Immersion on the iPhone impossible?

I have never cared much for mobile gaming platforms. Or mobile anything, for that matter. I come from a time when moving around meant being separated from information technology. And I guess I’m comfortable with that feeling now. Perhaps I even cherish being disconnected.

As a designer for interactive media, I was also never attracted to mobile devices. Mostly because of their small screens. One of the most important things about interactive experiences for me is immersion, immersion in a virtual world. And, partly because of their size, computer monitors and televisions screens seem to dissolve when I’m playing a game. They become invisible frames of the windows through which I experience virtual worlds.

But small devices are always there. You’re holding them in your hands, you constantly feel their material, their weight, and worst of all, you have to focus your vision to a very small physical area, the area of the small screen. As a result, I think, the best experiences I’ve had on my iPod Touch have been simple puzzle games, games that don’t necessarily look like representations of something large but that “fit” in the small format. Oddly, this seems to apply to both size and content. Superficial and abstract games thrive on small devices.

But that doesn’t stop me from wanting more.
Now that we’re trying to make a game for the iPhone ourselves, I’m trying to play the ones that are out there. I’m naturally inclined to look for things that have a bit of “meat around their bones”, experiences that can draw me in, make me believe in their fiction, make me want to spend time in their worlds.

But I haven’t found a lot that even comes close to this on the App Store.
Maybe the device is just not suitable for this kind of thing. Or maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. So this is a call for tips: can anyone recommend any immersive experiences on the iPhone? They don’t need to be games, they don’t need to be big. Just something that makes me feel something. That I can step into.

The TEF Fan Art Calendar for 2010 is here!

TEF - 2010 Fan Art Calendar

We are pleased as punch to announce that The Endless Forest deviantART fan club lead by Jen Stuber, has once again made a Calendar filled with beautiful artwork from players who love the game. It’s pretty freakin awesome!! Michael and I don’t have enough exclamation points! :)

All cash raised goes directly to help to fund the future of The Endless Forest. I think we can count ourselves fortunate to have such a sweet and talented player community!

buy the Calendar on deviantART

And speaking of the community… The Endless Forest community website has received an overhaul these past weeks. The community site is a very lively place where TEF players of all ages can meet each other outside the game.

Hard for me to believe but TEF will have been going for 5 years in 2010. Thanks to MUDAM for continuing to support us with the game server hosting. They have been great. Anyway, maybe for the TEF 5th anniversary we’ll have to have a big party. In the forest, of course! 😉

The Endless Forest 3.30 released with new feature “De Drinkplaats”

De Drinkplaats

Download The Endless Forest here. It’s free. Like, for real, not as in “free to play”.

We have upgraded The Endless Forest engine and added a new feature to the game for the occasion of the exhibition Fantastic Illusions which opened in Kortrijk last week. It’s an exhibition of work by contemporary Belgian and Chinese media artists that explores the idea of immersion (there’s two games in it: The Endless Forest and Flower). The show ran in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai in September and can now be seen in the Broelmuseum in Kortrijk until February.

The Broelmuseum collection includes several paintings by 17th century Flemish painter Roelant Savery, many of them featuring animals very prominently. One painting, entitled “De Drinkplaats”, or “the watering hole”, served as the inspiration for the addition we made to The Endless Forest.

In The Endless Forest, De Drinkplaats is a peaceful place where players can bring their deer to have a drink from an eternally flowing source. When they do, however, they change into one of the other animals that inhabit the forest, often of disproportionate size (including the new raven and bunny!). The more players gather in the place, the more magic happens (courtesy of ABIOGENESIS).

More information here.

new Bunny character new Raven character
This could be you!

The Making of the Dance of the Seven Veils

still from the video In all the discussion surrounding the experimental nature of FATALE, it’s easy to forget the amount of hard and loving work was put into its creation. So we decided to pay homage to one of the most complex elements in the production -the Dance of the Seven Veils- by putting together a “Making Of” video, documenting the collaborative effort.

Watch the video here!

From the musical composition and performance of Gerry De Mol over the improvised choreography of Eléonore Valere Lachky to Laura Raines Smith‘s painstaking effort to animate 4750 frames by hand, the clip shows how music, dance, video, animation and realtime rendering and scripting come together to deliver a performance unique to the medium.

FATALE on Steam

FATALE on Steam

If you’ve been waiting to get FATALE on Steam, now is your chance, here.

It’s great that a mainstream games store like Steam wants to support our experiments. It really shows the desire of the medium to grow. And that’s a wonderful feeling. Even if FATALE is not your particular cup of tea, more diversity is always good. Because we all want this medium to be the medium of the 21st century.

All IGF 2010 videos

Compiled, for you. And for us. We like watching game videos during tea time. And thanks to delayed airplanes, I was able to compile all the videos of the games entered in the Independent Games Festival this year into
a YouTube playlist (181 videos!) and
a Vimeo channel (36 videos).

We still need to go through all 306 (!) entries but some immediately stood out, like A Slow Year, Lose/Lose, TRAUMA and Wait but there seems to be a lot more where that came from. The overall polish of the games this year seems much higher. And 2D platformers (still) reign supreme. Though I also noticed a much higher amount of 3D games than in previous years. And less (pseudo) self mocking games.

More later.

FATALE in Games TM and Edge

Fatale in EdgeFatale in Games TM

There’s a 4 page interview about FATALE in the current issue of Games TM (89) that was made before the release of the game. And there’s a rateless review of FATALE in Edge online, which I enjoyed because it’s about what the writer discovered while playing and how he appreciated it.

Video games rarely offer the chance to look so deeply at a single character, or to spend so much time lingering over an environment and enjoying it for its own sake. Tale Of Tales is a small team, but they went across disciplines to find experts in every field, from the art to the music to that wonderous dance sequence. Plenty of indies wear primitive graphics as a badge of honor; Tale Of Tales pulled off Fatale with a team of less than a dozen.

Presenting in Italy

On Thursday, at 9 am, we will be presenting our work at the View Conference in Torino. It’s a very general event about the use of computer graphics in all sorts of fields.

VIEW Conference is the premiere international event in Italy on Computer Graphics, Interactive Techniques, Digital Cinema, 3D Animation, Gaming and VFX.

VIEW 2009 will continue to focus on exploring the increasingly fluid boundary between real and digital worlds. Through lectures, meetings, tributes, exhibits, screenings and demo presentations VIEW will reveal the new digital frontier sweeping from cinema to architecture, from automotive design to advertisement, from medicine to videogames.

There’s presentations by people from Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Blue Sky Studios, etc. Us, intimidated? Naah… 😉

Here’s the full program (PDF).

Visit The Graveyard today -for free

It’s All Souls’ Day today. A day to commemorate the dead. Over here, we visit cemeteries today and put flowers on the graves of family members and friends who have died. It’s a day of silence and serenity.

Those who prefer to commemorate the dead from home, can visit last year’s Independent Games Festival finalist The Graveyard. For the occasion, today, the full version of the game can be downloaded for free.

Get it here:
The Graveyard for Windows – Free
The Graveyard for Mac OS X – Free
Only yesterday.

You can still download the trial version of The Graveyard for free here.