Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina) goals to inform an authentic Indigenous story

While several video games include Indigenous characters and themes, few have been made with creative control and design decisions within the hands of individuals from whom these inspirations are drawn. That’s a giant a part of what makes Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina), the upcoming first-person narrative adventure game from Unreliable Narrators, so notable. Not only is the studio working with partners from a few of Canada’s First Nations, but it surely is ceding significant elements of making control, giving their Indigenous collaborators a say over art, music, and the direction of the story.

Official Announcement Trailer – Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina)

I spoke with Laurène Betard, Two Falls brand manager, and Antoine Bartolo, general manager at Purple is Royal, the marketing team partnering with the studio. We discussed seeing the world through the Indigenous and European eyes, partnering closely with native communities to inform an authentic and respectful story, and what word they learned to not say during development.

It’s all about perspective

“Two Falls is a 3D narrative and exploration game about Indigenous history,” Laurène tells Digital Trends. “The story takes place within the seventeenth century in Canada, and you may follow the journey of two characters.“

One character is Jeanne, a French woman emigrating to what would in the future turn into Quebec. She is the survivor of a shipwreck, alone with nothing but a dog to maintain her company, and frightened of a wilderness she knows nothing about. The opposite is Maikan, an Innu hunter at home with the forests and animals that make up the natural landscape. Decisions made during gameplay will impact their independent but intertwining paths on this coming-of age-narrative.

“Particular with this game is that we have now [different] artistic directions with the intention to emphasize the 2 perspectives since it’s all a game about perspectives. How people can think or can see the things that surround them, but don’t see the identical thing as one other person.”

One example Laurène gives is the forest. To Jeanne, it’s frightening; She doesn’t recognize the trees or the sounds. Every thing is dark, and blends together. For Maikan, it’s shiny and colourful. He can recognize different trees, and signs of wildlife. It’s his people’s land, and he’s very comfortable. But it surely goes each ways.

“Sooner or later,” Antoine begins,” there’s the shipwreck that Jeanne escaped from, you may see it from her perspective, which is only a shipwreck. It’s a ship that’s wrecked, but through the eyes of Maikan, the wood protruding on the side form of looks like a ribcage of a whale that might have been beached. It takes this sort of strange animalistic look because he’s not used to seeing such huge ships made out of wood and stuff like that. So we’re attempting to play with all this stuff, too.”

Two side by side pictures show a wrecked ship reduced to just it's skeleton.

Laurène emphasizes that Two Falls is a first-person walking simulator (like Firewatch, from Campo Santo). You can be seeing things through the eyes of every character. Which means when you’re Jeanne, 3,000 miles from home in an odd recent land, what may actually be normal wildlife could look like something as frightening as a werewolf. And that’s not the one folklore that could be on the characters’ minds, as evident by the Windigo.

Laurène tells us, “I don’t know should you’re accustomed to the story of the Windigo, but it surely’s an entity protecting the forest for Indigenous People. And when European people got here, they were talking about Windigo as a foul spirit and evil spirits that may eat you should you don’t care for the forest, but it surely’s not what Indigenous People created, , it’s more like a friendly entity in point of fact … For Jeanne, she can be frightened by the concept of the Windigo, while Maikan can be more intrigued by what’s triggering the Windigo.”

A man sits next to a campfire in the canadian wilderness in Two Falls.

Windigo, it seems, was one among three different working titles in Two Falls‘ history. First, it was Kanata, named for the Huron-Wendat word for “settlement” or “village” which served because the origin for the name Canada. Then it was Windigo, but that name was later abandoned for good reason.

“While talking to people from different communities, we realized that [Windigo] was a term that we couldn’t employ,” Antoine says. “It’s something that’s not talked about, it’s form of a Voldemort form of thing. You’re not alleged to say that word and now we were just plastering it in big letters and trailers.”

Elevating and incorporating Indigenous voices

As interesting as these Indigenous legends and this era of history might be, it’s necessary to inform these stories the suitable way, with the suitable input from the peoples at the middle of them. I asked Laurène and Antoine about that, and so they had rather a lot to say on the topic, starting with the central characters.

“Maikan was created with numerous Indigenous partners, numerous Wendat people, and a few Innu too,” says Laurène. “ Maikan is a young hunter, so he sees his village afflicted by an illness, and this illness will force him to travel, to search out the treatment. It’s how he’s starting his journey. And there are numerous moments in the sport where you’ll really feel [his] Indigenous culture”.

A bright blue river flows through a lush evergreen forest in Two Falls.

A key element to creating authentic characters is the voice acting. In line with Laurène and Antoine, there can be each English and Innu dialogue, voiced by Indigenous actors.

Antoine adds, “[among the Indigenous partners] we have now internal staff on the studio. But what’s super necessary for the story is that we built what we call a Council of Elders, which is people from different Indigenous communities. And so they form of log out on every step of the way in which, on the story, how we’re telling it, what we’re seeing in it, and in addition how items and stuff can be depicted in the sport. So it’s super necessary for us to have that authenticity and to inform the story the way in which they need it to be told.”

It’s what Indigenous people need to say, how do they need us to complete? 

The core story of Two Falls was crafted by Isabelle Picard, an Indigenous ethnologue. Because the game developed it was reviewed by the Tshakapesh Institute, an institute that promotes Indigenous culture and protects native languages. They provided confirmations and helped inform development, and that prolonged beyond just scenarios.

“Even in the easy details, like how Maikan is using his knife could change every thing on what culture he’s from. Innu people don’t do the identical thing as Wendat people for instance,” Laurène adds. “So we wish to be as realistic as possible. And that’s why we had to decide on a community, , like Innu. Maikan needed to be Innu because we are able to’t say he’s “indigenous” because that will have said something and nothing at the identical time.”

An eerie blue atmosphere envelopes a dense forest in Two Falls. A warm amber glow lights a welcoming forest in Two Falls.

The influence of the Indigenous partners is difficult to overstate. Developer Unreliable Narrator has taken an approach that provides control to people from the cultures that the sport is about.

“The 3D artists usually are not in Unreliable Narratives. It’s an external firm named Awastoki, co-founded by Alexis Gros-Louis Houle, who’s Huron-Wendat, and his wife Caroline Fournier. They already know a bit about how individuals are clothed, and what clothes should seem like. We’re also having this validated by the Council of Elders.”

Likewise, The music for Two Falls is finished by Eadsé, an Indigenous artist, and even the ultimate direction and tone of the story are intentionally not noted of the hands of the event team.

“We’re within the technique of writing the top of the story because the top of the story is crucial part,” Laurène says. “It’s what Indigenous people need to say, how do they need us to complete? Do they need us to indicate something more sad, but possibly realistic, that shows all of the damage that was done to this community? Or do they like to complete on a more positive note with numerous hope and say, ‘OK, the collaboration can be possible.’ It’s as much as them. We don’t have a say on this part. So I can’t let you know yet because we don’t know yet how it is going to finish.”

A trapper stands in front of the player, as they hold a conversation in Two Falls.

The Unreliable Narrator team could be very clear about its intentions to have interaction with and hearken to Indigenous communities. These influences are necessary for crafting the story and maintaining authenticity and making a game that’s responsible and respectful toward its subject material.

Two Falls (Nishu Takuatshina) is planned to release in 2023 on Steam.

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