Die ochtend, in bed (“That morning, in bed”) is the only game we’re currently working on officially (in the sense that there’s a budget for producing a prototype for it). It’s a small smartphone game that we are making in collaboration with Flemish author Gaea Schoeters, based on her novel De kunst van het vallen (“The art of falling”).
The novel is about the unnamed “I” getting over a previous relationship that was broken off as soon as it stopped being illicit. A love affair is compared with a dictatorship and the end of the affair with the fall of communism. The falling, then, is associated with the diving of one of the main characters, a young man named Alex whom “I” falls in love with. At least in the first part of the novel. The second part tells the same story again, but with a slight difference. As a novel in which images are freely associated and where truth is always uncertain, it is remarkably suitable for a game.
In the game that we are making in collaboration with the writer you play the role of “I” and the computer plays the role of Alex, the lover. After a night of love making, Alex roams around the room and asks you about objects that he sees. Many of these objects remind of the previous relationship. You can choose to have “I” say the truth about them, lie, evade or ignore. Step by step you learn more about what happened, or about what “I” imagined or wished for or thought about.
The objects will probably be presented fairly abstractly. The game will simply be a succession of images that you click on. Since this sounded like the old HyperCard program (that Myst was originally made in) and I have a desire to experiment with other authoring tools than Unity, I started looking around for a new application to build this game in.
I’ve found two that I like. Both are explicitly inspired by HyperCard.
PencilCase is a very cute application where you drag and drop different media (including 3D objects) onto “cards” that you can then program interaction with through a puzzle-like interface. The application compiles exclusively for iOS which is an advantage on the one hand because it probably works very well on the iPhone (our target platform for this game) but also a disadvantage because I dislike learning how to use an application that is locked into one particular platform, especially one owned by a large corporation. PencilCase also has a license that you pay for per month and I worry about access to my source code later.
So I’m currently prototyping in Tumult Hype instead. I am interested in the web again because nobody cares about it anymore as a platform for art. So it’s a good place to hide from the game industry. Plus the web is super-accessible. Everyone has a browser and internet access these days. Some people don’t even know anymore what “download” means, let alone “install”. Hype’s interface is similar to PencilCase’s but even more Flash-like, as it’s entirely focused around a timeline. It feels very solid to work with. But its dedication to the web that attracted me also limits it to the piecemeal way in which HTML 5 is implemented across browsers and platforms. I’m happy to learn how to use the application but maybe I’ll only use it for prototyping this project and make the final version in something else (PencilCase, or maybe even Unity). We’ll see.
We’re in the very early stages of the prototype and since the game is so text-driven, a lot of the work is currently being done by the writer. I find the prospect of building a game around a structure proposed by a writer very exciting. Although we will undoubtedly add some programmed logic as well, to give the characters more personality, by making things less predictable, and changing the structure based on simulated emotions.
One hugely exciting thing for me is that this game will be in Dutch. I’ve never made a game in my own language before. The novel is written in Flemish and the funding comes from the Netherlands. Enough reasons to make a game in my mother tongue!
(another way to liberate myself from the Anglo-Saxon dominated game industry)