Sunset is a narrative-driven first-person videogame that takes place in a single apartment in a fictional South American city in the early 1970s. You play a housekeeper called Angela Burnes. Every week, an hour before sunset, you visit the swanky bachelor pad of Gabriel Ortega. You are given a number of tasks to do, but the temptation to go through his stuff is irresistible. As you get to know your mysterious employer better, you are sucked into a rebellious plot against a notorious dictator Generalísimo Ricardo Miraflores.
Sunset is a first person exploration game in the vein of Gone Home and Dear Esther. As in those, playing centers on the discovery of story clues. In Sunset, however, you play while the events unfold (rather than uncovering a story that happened in the past).
The other inspiration for Sunset is military action games. We always wondered what life would be like for the extras in such games, the people who are not the heroes, the ones on the sidelines – like most of us. How does it feel to be one of the many victims of war, instead of the hero? How does it feel when war is the backdrop for your day-to-day life?
Sunset is divided into play sessions that each take a fictional hour: until the sun sets. Each time you are presented with a list of housekeeping tasks, as that is your job. However, there will be other activities, such as going through the owner's possessions in search of information for the revolutionaries! Or simply making your presence felt in his life by changing his radio station or having your own fun interacting with his 1970s-era high-tech gadgets.
Next to the story progression, you have the opportunity to develop your relationship with the absent Gabriel Ortega. For each task in the apartment there is more than one way of performing it: a neutral way or a naughty, funny way or flirty way. Gabriel will respond through small notes and other actions. It is up to you to decide how intimate or antagonistic this relationship becomes.
There will be moments when you have the opportunity to make a choice. These decisions will not radically alter the story itself, but they will affect your role in the events, your responsibility and the emotional impact of the experience.
There is no right or wrong way to play Sunset. And no way to fail. But each player's experience will be different.
• first person exploration
• story-driven: no puzzles, no combat
• atmospheric: sunset glow, stillness, tension outside, time passing
• influence the relationship between the two protagonists
• emotional narrative arc happens as you play
• game length depends on style: between 90 minutes and 6 hours
Sunset takes place in the year 1972. It is the time when designers Auriea and Michaël were born.
The early seventies were a time of conflict. A time when the traditional life style of a middle class bourgeoisie clashed head-on with anti-authoritarian modern ideas of freedom and revolt. In fear of the communist threat the US government supported violent dictatorships and the overthrowing of democratically elected governments, especially in South America. Back home, liberation movements such as feminism and Black Power rose to prominence. Many public figures got violently murdered as social tension increased.
We feel that a lot of parallels can be drawn with our contemporary era as our humanist/capitalist ideologies are gradually developing more of the dictatorial tendencies they once offered an escape from. Will the increasing global influence of the military-industrial complex lead to a new era of violent resistance?
The aesthetics of the early seventies presented this conflict in a much more amusing way. The eclecticism of combining space age clean designs with antique and exotic elements forms the basis of the look of Sunset. This is the time before disco or punk, when soul music reigned the air waves and middle-aged gentlemen received guests for cocktails on the shaggy carpets of their modern penthouses. Only to be discombobulated when a Black feminist with an afro brings subversion as well as romance to the unsuspecting bachelor.
We actually started collaborating as web designers and artists back in 1999. Auriea was still living in New York, creating websites for pop-stars like Janet Jackson, Depeche Mode and Lenny Kravitz, when she met Michaël. Together we continued to design websites (for the Museum of Sex, Doors of Perception, ABC, MTV, PBS, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and so on) and create online artworks (Skinonskinonskin, Wirefire, Eden.Garden, The Godlove Museum, etc). For the latter we received the SFMOMA Prize for Excellence in Online Art in the year 2000.
Videogames had already influenced our work but it wasn't until 2002 that we started making one ourselves. In 2005 we released our first game, The Endless Forest, a multiplayer screensaver where you play a deer. After that we designed a system for expressive autonomous characters, called Drama Princess. And we combined the two in what was going to become our most popular title, The Path, a playable horror story based on Little Red Ridinghood.
During the production of The Path, we released a small game, our first commercial release, The Graveyard, where you play an elderly lady who visits a cemetery. Even though it was a very different concept for a game at the time, The Graveyard ended up being nominated for the Independent Games Festival and for IndieCade.
The Path is our best-selling videogame to date. The combination of playful references to game conventions and a unique approach to the femininity of growing girls made for an explosive mix. No need to say that The Path, was received with much passion. If you like The Path, chances are that you love it. If you dislike it, you probably hate it.
That's how we knew we were on to something.
We released four more games after that (Fatale, Vanitas, Bientôt l'été and Luxuria Superbia), each unique in its own way, exploring facets of the videogame medium that few designers touched upon.
Meanwhile the world the world did not stand still either.
Story-driven exploration games have matured.
"Hey! There's an audience for this kind of stuff now. Games in styles we love, that used to be considered so controversial. Let's make something for these nice people!" We think we would be pretty good at it given our many years of experience.
We'll let you be the judge, of course. Help us make Sunset the most beautiful, engaging and thrilling experience it can be by backing this Kickstarter. Thank you!
At the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Tale of Tales, we made a survey of our accomplishments so far. And we came to a single conclusion: that we want more people to experience the beauty and joy in our work in the way that a small group of people already does. We decided that in the past we may have been a bit too stubborn, or sometimes too inexperienced, to connect to certain players. And given the interactive nature of this medium, we find this wasteful. This is the gist of our Beautiful Art Program.
But even though Sunset intends to embrace the gaming audience, we hope to continue to push the genre, and ourselves. Our aim with Sunset is to create a gripping entertaining experience. There is a magic to this medium that we want to explore in Sunset.
We have written the story for Sunset and have invented the greater part of the fictional world in which the game takes place. The mechanics and structure have been designed and a small prototype has been created (see the video at the top of this page for excerpts). We have assembled the development team and drawn up a production schedule. Asset production has started simultaneously with this Kickstarter campaign. Keep an eye on the story teaser video below to witness the progress we make. It will be updated throughout the month!
Tale of Tales collaborates with people we respect and admire. We select them carefully and then give them free rein to contribute to our work. We are more often found adapting a game's design to the mood of the music, than persuading an artist to animate in the way that we imagine. All our collaborations happen online, with other independent creators. And somehow we always end up working with a mixed gender team.
Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn are Tale of Tales, the couple at the core of the studio, the only ones on the project full time, day in day out. We have been collaborating since 1999. We are married and live in Belgium with two teenage children from a previous relationship. Eternal students, Auriea is improving her figurative drawing skills while Michaël is learning to play classical guitar. We are expecting a kitten in July.
Austin Wintory is a heavy-weight of videogame music. Extremely prolific, well-read about anything pertaining to music, and winner of numerous awards, he has scored countless films and several groundbreaking videogames such as flOw and Journey, Monaco and The Banner Saga.
Kris Force is a musician and composer, with Amber Asylum among several others, and a sound designer. She has worked in the commercial industry, on titles as The Sims, as well as on multimedia installations in museums. The sound in most of Tale of Tales games originated from her studio (The Graveyard, The Path, Fatale, Bientôt l'été). So we go way back.
Leigh Alexander & Ste Curran have recently started an initiative called Agency to help game studios bring their ideas to fruition. In Sunset they undertake the significant effort of keeping us on the straight and narrow, making sure that our game does in fact reach the people we are creating it for.
Señor X helps us with the writing in Sunset. Not just with the words but also with the invention of the world in which the events take place. Sunset is our first game based on an original story. We need help. Strangely, X desires to remain anonymous. But we bet you would be surprised if you knew who it was!
We started working with Theresa Schlag on the architecture in Bientôt l'été. We're doing the same in Sunset where she builds the penthouse in which you will spend such interesting times. She is assisted by Niklas Roth who focuses on the city outside.
Tina Marie Murray will do the voice of Angela Burnes, the character you play in Sunset. She does all sorts of voice work (announcing the awards at the Game Developers Conference, for instance), next to regular acting in movies such Mango Kiss and Black August (in which she plays the role of revolutionary intellectual Angela Davis, whom the player character in Sunset was named after).
So far we have financed the production of our games with a combination of government art grants and income generated by sales. Subsidies have been available to us here in Belgium mostly via the Flanders Audiovisual Fund whose main focus is film. Recently, however, a dedicated Game Fund has been created. Ironically, this fund has much less favorable conditions than the film fund. So we turn to Kickstarter for help.
The grant we have received for Sunset can only cover 50% of the budget. This is a new rule. We can come up with part of the remainder but we need your help with the rest.
A big chunk of the budget covers our salaries, so that we can focus on Sunset 24/7 for an entire year. Between the two of us, Auriea and Michaël take care of design, programming, modeling, writing, testing, management, marketing, and so on. Studio costs include things like hardware, software, servers, heating, insurance and accounting. We have also reserved some money for consulting and promotion. That includes participation in game events, for instance. And the last part of the budget goes to our collaborators for concept art, modeling, texturing, sound, music and voice.
We had been thinking small. But now, with your help, we can make this game one of our greatest! Thanks to reaching the one big stretch goal, we will be able to make Angela and her tumultuous world as vivid as we can.
You will see Angela in the game! Sunset is a first person experience, you fill her shoes, but you will also get glimpses of her: a reflection in a window, a shadow on a wall, etc. You will feel her presence, in beautiful ways which will make the world of Sunset ring true. We will realize Angela more fully as a character with weight and presence in Sunset's world. For us she represents the opportunity to create a protagonist who is unique within video games, and giving her life in this way will make Sunset a better game.
Your pledges towards the stretch goal mean that we can hire the de facto third member of Tale of Tales: Laura Raines Smith. Laura has animated the characters in all Tale of Tales games. Thanks to you, we will be able to work with her again on Sunset! Laura's expertise will add that extra bit of pizazz to each and every animation in the game. From Angela's movements, to the explosions(!), to wind blowing through flags and plants, to all the little moving things that make a virtual world feel alive.
Your pledges have also ensured that Jurie Horneman can join the team. Michaël was the only programmer on the project so far but now we can hire someone to help him. As a programmer with over 20 years of game industry experience, Jurie's contribution will improve the quality and stability of the software while still being able to deliver Sunset on time. Working with Jurie will ensure that Sunset is a rock solid piece of software!
In addition, we will use your pledges to expand on the narrative aspects of Angela's character. In collaboration with our anonymous writer, Señor X, we are creating a personal diary for Angela in which she talks about her experiences during the war, for you to discover. And thanks to you, we now also have the means to work more intensely with concept artist Stacey Diana Clark whose work on Sunset you will soon be seeing!
They are all freelancers. Auriea and Michaël are the only full time employees of Tale of Tales. The more money we can give to our collaborators, the more time they can put into the project. And so the higher the quality of the game becomes, and the more certain that Sunset will be released by the estimated date of March 2015.
This is the biggest team we have ever worked with. And also one of the most talented we've ever put together for a videogame. We want Sunset to be a platform for all these creative people to express themselves, to give you a beautiful, exciting and engaging videogaming experience.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is to launch Sunset by our tentative release date of March 2015. So far we have always delivered our games on time, simply because art subsidy budgets have been incredibly tight: we were forced to stop working because we ran out of money. If the amount raised by this Kickstarter campaign would significantly exceed our goal, we may take more time, simply to make the game as good as it can be.
We are collaborating remotely with freelancers in several countries. But this is what we always do. We're used to it. Also the people we are working with are professionals. And we've already successfully collaborated with several of them. Plus Auriea and Michaël have sufficient skills to compensate for any unlikely shortcomings.
It's a small team. But we believe that's exactly what allows us to focus more, make the game better, more special.
We could be wrong: the intimate exploration of an apartment while war rages outside may end up boring. We do have a lot of experience with atmospheric story-based games. And we are using certain proven conventions in this one (such as first person navigation). We also develop the game in public, so to speak, with a myriad of opportunities to get feedback from the audience, to ensure that Sunset is appealing and engaging.
A risk that should not be underestimated is quality of life. To prevent sickness, accidents, depression or lovers' quarrels, we will take care of ourselves and try to lead a healthy, loving life.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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