Category Archives: News

Yore Devlog #2 : Inspirations

– by Lisa SchaefferOscar Barda, and Simon Albou

Yore is made of many a story, and all those you’ll play will be yours.
However, there isn’t just one type of stories, is there?


You’ve been told bedtime stories; you surely had to read fables in schools; your family might have taught you superstitions, and sometimes, around a campfire your friends told you about weird urban legends that still haunt you to this day. You tried to explain the movie you went to see last night and might have rephrased some of its best moments to make it sound even cooler, or that last manga you read with your friends at recess, and during breakfast you shared your non-sensical dreams… but they did make sense when you lived them!

Maybe you wrote your own stories, novels ideas used to swirl in your mind, did you write them down? Do you still keep that notebook? Did you ever show it to anyone?

When we started imagining our next game, Yore, a game in which you combine stories and memories to create levels for you to play, we brainstormed, looking for stories that were deeply weaved in our culture, famous enough, in one form or another to be known by most of our players.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 17.38.29

Our sources for stories are the classics, Grimm, Perrault, the Thousand and One Nights, Andersen, but also other ones, our childhood cartoons, our comics, and so on. Surprisingly enough, in a good way, we all have different references, so when someone only heard about a story, the others might have read or even studied it. Due to this abundance of stories, making a game where anyone is able to recognize at least a few tales that are meaningful to their childhood is a really tough challenge. At some point, we had to accept that there was no such thing as “absolute cultural reference that everyone on Earth knows about”. So we focused on the story *we* wanted to tell, with pieces of tales that lit up nostalgia in our hearts, and were precious to our friends and relatives.

That’s how with the three of us, we began to compile a list of the stories that we though shaped our world (trying to manifest them in our game world in the form of objects to be collected). Then we asked our families and friends to tell us memories and stories from their childhood. We want the tales that touched human beings, not the best-sellers of whichever’s year.

Then comes the other true challenge for us in the making of Yore : how to allow players to craft the tales they will cherish as much as their childhood memories ? This process must feel natural and organic, so as not to bring any constraint to one’s creativity. Stories could certainly be cut into clean parts and then assembled mechanically for every single kind of story, but then the seems would show. We decidedly did not want to take that route.

Many theorists such as Vladimir Propp or Joseph Campbell tried to extract from stories their most universal structures, but even their models have limits.
Campbell’s Monomyth, described in his book ‘The Thousand Faced Hero’s Journey’, applies really well to didactic, adventure stories such as Odysseus or Harry Potter.

Propp’s structure is long of 31 steps split into 5 phases, no less. It’s quite similar to Campbell’s, and bears the same limitations: it fits an epic, or an adventure story, but both models seem structurally forced when applied to smaller scale folks tales, novels or even retelling of human memories.

There’s also the fable, which aims at conveying a message to the reader. This lesson is often a glimpse at what life, and other people, can do to you: acts of mercy and kindness, treachery, or simply ‘seize the day but please, stock up for winter’. Fables are much more directed in their politics or narrative, they aim to convey or explore themes by abstracting them in narration. This relationship to reality is partly why we chose to subtitle our game “Slumbertime Fables” because there is a deep connection between the stories and the reality that birthed them.

And then there are memories. A smell, a particular light falling on the clouds in autumn, or the sound of someone cooking in the house. Memories are the seeds that can bloom into magnificent stories, and gather your memories is most certainly the way to find inspiration and write some great stories or fables.

In Yore, these memories will be Valériane’s. As Oscar explained in our announcement trailer, you will explore Valériane’s house alongside her. You will reopen locked up wardrobes, family albums, try to access the attic, and look for mementos of her past life. Tickets, trinkets, clothes, and photos, souvenirs and baubles, finding the lives trapped in these objects…
And as Valériane remembers, you’ll learn more about her and combine those souvenirs to remind her of her life and infuse new life and meaning into those almost forgotten memories.

This is it : now you know a lot about the origins of Yore’s lore! Don’t forget that you can help us make the game by sharing this update around you :)

Next time, we will tell you more about… us!. Until then, stay tuned on Twitter, Facebook and our forums, and have a great week!


Back to the basics!



During the 3rd and 4th of October, we participated in a 24H game jam at the Gaité lyrique!
Here are some of the tracks EK of Bredrin Records created for our game!



EK also created ALL OF THE MUSIC of our musical-dexterity-arcadey game, inSynch!


Fresh, homemade DOTA 2 data!

By Lisa Schaeffer and Oscar Barda

An Introduction
We play an unreasonable amount of DOTA 2 here at Them Games. In fact, we play it so much that given our jobs as game makers, we couldn’t but notice that no new hero has been added to DOTA 1 since May 2013 (Nerif the Oracle and Kaolin the Earth Spirit were then ported to Dota 2 and modified but no new design has surfaced in the last 2 years).
But if you caught the DOTA train after the DOTA 2 stop, you might not know that Heroes used to be designed by the community. People would ping the designers or just add new heroes themselves (because DOTA was a map made in the Warcraft 3 editor so anyone could edit it).

Nowadays, Dota 2 belongs to Valve and although modding is being added as we speak, there will still always be an official DOTA 2 on one side (with millions of dollars in the balance) and community created maps, mods, and Heroes on the other.
So to herald the coming (back) of the age of people creating their own Heroes (and we’re probably going to be among them, teasing teasing teasing) we went on to compile a heap of informations about all these characters.
What kind of stats would be interesting, what conclusion do you make of them combined?
Note: We have a lot of ideas and this article will change very soon, send us your feedback!

Gradient Classification

DOTA 2 Heroes Gradient

Heroes Classification by Main Color
Click to fullview – Cliquez pour agrandir

DOTA 2 Heroes are designed by Valve with specific color palettes and settings.
For more information on Valve’s take on character design in DOTA 2, here’s the Official Character Guide, with explanations on the palettes, settings, silhouettes, and much more!
Now, what kind of useful information this homemade gradient classification can give us?
First, there aren’t a lot of Cyan/Green Characters, and a lot of Blue & Red ones.
We cannot say that it is a ‘Dire is red, Radiant is blue’ (Roshan is coming for you) separation as Heroes are mixed in both colors.
Second, most Heroines are in the blue-ish area, the four exceptions being Lina, Windranger, Enchantress, and Queen of Pain. Again, that is not really a hint for their alliegance, as Lina is on the Radiant side and Queen of Pain on the Dire side of life.

Races of DOTA 2

The goal of this table is to allow you to see what races and species already exist in the Dota 2 universe and get inspired (maybe you would like a character to be the cousin or the kin of another hero, or maybe they’d be the worst enemy of your favourite hero or a cursed Wildling or ride a Thunderhide?).

We’ll say our thanks to Hefaistus and 1337_n00b of the DOTA 2 Dev forum for this Lore Thread.
It’s not perfect: we grabbed information from comics, official lore, DOTA 2’s Gamepedia (thank you so much guys), facial features (like ears, eye shapes etc.) body types and body features (number of fingers, tails, fins etc.) and… Yes, personal cuts. We had to, really, there’s just not enough information to actually sort the 110 heroes (without even counting the two yet-to-be-released ones) without making some choices. Otherwise it would have been 110 individual rows.
Its race section is more than useful to understand how difficult it is to choose either a race or a category. For exemple:

  • Dazzle & Huskar are both from the Dezun Tribe.
  • Huskar has been brought back to life, he’s Undead, right?
  • But they both share physical Troll traits with Shadow Shaman & Troll Warlord.
  • What do??

Well, we had to choose, and it’s not perfect, but the lore isn’t either, yet is deepened with each new Hero. Stay alert!

Race Name Heroines & Heroes N# of Heroes
Keen Folk Alchemist Techies Sniper Tinker Clockwerk Gyrocopter Timbersaw 7
Oglodi Axe Disruptor Warlock 3
Ogres Ogre Magi [Alchemist’s Ogre] [Ogre Creeps] 1
Trolls Witch Doctor Troll Warlord Shadow Shaman Dazzle Huskar Batrider [Troll Creeps] 6
Celestials Storm Spirit Ember Spirit Earth Spirit Brewmaster 4
Undead Lifestealer Undying Wraith King Death Prophet Lich Clinkz Razor Necrophos Phantom Lancer Kunkka Vengeful Spirit Abaddon Pudge Pugna [Ghost Creeps] 14
Plants & Animals Broodmother Sand King Nyx Assassin Venomancer Weaver Treant Protector Ursa [Wolf Creeps] [Harpy Creeps] [Wildwing Creeps] [Hellbear Creeps] [Thunderhide Creeps] 7
Slithereen Slardar Naga Siren Tidehunter Slark 4
Godlike Zeus Io Medusa Elder Titan Phoenix Keeper of the Light 6
Humanoids Mirana Luna Lina Crystal Maiden Windranger Phantom Assassin Templar Assassin Legion Commander Beastmaster Chen Lone Druid Anti-Mage Sven Omniknight Dragon Knight Lycan Silencer Invoker 18
Skywrath Skywrath Mage 1
Gargoyles Visage 1
Demons Doom Shadow Demon Shadow Fiend Terrorblade Bane Queen of Pain Lion 7
Halfsteeds Centaur Warrunner (Centaur)
Enchantress (Dryad) Magnus (Magnoceroi) Leshrac (Prob Dryad)
Elementals Ancient Apparition Spirit Breaker Morphling Tiny Earthshaker Chaos Knight Spectre Nature’s Prophet Enigma [Golem Creeps] [Golem Ancient Creeps] 9
Drakes Jakiro Winter Wyvern Viper Puck [Dragon Ancient Creeps] 4
Uniques Tusk Juggernaut Oracle Meepo Drow Ranger Bloodseeker Dark Seer Rubick Outworld Devourer Bristleback Nightstalker Bounty Hunter Faceless Void 13
Satyrs Riki (Satyr) [Satyr Creeps] 1


  • Out of 18 Humanoids, only 4 are people of color: Chen, Windranger, Legion Commander, and Anti-Mage to an extent.
  • Lifestealer might be an Oglodi, according to a response from Bristleback.
  • Shadow Shaman is half something, half Hill Troll.
  • Brewmaster is half something, half Celestial.
  • Phantom Lancer might be dead.
  • Vengeful Spirit has been torn apart then ‘recreated’ into a pure form of Vengeance by the goddess Skree’auk.
  • Pugna might be an undead entity controlled by a juvenile but powerful Grandmaster whose Temple turned to ashes, and we do not know what became of his body… So Pugna the character could just be a vessel, mentally controlled by another person… Lore theories, I swear.
  • The Slithereen are an underwater, cross-species elite, between Nagas and others.
  • Elementals have a connection with nature, without being almighty like the Celestials. Chaos Knight embodies the battle of Darkness against Light. Nature’s Prophet is a seed planted by a goddess. And so on.
  • Uniques are the last of their species, such as the Juggernaut, last of the Faceless Ones, or Outworld Devourer, last keeper of the edge of the world… or we just don’t know, like Oracle or Dark Seer.

Heroes Repartition by Side per Attribute

DOTA 2 Heroes Gradient

Heroes Classification by Attributes
Click to fullview – Cliquez pour agrandir

[Radiant is Green – Dire is Red – Abyssal Underlord & Arc Warden have been added]
The repartition between attributes is fairly balanced:

  • There are more Radiant Heroes than Dire Heroes, so there can’t be any 50/50, but 59 to 51. That ain’t bad.
  • By Attribute: AGI 35 < STR 37 < INT 40
  • The main difference lies in the Strength Heroes, at 16 for the Dire and 21 for the Radiant.
  • There are more Intelligence Heroes
More stats on Attributes and Roles

Officially, Heroes and Heroines can have multiple roles, between Carry, Disabler, Lane Support, Initiator, Jungler, Durable, Nuker, Pusher, Escape, and Support.
For example, Sven has officially four roles: Disabler, Initiator, Carry, and Support.

On Strength Heroes
There are 37 Strength Heroes. Of these, the most prominent role is Durable with 29 Heroes.
This is noteworthy as ‘Durable’ isn’t a term widely used in the community vocabulary, compared to ‘Carry’, or ‘Support’. But it is logical, as Strength adds hit points.
There is only one Female Strength Hero, Legion Commander.
There are two Neutral Strength Heroes, Phoenix and Io.

On Agility Heroes
Most of Agility Heroes are Carry, with 29 Heroes sharing this role out of 35.
This is the category in which there are the most Female Heroes, up to 9, almost all of them having mainly a Carry role.

On Intelligence Heroes
In this category, 26 out of 40 have a Nuker role. ‘Nuker’ is used, but ‘Ganker’ is way more used in the community.
Here, there are most of Neutral Heroes: Puck, Visage, and Ancient Apparition.
Also, here is the rest of Female Heroes, up to 7.

Heroes Repartition by Gender per Side

DOTA 2 Heroes Gradient

Heroes Classification by Gender
Click to fullview – Cliquez pour agrandir

[Neutrals are Green – Females are Blue – Males are Red]
This pie chart is far more interesting, as it shows us the repartition by gender of all Heroes.
For example, Broodmother as the feminine pronouns (she/her), she’s female. Puck has neutral pronouns (it/its), it’s neutral.
Males are pretty obvious.

  • Ok, so we’ve got a lot of dudes here, but combined with what we know of the races, few of them are Human-like (10 out of 87) the rest beings Insectoids, Elementals, and the likes.
  • Totally on the contrary, nearly half of the Heroines are Humans (8 out of 18). Is there a lack of imagination in Heroines Designs? Maaaaybe. It’s noteworthy that Death Prophet, Naga Siren, and Queen of Pain have Human-like features.
  • Again on the Heroines, there’s a clear majority on the Radiant Side, with two third, and one third on the Dire Side. All Dire Heroines are non-Humans.
  • Now, on the Neutrals: they aren’t a lot, but they matter.
    Most DOTA 2 players think Puck is female because of its voice actress. Its creature design tending toward blue and purple/pink colors would confirm that, but the lore says clearly ‘it’.
    Another case would be Visage, why would it be Neutral while most of Heroes don’t have more male attributes in their designs? For example, Viper, Outworld Devourer, or Morphling? We’ll never know.

As you can see, DOTA 2 has a lot of different races and backgrounds, yet genders are still pretty much like they are on Earth: males, females, and some animals or otherworldly entities that just don’t like to be called either he or she.
We at Them Games feel that there are too many dicks on the dancefloor and urge you, if you were to create some new heroes for DOTA 2, to create Big women, old women, tall and short neutral people, various shapes and races and colors! Make the world of DOTA 2 a weird and interesting one to play in! It’s a game in which you can play an Undead Oglodi, a Greek god, and monsters from the infinite corners of the universe…
Why not a more diverse crowd?

Petits essais dessinés ep.7 Le sens de l’urgence

Oscar (@Osskx) aborde une problématique du game design :
comment faire ressentir l’urgence dans un jeu ?

Forces du Mal menaçant de conquérir le monde en 200 heures de jeu ; explosions de vaisseaux à rallonge ; énigmes infinies… Toute la cohésion d’une histoire est en jeu lors de ces moments critiques, alors qu’elles sont les pièges à éviter et les pistes possibles d’amélioration ?

Et n’oubliez pas de venir nous dire ce que vous en pensez sur les réseaux sociaux !
Ici pour Twitter
Ici pour Facebook !
Ou sur notre site

The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time
Broken Age, Double Fine
The Witcher 3 :
Red Dead Redemptio
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Un Béluga
Massive Chalice
Fable III

A très bientôt pour de nouvelles vidéos !

Petits essais dessinés ep.6 Le controller hacking et les expositions de jeux vidéo

Oscar Barda (@Osskx) regarde en détail ce que c’est que le controller hacking et sa place dans l’avenir du jeu vidéo et plus spécifiquement des expositions de jeu vidéo ! En bonus, Oscar nous présente des exemples qu’il a filmé lors de Alt ctrl GDC.

Où trouver des jeux avec du controller hacking ou du controller modding ?
ALT CTRL GDC (Los Angeles – États-Unis)

A MAZE. FESTIVAL (Berlin – Allemagne)

ZOO MACHINES (Tourcoing – France)

Et n’oubliez pas de venir nous dire ce que vous en pensez sur les réseaux sociaux !
Ici pour Twitter
Ici pour Facebook !

A très bientôt !

Art movements in video games, an introduction

«Someone who thinks games are not culturally interesting is illiterate. It’s 2014. Be a snob, not an apologist.» – Eric Zimmerman

When I talk about Art movements, I imply that games are Art. This first article is not mandatory in the series but, I will lay down foundations and will be going through the different tools I use every day talking about games to a general audience (which is my job) often ignorant (and sometimes very dismissive) of video games. You might therefore find in this section a good selection of vulgarised ideas to use on your uncle who only sort of gets technology and literally plays zero video games in order for you to gain his approval on your way of life.

    A foreword of advice

When I introduce video games as an artform, I answer the question straight away: they are.

If global warming has taught us anything it’s that close minded people are not accustomed to the precaution of vocabulary any scientific method commends. You need to express the consensus in simple and direct terms, with certainty if needed. If you are proved to be wrong in the future, do correct yourself but if at a given time, global warming strongly seems at 97% to be human caused say it is. Don’t lose yourself in jargon defending “a very likely theory”. Say “the science is certain and irrevocable, it is”. You are the knowledgeable person on the matter, act like it and make your point before presenting yourself as just another member of an ongoing conversation where everyone has their equal say even.

«Are games Art?»

«Well, the consensus is that it’s likely even though in the industry many people still think that…» no, skip this part and go straight to this one:

Music is aesthetic meaning from sound, Pictural Art is beauty born of visual representations through paint or drawing, architecture is giving meaning to a traverssable sculpture and games are the art of giving humans something to do. Their meaning is coded in rules and abstract propositions and is expressed, made apparent and senseful through active participation in an experience.

Monopoly, Pong, Rugby, all give you something to do and you derive meaning and aesthetic through acting out their rules.

What the game of Go says about the human condition is in its ruleset and remains consistent while played with beer caps or on an ivory board just as Mona Lisa would be the same painting while shown at Le Louvre or in the Amazonian jungle. Context is context, not the piece itself. Even though Go’s meaning is, as all Art’s is, open to interpretation.

    Disclaimer and retenue

Take heed though: saying games are an art-form does not mean every game is Art: much like not every movie is Art, nor is every book or dance move, theatre piece or music track… The vast majority of games played in the world is likely to be non-formalised: you play with water under the shower, run your fingers on the edge of a bench, try to avoid walking on certain-coloured pavements…

And even in the products that come to market, the vast majority of them are kitsch: a dumbed down expression of the art-form, reduced to it’s barely-meaningful parts.

The kitsch paintings of yore were the reduction of the Art of painting to a mass-produced, landscape-adorned, decoration object. When they originated in industrialising Europe around the 1860s to cater to the demands an ever-rising middle-class of bourgeoning bourgeoisie trying to mimic the richer aristocrats, kitch painting became that decorative less-than-Art, non-meaningful or talk-worthy, utterly conventional class of objects that resemble great museum pieces in many ways but carry as little meaning as possible. Kitsch exists everywhere, in every media and art-form and is made to be absolutely and unreservedly non-thought-provoking. Most games are Kitsch but not all of them are.

Transformers is kitsch

Twilight is kitsch

Pop culture is built on kitsch.

And if you (or your uncle) can’t point to a piece of Art in the field of video games, think of it like this: when the Lascaux paintings were made, could anyone point to a masterpiece of a painting? Likely not at the time but it did not mean that painting could not be an art-form, just that in this precise context, no œuvre was known to the early wielders of pigments that could be pointed to as an illustration of a realised potential. It likely took literature, dance, sculpture or music millennia to mature, don’t expect video games to do so in 40 years.

Video games have not been here for long and not being able to point to a chef-d’œuvre of the field does not mean there can be none.

    The gamey-game part

While talking about Art movements in games, we will examine the game-part of the pieces evoked. If you’d allow me, I will illustrate this with a game most everyone has played or seen enough of: the first Mario Bros.

The game-art underlying the piece, is making you jump and avoid obstacles, it is making you reflect on a projection of yourself moving through perilous environments and the emotions born of it. That is what I will be talking about and analysing.

Now “Platformers” are a genre, they are not really an Art movement: they have many of the qualities movements have had in the past: they adhere to a ruleset of stylistic and thematic approaches, have an underlying theme of peril generally running through them and express it mostly through a set of tools and techniques (pixel art, fixed cut 2D perspectives) that say something about what it means to be human and how games should treat them according to the genre, but their expression comes from somewhere deeper.

Mario is the piece

Platformer is the genre it inhabits like still-life or thrillers.

Pixel art, chip tune, 2D are the techniques, like paintbrush or charcoal drawing, like handwritten or printed, like what instrument is playing the music you’re hearing.

What Art movement does Mario belong to? I don’t really think it belongs anywhere… It’s a piece that stands as an exploration of possibilities in a barely born medium and is therefore quoted to illustrate what I mean by “game part” rather than to tease a first movement.

We might note here that some Art movements, techniques, and historical moments are linked (like impressionism and oil painting around a certain period or baroque music and clavecin, gothic architecture and stone) but the are not necessities of one another. One could make a impressionist drawing, a 3D platformer or a plastic church in the purest flamboyant-gothic style.

In this exploration of the young art-form of video games, we will try to pinpoint these early Art movements, some of the ones I find interesting or worth talking about for what they have achieved or what they say about us, humans playing with them.

The first upcoming article in this series will be about the first one we identified at a café in the middle of the summer of 2012 with Heather Kelley, Brandon Boyer, Alex Fleetwood, David Calvo and my humble self from a pun I had made earlier coining Journey, Dear Esther and Gone Home as “Justwalkingism”.

I will, as I have done in this too-lengthy-of-an-introduction use many hazardous metaphors and comparisons to help me make my point, they are not to be taken at face value but rather understood as a way to help us all think of games in another light and try to formalise the premises of a grammar of video games that I have been willing to start writing about for too fucking long.


If you wish to participate in the conversation, feel free to do so in the comments, on our facebook page, harangue us on twitter or mail me at oscar@ ourwebsite adress which is

On the meaning and authorship of inSynch

So we’re working on a musical game, that’s no secret, and I wanted to share with you some of the thinking that goes on behind the scene and into designing the experience.

Now to be absolutely blunt: it mostly came from a good intuition. This was no grand scheme that we or I had envisioned for month: we stumbled upon the idea and refined it again and again by listening to what our system had to say about itself. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let me preface what I’m about to say with long exposition and game design principles and theories… ’cause that never gets boring. GAME DISSECTION AHEAD !

controller anatomySo as video games took a seat closer and closer to the front -partly due to their moneymaking capabilities- it enabled enough smart minds to picture a carrier in the field, and to question what games have to them in general. While ‘games’ outside the field of numeric or digital or video games existed for a long while, they have never been under as much analytic scrutiny in the history of mankind than in the last 10 years.

One of the first things that came to light early in this ‘ludology’ or ‘game studies’ endeavor is a concept that we called ‘ludonarrative dissonance’. It was made to talk about a friction in-between play (ludo) and storytelling (narration) that was undermining the message games could have. It was coined by Clint Hocking, and was widely adopted, partly because frankly, it’s a fancy name and people (me included) that started to study games in depth wanted to be taken seriously. Nowadays, Clint himself pokes fun at the term itself, while games are becoming a widespread academic curriculum and every student goes about vanquishing ludonarrative dissonance in their term paper. Not that it does not exist, mind you, I would just argue (and we have a forum for that if you’re so-willing) that it’s not the only scope we have to look at the difficulties of carrying meaning through dynamics (and worry not, I’m not alone in that).

So ludonarrative dissonance is about many things, but amongst them is the authorial balance between the designer and the player. Games are an incomplete media and need the player to be manifested. Not to exist, mind you, but while a book is a book whether or not it’s unfolded, a game exists in systems and possibilities that need to be awoken and made experience to ‘exist’ as an instance of a game. The book is the same, its interpretations vary. No two games are the exact same. Why was I talking about all that again?

Because when Them Games started thinking about inSynch, the only thing we knew was we had to make a music game; and in a music game, the question of authorship has, more often than not been very restrictive on the player side. See, when playing Guitar Hero, for all it’s awesomeness and social value, you are not making music, nor are you playing music, you are letting music happen or failing to do so. Press the right key and the music unfolds, press the wrong one and it does not. But who are you again in this system? You are the person pressing play on the remote or turning the pages to push things forward. The game encourages you to do it, it does so in a very convincing and entertaining way, but it does not do any more that this. You, as a person, are way less interesting and the intent that you express is so little of you so to be non-personal.

You are an intelligent being, yet Guitar Hero sees you only as an agent of it’s own design, pressing buttons along so well that in the end, we prefer to talk about “rythm” games than music games. What the system is telling you is that you have no part in it, it’s a game about conformity and fantasizing about being a rock star, but never about becoming one. The more you play, the harder the game is, the more of your brain goes into full on automated mode and the less of an intent you express. You could say it’s a very good game about being in the show business.

On the other hand, wouldn’t I be a lazy game designer to give you a cello and pass it as a game? Yes, this is the other end of the spectrum, total freedom, an instrument, a toy if you will, made with the rules of acoustics, with its own internal consistency, but with no goal. If you have a specific goal that awakens agency on the part of the player, you make a game, the wider and more distant the goal, the more of a toy your game becomes. And don’t get me wrong, Minecraft is barely a game, yet it’s toylike nature is a thing of beauty, and on the other hand, Heavy Rain is barely a game because it asks for almost no agency from the player and it is still a very nice experience even if more akin to interactive films.

rock star watercolor pupet strings

Willing to strike a balance in between those two extremes, we tried to make a system that communicates intent “please react to that” and accepts as valid a lot of what players give us back. This means that while there is an absolute and straightforward algorithm to optimise your scoring in score mode, there is also a lot of room in the system to go your own way and try to build the music and the score according to your taste. We are not and will probably never be claiming that this is the best or only answer to the question of authorial control in music games, since we don’t really believe that there is such a thing, it’s just what we wanted to make: a game in which you the player are playing with the music rather than simply playing along. We will give more details on scoring systems and game designs later.

Now onto the question of meaning. There is a question that has been asked by a lot of people, of which Clint Hocking which gave a very interesting talk at GDC in 2011 on that very question. What do the rules of inSynch express, what do they mean? What do you actually art taping on your screen or keyboard and why would that meaning be relevant to you?

Well… Hard question… You know, babies have this thing: playing around with the world, fiddling with stuff around them to understand how they work… Our adult brains still have that: you get into a game and the minute you are in, you start to test things and make sense of the outcome. See, that’s what will save you when aliens have abducted you and you’re on a distant planet with weird gravity and air displacement: your brain will fall back to child mode and you will start to play with things. And all those alien adults will go “Why is he putting things into his mouth? No! Don’t drop that on the floor that’s my vase!”… In inSynch, you start a game and try to make sense of the system: you do things and look at outcomes and results to see how to progress but whether you know what you are doing or not, you express intentionality that is fed back to you.

It starts as a conversation with someone, with a system you don’t know, and as you play, as you get better, you start to actually express yourself and listen to that expression. As you get better, the system fades away as an intermediary would and you start talking more and more to yourself, as if seeing yourself in a mirror for the first time. Making music, listening to it, adapting or trying to adapt parts of it under the rush of an ever-changing environment. InSynch is about fragility, it’s about how you balance the way you want to express yourself and the stresses and mishaps that happen along the way. It’s a game about finding what you think is true in music, what you feel is most reflective of a level’s texture and geometry. How does wood sound as a tune to you? What is the melody of concrete? What does plaster or resin sing?

We hope you’ll want to find out come this fall.

All illustrations by Oscar Barda for Them Games. You can use them at will, simply credit us please. And drop us a line via the contact section if you’d like them in higher resolution.

Handcrafted love

Hi, I’m Oscar, lazy game designer of the three-man team we call Them Games.

When it came time for us to go about making our early game (called the InFine Game) into a fully fleshed out thing that spoke to who we are and what touches us, a hard call had to be made : what is it going to look like ?

I have basic drawing skills and sometimes the styles and expressions that are dear to me lend themselves very well to the project’s vibe (that was the case for Poiesis for instance) but sometimes they don’t. For inSynch, it was particularly clear to me that no matter how dear the mechanics were to what we wanted to share, there had to be something else: a feeling, a… direction, a new one, because the reason the current style existed in the first place was to illustrate a musical vibe we were leaving behind with this early version.

Photo ©YasmineBH

People playing the InFine Game at La Gaîté Lyrique

You know, no matter how many times I tell students and people coming up to me for advice to be aware in their head of their intentionality, how they have to flesh it out, write it down and let it drive them, it always seem to take me forever to apply it to myself… There I was, thinking of what it was going to look like and what look it was going to have and what the looks of it were going to be and circling around and around in my head… I took a pen and wrote down what we had to say: you, as a player, must express yourself within the game, you must feel your agency with a very strict and natural sense of your involvement… 3 lines was all it took. It could not be 3D, it could not be 2D, it could not be drawn, it had to exist, to be a real thing. If we wanted you to believe us, ‘all’ we had to do was to make it real… Literally 5 minutes is all there was between my pen and my phone because I knew who was the perfect team for that job.


oh that ? that’s just a quince in solidified plastic, nothing out of the ordinary…

Le Creative Sweatshop is a team based in Paris, they design contemporary art and architecture, dabble in fashion, excel in all maners of creativity and madness, they are great human beings to work with and they can’t keep a deadline also.

If you clicked on half the links above, you’ll easily understand why I have so much love and admiration for them and why it seemed so evidently striking to be working with them on inSynch: there is such a texture, a feeling of authenticity to every single piece they do that it had to be them… And so it was.

They started working on resin and plastic prototypes and that was… pretty but a bit too poor in terms of animation potential and we all agreed that it lacked a bit of depth and grain even though the shapes were beautiful things to look at:

So we agreed to try another route: materials with more soul, more weight so as to communicate their realness, but keeping in mind that we wanted a wide breadth of animation possibilities which turned into this gorgeous thing:

photo ©Renaud Morinlast914

 But there were two faults with this iteration, the main one was that it was going to be very, very difficult to build many different shapes (and expensive because to have richness in the texture, concrete has to be scaled way up) and our tests seemed to be lacking in color variations. Building each shape out of concrete and polishing them all would take month…

So we went for paper shapes: light, cheap, beautiful and textured, filled with crannies and misfolds that made them feel real, fragile. With the addition of the amazingly talented Sylvain Derosne to the team, we had shapes and someone to make them come alive. In the background, there would be levels of different materials, contrasting against the paper and feeding our musician’s imagination.

photo ©Renaud Morin It took month upon month to make every paper shape that Sylvain had envisioned, the Creative Sweatshop cut and folded every single one of those by hand and when we had them all, we went to a studio to shoot them.

making of inSynch

from left to right Oscar, Sylvain and Charles, one of which is working on the game

Them Shapes ©photo YasmineBH

And then we waited. Because while we dived into our codes and talked about the music, Sylvain was making something really really cool happen… And it took some time but one day, something came to our mailboxes:

cube animation gif

We were so excited to see Sylvain’s work come to life, it felt like recieving a letter from a dear friend because those shapes in all their faults and mishaps were really close to what we had to say… And like that, little by little, shapes evolved into more complicated lifeforms:

quartier animation gif

There was so much life in what had been shot and animated, but a lot, and by that I mean a LOT of work in cutting and trimming images to fit the technical constraints of the game still had to be made. Yet, with every passing week, we could just find motivation in the hypnotic beauty of these moving things that we are going to be making a game out of.

pyramide animation gifWith so many photos of the creative sweatshop and Sylvain at work, we decided not to go for credits as a list of name; instead, the final game will likely include a photo gallery (you have no idea how many gorgeous shots we have) with comments galore and details of how things were made.

inSynch is due some time after this summer, we wanted to finish it before but sadly that won’t be possible. An official and fixed release date is yet to be announced, we just don’t want to set a random one right now. In the meantime, stay tuned for more content to come in the form of articles, photos and who knows… Maybe soon an actual screenshot of the game 😉

Thank you very much for reading and to show our appreciation, here is one more of those little things, one of my favorites out of the dozens and dozens we have:



The photos from this article are by Renaud Morin and Yasmine Ben Hamouda whom we thank very much for their talent and presence in the making of this game.