The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Painters Guild

Painters Guild Wide
There’s a bit of trivia people commonly repeat about Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s probably not true. I don’t really care. It’s more fun to believe some ridiculous things than to ever find out they’re completely wrong. Da Vinci would supposedly sleep for fewer than 2 hours a day, having a 15 minute nap every four hours.

Painter’s Guild is sort of about The Renaissance. It’s an unfinished game set for Greenlight release that will eventually flesh out its themes of art-based management, but I’m into this early demo because I see it as a Superhero-like origin story that explains why a human would have such an awful sleep pattern for reasons other than cultivating a personality quirk. Maybe the developer didn’t set out with this in mind, but it is a video game starring Da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio where you’re forced to balance the amount of time that the men spend painting, sleeping and studying. The unverified bit of trivia was bound to have been mentioned at some point by a friend down the pub. Oh, you’re making a game about Da Vinci? And one of the main mechanics is making sure he gets enough zzzs? Did you know this one weird thing about that?

A patron will appear at your door with a commission. Taking on the work will create an immediate ticking clock (not literally because, like, it’s the mid-1400s and that’d be pretty unlikely). Da Vinci and Verrocchio work on art to the best of their ability but need to take regular rest breaks. Sometimes you’ll have more than one canvas to complete. You’re usually always against a pretty tight deadline. As an older man, Verrocchio benefits little from studying, but Da Vinci is a fast learner and a genius and can soon outpace his tutor in skill, assuming he’s given enough space away from bringing in enough florins to hit the books.

Painters Guild 2I’m reminded of Game Dev Story, or any of the management games Kairosoft produces, except more focused on individual people over larger projects. In GDS you developed the talent of your Studio but didn’t much concern yourself with your staff getting enough rest. They were in the office solely to create a product that you could sell. Painters Guild gives you the feeling you’re striving for something more than just profit; you’re creating art. You’re getting enough money from creating art that you can study art and in your downtime you get enough rest to be effective enough at making art without wasting what little time on earth you have left to do it all. C’mon, Verrocchio, you slouch, don’t you have a sculpture of a dude riding a horse to finish?

The comparison’s unfairly aided by video games commonly being a kitschy low-art and the content of Painter’s Guild literally being the most important artistic movement in recorded history. Still, it feels like the characters are striving toward something greater just as a consequence of how the game functions. Da Vinci’s attempts to maximise sleep are gamified and your responsibility. You’re forcing him awake in order to finish your commissions or to become a better painter. In context it’s so that you can stay in business, but with the aid of historical hindsight the work they’re doing is too important to faff around unconscious.

Is that unfair, though? I’m seeing what’s clearly a version of Crunch Development and instead of thinking it’s barbaric and irresponsible, since it’s aiding the production of much better art I think it’s somehow more noble. Maybe what I’m saying is in future we’re going to start viewing awful game production practices as a sign of commitment and talent. If you’re reading this in the future: please burn the future.