Tale Of Tales (Probably) Stopping Making Games

After twelve years in games, it looks like Tale of Tales are calling it quits and looking to new artistic pastures. The duo behind such games as The Endless Forest, The Path, and Luxuria Superbia had hoped their latest, Sunset [official site], would have more mainstream appeal – and financial success. It sold only around 4,000 copies in its first month, not enough to cover costs.

ToT said over the weekend, “we don’t think we will be making videogames after this. And if we do, definitely not commercial ones.” I’d be sorry to see them go.

I might say Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn were “ahead of their time”, but they had always just made what they wanted to. Many other people were behind, though – games that seemed strange and unconventional when ToT made them years ago would look perfectly at home in the modern game-o-sphere. Go re-read Michaël’s notgames notmanifesto from 2010 and see how unremarkable it is now. They’re often great agitators, tweaking the noses of boring conventions and conversations. And their games are full of mystery and wonder, and are more playful and funny than they get credit for.

Oh aye, their games were always wonky, but I still dug them (mostly – I never finished Fatale because of a crash). The Endless Forest’s deer MMO is a beautiful playful space of frolicking and nonverbal communication. The Path is a great horror game, weakened by repetition but with such mood! The Graveyard is a lovely vignette, and the idea of the paid version’s only addition over the demo being the ability to die still makes me laugh. Luxuria Superbia is a weirdly intimate experience in co-op, especially on a touchscreen.

Sunset was meant to be the game were they got a handle on their wonkiness issue, and maybe find more mainstream – and more lucrative – success.

Tale of Tales explain that they’ve “always teetered on the edge of sustainability”, relying on arts funding on top of sales. Their games found a niche audience, but they wanted to reach a larger one, partially because arts funding for video games in Belgium was drying up but also out of “a feeling of moral obligation.” They say, “We felt we had to at least try to reach as many people as possible. To make the world a better place through the sharing of art as videogames, you know.”

They Kickstarted Sunset and ended up spending an extra $40,000, thinking they’d make it back in the first month. That hasn’t worked out. The 4,000 copies out in the wild include Kickstarter backers, so only around 2,000 folks have bought the $20 game (and it’s been half-price for a while). “A small group of people clearly deeply appreciates what we do and we curse the economic system that doesn’t allow us to be pleased with that,” they say.

They say they were wrong about a lot with Sunset. They tried studying “successful games” and applying lessons, hired a PR company, assumed friendlier personalities (and hushed Michaël), took out ads on our own dear RPS, and… it didn’t get them what they wanted. “Being wrong will set you free,” they say. “We don’t have to take advice from anybody anymore. We were wrong. Everybody whom we consulted with on Sunset was wrong.” They conclude:

“We are happy and proud that we have tried to make a ‘game for gamers.’ We really did our best with Sunset, our very best. And we failed. So that’s one thing we never need to do again. Creativity still burns wildly in our hearts but we don’t think we will be making videogames after this. And if we do, definitely not commercial ones.”

If they don’t return to games, I’ll still be excited to see what they get up to.

[Disclosure: I stayed with Auriea and Michaël over a day when they were filming their Sunset Kickstarter video, though I didn’t know that’d be happening and at first they didn’t even know I write about games. That happened because I’m friendly with folks who consulted on Sunset and tagged along while already in Belgium.]

173 Comments

  1. Pich says:

    I had no idea that Sunset was out, so that PR company did i wonderful job i guess.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I only remembered what this game was when I followed the link to previous RPS coverage. The name Tale of Tales is an instant “stay away” for me so I didn’t pay much attention.

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      Aerothorn says:

      Banner ads were plastered all over this very website, for one.

      • fuggles says:

        I’ve developed banner shock and never see those adverts any more. Gosh, I feel grumpy tonight! Time for tea and a biscuit.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        Honestly who pays attention to banner adds any more – they just make my eyes glaze over

        • Shuck says:

          Given that they supposedly got zero sales from paying for banner ads here, apparently no one pays attention to them.

          • christmas duck says:

            Nope.

            …on an entirely unrelated note, does anyone else have a sudden urge to buy Dreamfall Chapters?

    • Distec says:

      This already had a discussion going on the last Sunday Papers, but I figured it would eventually get its own post given previous coverage of these guys.

      It’s always a little saddening to see anybody close up shop due to poor business. But given their output and the nature of Sunset in particular, it does strike me as somewhat inevitable here. I’m even confused by their statement that they tried to make a “game for gamers”. Granted, “gamer” is a term whose meaning seems to really depend on whoever reads it. But even if we allow a temporary (and common) simplification – that “gamers” tend to prefer mechanics and systems as opposed to narrative – Sunset looks to be three or four ballparks from its vicinity.

      Even with a PR firm and consultation, I’m not sure how likely these kinds of experiences are to actually penetrate whatever market is being targeted. They’re pretty niche even as indie titles.

      • christmas duck says:

        I think the “gamers” they were going for were the same ones (which include myself) who bought Gone Home, KR0, etc, and are currently marking the days till Firewatch is out. Your narrative centred gaming sorts who love adventure games but much prefer them with all those annoying puzzles removed thank-you-very-much, and it’s a decently sized market (yeah it’s niche, but it’s not NICHE niche).
        The trouble is it seems like even this was just too much of a compromise to the mainstream for these guys, but they made that compromise anyway, made a game they seemed to feel they were SUPPOSED to make in order to sell well enough, rather than one motivated by much real passion.
        They tried to check-box their way to a success but forgot to tick off “actually want to be doing this”, and for an indie project, that’s probably the most important one.

        • tiltaghe says:

          No, this is plain false actually. They did enjoy this development and it was firstly created out of passion if I believe what Samyn said in various, quite in-depth articles on gamasutra. It is not all black and white here.

          Gamers is a crowd of poor taste in my opinion. The concept behind Sunset is very interesting I think: learn to know a character while he is absent, in the confines of his apartment, exchanging notes and developing a romantic relationship with this person… while the war climate outside the bay windows comes to an electric climax and shooting and bombing starts to occur in the city, reflecting the tension of the intimate relationship.

          • christmas duck says:

            Well consider me corrected then, but their own post mortem certainly does seem drenched in “well we only did this because you’re supposed to like it”, which doesn’t seem a good way to think about a project, during or after.

            As for “gamers have poor taste” like I said, I think there is a sub market of gamers (which I am in) who are into exactly this kind of fair. Why didn’t we buy it? Well I do try and follow these things and it only came onto my radar a couple of weeks ago – via a Jim Sterling vid I didn’t watch all of because I thought he was giving an interesting looking game an unreasonably hard time – and when I looked it up to buy found it wouldn’t run on my (admittedly due an upgrade in a month) system. I’ve heard others say the same about just plain not knowing the game was around, including some who class themselves as pre existing fans of the dev team, so something definitely went awry there.

          • Baines says:

            Postmortems by nature are products of hindsight and written when the writer likely has a different attitude and opinion about the process. Looking at the aftermath of a collapsed project can change how you remember feeling months earlier, particularly if you focus on the negatives.

            Though it is also worth remembering that PR is itself almost always an intentionally biased (when not outright fictional) representation. That applies to both promoting the positives during development and to a degree to how you promote negative issues afterwards in a failed game.

  2. Renevent says:

    So they made games next to nobody wanted to play and now won’t be making them anymore…shocking.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      They’ve also properly spat their dummy out on twitter about it now, it seems.. Everything blamed from the marketing to the media consultants to the audience themselves. You know, for ‘artists’ selling a niche piece of media to a niche audience that got $68k (goal being $25k) and 4000 sales, they seem awfully grumpy. Pretty sure most artists would be perfectly happy with that sort of a pay-day.

      As an aside however, releasing 2 days after the Witcher 3 during busiest time of the year for gamers and selling it for a questionable $19.99 probably didn’t do them any favours.

      • malkav11 says:

        I’m not sure that late May is traditionally anything like the busiest time of year for games. That’s usually September through November-ish. Although admittedly that’s been spreading out recently.

      • skittles says:

        That is the bizarre thing I see. They made a decent wad of cash on KS. Most of their extra expenditure was on marketing. Why the *#($@&*&$#( did they spend so much on marketing? Or anything at all? It is not like they are an unknown studio. It is just their games have never been mainstream. They should of stuck to their core market. Instead they ‘branched out’ and made a game not particularly interesting to anybody, the reviews are not exactly glowing are they. They also completely blow their money on marketing to people who were not interested. Then they blame other people and the market, but not themselves? I respect the games they have made, they are interesting. But really the only ones at fault here are themselves.

        • April March says:

          They thought that by spending on marketing they’d get more money from sales. As a marketing graduate, let me just say no one knows exactly how the fuck marketing works. You release a product and you release ads, and then you sell the product, maybe because of the ads? Maybe because you fullfilled a niche? Maybe because of word of mouth? No one knows. The reason you are often asked to answer polls about “how did you hear about this thing?” is because execs are desperate to find a way to quantify that thing. Marketing is a field built on shaky ground that may actually just be clouds. Regardless of Sunset’s merits or lack thereof, spending more cash on marketing than on the product itself is madness.

  3. fuggles says:

    They ever started making games?

    I tried the path, but generally got the impression they made programs that were not designed to be enjoyable by specific design. Sunset was never on my radar, but having reread the comments on the RPS review linked above, if even this broad church of funsters don’t enjoy it then something went wrong.

    Best of luck to them in their future endeavors, I just guess that I didn’t get them! More of an Ice Pick Lodge fan. Surprised that they didn’t give a humble bundle a stab before calling it a day.

    It would be an interesting idea, I think, to look at how much market there is for games that are unconventional and not especially fun. In my older years with family and such little time for games, where things like Witcher 3 are just haunting dreams, there is no time for something that I struggle to find fun in – I just don’t have the time to struggle on – same with books/tv/media. This is in contrast to my younger days where I would try almost anything (even The Path) but times have changed and attention spans have diminished, or so I am lead to believe.

    • Pich says:

      >Ice-Pick Lodge
      now that’s a company that can make “art games” that are still enjoyable as “games”.

      • Jalan says:

        It’s also a company that isn’t run by someone who tells its customers that they’re practically uncultured swine if they find something to dislike about the games they’ve made.

      • dskzero says:

        You know, I loved Pathologic, and enjoyed The Void but I didn’t finish it because of some technical problems, but I am still not sure why I loved, enjoyed and ultimately end up worshiping their games because I can firmly remember suffering through the entire Pathologic game. It was hard, complex, confusing, depressing but I still feel like it was the most amazing gaming experience I’ve ever had.

        On the other hand, The Path was nice to look at but I can’t ever say Tale of Tales ever made a “game”. They were just making artistic exercises, which is fine but come on making a game that’s literally walking for a few minutes through a cementary and the full version allowing your character to die randomly? Alice might say it’s funny but I think it’s just silly.

        I was sad to see them fold but seeing their twitter tirade makes me not feel any sympathy for them anymore.

      • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

        Funny you mention IPL, because their leader Nikolay Dybowsky ADORES Tale of Tales and wishes he could also have freedom to to ignore gameplay in favor of writing.

  4. Sarfrin says:

    They were looking for mainstream commercial success with a game about being a housekeeper in the 70s? Maybe if they’d put some zombies in… LOL, guts everywhere!

  5. Blownaparte says:

    You know, as much as I hope this does not set them back too much in life, I strongly question the wisdom of blowing the amount of money that they did on an indie art house project. I expect people will point to stuff like Gone Home to try and make a point that these kinds of things are commercially viable, but they aren’t, IMO. Gone Home is an outlier and a game like Sunset is not the sort of thing you throw money at and expect to recoup forty plus grand.

    It’s a game that looks like, plays like and frankly should have been a bedroom project that somebody worked on in their spare time. I’m not surprised, and they shouldn’t be surprised either, that it bombed commercially.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Forty grand is a really modest budget, artsy project or not. It cost more than that to hire me as a records administrator for about two years, and I had to wear carrier bags over my socks for a month to keep my feet dry.

    • Shuck says:

      That “amount of money” is a bedroom project. It represents several people living frugally for however long they worked on it full-time, plus a few web ads, basically. Little indie projects can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in real costs with a small team and a few years of development time. You don’t hear that, because that’s usually the developers living off their own savings. Funds raised on Kickstarter are always just additional bits of money that supplement the developers’ savings, as in this case. There are a fair number of indie developers out there who were rendered broke by making games.

  6. gwz says:

    This is really sad, although I don’t think they will QUIT quit. The Path showed that we are fooled by so many games that there is a set format to tell a story, and yes the mood was always exquisite.

  7. Yachmenev says:

    It’s easy to blame the PR firm fo this, but the harsh truth is probably that they just didn’t have more fans then this. If they had that, then surely journalists and gamers fond of their games would have spread the word about Sunset enough for it to sell more then the paltry 4000 copies?

    Considering how much sympathy they’re getting now on different social medias, you would think that they had sold 40 000 copies of the games, and not 4000. I guess a lot of people doesn’t put their money where their mouth is.

    • Sin Vega says:

      People with finite supply of money still capable of compassion. More at ten.

      • Geebs says:

        Commiseration, surely?

        • Geebs says:

          (For non-English speakers, that’s the difference between “have this loaf of bread” and “I’m sorry you’re poor”)

          (Meanwhile, condescension is, “I’m sorry you’re poor, but don’t you feel better now that somebody like me has talked to you about it?”)

    • Hobbes says:

      Bad PR did a bad job. End of. It didn’t help that they went down what is now by and large a somewhat compromised route by following the usual trails with advertising and getting the word out. Banner ads do not generate sales, “Mainstream” gaming media is no longer as effective post-trainwreck of the tribalisms.

      It’s still got value for opinions and as secondary references, but it’s been supplanted by LP’ers and youtubers because “live footage” of a game is always more valuable as buyers guides than the written word, especially when readers no longer trust that word at face value.

      Tale of Tales as ever are going down on twitter in an inferno of their own creation, rather than bowing out with quiet grace. Which is a little disheartening, I had genuine sympathy for them, but they’re not doing themselves any favours by throwing the toys out with the pram. Again, the fact Tales of Tales polarised the player base has played into the state of things, love or hate, there’s rarely a middle ground when their name comes up.

      That said, the only mistake I can really attribute to ToT’s doorstep seems to be their choice of PR agency, which to be blunt has done a -really- ineffectual job of getting Sunset into the hands of people in general. This should have been a game that got onto Lets Plays of various youtubers, it should have had live coverage from various sites. Written reviews just -do not- cut it these days. People skim read them now, look for a number at the end and make a mental note, then go to youtube for some evidence to back that up or contradict it.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Not really that true to be honest. There are many, many people who don’t care about youtube, and many more who do but aren’t childish or paranoid enough to think anything written must be part of some sinister conspiracy.

        Sales data from Itch.io shows that a tiny, tiny fraction of referrals come from youtube: link to itch.io

        But either way, the audience for games is utterly gigantic, so much so that claiming it behaves in one singular predictable fashion or relies on one thing only is absurd.

        • Hobbes says:

          That as maybe, but when Arkham Knight comes out to a reel of recommendeds, 10’s and whatnot on the strength of a single platform review because there’s a good hunch that both Warner Brothers and Rocksteady knew their PC code wouldn’t have survived review (as evidenced by the savaging it’s getting on the steam reviews score, it’s into the 20’s now, which for a triple A game is practically unheard of, I don’t think even Risen 3 did THAT badly). That shows a massive disconnect between what the media is selling and what the users are reporting.

          It doesn’t help their case now does it? -cheerful-

          “Oh yeah, 10/10, game of the year!” (In the fine print ‘but only on PS4…’)

        • Hobbes says:

          As an addenda, referral data is trash. Analytics are as useful as that Alexa study about female gamers, which mentioned something like 20% or something female demograph on steam, which is drastically inaccurate (It’s a lot higher, even by Valves own estimates).

      • epeternally says:

        While I agree with your general assessment regarding reviews, I’m not sure that’s a ‘now’ thing. People have been skimming reviews, mostly paying attention to the number at the end, and looking for outside opinions that disagree with a positive review (except it used to be friends instead of YouTube) since the days of physical gaming magazines being popular. This isn’t a new thing.

      • DrollRemark says:

        Youtube videos might work for system-based games with a lot of replayability, but a plot-driven game like Sunset? That sounds like a terrible idea. I wouldn’t want to watch a Let’s Play of, say, Gone Home, or Kentucky Route Zero, for much the same reasons.

        • Hobbes says:

          You’d be surprised, you’re not looking for the big celebs like Total Biccie or Jim Sterling. You look for smaller players, people who would evangelise the game to small crowds and really sell the merits of the game, and do the advertising for you. A lot of people loved unravel not just because of the game, but because the guy who came on to the stage believed in what he was making and what he was creating.

          That kind of thing will get you more sales than a slot on Pewdiepie or TB even if the reach is fractional. It’s a case of finding those people, reaching out to them, and getting them interested and willing to pick up the slack.

        • April March says:

          Let’s Play’s of Gone Home are excellent, as long as the tuber expects it to be a horror game. NerdCubed throwing around toilet paper is a thing of beauty. There’s almost an audible ‘click’ when he realizes it isn’t a horror game.

  8. mR.Waffles says:

    I backed the game a year ago on Kickstarter and I had no idea the game was even out, so I don’t know if the PR company swindled them or is just incompetent.

  9. BlueDragon says:

    They also throwed childish tantrum from what i saw on net. So developer target people who are minority, and except profit, well what I can say, welcome to reality.

    • Blownaparte says:

      It’s like one giant long meltdown of how they hate gamers, games, the industry, fuck you guys for not buying our game, give us some patreon money etc etc. Of which I can only think to myself, if they hate the whole thing so much, why spend all that money and time on making games. Has anything good ever come from letting angry people on Twitter?

      • Jalan says:

        Even the blog post gives off a vibe of looking down the nose at those reading it.

        It speaks a lot toward false sincerity of wanting to change for the better when all they were doing, according to that post, was changing because they’d hoped to strike it rich.

        • chromebookbob says:

          It actually made me feel sick, they first said they had glowing reviews then deleted all the negative comments on the post, denying all criticism. It really is childish

          • Jalan says:

            I’m beginning to think that Michaël Samyn is his own worst enemy. I’m not going to be so bold to call him out as one of the people that he’s calling out as having poisoned the industry/stagnated it from “becoming better” than it is currently but the man is quite full of himself to believe that he’s part of the solution with such an obnoxious attitude.

    • Farsi Murdle says:

      Yeah it does seem pretty childish. Lots of games fail. Lots of *good* games fail. They don’t have more of a right to succeed than anyone else.

    • gibb3h says:

      Seems a fairly regular occurrence in the Indie dev crowd, just look at Phil Fish

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Seems a fairly regular occurrence in the Indie dev crowd, just look at Phil Fish

        The difference being Phil Fish actually made a game which was pretty good before he had his Twitter meltdown.

  10. ChairmanYang says:

    Things are much tougher for indie devs nowadays in general, because the competition is so much more fierce. Well-reviewed, positively received games that would likely have done well a few years ago have flopped, judging by Steamspy. Examples off the top of my head: Neon Struct, Technobabylon, and Serpent in the Staglands have all sold well under 3000 units each.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see lots of indie devs withdrawing from the market in the next few years.

    • Jediben says:

      As it should be. You won’t get the next Witcher 3 out of a bedroom or even a coffee shop!

      • Nereus says:

        That’s bollocks. You don’t need every game to be The Witcher 3. Many of my favourite games have been smaller offerings. Telltale’s recent games. The Cat Lady, Unrest, Hotline Miami. CDPR is an anomaly, in that they make good games with relatively large budgets. But the witcher series is an anomaly too, the loss of any other AAA series would bother considerably less than the loss of even an unheard of indie studio. The people creating new games are what keeps the industry from collapsing under the weight of its own sequels, DLC and pre-order bonuses. It shouldn’t be so difficult for small studios to survive when they do genuinely creative things.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Also, picking The Witcher was pretty much the worst possible example that argument, given that it was made by a studio funded by selling old and independent games.

        • Arvind says:

          Dev of Unrest here. Just wanted to say thank you for liking our game :D

    • KevinLew says:

      The problem is that many indie games are, by definition, risky ideas that mainstream developers won’t touch. Sometimes this pays off and, at best case, can actually create a totally new game genre. Other times you’ll fail horribly.

      There’s always going to be creative people and so there’s always going to be indie game development. Especially now, where publishers are extremely risk-averse as triple-A games cost hundreds of millions to develop and market.

    • Reapy says:

      When the path came out, there were few indies. People might have purchased it because the idea of a ‘good’ indie game was unique back then. Now, indies are a dime a dozen, and you have to be unique in some way to have any success.

      Just writing a quality game isn’t enough. I like to look at dustforce, because they released their sales numbers. I grabbed that game and it is just an excellent platformer, released 10 years before it’s time it would have made a bunch of money, instead it barely made much of anything.

      So what does the game offer that is unique? The platform, the mechanics, the graphics, the gameplay, the mix of those things? That is how you’ll get people as an indie, a new requirement beyond ‘good’, it has to be interesting too.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      Examples off the top of my head: Neon Struct, Technobabylon, and Serpent in the Staglands have all sold well under 3000 units each.

      The art in all three just doesn’t look good. When there are so many games, your game needs to look good at first sight.

      • Emeraude says:

        I don’t know that I agree.

        The game could also be doing something interesting gameplay-wise (I want to believe this at least), and that could be enough. Problem is it’s harder to assess the quality of good gameplay.

        That’s supposedly part of why we have need for a gaming press.

        • Frosty Grin says:

          But, again, there are just so many games. You can easily play something interesting that also looks good. Especially when you’re a kind of gamer that actually follows these releases. Many people have a backlog, as well as at least a few items on their wishlist. So if you want to sell the game at launch, you need to jump a queue of quite a few games – many of which are already purchased or on sale. So you need the game to look good – and if it doesn’t, gameplay needs to be not just good, but outstanding and you need to be able to effectively communicate what makes it outstanding.

          Sunset actually looks good enough – it has a distinctive aesthetic. Its problem is with gameplay and the intended audience, especially considering that it requires a relatively powerful gaming PC. They might have been more successful on tablets.

          • Emeraude says:

            At least we agree on one point: a game can be sold on it’s gameplay. You think it needs to be “outstanding” to outweigh sub par graphical prowess. I think innovative or interesting and different (yet worthwhile) is enough.

            Papers Please certainly isn’t outstanding gameplay wise. But it’s trying something different enough, and is successful enough at tackling it that it found its audience.

            There’s a market of game-buffs that has been playing for the better part of the last 30 years or more that will often prefer unexplored vistas – however rough the trip – to perfectly calibrated oft-treaded ground.

    • Emeraude says:

      So bad for Serpent in the Staglands ? That’s disheartening. I know only reason I haven’t bought it yet is I don’t have the rime it takes right now for that kind of games, but it *is* on my least.

      Looks like a lovely game from what little I could see.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      They had EVERY opportunity, tbh. They ads running on gaming sites, they had a KS and gaming sites pointing to it.

      I mean, look at this: link to rockpapershotgun.com

      That’s more than most Indies get. In fact, I’d say that was seriously above-and-beyond for a game like this.

    • equatorian says:

      Ugh, I didn’t know Staglands and Technobabylon are doing that bad. They’re both in my list, it’s just that Steam Sales + GOG Sales have robbed me of my spending money this month.

      Which also says something about the timing of Sunset, I guess. Right after Witcher 3 and just before the big sales? That’s hardly a time to to be selling obscure titles that take a particular mindset to enjoy and disposable amounts of money to buy! And I’m right in their niche! And also I didn’t even realize it was out!

      Yeah, PR firm did a great job.

      • DaveGilbert says:

        “Examples off the top of my head: Neon Struct, Technobabylon, and Serpent in the Staglands have all sold well under 3000 units each”

        Technobabylon publisher here. I can’t speak for those other games, but I can definitely say that we are definitely above 3000 units sold. I don’t know where you got your information from, but it is incorrect.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    Well, as the cynic in me looks at a post like this and sees what looks like guerilla PR (remember how Sunset is out? Not only is it something you can buy, you can save Games As Art at the same time!), the question arises – could any PR firm be so bold and self-effacing as to put forward a strategy that necessitates trashing their own good name?

    • christmas duck says:

      The devs seem far too genuinely bloody miserable about this entire thing for that to be the case. They also seem to be in debt which as a “strategy” is, ermm, hmm.

      • BooleanBob says:

        I don’t think for a moment they wanted to be in this position! I was referring to a strategy to get out of it.

        • christmas duck says:

          Well, if the PR group have advised this, the devs definitely aren’t sticking to the script, they’re alienating as many as they’re getting sympathy from right now. :/

          • BooleanBob says:

            Hm. Fair point.

            Overall I think it’s kind of sad. I played a few of their games and I didn’t really like any of them, but they were very much their own thing and it would be cool if that was enough to get by in the world.

          • christmas duck says:

            Agreed, what they were doing was important (designers on Uncharted 2 and The Stanley Parable have cited them as an influence) and it’s (IMO) vital that games are able to have people working on the unmarketable fringes experimenting without either the pressure to make profits or of working with budgets of 0. That kind of experimentation can really only happen with grant funding and I hope neither their commercial failure or their current behaviour damage that for others.

  12. Laurentius says:

    Personally I would be sad to see them go. Even if their games aren’t my cup of tea I generally whish well to all devs, especially indies, and would like to see them succesful. 4000 copies seem really small number but I think it’s really tough time, as competition is fierce. And I am guilty as well, I don’t really know what’s going on with me, but I definietly became more conservative in my gaming in recent years. While actually I have more disposible income but maybe less time and patiance and often feel more stressful so cling to games that give me comfort food kind of experience. So this year I bought: Diablo 3, Pillars of Eternity, Invisible Inc, GTA V and Witcher3. I played all this game exstensively bar Invisible Inc, which I barly touched, beaten GTAV, still a lot of playthrough for PoE and Witcher3.

    It really seems that all this gamergate bs and “ethics in journalism” is partially to blame. Now even sites like RPS kind of adopted to this (Alice’s disclaimer here as well). I really don’t see many of these indies games commercially suceeding without sites like RPS taking a role of a radio DJs that actually pick some unknown artists and give them air time. Nowdays games on RPS are going like meteors, whoosh , WIT and they are gone. I know that it would pose a lot of ethical problems ( just like radio) with “why this game i.e Sunset gets so much coverage and not mine or game x, y or z”. Sure, it would be mess of some sort, but seriously is this “let’s treat all games equal” that I observed already when “Sir, you are being hunted” was silently run through on RPS really beneficial ? Maybe it is actually better to help where you can ?

    • Baines says:

      RPS has still covered games. The occasional disclaimer shows that they still cover games that they are connected to. RPS has also continued to cover games that they’ve taken ad money for.

      I believe it was John who said that RPS writers cover games that they care about.

      So maybe that is the real culprit here. Maybe none of the RPS writers wanted to write about Sunset.

      It’s a niche game by a niche company that has actually become an increasingly crowded genre. Maybe the coverage of Sunset went to various other art games, walking sims, the rest. Maybe some of the rest of the coverage went to sites promoting more popular and profitable games (like how RPS has been chasing the MOBA crowd lately.) Maybe interest in the genre as a whole has dropped as more games have been released by more companies and there have been multiple success stories. (Coverage of blocky world building games has also declined, but people wouldn’t suggest concern over conflict of interest as the reason.)

      • Sin Vega says:

        I can’t speak for anyone else at RPS (Staff or freelance), but I’d imagine it’s also just as likely that nobody’s had time. Sunset’s only been out for a month, and I only even heard of it by chance a couple of weeks ago.

        As a relatively low-profile game, I wouldn’t really expect to hear about it right away. I’ve had Sunless Sea sat on my desktop for … (hang on)… three weeks, and only just got round to playing it last night. And that carries the weight of several recommendations.

    • Reapy says:

      The authors on this site change a bit, andI think that is what you are seeing. The two original founders that left had the strongest and most interesting voice on here IMHO and the site lost a lot with them leaving, though good to see them back in video form recently.

      For me the two of them talk about games in the way and level that I want while the rest just skim the surface for me. I’m not as much into the writers that have come through since, though I still like to see jim and adam’s stuff from time to time.

      That might be more what you are feeling rather than a few disclaimers imho.

      • Nova says:

        The two founders that left were Gillen and Rossignol (without a word). They are both doing different things, but no video content for RPS.

    • laser-gods says:

      Blaming GamerGate for their failure is rubbish. They had a PR firm behind and no less than 5 articles on RPS about the game. It didn’t find an audience plain and simple. Not to mention you talk about the disclaimer like it’s a bad thing.

    • Laurentius says:

      To clarify, I don’t necessairly mean that RPS should root for Sunset or Sir, you are being hunted, but giving the same amount of coverage (mainly a couple of previews, WIT and then radio silence) to big AAA title and lesser known indie game is wierd take on ethical imo.

  13. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I still think that probably the best description of their output was given on this very site by The Random One in this comment here:
    “I really like Tale of Tales, but I can never shake the feeling that if there were other people making deep art games about love and intimacy, they’d be the worst ones.”

    If you ask me, “art” (almost) always has to be supported by solid craftsmanship, which is where they’ve always been lacking. And compensating for this deficiency with rather off-putting levels of arrogance, which I suppose has now finally caught up with them. I’m sorry to see them close doors (if this really is the end), but it’s quite possible they’ve already done as much as they could do for videogames as a medium.

    • April March says:

      Nice, I got quoted. (I changed my username.)

      I think that, nowadays, there are a lot more people making deep art games about love and intimacy. And ToT hasn’t aknowledged that, and remain firm in the belief that their aggressive denial of gamey elements will bring them through. The environment has changed, maybe even because what they pioneered, but now everyone is doing what they do, and they became, if not the worst ones at it, definitively below average. I am sad to hear they won’t be making games any more probably, but it’s hard to think they had anything else to offer the medium that someone else wouldn’t.

  14. Michael Fogg says:

    It appears the socialist bent of Sunset turned out to be the limiting factor of its appeal. The rosy-glasses view of Latinamerican banana-socialism seems to be naive at best and willfully ignorant at worst, given that it’s commonly known how well the Cuban revolution served the Cubans. The revolutionary themes here move unwittingly into ‘Glory to Arstotzka’ terrirory in a way that’s just fundementally alienating to a broader audience. Compare that to the quiet and inobtrusive theme of tolerance that runs through Gone Home, a game that anyone can relate to. Also consider the popularity of Papers, Please. Ultimately the heavy-handedness of Sunset turned off most people who watched the pitch video or trailer.

    • malkav11 says:

      I think you are dramatically overestimating the number of people who were sufficiently aware of this game to have opinions about its politics.

      • Emeraude says:

        That or this is a particular form of sarcasm…

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Well, RPS probably gets around a million unique visitors a month. The game was covered in several articles and had banners. It appears it’s not that people didn’t know about the game – they did not want it.

        • malkav11 says:

          I knew about the game. That doesn’t mean I watched trailers or the Kickstarter pitch video or had any reason to believe that it expresses any particular politics, much less that I was driven off by them. (They certainly sound to be rather low on a list of the game’s potential issues, from the reviews I’ve read since, nor would I probably find them objectionable myself.)

    • horrorgasm says:

      The broader audience wouldn’t even understand half the words you just used, much less form an opinion of a video game for such reasons. Pretty sure they just thought this looked like another boring walking simulator.

    • manny says:

      The game cover art was a black woman with an afro, and not in a cool exploitation 70’s era way, but like ‘seriously’. That’s why the game failed hard.

  15. Distec says:

    I don’t think the existence (or absence) of Gamergate or disclosures would have changed one bit of Tale of Tales’ fate. They made products that weren’t popular and don’t appear to have ever been financially viable, pretty much relying on patronage and grant money.

    I’m sure their arrogant attitude didn’t help win followers either.

  16. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    I feel like I should be in the core audience for something like Sunset. The concept ticks off a bunch of “things that turn me on” boxes. Narrative? Check. Personalities? Check. Politics? Check. I should have been an easy sell.

    But I wasn’t even aware until today that Sunset even existed — and after I heard it existed, it took me a while longer to figure out that it actually ticked all those boxes. Even after a quick perusal of their Web site, I had no idea of that latter bit. I had to read a couple of reviews before things clicked and I thought “ohhh, that actually sounds interesting.” All of which strikes me as a marketing failure on multiple levels.

    I agree with the many comments that games like this are always going to be a niche proposition. That in and of itself doesn’t mean you can’t turn a profit selling into them. But if your pitch doesn’t grab people who are sitting squarely inside that niche, you’re kind of doomed.

    • christmas duck says:

      As someone else nestled right in the middle of that niche who didn’t know about this game until weeks after launch…yes. The cost of this game wouldn’t even be an issue for me so long as I had a good enough idea of what I was buying but I just didn’t with this.

  17. Freud says:

    It is a shame, but at the same time it’s hard to make a living doing something not many are willing to pay for. It’s not really the consumers fault and it’s not Tale of Tales fault.

    There are lots of musicians, artists, actors and film makers that can’t make a living doing what they love. It is the same for indie game developers and the more the market is being saturated the harder it will be for games to find a market. Bundles with six games for $3.49 might be a sale technically, but it’s not going to put food on the table.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Yeah. This is a sad reminder that very little art (‘creative work’ if you don’t like that word) finds the audience it deserves. And without going out into those wild spaces and doing a lot of digging, we’re only ever going to be aware of the stuff that has.

  18. Monggerel says:

    Well, as far as allegorical exitus goes, naming your last project “Sunset” is certainly apt.

  19. Hobbes says:

    PR company was terrible, that’s strike one.

    Developers Tale of Tales made some absolutely hideous mistakes as I’ve come to understand, they did not get the word out themselves in a proper manner, worse, what coverage they did get out went mostly unnoticed. That’s strike two.

    Finally, when they sell four thousand copies in the first month and see that as abject failure for a niche game that’s in all probability the kind of game that’ll generate a nice slow trickle of sales for an extended period of time, that speaks volumes as to their overblown optimism as to what they were hoping for from Sunset. Manage your expectations people. That’s strike three.

    I said this in the Sunday papers, I’m going to say it here. Steam is suffering a deluge of new releases, a lot of them very, very good, and worse, there’s a finite limit on how much people can afford to spend. Sure, there’s an ever growing market and there’s more disposable income sloshing around in absolute terms, but you’ll find the vast majority ends up going to the same places. Minecraft, CoD, the usual franchises. If you’re an indie that creates the next FTL or the next Terraria? Grats, you’ve made enough money to see you comfortably for your next projects ahead, you can breathe easy.

    For most developers, the story of Tale of Tales is the norm for most developers attempting to make a name for themselves on steam, most of them do not make four thousand sales in the first month either so it amazes me that they’re basically being “Must take ball and go home” over this. Perhaps they need to do a bit of a reality check and understand Steam isn’t the solution to all problems, I don’t know.

    Whilst I can live with Michaels attitude, he definitely didn’t win himself fans, nor did Tale of Tales, and that’s not exactly news either. Perhaps they needed to fail to be free, as they say in their blog, I don’t know that either.

    I do know gaming will be a poorer place for individuals such as them leaving it, they did make unique and special games that tried to do something different and challenge what we understand with the gaming medium. That at least deserves that they are remembered.

    • christmas duck says:

      It appears that the issue with the 4k sales (aside from the fact that it’s actually 2k sales, as half of them were copies for Kickstarter backers) isn’t that they were put out that they’d only sold that many, but that they NEEDED to sell more than that, they’d gambled on getting a great first month and they’d lost.
      If it is just disappointment then this is ludicrous, but it seems to be more serious than that.

    • malkav11 says:

      As I said on the Sunday Papers, they also seem to have completely failed to acknowledge the idea that they are not brand new faces and that their ten years or so as developers have left them with a track record that can and will unavoidably influence the reaction to anything they do going forwards. In some cases, that means they’ve earned fans that will follow and support them. In others, they’ve created skepticism and/or outright antipathy. In this particular case, their reputation for obscure, arty games that aren’t particularly accessible to most folks probably wasn’t a huge selling point on a game that they wanted to reach a wider audience. I know it’s a big reason I haven’t bought Sunset. (The other being I didn’t know it was out or on Steam.)

      • Sin Vega says:

        Right? You can’t really expect to turn around a reputation (not that theirs was bad, but that it was perhaps oranges when they want to sell an apple) in a month. Quite aside from these thing naturally taking time, that’s barely even enough time for people to play the game. Put in practical terms, it’s one payday, and during the season when everyone’s bleating about Summer Sales, too.

  20. kwyjibo says:

    It’s £15. Her Story is $5.

    £15 is not a impulse purchase. £15 is not a price that someone who’s mildly interested would take a punt at, and without a convincing hook, mild interest is all you’re going to get. Drop the game to $5 once you get past the Steam refund window, you don’t want launch buyers getting a refund. Get it in a humble bundle, the game is high profile enough to be accepted into a main bundle, that will probably net you tens of thousands of dollars.

    • christmas duck says:

      I’ll gladly say I paid full whack for Gone Home when it came out, but I paid that with confidence, I’d played a demo of the game and was familiar with its tone, structure, style, everything I would need to be going in.
      Similarly I’ll likely be making a week one purchase of Firewatch, which I fully expect to be priced in the £15-£20 range, because I know what it is, I’ve not demoed that but the marketing has made up for that very well, I know what that game is trying to do and how it’s trying to do it, and I know I want in on that.

      For whatever reason (it’s worth noting the devs seem to not blame the PR company) that didn’t happen with this game, it just seemed to arrive, the reviews came and then went, there was that banner on RPS after the launch, and now the studio is quitting games. If you need to shift a lot of copies in the first month of sale you need as many people as possible to know your game inside out before it goes on sale and that doesn’t seem to have happened here, at all.

      • Baines says:

        They did say that everyone that they consulted with was wrong.

        But no, they didn’t specifically blame the PR agency. They said it was everything, including themselves. That, of course, includes the PR firm. But they didn’t blame the PR agency.

        • RobF says:

          “hey did say that everyone that they consulted with was wrong.”

          Right. That’s a different thing entirely from playing the blame game. It’s acknowledging that actually, most of us know nothing about what we’re doing no matter how much we kid ourselves we do. The thing is, it’s OK to be wrong. It happens! And sometimes we can be wrong and do very well out of it and sometimes we can be wrong and it all goes the other direction.

          There’s no certainties in games and as someone succinctly put it on Twitter yesterday, if you’ve heard of a developer, they’re an outlier. I’m not even a great fan of ToT work, never have been, doubtless ever will be but I know from years of experience, from watching people I know and love stumble in games when if only the mantra of just make a good game and tell people about it worked y’know?

          And I’ve sat through a few years of people telling someone whose work I love so very much how they can make it more commercial, what they need to do. Because everyone has the answers for why something failed and everyone knows how to fix it and what someone should have done. No-one really does though.

          In games, most people are wrong. Just that most of the time, being wrong doesn’t really matter much.

          • Baines says:

            Text can be a tricky thing. I wasn’t being sarcastic.

          • RobF says:

            Yeah, I know. Sorry. I was more just reaffirming the sentiment given there’s a lot of “they’re blaming people” in this thread. Probably not the best place to thought-dump though.

  21. Nereus says:

    This is really sad. I had hoped Sunset would do okay, considering that it seemed to get some decent reviews.

    I’ve been following sunset since it’s kickstarter finished. Sad I did not get in early and secure a copy through that medium, and I couldn’t afford a copy on steam because this month moving house is taking all my money. This just makes me worry what will happen if I don’t support a game on day 1…

  22. Bluerps says:

    This is sad. I hate to see them leave.

  23. Unknown says:

    This game has been out for like a month. How many people actually buy games (especially indie games) as soon as they go on sale? It takes a while for buzz to develop, and that’s if the game is actually good and buzz-worthy. I didn’t play Gone Home until it had been out for many months. I didn’t play Binding of Isaac until it had been out for YEARS. I’m not going to purchase The Dream Machine until all the chapters have come out. And so on. If you’re making indie games, you have to bet on the long tail. Don’t throw a fit when your first month isn’t all that profitable.

  24. Brian Seiler says:

    Alternatively, this general situation could be expressed as “niche studio forgets that it is niche studio, fails miserably, blames everybody but themselves and pretends this was totally their plan.” They really are pulling the equivalent of crying about how they let the gigantic wrestler that just tied their limbs together win after the fight has been resolved, which isn’t really surprising, but it is disappointing. It’s well and good if you want to make art games, but no sane person could possibly have expected Sunset to be some kind of breakout success, given how it presents itself as a Menial Tidying Up Simulator with the studio’s somewhat heavy-handed narrative approach. If you want to succeed in the entertainment mass market, you have to make a product that is entertaining. That’s always been something that ToT had a strained relationship with in the best of times.

    Unfortunately, with the attitude that they seem to have, I can’t see them being particularly successful in any entertainment medium, so they might need to recalibrate their definition of success or their target audience a touch. You can make things that are good for people and you can make things that people want, but if you want to succeed commercially, you have to err toward the latter category, rather than complaining to…I don’t know, the universal referee?…about how people are just too stupid to want your obviously good things. They clearly have a solid niche of people willing to support them – if they can simply constrain their ambitions to a magnitude that that body of people can support, there’s no reason they couldn’t continue to make their particular brand of interactive experiences. They just have to be willing to accept that fact, which it would appear could be a problem for them.

  25. Thirdrail says:

    When I read that you would play as a housekeeper, in a game with no violence, I was very interested. Very, very interested! But then it turned out that the whole game took place in a single apartment, with no real social interaction outside of notes and doing chores the special way, and all my interest went right out the window. I still think there are lots of different ways you could make a play as a maid game that would be super fun.

  26. Bodylotion says:

    they made some pretty creative art-style games, most of them basically were moving paintings, which is OK, they did their own thing and did not think about the money. It’s sad to see them go, the games were not really my cup of tea but they were original in the endless stream of rehashed mainstream/casual games.

  27. ninnyjams says:

    As someone who loves their games, I’d like to note that disliking them or them not selling well is not necessarily an example of the person who didn’t like/buy it being behind the times. Sometimes their games just don’t accomplish what they promise (Sunset’ non-divergent options, for example) and are almost universally filled with jank. I am profoundly sad to hear this news, but I think too many people are making this a super black and white thing of “if you don’t like this, you hate art/feeling things/indie games” etc.

  28. Dushanan says:

    So sorry to see them leave. What a shame
    link to 40.media.tumblr.com
    link to 40.media.tumblr.com
    Seem like nice devs!

    • Stupoider says:

      Happy to see they took Leigh Alexander’s consultation to heart and didn’t target their game whatsoever at gamers.

      Wish both Leigh Alexander’s PR firm and these devs all the best for the future.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      Hey, I’m on television!

    • Reapy says:

      Nice.

      First they tell their customers to go fuck themselves, then whine when they do and nobody buys their game. Quality people there.

    • horrorgasm says:

      What I take from those comments is that they’re either mentally ill or on some serious drugs (or both). That’s sure not a normal adult reaction to anything.

      • RobF says:

        I like the way “having a humorous conversation with a friend over twitter” isn’t even on your list there because HELLO

        • Hobbes says:

          Twitter is the land of “Nothing has context” and “You can be blocked by someone simply for being on an automatic list that a friend of a friend of someone that someone else doesn’t like”, it’s for that very reason I am -extremely- careful what I tweet, where I tweet it, and who I reference.

          • RobF says:

            Normally yeah, but an @ reply indicates it’s part of a larger conversation. I went and looked up the conversation and it’s absolutely silly and harmless. In this case, it’s folks actively removing the context to make things look worse which I guess if that’s how they want to spend their time on the internet is certainly a thing that passes the time but I’m not sure why bother.

          • Hobbes says:

            It’s the internet. The internet is full of bastard coated bastards with bastard filling.

            I am one of those bastards.

            The one saving grace I might have is that I like to be up front about my bastardness.

          • Dushanan says:

            well, let’s say hypothetically, someone (like me) saw those caps of those tweets without the context. It doesn’t look like a friendly conversation, it looks like some devs screaming at someone on Twitter who may (or may not) have deserved that. I didn’t look up those tweets, but considering one of the people in them has me blocked, I couldn’t have figured out that “oh, they’re just joking.”

            It doesn’t really leave a good impression. Of course, not like it matters now, does it?

          • RobF says:

            The trick here is, don’t screencap tweets out of context. Don’t post tweets in comments sections and on forums and message boards or anywhere else whilst removing the context. It’s really that easy.

          • Dushanan says:

            Sure! it would have been easy. Ah well.

          • Jeroen D Stout says:

            As the person they were talking with, it was a humorous conversation. They weren’t shouting at me, either, but at gamers, which was quite liberating to them. I assume in real life people will take context into account rather than look at tweets and draw elaborate conclusions.

        • MattM says:

          IM is for having a conversation with a friend. Twitter is for broadcasting individual statements to the world. Those comments are what they chose to share with everyone.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Nope. Twitter’s more like a pub. Sure, other people might overhear you if they listen in, but that doesn’t mean you drag acquiantances off to a private back room any time you want to have a conversation, just in case some dickhead walks past, records one sentence of the conversation, and then goes round making out that you stood up and yelled that sentence out of nowhere in the street.

          • Distec says:

            Your conversation at the local pub isn’t within earshot of billions of other people.

            Like, I agree that there’s really no reason to wade into Twitter’s backwaters to pick a fight or search for something that will rustle your jimmies. But this relatively recent phenomenon of treating Twitter like an IM app is just boneheaded through and through.

          • RobF says:

            That’s always been Twitter. It’s built around people talking to each other. As long as I’ve been using it (7-ish years across two accounts), people have chatted to each other through it. Friendships get made across it. Ideas shared.

            We can’t all just use it as a broadcast-only medium just because some people can’t seem to stop themselves from rummaging through Twitter accounts for stuff to screencap, y’know?

          • Kitsunin says:

            Bullshit. It’s really fucking convenient to talk to people via Twitter. Someone sends you an @ tweet, and you send one right back because it’s fucking convenient and why the shit should you have to open up Skype or your email box to talk to someone whose Skype/email you might not even know. Yeah people can see what you and them have been saying but that shouldn’t fucking matter because people shouldn’t be such gigantic fucking pricks.

          • Kitsunin says:

            @people saying you shouldn’t use Twitter casually, like its only purpose is for PR nonsense.

          • Distec says:

            Allow me a slight retraction/clarification. The issue isn’t so much the casual or frequent usage of Twitter. If you want to have a public chat with friends, fine. But you cannot be surprised at all when inflammatory tweets or contentious statements, even in a joking context, produce an inflamed repose in turn. You would, in fact, do best to avoid them. If you want to say “fuck gamers” or something else statistically likely to ruffle some feathers, that is probably something best shared in actual privacy. That is unless you truly do not give a fuck about the reactions of others, in which case: Great!

            It’s not about what’s right or what’s fair. It’s not about what people [i]should[/i] do, but what they will do. People need to learn and accept that there are risks with posting your most private of feelings and thoughts for the world to see. Again, should it be that way? Ideally, no; everybody should be super rational, patient, and understanding of one another. But we should all know better by now, especially those who use Twitter regularly. Sticking your head in the sand and demanding people on the internet to [i]not[/i] be pricks may be morally correct, but it’s also checked out far from reality.

            I’ve seen this show of Twitter meltdowns, spats, and inevitable deletions play out so many times that I’m numb to them. I’m only left wondering why anybody would continue using it this way when it bites so many people in the ass. That goes doubly for people who visibly run a company or are trying to sell a product, as your tweets are PR whether you intend it or not.

            I don’t use Twitter, so somebody more familiar with it may have a different opinion. But it seems like a shit platform for communication any way. Maybe it should just be used for PR nonsense.

          • Kitsunin says:

            If you happen familiar with Reddit, an @ tweet is essentially the same as a reply to a comment there. In both cases, it’s obviously a piece of a larger conversation, so to pluck something out without context is a really awful thing to do. Not so bad if the statement is bad with context, however, because it isn’t exactly private.

            The thing is, conversing in this way is natural. Asking people not to do so for the fear of other people being dicks is ridiculous, you’re just bowing to the will of the dicks by doing that. Even if you’re careful, it’s easy to accidentally say something which might be taken out of context, especially when tempers are running high. Even people who should be extremely familiar with this kind of backlash frequently make these mistakes! Therefore, avoiding these situations which could be taken advantage of by those with an agenda necessitates being less open and friendly, which just isn’t right.

            And at the end of the day you should expect people to do the right thing, it doesn’t matter if it might be foolish or be taken advantage of — rather, target the people who are not doing the right thing. Because this is how the state of everything improves, in most cases.

          • Distec says:

            I would say people posting on Reddit or any board are generally exposed to the same risks and considerations, although they are typically mitigated by the prevalent use of anonymous handles. Really, my previous post mostly applies to people who explicitly link their accounts to their actual persons. It’s harder for people to take their frustrations out on “Anon Dumbass #45698” than an actual person with an identity and things to lose.

            Conversing this way is natural, but we don’t always do it in any given context. The way I talk at work is not the same as the way I talk to my friends. The way I talk on RPS isn’t the same as how I’d talk while playing EVE. As a more relevant point, the way I might talk to a friend over a private IM is different from the way I would present myself if talking to him on a public discussion board; “public” being the reason for the distinction. I’m sure I have some “plain-spoken” views and convictions (as well as a sordid sense of humor) that would rile up other people, and so I tend to only divulge those privately in a place I can trust. It’s admittedly a form of self censorship, but it makes sense to me. If I were to have negative repercussions for something “colorful” I posted for all to see, it becomes pointless to blame others for misreading me or taking me out of context. Sure, I CAN blame them, but at the end of the day I still have a mob at my inbox, trolls in my feed, and/or potentially getting fired by my employer if gets serious enough. I can become a Google term like Justine Sacco and be haunted for the rest of my virtual years, and the injustice of the matter won’t matter one whit.

            I’ll just note here that the above says more about my personal approach to these things. I’m not going to tell anybody how they should talk online, and my sympathies do go out to people who have been viciously quoted out of context and/or invited a downpour of vitriol because of a misstatement. But I think this is just the reality of the situation.

            I agree that there should be a push for doing the right thing in these cases, but that will require potentially generations of change IMO. I’d be surprised if we don’t see some significant shifts in mentalities on how people approach conversing online. As individuals, most of us are still coming to grips with how far-reaching our online presence can be, and we clearly have a lot of growing pains when it comes to mass global communication. I’m not sure if humans, being creatures of local experience in general, will ever fully come to grips with it. But there’s a pragmatic side to me that, at least for now, sees no sense in poking a stick into a hornet’s nest and then complaining about getting stung. And the current track of improving this situation with heavy use of blockbots isn’t one I admire. I get how it’s possibly a necessity at this time, but to me it highlights how the fundamentals of the platform are in dire need of shoring up.

            TL;DR – It’s a shame that social media has a bunch of pissers, but they’re common knowledge at this point. You can’t control what other people do with your words, only your own. You are not beholden to the judgments of the masses, but it might be worth a consideration before you hit the “Post” button.

          • Hobbes says:

            Disagree.

            Rule one, and this was hammered into me when I was working at Cisco.

            “Any public facing comment system must be treated as if whatever you say is going to be viewed by the world. Therefore don’t say anything you’re not entirely comfortable with saying to a complete stranger. If you’re not comfortable with what you say being reprinted by someone else, somewhere else, somewhen else. Don’t say it. Doesn’t matter about the context, doesn’t matter if it’s a reply, doesn’t matter if it’s some out of the way forum, that’s the rule, there is no exception, none.”

            People really, really need to get this drilled into them. As much as people might love to say that @ replies on twitter are part of a conversation and freedom of speech and context are important, twitter posts are a public facing medium. Don’t say anything you don’t feel entirely happy saying to the world on it. These days I’m more liberated with what I say because I’m old, but if I was working? Damn right I’d be triple checking every word for “compliance”, because -that’s- how you need to behave if you’re a professional of any kind.

          • Kitsunin says:

            At the end of the day, I just feel that it’s so easy to say something which can be taken out of context that saying you should avoid it is utterly unrealistic. You might as well say “Only use public communications for PR”

            If you look at someone like Totalbiscuit, he’s had tons of experience on Twitter and similar places, but he just kept having people throw his foot into his mouth (when the things he said were typically not that bad) and it just kept getting more stressful, so in the end the only thing he could do was roll his interaction with the public way back. That’s why I think, okay sure, it’s not not the person being taken out of context’s fault, but it isn’t really right to blame them. Not unless you’d rather they just shut up and didn’t talk to anyone, which is unfair to the people who might want to speak with them.

          • Kitsunin says:

            I suspect the answer to what I just said would be something along the lines of “people who are professionals should shut up, saying things which might be misconstrued is only harmful”. That’s true. It really, probably will be better for any individual if they just did not reply to anything unless that reply is heavily self-censored.

            But who loses out when that happens? Everyone else. Everyone who would like to speak with that person, who wonders what they might be like as people, generally, anyone who cares what they might have to say, be it joking or serious, and doesn’t want to hear a neutered version of it.

            And I’ve seen enough people being taken out of context or generally attacked for not-particularly-offensive opinions, to know that anyone who has any amount of “haters” is going to have it happen if they don’t heavily censor themselves. There is little middle ground, because if someone wants to target them, it doesn’t matter if they’ve put their foot in their mouth constantly or just said a few sarcastic jokes which seem a little offensive out of context, the effect is going to be the same when someone throws it somewhere under the context of “Look at this asshole!” If the person shouting that weren’t enable by others, we could have the positives of open communication and they wouldn’t have the negatives of misconstrued statements.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Even completely out of context, those tweets are clearly jokey. This is a terrible attempt to put them down.

  29. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Who? Without meaning to be harsh, I’d say that some of my gaming tastes are moderately niche, but they’re not even on the radar. I can see that RPS have covered them in the past, but I don’t read RPS every day, the banner ads I filter out mentally and I’ve not seen mention of them anywhere else.

    Looking at their previously offerings, it’s obvious they’re targeted at a ridiculously small and avant garde niche – which is fine, just don’t expect to earn lots of money from it.

    The naivete is incredible : ”spending an extra $40,000, thinking they’d make it back in the first month’. Please – you’ve kickstarted and earnt your money. Release the game, THEN improve it if sales flag, or do an expansion/DLC. FFS.

    They’ve taken lots of advice, but none of it any good. Look at indie devs like Dave Gilbert or Jeff Vogel. It is absolutely crystal clear that unless you’re in the AAA game, spend as much as you need to on dev and art assets, and no more. Dave spent a lot more money on his second (third?) Blackwell game than his first and it looked much better. The effort did not translate into sales. For the following game, the art was actually inferior and I believe it sold more units!

    I’d also agree with kwyjibo and Hobbes. 15 quid is not an impulse buy – it’s at the ‘study reviews’ stage, and the reviews are not good if metacritic is a guide. Personally I’d say time is more a constraint than money, though – the bundle sales, gog, steam and other sales throw so many cheap games at you that to pay full price for something, it has to be extremely special.

    Constructive feedback, if they’re reading this. Create games, but either keep the art extremely basic, or make the game very short. The market does not currently exist to support longer art filled games.

    • Shuck says:

      “you’ve kickstarted and earnt your money”
      If only. The problem is that Kickstarter simply doesn’t usually raise full game development budgets, whatever the size of the game. (That is, large game projects raise small or medium amounts of money, small projects raise tiny amounts of money, relative to total costs.) Developers are always supplementing crowdfunds with their own money. But yeah, they probably priced it too high and expected too many sales in the first month. And part of the problem here is that the majority of their target audience probably see themselves as people who “don’t like games.”

      • PancakeWizard says:

        They got nearly 3 times their goal on KS. Worth remembering.

        • Philomelle says:

          They also didn’t actually deliver they promised, or really communicated anything to the backers properly.

          They communicated the release date that nobody on their Kickstarter knew the game already came out. I kickstarted it and only found out it’s out because it showed up as such on Steam, and I only found that out because I dig through new releases; the game didn’t show up on the front page.

          I also didn’t receive any rewards other than the Steam key and the soundtrack so far, and even the latter wasn’t handled by them in the slightest. Austin Wintory, being the wonderful man that he is, ended up sending copies to backers through his bandcamp newsletter account.

    • Frank says:

      “Who?” — Oh, I don’t know, maybe the duo that has gotten more coverage on RPS than even Introversion Software.

      I think all of your advice is sound, but they don’t want to hear it. They’re too good for gaming and for money, except, briefly, when they aren’t. Let’s wish them well in their new role looking down their noses on a different scene.

  30. somnolentsurfer says:

    Terrible shame to see Tale of Tales go. Since before The Path (which was the first of theirs I played) they have continually been one of the most innovative and interesting creative teams working in games, but two things in particular stand out right now:

    1) John’s write up of The Path, which inspired me to try out their work, and has stuck with me like very few other pieces of games writing I’ve read (and which I’ve just discovered I’d incorrectly mentally attributed to Kieron for years)

    2) The soundtrack to Sunset is just astonishing, and you should all buy it for that, if nothing else.

  31. Not_Id says:

    “[Disclosure: I stayed with Auriea and Michaël over a day when they were filming their Sunset Kickstarter video, though I didn’t know that’d be happening and at first they didn’t even know I write about games. That happened because I’m friendly with folks who consulted on Sunset and tagged along while already in Belgium.]”

    Maybe someone else at RPS should’ve written about ToT closing then?

    • Sin Vega says:

      Why? It’s a news post, not a critical piece.

      • Not_Id says:

        There’s quite a lot of praise for ToT in those words up top Vega.

        • RobF says:

          That’s not a crime.

        • Manco says:

          Which is perfectly okay in combination with the disclaimer.

          Besides, RPS is not a newssite. It’s a site that writes reviews, editorials, organises social gatherings, hosts a community,… and also post news from within their chosen niche. Readers expect, or should expect, a certain degree of personal involvement, especially considering the size and scope of their subject which cannot support a completely independent setup (like for example international politics which is not reliant on advertisement concerning the actual politics, has thousands of people involved, and is of import to millions more) . As long as basic journalistic integrity is maintained, all’s well.

        • Dushanan says:

          Well, maybe no one else was interested in covering this? Or I guess, since Alice is affiliated with people around Sunset, Alive was the most interested in covering it? Regardless, it’s just news story, not a review, who cares? Maybe I read the article wrong or I’m a heartless prick, but I didn’t see it as trying to get me to sympathize with Tale of Tales. Just some story about some fairly prominent devs shutting down, which has also been covered by other people.
          Then again, I’d be uncomfortable without the disclosure if I knew about that affiliation, but that’s a different issue!

        • Alice O'Connor says:

          Yes, that’s because I like their work and their presence in games.

        • DrollRemark says:

          Are you unable to mentally link the praise for their work with the disclaimer? Because that’s the point, you know. You read one part, and then you read the other, and then you think “Hmm, is Alice posting favourable things about this developer because she likes them personally? Maybe she is!” You don’t have to develop any crazy conspiracy theories about it, because it’s stated clearly. And it’s not a bloody criminal investigation, so Alice doesn’t have to recuse herself from posting an article about someone she likes, because that’s clearly ridiculous.

          So come to your own decision, and then go read the next article.

    • Kitsunin says:

      I’m sure they chose the person who is most familiar with Tale of Tales’ work. If it were someone else it probably would’ve been a much more bland piece, and that hardly seems like a large enough event to stain someone’s ability to write critically. For the record, as someone who has had a good look at all of their stuff, I agree with everything said. So maybe that explains all the praise, and not some silly chance meeting.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Perhaps you should leave commenting on this article to people who don’t have established sentiment about disclaimers. Also, Not_Id is a terrible username. Please let someone with a better suited username comment instead of you.

    • Kitsunin says:

      If I were an indie, I think I’d try to organize chance meetings with all games journalists. Then I’d pay for their dinner and act like a giant dick to them, that way if anyone ever writes anything bad about my work, I can just call their integrity into question because I bought dinner for them (and the only reason they’re writing bad things is because they don’t like me personally)

  32. Bull0 says:

    The game is too expensive. Bugger PR, hire someone who can count.

  33. forwardirektion says:

    That’s a shame – I love the concept of Sunset and it’s been on my wishlist since I heard about it here. It was possibly just the wrong time to launch?

    This could be a death blow to any other developers thinking of making a black woman a protagonist. I hope they don’t look at what has happened here and think that was the problem.

  34. Muzman says:

    They talk like they got sold a bum steer somewhere about the ‘indie explosion’, which they unfortunately took too far to heart.
    I’ve seen similar things happen with films. People lay out cash to PR firms who do a whole lot of somethingorother and nothing happens. Oh they talk a good game about campaign plans and ad buys and ‘we think we can get on TV’ and setting social media on fire. But you have nothing to show for it in the end.

    Hiring a PR firm, especially one that isn’t massive and amazingly well connected in all the right ways, is like investing with some stock syndicate without any guarantee of return. Which is the equivalent of throwing money down a black hole. At the casino at least the chances are written on the table sometimes. Go there instead.

    Even the most well meaning PR firm speaks in positivity and voodoo, while doing little more than getting some logos made, writing a press release or two and making some phone calls. Oh they think they’re conjuring miracles. But even the successful ones are gambling. And very few ordinary people are able to look at the slew of these entities and judge what exactly it is about them that makes what they do work (a lot of them aren’t even sure). Previous success isn’t a good marker, nor anything really. Your only real point of entry is do you like the campaign they put together for someone or not. If whether it made them famous enters the calculus you’re really banking on the wrong aspect.

    Go into any such relationship believing that the odds are against you. Like a gambler in other words. And when you hire a seller remember that you are also being sold to. You can’t buy breakout success. At least not cheaply.

    • Hobbes says:

      Doing some digging about who the PR company was, well, that’s only reinforced my belief that the errors of judgement were in the choice of -hiring- a PR company, and letting the people in that PR company anywhere near the game design. Tale of Tales would have done better had they stuck to their guns and made the game they wanted to make on their own.

      All this sorry episode has managed to do in my eyes has made feel deeply sorry for Tale of Tales in terms of the decisions they made concerning Sunset, they probably could have done it their way, sold it just as well, or better, and without any outside influence causing them to try and do things “differently”. It’s also reinforced my belief that some people who think they know “Videogames” and feel entitled to spend their life blathering about their superiority on twitter about that fact really need to go back to school on the matter.

      I’m not going to name names because I’m not that much of a bastard. I may -be- a bastard, but I’m not a f’n bastard. But to those parties, frankly, do the honourable thing and return Tale of Tales their money (seriously, five grand and I’m constantly running into people who didn’t even hear the game was OUT), you failed them, you failed them utterly. Have some humility and grace in this.

  35. bill says:

    I find it odd that they were so successful on their kickstarter and think that now is the time to quit. It seems like if they kept their budgets down a little, a combination of kickstarter and arts funding would be enough to allow them to keep making games.
    In fact, the arrival of kickstarter seems perfectly tailored for them and other niche game makers.

    • bill says:

      PS/ Hopefully they’ll reconsider after a short while.
      PPS/ $20 * 20,000 = $40,000 no? Even if some were on discount, they can’t be too far off making back their 40,000 in the first month.

      • Muzman says:

        Yeah, they are probably being a tad premature. I remember the Amnesia guys lamenting their low sales a couple of weeks after release. Selling slower than their previous games, not sure if they can stay open, maybe they should make mobile games etc etc (from memory).
        A couple of million sales later…

        Now, obviously Sunset is unlikely to kickstart a horror gaming revolution and define the, now long past, next wave of youtube video LPs. But they do need to take a longer view of this.

  36. ggggggggggg says:

    in the end, tale of tales died as they lived: making games nobody wanted to buy and shouting abuse at consumers for not liking them enough

  37. Sivart13 says:

    If I’d heard about Sunset as a fresh new game from some upstart developer, I might give it a try. I played The Novelist, after all, which is a very similar game.

    But it wasn’t some unknown, it was ToT, and I’ve had enough exposure to their games and their rhetoric that I could guess I probably wouldn’t have a great time. Maybe they’ve actually developed enough of a reputation that other people in their intended audience feel the same way?

  38. Dawngreeter says:

    The Path is the only ToT game that I played. It was… interesting. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but there was something in there that I felt had a specific weight not normally encountered elsewhere. But it took quite a bit of effort to get to that valuable bit. Which is probably the point and the weight would’ve been lost partially or fully if it was easy to reach.

    End result, though – I haven’t played it through. I still think of it occasionally and say to myself that I should get back to it. I never do. Similarly, I have also managed to not read Claude Levi-Strauss’s Mythologiques volumes 1 through 4 which have been gathering dust on my shelf for about four years now. And I also enrolled a Coursera course on Kierkegaard and never done much coursework, which I really thought I’d manage to make myself do.

    I feel bad about those and many other things that I never manage to do. I like to think that there are better people than me who have read what I mean to and have learned what I mean to and have seen what I mean to and have played what I mean to. While I get a few hours of Guild Wars 2 and Witcher 3 after work and hopefully stay up to speed with Penny Dreadful episodes as they come out. I have less and less free time and most of it I spend on outright pleasurable things.

    Which is to say, I’m sorry to see them go. I hope they change their minds. But as someone who appreciates what they do from afar, I can see how the sales might not be materializing for them. They are a good example why an inevitable switch to a post-scarcity society running on resource-based instead of monetary economy can’t come soon enough.

  39. Premium User Badge

    IJC says:

    I am really sad to hear this as they are very creative people, but for me this seems to be caused by an attitude I always personally disliked about them and dislike in all artists, whatever their medium: They seemed firstly motivated to create “art”(in what they suceeded imo) happening to be in the form of a videogame, as opposed to creating a game that happens to be “art” ( of course these motivations always mix). Because of that, they want people to treat it as art (to exaggerate: you like it or you are unintelligent/uncultivated) and not as games, which can be criticized freely. But their works are games and therefore treated as such. Maybe they will be happier working with other mediums
    [This is a very bold interpretation of what they and others wrote on the Internet; I might be completely wrong]

  40. Oasx says:

    I played The Path for about an hour, it is an interesting game but not something i have a desire to play much more of. Similarly Luxuria Superbia was also an interesting game, played it for 15 minutes and will probably never touch it again. Sunset again looked interesting, but not enough to throw 10€ at it during the sale, and certainly not 20€. I think their games were simply too expensive for what is essentially very niche indie games.

    • Kitsunin says:

      See but that’s kind of a catch 22. If your games don’t have broad appeal, you need people who are interested to pay decent amounts of cash to make up for the fact you can’t possibly get a ton of people to pay anything. Yet if your games don’t have broad appeal it’s difficult for people within your niche to give you a chance if you charge a lot.

      I think that Sunset is probably an exception, because it could’ve gotten the Gone Home sort of crowd. Still, I did buy it because I really loved The Path (It was too slow, but the fuzzy story being told was interesting, and the house walk-throughs at the end of each chapter were some of the most tense, yet fascinating things I’ve experienced in a game). Maybe it didn’t actually have a chance at getting people who don’t already like ToT? Nah, it was probably a mistake.

  41. ffordesoon says:

    I sympathize with ToT, and wish them well.

    However, this is kind of unsurprising to me. Sad, but unsurprising. And the issue is not their games. I don’t personally like ToT’s games, but I respect them, because they are interesting and valuable and uncompromising experiments in expanding the range of videogames as a medium. Nor is the problem the modern games market – not so far as Sunset is concerned, anyway. ToT were right to conclude that a small but non-trivial group of players absolutely do want the sort of experience Sunset offers. I’m one of them, and I bought the thing.

    The problem is that they’re Tale of Tales, and that name has all sorts of negative connotations for a large portion of their potential audience. I don’t mean the “games are supposed to be fun” crowd – they were a lost cause to begin with. I’m talking about people who are open to the sort of meditative experiences ToT has always produced, but who have found themselves put off by ToT’s games and their disdainful attitude toward gaming at large in the past. I thought Sunset looked interesting enough that I was willing to lay out the cash for it in spite of my history with their work, but for every one of me, there are ten people who will see the name attached to the game and spend their money elsewhere. Because the ToT brand is synonymous with “pretentious artwank made by and for snobs” in most people’s minds, and they’ve never been shy about confirming that bias with their words and their work.

    There is little the Videogame Internet likes less than unrepentant haughtiness, real or percieved, and it never forgets and rarely forgives. ToT’s mistake was in assuming their new game would be judged on its own merits, rather than the merits of their brand. As dispiriting as that sounds, it’s the current reality of the games market.

    • Frank says:

      My opinion of ToT was always somewhat negative, but had turned around with that Luxuria game and then Sunset. So I “forgave and forgot” (though I don’t think they should be sorry for being themselves); they just didn’t wait around or lower the price of their game enough for me.

      My tastes and budget are such that no adventure-ish game short of Quest for Glory 6 or another season of something from DONTNOD is going to get $20 from me. Sorry if you thought otherwise, ToT.

  42. PikaBot says:

    I’ll never understand the glowing sentiments a fairly noticeable segment of the population have towards The Path, which was easily one of the more completely naff games to ever be made.

  43. drewski says:

    I’ll probably pick it up on sale eventually.

    Didn’t actually know it was Tale of Tales, not that I would have minded, but it did get some fairly positive press and reviews from what I saw. Obviously they were going for the Gone Home/Dear Esther/etc. market and I think they could still have hit that, but maybe not at that price and not in the first month. Those are word of mouth games.

    But I also think indie’s kind of dead now. There’s just too much competition for time and money and attention in that field. And now the big publishers and developers are getting to grips with the new consoles, the next few years are going to be a AAA explosion. I kinda feel like if you’re indie, you better have your fanbase already, because otherwise you’re going to get drowned out.

    I hope I’m wrong though!

  44. Moraven says:

    The Min and Recommended specs for Sunset are higher than AAA games like Far Cry 4.

    “We spent a lot of money on a PR company who got us plenty of press, took some work and worries off our shoulders, and found us other marketing opportunities. But it didn’t help sales one bit.”

    Beyond early impressions, I saw no reviews, no post-release articles anywhere.

    Doing a google search in May, it looks like it had release reminders and a few reviews, even on sites I visit.

    I think part of the problem is people will never come across this in a basic search. Sunset is similar to Sunset Overdrive (MS Xbox One exclusive title). PR firm should have had them rename the game.

  45. iluss1on says:

    here is a very well written article about the matter
    link to theastronauts.com

  46. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Sunset part of the top tier (12$) of the latest Humble Weekly Bundle. That didn’t take long – bundled a month and a bit after release? They’re either desperate for money, or lacking in business sense.

    Will probably buy it as I like some of the other items, although the trailer stands out for the decent art style and what looks like less than inspiring gameplay

  47. mooz says:

    Sunset is definitely ToT’s most understandable and playable game, IMO, so it’s a damn shame it still couldn’t cater to more of the fan of “exploration” games. I definitely loved it, because I love those “somebody’s slice of life” type games. And I still hold The Path as their greatest achievement, but Sunset is my favorite “role playing sim” of theirs.