Ludic Linux


I miss my lynx friend

Meadow is a sedate game about exploration, co-operation and non-verbal communication. It’s a multi-user wilderness in which you take on the role of an animal cub and, along with others, work out what the world is about. Here’s the story of my first couple of hours.

I found myself, a badger cub, in a meadow filled with white flowers. There was a huge tree in the distance and woodland on other sides. I walked around a bit, getting accustomed to movement, and spotted another badger cub a short distance away, I waddled over and called to it. The other badger called back and walked towards me. We eyed and circled each other curiously. The other badger jumped! I didn’t know I could jump — I hit spacebar and I jumped too. We ran around each other jumping and calling for a while, then settled down and both emoted ‘happy’. I laughed out loud and felt a small joy.

After frolicking a for a while longer in delight at finding another like us we silently decided to start exploring together. We set off into the woods, sometimes sprinting, sometimes just strolling idly, sometimes leaping on rocks and logs and running through grass. Every now and then we would call to each other or emote ‘happy’ or what I took to mean ‘pack’ or ‘friends’ and another emote which I took to mean ‘journey’.

Eventually we encountered a pack of about seven other animals — lynxes, rabbits, other badgers and tiny frogs — all cubs. We called out continuously while sprinting towards them and, when they saw/heard us they started calling out too and ran to meet us. We jumped, frolicked and emoted for a while and then a small fire appeared so we all decided to go to sleep.

After a short nap the pack continued its journey. I made friends with a lynx cub — we would range out slightly from the rest of the pack, jumping, calling and emoting ‘happy’— playing together.

We crossed several rivers (when doing so most animals would continuously emote ‘sad’ since swimming is very slow. But the frogs swam very very quickly and would emote ‘happy’ while racing past us) and entered a snowy area, eventually coming to a huge icy lake. We’d been joined by several other creatures by this point including a couple of adult lynxes. The lynxes became the leaders — I think we all assumed they must know what they’re doing, being adults — and we followed them across the lake to an area with beautiful waterfalls and a cave entrance. The lynxes entered the cave and emoted ‘pack’, ‘cave’ and ‘journey’. We cubs edged towards the cave entrance cautiously looking in and eventually following. I don’t know who started moving first or even whether any one creature did, the pack mind just made a decision and we all went.

The caves were very pretty, we ran through them jumping in delight and emoting ‘happy’. A few occasionally emoted ‘sad’, which we took in context to mean ‘scared’ — we’d huddle around those who were scared and call to them reassuringly. There were many paths inside the caves and the pack would sometimes split at a fork, joining back together at a later junction (or perhaps it was just a different pack joining us, it’s sometimes hard to tell).

My lynx cub friend and I had stuck together, making sure to choose the same paths when the cave forked, but eventually, when we came to a huge cavern with waterfalls and trees inside, we chose different paths. There was a spiralling walkway around the outside of the cavern and a choice of two directions — up or down. I wanted to go up and my lynx friend wanted to follow the majority of the pack downwards. We faced each other and called, emoting sad a few times, then reluctantly parted ways.

I was with a smaller group now, a few rabbits, frogs, badgers, a lynx or two and an adult deer. We exited the cave system and explored the surrounding woodlands, eventually coming to some sort of rune stone. We didn’t know what to do with the rune stone — some of us tried climbing it, emoting various things at it, calling to it and so on but nothing seemed to have any effect. We all agreed ‘rune stone’, ‘question’ and ‘sad’. Very ‘sad’.

A while later I split off from the group and explored on my own for a bit. I climbed a mountain and found a crystal and many flower-sparkles. I came to the edge of the world and looked off — I saw what I think was the sun (it’d been a continuous night time for me so far). For a long time I saw no other creatures — I explored the mountains, found another cave with some beautiful, crystalline chambers and others of shimmery ice. I wandered through forests, plains and meadows enjoying it all but feeling increasingly lonely. It wasn’t the same without someone to say ‘happy’ to. I missed my lynx friend.

Some time later I encountered another pack, different from my last. My previous pack had been raucous — a swirling, chaotic mass of animals herding together, jumping and calling and emoting incessantly. This new pack was far more orderly — a dozen or so cubs following a fully grown deer called Sarah (I’d found the button to show names) who had a beautifully patterned coat.

Sarah was methodically leading her pack around to the runes, most of which unlocked when we arrived — I don’t know how. We had a more organised language now — we used specific emotes for ‘rune stone’ and ‘crystal’ and ‘flower sparkles’ so that if any of us spotted those things we could communicate it to the rest of the pack who would then follow us. We could also communicate ‘climb ahead’ and ‘this way’. We collected a lot of crystals and sparkles, we were very organised and methodical, but I missed the raw exuberance, playfulness and joy that characterised my previous pack. After a while, when Sarah’s pack was at a standstill, having a rest, I emoted ‘sad’ and ‘journey’ a couple of times and moved away, turning back to see if I was understood. A few replied ‘sad’ and ‘pack’ and we parted ways.

On exiting the game I discovered that I’ll be able to be a frog next time I play, I’m looking forward to that.

Meadow is £1.99 on Steam.

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