Tale of Tales is not your everyday games development studio and it's not a common indie team either. Its founders, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn are formally artists who became gamers as they were intrigued by the riches of the interactive media. Now they hate games and they love them - how so? What about the subject matter of their games? And when is that playful media finally going to grow up?
4Players: First of all, who are you and what kind of game developer are you? What do you do for a living?
Tale of Tales: We are Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. We are artists who use game technology as their medium. Our purpose is to create interesting and emotionally engaging interactive experiences. Not necessarily games in the strict sense of the word, but playful activities nonetheless. We feel that videogames have exceeded their origins in games and have the potential to become an entertainment medium as rich and varied as cinema, music and literature. We're exploring part of this potential.
Developing games is our full time occupation. Before this, we designed websites for a living. But creating games is so time-consuming that we cannot afford to do anything else these days.
4Players: Is there a story of how, where and when the founding people of Tale of Tales came together as game developers?
ToT: We met in hell. In an artists collective surrounding the hell.com domain, to be precise. We started collaborating as net.artists and web designers first, as Entropy8Zuper! (entropy8zuper.org). A few years later, we founded Tale of Tales. We also fell in love with each other and got married.
4Players: Why do you make games?
ToT: Because we love games and because we hate them. There's a lot of things we adore in videogames and that we think could be expanded further (interactive narrative, generative systems, emergent gameplay, immersive worlds, autonomous characters, etc).
Michaël and Auriea - literally one of the most artistic games development couples.
But this expansion seems to be held back by extreme conservatism and a kind of loyalty to the supposed roots of videogames in more traditional games. We consider computer technology to be an artistic medium on par with oil-on-canvas in terms of its potential. Because it offers us a means to deal with the complexity of our contemporary »post-historic« society. And it offers artists an escape out of the impasse that modernism has lead them into.
While other developers may create games for diversion and fun, we use them to explore themes and subjects that are difficult to deal with in non-interactive media. Typically questions that don't have simple answers, issues where good and bad are hard to tell apart, stories without endings, riddles without solutions. The interactive medium excels at dealing with complex topics and multiple meanings. Because it, quite literally, puts the user at the center of the experience.
We market and distribute our work via traditional games channels because it is a way to reach a wider audience than museums or galleries would allow. We are also not interested in making art for the happy few. We believe that there are many intelligent and sensitive people out there. So we try to make our work as accessible as possible.
To some extent even more accessible than traditional games, because we choose themes that appeal to a wider audiences (there's no space marines, ninja's or zombies in Tale of Tales) and we try to create input controls and interaction structure that are easy to understand for non-gamers.
4Players: While you explained on your website how you didn't want games to be frustrating you introduced a very unusual control scheme with Fatale. Why so?
ToT: The control scheme in Fatale is only unusual to gamers who are used to typical game control schemes. These game control schemes, however, are completely unusable for people who are not accustomed to them. They are all but intuitive! And some, especially the first person »ASWD« scheme, cause motion sickness in many. So we painstakingly developed a first person control scheme that does not make people sick. While at the same time, expressing the emotions we find important in the experience.
Fatale is only difficult to play if you play it like a normal game. If however, you try to understand its system and work with it, rather than against it, the use of the controls will enhance your experience tremendously. Our
Find our review of The Path as well as another article on Tale of Tales on the following pages:
work, and definitely Fatale, is not about finding the quickest way to get from point A to point B. On the contrary, even! It's about taking as long as you can. This is very explicit in our previous project, The Path (of which even the title refers to this). Fatale is more open, more experimental. It puts the responsibility in the hands of the player: it is your choice to treat it like a game and get bored, or to relax, take your time and enjoy the experience.
This is an experiment with openness. Something that is oddly lacking in games. Possibly because of the early stage in the development of the medium (and the acceptance/understanding of the audience), most videogame designs still carefully take you by the hand and guide you through the program (as if it were as linear as a film or a book). In a way, the game structure itself could be seen as an artificial way of imposing linearity onto a non-linear medium. Linearity is a very powerful tool for crafting an experience. Players rarely have an opportunity to make real choices in videogames, to take responsibility. Everything is left up to the designer. At Tale of Tales, we like to subvert this status quo and see what happens if you make the player responsible for their own entertainment.
4Players: Do you have some kind of dream project?
ToT: Yes. In a way. But it's very vague. We have this desire to make something. And every project we work on feels like a stepping stone towards this one ultimate dream project. Without knowing exactly what we are evolving towards, every time we learn a little bit more. We see the whole of our work as a research project, an exploration of some of the potential of the interactive medium.
Mh... The game isn't bad, just very special - i have played it a little. But why the f... is an interview on a german games-magazine in english? I mean, seriously, if I want more infos, I can go to the english pendants, but I like it on german.
Ich könnte eigentlich fast das komplette Interview so unterschreiben. Spiegelt so ziemlich meine Meinung über das Medium wider! Würde mich über eine gute Übersetzung freuen, denn vieles von dem was die sagen sollte langsam mal den Weg in die Köpfe der Spieler-Community finden, damit das Medium Computerspiel auch wirklich mal zum Kulturgut wird! @RosaElfe es macht nix wenn es nur in kleinen Spielen funktioniert (was ich nicht glaube), es geht nicht um den Umfang sondern um den Gesamteindruck!
Sie wollen also eine Art Spielplatz kreieren, in dem der Spieler selebr aktiv werden und sein Spielerlebnis finden soll. Problematisch sehe ich es aber, dass dies nur in einem sehr engen Rahmen und in sehr kleinen SPielen möglich sein kann. Mehr oder weniger offene Spielwelten wie z.B. Morrowind waren nie etwas für mich. Mir ist ein sehr gut durchgescriptetes, lineares Abenteuer lieber, dass es schafft einen intensiv in eine vorbestimmte Geschichte hineinzuziehen. Ich sehe das dann wirklich auch eher als eine andere Art, eine Geschichte zu erzählen. "Interaktiver Film" ist ein passender Begriff. Ich kann daran nichts schlechtes finden, es ist eben der klassische Ansatz, und ich habe auch viel für diesen übrig. Mal sehen wie ich mit "the path" zurecht komme.