A Plague Tale Innocence – How Asobo Studio created a Modern Day Fairytale

A Plague Tale Innocence has been one of this year’s biggest surprises. A game I initially knew very little about, over time it became one of my most anticipated.

Having played and reviewed it, I was deeply impressed by the whole package. It wasn’t just that A Plague Tale Innocence had varied and interesting gameplay or that it was visually beautiful.

The thing that stood out about A Plague Tale Innocence for me was its storytelling and characterisations. That the game manages to be arresting and features these fantastical themes while also focusing on a grounded and realistic familial bond is an incredible achievement.

A Modern Fairytale

According to Asobo Studio, this was always the intention of the game. ” Our very first intention was to tell a story about kids. Perhaps because it is something that is emotional to us,” director Kevin Choteau told me.

Telling stories about children has always been something that fairytales have focused on. Fairytales, fables and parables often feature children faced with impossible situations only to work together and rely on each other to succeed. Choteau says that the team was inspired by stories including Hansel and Gretel, The Piper of Hamelin and Tom Thumb amongst others.

These dark folktales directly draw inspiration from true historical events, like the Black Plague of 1348. Everything was bleak and very striking. Kids were facing some of mankind’s deepest fears.

And this stimulated our curiosity: what happens when a child faces these desperate situations? How do they see it, and what do they do? How does it make them evolve? It was the starting point


Kevin Choteau – Asobo Studio

Inspirations

Making A Plague Tale Innocence a modern-day fairytale also took inspiration from some more recent works. Choteau specifically cites Miyazaki’s animated films and ICO. Regarding the films of Miyazaki, Choteau says that the stories develop “when kids are facing adversity but everything is not black or white. It’s thought-provoking, emotional and evocative.”

ICO is a hugely important videogame due to its powerful storytelling, emotional resonance and unique, pioneering gameplay. At Asobo Studio, ICO is a reference the team uses frequently. It too can be considered a modern fairytale and Choteau points to its ability to tell the story without dialogue.

ICO is a masterpiece and a meaningful game. The creators managed to evoke a lot with very little to no dialogue, few noises, and no frills. You don’t need to say or show much to be emotional or evocative in the end.

This game is a reference in the history of video games, or at least ours.


Kevin Choteau – Asobo Studio

Crafting the World

In a lot of fairytales, the beginnings of the story are grounded in reality but things gradually go awry. Think of Jack and the Beanstalk or Hansel and Gretel. In both stories, the scene is set early with Jack asked to sell the cow and Hansel and Gretel being abandoned in the woods. Jack eventually visits a castle in the sky while Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped by a witch who lives in a life-size gingerbread house.

A similar transition occurs in A Plague Tale Innocence. Beginning on an idyllic day in the woods, the game grows darker from the outset and eventually ends with a magical and psychic showdown.

I asked Choteau if the plan had always been to take the game down such a fantastical path and he told me”We can say it sticks to the initial vision, even if in a creative process, you never know where your ideas and your work will lead you exactly.”

“Every player finds their own moral or meaning but in the end, people understand what we wanted to do, our choices, what we wanted to tell,” he explains. “In the end, everyone is very supportive, which is very positive and empowering for our team.”

Reactions

Choteau also says that the reaction to the game has been more than the team could have hoped for. “We were not sure about how people would react. We challenged ourselves a lot! We managed to stick to the very first vision we had, but we were not sure people will follow us on this dark journey. So far, the reactions are very emotional to us.” He points to players wanting to share their emotions with friends and family as a sign of success.

Nowadays we do not easily admit we’ve been moved to tears, scared, stressed, thrilled. So many people tend to keep their feelings to themselves.


Kevin Choteau – Asobo Studio

Something else that was important in the creation of a modern day fairytale was the setting. Being a French studio it was always intended to set A Plague Tale Innocence in the south-west of France and according to the studio the setting is as close to the historical past as possible without it being a constraint.

“We wanted to build solid foundations for our game and depicting something that is in our direct environment was inspiring but also energizing and emotional for us, Choteau explains. “It brought something personal to the whole tale, a connection with us, something unique and intimate.” In addition to studying French towns and the region’s history, Asobo also watched movies and TV set in the period, studied paintings, music and the stories of the time.

Clearly, this approach paid off as A Plague Tale Innocence truly feels like a fairytale brought to life. Playing the game you can’t help but get caught up in the story of Hugo and Amicia and their struggle to escape the Inquisition at all costs.

Brothers and Sisters

I asked Choteau about the siblings’ relationship and how the team managed to make it feel so real. He told me that one of the things the team at Asobo Studio did was study their own family and relationships.

He adds, “A ton of iteration, discussions, choices we had to make, emotions we wanted to convey with simple words or gestures. Mistakes we’ve made and tricks we’ve found to solve them,” all helped to create Hugo and Amicia. However, it was again, referring to other successful stories that helped Asobo. “For this particular aspect, the Ghibli anime were not only an inspiration but also little gems that we cherish deeply.”

Choteau also gives a lot of credit to the cast saying that they “helped us a lot to shape this relationship in a true, believable, and touching way.”

Finally, the success of any fairytale, modern or otherwise, can be measured in the way it’s shared, told and spread. Choteau says the team has been absolutely floored by the way fans have responded. “The Twitch streams we watch discovering players who are committed to save the De Rune kids and audiences holding their breath during a whole walkthrough,” are one thing that helps cement A Plague Tale Innocence as a succvessful modern fairytale. “The tweets we see, spreading awesome screenshots of the game everywhere in the world. The profiles of players featuring some of our characters. Outstanding fan art and cosplays,” Choteau adds.

We are proud of our orphans and our 5.000 little rats and suddenly other people grab them and make their own story of A Plague Tale… It is the best reward we could get. That’s why we are making games. And we mean it!


Kevin Choteau – Asobo Studio

A Plague Tale Innocence is available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

We’d like to thanks Kevin Choteau for his time.

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Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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