The Graveyard nominated for the IGF

IGF 2009

We hadn’t really expected it after all the silly controversy, but we’re rejoiced to see that The Graveyard has been nominated for this year’s Independent Games Festival in the new category for Innovation.

Thank you, judges!

Other favourites of ours Blueberry Garden and Dyson are up fro the Grand Prize. And FEIST is nominated for Visual Art. Congratulations!

Tale of Tales is 5

Tale of Tales was officially founded on December 9th 19th 2003, five years ago. Auriea and I were working on 8 at the time and needed a company to apply for funding. We chose the “bvba” form (similar to ltd and llc) because we were hoping to become a commercial enterprise. We’re still hoping.

The Graveyard post mortem, final chapter

Phew! It took longer to write the post mortem of The Graveyard than it did to make the game! 😉

A lot has happened since the release. One of the major things being that the lady who was a great inspiration for the design of the game, my grandmother, passed away last August. Which is why I wanted to finalize this article today, on All Souls Day.

Margriet was my godmother. She talked about dying all the time. And asked if we wanted any of her stuff. Her table is now in our living room. And we’re taking care of one of her plants. I know she was happy to go. Her husband had died a few years back. Her body was shrinking and practically falling apart (she was almost 100 years old). Yet she remained extremely lucid. Hence her desire for death, I guess.

I wish the final chapter of our awkwardly titled “post mortem” would have been a bit more solemn and quiet, but we had scheduled to talk about the public response to the game and evaluate the downloads and sales. So we’re sticking to the plan.

Please enjoy the final chapter of the epic saga that is The Graveyard post mortem:

Out in the world

The Graveyard post mortem, part 6

The success of The Graveyard as an atmospheric piece is due in no small part to the lush soundscape created by Kris Force. Next to producing Jarboe‘s soundtrack for The Path, she’s been an audio-millipede. From working with deep dark experimental musicians to creating whimsical sound and music for blockbuster games like The Sims, her knowledge and wisdom regarding the audible universe seems unfathomable.

So we produced some noise with our questions, to hear how she feels about The Graveyard and what else she’s doing. Part six of our Graveyard post mortem (almost done):

Spotlight on sound designer Kris Force

Games for girls? Piece of cake!

Back in 2005 when we released the first phase of The Endless Forest, the idea of the fair sex playing videogames was strange and fascinating. So much so, that we made it a high priority at Tale of Tales to make games that would attract males and females in equal amounts. After running our little mmo for almost 3 years, we have done a survey that perhaps demonstrates that we may have exaggerated a little bit.

We have organized this survey together with PhD student Eva Kekou and we’re only expecting official results in the Fall. But we’d like to share some things that are abundantly clear without scientific investigation.

Of the over 30 thousand registered members, almost 250 have taken the survey. That’s less than 1 percent. So a grain of salt is in order. Also because some of the participants have expressed enjoying taking the survey. So perhaps the results only represent Endless Forest players who like filling in surveys.

We knew that a lot of women and girls are playing The Endless Forest but the bare figures did come as a bit of a shock to us: only 41 of the 247 participants who answered the gender question in the survey are male. That’s less than 1 in 5. I’m not sure if we should feel proud or embarrassed.

The following graph shows how the participants are divided per age group.

So the majority of players are teenagers. At least those who filled in the survey. Something interesting happens with the gender balance as players get older, though.

As players get older, the gender becomes more balanced. In the age group of over 25, there’s almost an equal amount of men and women.

We always thought that The Endless Forest was a casual experience, in the strict sense of the word. Something you do leisurely, just once in a while. But that was probably because we were only thinking of adult players. As the next graphs show, teenagers spend a lot more time in the Forest.

The one child of under 10 who particpated in the survey, apparently plays the game every day. The older the players get, the less frequently they play.

Something similar shows up in the data concerning the time of an average play session. Some teenagers play The Endless Forest for several hours on end. I find that quite astonishing, and slightly worrying. Most play around an hour. As players get older, the sessions get shorter.

We also asked whether participants played other games than The Endless Forest. Most of them do (almost 90%). The games that were mentioned most were games in which your avatar is also an animal: Okami and Wolf Quest. The Sims and Zelda games scored pretty well as well, followed by World of Warcraft, Zoo Tycoon, Pokemon, Final Fantasy and, believe or not, Halo (almost 5%).

Another thing that caught our eye was how many of the participants had first learned about The Endless Forest through fan art on Deviant Art: 1 in 5 players! Followed closely by word of mouth (friends and family: 16%). Google searches came up third (almost 10%), followed by the community around the Wolf Quest game.

With the relentless creativity displayed by the players on The Endless Forest community site, it should come as as no surprise that over 90% of the players considers themselves to be creative, an artist or designer (either professional or hobbyist). And many of them participate in other forms of culture (mostly music and books, but also comics and cinema, and fewer visit concerts or theater).

Overall, we’re very suspicious of surveys and statistics. So we’re not taking this too seriously. But it’s an interesting indicator. I wish we could interest more boys and men in our games. But I don’t think we’ll add any guns and sports for that purpose. Maybe we should just admit that we make games for girls. I don’t see other developers being embarassed about making games for boys. 😉

The Graveyard post mortem, part 5

The Graveyard was not made entirely by Auriea and I alone. We had some great help from some very talented people. One of these is Gerry De Mol who composed, played, sung and arranged the song “Komen te gaan” especially for the game. Gerry is a multi-talented artist -writer, composer and musician- with a broad musical knowledge and know-how. Before working with him on The Graveyard, he had made the music for The Endless Forest as well.

We had a talk with him about working with us on The Graveyard, we analyze the lyrics of the song and learn about some of the many other projects that he is working on in

Spotlight on music composer Gerry De Mol

The Graveyard post mortem, part 4

In the fourth chapter of The Making of The Graveyard, we have a talk with Laura Raines Smith, who animated the character of the old lady. For all intents and purposes, Laura is the unofficial third member of Tale of Tales. She has created most animations for 8, including those for the Little Deaf Mute Girl in the Pretty White Dress (based on motion captures of my daughter, then aged 6). She animated the deer avatar in The Endless Forest. And at the moment she’s breathing life (and death) into the girls and wolves of The Path.

Without Laura, Tale of Tales would not be what it is. So it’s high time for us to pay some attention to her, here. Read on for some remarkable answers to our newbie questions in…

Spotlight on character animator Laura Raines Smith

Will mobility kill the medium?

Girls using laptops outside

Laptop computers are becoming increasingly popular. To my great frustration because they are often underpowered machines, certainly when it comes 3D graphics, and our games require every last bit of performance they can get. But is there something else going on too?

We’ve always been very fond of the intimate nature of desktop computing. One person alone with one computer in the sollitude of their home office. That’s more or less how we imagine the ideal environment for experiencing our work (not unlike a 19th century gentleman going through his secret drawer of lewd pictures). A very intimate situation in which the player can be at ease and concentrate on the work. But as more and more people use laptop computers instead of desktops, this ideal situation will occur less and less. Through becoming mobile, computers also become trivial. Mere accessories to take on the road, for convenience, not media that you actually devote some time to.

Would cinema have been so succesfull, culturally, if it had become mobile before even maturing as a medium? I highly doubt it. It is exactly the demands that cinema makes on the viewer, that give the authors the room required to create their art. Cinema, nor literature, or theatrical or musical performances, are casual media. But if computing becomes mobile, what will be left of it as a medium?

Picture by fabuleuxfab