A huge tree stands in the middle of a clearing, and on its trunk it bears a strange formation that looks a lot like a human face, staring sadly at passers-by; if you look closely at this face, you can even see what seems to be tears flowing from it. Under the tree’s shade, a little squirrel awaits to introduce whomever would be willing to listen to the story of the Weeping Willow Girl, a little girl trapped in this arboreal form.
“There was a little girl who lived on the island called Escapades. She often played with a little faun, mischievous and playful and they had fun together. One day, the two friends snuck into the camp of a voodoo witch and the little faun decided to pick up an ancient book full of magical formulas. When playing hide and seek with a group of other kids the little faun paired up with the little girl, and he really wanted to win the game. He started reading one of the formulas aloud, and to the little girl’s horror, her feet slowly hardened and dug themselves deeper into the ground while the rest of her body changed into wood, leaves growing from her arms and soon only her face was still showing in the middle of the trunk, last remains of simili-humanity in the tree she had become. The faun was sure to win, nobody would ever find the girl. Indeed the faun won his hide-and-seek game, the other kids went back to their homes, and as the time passed everyone forgot about the little girl.”
Such is the prelude of The Weeping Willow Girl, a new adventure game currently in development by Estelle Pienaar (author of the Second Life Play Instinct blog) and Mirtyl Igaly, which I had the great honour and pleasure of being invited to preview and test last week. As I’m sure you’ll have guessed, it’s a children’s fantasy story. It is set on renowned Second Life content creator Loki Eliot’s region named Escapades, and it’s quite ambitious technically, with a view to enhancing its storytelling potential. Estelle has taken into account the capabilities and limitations of SL when determining the game’s genre: It’s an adventure game, which combines familiar SL gaming elements (the “hunts” we know from various events) and non-SL point-and-click adventure games.
What makes The Weeping Willow Girl different from the adventure games we’ve seen so far in SL is that it aims to be the first experience / game where the reactions of the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) will depend on the moment in the game you interact with them, and even on prior in-game events. This makes for less linear storytelling and gives the player the opportunity to visit, and interact with, any NPC at any given moment in the game, with their reactions, and the course the game will take afterwards, making sense when viewed in the context of what has already happened.
As said, I have already played the game. The mechanics behind the interactions between NPCs and player are already in place and work quite well. However, with the game still in pre-alpha state, there are many elements that will need further development. Several dialogues could be further refined, and the same goes for various in-game objects – I am already working with Estelle to help as much as I can, where I can. But, as said, it’s still at a very early development stage. Also, as mentioned before, it’s being developed (as a hobby, no less) by Estelle Pienaar and Myrtil Igaly: They both work on the storyline, while Estelle does the scripting and Myrtil works on the builds. The fact that they’re not a professional team, but two hobbyists, makes their undertaking even more remarkable. Its release is scheduled for Q2 2015.
- Escapades (Rated: General) – Loki Eliot’s region, where The Weeping Willow Girl is set
- Second Life Play Instinct – Estelle Pienaar’s blog, dedicated to in-world gaming
- Myrtil’s Mess – Myrtil Igaly’s blog