Michaël Samyn, August 9, 2012
We have released a new alpha version of Bientôt l’été today. People who preorder the game can play it.
In this new version Apparitions and building changes have been enabled. Thanks to the modelling efforts of Theresa Schlag and Daniel Hellweg, you can now find strange things on the beach and different buildings on the dike, often referring to Marguerite Duras’ life and work.
But the changes that I am eager to hear feedback to concern the interaction design.
In the beach scene, the waves along the sea shore bring quotes from various Marguerite Duras novels to the screen. You collect these phrases to use them in your conversation with another player in the café.
In the first alpha version, the appearance of the phrases was tied to the movement of the avatar. Standing still for a while would collect the phrase. This turned out to be unintuitive. In the current version, phrases are tied to the waves and all the phrases you see are collected without requiring any action. I removed the limit of 16 so now you can collect all 270 of them.
The biggest change pertains the two-player part in the café. In the first alpha you could put objects on the table (there was only one, but there were meant to be more) and you could select phrases from a list to speak them. That felt very rigid. Now there’s no visible phrases anymore and putting an object down on the table speaks a phrase. You select which phrase by hovering over the fields of the chess board pattern on the table top. So it looks like you’re playing a game of chess without following the rules.
Another change pertains the look and feel of the interior scene. Many alpha 1 testers mentioned a desire for more realistic detail. They wanted to see more of their partner and their surroundings, and be able to do more. But I didn’t feel comfortable with adding all that.
Instead, I redesigned the mood to feel more lonely and pensive, which I hope will reduce the desire to see more detail. The background noise is very quiet and sporadic, and you hear the sea in the distance. The random music was replaced by a sort of jukebox that plays fragments of French love songs when a player selects them. The voice of your partner now sounds as if it comes through a loudspeaker, to complement their representation as transparent hologram.
The multiplayer interface has been simplified to a single button. The choice for simulation is now a simple button in the café scene. And private sessions have been disabled. Also, when you’re in the single player part on the beach and somebody starts a two-player game in the café, a window will be opened in the building with curtains blowing in the wind. So you know somebody is there who wants to play with you.