This was another game that I felt I didn’t quite get, having played I’m struggling to understand it completely. The idea behind Tale of Tale’s The Endless Forest is that of an interactive social screensaver. You don’t do much but share a pretty space with other players.
“You are a deer. So are the other players. You meet each other in an endless forest on the internet. The setting is idyllic, the atmosphere peaceful. You communicate with one another through sounds and body language.”
“Although not goal-oriented, there are several activities that you can engage in. Nothing very demanding or violent. Just fun things to do in a nice environment.”
“it’s simply a strange, shared internet space, and the kind of oddity that makes our vast series of tubes worth exploring”
When playing I discovered a magic well that turned me into a squirrel, some ruins, a graveyard and a ring of mushrooms. It was nice to explore the environment, and I did get quite into using the forest actions to say hello to other deers wordlessly, like in Journey. However, I felt there was something lacking with this game. The pure wonder that I get when playing a game like Flower, Proteus or A Light In Chorus was missing.
I believe that one of the reasons for this was the 3rd person camera. When I zoomed in from the almost isometric style cam into more of an over the shoulder view, I felt more engaged, but something was still lacking. The human faces on the deer were also a bit unsettling and uncanny valley – I think their purpose was to make the deer feel more human and therefore more you, but it didn’t work.
I also think that the dark, muted colour palette contributed to this. Flower and Proteus use bright palettes that are stimulating, whist The Endless Forest’s dark greens and browns were uninspiring. The art also leaves a lot to be desired, with obvious billboarding and streched textures on the ground. There are hardware limitations, as this an MMO being run on a tiny server, but perhaps the answer to that issue would have been to go for a more heavily stylized look, following in the trend of large MMOs like World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online.
Another contributing factor may be the very little movement in the world. My other research has constantly emphisied how fx and environmental animation makes worlds come to life, but this is not seen here.
I later learned that the magic well I found was “De Drinkplaats”, inspired by Roelandt Sacvery.
“De Drinkplaats was inspired by a painting of the same name by 16th century Flemish painter Roelandt Savery,” say designers Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn. “The watering hole where animals gather is a typical subject for paintings of the period. And when we were invited to show The Endless Forest in a museum room of filled with such paintings, we couldn’t resist. The Endless Forest has always been inspired by romantic tendencies in landscape painting. So it was perfect. And now you get to play a giant bunny!”
“the romantic desire to step into a picture and become imersed in it”
“A place where magic happens while you pretend to be something you could never be, living an illusion shared by all around you.”
I do really like this take on games, using traditional art as a inspiration point for visual art, sound and gameplay.