(Half-Life 2: Episode 2 required)
Nestlings is a short experiment in story and mood. It emerges from a task I set myself: to write, design and build a single-player mod in just three days.
It is not a perfect project, by any means. If it weren't for the self-imposed time limit, there are things I'd change. Maybe I will, someday.
A lengthy developer commentary, in which I talk about some of the design and narrative decisions I took for the mod, can be found here. Beware: spoilers lurk within.
Feedback is, of course, more than welcome.
Designed, written and built by Lewis Denby.
Music by Kevin McLeod, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
It's a few months now since I made Nestlings in three days. There's been less press coverage than there was with the first version of Post Script Ep 1 (by the way: exciting news on that coming soon...), which could be due to its right-before-Christmas release, or maybe its short length, or maybe because I just threw it online with zero fanfare.
Either way, I've been generally pleased with the response, and most people's criticisms have been exactly what I expected. There have been a couple of "it's too short" comments, which I can't really get behind - I'm really interested in short-form gaming and how it works. Other than that, though, I basically agree. There are a few bugs and glitches. The "picking up notes" thing is tired and illogical. The ending... well, that's a funny one. The ending seems to have been loved and hated pretty equally. For the record, I don't like the very end - it's too abrupt and, on my new PC, for some reason doesn't even fade out. But the bit before it I was pleased with. I'm glad to see a few people saying the same.
One thing I've been delighted with is people's response to the atmosphere. I had no idea I'd managed to create something that so many people have found truly frightening. I wasn't going for fear, really. I was going for a sort of morbid fascination, which by the end had transitioned properly into classical tragedy. But so many people have talked about feeling frightened as they walked around the house. That I've managed to evoke such a reaction (with the help of Kevin McLeod's fantastic Creative Commons-licensed music, it has to be said) is just wonderful.
I've only found a couple of reviews so far. Did you like Nestlings? Did you hate it? Do you write for a PC gaming website or similar? Review it! Go on! Anyway, the two I've found are both interesting. One because, well, it's on a website I'm editor of. Yeah. For the record though, the reviewer - Fraser McMillan - wrote it off his own back and I had no input whatsoever. So I'm delighted when he says of Nestlings: "Short-form games can exploit certain elements of design in unforeseen ways, and the very fact of Nestlings’ truncated length allows it to be one of the most consistently psychologically intense and potent gaming experiences I can think of. It’s utterly captivating from beginning to end."
The other is a short write-up from Danish website Half-Life Portal, which is more mixed. They've settled on a score of 65% (how you can put a 1-100 score on something which lasts 5 minutes is totally beyond me), claiming players shouldn't expect too much, but that it is still "a very atmospheric pure-story-mod... very well done from an artistic point of view."
Anyway, further to all this, PC Gamer UK got in touch with me a few weeks back and asked if they could put Nestlings on their cover disc. Well, of course they could! So if you're in good old Blighty and picking up a copy of this month's Gamer, released today, you'll find Nestlings on the attached DVD.
Recommend Nestlings to a friend! Recommend it to a reviewer! And keep checking the Internet for - fingers crossed - a bloody exciting announcement about what I'm doing next. Well, I'm excited, anyway...
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Highest Rated (2 agree) 9/10
An interesting little mod and as others have mentioned, much like “Dear Esther”, I got the same sense of loneliness and unease travelling through both of these, even though “Nestlings” is so much smaller. Just a house, albeit a creepy one! But I took my time reading the notes while listening to some wonderful musical accompaniment and was rewarded with an deeply emotional journey. With the gloomy setting and self-narration it all adds up to an emotionally charged ending. Loved this piece…
Feb 27 2012 by Rikersbeard