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The White Birch: Voting Discussion Thread

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Project Lead: Andy Wood

The White Birch is an ambient platform exploration game in which a young girl climbs a tower to escape a dark and malevolent forest & reach the prize hanging in the branches of a lone white birch tree growing high above. The game will have a similar atmosphere and feel to games like Ico and Journey and will be designed to encourage and reward repeated playthroughs by the use of alternate endings and different prizes hanging from the tree. The tone and story of the experience will be evocative and open to interpretation.

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'Open to interpretation' is the best part, and the games to which you compare this pitch are among my favorites. Quiet, rich experiences.

What do you imagine for gameplay? The mention of Limbo leads me to think it'll be a 2D game with limited movement options, and I also worry it'd be too similar to that. It's the unique qualities of the central character that makes them interesting to follow along in their stories.

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You got my vote Andy. It's a really interesting concept. I'd love to see it flourish into a full game.

-G

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I voted for this as it sounds right up my alley. I'm curious though, do you plan to do it in 2D or 3D? Is it entirely based on the budget you're able to get?

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Hi everyone, thanks for the interest and thanks for voting.

I imagine the game in 3D rather than 2D like Limbo in terms of view and movement but I want to explore what we can do with the gameplay in the confines of a space like the Tower interior. The bigger question I see is whether the camera would be free or more like the semi-fixed cameras from Ico. I liked the type of puzzle that Limbo had, just not the punishing brutality of the difficulty setting. =)

I want this to be a game that puts out the hand and helps you along - I want a player to finish this and then want to start it right back up again just like I was with Journey. The different endings should be the reward for that but I want the player movement to just feel good enough that you enjoy the moment to moment of the traversal.

If that makes any sense....

As for budget; I have no idea at this point. There's still a *long* way to go with the AF voting for starters. Don't want to count my chickens just yet.

Thanks for the confidence vote though!

Best

-Andy

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I am super excited for this game, and really hope it wins!

Andy- was the piece of art in your pitch video a good example of your vision for WB's art direction as a whole? (it might be too early to answer this) Are there any specific pieces of inspiration that you're using for WB's visual identity?

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The piece of art we used in the pitch - painted by the super talented Derek Brand - is more of a mood and tone piece than a serious art target. Both of us were busy on another project at the time of that piece and he took some of my thumbnail sketches and put together that for the pitch. I'm still not sure how the exterior of the tower or the forest should look - I'm considering snowy winter outside rather than just a nighttime scene for eg.

I've been thinking a lot about games like Vagrant Story and other games of that era for look and style, also the animated movie The Secret Of Kells. Both have elements I like rather than an overall "make it look like this" style. More than anything I want the visuals to be simple, spare and minimal along with everything else but I like pretty games so I'll have to find the balance. I'm trying to think in those terms more than anything - if an element isnt' advancing the look or the gameplay I want to leave it out

The girl I want to develop in the style of the French illustrator called Bengal. Derek and I are both big fans of his work and his character designs.

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Here's the extra info from the PDF on Kickstarter for everyone:

Project Codename The White Birch

Project Lead Name Andy Wood

Project Lead Bio Andy Wood is the art director on The Cave with 16 years experience making games, including several Tomb Raiders, two Maximos and a whole bunch of other old stuff you’ve never heard of.

One Sentence Pitch The White Birch is an ambient platform game in the style of Ico or Journey in which a young girl climbs a tower to escape a dark, hazardous forest.

Team Size for AF 6

A young girl wakes in a clearing in the forest; ahead of her is a crumbling tower overgrown with Ivy that climbs high above the dark woods towards the sunlight. An Owl drifts back and forth between the tower and the darkness of the trees. Following the Owl the girl begins to climb…

The White Birch is an ambient and moody, vertical platforming/exploration game in a similar vein to Ico or Limbo. The main character is a young girl who can clamber and climb her way up to the top of the mysterious Escher-like puzzle tower. At the top is a lone White Birch tree with a single prize hanging from its branches.

The game should be a mood game – slower pace than an action platformer with a melancholy and ambient soundtrack and tone; somewhere for people to put on their headphones and lose themselves. The game is a short (< 4 hour) first playthrough but encourages repeated playthroughs by the use of alternate endings and different prizes hanging from the tree depending on the play style of the individual and the path taken through the climb. The puzzles are physics based exploration: ‘find the way out of the room’ style puzzles rather than lock/key or collection puzzles. The tone and story should be opaque and open to interpretation – the Owl is loosely a guide for the girl’s path through the tower from the danger of the forest towards the sunlight and the tree, the different endings and prizes reflect the play style and infer meaning towards the purposes of the girl’s climb.

©Copyright Double Fine Productions™ Inc. All rights reserved.

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Any thoughts about combat, enemies and death so far? I liked the toned down combat in Ico, with the character just having a stick and fire to fight the enemies, but I know that a lot of people disliked it, and maybe that´s a bit more punishing for the player then what you´re aiming for with this?

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Combat so far I think is mostly along the lines of natural enemies - animals and birds that are manifestations of the forest during the climb. Fairly simple stuff to fit with the ambience.

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The beauty of puzzle system of limbo was that everything felt really intuitive. You never got stuck anywhere to long(well unless you died a billion times because of wrong timing).

If you can get that to work in this setting, in my mind you really have a great basic to continue

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The reason I voted for this game is pretty simple really. These types of stories, especially in gaming, are always the most rewarding to me. A game like Passage has stuck with me for far longer than the games that are effectively puzzles in the form of violence delivery that I play all the time.

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I excitedly voted for this and see a lot of potential here, but it seems a shame to me that combat is a given. Moody and atmospheric exploration-based games seem the perfect candidate to look for other ways for the player to interact with, and be challenged by, an environment and its inhabitants. We can have engaging and challenging experiences in life without hurting things or being hurt by them so I think the same is equally true of simulated experiences, if we can think outside of deeply ingrained game industry habits. Of course, I understand that it's more of a challenge from a design perspective! Fight or flight scenarios are probably the easiest to create and engage a player with because they represent human beings at our simplest, most animal level (and most broadly relatable\understood, I suppose), while higher forms of interaction are deeper and more complex. Just some thoughts after reading the thread. I'll be interested in the game regardless :)

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I excitedly voted for this and see a lot of potential here, but it seems a shame to me that combat is a given. Moody and atmospheric exploration-based games seem the perfect candidate to look for other ways for the player to interact with, and be challenged by, an environment and its inhabitants. We can have engaging and challenging experiences in life without hurting things or being hurt by them so I think the same is equally true of simulated experiences, if we can think outside of deeply ingrained game industry habits. Of course, I understand that it's more of a challenge from a design perspective! Fight or flight scenarios are probably the easiest to create and engage a player with because they represent human beings at our simplest, most animal level (and most broadly relatable\understood, I suppose), while higher forms of interaction are deeper and more complex. Just some thoughts after reading the thread. I'll be interested in the game regardless :)

Good points all! I agree with your fight or flight analysis, I'd rather not have a lot of traditional combat either. The vulnerability of the lead is a salient point to the whole concept isnt it? IF she's too much of a badass it breaks the game. I still think we need some tangible threat without going *quite* as far as saying combat is a given though. there has to be a push and a pull to drive you upwards through the game.

Thanks!

-A

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Thanks for the response, I like your angle and am all the more interested. The idea of an "evocative" and "open to interpretation" tone and story, as mentioned in the video, is especially appealing to me as well.

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I excitedly voted for this and see a lot of potential here, but it seems a shame to me that combat is a given. Moody and atmospheric exploration-based games seem the perfect candidate to look for other ways for the player to interact with, and be challenged by, an environment and its inhabitants. We can have engaging and challenging experiences in life without hurting things or being hurt by them so I think the same is equally true of simulated experiences, if we can think outside of deeply ingrained game industry habits. Of course, I understand that it's more of a challenge from a design perspective! Fight or flight scenarios are probably the easiest to create and engage a player with because they represent human beings at our simplest, most animal level (and most broadly relatable\understood, I suppose), while higher forms of interaction are deeper and more complex. Just some thoughts after reading the thread. I'll be interested in the game regardless :)

Good points all! I agree with your fight or flight analysis, I'd rather not have a lot of traditional combat either. The vulnerability of the lead is a salient point to the whole concept isnt it? IF she's too much of a badass it breaks the game. I still think we need some tangible threat without going *quite* as far as saying combat is a given though. there has to be a push and a pull to drive you upwards through the game.

Thanks!

-A

It coud be an idea of building on avoiding rather than combat.

When i was young i played a game which i cant remember the title of. ( I think it was a C64 game)

But you were a woman nearby draculas castle, where ghost, skeletons vampires and such lived.

Whenever an enemy or dangerous thing aproached you, the heart beat faster and faster as the ghost or whatever got closer and you had to find a way to get away and trap the ghost or whatever.

If you failed and let the ghost get too close, you simply died and had to start all over from the start.

Another idea is to have some kind of an item with limited use

like the camera in project Zero/fatal frame.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_Frame

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You were able to get my imagination going with a few images and your nicely delivered description. (And your very wizardly beard.) There's not much more to say except I can't wait.

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