Looking Up At The Stars: The Gutter

Also in pixellated indie-oddity news this week: The Gutter. In it you play a drunken derelict to is vomiting and stumbling his way towards a good night’s coma. There doesn’t seem to be much of an objective to your sodden wandering, but maybe that’s the point. I can’t really say much more than that.


  1. Andy says:

    Wow. The best bit of the game is the credits at the end which list about 100 roles all filled by “JW” or “Jim”. Very funny.

  2. anon says:

    It adds only one feature: death


    you get it?

  3. Smee says:

    It’s a parody of The Graveyard. Auntie Pixelante recently mentioned it:

    link to auntiepixelante.com

  4. danielcardigan says:

    Very similar idea to this from a few years ago, isn’t it?

    link to wagenschenke.ch

  5. Dracko says:

    dessgeega is right on the money too. Tale of Tales should play this repeatedly until the lesson hits home that they’re in the wrong business.

  6. Mihai says:

    The punchline must be in the credits :)

    Also, 5$ for the full version that adds “Death”? I’ll take it as a stab at today’s indie games.

  7. roBurky says:

    Dracko: I don’t quite see how someone remaking their game with a different setting and visual style would have that effect.

  8. Fede says:

    @Mihai: I think that is just a reference to The Graveyard.

  9. Dracko says:

    roBurky: You’re right. I’m probably giving them too much credit when they clearly have their head up their rears.

  10. Sum0 says:

    When I run it with the Windows 7 beta wallpaper, an outline of a man’s head appears in the sky above Stonehedge. I like that (even if it’s entirely unintentional).

  11. Jazmeister says:

    I think Tale of Tales should keep making games, but just never make The Graveyard again. I have a number of tedious problems with that game, and The Gutter justified that lost time.

  12. Andy`` says:

    I don’t think they’re trying to be assholes. I think they merely misunderstand what it takes to create something meaningful, and that there isn’t only one way (their way?) to do it.

    There are lots of Laws and Razors which go a long way to explain it, I’m sure.

  13. Dracko says:

    No, I’m pretty certain they’re tools who hate the medium they’re working in and think things happening when you control a game is a novelty.

    You can tell by their attitudes in the comments:

    “Games are more than art. Which probes deeper into the heart of human nature? Whistler’s Mother or The Prisoner’s Dilemma?”
    “Ask your own mother.”

  14. MD says:

    I found their Post-Mortem of The Graveyard to be… well, worth reading. Some samples:

    1. Birth of an idea


    Your avatar is an old lady who walks through a peaceful graveyard (soundscape à la Endless Forest). That’s it. That’s the core game design.

    The above was the initial concept of The Graveyard. At that point we also considered adding some gameplay to “make this more poignant and to give people something to do”. We were thinking of a game where you would try to find the answer as to where the husband of the protagonist was buried. And every time you play, it would be a different grave. When you find the grave, the lady would do something (smile, cry, talk, etc), a different thing every time.

    After coming up with this idea, we realized why we thought it was strong. Like The Endless Forest, The Graveyard was designed around a core activity of walking through a certain environment. This simple activity is made meaningful by defining the avatar and the environment. A deer in a forest. An old lady in a graveyard. Both immediately imply meaning.

    This happened on 24 September 2005, two weeks after the launch of the very first phase of The Endless Forest. We keep track of these things in a wiki. A year and a half later, on 29 May 2007, we added a note:

    Does the gameplay described in the original version really add to the emotional impact of the game? Doesn’t it, on the contrary, reduce the impact: perhaps giving players something to do, creates a layer of protection against the emotional impact?

    With Tale of Tales, we try to develop a new form of interactive entertainment. One that exploits the medium’s capacity of immersion and simulation to tell its story.

    Overall, the reactions to the game (gathered from the articles, their comments sections and personal messages), fall into three categories.
    Of course there is the expected response of the typical gamers whose desire for zombies whenever they see a cemetery is apparently insatiable. They tended to describe The Graveyard as “boring“. Of course.
    A little bit up the ladder of human civilisation, we find the people who were turned on by the idea but turned off by the actual experience. They were “disappointed“. From what we can see, this was either caused by a failure on our part to maximize the qualities of the game or by certain expectations coming from the player. Despite the fact that games are supposed to be interactive, many gamers still seem to be incredibly passive when it comes to the meaning of their entertainment. They expect to be spoonfed and don’t seem to have any experience with literature, modern theater or fine art (or even art films) which require active participation, not just of thumbs and index fingers but also of heart and brain.
    A final type of response was the simply “delighted” one. These people really enjoyed the game. And/or they were happy to see the experimentation that we’re doing with the medium.

    I was tempted to add some sort of snarky commentary, but really, these guys are quite capable of speaking for themselves.

  15. Andy`` says:

    I hadn’t read the comments in that post before now, and I may have glossed over them slightly – they haven’t seemed worth listening to since claiming Braid isn’t a game, and I only poked my head in because I got super curious when I saw your (Dracko’s) post :)

    And reading them now, it seems more likely they’re fine with the medium but have problems with the culture. Even if they’re not very good with working in the medium, all their complaints and claims stem from the idea that games (of all types, I’d assume) are only really accepted in popular culture when they’re “low brow” works, or pander to businesses. It’s a massive generalisation, and they’re blinded by the big, willy-waving game releases of recent years in the same way Europeans assume Americans are 2-dimensional cardboard cutouts produced with either jock or geek prints (I’m truely sorry to each and every human being that reads that sentence).

    Or at least that’s what I’m extrapolating from everything I’m reading here, because the way it comes out in pure word-to-eye form is similar to some slightly immature ArguingOnTheInternets I’ve seen before, which is unfortunate. It always looks just like either incoherent babbling or angry ranting, always focused on the hatred-topic of the moment, and usually bears less resemblance to what someone actually thinks of the subject. And it stems from frustration and confusion, usually – they need an outlet, and the outlet’s usually the “impossible topic” (like games vs. art or whatisagame), or “get off my lawn”. Or both.

    What would probably do them good is to sit away from the crowd for a while and think. Ignore the rest of the world and consider what they want to do, and not waste brain cells on what they think everybody else should be doing. Never try to change the world with brute force alone. Take some time out and come back later to present something that’s way more thoughtful than “Braid isn’t a game!” (sorry, but I still find that amusing, it was a pretty silly thing to say)

    But actually putting effort in to do something that constructive isn’t an effective marketing strategy.

  16. Narwolf says:

    Dracko, I’d say they’re in the right medium, but working in a genre that doesn’t exist. All the coverage they get is from a focused field that doesn’t include their aims.

    That and I don’t think they’ve got good at what they’re doing, but its not like anyone else is joining in these days.

    Meaning: heck, you can make things on your computer that control with a mouse and a keyboard and are interactive that aren’t games and potentially do it to great effect. Why not? Why shouldn’t someone be trying?

  17. Dracko says:

    …You mean like a web browser or text processing software?

    MD: You forgot the best part:

    “The return on investment through sales was far too low to get even near to breaking even. Technically, this is not a failure because the project was not designed to be commercial […] So not selling well is in fact a bonus.”

    Andy: They haven’t played nearly enough games to know that to be true. Hell, they don’t even know what a game is!

    Braid – for all its flaws – is a game. In fact, the best parts of it are the playful bits! I didn’t care for the epilogue at all, but man, the mind-bending puzzles! I don’t know how anyone could say those weren’t “fulfilling” or “educational” in their own right. Play is not something to be afraid of because you have bills to think of and have gone through a bankrupt authoritative systems.

  18. Sinnerman says:

    @Dracko; Tale of Tales obviously have a deep disrespect for games and people who play them in a way that reminds me of artists disrespecting people who understand mathematics and engineering. The only question for me is why people in the games community seem to crave the legitimacy that comes from their “proper art games”. I wonder how many of the sort of people who go to art galleries appreciate their works as opposed to people who read games blogs.

    It also concerns me that people “in the industry” might nod their heads in appreciation to Tale of Tales ranting about the pond life wanting to play games instead of appreciating their master works.

  19. Narwolf says:

    “…You mean like a web browser or text processing software?”

    I could have gone on with listing features to make this more clear but I’m sure you get what I mean by pointing out they share a family similarity.

    Nobody should be afraid to make a game or to play them, or to look down on it out of some kind of concern for legitimacy. I just think that applies to making other things in the medium too.