The creator of Proteus branches out into procedural storytelling
Proteus’s Ed Key tells a procedural story in the eerie Forest Of Sleep
Forest Of Sleep is the latest dreamlike project from Proteus creator Ed Key. A fairytale in which you guide three children through a forest, the look of the game was inspired by late-20th-century eastern European illustration and animation. The game procedurally combines illustrator Nicolai Troshinsky’s hand-drawn character and background components to conjure up “rich, tangled scenes and strange characters”.
Each trip through the dark forest will also be generated on the fly. “The idea is to let players’ actions form associations between objects, verbs and characters, which create patterns and expectations that can be repeated, referred to, or subverted for dramatic effect,” Key explains. “We want the player to feel a certain authorship over what happens, aiming for something like playing a pen-and-paper RPG with a good dungeon master, but obviously modulated through the ambiguous, text-free presentation, and the fact that it’s an AI rather than a human.”
The pen-and-paper reference is fitting, since the team has planned out branching storylines using paper prototypes. Each playthrough should take 30–60 minutes, making room for several acts and twists. There’s also a simple resource system that allows you to forage or beg for food, and you’re able to trade items. While hunger can cause you to collapse, Key is eager to avoid traditional Game Over screens.
“We’ve thought a lot about this, and what constitutes a fail state,” he explains. “We’ll try to avoid ending prematurely, but fail states are allowed as long as the game considers them to be a valid conclusion for the story – for example, a story that was about how some characters tried to do something and failed, but gained something on the way. Otherwise the game will try to move the story forward regardless by introducing ‘helpful’ elements, which become tied into the plot.”
Twisted Tree Games is hoping to realise its ambitions for Forest Of Sleep by late 2016, when it’ll launch on PCs and tablets.