When the first images and GIFs of Forest of Sleep [official site] tumbled out last week, all we knew was that it was "an experimental storytelling/adventure game inspired by Russian fairytales." That plus its development being led by Proteus's creator Ed Key was quite enough to catch our interest, though the new details and GIFs I'll outline below do much to solidify it.
The game's site now contains a fuller description of what exactly an experimental storytelling game might be. First off:
"Playful interactions with characters and objects lead to reactively-generated stories - ambiguous but with a strong sense of pacing, coherency and drama. The game features no text and relies on a cinematic language to suggest and communicate situations and relationships."
And more specifically, that:
"There's a simple resource management system involved in travelling around the map, but rather than being a do-or-die mechanic, this is more about creating a rhythm to the journeys and steering you through the possibility space of the story. You’ll want to do well, but depending on the situation, passing out from hunger is more likely to be an excuse for the game to move the story forward in a new way rather than a simple 'game over'.
"The story system that will tie the game together is still at an early stage, but the aim is to combine ideas of plot structure and pacing with emergent associations to create playable 'dynamically improvised' short stories with recurring characters and motifs. Using a cinematic language of juxtaposition, framing and 'skipping the action', we're hoping that the game can show you just enough so that a fun part of playing is filling in the gaps with your own interpretation. We think we know what we’re doing. We'll see..."
The game is inspired by "late-20th century eastern european traditions of illustration and animation", and the post linked above name-checks Janusz Stanny, Stepan Zavrel and Yuri Norshteyn. I'm not familiar with the others, but I'm a huge fan of Norshteyn's Hedgehog in the Fog, which you can watch on YouTube here. If Key's procedural wizardry can conjure equivalent stories of dread and jam then I'll be quite happy. Failing that, maybe some Russian Winnie-The-Pooh.
Or simply more of:
Just as Proteus was born of a collaboration between Ed Key and David Kanaga, Forest of Sleep is a collaboration between Key and artist Nicolai Troshinsky, who does the illustration and animations you see in this post, as well as contributing to the game's design.