Arts & Entertainment, Gaming, Internet

‘Été’ paints a portrait of a livable, walkable, and lovely Montreal

For many, thinking about video games elicits images of shooters, strategy titles, stressful levels, and intense gameplay. Été isn’t that. Developed by Montreal-based indie studio Impossible, the new PC game is all about relaxing. The player assumes the role of a budding painter who has just moved to Montreal for the summer and explores the city, paints watercolours, sells artwork, and decorates their apartment. The Tribune sat down with Lazlo Bonin, Founder and Creative Director at Impossible and a developer of Été, to discuss how the game came about. 

Été’s origins

Bonin’s inspiration for Été didn’t come from other video games; instead, he drew on some unlikely sources.

“One thing that has been inspiring me a lot is the I Spy books,” Bonin explained. “I just love the whimsy of Walter Wick, the photographer [.…] There’s such a joy in finding all the elements in those pages. And I think that’s kind of what was the inspiration for this [game].”

By the time development started in early 2020, Bonin and the initial team had already invested years of effort in creating a proof-of-concept and securing funding.

“The first prototype for this game was in 2016, maybe even 2015. [….] There was a long period between 2016 and 2020,” Bonin explained. “Trying to get funding basically and pitching to different investors or public funds to get someone interested in this weird, poetic wandering game where you’re a painter [in] Montreal. [They] didn’t bite so much for a little while.”

A calm atmosphere

Été has been designed from the ground up to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere. Unlike other games, there’s no way to fail, and the progression system lacks any rigidity. The main goal is to explore the city and create paintings you’re proud of.

“We don’t want people feeling like they have to work towards a specific goal,” Bonin elaborated. “What you’re really getting out of making all your paintings [and] selling your artworks at the auction is money. And money buys you decorations at various little shops you find toward the city. And you can use those to decorate your apartment and your studio space. So that’s like the ultimate goal—which is also just like a very open-ended and creative goal.”

It’s a simple life. Far from finals and schoolwork, Été is an escape to a world where people can make a comfortable living, interact with their community, and make art. 

“Video games are often power fantasies that will give you guns or superpowers or whatever else. And obviously, that’s not what we’re doing. But we are still creating some kind of fantasy,” Bonin explained. “What is the ideal life of a wandering painter in Montreal? Cheap rent, walkable cities, people who pay you for your art, [and] you’re right next door to the coolest cafe in town and the cutest market.”

Showcasing Montreal

Having grown up in the Mile End, Bonin felt that Montreal would be the ideal backdrop for the game.

“I just love the city,” Bonin said. “I absolutely love the architecture, and […] I love the scale of Montreal as a city. I love the density; the duplexes and triplexes create these small pockets of space and community.”

Bonin mentioned that if he had not become a game developer, he would have considered pursuing urban planning. With Été, he’s able to blend both passions. Inspired by planning principles from books like A Pattern Language, Bonin’s focus is always on creating a human-scale, lively, and cozy version of Montreal.

“The scale of the city and the locations we make have very little room for cars. It’s very bike- and pedestrian-oriented,” he said. “If we would make streets to scale, we would realize that our playtesters, and ourselves, would just be kind of anxious while standing in the middle of the street, even though there were no cars coming.”

Été is slated to come out in 2024 on Steam, though no specific release date has been confirmed. The game will be available in both English and French. Currently, the game can be added to users’ wishlists.

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