot of creative technology.

How linear will Blackmore be? Both Snatcher and Policenauts gave the impression of a much larger world outside of the objects you clicked on, Snatchers computer database for instance created this illusion.

Yes, the JORDAN computer was something I was a very big fan of. Of course a game of this type can’t really have “freedom” but I don’t think that’s actually what people want in a game of this type. Rather I think they want to be lost and submerged within the narrative of the story. Having said that, you can expect that wrong turns in the game will lead to different ending and results so it will not be completely linear


Neo Kobe Pizza was a tiny detail that made Snatcher much more immersive. Do you plan to modify local nuances of Blackmore’s time period; the quartern loaf or staple meats such as Pheasant or Rabbit into a cyberpunk vision?

Please expect lots of juicy and fun details!

Kojima san stated that “The idea of an open world in 3D is very good, and I would love to do something like Snatcher, but I do not have the time or the means to do so. But if anyone else would like to develop it, I would love it.” Did you ever have ambitions to work on a sequel or a 3D remake like Ash 712 is building? 

Sure I would have loved to be involved with a sequel and for many years I hoped that Mr Kojima would make one. Yes, I am aware of the work that Ash 712 is doing and think it’s fantastic. It’s a testimony to just how deeply Snatcher got into people, isn’t it? That is real evidence for me about a game’s impact on people –how long it stays with them.

I see a similar thing with Silent Hill 2, the game that I was perhaps most closely and intimately involved in the making of. Starting from pre-discussions with R&D to the very thorough process of localization hand-in-hand with Mr Owaku and finally the directing of the actors in the mo-cap and recording studios. Now when I look at the continuing impact and fan devotion, I am blown away.


Pre-vision: Secrets of Raetikon

Raetikon 1

Science Horizons Survival was a primitive ZX Spectrum game released in 1984. By assuming the role of a Fly, Mouse, Butterfly, Robin, Hawk or Lion, the principles of ecology could be sampled through the interdependence of their environment.

Diagrammatic images however failed to convey the hopelessness of scrambling in the lower echelons of the food chain. Chess-like square occupation was the only interaction; a blip signifying that your animal made a successful hunt or had in fact been hunted. This was in conflict with the instruction booklet that detailed greater ambitions. The software of course could not compute these nuances and like so many games of its time; your imagination had to generate the content missing from the context.

survival final  survival 3  survival 2

Natures scramble for existence has been explored by contemporary developers of course; Might & Delight with Shelter, Krillbite’s; The Plan and Tokyo Jungle developed by Sony’s Japan studio.

But here, the Vienna based Broken Rules delivers the principles of ecology through an astonishing triangular aesthetic; powered by their in-house Ginkgo engine. The Secrets of Raetikon captures the insurmountable struggle of a bird that is not only bullied by predators but oppressed by its environment. In many ways it is about finding resolve in the bird’s fragility.

Raetikon 4

Flight is the main allure and its playfulness accentuates the tranquillity of the Alpine setting. The amusement of darting through tree foliage and riding the wind radiates innocence through the forest. Danger however is prevalent; without warning you realise the birds place in the food chain is insubstantial; the fowl can be clawed out of the sky by marauding falcons, buzzards and crows. These can smash you into a nearby rock face or drag you into razor like thistles, attempting to break free is futile as you flap helplessly in the beak of a more formidable vertebrate. There are multiple ways of overcoming antagonists, many of which are faster, stronger and more resilient; malicious predators cannot be overpowered but can be distracted by luring another animal into its territory. Other ways are to instigate a chase, coercing them into thorn bushes or prompting landslides by tugging rocks away from ledges. A sense of empowerment comes from wielding nature itself; plant alga can be fished from waters. This barbed vine is lashed around like a medieval instrument and seeking refuge suddenly turns to incursion; visceral confrontations flow intuitively as you change tactics on the fly.

Raetikon 2

The sprawling Alps exclude a map, whether it is added later on or not will have ramifications that change the experience. The layout of the world at present is extensive but map-less exploration feels fresh and captures the purity of adventuring. Looking for an undiscovered area on a diagram forgoes the revelations of curiosity but obviously the benefit is not getting lost.

Raetikon’s ecology is rich enough to endure as a study of an organic nature cycle but Broken Rules mixes a fountain of imagination with their triangular palatte. Ancient mechanisms lay dormant waiting to be revived, solid rock contains flickering glitches; suggesting the impenetrable are facades for hidden caches. Many of the Secrets in Raetikon should be discovered without illumination but highlights include the anxiety inducing Lynx which prowls with an imposingly brutal demeanour and the stoic forest; which becomes magically animated and adds another dynamic to the journey. Raetikon delivers ecology with equal ferocity and sedateness which can (and must) be used against itself and with experimentation you realize what can help or hinder.

This is an Alpha build so polish and fine tuning will not doubt enhance everything to a greater level of immersion as well as introducing more inventive ways of utilizing nature. Until then this is an exceptional piece of unique work that should be watched very carefully.

Raetikon 3

Visionaries: Tale of Tales – Experiments and Prototypes


What are the motivations for game design?

Monetary returns are an essential element, and for some the only stimuli for creation. But there are those who hold validation as an integral part of manufacture, critical acclaim and respect from contemporaries takes precedence over wealth. Nostalgia has and continues to be a potent form of inspiration; to honour heroes through tribute by replicating affecting design. In contrast, those who resolve to change the world are not concerned with imitation but crafting the unimaginable, to transcend and usurp the work of their peers. Motivation of course is often an amalgam of a number of different rationales and emotions.

But what is the impetus for those who do not fit these molds?

What drives the studio that cares little for videogame retrospection? Whose heroes are not game designers but French writers and classical artists. Designers that; reject the very game structure used for evaluation by the videogame press.

For Michaël Samyn and Auriea Harvey, who form Tale of Tales; motivation is something else entirely…

flowerlock  apartment  ThePath-GDC_IGF_2008

“We share a main purpose: to bring beauty into the world.
That, above anything else, is our motivation.
We actually applaud all efforts to bring beauty into the world. Even the most mundane and superficial. Because the modern world can be so horrendously ugly. But beauty is also humanity’s highest achievement. The capacity for the creation of beauty is the only thing through which humankind can claim a form of nobility that would justify its continued existence on this planet. Without beauty, humans may as well go extinct.”

Beauty has extensive connotations, however in this medium it is usually a visual element rather than beauty through theme or content. The baggage that comes with modern game design requires constants; scores, challenges, rewards or goals with no room for contemplation, just a barrage of visceral feedback. With the odd exception, beauty is found in quietude; in moments of tranquillity, often when interactivity is a minimum.

Min&Meer  adam&eve@quake  Ophelia-WIP-2

“When we talk about beauty in the context of our art and specifically videogames, it has a political dimension too. The deep experience of beauty gives humans a sense of self that nothing else can. The joy that beauty brings connects us with existence in a way that gives us pride, which makes us strong. The joy of beauty teaches us that we are noble creatures, worthy of respect and consideration. It opens our eyes and makes us aware of the nature of reality beyond reason, beyond words.

In the modern era, however, many people seem to have lost their capacity to experience beauty. We are not educated for this purpose anymore as money and efficiency have become the rulers of our existence. The thought that many millions live and die without ever experiencing beauty is horrific. What a waste of human life! As artists we want to contribute to a solution by offering beauty in a form that is accessible to people. We believe videogames provide such a form.”

fatale-wind  bientot_grey  glm00

During Christmas 2013 Tale of Tales offered a tangible means of experiencing this beauty. For six days only the Belgian based studio lifted the veil on the company to celebrate 10 years as digital developers. ‘Pay what you want’ for a collection of experiments & prototypes, a rare opportunity in an industry where ideas are coveted and shrouded in secrecy. Spanning 18 titles; the package contains examples of the studios philosophies; from their initial inauguration to their 2006 Realtime art manifesto, from the Notgame rejection of modern game design to the recent Beautiful art program.

This body of work is a cache of tests that have evolved into notorious releases; The Path, Luxuria Superbia, Bientôt l’été, Fatale, The Endless Forest, The Graveyard and of course 8. Other curiosities include animated screen savers, an autonomous character engine and nude character skins for Quake.

Highlights include:

Min & Meer

Charming diminutive scenes set to a buoyant soundtrack by Gerry De Mol and Eva De Roovere. Interactive images include 1960’s Batman, a bookshelf super imposed with goldfish and Sean Connery, clocks also hold a commonality between each act as an exit into the next. The work features Dutch texts which Michael informed me are about “family life, having children, love in an aging couple.  It’s very moving especially because such subject matter is very rare.” Even if you become lost in translation the whole experience is joyful and captivating and these themes resonate through interaction.

The kiss  TheBridge  BeautySleeping

Grow world

A mesmerizing study of behavioural patterns in plants. Lina Kusaite part designed leaves and flowers which are redolent as myriad forms. Interaction is minimal which forces you to look and marvel at the spectacle. Leaves resonant as stained-glass windows, Blooms drip and fall in liquidity whilst other florets take on the shapes of parasols and wind chimes. Powering all this are industrial cogs motoring away to induce growth, all bathed in a celestial bleached light.

The apartment

A sparsely furnished studio at night contains silhouettes for the inquisitive. Each object turns from a blank shadow to a fully detailed representation once selected. The furniture can also be seen correctly in the reflection of the apartments windows. A dear head, a briefcase and a computer, amongst others instigate a dialogue between the owner and the observer; a similar dynamic from the objects found in Bientôt L’été.


An animated version of John Everett Millais famous painting. Commissioned by the National bank of Belgium, this resplendent screen saver changes with the time of day and season. An internal clock causes a woman to resurface every hour from a lake, in contrast to Ophelia’s inevitable drowning in Millais painting. The attention to detail is remarkably evocative as Koi and Jellyfish swim around as if waiting for the woman to re-emerge.

vernanimalcula  dramaprincess  the endless forest


Luxuria Superbia is a deceptively simple title that has you ‘colouring flowers in a garden’, it is heavily suggested through text that you are actually pleasuring the device you are using. This work however controversially speaks to an audience that some would say is strictly adults only. The content of eroticism and stimulation by touch washes away with those who approach it with innocence…children. To a young child who has not yet learned to read there is no provocative text (which can be turned off anyway), just brightly coloured imagery of boats, feathers and birthday cake, and the fun of joining dots together. These Flower/lock prototypes are part of the research and development that led to Luxuria Superbia. It is fascinating to sample something that could have easily been a licentious, vulgar experience, instead of the masterful design that communicates on numerous levels.


The game that has endured an evolving Tale of tales, beginning with the inception of the studio this ambitious project (a unique take on sleeping Beauty) has been 10 years in development. Still, the intrigue has not diminished; 19th century orientalist paintings, a first person view of an autonomous character and a point and click/analogue interface. What is most interesting is the different versions of a game that you still cannot touch yet and how they relate to the changing philosophies within the studio.

vanitas_match_3  groWorld  LostMemories

One thing that becomes apparent from prototype to finished work is that Tale of Tales craft like sculptors (Auriea being one). Their designs are not realized by adding more but in stripping away the inessential, to reveal the true forms of their ideas. Game conventions are eschewed and inserted only if they incite the vision further, not because they are expected.

Tale of Tales have worked in an environment where their exertion is often misconstrued. For 10 years they have surrendered to a vocabulary that does not recognize their foresight. Appraisals that award scores by how well conventions can be replicated, but not how they can be demolished in search of the undiscovered. It is easy to be over-protective of this medium, of its history and of its pioneers, but I believe that we will gain more from the thinkers who stand outside of it. Intellectuals who see the medium not as entertainment but as opportunities to explore the boundaries of interaction.

This body of work is not a collection of videogame demos, but a sketchbook for the advancement of an interactive medium. It is an anthology that should be archived as a milestone; when the videogame evolved to accommodate a broader meaning or was left behind in pursuit of something else; a “practical embrace of the unknown, of mystery, of beauty.”

Vision: Mirror Moon EP


Santa Ragione is affixed with a statement; ‘Micro game design studio’. It is almost certainly referring to the size of the two-man studio that Pietro Righi Riva and Nicolò Tedeschi helm. To avoid confusion however perhaps it should be rewritten as “Macro game design studio” as a clear distinction that their ambitions are more expansive than their tagline indicates.

As curators of the exceptional Lunacade; an international exhibition that has visited Shanghai, Sydney (with Bryan Ma) and Milan, they have promoted work from efficacious developers such as Tale of Tales, Die Gute Fabrik, The Chinese Room and Terry Cavanagh. Most recently showing their support for the impending LA Game Space by creating 90’s movie search em-up; VideoHeroeS.

It is important to note the role the duo play in supporting their peers as they deserve to be celebrated as much as the studios they endorse. People who are sampling their latest work seem to agree, a saturnalia is taking place online inside a subastral explorer named Mirror Moon EP.


A tightly designed options screen introduces an obtuse cockpit; the insides of a spacecraft where switches and levers are poised without label or explanation. After fumbling around for a while, the curious are rewarded with accidental progression; and inadvertently launched onto the face of a red planet.

The studios design philosophy seems to incorporate a penchant for restricting freedom, but as a means to focus not hinder: Fotonica’s forward sprint fixated on jumping through duotone abstractions. Pipnis; a shooter with dual spacecraft joined at the hip concentrated on teamwork. Mirror Moon presents a familiar FPS layout only with the aim locked in trajectory at deep space. The obligatory weapon is replaced by a bizarre instrument. There is no official term for the tool but “key holder” and “power arm” was used in development, preferred over the inevitable ‘gun’ reference. Personally I was expecting something more fantastical like; ‘celestial speculum navigation imager’ but key holder is probably more catchy.

Exploring the landscape provokes a sense of loneliness, manifesting as you try to grasp an understanding of your locale and your role. The impatient or incurious might want to abort the search, but the colour palette evokes hypnosis; coercing you to roll the giant sphere beneath your feet. As your gaze is firmly anchored to the ether the planet’s surface is barely in view, but on reaching them; figurations pulsate and ghostly architecture looms vitreous on the horizon, opaque or transparent depending on your knowledge of it. The eclectic structures in Mirror Moon are not only mesmerizing but house something important; attachments for your key holder.


A revelation comes through discovering that distant moons genuflect to your commands, your key holder fires signals which reflect back onto the ground you walk. This creates a generative map that lights the way to points of interest. Moons can be plucked out of the infinity, spun and repositioned, essential for the completion of the planets puzzles.

Little by little you uncover the intricacies of space. You familiarise yourself with the nuances of the cockpit; a star chart teases an expansive galaxy, urging you to search wandering stars and decipher enigmas. Single player simultaneously induces feelings of uncertainty and (initially) a craving for guidance. The longing for companionship becomes palpable as you witness striking vistas that you want to share, players only come into unison however through the multiplayer component of Mirror Moon.

Exploration is still singular, but the knowledge that others are simultaneously probing feels comforting. Forums are awash with oracles, speculative coordinates and imagery of space tourism, all the impetus needed to be first to land on a undiscovered planet, and whoever does; gets to name it, it transforms the experience into quests of camaraderie and produces a collective effort. Newcomers fearing a galaxy already discovered are given updated ‘seasons’ which make room for new pathfinders, the previous seasons planets forever engraved by the names their venturers chose.

In previous work the studio paid homage to the anatomy of the book in The Dustjacket. Users were tasked with finding the minutiae of print; publisher logos, typefaces and cover art. Even though this takes place on a couple of shelves in a room, there are parallels with Mirror Moons expanse; discovery, attention to detail and accomplishment. Santa Ragione wants us to look at things that might go unnoticed, whether that is a book, a constellation or a developer (Cardboard Computers; kentucky Route Zero has its own planet). Maybe the ‘Micro’ statement is accurate after all, a hint that Santa Ragione pour over details as devoted micrologists?


LA Game Space: Inaugural experiments

Daniel Rehn and Adam Robezzoli are poised to change the future of videogames.

The doors are not yet open to their cultural hub for art, design and research but LA Game space is already a seminal venture for neoteric thinking. Their Kickstarter campaign was the epitome of benevolence; securing backers with the creation of 30 never before seen games by coveted developers. Incredulously, a $15 pledge would capture original work by the designers of Hotline Miami (Cactus), Mirror Moon EP (Santa Ragione), Katamari Damacy (Keita Takahashi), The Unfinished Swan (Ben Esposito) and Canabalt (Adam Saltsman) amongst other established creatives. Higher pledging tiers included work by Adventure Time’s creator; Pendleton Ward, Capy’s; Vic Nguyen and pixel artist Eboy.

Sony and Microsoft have both recently embraced indie developers in a bid to capitalise on more protean experiences. Such mainstream exposure is extremely positive but their success will largely be determined by an open-minded consumer, who dares to support ideas outside of the typical AAA space.

image image image

LA/GS is certainly equipped to bridge the familiar and the empirical. The inaugural release of backer dividends has just been delivered and the results are astonishing. The types of experiments offered here are inventive and divergent, imbued with a creative freedom not found in most games. If this is a reflection of what we can expect from the space then we are witnessing an important revelation in the advancement of the videogame.

This venture was always conceived to sustain a global conversation (events will be streamed and archived for free online), The conversation is not only integral to pursue innovation but also to demand a metanoia towards experimentalism. There is always an expectancy that ‘next gen’ games will resemble skyscrapers, that tower over the previous, but that is habitually reserved for graphics, not necessarily theme or content. Polished facades can usurp the promise of a new console turning an investment in the future into a tool for re-visiting (and re-purchasing) the past.

image image update25-coureur_des_bois

LA/GS will stand with a firm commitment to modernism and the credentials of its benefactors galvanize this; Adam Robezzoli lionized games both as an events organizer and as a designer. The presiding founder of Attract mode has also collaborated with illustrator Angie Wang on Wake up! which will appear in a later game pack.

Daniel Rehn is an authority in digital archaeology and preservation, the restless MacArthur award winner also fluctuates between editor of WWWTXT, ANI GIF, Z/Z/Z/, and Playpower. Rehn further extends himself by sharing an art space with Sarah Caluag; X me + Sarah, collaborating with live visuals and real world installations. Sarah’s contribution to LA/GS is understated; working behind the scenes as an advisor but possibly as a third (shadow) partner in the venture? Triforce or not, together they are an influence in exploratory thinking, showcasing demiurgic minds and contemporary visions.

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The advisory board for LA/GS solidifies a discerning reputation. A provident ensemble of mentors; from the amiable Venus Patrol and IGF luminary Brandon Boyer, to the accomplished jinsoo An; curator, researcher and ‘experience’ architect for myriad blue chip companies. They lead a meticulously thought out counsel that will bring lucidity to the creative output.

In an ideal world, the critical and commercial success of a game would not be determined by how accurately it repeats what has been made before, but in its ability to amaze through the courage of originality. The work created here is a bold example of thinking rather than reveling in plagiarism. Hopefully these types of ideas will inspire or amalgamate with the big budget monoliths, so future investments can be based on imagination rather than the tried and tested.

image image image

For now though there is a clear distinction; the next construct of AAA architecture will have us gazing up, amazed by their splendour. I am confident however that LA Game Space will prompt us to look in all directions, and that is more exciting and much more important to advance the medium.

The experimental game pack can be purchased here for a limited time.

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Vision: Bientôt l’été (Pc/Mac)


“The boundless space of the whole universe is literally a library containing all thoughts released by humankind.” Napoleon Hill

In my previous interview with the Tale of tales creator; Michaël Samyn, his opinion regarding the terminology we use in videogames still assimilates my mind; “…these words (game, fun and play) would not suffice to convey the ideas behind the creation of Bientôt l’été or the concepts and feelings explored in it. This is why I am half-considering asking journalists not to review Bientôt l’été. There doesn’t seem to be much point to talk about it in conventional game terms. Not that I think it is so immensely different. I think many videogames have suffered from the minute vocabulary that the games press generally employs.”

If this was a standard review; the obligatory comparison of graphics, sound and gameplay would be measured to other games. If that analysis was conducted however, you could not quantify this experience; especially as it nestles outside of the parameters typically used for evaluation.

space mirror

The vision opens by a desultory journey through space, amidst planets of fire and gas. From the confines of an isolated orbital station you interact with a program; one that simulates a beach along Earths French Atlantic coast. You are an astronaut but on this beach you are personified as either Un Homme or Une Femme, awaken from cryogenic sleep.

Your avatar faces an ocean, its tide washes phrases from Marguerite Duras novels around your feet; “The air is burning.” “Your body will be taken far from me and I will die from that.” “Sometimes during the day, I end up imagining myself without you.” Depending on your sentiment they manifest as a collection of headaches or as a portfolio of infatuation. A building on a distant sand bank houses opportunity for their use, externally a metamorphosis of myriad colonial facades, internally; a dainty cafe replete with a chess board and a jukebox playing French Chansons. It is in this cafe where Bientôt l’été reveals its virtues; communication with all of its intricate dialects.

You indulge in virtual conversations with another avatar, which can be seen on the far edges of the beach where code meets planets. In the cafe they appear as online holograms or (offline) computer A.I. The phrases washed ashore serve as your vocabulary, supplemented by drinking wine or smoking, playing chess or simply listening to the jukebox.

space bench

“If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.” Paulo Coelho

You could be mistaken for thinking that Bientôt l’été is nothing more than an infinity loop. Walking from the beach to visit the cafe and then back to the beach, but what you feel in Bientôt l’été is more important than what you do. There is something within it that makes the pressing of buttons or even controlling a character seems arbitrary, because the fundamental interaction of Bientôt l’été is mind based.

Tale of tales have succeeded in drawing out your internal voice; that mental chatter within a person’s mind that generates thoughts and desires. Your attempts to transmute this ambition with your partner in the cafe is the real gameplay of the vision. The crux of this is a suggestive language that is found in Marguerite Duras novels; a language based on silence, the unspoken that nestles between a persons words. It encompasses body language and the symbolic movement of material objects. To understand it is to acknowledge that even when we are silent we are still speaking; through our eyes and facial expressions, even sipping a glass of wine can imply more than words convey. At first these emotions seemed fueled by imagination, but your emotional investment is actually based on personal experiences; reflections of past relationships and existence.

The sentences on the beach are neutral until you give them meaning, the open expanse of the beach works in unison with the ocean and infinite space to elevate them into your highest ideal, regardless if your intent is to fill them with positive or negative affirmations. The sprinkling of piano keys from Walter Hus accentuates sunrises and sunsets to compress emotions even further before you enter the cafe.

chess words

“To say ‘I love you’ one must know first how to say the ‘I.'”
Howard Roark

The cafe is aphoristic, your emotional intelligence dictates if the location is intimate or claustrophobic. If the beach let you dream about longing, your partner could leave you loathing them. On the other hand if your intent was to bring animosity, a conversation has the potential to leave you amorous; the complexities of love and hate reveal their inconsistencies both good and bad.

The other element that can change a conversation is random apparitions on the beach. Ranging from a flowering magnolia tree to a deserted tennis court, their appearance might seem obtuse but they are never fantastical. At the heart of these lay collectibles; predominantly chess pieces for use in the cafe. As a common gameplay element, collecting has had its importance removed here for the better; a hollow victory of a crown is awarded for full completion. When a gun is found however; it makes a bold statement to be placed down in front of your partner, much more so than any generic target we usually fire at. The apparitions themselves are about connection and your feelings towards them (even if they are perhaps Michaëls memories) , this makes their appearance more important than the act of collecting, which is genuinely refreshing.


Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn created an application called Wirefire when they first met, before Tale of Tales was brought into fruition. It was a program that embodies the emotionalism here. This is truly a eulogy to their relationship, imbued by Laura Raines Smith’s animation work, by which they were both motion captured for the avatars. As much as it is theirs however, I would say that in all honesty, if not selfishly that it is mine because I chose to fill it with my own emotions. Of course it can be anyones who chooses to do the same, whether that attachment is mentally, verbally or silently. Bientôt l’été is not a game, it is a resplendent emotion engine. Please support it here.


pink beach grid lighthouse pier

Crown of Creation

Everyone's gone to the rapture Memory of a broken dimension playchess

proteus Tengami the last guardian

We have an opportunity that some perhaps are not aware of. It is always prevalent in our lives but emphasised more so over the holiday period, especially with the influx of videogames vying for our dollars. To fulfil this potential requires a different mindset; a flexibility within our own personal habits. This opportunity is the ability to shape the gaming landscape, long before we see the effects.

There are visionaries amongst us and they walk in directions none of us knew existed. These are the innovators who build with only a desire to imagine new spaces, to see what can be achieved. But the most poignant sense of insecurity comes from standing alone and when a man or woman is armed only with their ideas, it can be arduous to realize their ambitions. The risk of failure is overwhelming; the burden of achieving commercial success without diluting self-integrity verges on the insurmountable. Furthermore the prospect of a non-receptive audience could eat away at a creative soul, inflicting risk aversion; turning a fluid mind into a stagnant, cautious one. Despite all these obstacles however, they forge ahead; defiant with unwavering courage, tenacious in remaining self-motivated against any adversity, and all because of what? So the visionary can make what sometimes seems impossible…games that we have never dreamed of.

Bioshock Infinite AAMFP_screenshot_22 swan 5

30 stanley hotline-miami

Who are these people? They are the great minds who formulate diversity while others rehash more of the same. The craftsmen who construct the unique and neoteric. Most incredulously, theirs are the concepts that you might avoid because they may appear obtuse next to other videogames.

Look at these images, and ask yourself; are these designs from people who sought the safety of bankable concepts, or are they from fantasists who want to know what is in the void of the medium? Our opportunity is that at any given time we can choose to indulge in this genius, simply by interacting with it.

As users of this instrument shouldn’t we all want to know what else is out there, to fulfill our curiosities? But as much as we say we want innovation, do we really support it?

I am under no illusions that people like what they like and there really is nothing wrong with that; nostalgia, sequels and annual updates of franchises have their place in the market. But know this; the future is not conceived from regurgitation or plagiarism, it is in something that you didn’t know you wanted, when people thought and not copied, when imagination manifested into something tangible. The artist who dares to bring outlandish ideas into fruition not only changes the medium, but also our lives.

The Witness journey Antichamber01

Fotonica4 pop 1803.flower

It is naïve to think that the masses will suddenly leave their comfort in search of some obscure game they do not understand or enjoy. But it is also naïve to think that progress comes from repeating what we already have, that an imitator should be held in higher regard than a thinker.

I feel the real barrier that consumers face is that they are failing to see what they are really playing? If this is true I would like to make a suggestion:

Play everything, all that you love but also play anything that you can get your hands on. Sample those, for whatever reason, you would normally avoid. Find the cause of your ignorance. How do you really know what you relate to if you only play the same games? The more you sample different content, the more you will start to notice patterns of repeated ideas in most games. You will start to understand what real innovation is rather than the incremental updates that are repackaged and sold to you as new. Your opportunity is to disregard your inhibitions and jump into what you are unsure about, because in every unusual screenshot or atypical idea might contain the sustenance you crave.

What does it feel like to explore conversations inspired by Marguerite Duras?

How do you use a reconstruction tool to navigate a fragmented landscape?

Where would you walk in your last hour of an impending apocalypse?

These are questions from minds which are more important to them than remaking what we already have. Arent there questions we want to know the answers to as well, outside of what we have seen?

At A Distance screen Among the sleep soundshapes_1

esther0074 Sportsfriends noby noby boy

This is not a pretentious ploy to hold the games you see here as superior to others, I do not feel quality can be accurately measured, it is just a personal opinion. These opinions unfortunately, suppress most of the ingenuity of unique games; and by only comparing graphics, sound and gameplay, what happens to the themes that do not fit into these categories, how are they evaluated?

What I care about is that those who try to show us something different are not damned for having the courage to do so. If that means nothing to you then maybe the videogame will remain as a disposable plaything. For many however, the medium is the most unique tool of expression available to us and we want to see where and how far it can go.

If you want to support an innovative future there are an abundance of tools at our disposal; Steam, PSN, XBL, all have free demos. To sample unique content visit Free indie games and the experimental gameplay project. To support developers directly back Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight projects and perhaps the most important; for those who want to question what a videogame is, visit Notgames.

Our opportunity as consumers is that we can shape the mediums landscape every time we purchase a game. We give consent to keep it in the past or we allow it to grow into the future. I along with a handful of developers would like to see and feel things we never have before and we hope you do to.



Everybody’s gone to the rapture, Memory of a broken dimension, Bientôt l’été, Proteus, Tengami, The last guardian, Bioshock Infinite, Amnesia: A machine for pigs, The Unfinished swan, Trip, Stanley parable, Hotline Miami, The Witness, Journey, Antichamber, Fotonica, POP: Methodology experiment one, Flower, At a distance, Among the sleep, Sound Shapes, Dear Esther, Sports friends, Noby noby boy, New untitled Keita Takahashi game

Prevision: Tengami (ipad)

*Unreleased Concept art

If you have not yet travelled to Tokyo and experienced the burgeoning metropolis, amidst the neon paradoxes and glass architecture are pockets of sobriety; manicured gardens and shrines. They serve as the antithesis to the accelerated pace of the city. These restorative Eden’s are to reflect and slow down, to ponder the relentless influx of sensorial information. Tengami feels like the iPad equivalent of these gardens, the repulsion against the attention deficit apps we hysterically swipe our fingers through.

Envisioned by Phil Tossell and Jennifer Schneidereit, their UK-based company Nyamyam was actualized on the virtues of quality and attention to detail, cultivated from time at the former Nintendo devotee; Rare.

For their first foray as independents they have positioned themselves as paper engineers armed with delicate precision. Tengami is a movable book inspired by Phil and Jennifer’s Japanese excursions, manifested through a shifting visual surface replete with pull-tabs and pop-outs. The fastidious qualities of Japanese paper (washi) are felt with every opened fold and provoke the same carefulness needed for the tangible form. Esteemed recently as an indiecade finalist and as part of the official selection of Sense of wonder night, Tengami’s liquid sandpaper aesthetics are captivating all who touch them.

What perhaps isnt evident in the game is the subtleties of the creator’s dispositions. There is a kindness to this work, fused with carefulness and restraint, Nyamyam want you to be affected by their sources of inspiration; to get inside of the Japanese folklore, the trees and the water, for you to feel what they have felt. If anything, Tengami is a reflection of Jennifer and Phil and their generosity towards their audience. I have had first hand experience with this through a private meeting at TGS and now with the amiable donation of exclusive concept art (which has not seen light outside of the company). Tengami is not about clamouring for the most in-app purchases or cashing in on a 5 minute hook. It is a gift for the user to be alone with themselves to contemplate their surroundings, Nyamyam’s greatest talent so far is to capture benevolence and give it to the world.

Phil was kind enough to discuss some of the intricacies of the development process:

*Unreleased concept art

Please introduce Nyamyam’s philosophy; what do you want to achieve in the industry and what do you think needs changing?

I think there’s two parts to answering this question: what we want Nyamyam to stand for as a company and what we want Nyamyam’s games to achieve.

Whenever I hear the word ‘industry’ applied to games I instinctively recoil. I think this is because the word ‘industry’ conjures up in my mind vivid images of William Blake’s dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution. Days when factory workers were coerced into working inhumanely long hours, all in the name of progress, when of course what they were really doing was making other people very wealthy. And in some respects from what I’ve experienced in my latter years of mainstream development it really feels like not all that much has changed. You may as well substitute ‘game studio’ for ‘mill’. And so in many respects, Nyamyam was born out of our response to this overbearing, stifling and exploitative environment. We wanted Nyamyam to be more of a creative collective than a traditional company, a place where like-minded people can come together around projects that excite them, but without necessarily supplying a long-term commitment. For example, perhaps someone finds Tengami exciting, but what we do after that they don’t. It makes no sense to me to tie people into companies. Parenthetically, I think the way modern companies are setup and run is anachronistic and an unfortunate hangover from the early days of industry, and I really think it needs to change, particularly in the creative space. But I think most of all we wanted a place where everyone is treated and rewarded equally according to the amount of work they contribute to the games.

In terms of what we do, Nyamyam has a simple ideal that we strive for. That ideal is to create beautifully crafted games that express our individuality as creators, whilst also touching people’s lives in a thought-provoking and considered way. These ideas of individuality and provoking thought are central to why I make games. The conventional view in much of modern game development is that people can be commoditized and made to fit in convenient boxes, mostly so that marketing and business people can decide how we make things that will make these groups of people part with their hard-earned cash. But I refuse to see people that way. I believe people are wonderfully intelligent, complex, emotional and utterly contradictory, and so any attempt to fit people in boxes always fails because people are so complex. It’s these inherently human qualities that we want to appeal to with the games we make. Tengami is essentially us saying: “here, these are influences that have profoundly impacted our lives, we find them amazing and wonderful, and we hope that you do too”.

As Tengami is a self-funded project how much creative freedom do you retain amidst the pressure of needing commercial success, was external backing ever a consideration?

Creative freedom was one of the primary reasons that we chose to start Nyamyam in the first place. It is my firm belief that you can’t have creative freedom without financial freedom and it’s naive to expect that you can. So we were adamant from the beginning that we were going to do this fully on our own terms and take the financial risks ourselves. I think that those people who desire creative freedom, but expect someone else to pay for it are being naive at best, and charlatans at worst. If you do not believe in your own vision enough to put at least some of your own money behind it then I would suggest that it might be better to do something else instead.

Of course, this creates an element of pressure, knowing the clock is ticking and the money is running down, but I think this also helps you maintain a focus on what you are really trying to achieve. It’s important to us only that we make enough money to continue doing what we want to do, beyond that money and financial success is of no concern.

The construction of Tengami originated by learning how to make Pop up structures. Are there ideas that you have or want to include that aren’t physically possible to reproduce in paper form?

Paper is a frustratingly hard material to model using computers. It has so many interesting properties; you can tear it, cut it, fold it and curl it, to name but a few. So in part choosing pop-up was a slightly pragmatic approach since pop-up books are typically constructed from very sturdy card that doesn’t fold or bend easily. This is out of necessity owing to the mechanical requirements in pop-up construction. In the initial ideas phase when we were considering paper more generally we did look at these other properties of paper, but decided that they were mostly incompatible with pop-up books.

There are times when we construct a pop-up where it wouldn’t be strictly possible with real paper. Mostly due to the fact that the real paper wouldn’t be sufficiently strong to pull up another part of the pop-up. We model the pop-ups using a purely analytical mathematical solution. There is no physical simulation involved which means that the computer has no concept of the forces necessary to make a pop-up open and whether these would actually work in reality. But we do try to keep the pop-ups as authentic as we possibly can so that you would be able to re-create them in real life if you wanted to.

Whilst studying paper mechanics did you just settle on transformations or have you incorporated volvelles and tunnel book techniques as well?

I hadn’t actually heard of volvelles until you mentioned them, so I had to go and look it up! Volvelles and tunnel book techniques are certainly possible within the framework of more traditional pop-up books, and I think we have plans to incorporate more rotational elements like volvelles later in the game.

Overall though, we wanted to go for a ‘pure’ approach to pop-up books. Pop-up books in their simplest form only support a few key elements and we chose to do this with Tengami as well. We felt that this was in keeping with the overall philosophy of minimalism that the game has.

Has there been experimentation with the destructive qualities of paper as a gameplay element; tearing or cutting for example?

Early on in development, before we had settled on a final direction, we considered all the various qualities that paper has, and this included cutting, tearing and burning. During the process of refinement we kept removing more and more concepts to make the game simpler and more focused, and we ended up with only three primary mechanics: movement, pop-ups and pull-strips. We felt that fully exploring these was more than sufficient to make a compelling game.

With Tengami, we very much adopt a reductionist design approach, with all of the design, the art and the music. Often when you’re making something, the most difficult part is cutting things out. You end up with so many great ideas and you really want to show them all to the player, but its folly to do this. It’s better to keep cutting and cutting until you are left with the absolute minimum possible to make the game out of. Then, if you need more you can add them back in, but it’s rarely the case that you do need more. It was also important to us that all aspects of the game lined up, that the art complements the gameplay and vice versa.

How important is narrative? Tengami would be effective as a contemplative experience without a story.

The term narrative is a remarkably complex one and replete with many different subtly varying meanings. Recently I’ve been reading a book “Narrative and Consciousness” that brings together many different ideas about the importance of narrative to our sense of self. And in reading that it’s greatly expanded my ideas around what narrative is and how powerful it can be. In essence narrative is simply a logical sequence of temporal events that have importance and meaning to us either as individuals or collectively. I think so far that most games have tried to co-opt the explicit narrative approach of films, where the player is regarded as a viewer rather than a participant in the unfolding drama. Whereas I think we should be taking a more experiential approach like music or dance. For example, conventional wisdom says that music doesn’t really have a narrative, but rather the narrative derives from the listener’s own interpretation. The listener creates the narrative, and this approach seems to me eminently more suitable to games. Games are played, they are experienced, and the narrative is derived by the player through that experience. My favourite game of recent times, Limbo, does this extremely well; there is no story to speak of, only the events that happen to you whilst playing the game. And yet in my mind I have a very strong narrative associated with the game through a combination of the images, music and things that I did whilst playing it. With Tengami we try to take this experiential approach to narrative. There is no explicit story, only impressions from which the player can construct their own narrative.

How will the touch mechanics be incorporated in the PC and Mac versions? Have you thought about exploring a Wii u version, the game pad and the TV screen could make some interesting possibilities?

When we began pulling together the ideas that would become Tengami, we had decided from the outset that we wanted to make a game for touch and specifically for the iPad. This decision is what led to incorporating pop-up in the first place.

For some while we were adamant that the game would only work on touch devices and that we wouldn’t consider releasing it on other platforms. But it became clear after a while that there were a considerable number of people who didn’t have an iPad who were excited about experiencing Tengami. As a creator I want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy what I am creating and so we decided to look into the feasibility of making a desktop version. I think that the final game will still be best played on a touch device because of the tactility that it provides.

The intention with the desktop versions is that the mouse will replace the finger. The mouse already has strong corresponding analogies for the actions used in Tengami, so it should be a fairly straightforward transition. For example double tap can be replaced with a click and swiping can be replaced by dragging. Of course we need to validate these assumptions by actually testing them in the game.

It’s interesting that you ask about a Wii U version. Only last week we had a conversation with Nintendo about the opportunities available for bringing Tengami to the Wii U. The Wii U would definitely be a good fit for what we’re doing, so although we’ve not given any extensive thought to it yet, we are definitely considering it.

*Early concept render

Which design traits learned at Rare have been embellished at Nyamyam?

I think in many respects the design approach to Tengami is almost a counter reaction to the design approach that I saw at Rare. I very much like to reduce and simplify, whereas much of the design at Rare involved adding, often to the detriment of the final game. I considered much of the design at Rare to be too obvious, too much geared towards treating people as children rather than adults. This is not meant to be a criticism per se, since the games we were making were targeted at a younger audience. It’s just that these are not the kind of experiences that I want to make now.

What I did learn at Rare was how to make games, and more importantly how to make exceptionally high quality games. There was an extraordinary craftsmanship to the games that Rare made that very few games studios, even to this day, can replicate.

We discussed that you don’t really play that many video games anymore. Is that because they feel like work or more because of what the industry currently offers?

When you consider the short amount of time that we have available to us in life, I think it’s important that we make best use of the time given to us. This was really brought home to me a few years ago when my mum passed away suddenly from cancer. It made me think long and hard about what I should do with the time given to me. And so I feel that for me to want to dedicate the time to play a game, it has to be something exceptional, which will leave a lasting impression on me. There are so many other wonderful things to experience outside of games: art, architecture, literature, travel. So games have a tough set of competition for my attention. These days I get a lot of inspiration from art and architecture.

Vision: The Unfinished Swan (PS3)

The conjecture when facing a blank canvas makes for a poignant introduction. The environments we step into are usually pre-fabricated with refinement and lustre; to captivate and hold our attention.

The Unfinished Swan inaugurates a white space poised with a central reticule; it wants you to surrender with an impatient button press. Any provisional ideas of exploring negative space are immediately abolished, without some kind of reference point there is no sense of movement or progress. The inevitable yielding launches an insolent black ball of paint; the staining of its target brings a revelation; the appearance of surrounding structures underneath the void. It is a remarkable sight and it sets the temperament of its shooter; the competitive will quickly race to uncover a way out, the completest will reveal the integrity of the structures and the stunned will just stand there, beguiled by the possibilities.

The linearity of your path is equipoise by the freedom to reveal your pathway, there is no limitation to the amount of ink you command, but self-restraint creates an appealing impressionistic view of the landscape. The opposite effect is throwing copious amounts of black onto black which renders everything invisible again. Despite the world’s pre-existence behind the emptiness, it is an ambit you have uniquely revealed. It is all too easy to disclose the intricacies of both the story and the visions, but the central mechanic excels by stumbling upon the wonders rather having an anticipatory mindset.

As you progress; shadows introduced to the emptiness accentuate edges of constructions, the architecture almost begging not to be spoiled by your dye. The developers (Giant Sparrow) later indulge in this unblemished vista by replacing your ink cache with spheres of water. The spectacle of seeing water thrown onto white is arguably more appealing than ink; flirting with insights of the locale and then evaporating into nothing.

In contrast to the initial elucidation, pre-rendered buildings are presented bathing you in a haze of relaxation. The unhurried pace and minimal aesthetic is a pleasure to traverse, reminiscent of a lazy Mediterranean town in the summer. This departure from the opening however has been controversial. The introduction of auxiliary mechanics and change of graphical integrity had some critics unconvinced, citing a mismatch of ideas usurping the opportunities that could have been explored. It is a valid point but does not diminish cohesion, The Unfinished swan is clearly introduced as an imaginative bedtime story. The interrelation of conducting ascendable vines to the latter creation of geometric blocks fits within this whimsical realm of magic, giants and Floating airships.

The Unfinished swan may have been more impactful following its initial concept but Giant Sparrow should be applauded for exploring diversity over the one visual trick, and perhaps this departure makes that aesthetic even more potent. There is a simple exploitation of traditional game proponents which unifies conviviality, such as walking over a maze instead of through it. It is not innovative but it supplements the simplicity of the puzzles, they are completed effortlessly and feel congenial rather than taxing. Like the visions of relative contemporaries; Thatgamecompany, to whose work this will be compared, restraint is needed from revealing too much.

Ultimately The Unfinished swan takes a stimulating game mechanic and offers eloquence, nurtured through the warmth and buoyancy of its story. It’s virtues lie in the enchantment of a unique atmosphere and this ambiance keeps you seduced until the credits roll. Ian Dallas, Max Geiger and the rest of  the Giant Sparrow team have somehow bottled vivacity; inimitable energy pours from bleached buildings and crystal waters, they serve as conduits of peacefulness, for you to get lost in, for you to uncover reverence.

Hindsight: Tokyo game show 2012

The dust has settled over the Makuhari Messe convention centre, home of the Tokyo game show. An event to showcase new ideas and ingenuity; the creation of the future and the unimaginable. In hindsight the future was nothing but deja-vu; reminiscent of a prosaic E3 earlier this year. TGS’s main floor was replete with the sequels and micro extensions of franchises found in previous years, all vying for consumer attention. The obliging crowds queued feverishly, not for the creative thinkers however but for the imitators; games already played in some incarnation or another. The lack of basic self-questioning from attendees was bewildering, a simple ‘what am I playing and have I played this before?’ would have redirected hour+ queues to the creative integrity of something like The Unfinished Swan.

Thankfully TGS’s outlet for lionizing innovation was the presentation of SOWN (Sense of wonder night); it brought some much-needed originality to the event and stood as an advocate of individualism.

Objectives of SOWN:

  • To introduce games with a game design and ideas that are experimental and creative, and that cannot be called conventional or traditional
  • To heighten awareness of the importance of creating a game that gives people a “sense of wonder”, a sense that something will change in their world, and to invigorate the game industry
  •  To offer people creating experimental games opportunities for the future
  •  To create new domains in the game industry

Those objectives would make an exemplary template for the whole of the Tokyo Game Show and for E3 for that matter, rather than the plagiarism that filled 95% of both spaces. For that to happen a different mind-set would be required from both the developers and the consumers; where ques were formed for ideas not seen before, rather than the incredulous fraud that seems to be blindly followed each year.

These were the visions of developers that were unique and offered something neoteric


A company made of former Rare developers delivered understated elegance in the form of Tengami; a paper engineered pop up adventure capturing the tranquility of Japanese romanticism.


Ezra Hanson-White’s superlative first person work, proved to be the most unique of the show which can be read in a previous feature here.


A Tokyo University of Technology project designed by Masasuke Yasumoto. The work earned an award from Microsoft Japan for its stunning light based interaction.


Shortly due for release by Giant Sparrow, this unalloyed wonder captures the imagination through its paint throwing mechanics.


Takayuki Yanagihara’s visceral lazer show delivers hectic ball play through a touch pad interface.

Prevision: Memory of a broken dimension (PC/Mac)

What was the last videogame that left you completely immobilized, when you stood before something incomparable, that defied categorisation? Questioning not only what was happening visually but how you felt within the atmosphere it generated? The type of sensation that is usually reserved for something unprecedented; like those key revelations that chart the advancement of the videogame.

The summation of my writing has been to ask a simple question; is the videogame still evolving? I search for that answer without equivocation, Ezra Hanson-White of datatragedy has responded to that question and his answer has hit me like a brick.

Originality and innovation are two of the most abused words used in the gaming press, permeating fickle scores and hollow reviews, I would like to use those terms with the sincerity they deserve. This is what originality looks like and how innovation feels, this is Memory of a broken dimension.

Part of the official selection of SOWN (the Tokyo game show’s Sense of wonder night). MOABD’s theme and content, surprisingly, has originated from real world elements. This may seem implausible unless your vocabulary consists of; Hyperspectral imaging, or erudite ramblings of the heliosphere and solar radiation bursts. The images here depict oceans of static transmissions, of information broadcasts and the mining of data, data inspired by NASA’s interplanetary footage amongst others.

Ezra has created a first person tool that allows you to tune into broadcasts, radio signals that need exact synchronisation to capture images. These images forge a landscape which you traverse and explore. The slightest directional movement fragments the similes and you are constantly re-evaluating where you are. The sensation is like having infinite epiphanies; not understanding anything around you but for fractions of seconds; everything solidifies and becomes clear. Tuning in TV channels seems appropriate, but imagine walking inside of them as you are doing it. The feelings this generates are often antonyms of one another; shades of claustrophobic openness or relaxed intimidation. Most of the time I did not know what I was viewing but what I recognised, or thought I recognised was all the compulsion needed to see more. Videogame history has a lot of diverse experiences, but I have never seen anything like this. It is fitting that MOABD was featured at a Sense of wonder because that is exactly what this is; a sense of wonder.

Ezra divulges some more information on this already exceptional work in progress.

Your vision is about radio propagation and hacking into satellites to view data signals.
How did this idea materialize?

Its been a slow process, the first bits of inspiration were from experiments with 3D modeling tools, shattering primitives and mapping textures to the camera’s viewpoint. A couple of years ago I started writing design thoughts down in my sketchbook, up until then I had no habit of doing so, over time I began noticing how different fragments of ideas actually tied together with prior ones. That led to the concept coming together as well as discovering how my creative process can work.

MOABD received astonished reactions at the Lunacade exhibition in Sydney. Some of the audience did not know what it was or what to do with it. I view this as a positive thing, we don’t hear that very often; videogames are often derivatives of familiar sources. Was the distinct aesthetics something you imagined or are they true to the source of satellite signals?

It’s cool to consider the aesthetics as being true to the source of satellite signals, thinking of how glitched out data can look when the methods of reading it are unknown, but overall the aesthetics are imagined. Some inspiration comes from the deterioration introduced while making copies of copies, like VHS tapes or types of compressed audio & video. Other things like NASA space footage interrupted by solar radiation bursts, buffering artifacts of late 90’s 160×120 RealPlayer streams at 5.3KBps, half-emulated features of systems.
I’m wanting to get the entrancing effect of watching a fire or waves crashing, fields of tall grass billowing in wind. I’m probably also chasing expressionism or even impressionist ideas, but I don’t think the visuals are there yet, experimental visuals are something I want to see more of in games and interactive media, maybe when Geometry Shaders are standard in all hardware?

Interaction generates a bizarre feeling of travelling immense distances but equipoise by not really moving. A Loss of signal makes the world disappear leaving only the wire frame grid around you. Does the world solidify as you tune into it or is it constantly unfastened?

Most of the world is fragmented and as the user synchronizes with it, becomes physically interactive. I’m playing with having certain rules where parts of the world break apart again when out of range (inspired a bit by WiFi signals). There’s also places that overlap in the same point of space with the user tuning between them. The level in the Lunarcade build is pretty claustrophobic, there will be wide expanses to balance the experience.

How are you going to explore narrative and what do you want to communicate? As the visual elements are so effective is there a danger of diluting the experience with more ‘game like’ elements?

Currently I’m approaching the narrative as a kind of alternate-reality device. The user is interacting as themselves, as they would at their computer. Running the game is fictionalized as running an emulator, the user is booting into an obscure operating system where a haunting PSX-era chime would seem fitting on startup. They scan directory structures for hidden files, exploring the software contained inside while unveiling its purpose. Then the emulator establishes phantom connections beyond the local network and strange things occur…

There isn’t a sense of cutscenes explaining narrative or the Player playing as a character, which is something I had planned on doing at first. I’m a huge FPS fan, ever since finding wolf3d.exe on a shareware disk in the mail, so it seemed natural to treat it entirely like an FPS- disembodied hands walking into the character’s living space, walk up and activate the computer…dive into screen… it probably would work fine but the thought of treating the game as an emulated system just stuck in my head. I like how it wraps up all the common game-stuff, menus and things, and makes them fit into the fiction.
The funny thing is, I added view bob, which helps make it feel even more organic and reactive…so who knows, maybe I will end up putting some disembodied hands in (Fotonica nailed awesome VR hands), maybe part of it ends up being a game in a game or a scientific virtual reality research tool…?

What developments have you made from the code you previewed at

I’ve been busier with work recently so I haven’t gotten too many major developments, overall just making adjustments based on feedback and also working towards having a set of different interactions that I can structure levels around. The Lunarcade build didn’t include any form of a map system so that is another thing I started prototyping. Since I work on the project in spare time, development is either at one extreme or the other depending on what is happening, crazy accelerated binges or just slow & steady progress.

I am intrigued by a question you posed in the TIG forum: “What if you could access any range data transmission. What is out there that is being studied and not public knowledge? (+ a ton of fictional stuff). Could you elaborate on the relationship of the real world based elements mixed with the fictional?

I feel like I need to restrain myself from elaborating, it’s a mix of real world elements that I’m pulling from, random things you hear from science journals, about the heliosphere, clouds of galactic fluff, the cosmic background radiation, etc. Then the reality that a lot of stuff is transmitted in the electromagnetic spectrum almost invisibly to us, using various devices to observe specific ranges. Researchers use techniques like Hyperspectral Imaging to view into the earth and detect various minerals, similar techniques are probably being used to analyze material on the surface of Mars right now and observe behavior of the Sun.
I guess fascination with stuff like that started with radio when I was younger, that all these different stations can be accessed from a point in space from a small device.. In some ways microscopes had a similar effect, I’d take a sample of muddy water from off the street, drop it on a slide to track down and chase all sorts of weird objects swimming around. I never found out what the different things swimming around were, I didn’t care, all that mattered was that they were in a tiny drop of water pulled from a bigger puddle of water, what else was in the puddle that I hadn’t discovered?
That kind of captures where the question came from and what the fiction of the game floats around with, I’m hesitant of how thorough it will be explained in MOABD, overall I’d just like it to be a contemplative experience that doesn’t over-explain itself, the mystery and strangeness is important for the type of experience I’m creating.

You have expressed that you want the user to feel like they are using a tool. Is this a tool for general observation or will it be imbued with emotional content?

The introduction to computers and DOS had a sense of unknown that was new to me, you’d type in commands and not know what would happen, trial and error, digging around in directories and trying to get games to run with boot disks. The introduction of the internet made this all even more mystical, does the information superhighway exist on this AOL trial disc, what is this thing, a new type of CD-ROM dictionary? The weird sense that your computer is connected to the entire world, what? The internet is pretty common to many people now, and I’d like to create an experience that has a bit of that unfamiliar-technology mystique. So, much like the first time running minesweeper.

Phonically the vision sounds like you are inside an electrical storm, is this purely the sound of the apparatus or do you want the experience to be menacing?

A mix of both, I want the audio to enhance the impact of the visuals, so it is more on the imaginative side, I have no idea why the user can hear all this noise! So far I’ve been avoiding putting in common sounds that would be identifiable a lot of the effects come from FM synthesis which I really like for the digital sharpness it can have. The Lunarcade build was pretty menacing sounding, looking back at it I’d want to make parts of it more serene, I don’t want the experience to be too abrasive all the time and wear down the user.

The menu screen is a really effective introduction, it feels like pirate television. Have you experimented by exploring that as a gameplay element in itself?

Currently the command-prompt style menu ties everything together, the plan is hitting ESC at any time drops out to it, where various programs can be accessed. I’d like the user to have a sense of multi-tasking. Like you’re chilling in a neo-Houston control bunker watching the telemetry feeds and piloting a craft, all while your virtual shadow hangs submerged in the data streams and packet-loss exhaust extending from it…!
The user might have to delete files or rename things as a gameplay element, there is a lot that I want to explore, the map system for example is inspired by the concept of defragmenting drives.

What lessons have you learned from Protekor and PRΔY that you have applied to this project and what do you hope to explore in the future?

Protekor started from a prototype done for Drawing theme in Dec 2010, it was the first project I took beyond prototype in Unity, I used it to learn a lot about Unity’s workflow. It turned into a fun exploration of what I consider classic arcade-style balancing, all the waves and difficulty ramping being algorithmic based on the Player’s performance. PRAY is still a super-early prototype, I’m looking forward to continuing with it at some point, it is also a project that I’d use to explore procedural generation in level design.
MOABD has a bit of a generative approach, mainly with the visuals and audio. The visuals are chaotically shifting and organic, different results occur for different players dependant on their position and changes to the environment. The audio behaves similarly, with aspects of it subtly modified by the Player’s mouse input velocity. There’s a chance I might introduce more generative or systemic design into the game, to me, that is one type of perfection in design to strive for. The game that you can keep coming back to that plays out differently each time but behaves under a known set of rules, I’m not sure if MOABD is the perfect fit for that, maybe the next project…

Early experimental footage.

Prevision: Bientôt l’été (PC/Mac)

Michaël Samyn has made numerous attempts to explain what Bientôt l’été is. Through his development blog the co-owner of Tale of Tales (Auriea Harvey is hard at work on the game: 8) has tried to convey the intricacies of his vision. Not because the work is ambivalent, but because he knows the audience can be capricious at times; nestled cosily in ‘more of the same’. The future of the videogame, for many, must be imbued with the familiarity of traditional ideas, thankfully, Michaël questions that conformist attitude. With inspiration from the novelist Marguerite Duras and her work in Moderato Cantabile he asks us to think and feel.

Bientôt l’été is a program that simulates a fictitious beach on the French Atlantic coast. An empty beach for reflection amidst ocean rhythms, where ideas are crafted and relationships are contemplated. This cogitation manifests into a collection of feelings which you can keep or discard as you wander. Sauntering the stretch of sand uncovers the underlying fabric of the program; data structures and a view of interplanetary firmament. Day and night cycles dramatize the setting, accentuated though an emotive soundtrack by Walter Hus. Set back from the shoreline is a single café which houses metaphors for communication through the internet; that our bodies exist externally of it but our minds forage resolutely inside. A conversation transpires; loaded words shrouding their true intent revealing myriad interpretations and torrents of ambiguity. The cycle of visiting the beach and café continues ad infinitum albeit with subtle changes, but what you do in Bientôt l’été however is almost insignificant next to what you feel and what you can find internally.

I asked Michaël about the minutiae of this current project and what he hopes to achieve with it.

Your development blog explores design concepts that you have wrestled with in bringing Bientôt l’été into fruition, I felt it has given me an extra layer of depth to the experience. How much does your audience need to know about the concept before they play it?

I hope not much. If only because I don’t know exactly how to introduce Bientôt l’été to a potential player. I’m not sure if reading the blog would be equally helpful to all. Some players might enjoy the piece more knowing nothing. Others, of course, may not connect to it without some help. And yet others would enjoy it more deeply if they knew more about the concept and/or the creation process.

Given the references to Marguerite Duras, I can imagine that people familiar with her novels, films and life would enjoy recognizing some elements in the game. Or they might be disappointed that Bientôt l’été is not as good a work of art as the material it draws inspiration from.
There is no perfect way to optimize the enjoyment of everyone. I hope people give Bientôt l’été a chance, perhaps multiple times, in different moods.
The development blog is intended only for people with a more than average interest in this sort of work. I’m hoping that they can function as evangelists of the piece towards people who are less inclined to such deep involvement but who might still enjoy the experience.

It seems very much about the user’s perception of their surroundings; you do not present distractions but opportunities to create feelings. Has this been hard to achieve, are there concerns that the user is usually too busy to notice the space they inhabit?

The creative technology that has emerged out of the combination of computers and games, still has some growing to do. If you make games in this medium, there is a lot of excellent material that can serve as reference. A history from early arcade games to contemporary console blockbusters, but also card, board and folk games that have existed as long as man has, and of course puzzles and sports. But if you try to make something artistic or expressive with this same technology, it’s a lot more difficult to find references. It’s much easier to make a computer version of chess, than it is to make something along the lines of The Birth of Venus or Die Walküre.

Given the medium’s heritage of games, and also some of the inherent quality of interaction probably, one of the major problems when doing the kind of work that we do is to avoid creating opportunities for rules-driven play. One of the tricks you can use for that is the notgames method: reject all game conventions. But this sounds easier than it is. First of all there is a certain doubt about the player’s capacity to enjoy themselves if we don’t give them a task to do or a goal to move towards. And then there is also the inclination that humans seem to have to turn just about anything into a game.

Humans like competition and they like the feeling of achieving something. But the kinds of activities that lead to such emotions can be detrimental to the experience of beauty. Playing tag in the Louvre is not exactly the best way to enjoy David’s paintings. Collecting as many tickets as possible will probably not help you enjoy a concert much.

So I’d say that this has been the hardest part of the design of Bientôt l’été: to design forms of interaction that complement the mood and the atmosphere without stimulating game-like behavior. One the major revelations that I have had during the development of this piece was that the answer to the question “What should the players of artistic interactive pieces be doing?” is simply “Nothing.” If you create a world and characters and an atmosphere that are intriguing and attractive, people can enjoy them for what they are. Sometimes doing an activity can enhance the feeling of presence in this virtual world. But I think one should be very careful when implementing such activities. And always keep in mind that nothing is probably ideal.

You have said that you have felt uneasy about introducing collectibles into Bientôt l’été. Has there been a desire to deliver your ideas through a Trojan horse so as not to alienate the user?

The problem was actually that it was all too easy to introduce collectibles! The collection activity was part of the early ideas about the design. What has been difficult is removing it. And I haven’t succeeded completely.

We have tried the Trojan Horse approach with Fatale I guess and it didn’t really work for us. Gamers are not fooled by random game-like structures or references. I think they appreciate our work much more if we don’t compromise, if we strive for a sort of purity, if we really go all the way and deliver something that one cannot call a game anymore, in the strict sense of the word. After all, most gamers also like other things than games, don’t they?
The game references are also impossible to appreciate for people who have no experiences with videogames. And we still cherish the dream of creating videogames for people who do not play them.

Ultimately, if Bientôt l’été is a Trojan Horse, the player will have to bring their own Greeks. Because I didn’t put any in it. Bientôt l’été is what it is. There is nothing behind the curtain.

I believe you want us to ultimately fall in love, but in what way? I felt attached to the idea of love through the beach, the holodeck and the soundtrack in addition to the stranger in the café.

I don’t really want that. It was just something I said early in the development. Something, perhaps, I aimed for in the beginning. Not for the player to actually fall in love, but to play with the avatar in such a way that it perhaps falls in love. But I have more or less given up on that tangent. Because I feel the theme of love is approached from many different directions in Bientôt l’été. It’s not just falling in love, it’s also breaking up, or not feeling love, or being confused by love, or desiring love.

Ultimately I don’t have any concrete expectations of how the player will end up feeling through playing. Even though the words and music are carefully chosen to create a rather specific mood, what Bientôt l’été ultimately means to a player will depend more on their own life experiences than on anything in the game. Bientôt l’été is a system, a device, a tool that gives opportunity to look into one’s own heart, to reminisce memories, to consider existence.

As in Marguerite Duras’ novels, you place an emphasis on what is ‘not’ being said in-between the conversations the user has. Is the unspoken supposed to manifest on the beach as more ideas to take back into repeated visits to the café?

That’s a nice interpretation. The text that appears on the beach is all sorts of things to me: distracted musing, doubts about what to say, memories of what has been said or of former relationships, etc. The kind of messy thinking that the violent winds at the Atlantic coast cause in one’s head. Reality still very much happens in between what is being said. This is how amorous conversations seem like a kind of games. You can only really do symbolic moves and hope that your partner understands the emotions behind the gesture and responds in a way that pleases you. When Marguerite Duras refrains from saying something explicitly, I don’t think she is being coy (not most of the time, at least). I think she deeply believes that the not saying or the saying of something that doesn’t seem directly related, more correctly expresses the emotions, the intent, the desire, the love. She was obsessed with precision. Her words are the closest possible expression of the feelings, even if they seem imperfect, incomplete, inadequate or absurd.

If nothing else, her words, and hopefully the way I use them in Bientôt l’été, make one aware of the fact that the literal meaning of what is being said covers only a small part of what is going on. It is a very sad state of affairs if we believe that language is our only connection to reality. To accept only the existence of things that can be said is sad and potentially dangerous. In that sense, pointing out the charming inadequacy of language, pays tribute to the richness of existence. And what nobler goal is their for art?

From following your blog I cannot separate the creator from the creation. I view Bientôt l’été as: An artist creating a love story through the means of his audience creating a love story. Have you thought about your role as a creator within your own vision? All of the elements the audience generates emotion with, have been created by you.

I see my work as a form of sharing. Since we are all human here, I assume that there will be some overlap between my life and that of the players. So I hope that they recognize certain emotions or concepts. But they will no doubt also invent new ones, that I may not share with them. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is the experience of the player. Bientôt l’été is not a tool to help understand its creator. It is not an expression in that sense. I see it more as an investigation.

I think that is one of the reasons why I like this medium so much. It puts creator and appreciator on an equal level. And the artistic experience really only happens when we collaborate. I make something and you do something and it is through your energy that the work gets electrified, so to speak, that it becomes alive and beautiful and meaningful. This is true of every art form, but much more concretely so for realtime pieces running on computers.

There is a strong autobiographical basis to Bientôt l’été in the sense that I met the love of my life on the internet, and we have done many attempts to meet each other “in cyberspace”. I am also very familiar with the kind of seaside portrayed in the game as my family lived near the North Sea in Belgium and we visited often when I was young. But I don’t see Bientôt l’été as an expression of these events and experiences. I don’t have anything to say about them. They simply come natural to me. They are more material than content.

So even though many elements in Bientôt l’été come directly out of my own life experience, I do not feel that the work is about me in any way. I feel very impersonal as an artist. I don’t feel like an individual. I feel more like a conduit for things that happen outside of me, a channel. I believe Elizabeth Grosz expressed it well when she called art a sort of framing of chaos (which is the word she uses to describe raw existence, encompassing everything, far larger than anything in the human scale – hence the need for frames).

Would you be interested in creating an augmented reality version of Bientôt l’été? The user could use real world elements such as walking on an actual beach with the projection of the phrases and the holodeck through AR glasses.

In principle, no. Because I think we already look at reality far too little. Reality is amazing as it is. I don’t want anything to cover it up. I would like my work to inspire a new way of looking at reality. But preferably in sequence, not simultaneously.

It’s a cute idea, though. I think it would also be interesting to use the audio of the game to respond to your position on a real beach. It might be a nice thing to do next to playing the game or walking on the beach. But I would be horrified if it would replace the latter.

It’s also quite essential for me that the scenery in Bientôt l’été is synthetic. It is presented as a holographic projection. I would not want to reduce actual reality to such a charade. And I think the game is more meaningful with this layer of falsehood present.

What do you think of the terminology we use to describe this medium you work in? Game, fun and play seem quite limiting to convey the ideas you are exploring here.

I do use those words. There is a game-aspect in all art. And fun could be used to describe all sorts of enjoyment, if a bit irreverently. Play is a very useful word because it has been far less tainted by the games industry than the word game. We can still easily imagine many forms of play. But you are right that these words would not suffice to convey the ideas behind the creation of Bientôt l’été or the concepts and feelings explored in it. This is why I am half-considering asking journalists not to review Bientôt l’été. There doesn’t seem to be much point to talk about it in conventional game terms. Not that I think it is so immensely different. I think many videogames have suffered from the minute vocabulary that the games press generally employs. The players have missed a lot of great experiences as a result of this, and the developers have been pushed into a Metacritic corner where they lack the energy and the courage to emphasize anything other than what can be reviewed as graphics/mechanics/sound effects/narrative or what have you.

The medium I feel I work in is not video-games, in the sense of games made with computers. My medium is that technology that video-games also use. And its (potential) audience. The more mainstream videogames are deviating from strict game structures and fluctuate towards a more general entertainment medium, the more overlap starts to exist between what we do and what they do. Our work has probably more in common with contemporary mass market blockbuster videogames than with hardcore retro games or clever puzzle games.

It’s a bit annoying that we are stuck with the word “videogames” for this medium, but we will just have to get over the literal meaning of that word and embrace the broad reality that it already represents. That will take time and effort.

Do you think the medium needs more diversity in themes and content? We know how to effectively build zombies and soldiers etc. but what about the things we do not know how to build, who is exploring those and are they important?

The zombies and soldiers that the games industry creates rarely convince me. Most often they are just pawns or tokens on a virtual game board. They do not really function as the creatures they represent because they are created as visualizations for otherwise abstract tokens in a game system. I don’t know a single videogame that was actually built around the idea of what a zombie really is, or could be imagined to be. They just use the poor zombies as something to shoot on.

I wouldn’t want to encourage everyone to try to use videogames as an expressive medium. If people are drawn to creating games, they should just do that. They shouldn’t feel pressured into making art. I do find it a problematic that some of these games use realistic looking presentations. Because it is easy to mistake such games for actual expressions. They look like art. And that is confusing and misleading.

But I do hope that people who really feel the need to actually investigate certain topics or create beauty for others get more opportunities to use the medium of videogames for this. And I think the games industry would be wise to open its arms for such people and create methods that allow such people to do their work. Because they will enrich everything, open up videogames for all of humanity and establish that coveted respect that videogames will never earn if juvenile action hero fantasies remain the central output.

I am still hopeful that at some point the console makers or the big PC game distributors will get their act together and understand that they should pour massive support in this project. Just imagine AAA budgets for videogame productions that are not about playing with guns or dolls! Mind-boggling! Revolutionary! I don’t understand why the videogames industry does not see the massive potential of such a venture. If one of them realizes this, the impact will be huge. In the mean time, we can keep an eye on what the small developers are doing and simply support them as players. If they don’t end up infusing the larger industry with more diversity, they will simply become their own thing at some point. And probably grow so big that all but the hardest core will forget about that thing that was once called games-industry.

You have stated that you want to stop being an artist and to produce for other people rather than yourself. Don’t you think that you have already been creating for others; even inadvertently, through realising your own ambitions. What you have been doing is important to the advancement of the medium.

I feel flattered that you think so. And I know that there have been a few occasions where our work has inspired the design of videogames that reached a much larger audience. But I would like to see if I can’t make something on that level myself. I’ve always more or less accepted that I’m simply too weird to ever make something for anyone outside of a small elite. But through the work on Bientôt l’été, which I consider one of the most extreme cases of elitist game design I have been involved with, I have started to think of overcoming my handicap as a sort of challenge.

Maybe I’m finally old enough to be mild and kind now. Maybe I’m just sick of rebelling. Maybe this is just a phase. Or it’s simply a form of vanity. This change in attitude may not make much of a difference to anyone but myself. I just want to make something nice now. Try to avoid my contrary nature and make something that people find pretty and fun, something that moves them without having to be very erudite or jumping through all sorts of ambiguous hoops. If only for a change.

I guess I also feel that I can do this now, because there’s so many more developers now than ever who are exploring this medium in sincerity and with ambition. Only a few years ago, it probably felt like a holy duty to me to make these kinds of experimental videogames. But now there’s several very interesting developers exploring the underwater part of the proverbial iceberg, from many different directions. So I can relax a bit. It’s very exciting!

Through the output of Tale of Tales both Michaël and Auriea have certainly earned the right to relax. Bientôt l’été however you interpret it stands as a testament to two innovators who fell in love through the internet; whose lateral thinking is often the subject of misconstrued sentiments. In my search for neoteric thinking I have not yet found the Howard Roark of videogames, but Michaël Samyn exudes many of his qualities. When we look back on the history of this medium and of the people who helped advance it, it would be nice if those who fought conventions were encouraged rather than vilified. Please support Bientôt l’été and purchase it.

For further insight view the excellent blog and Tumblr archive (excerpts below)

Footage of work in progress:

Vision: TRIP (PC/Mac)

If you could walk through the mind of an artist would you need distractions to validate that exploration?

Quests, stories and collectibles prompt our journeying and ultimately sustain our desire to ‘win’, but what if there were no pursuits or anecdotes and what if the feat of collecting didn’t return any tangible assets? The foundations of traditional games rely on the inputs of interactivity; jump, push, pull, hit etc. and there is a tendency to disdain visions that do not tick these boxes. But if the obstacle courses and challenges are removed, why would you need them? If we reduce interactivity to a minimum would we still label the work as a game?

TRIP is the projected mind of an artist named Axel Shokk, and it explodes through the screen in aesthetic delirium. The creativity Shokk has explicated on-screen is startling and officiously stands atypical next to other games. Riotous hues punctuate the senses with geometric spikes and impossible stellations, even blades of grass are composed of bar charts that sway gently in the wind. These visuals demand your attention by force feeding you colour and Shokk emphasises this through a pared down interface. Your sole interaction is movement in first person, there are no quests or challenges. You have to look at TRIP because that is all there is to accomplish, but more importantly, that is all you want to do.

LSD Dream emulator, Myst and Journey inspired to deconstruct the controls, leaving only the chromatics and audio to play with. “If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have been bold enough to strip all gameplay mechanics, games like those pave the way for creative individuals to try new things. I’m just one of those guys trying out something new just for the sake of experimentation.”

There is a creative resonance here with the experimentation of early ZX Spectrum games; like the obtuse forms found in Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner. TRIP features familiar yet Ineffable characters with unique personalities. I question if a lot of this creativity has been lost in the pursuit of realism? “There was a creativity drought in the industry not too long ago, thanks to the recent explosion of indie gaming I see a lot more creative and fresh ideas being tested. These are very exciting times in the world of video games.”

Shokk has stated that Trip is more of an art piece to be observed rather than a game with traditional gameplay. But as developers such as Tale of Tales and The Chinese Room have proven; observation can be a powerful form of interaction, and isn’t the act of discovery a gameplay element in itself? “I strongly believe so, however the audience is still hung up on what constitutes a game. One of the reasons I created TRIP was to shake that ground and bring up the question, at what point can something be considered a game? I’m trying to open boundaries for other developers to get crazy without worrying about backlash, I feel games created in a ‘fuck it’ mentality speak most to me. I don’t think that these games will ever have a broad appeal, but I would rather make one person extremely satisfied than to mildly amuse a hundred.”

In a medium that does not have any real limitations it is hard to comprehend that imagination would not have a broad appeal. The landscape in TRIP inspires curiosity and exploration and there is a fervent desire to see what is around the next abstraction. From caverns and mountains to the brilliant sea of words, TRIP is a cohesive view of the familiar wrapped up in arbitrary geometries. There are sparse collectibles but Shokk states they serve no purpose, even though reaching them inadvertently offers a reward; a new view of the landscape.

If there is one thing missing it is the ability to see the whole of the terrain in its entirety, no matter how high you climb there is a desire to see more, the central mechanic of souvenir would serve the game well if only to accomplish this. Shokk had various ideas he wanted to incorporate to accomplish this; “I actually wanted several mechanics in TRIP like NPCs taking you places and showing you things, I was very limited by my complete lack of programming so I had to improvise. A lot. I’m slowly teaching myself programming so hopefully at some point I will be able to provide a much more interactive experience.”

This also expands into making TRIP open to user-generated content. “Oh how I’d love to, but I’m not sure how moddable Unity engine games are. If my dream of having a development team comes true I’ll definitely make the majority of my games open for user-generated content. I got into game development by making unreal maps and half-life mods.” As an incentive for a succesful kickstarter bid, Shock offered to create an area in-game under the backers specifications. It would be interesting to see various parts of other people’s minds amalgamated together.

The glue that binds this world together is the soundtrack, it is quite buoyant and upbeat but manages to deliver an ominous feeling over the abstract imagery. “My good friend Benjamin created the soundtrack, he suggested to create a melody that would be cohesive throughout the whole game. I told him to go for it, when he started the game world was kinda bare so I sketched up sound waves and gave him a list of key words that would inspire what each song would sound like. For example the city area I sent Ben images of sewers, metal, industrial areas, and gave him keywords like clanging, banging, clicking and to imagine an oppressive sound of steel and machinery.
When he showed me each track I was blown away at how well it fit the game world. He’s a real talented individual, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his friend!”

Critics have been trying to shoehorn TRIP into the appropriate mould and the difficulties with the term ‘game’ rears its head again; “The response has been mixed; thankfully most critics seem to praise the visuals. They find that TRIP works better as a piece of digital art than as a game.” I can’t help feeling that Digital art is misplaced, if only because traditional ‘game players’ might brush TRIP aside incredulously . We are familiar with all of the elements present here; the viewpoint, the type of landscape, spectrums of colour… so the only non-game like component is structured activity. As I said at the beginning, do we need distractions to validate exploration, TRIP is an opportunity to traverse the mind of an artist, does it need to be anything else?

What can we expect in the future From Axel Shokk? “My next project is Kat Attack, an action-oriented visual novel. I want it to be like an interactive motion-comic. It’s not nearly as experimental as TRIP is but I’ll be putting my storytelling and cartooning skills to the test, you’ll see a lot of my illustrative work in this comic which is something I’ve been meaning to show. Hopefully proving that the visual novel is a medium with a lot of potential.
Kat Attack takes place in a dystopian future as a space rock opera, centered around Kat – a space pirate wielding a guitar cannon which she also uses to surf through space with.
I will try to get this project kickstarted sometime August so keep an eye out!”

Check out Kat Attack’s development blog.

Prevision: Among the sleep


In Hamar Norway, Krillbite studio quietly works on evolving the first person space. Among the sleep is a unique vision that ventures into the hallucinatory depths of the imagination. Touching on Achluophobia (fear of the dark) and hinting at Automatonophobia (fear of anything that falsely represents a sentient being) Krillbite wants to bring you to your hands and knees. Literally; because Among the sleep is entirely viewed through the eyes of a two-year old child; from the struggles of scaling household obstacles to the manifestations of childhood fears.

Adrian Tingstad Husby vehemently discusses why it is important to challenge conventions. He and the team at Krillbite stand poised to offer something we genuinely have not experienced before.


Among the sleep delivers a great hypothesis especially next to traditional First person experiences. How are you approaching user interaction, will the environment generate emotional content similar to what Dear Esther did?

The environment will definitely follow the surreal nature of dreams and imagination, constantly mixing the real world with mental elements. But our interaction is more similar to Amnesia for example rather than Dear Esther, because we want people to interact with the environment not only analytically, but also very physically – with actions like push, pull, climbing, open and closing doors and drawers. We really want to get players immersed and feel part of the world, so we are working hard at optimizing all these mechanics so they don’t break immersion.


How will the child’s perception manifest into something unsettling? Will it be through the unseen or through everyday objects that exhibit sinister nuances?

A combination of both! You will definitely encounter familiar objects that take an unsettling form, as well as creatures and environments where the imagination has twisted it into something completely unrecognizable. Some things will be clearly visible, and others might depend on you to fill in some gaps.


Everyone has these ambiguous memories of being scared when they were a child, but are any of the team parents? As a father I had this paternalistic feeling when I watched the gameplay trailer.

Unfortunately, no one on the team has their own children yet, so our firsthand experience is mainly with our nieces and nephews. But we are consulting people with both academic and practical competence on the field of young children’s development and psychology, which we hope will provide some valuable insight into these topics. I guess the paternalistic feeling is inevitable in many cases, but we hope most players will be able to fully immerse themselves and think “I should avoid this danger” as opposed to “I should help the child to avoid this danger”.


How significant is the teddy bear as a gameplay element or is it more of a companion?

Teddy will have a significant role as a story-driving companion, mostly hanging on your back and occasionally talking. But at times he will also factor into the gameplay to a certain degree. We are still playing around with these elements though, so we don’t want to be too specific on this point yet.


Please talk about your design philosophy. Why is this medium important to you and why are you exploring ideas unfamiliar to the conversant?

I’ll speak for me personally, but I think most of this reflects the rest of the team as well.

We all grew up glorifying the entertainment video games provided, and over the years it became an important and really substantial part of our childhood and personality. If we ask our parents about their childhood they light up, and I think it might be hard for many to imagine us having the same feelings towards video games. Strangely though, because I find it the most interesting form of communication ever devised by humans. Action is our basis, and the interactive nature of video games really has the potential to reflect the human mind. In other words, if I think I have something important to say, if I want to drive a change in attitude, if I want to inspire and engage, and in the end (at the risk of sounding pompous) if I want to change the world – games is an important and effective place to be!

Unfortunately, a lot is sacrificed on the altar of the industry mindset. Future civilisations will analyse our culture to decipher what we were thinking about, what was important to us, and what problems we faced – what will they find? 600 versions of Medal of Dutyfield and Angry’ville?


I think it is easy to rebuke mainstream developers for their lack of innovation. Do you feel that maybe it is the consumers who should have a responsibility to support iconoclastic ideas, after all, isn’t the mainstream just supplying consumer demands? How can we enlighten them?

I think this is kind of a “chicken and the egg” problem. The responsibility comes with power, and it’s debatable who’s got the most power in a consumer/business relationship. If consumers organized in groups with a potential for substantial impact, we could absolutely be able to change a few things. We’ve seen a number of fascinating examples of this recently, especially regarding the symbiosis of social networks and financial alternatives like Kickstarter. But big business possesses great power as well, and should not be able to cynically disclaim all responsibility without resistance. The people screaming the loudest while milking their annual cash-ins will probably continue to reach their market. But as long as the diversity of games continue to grow I’m satisfied, and we are already starting to see signs of the indie scene influencing the direction of the mainstream.

The team at Krillbite are passionate about creating for the advancement of the medium. Please follow their blog to see how they intend to do it.

For further insight into Among the sleep view some of the early concept images

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Visionary: Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Esther)


Epistolary first person adventure; Dear Esther has surpassed the 100’000 sales mark and has been a huge success. I asked creator Dan Pinchbeck about his future projects; the wildly ambitious Everybody’s gone to the rapture and Amnesia: a machine for pigs, a collaboration with Frictional games to produce their next asphyxiating horror.

Dear Esther has clearly proved that it is commercially viable to create something neoteric in an over saturated genre, especially one that typically has a gun on the screen. Was there anything in Esther you wanted to explore further or has your vision been fully realised?

I think you always have things you want to do, but they are not always suitable for a particular game, and you have to draw a line. So for me, Esther is finished- everything that needed to be there to make it work got in, and I wouldn’t add anything else (originally, Rob had added in some more traditional gameplay but they got removed again as he figured it diluted the experience too much). But you get a load of new ideas about the next game whilst you are finishing one off, so there’s quite a bit of new things going into Rapture, many of which were inspired by ideas from Esther – things that wouldn’t work in that context, but were clearly good avenues to explore.


Something I found really intriguing was temperature fluctuations in Esther, both visually and phonically. The tones of Nigel Carrington’s voice provides a type of warmth in response to the cold landscape. The soundtrack also shifts between callous and friendly depending on your location and its temperateness. Was this deliberate in order to make the audio and landscape coalesce into one?

I guess, although it’s often much more of an instinctive thing than that, particularly if you are working as a team. You always try and create a journey that has arcs, and diversity to it, and so inevitably, you are looking at how you fuse all the aspects of the production to both enable that, and enable the elements to play off against each other. I think that both Jessica’s music and Nigel’s voice-over add a great deal of warmth to the experience, certainly a very human emotional depth, which contrasts to the often stark beauty of the environment. The island is captivating in it’s desolation, the voice personalises this loneliness and the music gives it this flow. So yeah, deliberate, but very instinctive. You tend to not say things like “this area needs more warmth” or “should be more callous” but you kind of talk in slightly more abstract terms about those things.


Everybody’s gone to the Rapture is the spiritual successor to Dear Esther, which is based around six characters in the moment of an apocalypse. Will these characters be explored through dialogue or through the narrative of the landscape and will they meet each other?

All of the above, and can’t say right now about the last! We’re keeping that sense of holistic storytelling from Esther- it’s what games do really well, but one of the differences is that these are distinct, separate characters – you really believe and invest in them as people, and they have individualised relationships with the landscape and the player. And maybe each other. That’d be telling.

You are trying to engage the user in an open world setting with no control of what the user will do. Will you be employing an adaptive soundtrack, similar to what Ed Key has been experimenting with in Proteus, and how will you lead us to explore?

Yeah, not generative, but responsive, a multi-layered composition that has a great deal of control over the interpretation of the dramatic experience. It’s a huge challenge, as we’re looking at a soundtrack that is as deep and cinematic as Esther, avoiding being more abstract, keeping it quite narrative and focused in tone. That’s really, really hard to do – we’re lucky to have such a great composer with Jessica. As for exploration, it’s always a big challenge working signposting in an openworld. It’s involved a lot of testing, a lot of trials, making sure there’s always a visual point of interesting, an event, something leading you or rewarding you wherever you go and whatever you do. That’s often just a case of pushing through it, trying a lot of things out, tweaking and polishing. Unglamorous donkey work really.


You are also creating a follow-up to Amnesia (Amnesia: a machine for pigs). What are the lessons you have learnt from Korsakovia and the Conscientious objector that you are applying to this new entry?

Well, I think the key thing we got from Korsakovia is that the unknown is far, far scarier than anything else. So not falling into the trap of telling the player too much, trusting their ability to cope with abstraction, ambiguity, confusion. And in a similar way to Esther, that often the most frightening levels are those where you are waiting for something to happen, and stringing that sense along for as long as possible. That’s an old trick really, but it works super-well, and where Korsakovia failed was not following that rule enough. But the visceral, strange, confused sense of story in Korsakovia is something we’ll certainly mine for ideas. Conscientious Objector is a different one really, for me, it’s a really funny, not scary as such. But the sense of powerlessness of the player made it pretty frightening for lots of people, and that’s a direct fit with the type of gameplay ideas that are classic Amnesia.


Amnesia had such a brooding, suppressive feel to it. How are you delivering that atmosphere yet creating a unique experience for people who have played the original?

That’s a really hard question to answer. Again, it’s a lot of donkey work, just refining and testing. We’re definitely bringing our own stamp to it, but I can’t really talk too much about that without giving too much away.


You ask a lot of questions, of your-self and of your audience. Do you think it is important that consumers keep their minds open to new ideas? At times it feels like we are in a perpetual groundhog day of people buying and playing the same things.

I actually think it’s a pretty exciting time. Quite niche, different games are doing really well at the moment – like Journey, Esther, Proteus, and you also have things like Antichamber coming, a new Tale of Tales game… there’s a lot of experimentation and a real hunger for it, so there’s definitely a fair bit more going on than is often talked about. And I’m a complete AAA junkie. I love the groundhog day in many ways, I like the experiences I get from AAA titles. It’s not a problem for me. I’m playing Mass Effect 3 and Prototype 2 at the moment and loving them both. Games so often get accused of being derivative, but seriously, turn on your TV, go to a cinema, open a book, listen to an album. The overwhelming majority of any media form is a variation on an established theme. It’s OK. We don’t need to panic about that. But an open-mind in any situation is a good thing, or you are going to miss out on cool stuff and have a boring life.


Because of the history within first person perspectives, it is easy to forget that it is simply a viewpoint of a space. Do you think consumers sometimes have expectancies of what should be put into these spaces and what they should do in them?

Sure, although I think it’s important to respect the fact that FPS games have been honing a design template for over twenty years (well, the first FPS was in the 1970s, but let’s stick with Wolfenstein and Doom). There’s a very particular experience about first-person, the way it pitches you into the action, into the world. It’s very very good for certain types of experiences- visceral, emotional, tense, filled with sudden moments and spectacle, and although that derives from the viewpoint, it’s also a way of maximising what it gives you. So FPS games are not so good at platforming (Korsakovia is a case in point) which leads to a certain type of play, of approach to play, which helps define the kinds of experiences, worlds, etc, you have, and that’s something to remember. And it’s also fundamentally about simplifying an environment in the classic design template, and shooting is the simplest, most rewarding way of doing this. The act of exploring, shooting from a first-person perspectives has such resonance because it’s phenomenally powerful and effective. So it’s not wonder there are expectations around that. Most of the deviations from that pattern have been less effective.

Who else is examining the fabric of videogames and what was the last game that generated something you had never experienced before?

Wow. Ummm. Lots of people, I don’t know if I could begin to answer that. There are obvious more radical studios – Tale of tales, Stout games, Ed Key, Die Gute fabrik, Ice pick lodge, Bennett foddy. Too many to mention. I’m not sure about the last part of that question. I don’t go looking for new for new’s sake. I’m much more drawn to games which deliver a great experience, even if it’s a variation on an experience I’ve had many times before. Mass Effect 3 is a brilliantly crafted game where I care about the characters, I’m drawn to the world, I’m hooked on the leveling up and I love the action. That’s plenty for me. I’m happy with that. It doesn’t have to be radical or innovative or even inventive to be worthwhile and enjoyable for me. I loved Rage.

E3: Superlative opportunities?

This year’s E3 delivered predictable franchise sequels and not much in the way of originality. Is the developer reproach misplaced however, highlighting insentient consumer support for more of the same?

New IP: Watch Dogs (Ubisoft) and The last of us (Naughty Dog) helped to refresh the lacklustre event. They inadvertently emphasised however that we still traverse the same obstacle courses, littered with the same generic thugs with the same missions. There is no doubt both games will be entertaining, but there is a feeling that we have witnessed the inauguration for myriad sequels at future shows.

The games that offered us superlative opportunities were predominantly for Sony Platforms and inventive content at the IndieCade booth. The unveiling of Nintendo’s new Wii U software failed to capture imaginations with only Platinum games offering something refreshing (arguably usurping Pikmin 3’s announcement).

In an ocean of generic content, these were the games that offered us something inventive:


Giant Sparrow’s experimental adventure of throwing paint, turning negative space into tangible assets.


A phonic tool that amalgamates sound and 2D objects in unison, developed by Queasy games.


Designed by Erik Loyer, Languish is a journey through the mind by interacting with collective ideas.


Students at DADIU created this vociferous First person horror that aesthetically reminiscent of Suda 51’s Killer 7.


David cage and Quantic dream tease their next project after the successful Heavy Rain.


Developer Broken Rules origami enthused dream of flight.

PROJECT P-100 (Wii U)

Platinum games, creators of  Bayonetta and the upcoming Metal Gear Rising bring this exclusively to Wii U.

Prevision: Proteus


Platform: PC
Developer: twisted tree games

There was a promise made when we exhorted primitive pixels on a blank screen. A suggestion induced by the watercolour illustrations of videogame packaging. It was that the metaphors would transfer from the box art, through the television and into our hands. The pixels were indifferent however. They could instigate panic and excitement but not subtler shades of emotions. The atmospherics were not as convincing as we were led to believe, not as they were depicted in the watercolours.

Aesthetically Proteus could be mistaken for belonging to that era, nestled somewhere between the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64; struggling to convince its user of its assets and virtues…but Proteus doesn’t struggle, Proteus has realised what was promise in those primitive pixels.

Your starting point is a sleepy eyelid; it unseals revealing a first person perspective, a pixellated ocean and a distant (randomly generated) island. It is intensely familiar yet uniquely poised; as you drift ashore you think of Minecraft and the elder scrolls, but with your first step onto the sand, that all falls away. You are greeted with a paroxysm of sound and the subsequent minutes have you wandering through trees to a deluge of phonic tonal fluctuations; ethereal blips and beeps derived from the environment.

The Island generates a cosy feeling of refuge, facilitated by the harmonics of nature’s chanting. Melodic frogs hop around donating playful tunes, mischievous creatures chat and retreat into the earth as you approach them. The only ominous find is blackened castle ruins with their crazed organ accompaniment; the walls cannot be breached; you only regulate the crossfade of its noise.

As you explore more of the island, it is natural to wonder about an objective. You realise there has not been any tangible interactions, in terms of collectibles or goals. But then it dawns on you; perhaps the objective is discovering your auditory perception of the world. “Each element in the world could have a “voice” that would combine to make a shifting soundscape as the player explores.” explains creator Ed Key. “The music forms a kind of subjective reaction to the world. We (David Kanaga generates the soundtrack) also modify the world according to the shifts in subjective experience of the player’s “character”.”

The goal I had been looking for was with me from the start. Under further analysis Proteus has mechanisms of sounds and they craft a type of phonology; relationships of audio forming the components of a language. A language that the ignorant or impatient might admonish because Proteus eschews many traditional game elements.

Ed felt that a lot of these elements were detrimental to the experience; “Players and developers often feel like there should be “enemies” or scores. The point about enemies and challenge has been evident in some players’ reactions to Fez. Basically I think that if you’re making a truly experimental or heartfelt game you should just follow it wherever it takes you and don’t add elements just because of expectations. Add things when they make sense to what the games means to you.”


My epiphany with the function of Proteus suddenly opens up all sorts of questions; what happens phonically when I stand in the ocean while it is raining? How is the ambience of a mountaintop affected when I am engulfed in a cloud? They are questions that you set yourself, not obligatory but compulsively so.

The most significant question I asked was; what are those large stone edifices for?

Walking by them releases a boom of reverberation that harmonises with the syntax of the landscape. It is like an outpouring of musical notes; resonating upwards as a hard wind blows through the island. As the sun sets, the sounds you have released congregate around a formation of rocks, they pirouette before you. It is one of those moments that only this medium can induce; a spectacle of pure amazement. The skyline fast-forwards in a rapid advancement of a day and night cycle; precipitous clouds shoot pass, the rise and fall of the sun applauding you as you step into the swirling mass of sound, and as you do; the season changes.

Summer bristles with a buoyant hand clap, as intonations bounce around the terrain. There is a confident swagger in the parade of birds and the screaming of bees, flowers sway in unison. This season literally bursts through the screen; both visually and phonically it feels like a solstice which you want to be infinite. But you know nature’s portal collects somewhere on the island. There is that desire to see what the next state of the terrain is like and when you enter; autumn’s sombre mood is a stark contrast. The oranges and browns of the fall bring a tone of sadness. Proteus switches to being contemplative, there are few animals here and those that you find are absorbed in foraging. Winter is even more despondent, with no signs of life it feels initially suppressive. Low laying clouds try to reach out to the floor, the urgency to scramble to higher ground is irascible but then the snow comes, a calm washes over you.


There are certain moments when Proteus doesn’t feel like any other game, it shows you the rare minutiae of life; the feeling of watching snow gliding to meet an ocean turned to ice or salmon pink clouds illuminated by the winter sun above. These instants are neither searched nor scripted; they just happen whether you are there or not.

Ed has observed that when people explore; “various trails (literal paths and those created by animals) overlap through the terrain and interact with the positions and views of landmarks to create a kind of “flow” through the world.”

You get a sense of this flow even though you are not bound to it. Screenshots or even watching the game in motion is unrevealing. You must navigate them yourself to understand, with your eyes and ears.

The influences that helped create Proteus are varied but not responsible for its uniqueness. Ed personally cites Brian Eno phonically, and an animation by Yuriy Norshteyn called hedgehog in the fog. “Purely by structure, I think Nifflas’ “Knytt” was very important to me. That simple exploration with no obligation to fight enemies or solve puzzles felt really bold. Graphically I think I was a little inspired by people like Cactus who make fantastic, garish, bold, low res graphics that have a ton of personality and style.”

At the time of writing Proteus is not yet complete but I asked Ed about his plans for the future. Is he looking to challenge conventions or build on existing foundations within the medium? He talks about Himalayan expeditions, the hardships of covering immense distances and scaling huge mountains. It makes me think of journey but its linearity does not fit in from what I have experienced on this pixellated island. It felt like an escape, perhaps from the monotony of life, but maybe it is an escape from the trappings of the videogame. The guns, the fetch quests and the boss fights are not evident here. There are not many places you can find that outside of Proteus.

Pre-order Proteus here

This is early experimental gameplay footage

Is the term videogame obsolete?


“If a ray of light falls into a pigsty, it is the ray that shows us the muck and it is the ray that is offensive.”

The initial inauguration of this medium started with an invention called a cathode ray tube amusement device. Beguiling as that was, we adopted a term that has stayed with us for over 40 years; a convenient marketing tool for a child’s toy. At the time it was effective and resolute, I place emphasis on ‘was’ because today I feel that description is completely inapt and this holistic language has limited creativity. It prompts me to question:

Is the term videogame obsolete?

This industry’s heritage should be venerable, but not to the extent of becoming enslaved by it. We have given society an inaccurate view of the medium, their opinions formed by the themes and language we repeatedly subscribe to. Why should we care about what they think?

Because we move in contradictions; we have a voluminous desire for this instrument to be respected yet still support its disposability and child-like sentiments.

This is how the media has achieved its unremitting scapegoat; holding games responsible for every teenage related crime and death that they can be vaguely linked to. This has culminated with dire repercussions; the levying of taxes to censor and regulate game content.

When people believe that videogames are still like Pong, as some do, it is easy to refute their opinions as uneducated. When negative perceptions derive from malicious content however, it is not so straightforward… because we revel in it. What was the last game you played that didn’t feature violence? (sports and simulations non-withstanding)

Should games be censored to appease ignorant politicians? No, they should not, but maybe that is not the real source of their ignorance. Perhaps their unfamiliarity is misdirected, could it be that the contents affiliation with the word ‘game’ is problematic, this and the relationship with the terms derivatives such as; play, fun and joy?

When you think of the word game it brings all of this baggage with it, it is intended for the purpose of amusement and to entertain. Our terminology states that to engage with the medium we must ‘play’ with it. Play, fun, amuse and entertain, are words that are embedded every time we speak of it, especially in the context of the mediums antiquity. Games are even critiqued in such a way that the ‘gameplay’ has to be fun and enjoyable, especially to be a superlative experience.

When the media or a politician witnesses the content of a violent game, for instance; people being murdered in sadistic and grotesque ways, these blatant contradictions arise. They see that fun is aligned with murder, play is associated with torture, and amusement relates to suffering. As the sole requirement of the medium is interaction it makes matters worse that they have direct control of those aspects. We use a vocabulary that generates erroneous messages, it is not surprising that it besieges the non-playing public’s consciousness.

The film industry has had its fair share of censorship issues, but it is less likely to receive the same backlash as a videogame does, the difference is; the content is viewed in a compartmentalised way.

The word ‘Film’ on its own has no fixed messages; it describes the medium simply as a tool. There are no preconceived notions, about who its audience is, or what its content contains, it is a generalised term like music or art. The appropriate genre is inserted to clarify that it is; a horror film or an adult film, because of this any censorship is limited within its genre and not directed at the medium as a whole.

Videogames are classified into genres and there are guidelines to appropriate who they are for, but there are contradictions between the content and the perception of that content, that word game again is prevalent. The word is obtuse, I do not have a problem of what it stands for, more the fact that it doesn’t represent a cohesive description of the medium.

The vehicle has advanced far beyond the confinements of its lexicon, it produces myriad emotions in addition to the expected fun, it should not be held back from exploring other avenues, especially by its language.

So to answer the question: I do feel the term is obsolete, it feels out-dated and somewhat suppressive.

I have coined a term to articulate what this medium is rather then who it is for. I do not expect it to replace the word we have used for the last 40 years, (even though it is slightly more catchy than its predecessor: cathode ray tube amusement device) it is merely a new way of thinking of the medium, as a creative tool rather than a stereotypical child’s toy.

The term is the name of this blog: Interactive visions.

The idea behind it is; your interaction with the developers thoughts trough their vision. Regardless if those thoughts are of fun, hate, fear or love, it is all encompassing.

This term is to think of the future and what might be possible. It is not to repeat something that has been made before, but something that has not yet been made.

To some, this is the ray that is offensive.