The Endless Forest is an odd sort of multiplayer game in which people become magical deer, with mostly-human faces, and roam through a magical forest. There are no quests, no conflict between players, and not even any direct interaction. Communication is limited to gestures and sounds, and even player "names" are unique pictographs rather than words. It was the first game made by Tale of Tales, which recently had a bit of a rough go with Sunset, and after ten years of operation the studio is now looking to rejuvenate it.
Tale of Tales is in the midst of an Indiegogo crowdfunding effort that's seeking €40,000 ($44,300) "to recreate the game faithfully with modern technology. That is the primary goal of this campaign: to collect the funding necessary for the time, manpower and equipment that remaking The Endless Forest requires," the Indiegogo site explains. "Once that is done, we can finally expand the game further and invite everyone to join the wonderful community that has formed around it."
The game in its current state has cost about €100,000 to develop, but because the creative work is already done, it can be remade for less than half that budget. "Reaching the 40,000 Euro goal, complemented by our own contributions, will allow us to work for 9 months, pay for extra hardware and software and hire consultants to advise on the more complicated programming issues," Tale of Tales said. "Since we also have other projects running, development will be spread out over the next 12 to 18 months."
Tale of Tales withdrew from the commercial game business after Sunset failed to find a viable audience. But studio co-founder Michael Samyn said he and partner Auriea Harvey haven't given up on making games. "I think our transition away from commercial games was especially important to us as a symbolic step. It felt as a liberation for our creativity," he explained. "And looking back at The Endless Forest, our very first release, now, there is a certain freedom in its design that I think we lost a bit over our many years of involvement with the game industry. We are returning to that creative freedom now because we feel it will benefit the quality of our work."
They also seem to have come to terms with their inability "make a 'game for gamers'," as they put it when they announced their withdrawal from the commercial game business. "Thousands of people have purchased Sunset. Rather than being frustrated that this number isn't high enough to sustain our company, we prefer to be happy that so many wonderful people are enjoying our work," Samyn said. "In a way, we are making a loop now, back to The Endless Forest, a game that was given away for free simply because that's what one did with internet-based art at the time. It comes a lot more natural to us. And to the internet too, I believe."
There are two stages to the plan to remake The Endless Forest: First, to rebuild the game in the Unreal Engine, which the studio is using for its Cathedral in the Clouds project, and then, when that job is complete, to expand beyond its original design. Samyn said they already have a number of ideas for additions and expansions, many of them suggested by the community. A priority will be expanding the boundaries of the forest, and they also want to add more special characters, like the "Big Zombie Deer" who turned up for Halloween. The rebuild will also allow them to put some energy into growing the player base.
"Up until now we have had to be quiet about The Endless Forest out of fear that a massive influx of new players would make the game unplayable. Despite of this, many have found their way to the forest," he said. "The new engine should allow for many more players to enjoy the game simultaneously without their framerate dropping to slideshow speed. One of the side effects is that we would be able to organize the 'Abiogenesis' festivals again. These are a kind of live parties in the Forest where Auriea and I create magical performances for the players. They are a lot of fun!"
The Endless Forest: Second Decade Indiegogo campaign is live now and runs until November 28. Take note that this is a "flexible funding" campaign, meaning that pledges are accepted at the end of the campaign whether it achieves its goal or not.