Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dance of Seven Veils

Tale of Tales, the Gent-based studio that received high praise for their pioneering work in this year’s indie game revelation, THE PATH, has officially announced their next oeuvre. Borrowing a story from the Holy Bible, more precisely from a late nineteenth century version by Oscar Wilde, FATALE will be a realtime interactive vignette directly inspired by a series of romantic paintings from the same period. Recounting the story of Salomé, the maiden who demanded the head of John The Baptist as a reward for performing an erotic dance for her stepfather, the mighty King Herod, this new project is set to be released on October 5th this year.

Considering Wilde’s version of the events concerning the character Salomé, banished from the stages for over 50 years until its actual premiere in England on the year of 1931, the game will explore the theme of femme-fatale, the deadly woman luring men to their demise by means of their sensuality. Contrary to the early descriptions of the Holy Scriptures, the Irish author’s version unveils Salomé’s true feeling towards John The Baptist, for whom she eventually falls in love, culminating in a last moment where she kisses his head after decapitation – considered by many as a blatant display of necrophilia.

The official announcement page also underlines the existing tie between the fictional Salomé and the Moon, a symbol associated to the pagan goddess Cybele, equally obsessed with preserving her virginity and taking pleasure in the destruction of male sexuality. Unveiling their personal interpretation of the story, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn stated in their press release:

We're interested in the idea of a love story that ends in death, but we also want to include other elements of the tale. The fact, for instance, that Salomé may have been just an insecure girl who was manipulated by her mother, Queen Herodias -who then ends up becoming the real "femme fatale". We're also very sensitive to the political tension that underlies the tale: a Middle Eastern country -Judea- occupied by Westerners -Romans- at a time of religious unrest -the birth of Christianity. And this girl, Salomé, just has the head chopped off of one of the most important figures of the time. On a whim, apparently, or for unrequited love, changing the course of history.

The production of FATALE will regroup familiar names from THE PATH’s ensemble: Laura Raines Smith, as character animator; Gerry De Mol as composer of the dance music; as well as Jarboe and Kris Force in the voice acting and soundscape department. The greatest surprise on the credits list, however, comes from the character design artist whose name remains a secret for the time being – although I can assure that Tale of Tales has managed to establish a professional relationship with one of the industry’s top authorities on the creation and modeling of digital characters.

FATALE, albeit being described as a production of similar scale to THE GRAVEYARD, is already fated to become one of the most important and divisive games released this year - or, as the creators would fittingly describe it, a work of realtime art.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Der Antichrist

While at first the prospect of a videogame inspired by a Lars von Trier film may seem exorbitant, the current state of creative numbness that is becoming characteristic of this current generation of hardware has convinced me to think differently; Trier's last film, The Antichrist, debuted in Cannes earlier this year and has spawned a raging controversy in every little cinema-related corner around the world as a result of the violent and scatological nature of the picture. Movie critic Roger Ebert, while clearly endorsing the director's impetuous attitude, has agreed to compare the film's shocking imagery to a fork in the eye; others labeled it as pseudo-artistic, big fat art film, condemning the director's lack of sensibility and readiness to impress the audience with explicit content – something that, to those who are familiar with his filmography, should not come as a surprise.

In spite of all the controversy surrounding The Antichrist, surely a direct result from the graphic violence of the scenes rather than their symbolism, Zentropa Eden Games announced a PC game adaptation yesterday, describing it as a gloomy version of the Cyan's classic adventure title MYST. The project, according to the same source of information, is being led by Morten Iversen - writer of the HITMAN games and one of the founders of the recent Zeitguys studio. This announcement provided scarce information concerning the actual relation between von Trier and the creative team, apart from the prospect that EDEN might be given the Danish director's blessing. One illustration attached to this statement depicts the actor Willem Dafoe (who played the character He) thus suggesting a closer connection to the motion-picture than anticipated.

Bearing the distinct possibility that this project may easily turn into vaporware, following the lead of so many a radical designs ostracized by the vapid state of videogame affairs, I underline the relevance - if not the dire need - of a single title with the potential to precipitate an equally great controversy. Furthermore, I accentuate the vast – albeit repeatedly snubbed - demand for alternative themes customarily regarded as taboos in an industry currently unable to satisfy educated audiences or even gratify aging players.

While the dilution of carnal and visceral imagery was implicit from its inception, a game such as (this) EDEN, if properly developed, would undoubtedly consist of a much needed addition to the anti-commercial stream of videogames that keeps battling, obstinately, the coercion of mass-produced entertainment dogmas; and, with titles such as THE PATH opening the way earlier this year, it is so quixotic to expect for an intricate, sophisticated and mature title from this provenance in the near future?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sea change

As I progressively lose sight of the reasons that first lead me to write this blog in Portuguese, I announce that future posts of this space will be published in English with the intention of appealing to a larger portion of my international visitors. I hope that I can still count on the support of my Portuguese and Brazilian audience as I apologize if my decision causes them any inconvenience. All of the posts published in the past will remain, naturally, in their original form.

Thank you for visiting,
Bruno de Figueiredo
Founder, CoreGamers Network