Vision: FRACT OSC

1

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.

2

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.

5

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.

6

Buy FRACT here

Buy the soundtrack by Mogi Grumbles here

Connect with Phosfiend: Twitter, Facebook, Website

Advertisements

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

bundle_badge

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.

Ophelia

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

Flower/Lock

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.

8

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

image

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.

image

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.

image

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?

MirrorMoonEP2

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.

update25-alphabet image image

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.

image image image

.

Vision: Bientôt l’été (Pc/Mac)

playchess

“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.

rainbow

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.

curtain

pink beach grid lighthouse pier