More than anything else we’ve ever worked on, we’ve looked to film as a source of inspiration for our work on The Path. Not so much because the game will be anything like a movie but more for some kind of contextualization. We were asking ourselves constantly: “what is horror?”, “what makes something scary” and while we have our own ideas about that it seemed a good idea (and fun also) to plunge into the long history of horror genre productions in movies. So, we’ve been watching lots of movies!
At the same time we’ve been reading up on our fairy tales, we are considering our interpretation of this story we have chosen, Little Red Ridinghood. Ultimately, fairy tales are told to teach us something. They are lessons wrapped in beautiful metaphor. In our case we hope the “telling” is something which is acted out by each player via interacting with the characters in the game. And somehow it seemed inevitable that we would tell this story through anxiousness, surreality, surprise. What is it about the horror genre that makes it particularly suitable for the telling of these kinds of tales?
A series of podcasts by Mike Dawson for his Left Field Cinema blog ties all of these considerations up nicely. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or find the mp3s at his site where there are also transcripts of each episode.
He analyses films like The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Friday the 13th, and Se7en to determine if they are in fact modern day fairy tales and if so in what way are they in that tradition. His conclusions are most interesting:
Morality tales can be seen as using a cowardly method of making a point; science fiction and fantasy use the method because they can make commentary on current events and climates and avoid criticism for their views by claiming that one has nothing to do with the other.
oh really? Fascinating, as we try, in our way, to make a Video Game as modern day morality tale.
Our understanding and respect of the games industry is growing every day. How they can ever create these immensely complex AAA games is beyond me. The Path is only a fraction of the size of such a game but there is so much to do! Today I discovered that the absolute minimum time it takes to finish the game is 2 hours. And that’s when you’re either very lucky or use some cheats only available in the development environment. And of course if you skip over everything that is not absolutely essential to make progress (which, in a Tale of Tales, means most things in the game ). To do everything in the game will take several times that amount of time. And we need to do everything in order to check it and make sure it works. And when it doesn’t (which is often at this point), we need to fix it. Where are we going to find the time to do all that?
It’s fun to play around with the game in its current state, if you’re careful and know what you can and cannot touch, or know what errors to ignore, or have special cheats to get you out of tricky situations. But as soon as you start lifting the lid of that pretty colourful box, it’s like hundreds of bugs swarm out! And fixing one of them produces ten new ones. It’s like they use being fixed as a form of procreation . The amount of work to do is staggering. Most of the new issues I encounter, I take a note of. Because I don’t want to be distracted from the task at hand. This way I am producing a gigantic to do list. Several lists, in fact.
First of all there’s my schedule of the month, which is basically composed of the most important issues discovered the month before, divided in one or two day packages. The things that didn’t make it to the schedule are arranged in four lists entitled “Essential”, “Optional”, “Desirable” and “Very desirable”. My schedule is extremely tight so there’s hardly any time to do anything outside of it. In fact, there’s always things that I can’t get done on time. This produces another list: things from the schedule that weren’t done in time, divided in “Essential”, “Optional” and “Weird bugs” . And while I’m working on other things, new problems present themselves. These are mostly added to the “Desirable” list, unless they are “Essential”.
There’s also a list called “Removed”, but so far it’s very short. The Path is a very minimalist design. So there’s not much that can be removed. We just need to get it done. Somehow. There’s no way I will be able to take care of all the things on my lists. There’s just too much. So it comes down to smart prioritizing. That’s one of the good things about not being able to deal with problems immediately: it gives you some time to think and decide carefully what is important and what is not. Perfection is something we’ll leave to the experts.