March 11th, 2009

The GraveyardThe Graveyard is a very short experimental game nominated for the Innovation Award in the 2009 Independent Games Festival. It was created as “An experiment with realtime poetry, with storytelling without words.” by developer Tale of Tales.

Not much more can be said without spoilers, which I’ll save for below, so give this game a play first by downloading the trial through Steam or, for Mac users, from this link. The entire game can be played in the trial, though $5 unlocks one feature. Think of it as a donation.

Personal Notes (Spoilers)

As for my thoughts… I like it. I hadn’t heard of it before, but The Graveyard was apparently met with high praise from critics after its release in 2008. I came to it when it was added to Steam a few days ago.

But the game is neat. I was impressed with its presentation; the sound effects and lighting do very well to set the mood straight away. Having time to empathize with the hobbling old lady before she even sits down was impactful. The song is wonderful, I only wish that it were available separate from the game.

I did buy the full version of The Graveyard. I wanted to see what death was like, which is the only difference from the trial. Apparently it can happen at random times, though I would imagine you always make it to the bench and sit down. I am not sure as I have only played the full version once. She died shortly after sitting down, right before the lyrics in the song began. The game took on a whole new meaning at that point. So for that reason, if you’re still interested after playing the trial, I would recommend dropping $5 on The Graveyard.

A postmortem of The Graveyard is available at the Tale of Tales blog. Everything that went in to creating the game, from day one of the concept, to funding, to post-release sales and site traffic data is detailed.

  1. I don’t see what people like in this game. I found the song to be pretty bad. I was intrigued with the B&W presentation over a hobbling old lady. In fact, it was the set-up for a great game. The problem was, in the end I was wondering where the actual game was and why I had to listen to such a horrible song.

    Definitely not something worth any sort of money. It felt more like an undergraduate’s 400-level final project than “an experiment in with real time poetry.” Which begs the question, how is it an experiment in story-telling without words with that song smack-dab in the middle of the game/demo.

    Just throwing a second opinion out there. In the end, the demo is worth the experience. In addition, there’s no way I would’ve known about this if it wasn’t for your blog. Keep up the exposure on games that wouldn’t get so much attention.

  2. It’s not conventional, which is why it’s labeled “experimental.” Many people don’t consider this a game at all, and perhaps that’s an accurate perception, but it’s certainly not any other type of artistic medium. I found myself engaged more just by pressing the directional arrows than I would have been had a I watched a video of this. We’re so used to characters that have a lot more range of movement, especially efficient movement. This throws you into the shoes of a character who has no such luxury and gives you enough time with her to set you up for a moving song.

    I think their pricing methods were off, but the product itself was fine. Maybe this is something we’ll see more of in the future in the form of music video games, using similarly structured economics and form of music videos. Currently music games sell albums rather well. I imagine if they released a game like this for free, it’d be a great way to market a song or album. That is, if people got around to understanding what it is instead of criticizing it for what it’s not.

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