Versailles 1685

I ran a session for a group of Masters’ students yesterday, part of the 3D Recording, Modelling and Interpretation module. It was a great afternoon, with a really responsive group of students, who ended up planning  a game around the Mayan city state of Tulum.

I talked for about an hour, beforehand. Riffing off Red Dead Redemption (of course) to discuss Tynan Sylvester’s Engines of Emotion, and look in more detail at Game Narratives, finishing of with the idea of Kernels and Satellites.

On the way, I mentioned Versailles 1685, which I suddenly recalled while pulling my notes together. Twenty years ago, at University, one of my final year projects was a proposal for House of Delight, a game exploring the social and sexual mores of late seventeenth century England. It didn’t get anywhere – well, it got me an interview with a video games company, but not a job. So I was very jealous when this game came out, but never got a chance to play it. That said, the company that didn’t give me a job did go bust a short while afterwards, and the interview led (in a round about way) to meeting my wife, so maybe its all good.

Versailles 1685, also known as A Game of Intrigue, was one of the first games commissioned by a museum authority, in this case Reunion des Musees Nationaux, for the purpose of heritage interpretation. Created in 1996, it sold itself with:

  • 25 hours of gameplay, set in history’s most beautiful palace
  • Featuring OMNI 3D that lets you look and move around freely in an entirely 3D environment
  • Over 30 characters modelled in 3D from period portraits, that bring back to life actual historical figures.
  • A stunning recreation of Versaille in 3D just as it was in 1685
  • Over 200 paintings that you can study close up
  • A soundtrack of 40 minutes of Baroque music, true to the period.

Taking the role of Leland, a junior servant of the King, the player
discovers and eventually foils a plot to burn down the Palace. The
narrative gives the player an opportunity to explore a 3D model of what the palace(possibly) looked like in 1685, and an accompanying encyclopedia detailing Louis VIX’s court and collection.

It was pretty well received, and spawned a sequel, and its almost twenty years old. So looking back, I wonder why we’re not inundated with games from heritage organisations, with specific interpretive objectives.

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