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<  Fatale  ~  My review of Fatale...

Posted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:21 am Reply with quote
Joined: 15 Jun 2008 Posts: 50
First of all, I should just say that I have immense respect for you, Tale of Tales. To me, you are the definition of the starving artist--you have eschewed the pursuit of capital and instead seek to create Art. You get a lot of criticism from the video game industry, because your games are not really games. And I imagine you get a lot of criticism from closed-minded artists who think that a video game can never constitute Art.

The criticism here is neither. I understand, I appreciate, and I love what you are doing. Please, accept these, my thoughts on a lovely piece of art. I will talk about each of the game's three distinct phases in turn.

The Cistern
What I Liked
The scene is gorgeous. The graininess of it is really mesmerizing, and I love the locked door. The interactive crates add realism to the atmosphere. The light coming in from the grate is haunting. I know I am being watched from the start. Glimpses of Salome's dance through the grate are both tantalizing and frightening. The hovering words, revealing themselves little by little, fascinate me. I become slowly aware of who I am, and why I am here. The Seven Veils filling the bottom of my screen, along with the slowly loading bar, instill a sense of urgency and inevitability. When the door opens and the executioner enters, I know that I could not have avoided this moment. I do not try to run, as perhaps I should. I stand there, terrified and resigned, as I am killed.

What I Didn't Like
The sound effects from the crates got a little annoying. Maybe something less jarring? It would have been cool if the crates floated in the water. Why is there a jump function if there is no good reason to use it? It would be one thing if John the Baptist was prone to jumping, but I can't imagine him doing even that. It was a little difficult to see Salome through the grate, and it would only happen by chance if you were looking at the right time. The control scheme was a little annoying, what with it being impossible to look around unless you were moving. Left and right arrow keys should rotate rather than shift.

The Terrace
What I Liked
Another really beautiful scene. The best part about it was how well laid out it was. The details aside, the general picture was really really well organized. The location of the executioner, off to the side by the little side room, was both creepy and foreboding. The woman that I assume is Salome's mother is beautifully framed by that little alcove she stands in--her power and authority are apparent. I am far more afraid of her than the executioner. Salome looks wistful. She stands in a position of power--at the front and center of the balcony--and yet she seems very weak. The head is not, as one would imagine, grotesque, or even scary. It makes a lot of sense where it is. It seems very normal, natural. The idea of putting out lights is interesting, even if I'm not sure why I'm doing it. The close up scenes are really really good. It's hard to appreciate the beauty of the scene because of the control scheme (see below), but the close ups are pre-chosen and so the angles are perfect on them. My favorite is the one where you see Salome, the head, and her mother all at once. It startles me and excites me. The veils in the wind are lovely. I see a beautiful staircase with what looks like water at the bottom, and I find I am genuinely disappointed when I cannot go down it. I like the little window into the room at the top of the balcony. I like the throne, too. I find that though I don't need to, I climb the staircase anyway, rather than flying directly to Salome. It's a beautiful staircase. It wants to be climbed. The starry sky is also very nice. I can't decide whether I liked the modern touches--speaker, mp3 player, sneakers--or not. I flip-flop between liking the ambiguity they add to the game and being a little annoyed by them, since the idea of juxtaposing the modern with the ancient has been done before.

What I Didn't Like
The purpose of the scene is unclear to me at times. Why am I putting out these lights? The actual putting out of the candles is more difficult than it should be. I had to do a lot of finicky moving of the mouse to get the black cloud in just the right spot, and it took me way too long a couple of times. The control scheme is interesting, but really annoying. I like that I can float around, being a spirit, but it's again impossible to really look around without moving forward, and I often find myself in really awkward positions, trapped looking at something in a very weird angle that is not flattering. The beauty of the art is belittled by the awkward control scheme, which is why the close ups were so welcome. I think that after a while, I got a little tired of putting out lights. There were some nice attempts at variety, like the matches and the mp3 player, but it got a little repetitive. I don't mean that it got boring, per se--I know this isn't a game. But the concept was re-used a bit much. The scene overall was a little clunky in places. A few too many hard edges for my tastes.

The Sunlight
What I Liked
The dance is EXCELLENT. Probably the best part of the game. Worth waiting for. It is so mysterious and lovely and the light in he scene is just incredible. Salome is beautiful and wicked. I barely notice that she is half-naked. It just makes sense. I have the option to zoom in, but I don't really use it. I like watching her from a distance better. I also like the images that flash on the screen and the whispering. What a great ending!

What I Didn't Like
Why did I have to restart the game to see the dance? That broke the experience up for me because I didn't restart the game until the next day. Even if I had restarted it right away, seeing my desktop would really just jolt me right out of the experience.

Fatale was really good. Why is it called Fatale? Why are there modern touches? What does the moon symbolize?

The character development is amazing considering how little the characters actually do. While I'm in the game world, I am very immersed. Everything feels real. Everything feels beautiful. I like it very much. However, it doesn't really leave a lasting impression on me. That is to say, I didn't find myself thinking about Fatale today, after playing it for the first time yesterday. It didn't really move me like the other Tale of Tales games have. And yet while I was in it, I was really impressed by it.

I would say that despite my criticisms, which I hope you take constructively, I give Fatale a positive review overall. It is an experience that is difficult to qualify, though I have tried. Please keep making games. Fatale wasn't really for me as much as some of your others were--but I do think it is in many ways your best game yet. I think they'll keep getting better. Keep it up.

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Posted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:31 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Thank you for the elaborate review! Smile

The controls in Fatale have been criticized before. I guess we did too little playtesting. To us, the controls feel perfect. We didn't want to use conventional game controls because they just don't have the right emotional effect. But if we had playtested more (i.e. if we had a bigger production budget), we could have come up with something that was more useful to a larger group of people.

You've identified the weakest part of Fatale without knowing it: the fact that it still is, in some areas, a game. We'll fix that problem in future projects. Wink

The title "Fatale" is derived of the term "femme fatale" which is often used to describe Salomé. In this case, it's extra appropriate because the player dies at the start.

But it seems like you did enjoy the experience overall. I'm happy for that. I don't think what we make should be perfect. Because the medium is so underdeveloped we need to experiment a lot. That means that we're going to fail once in a while. That's a lot healthier than cranking out things that everybody likes.
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Posted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:33 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 15 Jun 2008 Posts: 50
And it's exactly that attitude that makes me respect you so much. What you are doing is truly unique. If you don't experiment, no one will. If you stooped to pander to popular interests, you would compromise the integrity of your artistry. You guys, to me, are like rebels in both the video game and art industries, and even if you make a game I hate, I will still be very grateful you made it--and I will continue to buy all your products.

I actually found myself wondering this morning when the next Tale of Tales project is going to come out, because I'm already excited to try it. Is anything in the works, other than the iPhone app?
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Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 2:01 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Thank you, Lumino.

We're working on another iPhone game with Alex Mayhew.
And a small PC/Mac game for a little contest.
But I'm afraid that the next 2 years or so, we will be focussing on prototyping two new games. So it'll be quiet here for a while.
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