Staring At The Sea: Tale of Tales Return With Bientôt l’été

By Alec Meer on December 4th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

I dunno about that Citizen Kane of videogames nonsense, but one thing we definitely have is the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of videogames. Bring up the name Tale of Tales, most renowned/notorious for The Path, and you will be sure to spark a war. A war between those who believe games can be anything and those who believe games have to stick to a strict definition of games. It’s a very boring war and I don’t understand why people object to the existence of things they do not themselves enjoy, but THE INTERNET. Personally, I’m not quite sure ToT’s games have always lived up their promise or the concepts they explore, but this does not preclude me from being grateful for their existence, and for their continued dedication to experimentation.

So, their new game software product Bientôt l’été. It’ll be out later this month, all being well, and appears to be an even more overt departure from traditional game objectives and systems than before.

I have a build here that I’ve nosed at a little, but I’m pretty sure I need to lock myself in dark room with a bottle of wine and a head full of broken dreams to experience the full force of that. Which I’ll do on Wednesday, for those things come easily to me.

For now, I just want to point you to the screens, for this is a very pretty game in its dreamlike, abstracted and yet also simulationy way, and the development blog and reference materials site which is chockful of random imagery, video and other inspirations for this disjointed, sleepy tale of love, loss, waiting and Gualoises.

It is also a two-player dating simulator, based around visual ‘conversation’, though it can be played solo thanks to an optional simulation of a drinking/smoking/chess-playing/music-listening partner. More on that on Wednesday, however – for now, I just wanted to bring it to your attention. Here’s some footage, too:

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65 Comments »

  1. Terragot says:

    Tale of Tales are ultimate trolls.

    • Bhazor says:

      To be fair everything in the Tate Modern is basically trolling.

      How else do you explain shit like “An Oak Tree” and this http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/how-to-build-controversy-from-a-pile-of-bricks-2277359.html

      Seriously, Modern Art has become ridiculous and the artists more concerned with celebrity than with actually saying anything.

      Edit: This was in reply to Snids talking about the Tate Modern not being ridiculous.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        @Bhazor^
        I used to have a poster on my wall of those bricks.

        Granted, I also had a poster of a timber wall on my wall.

      • Snids says:

        Well I love the Tate.
        When I don’t understand something, I try to understand it. If I can’t understand it I just try to enjoy it for what it is. If I can’t do that, I just keep walking.

        Someone threw blue dye over that bricks piece. Can you imagine how big an arsehole that person must’ve been?

        • Premium User Badge RedViv says:

          @Snids
          Pretty much the way I approach this. Something doesn’t give me anything for investing time looking/watching/playing/interacting, and others like it? Eh. Just not for me. I have no desire to ruin fun or engagement or whatever other people get out of something.

          tl;dr I’m absolutely disinterested in Row ‘Internet Guy’ McArguey’s “Stop enjoying something I don’t enjoy!!!1″ attitude, really.

          (Why do comments keep being torn apart on RPS? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO HIDE??!!!?!)

  2. baby snot says:

    It should be noted that there are two versions. The higher priced version comes with better textures or some such.

    Can someone explain what’s happening during the ‘conversation’ part… I mean, is either party working toward a goal or end-game?

  3. Frank says:

    That looks quite gamey after the slow-walky part. Good on them.

    Regarding the “those who believe games can be anything and those who believe games have to stick to a strict definition of games” issue… If I didn’t know there was a big debate about it, I would probably think it semantically useful for those who discuss the industry (that is, you) to draw a line between games and non-games that use the same medium. If you’re against it, I guess I’m wrong.

    What I have against ToT (and Introversion, too, for that matter) is that, compared to other indies, their products are okay at best (though I’m hopeful for prison architect) and their marketing is excellent.

    • Premium User Badge phlebas says:

      In the same way that we’d draw a line between films and non-films that use the same medium?

      • modomahu says:

        Pretty much. You’ve got movies, documentaries, reality TV, reportage, YouTube clips, home movies etc. all using the same medium, video in this case. All are filmed, but there’s no point in calling the 8 o’clock news a film. I think the core of this new medium is interactivity, so its name and definition should probably be built around it, with games being just a subset, and stuff like ToT does another one. Not that I think it’s actually going to happen, mind, languages rarely do what you want them to do.

        Although we do have a precedent for a polysyllabic word entering general use as a medium: animation, and even though interaction is both woollier and lumpier, not unlike a dropsical sheep, there may still be hope.

        • Feferuco says:

          Are there really enough of these that you’d get a website just covering them? A website that’d make someone at RPS feel like there’s someone else doing better already.

          Besides, TV news and a movie are much more different than The Passage and God of War. Not to mention that even in our gamey games we enjoy the same activities as in a game like Dear Esther

          I spend a lot of time in New Vegas exploring for the sake of it. Either exploring the land or exploring information and I’m sure a good share of what I see and hear is useless for my success in the game, it is there just to build a world. And I love it, I much prefer to open a locked bathroom stall to see a skeleton and a gun then to find yet another abraxo cleaner. I’m sure a lot of people enjoy that too.

          Story is another aspect that has nothing to do with a video game, but we can all enjoy it too. We like looking at things, exploring, learning, hearing a story. We also like a game. Tons of games mix all of these but most people don’t seem to complain at the extra load.

          These non-games they are focusing on one aspect of video games that we all enjoy. Just like Tetris focuses on a single aspect. So are they really so different? In the end they’re the same thing, interaction with a software for entertainment, whereas TV news and movies share much different goals.

        • Pindie says:

          Uhhh… nope. There are some non-movies which pass for movies.

          There was some recent movie which was just 45 minutes “slice of life” about some French people at a classroom where nothing happened and it made it to the cinemas. Some people even liked it.
          Not to mention lengthy sections of actual movies or entire short forms where somebody is performing some mundane activity like drinking a cup of coffee.
          “Slice of life” or “experimental” kind of stuff. I am now prejudiced against French cinematography as a whole.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      The funny part is that, on the one hand, people carry on about how we need a better vocabulary to talk about games — and on the other hand, they’re happy to include all sorts of things under the term ‘game’.

      Also, I doubt I need to explain this to most people, but no one is objecting to the existence of Things That Aren’t Games.

      There are plenty of words in the English language that could be applied to things that aren’t games but nonetheless are interacted with on computers. Why insist on the term ‘game’? The term has a very long history and very clear and established definitions that shouldn’t be void just because we have computers now.

      • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

        The core here is that there are always objections in the comments when sites like this cover games like this. ‘they aren’t games, and shouldn’t be here’, is the argument.

        Do you think games sites should not cover Tale Of Tales’ work?

        If you want my side on this, I think it is extremely useful, when looking at the sides of an argument, to see which side relies on delegitimising the other.

      • Lewis Denby says:

        “no one is objecting to the existence of Things That Aren’t Games.”

        Trust me, having worked with the Dear Esther guys for a few months, a lot of people are objecting to the existence of Things That Aren’t Games. ;-)

        • frightlever says:

          Isn’t it more the case that people object to Things That Aren’t Games being called Games?

          I don’t like platformers, generally, and will tell people I don’t like platformers. I just did it there a few seconds ago. That doesn’t mean I’m objecting to platformers being made, or that I think platformers should be more like RPGs, which some are, it just means I don’t like platformers. Same with art games or non-game games.

          I didn’t hate Dear Esther but I didn’t like it either. It was a drab experience for me (me), insofar as I took nothing away from it. What it did and what I like about games when represented in a Venn diagram would have had very little overlap. It looked like an FPS, which I generally like, but didn’t play like one. Didn’t play at all. So I was left with an unmet expectation which was frustrating, but not hateful.

          Though if Dear Esther had been a platformer I would have really hated it.

        • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

          You’ve just objected to ‘Things That Aren’t Games I Like being called Games’.

      • siegarettes says:

        I think we need a definition of the medium that is wider than “videogames”, the same way we have “graphic novels” replacing comics. I think products like Dear Esther, Thirty Flights of Loving, and whatnot are conceivably part of the same medium as the rest of videogamedom, but lack the structure and feedback that is expected when you declare it to be a “game”.

        • CaptainThark says:

          No one in comics calls them Graphic Novels except when the respectable press is looking. There have been games not made for fun but for other reasons for decades, perhaps longer. Wargames originated as actual military exorcises.

          Just let the word be games.

          • zbmott says:

            I think there are significant and obvious stylistic and thematic differences between “comics” (stuff published by DC and Marvel; generally superhero stories) and “graphic novels” (stuff published by smaller, more independent firms; for a couple of good examples, see Britten and Brulightly or Shortcomings.)

            I also think breaking “interactive media” up into more categories than just “game” would be semantically helpful, but I don’t think it’s a huge issue, or one that needs to be solved urgently.

          • Premium User Badge phlebas says:

            Interesting choices there, zbmott. Would it surprise you to know that Hannah Berry and Adrian Tomine both describe what they do as comics?

          • zbmott says:

            I didn’t know that! I think it’s very interesting. Surely they don’t mean use the word in the same pejorative sense that “grown-ups” do when they make fun of comics as being for “kids”?

            Anyways, even if the authors think of their works one way, I can still think of them differently in my head. Or at least, that’s what they taught me in high school and college. And it’s likely that this particular semantic distinction exists in the precise form that it does only in my head.

        • Alec Meer says:

          And yet X-Factor and Storyville can both be called ‘television’ and no-one objects. Often enough something’s name isn’t the best possible name for it. Language is language.

          • NathanH says:

            That’s because “television” is a medium and “game” is not.

          • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

            Yes, it is. Language isn’t perfect. ‘Games’ is the name we have.

          • NathanH says:

            No, AndrewC, you are wrong. The term you may have is “video game”, but it is definitely not “game”. “Game” is not a medium by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

            This leaves us with the confusing situation where video games might not be games, but that’s what you get for shrugging and saying “hey, that’s the term we’ve got, let’s not bother trying to make life more sensible”.

          • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

            Framing this as an academic discussion in linguistics is unfortunately disingenuous. What actually happens is a work like this gets an article on a blog and then the comments fill up with people demanding the blog not run articles on this work, that it isn’t a real game, that it shouldn’t be there, and also that anyone who defends it is pretentious, elitist or in some way perverse. It’s that, not a quibble over word-usage, that is the issue.

            We call them games, we call them comics, we call them films – you are going to have to accept the wobbly and changeable nature of word-usage.

          • NathanH says:

            I agree entirely, I just think we should be quite clear about what the problem is, as you have been. I am your ally in this fight: despite not thinking these things are games and not really caring too much about them, I see nothing wrong with articles about them on video gaming sites. So claims that the problem is people who don’t think these things are games don’t endear me to the cause.

            I think people who complain about “video gamelikes” being featured on RPS is similar to (non-existent) complaints about how board games are featured on RPS despite not being video games. Nobody makes that complaint, because it is weird, so nobody should make the former complaint either.

          • Kitsuninc says:

            Absolutely. I think it’s an even more unfair thing to say that ‘non-games’ (Interactive Art, maybe?) shouldn’t be featured, than to say board games shouldn’t be, as there isn’t anywhere else someone can go for news on ‘non-games’. If I wanted to be sure I got all the latest news on games like The Path, Dear Esther, etc. there wouldn’t be anywhere to look, so I have to rely on gaming sites to feature them too. It’s a small enough category we can afford to let it share space with game-games, I think.

      • John Brindle says:

        I’m not sure how you can claim the word ‘game’ has a “clear and established definition” when it is, via Wittgeinstein, the PROVERBIAL example of ambiguity in naming categories.

        In his book Half-Real, Jesper Juul went through a bunch of 20th century academic definitions of game (Huizinga, Callois, etc) and tried to work out what they had in common. The synthesis he arrived at he called the ‘classic game model’. i.e. he gave it a stringent, careful, specific name because it’s a stringent, careful, specific category. ‘Game’ is not that kind of word.

        I’m comfortable with calling ToT titles ‘ungames’, ‘notgames’, ‘cyberludes’ or ‘things’, as it happens, but come on.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I like that there’s a bit of discussion over what “game” means – it can be fun and interesting. However, when people say “it’s not a game and so it’s terrible”, they’re not engaging in discussion, they’re making excuses for their non-engagement.

      Let’s just be nice to the things that may or may not be games, and discuss them amiably over a lovely warm pot of tea in our pyjamas.

      Edit: Scratch that, tea should be hot, please don’t flame me.

    • Bhazor says:

      If Alec Meer is seriously confused why people get upset about some games I have to wonder how much attention he’s been paying.

      When something shit gets popular the industry gets flooded for about two years with even shitter clones. We’ve only just started to emerge from the Medal of Duty: Warface age and the facebook tie-in era seems to have faded. How many loved franchises did we see getting pillaged in those times? How many developers did we lose to Zynga’s promises of easy money? As we stumble into the DLC epoch how many great games are going to be destroyed by petty penny grabbing and ingame adverts? How many will we lose to always on DRM backed auction houses?

      That said I have no problem with Tale of Tales. They’re shit, but they’re shit in fascinating ways and they at least stumble in the general direction of something good. Certainly I prefer The Path over the slide show that was Dear Esther.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        The thing about Tale of Tales is they’re aggressively about making ‘not-games’ as an approach (disregarding mechanics or other traditional approaches to making games), and things like Amnesia and Dear Esther have been called not-games. But they still refer to what they produce as games too, so their own use of terms is kinda confusing.

        • Bhazor says:

          No I’d say Tale’s stuff has much more use of game in it. The path had clever space distortion and euclidean geometry if you left the path, it had a strong sense of exploration and the story depended on this exploration as opposed to just which random sound bites you got. There was actually a bit in their latest project that subverted the whole game in a pretty clever way. SPOILERS, basically the whole “game” was flying around “scenes” of a play, examining characters and the scenery to trigger the next scene. No one notices you floating around and you seem to just be an incorporeal spirit. That is until you waft up to a certain woman who after examining her for a couple seconds suddenly looks straight at you and wafts you away with a gesture. Coming 15 minutes in it was the first time anything had responded to me and it was honestly shocking and watching her from a distance as she occasionally glances towards you, trying to read her expression and get close without her seeing you kept me playing to the end. Which was another 10 minutes SPOILERS END Compared to that Thirty Flights of Lovin and Dear Esther are just uninteractive, unskippable cutscenes.

    • wererogue says:

      I find that particular bit from Alec really interesting.

      When I was reading the AC3 Wot I Think, I was struck by this line:
      “5) Do you truly believe people buy this series for its storyline over and above its free-roaming action?”

      Because I see a *lot* of people saying that they play Assassin’s Creed for the story, and it really struck my as Alec complaining that the game was not the game he wanted to be playing, but instead another game that he shouldn’t have to play, which is really only one step away from objecting about the existence of a thing he didn’t like.

      Overanalysing internet funnies.

  4. Hoaxfish says:

    that’s quite an arse-shelf going on there

  5. HilariousCow says:

    French Simulator.

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      Nah. There aren’t enough tracksuit-wearing teenagers shouting enculer at each other on the bus.

      • aepervius says:

        I see that you have paid a visit to Paris / banlieu :P

        • El_Emmental says:

          Haa, the tourists buying in the “Paris is romantic” bullcrap, funnelling foreigners’ money since the 19th century.

          It’s like all these european hipstersish girls going to New-York, expecting it to be “Paris” with more money (= trendy, popular people with insanely expensive appartments, cars, shops and restaurants).

          Hopefully/sadly the british are usually smarter than that, they’re buying land and houses in the countryside next to big towns (making the prices skyrocket btw), mostly in place they invaded several hundreds years ago (during the Middle Ages), or visited during WW2.

          And mostly avoid Paris, they can go to London if they want the crowded place, and turn on their TV on the european news topic to get their daily dose of ‘french arrogance’ (according to brits – well, many of them).

          *waiting-for-the-angry-comments-about-nationalism/chauvinism*

          • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

            There are apparently a number of Japanese people who are repatriated every year because they’re shocked by how Paris isn’t a romantic version of Disney Land, and is instead full of stressed French people. Paris is fine if you’re aware that it’s a huge, crowded city with a massively expensive city centre (unless you’re happy living in a shoebox). Also if you can leave.

          • El_Emmental says:

            The same is happening a lot to westerners going in India, they go mad when they realize it’s extremely crowded and people die in the streets on a daily basis, most countries have an employee in their embassy dedicated to that task: finding and extracting westerners going crazy, either causing public troubles or shutting themselves in their hotel.

            Speaking of Japanese people, there’s quite a few europeans having difficulties understanding Japan isn’t the Japan of samurai and kimono, or the land of schoolgirls with short skirts, they don’t see the different mentality and problems there until they try to settle there.

          • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

            Sure, perceptions of distant places can be hugely inaccurate, and miss important social issues that are alien to the place you live in. Plus films nearly always romanticise places and shave off the ugly corners, whether it’s Calcutta or Blackpool.

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        Right, and when the game freezes, it’s not broken, it’s just having a bit of a manif.

  6. Henke says:

    The Path was terrible. I don’t mind non-gamey games, loved Thirty Flights and Dear Esther for instance. But The Path was just arty fluff to cover up the fact that there was nothing there.

    • siegarettes says:

      I think there were interesting ideas hidden in there, ToT simply obscured anything they had to say behind a wall of tedious bloated mechanics and obsessive collection that felt detrimental to their tale.

      A bit of the opposite of what Thirty Flights of Loving did, really.

      • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

        Just seemed like a disgusting game about taking girls into the woods to be raped to me.

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      I think The Path nailed the atmosphere, but yeah, I didn’t get that far into it.

  7. siegarettes says:

    Despite ToT’s games always becoming a chore to play at some point, I find myself strangely looking forward to them. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily enjoy them, but I do find them a bit hypnotic and interesting.

    The aren’t brilliant, but each game seems to be bringing them closer to that sweet spot where they will finally be able to realize their visions in a way that communicates their messages in a way that feels like it absolutely requires the use of this medium.

  8. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    It’s not the existence of their work or whether or not they are “games” that tends to rub me the wrong way with Tale of Tales it’s their general demeanour in interviews which could generously be described as “combative” and less generously as “being a bit of an arse.”

    The Path was OK, didn’t feel the urge to finish it but it was a neat (if flawed) concept. The rest of their stuff hasn’t really appealed to me but I kind of resent their apparent superiority complex. It’s nice that they aren’t afraid to strongly put across their opinions and it would be a duller place if they didn’t but it is, I think, unsurprising that their is a bit of a backlash against their work.

    EDIT: I was looking back for an example of a specific interview that irked me and I actually ended up finding one that was interesting and which they came over rather well (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134907/passionate_frustration_tale_of_.php). I definitely remember being irked by some interviews, perhaps they got a bit more frustrated at a later date!

  9. Premium User Badge Revisor says:

    I love all their games (The Path the least because it was the least concentrated, Fatale the most). They are the next thing to auteur games we have. I’m definitely looking forward to this new one.

    • siegarettes says:

      Fatale was definitely the strongest of their works, and the one that resonated with me the most. It was still tedious, but it showed me that they were improving and working towards being more than a artsy spectacle.

  10. Snids says:

    I beat The Path on hard on the first try. It was easy. I got maximum score.

  11. Feferuco says:

    Looks like they’re avoiding showing a character actually running around, at least from the footage I’ve seen. I bet in Journey part the reason they went for floaty robe people was motivated by not having an actual person running around.

  12. Qwallath says:

    Having played the alpha and beta builds, also with human partners in the conversation part – which is without a doubt the best way to experience it – I’d say Bientôt is mostly about the impossibilities of communication, especially conversation that is not face-to-face. The Frenchness is part of the setting, to give it all a certain air, but the setting itself is undermined at several points, in the sense that it shows its own skeleton, and by extension, so does the game.

    Take from that what you will. It’s a game in the sense that you are allowed to play around with sentences and chess pieces to create an attempt at a conversation, however flawed it will turn out to be. Which is the point.

    I’ll probably elaborate in an article at some point.

    I think it might be ToT’s *least* accessible title thus far, and I doubt many people will get anything out of it. That said it *needs* to be interactive (or a game) to say what it wants to say, which is why it exists in its current form. I don’t regret pre-ordering it regardless, as I found it rather stimulating, as most of their works.

  13. JackShandy says:

    Tale of Tales do seem to have a combative attitude towards games, though, and I don’t think it’s right to paint their view as “Games can be anything”. They call their genre “NotGames”, specifically walling themselves off from games as a medium. Games are not art, so they must make Not Games. “We are not reacting against games,” they say, “We just don’t find them entertaining enough, not beautiful enough, not interesting enough, not immersive enough. ”

    I think people react to their denigration of system-based games, not to the fact that they’re making their own thing.

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      Damnit, wish I’d put it that succinctly as that is exactly what I was attempting to say!

  14. Jackablade says:

    So, who’d like to offer a phonetic pronounciation of that title? There’s a few too many different accents for me.

    • X_kot says:

      This is probably far from orthodox, but I would pronounce it as

      Bee-AWn-toe lay-tay

  15. Gnarf says:

    “A war between those who believe games can be anything and those who believe games have to stick to a strict definition of games. It’s a very boring war and I don’t understand why people object to the existence of things they do not themselves enjoy, but THE INTERNET.”

    The matter of which labels you use for which things is not necessarily the matter of which things you enjoy.

    And the matter of which things you enjoy is not necessarily the matter of which things should or should not exist. (The two are obviously related. People generally try to turn the world into a place that has more of the things they enjoy and less of the things they don’t enjoy in it. But criticizing something should not always be taken as some “ban this from existing”-argument.)

  16. lokimotive says:

    So, does anyone like Tale of Tales? Because I do.

    I’m rather amazed at the amount of vile hatred expressed towards them on here.

    • Premium User Badge DavidK says:

      I do too, very much so. I understand the negative criticism they get, but the anger is perplexing.

  17. MikoSquiz says:

    You certainly are very pugnacious on the topic. Have you considered coining a term for the genre yourself? I’m sure people would be happer with “[modifier] game” than just “game” for entertainment software that doesn’t necessarily include anything recognisable to most as “play” per se.

    Experience-em-up? REG? FPE? Eugh. See, this is why this is your job and not mine.

  18. broklynite says:

    So…they re-invented Myst but substituted chess for the puzzles. Well, put me down for three in that case!

  19. PopeJamal says:

    “Maybe you will not return any more.”
    Indeed.