Archive for the 'project' Category

It is done.

Dec 12 2012 Published by under project

Three years after our previous release, two years after acquiring production funding, 15 months after the reference collecting began, a year after starting the actual work and 2 months after the original tentative release date, it is done, our crazy plan to make a multiplayer game about two people sharing a virtual space talking in sentences from Marguerite Duras has solidified in a download available now from the new website.

If you’ve been following this diary, you know that making this thing has not been straightforward and that there have been many doubts and worries along the way. Some trivial, some achingly existential.

The creation of Bientôt l’été has been a life altering process for me. So much so that I feel I am starting anew. I have discovered so much, learned so much, changed so much.

I’m not sure if I ever want to do this again.

But the result of all this is the very consolation. Not just because I find it very soothing to walk along the virtual shore or move chess pieces around in cyber space. But also because there’s so much in Bientôt l’été that inspires to do more. Even if it’s far from perfect or ideal, it’s invigorating.

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Close to Duras

Nov 26 2012 Published by under project

It brings me much joy to be working with the wonderful material produced by Marguerite Duras. Her words and films make me happy. And so does reading about her, her personality, her stubbornness, her arrogance, her wisdom. To be able to work in her shadow is such a privilege. It almost doesn’t matter whether Bientôt l’été turns out to be any good. The experience of having spent this amount of time in close proximity to Duras, is more than enough.

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Bientôt l’été in bèta & end of pre-orders.

Nov 24 2012 Published by under development,project

We interrupt this program for a special announcement:

Bientôt l’été is done!

It took a bit longer than anticipated. I was originally hoping for an October release but decided to take a bit more time to streamline and polish, in response to the great feedback I have received on the alpha releases. Thank you for that!

You can still pre-order the game and play the new beta version. I would very much like to hear if you find any errors. Pre-orders will be available until the end of this month (30 November).

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Oct 01 2012 Published by under project

Bientôt l’été has been selected for IndieCade in Culver City, Los Angeles, USA. Alpha version 3 will be playable at the festival from 4 to 7 October. We will also briefly present the game at the conference during the Project Next session on Sunday at 3 pm.

Hopefully I can continue posting to this blog while we’re away.

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Describing Bientôt l’été in one sentence.

Sep 30 2012 Published by under project

Next to the difficulty of explaining what Bientôt l’été is, I’m having trouble coming up with one sentence descriptions as well.

We can call The Endless Forest is a multiplayer screensaver where everyone plays a deer or The Graveyard a game in which you play the role of an elderly lady who visits a cemetery. The Path is a short horror game inspired by Little Red Ridinghood, Fatale explores the legend of Salome and Vanitas is a meditative exploration of luxury and loss on the iPhone.

But what is Bientôt l’été?

Is it

a French videogame about love

as I originally called it -until somebody started fussing about its heterosexuality? Maybe I should call it a game about heterosexual love, though that would imply assuming that gay people don’t have an imagination. Or that people would only play the game as some kind of simulated version of their own life.

Do I call it

an exploration of beaches and moods in Marguerite Duras

Though I should probably avoid mentioning Duras too up front. Since few people in videogames know her and those who do might not appreciate the association with videogames, or have expectations that the game cannot deliver on.

I do get the impression that the idea of making a videogame that is inspired by the work of a highly respected modern author is attracting the attention of people who are interested in literature. Given that we are always trying to seduce new people into gaming, referring to the literary background of Bientôt l’été might be a good idea.

Sea. Space. Cybernetics. Touch.

says the reference material collection. The reference to science fiction, space and/or holodecks should probably be included. Since the juxtaposition with love, seaside and cafés is interesting. And because the space station metaphor for internet connections is quite crucial.

Talking with your lover at a table in a café at the seaside on the holodeck of a space station in orbit of an earth-like planet in a distant solar system.

I like how this one grows: from the intimacy of the lover to the small café table to the open seaside to the vastness of space.

Your body at the seaside on a remote space station. Alone. And then together.

A videogame about playing a game in a videogame about the desire to touch.

Love and loneliness in space.

It’s not raining. It’s not raining. It’s not raining.

A literary experiment in virtual space.

If any other short descriptions come up after playing the alpha version, please do tweet or email!

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Alpha 3.

Sep 26 2012 Published by under features,project

We have (pre-)released a new test version of Bientôt l’été, just in time for IndieCade. Yes, Bientôt l’été has been selected for the festival. Which is not the same as nominated -apparently the IndieCade jury didn’t appreciate our piece- but the only difference is that we can’t win a prize. This version of Bientôt l’été will be playable at the festival. And we will give a short presentation about it at the conference.

— Press button to collect —

The biggest change in this alpha version 3 is the replacement of the unintuitive stand-still-to-fade mechanic for collecting chess pieces, by a simple button that you see when you close your eyes in the direction of an Apparition. Clicking it starts a short cut scene, showing the object, after which your avatar picks up the chess piece.

This final simplification motivated the removal of the Hints from the screen. We figure that the interaction is now so easy that Hints are not necessary any more. They are still available when you close your eyes.

— Hiccups —

Another reason for removing the Hints was performance. Remember those weird hiccups that would happen all the time in alpha 1 and 2? Most of them were caused by drawing text on the screen: Unity3D’s infamous GUI system. To further reduce the impact of this system, we replaced all OnGUI calls by a single one.

We have also transcribed the music mixer from the visual language of Antares Universe (in which the entire game logic is created) to text-based Javascript. This has greatly reduced the frequency of the hiccups that happen in the game. So now we can finally listen to Walter Hus‘s wonderful music without interruptions. Almost. Still a bit of tweaking to do.

Some new music tracks have been added, by the way, to the ambient music of Femme, the female character. Pretty surprising at times!

— End of the World —

In principle, the beach in Bientôt l’été could be endless. It stretches. And the waves and the gulls follow along with the avatar. But in response to various reactions to the previous test versions, I have added an end to the world. To symbolize that end, there is a bench: beyond that bench you will find nothing new. Your avatar can sit on that bench and enjoy the scenery. Should you walk further anyway, an invisible wall will become visible and stop you.

— Gamepad controls —

I changed the mouse controls from conventional point-and-click to “hold down to walk, release to stop”. This feels a lot nicer, I think. Plus it removes the implication that the target where you click would matter.

The major addition, however, is gamepad controls. I wasn’t going to add this until Steam announced its Big Picture feature and I realized how much I enjoy playing videogames from the couch. It was quite a nightmare to make Unity3D play nice with different game controllers on different platforms. But it was worth the effort. The gamepad has become my favorite interface to Bientôt l’été.

A direct result of the implementation of gamepad controls and the dominance of Microsoft’s XBox 360 controller is a change of the letter keys that you press to play the game with the keyboard. Instead of the first letter of the English name of the function, we’re now using the same letters as on the buttons of the controller: A, B, X and Y.

— Future cloud —

We have added functionality that will make it possible to load your collection of phrases and chess pieces into a separate client. This client will consist of only the multiplayer part of the game (the café) and I hope to release it for tablets and maybe the web. For free. So after you have walked some time on the beach, you can load your collection on your tablet to talk to another player. Only the back end of this system has been built so far. So this cannot be tested yet. Just know that if you don’t toggle off the “Cloud Name” in the Credits section, your collection will be uploaded to our database.

Private networking has been re-enabled. If you fill in a password at the bottom of the Credits screen, you will only be connected to players with the same password. So for a private session, you need to share the password with your partner in play.

— Aesthetics —

I have mostly finalized the aesthetics of the game now. Added some color correction to the exterior scene. And a shader that I’m particularly proud of. It’s a “masked blur” shader. I hate how 3D always looks so clean and sharp. But just blurring the screen doesn’t feel nice. So I made a shader that only blurs the screen in specific uneven areas defined by a texture. And then I move that texture around. It’s a nice effect. I have also added Tale of Tales’ patented light intensity fluctuation, which gives a nice feel of moving clouds.

Some of you will be happy to see the new foot prints in the sand and the little splatters when you step in the water. The avatars now have a few idle poses. And they move their fingers a bit. Sometimes their spine spirals out of control. So I still need to tweak something there.

The interior aesthetics have also been polished a bit. Some sound effects were added. And smoke! The more you smoke, the more the room fills with smoke. It looks very unhealthy! Especially now that the bot can smoke too, and drink and play music. It still doesn’t have a brain. But randomness seems to work well enough.


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Sep 24 2012 Published by under project

I have experienced doubt about Bientôt l’été before. Questioning whether there is any point in making something that only few people will appreciate, doubts about confronting my own modest artistic talent with the genius of Marguerite Duras, wondering if anybody who plays videogames has even heard of Duras or read any of her books, let alone appreciates her work like I do.

And while I’m happy for Bientôt l’été to remain the last “art game” I create for a while in favor of simpler pleasures (a choice based in part on naive hope and speculation and in part on desperation, indifference and disgust), I do feel increasingly confident about this project, as I continue refining it.

There’s nothing wrong with Bientôt l’été in essence (and my definition of successful art is “that of which nothing is wrong”). All I need to do now is polish the diamond so that it becomes easier for other people to discover its beauty. I do believe it is possible to take this process very far. Until many people can enjoy it, absurd numbers compared to how weird of an art piece it is. Just keep polishing the surface until it shines for everyone. No matter what is at its core.

But I don’t know if I will have the patience. Or find it worth the trouble. I have no desire to please everyone. Least of all with Bientôt l’été. I’d rather it remains one of those forbidden fruits, the appreciation of which I can recognize my friends by. Yes, that is how vain and unreasonable I am. If you don’t appreciate my work, don’t call me your friend. My work is my baby. I will chose it over you any day. Love me, love my work. Or stay away.

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Scheduling blues.

Sep 11 2012 Published by under project

No matter how generous I make my schedules, I always seem to lag behind. There’s always things that take longer than expected. And new things pop up all the time.

It’s making me nervous. I want to finish this thing already and get it out there. But when I play a test build, despite the numerous little issues, I become mesmerized. And I feel that Bientôt l’été deserves to be polished well. I need to be patient and take my time with it. So that this time I don’t release a game with a five page list of unfinished tasks and removed features.

I don’t expect Bientôt l’été to be a smash hit. But I think it’s going to be around for a while. And if it is, I want it to be solid. I want it to be exactly right, and finished properly. So that I don’t need to be embarrassed about this or the other clumsily implemented feature some years from now.

I had hoped to release Bientôt l’été in October. But that is not going to happen. November is more likely. Unless I decide it would make a nice Christmas gift.

In January we’re starting a new project. And shifting gears on one that is already running in the background. But there’s plenty of time until then.

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Description of Bientôt l’été, attempt #7

Sep 06 2012 Published by under project

The Intergalactic Holocom Transmitter II is a state of the art virtual reality simulation and communication unit specifically designed for deep space conditions. No matter how large or small the polypurpose deck of your orbital station, the IHTII can be configured to fit any situation (cylindrical, cubical, hexagonal and even spherical and torus-shaped configurations are possible). Despite of its convenient size and ease-of-use, the IHTII is equipped with the most powerful realtime holocom processor and virtual translocator of its generation. The psycho-realism of its rendering engine will astound you and the proprietary built-in symbol/meaning mapping algorithms will leave you breathless.

S. Thala LLC has dedicated all its resources to your comfort and delight. For a limited time the IHTII will be shipped with an exclusive version of the T. Beach* projector, inspired by the legendary work of 20th century Earth novelist Marguerite Duras, including the critically acclaimed U. Bridge* French café simulation that enables cross-galactic communication with other IHT units of any generation.

T. Beach* is a monument of physio-amorous reflection. A trailblazer in its own time, it continues to top intergalactic holoperience charts to this day. Coupled with the U. Bridge* multi-user grid, it provides for one of the most profound muse-inducing experiences on all platforms.

Life on an orbital station does not need to be lonely or boring anymore. And our research has shown that exposure to psycho-motoric induction has a beneficial effect on the vitality and longevity of most organs of its user. S. Thala LLC provides considerable discounts for bulk purchases by registered employers.

In the unlikely case that your station is so remote that even the hugely powerful C-Beam transmitters of the IHTII cannot reach, the U. Bridge* program will generate a virtual antagonist that will make you wonder why you ever bothered playing with other astronauts in the first place.

Smoke, drink, play music, play Chess™, speak French (to others!), walk along an Earth sea shore and discover its strangely absurd and picturesque secrets! All from the comfort of your orbital station’s polypurpose deck.

* T. Beach and U. Bridge are heterosexual programs. Users stationed in the Desbaresdes belt and current or former citizens of the Chauvin system are advised to use with caution. Furthermore, the U. Bridge grid is limited to a maximum of two simultaneous users. Users with Stretter condition are recommended to consult their physicians before engaging. S. Thala LLC rejects all responsibility for inappropriate use.

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Description of Bientôt l’été, attempt #6

Sep 04 2012 Published by under project

There’s a man on a beach. The beach is empty. Empty as his heart. A heart alone, abandoned love. Love was left. Left in the warmth. The warmth of her digital breath. Her breath as neon glow. Glow as the sun. The sun sleeping in pillows. The pillows of clouds. The clouds form a bed. A bed for my soul. A soul that is restless. Restless like the gulls. The gulls on the beach. The beach in my heart. My heart pushes waves. Waves of blood through my veins. Veins pulled by the moon. The moon, cold heart of the galaxy. The galaxy at the end of the boardwalk. The boardwalk she used to walk on. Walking slowly, an old woman. A woman, alone, a woman studying love as a scientist. A scientist experimenting. Experimenting in the laboratory of her heart. Her heart, an ocean, waves of life. Life is cherished in the harshness of space. Space embraces us, crushes us with its hollow breath. Breath of a lover. A lover at the table. The table with the chess board. A board receives your move. Move me with your moves. Move me with your moves. Move away. Then move away. Away from the warmth, the silence inside. Inside disappears when we are on the beach. The beach caressed by the waves. Waves as fingers of the moon. The moon, heart of emptiness. Empty full empty full empty full heart. Heart to conquer, heart to move. The move again the move. To move the piece with words. Words from the writer. The writer, the woman. There’s a woman on the beach. The beach is empty. Empty as her heart. A heart alone, abandoned love. Love was left. Left in the warmth. The warmth of his digital breath. His breath as neon glow. Glow as the sun. The sun sleeping in pillows. The pillows of clouds. The clouds form a bed. A bed for my soul. A soul that is restless. Restless like the gulls. The gulls of the sea. The sea gulls of the moon. The moon of the sand. The sand of the moon. The moon of the water. The water of the waves. The waves of the veins. The veins in the body. The body that you touch.

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