Tuesday, 22 January 2013

I almost forgot...

...Rimfrost means rime or hoarfrost. 
Photo by Daniel Schwen, via Wikipedia.
I thought it sounded quite nice even in English, and you can kind of figure out what it means. It's also foreign enough to sound interesting and short enough to work as a name for an iOS or Android app. Win!

Screenshot in progress

Here's a tiny peek at what I'm working on at the moment: a little mock-up screenshot to give an idea of what the game will actually look like.

The game will be in 3D but with fixed cameras, to allow for flexible camera movement when necessary but keeping the pace and mood fairly...calm, I suppose. I want this to feel like a book - engrossing and gripping without any insane action-based gameplay. There might be a tiny parallax effect or some slight camera manipulation involved but I don't want any free-roaming, first person-style movement. This game should be about scene exploration, reading and thinking rather than reflexes and adrenaline, and I think that a major mechanic like character movement would distract from that. Movement would instead be handled by simply tapping on the area you want to go to, which would shift the view.

I want an inventory system as well as a way for text boxes to appear in the environment. Rather than keeping all text separate from the scene it will be incorporated into the environment, possibly with the addition of some standalone descriptions to set the mood for the scene. Somewhere in the HUD or menus there should also be a map to give the player a sense of where in the world they are.

I've been thinking about how I used to play Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale and how those games made me read like a machine. Games and their systems for incentive and rewards are incredibly powerful tools, and I want to use this. I want to use text and words as rewards; little snippets of information, a plot twist, a line of dialogue that reveals something new. Rather than trying to force reading onto kids who aren't into it I'm approaching this from the angle that children will want to read as long as what they read is good and fun and interesting enough. Challenge accepted...

The tomte

Another really neat little creature that I immediately wanted to feature is the tomte. These guys are tiny but really strong little men who live on farms and look after the buildings, land and animals while the family sleeps. I guess you could call them grumpy little house spirits!

It was important to stay on good terms with the tomte. If the farm was well managed he would bring luck and good fortune to the farm, but the animals were mistreated or if the tomte was angered all sorts of nastiness could happen. Food and gifts had to be put out (and left alone!) to keep the him in a good mood.

Maybe I should start signing my pictures...
This particular fellow isn't too fond of humans since they, well, stopped believing in him. I think his name is Gard... Haven't decided yet. He lives on his own - without a farm to look after - and isn't interested in helping the player in any way. Not even Yrsa can convince him, which is saying something about his grouchiness! The player has to prove their worth before receiving any help or guidance from Gard, possibly through a series of tasks that involve both hard work and quick wits.


What's a good story without characters? Exactly. This is Yrsa (and the first painting I've done in a year and a half...eek):
She is a young skogsrå; a "forest-keeper". They are female creatures that are sometimes described
as naked, beautiful women who run around the woods looking for men to seduce/devour/suck the
soul out of/any other other horrors that hot, mystical and ultimately evil ladies traditionally do to
defenceless dudes. Sigh.

(At this point I want to make it perfectly clear that I will take generous liberties with the folklore...)
However, a skogsrå also cares for the forest and its inhabitants and they can help farmers and coal
pit workers (provided they treat her with respect, of course). Sometimes their backs are hollow or
covered in bark, like tree trunks, and they can have cow or fox tails. Yrsa is a very young forest keeper - only a few hundred years old, which I suppose would make her about 10 or so in human years. Her mother is an enigmatic and powerful Galadriel-like being who cares little for human affairs.

"Yrsa" is an old nordic name meaning either "bear" or "wild", which I thought was appropriate. I gave her fox ears, big, dark eyes and bushy eyebrows in addition to the tail, as well as a fox-like
colour scheme.
 This skogsrå wears a coat - take that, sexualised folklore!
She is sparky and energetic but there is wildness to her, which can be both fascinating and frightening. She is the fi rst character that the player meets and she accompanies them on their quest. Yrsa is deeply intrigued by the player - she has never met a human before - and acts as a companion and guide in this new and strange world.

A little introduction

Your parents have taken you on a ski trip somewhere snowy and cold. They say it's not far from the arctic circle, whatever that means. It has been quite a nice holiday. Different.  The weather has been good, with bright sunlight during the short days and starry, clear skies at night. You've learned to ski and can zoom around the slopes faster than most. 

The lower parts of the mountains are covered in pine trees and sprinkled with small log cabins. Above the tree line is nothing but biting wind, glittering snow and views that stretch for miles. No towns or roads can be seen, just mountains and forests and little lakes. There is something very old and wild about the place. 

You wouldn't really call it a village, but the people here do. There is a little road, and by the road is a small shop and a place that sells handmade souvenirs. Halfway up one of the mountains is a restaurant that serves reindeer and moose. You can ski straight from the slopes all the way there and have waffles with whipped cream and cloudberries in the sun.

Yes, it's been nice. But the villagers are strangely quiet . The sun sets early in the afternoon and the nights are darker than anything else you've seen, with pale stars twinkling far above. The snow muffles every sound. It almost feels like someone - or something - is watching you from the edge of the forest. 

But it's probably nothing.

On the last afternoon of the ski trip you notice a little winding path leading down the mountain in the narrow strip of forest between two slopes. It looks steep and uneven, and it twists sharply around trees and rocks before disappearing into the woods. It's the perfect way to end the holiday.

You give your parents a shout and a wave. They wave back and give you the thumbs up, gesturing that they'll meet you at the bottom of the hill. You take a deep breath and head for the path, grinning.
It isn't too difficult at first, and you can manage the sharp turns just fine. It's fun and exciting and brilliant, and you laugh out loud as you swoosh through the woods. Then the path becomes steeper and more uneven. The wind stings your face and fills your ears. You can hear a trickling sound from underneath you; there must be a stream running under the snow. The forest around you grows denser and closer,  and your eyes water as you try to slow down. You veer to avoid a tree and suddenly you're flying through the air. For a heart-stopping moment you have time to be scared. Then you land with your skis in a tangle and your clothes full of snow. 

And then all is dark.

You wake up to stars and silence. Your head is sore but apart from that you haven't been hurt, but why haven't your parents gone searching for you? You must have been gone for hours... 

A noise from the dark woods makes you jump. Something moves not far away and you get to your feet, chills running down your spine...


Here's the feature list as it currently stands:

Folklore for the modern age
Become engrossed in a unique setting packed with ambience and atmosphere. Travel under the northern lights, through dark forests and across windy mountains and meet a colourful cast of characters. Befriend the young forest spirit Yrsa, solve riddles for tricksy will-o'-the-wisps and outsmart dangerous trolls in your quest to return home...

A new way to read
Rimfrost is a cross between a game and a book, with lush environments to explore, items to use and characters to talk to. It encourages reading at every turn; vivid scene descriptions give even more life to the world and interactive dialogues let you choose your words. Tap items and locations in the world to learn about them and talk to the game's characters about more than just the current objectives to gain additional knowledge. 

You're the hero
There is no lead character in Rimfrost except for you. Play the main part in this gender-inclusive adventure by adding your name and personality to the story. Your choices in dialogues and at key points in the plot affect how characters react and what happens next! 

The good kind of scary
Rimfrost mixes spooky locations, frightening characters and odd events in a delightfully spine-tingling adventure that appeals to brave children and imaginative adults alike. The entire game is consistently non-violent and both rewards and requires wits and quick thinking. While the story is gripping and hard to put down, the game itself is slow-paced allows you take as much time as you want to fully enjoy the world and its distinct mood.

Made for touch screens
An intuitive control scheme lets you explore the world of Rimfrost in a natural way. Tap, swipe and scroll your way through beautifully rendered 3D environments, colourful descriptions and exciting dialogues. 

Hopefully that all makes sense. Picture time now, hooray! 

Introducing Rimfrost

First post! I have a couple of things to post today, and I'm afraid the first few bits are rather wordy... There will be some pictures later, I promise! But let's get those pesky words out of the way first, shall we.

Here is the glorious page of scribbles from my last visit to Preston:
Fantastic, right?

Once it had simmered in my head for a week or so something started to take shape. I loved the idea of using Scandinavian folklore; I've always wanted to do something with it, and after 3,5 years in the UK I'm feeling a little bit homesick.
Photo from Destination Bydalsfjällen.
When I was little, probably from when I was 5 to about 12, we'd go to the north of Sweden for a week-long ski trip every year. It was absolutely magical. The landscape up there is stunning and the silence and darkness impossible to ignore...
Photo from Destination Bydalsfjällen.
I remember wondering what could be hiding in the dense, pitch black forest around our cabin and being delightfully scared and excited by it. You'd wake up and see tons of animal tracks around the house and it was amazingly cool - and terrifying - to know that things were going on right outside your window as you slept. For the first few years the cabin didn't have any running water and you'd have to brave the darkness and the freezing cold to use the outhouse (for once I prefer the American term...), and for an eight year old child just going for a wee at night was an act of absolute bravery...
Photo from a random blog!
So I want to channel all of this into a story about folklore and snow and mountains, filled with strange creatures and peculiar events. It's no longer a "Kindle with moving pictures" but more of a text-heavy adventure game with lots of dialogue and tricksy puzzles. A game with words, as opposed to words with some games. I think it could be quite neat...

Game outline
Rimfrost is an interactive story set in a wintery, alternate reality filled with strange creatures from Scandinavian folklore. The story is aimed at children aged eight and upwards and lets you play the role of the protagonist and experience the adventure first-hand. 

You're on a wintery holiday with your parents. After skiing down an unmarked slope you find yourself in a reality inhabited by mystical creatures, and where ancient magic is real... Navigate the frozen world, use items, interact with a host of characters and solve puzzles to find your way back to your home and family.

Rimfrost is available on iOS and Android tablet devices.

I'm aiming for a "good scary" kind of vibe and I've upped the age from 6-7 to 8 and upwards. Obviously age ratings and children are a minefield since some are so much brighter and mature than others, but it gives me something to aim for.