taleoftalessmall.jpgWith Bientot l'ete, enigmatic development duo Tale of Tales has a third IGF nominee. This year, its game about beachcombing, romantic reflection and a cigarette-kissed conversation with a mysterious lost love has gained a nomination in the Nuovo category.

The game can be played on one's own, but with another player on the other side of the chess board, the conversation interplay can feel surprisingly intimate, even as it enforces Bientot l'ete's musing on unwinnable interaction and the circular logic of love.

Continuing our Road to the IGF series of interviews with nominees, we talk about the pair's literary inspirations for the unusual work, and how they aimed to communicate the inherent raw ambivalence of relationships.

What is your background in making games?

We were trained in sculpture and graphic design and worked as web designers and net.artists from 1995 to 2002, first apart and then together. When we got bored with the web, we turned to videogames as a medium for our art.

Since then we have released six games (The Endless Forest, The Graveyard, The Path, Fatale, Vanitas and Bientot l'ete), three of which were finalists in the IGF.


What development tools did you use?

Bientot l'ete was programmed graphically in Antares Universe, a plugin for Unity. The models were created by various artists using Blender, ZBrush, 3DS Max, Maya and Cinema 4D. The textures were made in Photoshop, CrazyBump and Illustrator.

The music was edited in Logic Pro and performed in part on a computer-driven reconfigured giant street organ. The motions were captured with an Animazoo IGS-150 and edited in 3DS Max. Animations were made in 3DS Max. Concept art was made with charcoal on paper.

How long did you spend creating it?

About one year.

How did you come up with the concept?

Bientot l'ete started as the combination of two ideas. One was the desire to do something with the seemingly disjointed dialogues in the novels and films of Marguerite Duras. The other to create a game in which two people simply sit together, without doing much, just enjoying the company, the connection.

The latter was no doubt inspired by our own love of cyberspace in the 1990s and the fact that we found each other in an online chat room, 14 years ago, with an ocean between us. A more recent influence was a prototyping project codenamed Cncntrc, that dealt, in part, with cosmology.

During the development, we followed the notgames principle as best as we could: we avoided formal gameplay wherever we found it in favor of focusing the attention of the player on the content of the game.

In the game chess pieces are used as conversation pieces that correspond to memories -- what led this choice?

'Conversation piece' is a pun I hadn't thought of yet. Originally there were going to be all sorts of objects, found along the sea shore. And the sentences were going to be just sentences, not represented by objects. We had wanted to create a virtual chess set and board for a long time, so that's how the chess pieces entered.

While cutting away unnecessary parts of the game, I realized that there was no function for the objects. So I only kept the chess pieces and connected them to the sentences. At first in a more video-game like aesthetic of neon lights, then as realistic looking pieces.

We like playing chess with each other. Not because of the strategy or the competition but because it feels somewhat erotic to us. Or at least teasing. It's like playing with dolls for us, I guess. A kind of foreplay, perhaps. We have similar feelings about Tekken and Soul Calibur.

Do you find wine and cigarettes romantic, or is there something deeper there?

There is something more shallow there! The wine and cigarettes come straight out of the novel Moderato Cantabile that provided the basic premise for the game. Smoking and drinking is what the protagonists do when they meet in the cafe. It's not romantic at all, actually. It's very mundane.

Although, drinking has always been a big topic for Duras, who has been an alcoholic for parts of her life. In Moderato Cantabile, an early novel, it seems like she is developing the habit of drinking too much wine through the female lead character. I think she drinks to numb the passion and anxiety she feels.

The cigarettes are even more mundane. We used to smoke and gave it up together. But we've continued to love the mannerism of smoking and the look and smell of smoke. So we just built ourselves a smoking simulator, to at least relive part of the experience, without the risk of getting addicted, or damaging our health.

What do you hope players will bring away from the experience?

Beauty. The beauty we find in the words of Marguerite Duras. And in walking on the beach, feeling the wind, seeing the waves. And a sense of connectedness. With other people. And with the cosmos. A feeling that beauty is love and love is beauty and those are the most powerful forces that exist. The most powerful, the most true and the most real. That nothing else matters.

But also, we want to show that this is not a simple, kitschy, idyllic sort of sentiment. That beauty and love are very raw and very multifaceted and that it takes courage and initiative to embrace them in one's life. To have the strength to admit one's love without finding any reasons. To not run away from the pain and confusion. To see the beauty even in the worst.

Have you played other IGF finalists? Any you particularly enjoyed?

We've played Cart Life, Gone Home, Little Inferno, Vesper.5, Dys4ia, Mirror Moon, Thirty Flights of Loving, Year Walk, and Kentucky Route Zero.

Enjoyed them all, on various levels for various reasons.

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

I'm not sure if we have a sufficiently broad overview to answer that question. The indie scene is so big these days. Sometimes it seems like it is replacing the AAA scene bit by bit.

I'm glad to see a growing interest among designers to deviate from the conventions that videogames have been stuck in for decades. There's still a long way to go, but many people are willing to take that journey now. And that feels very different and encouraging.

[Leigh Alexander wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra]