As the recent news about our progress on funding makes the circuit and…some other news (ahem) looms nearer and nearer, we are understandably being asked questions about the game’s scope, mechanics and genre. We’ve been deliberately coy on specifics and the biggest reason has been to minimize the misery for the fans if things never gelled. Now that we’re feeling more confident in the way things have shaped up it seems fair to start sharing our thoughts on the game itself.

One of the strongest themes I’ve heard from fans of Redwall is easiest to describe this way:

We want to live there.

Sure the action and the adventure and all of that is important, but more than that…is something much less than that, something simpler.

From that observation I’ve wanted to look for games that were able to make simple things playable and by simple I mean the slow-paced actions of a quiet life: sewing, fishing, cooking, chopping wood. As you might imagine there aren’t many examples of that kind of game but one that stands out is Harvest Moon. I distinctly remember the game from my GameCube and getting totally engrossed in husbanding turnips. But as I thought back, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was fun.

The more I thought about it, the more I understood that it was important for me to figure this out – what was fun about Harvest Moon? And I’m not the only one, many, many people remember the series with a lot of affection (over 12M copies have sold worldwide (http://www.vgchartz.com/gamedb/?name=harvest+moon)). So I went to a local shop that sells used games and get set up to explore this iconic title all over again.

What caught my eye, and what felt very different from newer games like FarmVille was that I actually cared what happened. I cared about the farm, about my cow, about my dog, and about the other people in the village. That seems in marked contrast to the various X-ville games where my mind is occupied by efficiency and optimization.

I found in Harvest Moon a series of interconnected entropic systems that all require me to invest in them and in the process of investing my time they become ‘mine’ in a way my Zynga farm never does. No doubt the story and the sense of interpersonal relationships only heightens that experiences since I’m not only invested in a series of mechanical and predictable processes, but also exploring the cloudy and (seemingly) unpredictable world of friends, families and even a bride.

Ultimately I came to believe that the farm kept me occupied but it was the people that kept me coming back. It reminded me of a similar experience with Mass Effect. I was fascinated to explore the dialog trees and relationship opportunities. I spent long hours walking around the Normandy chatting it up with everybody and for me – that’s what I came to feel was akin to living in those environments.

But where Mass Effect felt ultimately goal-driven, I was explicitly trying to open up new branches in the tree, Harvest Moon felt closer to real life. In many ways there are no set goals. Of course there are interesting leads, opportunities to explore and invent, but no real pressure. To my knowledge there is no way to loose Harvest Moon, where in Mass Effect the story line tends to pull the game forward even if you choose to tacitly ignore it.

We said a long time ago that when it came to Redwall the story was sacrosanct. I think we’d be doing it wrong if there was a possibility in which the Abbey could be lost or known characters could get killed.

Ideally, we want to walk a line in which I can spend as long as I want just hanging out in the Abbey, drinking October Ale, singing hale to fallen friends, and  sunning ones ears on the parapets in summer. That’s what life in Redwall is like. And that’s a life worth fighting for when threatened from the outside.

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7 Comments
  1. Ethan

    I’m really excited now.. It sounds like you guys have the perfect story to continue Redwall. It sounds like it’s going to be an awesome game! Can’t wait for it to come out.

  2. Abby

    I’ve spent fond years of my childhood playing Harvest Moon on the playstation. It was my favourite game not because it had any fast-paced action or fighting, but because I truly cared about my farm, my animals and my relationship with the people of the village–simulated though they were. It was relaxing to walk around the village, participate in cooking contests and village events, and see what mundane surprises were in store for me each day. It was one of the best video games I had ever played because it taught me about responsibility, hard work, and that playing a game about life on a farm could be more exciting than any of the monster-killing, grinding games I had played previously. If a future Redwall game could allow me the freedom of simply roaming the Abbey halls and making relationships with the Abbey dwellers, I’d be so much more invested in that game rather than a mindless kill-them-all game.

  3. Reshoran

    This post has left me very, very excited. Mass Effect is my favorite series of games, due directly to the characters and the relationships you build over the course of the three games, and imagining coupling that with the idyllic life of Harvest Moon just feels right. I’ve spent many a wayward summer afternoon in the woods of Northern Minnesota, hoping that I might find a red sandstone wall around each bend in the path, and I think I may be near to realizing the dream.

  4. Tucker

    That last paragraph was beautifully said and I completely agree. I’ve never played any of the Harvest Moon series, sadly, but I agree with you on Mass Effect. A large portion of the time I spent the same as you; it got so ridiculous that by the time I was in Mass Effect 3, the amount of time I spent outside of missions (AKA running around and talking to people) completely dwarfed the amount of time I spent making actual progression.

    A huge difference between that and what you seem to be aiming for is exactly as you said. Not so much in the first one, but in Mass Effect 2 and 3 the main incentive for talking to people is because you need their help (more or less). It’s a goal-driven system.

    That being said, it seems that you guys are really going all out with this idea of “living in Redwall” and I appreciate it. It’s a path that I can easily see as being difficult to produce. I believe that you’ll be able to handle it, though; you’re definitely putting in the effort. I’m behind you guys 100 percent.

  5. Thanks to both of you for your comments. It’s interesting how this game design has morphed over time and I find myself grateful that we weren’t in a position to jump in guns blazing and do the first thing that came to mind. The time has really allowed us to settle down and think about the big picture here…and I think that will have made all the difference in the world.

  6. Jon

    First, let me thank you for introducing me to the wonderful world of Redwall. Somehow, I totally missed this series. No clue how that happened, but I’m on board now.

    I 100% agree with what’s outlined above. I never played Harvest Moon, though my wife is a big fan of the later versions on the Wii. I must admit, it’s quite enjoyable just to watch it.

    I can’t wait for Redwall.

  7. Canon

    I agree with what is said here. I have not played Harvest Moon or Mass Effect but personal attachment to what may be considered the smaller less important details and activities in a game, sound very special as well as being largely unspoken of. As a Redwall fan I haven’t put much thought into that concept in relation to a Redwall game and the perception of the Redwall universe when displayed out there for all to see. I find it exciting and encouraging to hear ideas of this nature brought up for this project.

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