Telling emotional tales by means of evocative scenes in Rhett Tsai’s How Deep Is the Darkish Water?


This interview is a part of our Street to the IGF collection. The IGF (Unbiased Video games Competition) goals to encourage innovation in recreation growth and to acknowledge unbiased recreation builders advancing the medium. Yearly, Recreation Developer sits down with the finalists for the IGF forward of GDC to discover the themes, design choices, and instruments behind every entry.

How Deep Is the Dark Water? sees gamers following a fleeing man by means of visions and reminiscences born out of conflict, exploring what these reminiscences and moments imply for people, cultures, and nations alongside the best way.

New media artist Rhett Tsai, the sport’s creator, explains that the challenge got here to be in late 2022, a 12 months stuffed with greater than its share of conflict, chaos, and world uncertainty. Recreation Developer spoke with Tsai concerning the challenge, exploring why they positioned a fleeing man on the coronary heart of the work and what drew them to make use of the medium of video games for his or her artwork after beforehand engaged on objects for artwork exhibitions.

Who’re you, and what was your function in growing How Deep Is the Darkish Water??

I’m Rhett Tsai (Yuxiao Cai), a lecturer from the Open Media Division on the China Academy of Artwork. I’m a brand new media artist and experimental recreation developer based mostly in Hangzhou, China. The sport How Deep Is the Darkish Water? was developed independently by me alone.

What’s your background in making video games?

This work is the primary recreation I created. I’ve used recreation engines quite a bit up to now to create my works, however that was mainly not within the type of video games. My previous works have been within the context of artwork exhibitions.

How did you give you the idea for How Deep Is the Darkish Water??

I got here up with the entire idea in late 2022, a 12 months with lots of chaos on the earth. The wars that had damaged out and the potential geopolitical disaster made me assume that I needed to do one thing. I got here up with the concept of “water” as a geopolitical zone that divides territories, and I noticed it as a metaphor for conflict and those that fled, and the work slowly started to develop.

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What growth instruments had been used to construct your recreation?

Unreal Engine 5.

What drew you to discover this facet of conflict? To attempt to seize this sensation of the struggling, concern, and violence?

I wished to convey the tales of civilians who’ve misplaced their households on social media, of diaspora communities around the globe who’ve lengthy since left their houses, and of older generations who’ve been unable to return dwelling due to the geopolitical wars in Asia.

Why was the again of the fleeing man the central component of the sport? Why set this as the guts of the work?

This fleeing man is the one information of the entire recreation. I hope it might probably convey the viewers some deeper considering, comparable to: if he’s a fleeing man, then who’re you (the participant) chasing him? Are you his brothers and sisters or enemy troopers? If he’s not a selected individual, is he an emblem of one thing extra macroscopic comparable to an invaded nation, an harmless human being, or a ghost of the previous?

What ideas went into the designs of the fleeing individual? How did you resolve on how it could look and transfer?

The fleeing man is definitely my very own 3D-scanned mannequin, however solely the again might be seen. I don’t want the participant to see his entrance, as a result of the reality of the conflict and the lifeless and wounded plenty is unattainable to be totally recognized.

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Within the recreation, the fleeing man will information the participant the place to go subsequent, however it’s unattainable for the participant to method it, which is my intentional design.

What drew you to have the participant search which means within the phrases and environments whereas working after somebody? Why mingle a seek for solutions whereas scrambling and hurrying after somebody and feeling terror?

Immediately, the assorted crises seem to the plenty as easy performances of excellent or dangerous, but beneath these representations are immensely advanced historic feelings, nationwide points, and a contest of forces.

I wished to convey this connection into the sport. Thus, whereas taking part in the sport, the participant might really feel like they’re dreaming or just chasing somebody, however as soon as they begin to learn the textual content hidden within the scenes, they’ll begin to consider the which means behind it.

How did you resolve on the assorted locations individuals would discover? What concepts went into the best way they appeared? The way in which they’d sound?

The entire scene design begins with an outdated dwelling, which represents the homeland, and the following scenes present the method of escaping from the house.

Whereas envisioning the scenes, I used to be impressed by some true occasions and created scenes across the themes of “nostalgia”, “tradition and nation”, “shelters”, “outdated conventions”, “social media” and different themes.

Every scene is created with a special idea – some are historic, some are surreal, some are purely atmospheric, and many others.

With the intention to give the work a way of unity, I wished the sound of every scene to be coherent and unified.

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How Deep Is the Darkish Water? stirs up many highly effective feelings as you run by means of it? What emotions do you hope your work evokes?

I hope that those that can’t actually perceive the content material of this work due to cultural variations may also be capable to really feel sturdy feelings immediately.

How Deep Is the Darkish Water? is essentially in black and white save for a number of issues. How did you select what can be in coloration? What did you wish to make the participant really feel in bringing coloration into this world at sure moments?

These components which are coloured imply focus. They’re principally the primary concept of the scene, and I hope that the participant will pay attention to this by means of the colours, whereas this coloration design additionally makes the image not look boring.

After largely putting your work in galleries, what drew you to utilizing the construction of video games for this piece?

My background is as a brand new media artist and the sport was a brand new enterprise for me. I discover that video games as a type enable extra individuals to expertise them immediately on their very own computer systems in a method that artworks in galleries or museums can’t convey.

I see video games as a inventive medium to precise my views and emotions concerning the world. So, on this work, I did not wish to be restricted by the media artwork system and most guidelines for creating video games, I wished to convey my emotions in a comparatively easy method.

So long as the participant can really feel the non secular world I created, it isn’t actually vital what the sport’s story is about.


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