Hiraeth

You are lost in the woods.

Hiraeth is a calming but spooky walking simulator, set in an endless procedural wood.

As you wander onward, meet a variety of characters just as lost as yourself. Stop to chat, choose between dialogue options, and share quiet moments.

Hiraeth is available to play at https://meirian.itch.io/hiraeth.

This is a solo project meaning the design, programming (C#), and illustration (Photoshop) were done by me. The game was created over 3 months as a final university project for my MA.

The Concept

 

For this project I wanted to express the feeling of being lost; of not knowing what is coming next but pushing forward regardless.

Central to the cultural lore of the wood is lostness: it's where children wander off to never to be seen again; it's where you can't see the wood from the trees.

 

Thus I decided to make a game set in a procedural wood, one that is always changing so that it is literally impossible to find your way. In Hiraeth the procedural system is tied to walking: the environment does not passively change, but appears far ahead and disappears far behind as the player moves. This means that if you turn back, the world won't look the same as it did before. Likewise, walking ahead you may see tiles you've already been through, creating a 'Blair Witch Project' effect.

The off-set to this gloomy premise is the characters. When thinking about my original concept for this game - expression of a feeling of lostness in life - I thought about the grounding aspects that provides an antithesis to this feeling. In my own life I think the antithesis to this is friendship and community. The characters in Hiraeth are all themselves feeling disconnected, and in speaking to them you create a connection. The 'end state' of the game comes when you have spoken to all the characters, told the violinist about the existence of the cellist, and they come together to play music.

Given more time, I would have developed the characters as a source of grounding and connectedness further. This might have taken the form of connecting two characters with one another, and as a result their joined tile being set in the map - something solid in the shifting world. The player could then go through the story creating stable micro areas within the wood. However this was not possible within the scope of the project, and I like what I did create - moments of connectedness within a disorientating world.