New prototypes with FoAM in Brussels

On Thursday evening, at the groWorld bazaar, we’re presenting some prototypes we collaborated on with FoAM for a strange multiplayer game in which everyone plays a plant (!). Come and have a look between 6 and 9 at FoAM studio, Koolmijnenkaai 30-34, Brussels.

groWorld prototype

– groWorld plant game prototypes by Tale of Tales & FoAM
– groWorld gardeners web by Sixtostart
– Urban Edibles by Foamlab Holland
– urban gardening info-booths by FoAM & Foamlab
– biologically corrupt hard-drives & Biomodd game by Angelo Vermeulen
– PhoEf tribute to the sun by Bartaku
– patabotanical illustrations by Lina Kusaite & Theun Karelse
– experiments with plant sensing by Nik Gaffney & Dave Griffiths
– vegetal scents by Maki Ueda
– seasonal botanical refreshments by Rasa Alksnyte & Pieter de Wel
– sonic atmoshperes by Lowdjo & Antz

see more…

The Path wins a Quest3D Award

Quest3D Awards 2009

Much to our surprise, The Path has ended up second in this year’s Quest3D Awards.

When you start the game you immediately notice this game is different. Your first instruction is “Stay on the path” and visit your grandmother. If you do so the game ends and you start over. What could be the intention behind this game? This game offers an experience no other game can so this alone makes it deserves a spot in our Quest3D awards.

Quest3D is the authoring tool that we used to create the game. It is mostly used for architectural visualisations. So the winning projects are usually these amazingly photographically realistic spectacles. Hence our surprise.

Quest3D is a great tool to make games, though. Especially for the code-allergic and the artistic (like us). Its realtime visual programming system is second to none. That’s right, both The Path and The Endless Forest were created by connecting little virtual blocks together with little virtual wires. We believe that one day, this style of programming is going to supersede coding, much like C++ and Javascript have removed the need to punch in zeroes and ones today.

The Path in Quest3D

This is part of the “source code” of The Path, in the Quest3D editor. There’s hundreds of little flow charts like this and together they make the whole thing tick. And look pretty. :)

Tale of Wales

This Saturday, at 2 pm, we’re giving presentation at the Ffotogallery in Penarth, near Cardiff, Wales, UK, during the May You Live In Interesting Times festival. Booking is essential. Please contact the gallery staff on 02920 708870 to book a place.

And next Saturday, the 31st (Halloween), kids are invited to the gallery to make Endless Forest masks! Yes, in case you forgot: He is back!

While we’re there, we’ll also be meeting up with Alex Mayhew discussing secret projects, Emma Westecott and, hopefully, Eddo Stern, whose solo exhibition is opening at Chapter in Cardiff tomorrow.

The Path selected for IndieCade festival

Our short horror game ThePath has been selected for the IndieCade festival. The award ceremony, exhibitions and conference take place from October 1 to 4 in Culver City, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Sadly, we will not be able to attend the event -because we are w o r k i n g– but it looks like it’s going to be great!

The Endless Forest featured in an Opera

2009-08-29 at 17-55-43 2009-08-29 at 17-55-24
2009-08-29 at 17-53-28

Last weekend we were invited to Antwerp to see a performance of Muziektheater Transparant’s new opera Solitude which is based on the music of baroque composer Henry Purcell. A description from their website:

Solitude plays on the boundary between reality and fiction. It tells the story of He and She, each in their own room and looking for the other and themselves. Staring into the other world through their webcam, or perhaps not? On the other side of the door is an escape route, a way that would lead them to each other, a virtual world with its own laws and boundaries. Lost in the game, He and She ultimately return to their rooms.

In this annual summer project organised by Muziektheater Transparant, a group of young singers and instrumentalists take up the challenge of creating the first performance of an extremely unusual opera after a short but intensive rehearsal period.

Not only were the young musicians involved highly talented, they made a fascinating exploration of the multiplayer game experience; The emotional attachment we have to these type of games and to the people we play with in them. Yes, an Opera about playing MMOs! Scenes from many different games were projected, often superimposed over the faces of the main actors. The costumes were made of various found objects, like a suit of WoW armor made entirely of pastic drink bottles. Very odd sounding but it really did work. It was an honor that The Endless Forest was chosen for the finalé when actors and musicians donned antlers and sung a song of blissful reconciliation. =) The lyrics went something like: “Let’s play this game, as a pleasant dream. Let’s forget about everything…”

UPDATE: we were sent better photographs of the performance, taken by Koen Broos…

GDC Europe -impressions

We left Cologne just when the Gamescom spectacle was getting started. We were there for the Game Developers Conference. We did take a stroll through the fair but were not impressed. It was just a lot of big, fancy and loud booths advertising videogames that are half-broken, outdated and badly designed. Last year’s Independent Games Festival winner Petri Purho made the depressing observation that you could fund development of 20 indy games for the price of one of those booths. Indeed. For the price of one booth at Gamescom, you could revolutionize the entire games industry! But who cares?

While there were not many independent developers presenting at the conference, the few that were there quickly found each other. It’s nice to know that there is a little underground group of people who all resist the big games machine. Together we can look down on the suits with a big grin while they are desperately trying to keep their multi-million Dollar enterprises afloat.

We had a little booth at the GDC, thanks to the efforts of Elfya van Muylem at IBBT, where we were showing The Path (on the iMac, by the way, that also stored all of the production files of our upcoming project Fatale -but nobody saw it). Lots of people came up to us. Players of the game, people who had read about it, students, journalists, game developers, business people. It was fun to talk to them. Made us feel our work really means something to some. So thanks to all of you, in case you’re reading this (leave a comment here! :) ).

As a result, we didn’t see a lot of lectures. But of the few we saw, David Cage’s sermon about the future of videogames probably made the biggest impression. If only because he was almost saying word for word, the kind of things we have been talking about on this blog for years. But in a “for dummies” kind of style, which wasn’t to the liking of all attendees, but still managed to irritate a few sufficiently to make them leave the room.

Basically, Mr Cage was pointing out that the games industry is on a crossroads. Depending on the choices we make now, it will continue to be a successful children’s toy production industry or it could become a mature medium on the level and with the diversity of cinema. His references to cinema were perhaps a bit excessive (personally, I think, we can surpass cinema with a medium that is much more adequate to talk about complex contemporary issues). But in the light of his own work, this is understandable. And his continuous praise of thatgamecompany‘s Flower made it clear that he is broad-minded enough to recognize applications of the theory that are very different of his own.

Speaking of Flower, we also attended Kellee Santiago’s post-mortem presentation of the PSN game, which had drawn quite a decent crowd. She showed several prototypes of the game, made in Processing, Flash, XNA and on the Playstation 3 itself. And she finally explained why Flower changes so drastically half way through -something that had always mystified me.

We had a hell of time hanging out with her in a typical German brewery/restaurant with fellow indies (where the Koelsch beer eternally flows) and on the roof of Microsoft’s fancy new building (witnessing the joint attempts of suits and nerds to combine coolness with opportunism) where we met Steven -Slow Gaming- Poole too. That was nice! :)

The next day, Miss Santiago reappeared in a panel awkwardly called “Designing Women”, also featuring Tracy Fullerton and Sheri Graner Ray. It’s quite sad that women in games (both as players and as creators) continues to be an issue, even if most of the women on the panel do see it in a broader context of lack of diversity, both in development teams as in the games being produced. Which connects the issue quite neatly with David Cage’s plea for greater variety as a requirement for maturity. Ergo: more femininity in games equals more maturity.

It remain a question if anyone in the games industry even listens to these voices. We have heard the same comments and ideas for years now, and if there has been any evolution, it seems to be an evolution further away from diversification, and deeper into the niche of games for 16 year old boys (or grown men pretending to be). The few exceptions that exist (Wii & DS, independent games, casual games, iPhone games) always clearly manifest themselves as different, as a break with the industry to some extent, as an alternative, while the “mainstream” continues to dig a deeper and deeper hole. Perhaps GDC-founder Chris Crawford will finally be proven right. He has always maintained that the realisation of the potential of the interactive medium will happen outside of the games industry.

The last session we attended was Peter Molyneux’s presentation about choice in (Lionhead’s) games. The thing that bothered me about his otherwise amusing presentation, was that he focussed so much on the formal aspects of game design. Which was confirmed by him calling choice a mechanic. He doesn’t seem to be interested in the meaning and content of the particular choices presented in his games, but only in their emotional effect. Seeing choice as a mechanic does nothing to change one of the major flaws of videogames (and one of the major elements that reduces the target audience to teenage boys): the fact that games are power fantasies where apparently insecure humans can get the illusion of control. I can’t help but find that a sad situation.

Which reminds me of the pathetic display that is grown-ups pretending to play music to the antique tunes of the Beatles on plastic toy guitars. Instead of learning an actual instrument and experiencing the pure joy of interpretation, we can now happily be reduced to sacks of skin and bones that can pretend to be a star with no need to learn any useful skill whatsoever.

This is what the games industry seems to have become: a pacifier for the powerless. No inspiration is required, no imagination is desired. You don’t need to be able to do anything, be anyone. Just connect to the machine and it will make you feel like you are a hero, in control of an empire, on top of the world. You and the legions of pathetic nerds, too lazy or timid to actually do something with their lives, content to just sit there and pretend it all away, proud of the billions upon billions that the industry spends on keeping them sedated.

3 audiences

2009-04-19 at 14-23-03

the audience gathering for the panel discussion we participated in at the Imagine Film Festival, Amsterdam. The discussion was about games and cinema and story, games vs. cinema vs. story… etc.

2009-05-12 at 19-36-22

the audience at our presentation during Happy Front End in the Merz Academy, Stuttgart. A presentation of all our games to the interested students there. At the invitation of professor Olia Lialina.

2009-05-28 at 17-05-52

the audience at the book launch today of The Place of Play, Amsterdam. We were invited by the author our friend Maaike Lauwaert to discuss The Endless Forest and how our interaction with the community has shaped the game’s evolution.

Images from the ABIOGENESIS

We had some technical difficulties and a lot of you couldn’t view the party last week. We’re sorry about that… Thing is, this aspect of The Endless Forest is in some desperate need of an upgrade. Once the Mac version of The Path is out we should have some time to think about how we can do some fund raising to save The Forest. But, you have to admit, its still a beautiful place, even after all these years.

Indie TV

Dutch television station VPRO has made a documentary about the latest GDC in San Francisco. You can watch it online too. The show is in Dutch but many of the interviewees speak English (it’s subtitled). While the documentary is not about independent games, the program is part of series about trendspotting. So they quickly end up in the IGF pavilion.

We’re in it it too. :)
And so is Robin.

And Jonathan Blow, Kellee Santiago, Phil Fish, Eric Zimmerman, Heather Kelley, Erik Svedäng, Kyle Gabler, etc

A Saturday Forest Festival


The Path will have been out for a month this Saturday. Has it really ONLY been one month?? To us it seems much much longer!
To celebrate this birthday, we think it’s time… for a party in The Endless Forest!
Come to The Forest this Saturday, April 18th, 2009 at 19:00 UTC; meet your friends, and the Twin Gods, for a romp.
This party celebrates youth, in honor of the Red Girls. We’ll do our best to make you feel young (again.)