An introduction to Trollskogen

The concept of Trollskogen came to be when designing a level in 2014 where the way the player uses the mobile device as input is not limited to tap and swipe. In this initial level, the player has to turn the device upside down in order to solve the puzzle and proceed to the next level. Making the use of tilt, rotate, shake and multitouch are fun ways to interact with a game, and this is something mobile devices enable. This type of interaction with a game was something to be explored further.

 

Reflection.
First ever sketch of Trollskogen. In the second frame, the player has turned the device upside down and is now controlling the reflection of the main character.

The project is an interactive visual novel/fairy tale, where each level is a chapter of the book and contains a small puzzle to be solved and hidden objects to be found. In each chapter, the player will unveil a hidden animal that will guide the main character on her path. As the story progresses, the animals are not always going to be guiding the main character, so she has to figure out which other elements in her environment that will help guide her further. This could be the moon lighting up a path, the stars lighting up an area or her reflection in the water unblocking barriers. The end goal is to escape the woods completely. ‘Trollskogen’ (or ‘Troldeskoven’) are the mystical woods found in Nordic fairy tales, and in them live the forest people (‘Skogsväsen’ or ‘Skovvæsner’).

A big inspiration is Simogo’s game ‘YearWalk’ on iOS, as the game does exactly this: tells a story through puzzles and interacting with the environment with minimal use of text narration. In order to solve certain puzzles in the game, the player has to make use of tilting or rotating the device, multi touch as well as dragging the environment beyond the borders of the screen. Another inspiration is ‘The Room’ series which ties narration to puzzles and hidden-object gameplay.

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During Global Game Jam 2015, a project called ‘Slottstaden’ was created which was a first iteration of an interactive book. The project contained 5 levels/chapters where the player could interact and enter floating books, erase clouds and put together broken pieces of a castle similar to a jigsaw puzzle. The art was all hand drawn in ink and scanned so it would have more of a paper/book impact.

The development of Trollskogen started during spare time in October 2016 in order to demo a small prototype for attendees at Game Developer Conference 2017. The initial reactions were positive, and the project is now being worked on full time since September 2017.

50% of the levels have been developed into a playable prototype, and testing is continously being done on iOS devices. Polish of the input has been the highest priority and will continue being tweaked. Focus has shifted over to giving the player feedback during interaction, which ties the input with the design of the puzzles in order to guide the players. Research on puzzle design and interacting with the environment is being done and games such as ‘Gorogoa’ are highly inspirational.

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Concept sketch of the main character Nyponros and the reindeer she meets in one of the chapters.

Another big focus is making interactable elements in each chapter more distinguished from the background and static objects in the environment. As Trollskogen is a 2D game with a flat environment it can be difficult for the player to immediately know what to interact with. Inspiration will be drawn from other 2D games with a flat world, such as ‘Cuphead’.

The theme being Nordic fairy tales makes younger children a suitable audience due to the nature of the stories, but as fantasy and Norse mythology has made its way into other mediums for all age groups, it can also be enjoyed by older children and adults. A surprising result when testing the prototype on adults 20+ was the positive reactions from persons who typically do not play games. They were very taken with the art style and calm atmosphere the game presented.

Playtesting has also shown that players are curious about the story and want more of the narrative. Players have so far been interpreting the story themselves and are finding metaphors in some of the chapters. This was a great finding as the story can take Trollskogen beyond being simply a puzzle game, and more emphasis is being put on the narration. Nordic fairy tales are generally dark in nature, and the conclusion of Trollskogen wrapped up by the final chapters will hopefully leave the player with the same feeling as when reading a fairy tale.

Thank you for reading this first introduction to Trollskogen, and I will be updating the blog with more news on the progress and sneak peaks 🙂 You can also check out screenshots and videos on our Instagram and Facebook page.

Hope to see you here again!

– Sara

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