I do not recall how I stumbled upon it. Perhaps it was from an article from Kotaku or Joystiq or maybe even right here from Destructoid. All I know is that I discovered it by playing an independent “horror” games, The Graveyard. (I use the term “horror” lightly since there was nothing particular scary about the game. It just contained a very grim atmosphere with the depressing theme of an elderly woman singing a song as she waits to die.) Anyway, the game was developed by a Belgium independent developer, Tale of Tales
, who strive to produce what they call “elegant and emotionally rich interactive entertainment”. Little did I know what I was about to get myself into as I looked back at their past projects. Among some of their current works, there was a game that claimed hours of my life for little over a year and that game was the Endless Forest.
The best way to describe the Endless Forest is that it is a social MMO. The story of the game is simple and somewhat nonexistent. You see, you play as a deer in a forest.
No really. That’s it.
You are “born” as a fawn in a forest that seems to have some sort of mystical powers. These powers are not really expressed in any form of writing or cut scenes or ever really explained, but they are there and you can sense their presence. They come in the form of rocks that change the color of your fur as you walk through them, flowing lights, or mushroom circles that turn you into small woodland creatures. For the first month of game time, you have to remain a fawn. Once the month is up, you “grow up” and become a stag, which is the only real set goal the game has. The stags somewhat resemble the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke
. They are large, brown deer figures with humanoid faces to show expressions though the developers say the design was not based on the film; having human-like faces was one of the few ways they could allow players to communicate in the game.
Remember that you are a deer and deer cannot talk. Therefore the developers removed any abilities for players to talk within the game. There is no chat box or in-game voice chatting. (Though I suppose if you were to play with someone you knew, you could always use an instant message program or something like Skype.) The main way to communicate to the other deer in the forest is to act like a deer. You can make noises and use body language to convey messages to those around you. Personally, this is what drew me to the game. There is a sense of strategy to trying to figure out what motions you can do to try to “tell” someone to go to a certain place or do a certain thing. Though there is more to this game than being a nature simulator.
There is a community site
where the game goes a much different direction. The creation of the community site allowed reoccurring players to talk to each outside of the forest. In a way, the site became a place for people to actually create and define characters thus expanding upon the virtual world their deer lived in. There are different pelt colors, antler styles, and even masks that make different noises that you can collect in the game. By having these different styles for their deer, people were able to create a certain look for their
character. Most players would then go to the community site where they would post a biography for their character. Each character would have a different personal, behave differently, and often had their own back story or the player would create a story for when they played. This gave players a chance to develop their own goals or give themselves a direction to play. Quite often people would begin to role play both in the game and on the community site giving birth to elaborate, constantly growing stories that changed almost daily. Friendships were formed and lovers bonded. Some people even went as far enough to have full families or have their deer age and die. Needless to say, you needed to be creative and have a very active imagination to get full enjoyment from the Endless Forest which is what sunk me into it.
The community site developed into a sharing site of many sort of art forms. Those with artistic skills often drew or painted pictures of characters or illustrations for stories. Writers wrote poems and short stories. Others made necklaces, bracelets, and even little stuffed animals which they sold to gain donations for the site. Each day a new form of art was uploaded and shared.
As for me, I use to write a lot when I was younger. I had completed a handful of short stories and had dreams of getting some of my worked published. However, my attempted fell through mainly due to lack of support from family. Not being supported really killed my motivation to write since I felt as if no one cared and I would not get any where, though my love for writing never creased. I had hit an everlasting period of writer’s block that I desperately wanted to break. I joined the Endless Forest’s community site in hopes that its tranquil setting and active role plays might spark the creativity I had lost. It did for awhile at least.
(Fan art of Kumiko)
My first character was a fragile doe I named Kumiko
. She had lost her parents in a forest fire as a fawn and took refuge in the forest after the tragic event. I had started to write a short story about her
on the community site that explained much more of her past and ultimately my interpretation of what the Endless Forest actually was. However, despite writing eleven chapters and having the rest of it outlined out in my head, I never completed it due to complications I ran into regarding Kumiko in the game. She had somehow gotten mixed up in a love triangle which put a bit of a halt to my attitude towards playing her.
I always wanted her to be a detached character since I did not want to get mixed up in the drama people often created. Fighting to get attention of a fine doe or becoming obsessive over a young buck. It was a mess I wanted to avoid but I suppose even imaginary love can develop just as normal love. While Kumiko might have remained with a chilled heart, another fell for her. Complications spawned when she denied the offer, making it difficult to play her due to guilt she carried from hurting a close friend.
(Fan art of Paavo)
The second character I created was reckless, lost buck. Paavo Amadeus Baroque
was a descendant of royalty who grew tired of the rules and responsibilities placed on a prince. He decided to run away from home in hopes of living a much simpler lifestyle. He also had an imaginary friend whom he would frequently talk to or play with. The nobility in him never disappeared, however. He might not have been proud of his bloodline but a sense of loyalty and bravery ran through his veins even in his early days. Though he was a bit on the stupid side. With his character, I let his emotions get the best of him. As a prince, he longed for a princess but found himself falling flat on his face from rejection. His love life might have never had a chance to fully bloom, but his dedication and protective nature remained. Though his newly developed bitterness only gave him an excuse to be a jackass.
(What I liked the most about his character was that I based him entirely around music. I named him after my idol, Paavo Lotjonen
. He even held a similar Finnish accent when he spoke. His middle name was a reference to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while his last name was in honor the baroque era of music.)
The atmosphere was fantastic within the woods. At times, I would sign in anonymously just for the ambiance of nature sounds, especially during thunderstorms. So after all the work I put into piece together elaborate characters, why did I abandon the game? The truth was it soon became a very demanding game to play. When you become apart of a thriving community, you need to keep up with the flow. Every day new, unexpected events occurred that required almost always being on. If not, you missed out on a chance to be apart of the next chapter of life that all the other players were opening. Work and personal events from life often kept me out of the Forest for a few days at time. By then, I missed out on far too much and could not keep up.
For awhile, I found myself being somewhat obsessed with trying to keep the pace of the others. I spent all my free time sitting and waiting for those I knew to get on. It soon became almost like a second job. Rather than have additional stress coming from “need” to constantly be at a second place, I figured it was best to simply fade away.
LOOK WHO CAME: