If the upcoming indie game Dordogne looks a bit like a watercolor, it's because it is. In the game, players control a young French woman named Mimi who visits her recently deceased grandmother's house. The characters and backgrounds are all hand painted before being scanned and implemented in the game. "We wanted something very pictorial, very rich and very colorful," explains director Cédric Babouche. "The idea of being able to feel the true warmth of this region, that the visual is already very, very narratively strong and focuses on nostalgic memories."
Dordogne is expected to be released on both Steam and the Nintendo Switch next year and will be described as a narrative adventure game. While exploring her grandmother's house and pastoral landscape, Mimi meets letters, rediscovers childhood memories and fills a sentimental diary. According to Babouche, the goal was to create an experience that almost everyone could connect to.
“We wanted to tell a simple story that could appeal to as many people as possible. A story that enables everyone in the world to connect with common situations, ”he says. “Most people have the joy, the fear, the excitement of meeting new people, having an adventure with their camera or a notebook in their pocket, having new experiences and having fun at the same time. When I thought about all of this, I remembered my childhood, all the moments I had spent with the family in the summer in our house in the Lot (a region near the Dordogne). We have had many incredible memories, and in these times we build ourselves up as a person and create memories that we like to remember years later. "
The game is developed by Babouche's indie studio Un Je Ne Sais Quoi together with the French production studio Umanimation. Babouche, who also writes children's books and won a Cannes animation director award, said the team originally started on another project called Mr Tic Toc & the Endless City, "mainly for fun" with the idea of creating something that they could play with their children. However, as this project grew in size, they decided to do something smaller for a first release.
Babouche says the transition from other forms of storytelling to something more interactive was pretty painless. "Every project deserves the media that best suit it," he explains. “It is certain that a video game seemed the most suitable for Dordogne and for Mr. Tic Toc (whom we want to develop fully afterwards). For this reason, getting started in games as an author felt natural. "
When it comes to inspiration, Babouche quotes a number of influences outside of games, including directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Terrence Malick, photographer Joel Meyerowitz, and painters Félix Vallotton and Edward Hopper. "Each of these artists has an enormous ability to reproduce poetry through light, framing and narration," he explains. “We can feel what they mean in a picture. I want to achieve that with Dordogne: a game that is recognizable at first glance. "
"More like a movie we can play"
Of course, the interactivity inherent in gaming adds a new fold when it comes to creating those moments. In Dordogne, the goal of the players is to uncover a story through puzzles and interactive vignettes. But it's also not a big, open game where players can go anywhere or do anything.
"We have to find the best frame, the best light and the best narrative intentions to tell our story," says Babouche. “This artistic approach is an important limitation, but also a strength, because we have to find the best options to tell our story and at the same time give the player the opportunity to play it. In a way, Dordogne is more of a movie that we can play, an interactive experience. "
It takes some time before the game finally starts. Dordogne is expected to hit the market next year, but has no set release date yet. But when it finally comes out, Babouche has a pretty wide audience in mind: almost everyone. "It is definitely a cross-generational game for all viewers. A game that we hope parents will want to put their children on their laps to share this moment."