At this past August's GDC Europe in Cologne, Tale of Tales' Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn gave a talk entitled "The Next Ten Years of Tale of Tales" -- a look back at the studio's past work and 10 precepts for its creative future.
The studio is best known for making idiosyncratic art games, such as The Path, which have generated a lot of plaudits but also strong negative feelings from elements of the game playing community.
In this interview, conducted shortly after GDC Europe concluded, Samyn and Harvey discuss the criticism, their ideals, letting creativity and collaboration rule game development while leaving behind the ties to the games that inspired them in the past to create something utterly new instead.
Auriea Harvey: That was the intent. Because we find that a lot of the talks are about money, or technical things, and there are very few design talks that aren't technical -- whereas this is more about you in relation to the people who are playing your game.
Michaël Samyn: That's something we have to tell ourselves. Because this technology is so versatile, you don't have to force yourself to do anything specific, because there's no need to work in a specific format, I feel.
And this is a general life thing, I think. You need to figure out what you're good at, what comes easily to you -- to learn, to create -- and then do something with that. And because the technology is so versatile, with video games, I think that anybody with any kind of creative skill can do something with the medium. And I wish they would -- more people!
AH: There are many different ways of making games, now, and we find that very hopeful. It's perhaps not enough, but still.
MS: It's growing, definitely. It's something that is growing.
AH: People often think, "Oh, I'm not good at games," or "I don't know how to do games this way." You don't have to do it that way. It's okay!
MS: And we get frustrated by that. Nice artists, they're either good musicians, or they draw very well, or they're even modelers, and they say, "I can't make a game on my own!" Do it anyway!
AH: Or lead it, and find people.
MS: And if you can't program, do it very simply! There are ways of doing that. Make it very simple, in terms of simple interactions, or whatever.
AH: Or text-only. Or images-only. As we're laying it out now, we weren't trying to say that specifically. It was more just to make people think.
MS: And to keep it in our heads, too. We have to think that way, as well, because sometimes you forget.
AH: Because it makes you a lot happier than thinking about "I can't do this, I can't do that..."
MS: The thing is that what didn't work is highly subjective. The last of the quotes that we showed -- the positive/negative quote that we showed -- was the exact same quote.
An ambiguous reaction to Tale of Tales' Vanitas showcased in the GDC Europe talk
It depends on how you see it. What certain people say, maybe that's good or bad. And for a long time, I think we figured these people who sit there and say, "That game is too abstract! I don't get it," we've just said, "Pssh! You're not the audience. Go away!"
And I think at this point what we're transitioning toward is taking that a little more seriously and saying, "Okay, maybe there's something we could do to reach those people a little bit better, as well, and at least give them some part of the experience of the people who have a positive experience with our games have." We're going to try that.
AH: I think in making that list of things, and also in talking about our previous games, we felt, "Let's just talk about what's good about that experience." Because we think it's sort of the last time we'll ever do a presentation where we go through all of our work, ever. It's too many things. We never talk about just the reason why this thing worked. I feel like we hardly ever give that talk!
MS: That's true! Maybe we should do it more.
AH: Maybe, if anything, we can pick a game and talk about good things. We've just talked way too much about negative things in the past, perhaps.