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The Endless Forest
TheEndlessForest 300x250 2.jpg
Developer(s) Auriea Harvey, Michaël Samyn
Publisher(s) Tale of Tales
Artist(s) Lina Kusaite
Composer(s) Jan Verschoren, Gerry De Mol
Version 3.21
Platform(s) PC
Release date(s) September 25, 2005
Latest release 3.21 / July 2 2008
Genre(s) Multiplayer Online Game
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Media Download
Input methods Mouse, keyboard, joystick

The Endless Forest is a multiplayer online game for Windows in which the player is a deer in a peaceful forest without goals or the ability to chat. Unique pictograms above registered deer's heads represent their names. Players communicate with one another through sounds and body language. During ABIOGENESIS, every deer runs around, rubs against trees, or sits next to sleeping deer to cast Forest Magic on one another or party under a night sky filled with floral fireworks in a spectacle, created in realtime, by authors whenever the mood hits them. The Endless Forest can be run as a screensaver or an application.

Tale of Tales is a Belgian games development company founded in 2003 by Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, better known as "Entropy8Zuper!".[1][2][3] The Endless Forest was created by a small team of professionals.[2] Their goal is to explore the potential of the games medium as an artistically expressive form of entertainment.[1][2]

A notable aspect of The Endless Forest is the community involvement. The Tale of Tales website has a forum and a community site where many players post their ideas and feedback for The Endless Forest, which can affect the development of the game.[4]

The creators of The Endless Forest strived to create a very artistic game, a moving painting. Dubbed by its developers as a "multiplayer online game and social screensaver"[5][6], The Endless Forest is not a mainstream MMORPG - it is highly unlike other MMORPGs.[7] The most notable difference between The Endless Forest and other MMORPGs is the lack of violence and human communication (talking) in-game.[2][6]

Contents

Development

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Phase One

The game's prototype was originally commissioned by the Musee d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxemburg, in 2003.[8] Phase One was first released in September 12, 2005[9]. This Phase included the Ruins and the ability to hop. On February 7, 2006, the streaming beta and beta screensaver version 1.5 was released, with the special addition of ABIOGENESIS[10]. On February 13, an update of the beta version, version 1.5 beta 12, was released.[11] It was in this version that the Pond was first introduced into the forest. It was then that the first series of ABIOGENESIS occurred on the 15, 16 and 18 of February during the ARTEFACT festival in Leuven.[12]

Phase Two

2 months later, Phase Two was launched on April 26, 2006 with greatly improved graphics and sound. With the release of Phase Two came the use of Forest Magic, the ability to change the avatar's appearance, a handful of emotes to express ones self, a giant tree known as the Old Oak, and an update to the ABIOGENESIS system.[13] On September 29, 2006, version 2.1 was released and of the most important features of the game, the Fawn, was added. The Fawn was created for Pixel Me, a traveling art exhibition for young teenagers in Belgium.[14] The show ran from October 2006 to November 2008, stopping in cultural centers across the country. On January 16, 2007 the artistic game project reached 10,000 registered players and had been downloaded over 64,000 times since its first release in September 2005.[15] During this time The Endless Forest was being supported by Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxemburg, Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds and Design Vlaanderen.[15] On June 21, 2007 the players said goodbye to Phase 2 with the last ABIOGENESIS of the phase. It was during this Summer Solstice ABIOGENESIS that The Endless Forest experienced a record breaking attendance, over 80 deer at one time, much more than the little server could handle.[16]

Phase Three

The Phase 3 beta was released in late August 2007, when the game jumped to over 100,000 downloads and 17,000 registered players, the number of active players per month exceeding 1,500[17]. On September 24, 2007, Phase 3 was officially released for download. In this version, new players began playing as fawns for 30 days, which after that they grew into full grown stags. It was also in this phase that two new areas were created; The Birch Forest and The Playground, consisting of a bunch of large boulders. Phase 3 was also the first to be created with Quest3D. One October 24, 2007, The Endless Forest crossed 20,000 registered players and over 100,000 downloads[18]. Version 3.1 was released for Halloween, which consisted of 3 new sets (the Day of the Dead Set, the Crying Mask Set, and the Zombie Deer Set) so players could dress up for the spooky holiday. Version 3.2 was released in honour of Mardi Gras, where 8 new sets, designed by players and textured by students at the Howest college in Kortrijk, Belgium were added to the game[19]. On March 9, 2008, The Endless Forest reached 25,000 registered players and was downloaded almost 200,000 times[20] Despite the game's growing popularity, the funding was becoming a problem. The game's funding was denied by Flemish Audiovisual Fund again, it had been denied in Phase 3 as well, leaving Tale of Tales with no possible way of applying for funding in Belgium.[21] Development of The Endless Forest is at a standstill while Tale of Tales works on their new game, The Path—which itself has been partly supported by the Flemish Ministry of Culture[22], and will be on sale in Spring 2009.[23]

Future Plans

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn have general plans for what The Endless Forest is to become. They plan to continue the development of The Endless Forest in a way that suits themselves and their players. All plans go through the players to get their feedback and reaction. The game is based hugely on community involvement.

The general plan states:

"There's two main facets to the interaction design of The Endless Forest. On the one hand, it is sort of a magical deer-RPG or simulation game and on the other a stage for virtual performances (kind of an extreme form of Dungeon Mastering).

You are a stag
Every player starts the game as a young male deer. An older female (your mother) will guide you through the beginning of the game. As you keep playing, you will grow and your antlers will take on a unique shape.
There will be magical spells to acquire in the forest. A peculiarity of these is that you cannot cast them on yourself. Only on other deer. These spells can make the game a lot more interesting, so it will be important to find someone who can cast them on you.
Your deer avatar will live for a full year. If you want to continue playing with all the abilities you've gathered, you will need to procreate. There are plenty of attractive hinds in the forest. Perhaps you can persuade them. But better make sure you chase away your competitors with those awesome antlers of yours.

We are god
Every once in a while we, Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn, the authors and directors of this project, will intervene with one thing or another. Sometimes this may be an elaborate intrusion or addition that impacts life in the forest dramatically. At other times, small things will be added. This way, the forest will remain a living universe where you never know what to expect.
There will also be live events. Often things that are tied to real-life performances or exhibitions. Usually a remainder of these occasions will be left in the forest, but it will be most interesting to witness and participate in the event when it happens."[24]

Gameplay

Basic Gameplay

If the player is registered, he or she will begin the game as a fawn. As a fawn, Forest Magic wears off quickly. In exactly a month, the deer grows up and becomes a stag. Now Forest Magic stays on as long as the deer would like it to.

Common activities in the Forest are exploring, using the Forest Magic and Forest Actions, sleeping, and swimming. There are also social activities that deer commonly engage in, such as dancing, pool parties, hide and seek, and tag. Deer can also be seen jumping over rocks and logs, or running in herds.

ABIOGENESIS

ABIOGENESIS is a spectacle created by the realtime authors of the game. ABIOGENESIS knows no limits - rocks and cages fall from the sky, disco balls spin, lightning bolts flash, the sky changes color, and rainbows pop up out of nowhere. It is a system that allows Endless Forest authors Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn to play god. At any moment they can make it rain, make flowers grow and beasts fly. ABIOGENESIS happens either randomly, whenever they please, or in an organised event, during a live performance.It has also been known that a giant stag will come and visit during an ABIOGENESIS performance...

Forest Magic

Forest Magic is the main way to change the appearance of one's avatar, but the player cannot change his or her own look (The exceptions being some antlers, and the pelt acquired at the Crying Idol.) Other deer must cast spells on them in order to change their look, and it is up to the player to communicate and ask others to change their appearance for them. Only adult deer can keep the spells cast on them, however, registered deer will have the magic cast on them saved for the next time they log on. The magic wears off on all fawns after a short period of time. Swimming in the pond causes a deer to lose all of the Forest Magic that has been cast on them.

There are three antler customizations that the player can get by themself:

  • Hyacinths - There are many patches of hyacinths (purple flowers). Go to one, and the player can put the flowers on their head using the Forest Action that pops up at the bottom of the screen.
  • Poppies - There are many patches of poppies (red flowers), such as at the Ruins or by the river and Crying Idol. The player can put these on their head with the same Forest Action as the purple flowers.
  • Candles - During special times of the year (like Halloween for example) there are candles all over the Forest. When approached, a Forest Action pops up, and the player can put candles on their head.

There are two pelts that the player can receive by themself:

  • Devout Pelt - Praying/worshiping at the Twin Gods statue gives the players deer a white pelt, pink eyes and pink antlers. It also gives the ability to cast the pelt on other players. This pelt soon wears off.
  • Red Pelt - Running through the Crying Idol at the head of the river gives the players deer a red pelt with red antlers. Deer can keep this set for as long as they wish.

There is one animal that the player can shapeshift themself into:

  • Frog - If the player swims in the pond, they turn into a frog.

There are four additional factors that can affect a player's appearance:

  • Mask - Nibbling on the mushrooms growing on certain trees will give the player the power to give another deer a mask.
  • Pelt - Laying down beside a sleeping deer for a few moments will give the player the power to give another deer a pelt spell.
  • Shapeshifting - By falling asleep inside of a mushroom circle, the player will gain the power to shapeshift another deer. The player can shapeshift other deer into a bat, a dove, a frog, a squirrel, or a mini-deer.
  • Antlers - If the player rubs against one of the pine trees, a pine cone will fall to the ground. Eating it will give the player the power to give another deer a new set of antlers.

Forest Actions

Because The Endless Forest has no chat box, or any human means of communication, players must resort to an action strip along the bottom of the game. This strip includes many buttons. Deer display the actions provided in order to communicate with each other. These actions can be divided up into three types; basic actions, expressive actions, and forest magic actions. The basic actions are stand/lie down, bleat, listen, jump, and rub a tree. For expression actions there are two other buttons, a blue button (emotions) and an orange button (motions). The blue button includes emotes such as quivering in fear, cocking the head in confusion, bowing in thanks/greeting/respect, or hunching over in sadness. The orange button includes actions such as dancing, rearing up on the hind legs, and shaking the head yes/no. Forest magic actions include casting, obtaining, and discarding magic. When a deer gains the ability to cast a spell on another deer, a button pops up. Each form of magic has its own button that will pop up when the spell is obtained; pelt, antlers, mask, and shapeshifted. For example, if a deer gains the ability to change another deer's pelt color, a gold button with a deer imprint on it pops up in the action strip. If they press this button, they cast the spell. There is also a worship button, which can only be used when near the Twin Gods Statue (see Forest Magic) and a deer shaped button where you can remove the spells the avatar is wearing.

Setting

The Endless Forest consists of seven main areas: First Forest, Birch Forest, the Ruin, the Pond, the Old Oak, the Playground and the Twin Gods Statue.

The First Forest

The First Forest was the first part of the forest to be created, as well as the only section originally released. Its flora consists of poppies, hyacinths, and ferns, while the fauna consists of doves, butterflies, fireflies, and squirrels. Butterflies are seen floating over the hyacinths in the daytime, while fireflies replace them when it becomes nighttime.

The Birch Forest

The Birch Forest (double the size of the First Forest) was introduced in Phase 3. It added more land to roam and explore, as well as new visuals and sounds. The Birch Forest consists of birch trees and sycamores, blue berries and little birds. With the addition of the Birch Forest, little birds can now also rest upon the deers antlers if the player is very quiet. The grass in the Birch Forest is much taller compared to that of the rest of the forest.

The Ruin

The Ruin was created as part of a exhibition in Phase 1. Exhibition curator Michel Dewilde invited Tale of Tales to contribute to the fourth edition of the yearly Ename Actueel group art exhibition (September 1, 2005 to October 30, 2005) organized by the Provincial Archeological Museum in the small town of Ename in Belgium[25]. When it was first created, its main focus was on Tardis, a time-and-space-travel device featured in the Doctor Who television series.

After that, the base of the ruin was introduced, resembling the archeological site of a gothic Saint Salvator church. During the exhibition visitors could steer a deer through the forest like the online players can. But when they stopped playing and the deer went to sleep, the soul of this visitor escaped and started floating through the forest. If the player found a soul, a new button would appear in the action strip which could be used to convert this pagan soul. If the players did a good enough job by the end of the day, a grave would be erected near the ruin. If the players failed and the majority of the remaining souls were still unchristened, a pagan idol would show up. Every day of the exhibition, a grave or an idol was added. The size depended on the amount of visitors of that day. Now that the exhibition and Tardis is over, the ruins stand exactly as they have been created, left to see by the current forest players. Today nothing remains of the once large stone building but its foundations.

The Pond

The Pond was released in Phase 1.5. It was the premiere location for the first ever ABIOGENESIS. Weeping willows, frogs, lily pads, the occasional flower, and some brightly coloured koi fish make up the pond location.

Falling into the pond will cause any deer to lose all of its magic. Without careful footing, all of the players hard earned spells could be lost to the water. The pond splits off into a small river, over which a small bridge has been built. One of the secrets of the forest is the idea of how the bridge came to being.

Further down the river is the Crying Idol, named for the waterfalls flowing from the statue's eyes. Little red poppies grow around the idol. Players will also get a treat if they end up passing into the idol. Running through the idol will cause the deer to turn red. This red pelt will prohibit other deer from casting more magic onto anyone who wears it, but can easily be 'sneezed' off when they want to get spells again.

The Old Oak

The Old Oak is a large, hollowed-out tree where deer come to rest, relax and rejuvenate. It is a comfortable place. Often when it is raining in the Forest, deer can be seen sleeping in the warm Old Oak. The Old Oak's most notable trait is the low humming sound emitted when the player travels close enough to it.

The Playground

The Playground was released in Phase 3, and was given its name by the players on the community forum.[26] The Playground consists of three large boulders and many other rocks. Deer have the ability to walk, climb and jump over the rocks. If a deer sits quietly enough, little birds will perch on the deers antlers, but they will fly away upon player induced movement of the deer.

Sometimes candles appear on all three boulders, allowing the deer to place candles on their antlers.

The Deermuda Triangle

There is a set of three suitcase-shaped rocks arranged in a triangle formation nicknamed "The Deermuda Triangle". The area's name was generated completely by two players, Griffinsong and Tae,[27] and is not considered an official area of the forest. Some players claim that mysterious things happen in this area, while others have spent time there and come out without no harm done.

The Deermuda has become widely accepted by players. Game creator Michaël Samyn commented, "We think that's great. It is exactly how we see storytelling in games: we plant some seeds but the players grow the flowers."[28]

The Twin Gods Statue

The Twin Gods Statue is central to all ABIOGENESIS performances. During an ABIOGENESIS the two halves of the statue separate and follow the creators' avatars though the forest. A player can activate the ABIOGENESIS camera, which focuses on the Twin Gods statue, by pressing the keys CTRL + W. In addition, if a player uses the 'pray' action at the Twin Gods statue the deer avatar receives a temporary devout pelt. Players will often leave their deer avatars sleeping next to the Twin Gods statue.

De Drinkplaats

De Drinkplaats is a magical place where deer gather to drink from an endlessly running source. When you enter the magical ring of mushrooms, you shed all your strange pelts and masks and become one with nature. The more players gather, the more forest animals come to witness the idyllic scene. Drinking from the water, turns the deer into one of those animals, of varying sizes. Two new animals were added for the occasion: a white rabbit and a black raven.

De Drinkplaats was added to The Endless Forest in reponse to a commission by Christophe De Jaeger for the Fantastic Illusions exhibition. Fantastic Illusions is a show of work by contemporary chinese and Belgian artists that refers to the romantic desire to step into a picture and become imersed in it ("Die Sehnsuch im bild zu sein"). The exhibition ran in the Shanghai MoCA from September to October 2009 and opened in the Kortrijk Broelmuseum in November 2009. The Broelmuseum has a fine collection of 16th century paintings by the Flemish painter Roelandt Savery. In that room, two computers were installed where visitors could play The Endless Forest.

One of Savery's paintings, entitled "De Drinkplaats" (The Watering Hole), served as the direct inspiration for this addition to the Forest. But the actual shape of the fountain was taken from a real life watering hole that we found in the garden of the museum surrounded by trees and shrubs. We immediately imagined deer gathering round peacefully and strange magic happening.

The Ones Who Came Before Us

Many objects in the forest are clearly sculpted from stone. Examples include the idol of the man at the source of the river, (similar to those seen in animated film Spirited Away) The Ruins, the graves (one of which is clearly a crucifix), the cage beside the ruins, the bridge (on which, some claim, symbols are legible) and the forest god statues. Who or what created these artefacts is a mystery, the question originally being raised by players Varla and Cernunnos. The game creators have yet to respond to queries into the origin of these items, or to the possibly of creatures in addition to the deer living out of sight....

Reception

Since its first release, The Endless Forest has received much positive feedback from the public. The Endless Forest has been invited to exhibitions such as Le Cube Festival[29], Game/Play[2], Bradford Animation Festival[30], IETM Autumn Plenary Meeting[31], VELOCITY festival[32], Play Cultures[33], Els límits de la natura ("The Limits of Nature") at Centre d'Art La Panera[34], Gameworld at LABoral Centro de Arte[35], Night Garden at Mediamatic[36], Mediaterra[37], Pixel Me[14], Edge Conditions at the San Jose Museum of Art[38], and more.[39] In addition, The Endless Forest has been featured in many magazines, such as GEE magazine, Germany[40], as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette[41]. Other remarks center upon the game's unfinished nature, as well as hope for what may lie in store for the future.[7][42]

1 in 5 players discovered the game through fanart posted on deviantART.[43]

The Endless Forest has received negative feedback relating to its lack of traits considered essential to MMO games, and to video games in general.[2][44]

References

  1. ^ a b http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/information/
  2. ^ a b c d e f http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2006/06/michael-auriea.php
  3. ^ http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?review_id=283
  4. ^ http://www.gamezone.com/news/01_29_08_10_23AM.htm
  5. ^ http://www.indiecade.com/index.php?/games/selected/the-endless-forest
  6. ^ a b http://gaygamer.net/2007/09/the_endless_forest_enters_the.html
  7. ^ a b http://www.runtime-hq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=76&Itemid=2
  8. ^ http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?review_id=287
  9. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2005/09/12/version-10-final-released-finally/
  10. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2006/02/07/beta-testing-has-begun/
  11. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2006/02/13/new-beta-of-the-screensaver-client/
  12. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=605
  13. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2006/04/26/the-endless-forest-version-20/
  14. ^ a b http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2006/09/29/exhibition-pixel-me-belgium/!
  15. ^ a b http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/01/17/ten-thousand-deer-in-the-virtual-woods/
  16. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/06/21/chaos-in-the-forest/
  17. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/08/24/100000-nameless-deer/
  18. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/10/24/not-endless-but-still-quite-a-bit/
  19. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/TheEndlessForest/carnival.html
  20. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2008/03/09/25-thousand-deer/
  21. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3052
  22. ^ http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2007/11/09/flemish_ministry_of_culture_invests_in_games/1
  23. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/ThePath/
  24. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/TheEndlessForest/plans.html
  25. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/TheEndlessForest/ename.html
  26. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/TheEndlessForest/playground.html
  27. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3789
  28. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5728&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30
  29. ^ http://www.cubefestival.com/exposition/planprogramme/the-endless-forest/
  30. ^ http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/baf/2007/filmDetail.asp?id=7289
  31. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/10/06/tefietm/
  32. ^ http://www.folly.co.uk/endlessforest
  33. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2007/10/04/play-cultures-starts-today/
  34. ^ http://www.lapanera.cat/home.php?op=8&module=programacio&cad=0&item=32
  35. ^ http://www.laboralcentrodearte.org/gameworld/pagina_091.html
  36. ^ http://www.mediamatic.net/artefact-12501-en.html?lang=en
  37. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2006/10/12/exhibition-mediaterra-athens/
  38. ^ http://www.sjmusart.org/content/exhibitions/past/exhibition_list.phtml?typeID=past
  39. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/exhibitions-presentations/
  40. ^ http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1193/1338011482_729cb01fe6_o.jpg
  41. ^ http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08092/869438-42.stm
  42. ^ http://www.neural.it/art/2005/11/the_endless_forest_alienating_1.phtml
  43. ^ http://tale-of-tales.com/blog/2008/08/15/games-for-girls-piece-of-cake/
  44. ^ http://www.somethingawful.com/d/mmo-roulette/endlessforest.php

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