My daughter sits in the intersection of "young enough" and "old enough" for games like Sunshine in the Valley. A large part of me wants to make games that she can see herself – a budding environmental conservationist, animal lover, and deep thinker – at the center of. Sunshine in the Valley is a story that uses the power of friendship, scientific problem solving, and connection to the world at large to solve macro problems in a micro capacity. This is largely only a concept, with the buds and blooms taking shape in Arcweave and Twine.
What follows is a concept and introduction to the game itself. I'll be embedding finished quests as I complete them.
An action-adventure game set in the fictional setting of Dewdrop Valley, we follow a little girl named Trela as she gets to know her new home, make new friends, and eventually connect with her penpal, Villi.
Trela has moved to Dewdrop Valley from the Big City and is very excited to make new friends, even though she was sad to leave her city friends behind. She can keep up with her Big City friends via her “kiddo” smartphone by texting them every once in a while.
The game will play out as a combination of an “overworld”, where Trela can go from place to place by choosing a node to visit, and a third-person action-adventure that allows Trela to interact with the world around her.
Sunshine in the Valley will feature “kiddo deep” relationship mechanics, where Trela will become acquaintances, friends, or frenemies with the people in Dewdrop Valley based on her interactions with them. Trela will complete tasks for the villagers of Dewdrop Valley, which will also affect her relationship status with those around her, depending on those interconnected relationships that are apart from how Trela knows them. People are complicated, even if Trela doesn’t really understand those nuances yet.
Trela can also befriend key “pets,” including a snake named Rosy, a horse named Penny, a hedgehog named Droo, and a fox named Crest. She can’t take them home with her initially, but will get the opportunity to adopt each of them if she takes good care of them while they’re in the wild. (Kids love the idea of adopting wild animals and this is a great way to get them to live that fantasy!)
Leaves and Leavetakings, Little One
She sits, long brown hair pulled through a thick braid draped over a broad shoulder, sipping on a cup of tea. Little wisps of sparkly silver float from her braid like spidersilk, belying her experience but not necessarily her age. It's midday and the window that she's perched right under, knees tucked to her chest on a comfy windowseat, is spilling sunshine. She's looking at nothing and everything in this moment, reminiscing about dreams and autumn leaves and new beginnings.
"My name is Trela and I'm nine and a half years old. My mama told me that I'm a Sagittarius but I'm not entirely sure what that means. She said it was a 'good fire sign' and I like campfires, so maybe that's what she meant."
Trela sits in the back of a car, raucous and quiet all at once, her parents belting out their favourite songs in the front seat. She's nervously twisting her fingers around her pink stuffed monkey, a holdover from when she turned five. She's much older now, as she has to tell everyone all that time because she's the youngest of four, and she only brings Monkey out when she feels afraid or nervous.
"Moving is scary. I don't really like change all that much. I will miss my bedroom and my best friends. At least I get to bring my dogs and my chinchillas with me. I don't think I could do this without my animals. Or my brother."
Trela reaches for her big brother's hand on the seat next to her. He was watching a video on his phone but turns to smile at her.
"Marcus is my best best friend, even though he's also my big brother. He's always kept me safe from anything scary, especially scary changes. He's scared too, though. It's got to be hard to start over when you're in middle school. I don't start middle school for another year, so maybe I'll be able to make some good friends before then."
Trela squeezes her big brother's hand and looks out the window again. He plants a kiss on the top of her head and goes back to his video.
"Marcus is a really good big brother. We fight sometimes, but we always make up. I hope he makes lots of friends once he's able to get to school. It's so weird that we had to move part-way through the fall but the moms and dads wouldn't have made this choice unless they had to."
The road gives way to a wide valley, the gentle hills folding in over and over again, giving the illusion of mountains when they were anything but.
"Mama and Daddy grew up in the Rocky Mountains. I heard someone at the last gas station saying that we were going to the mountains. Mama smiled, of course, but she laughed out loud when we got back to the car. 'Clearly not mountains' Mama giggled to herself and to us. I love Mama's laugh. She hasn't been laughing as much lately."
Trela hugs Monkey closer as the car winds through some gentle bends on the way to their new "Big House".
"Mama said that we need to name the new house, just like we named the old one. She always says that names make places special. Sacred, I think? I don't know what sacred means, but Mama gets all soft when she says the word so it must be something good."
The tea steams up the glass on the window as she shifts her weight to allow a cat to jump onto her lap. The cat is a slender thing, a lithe grey shadow, settling onto her lap. It creates a home on her thighs, tiny claws trying to poke through her jeans without much success. She settles again and sips from her tea, an idle hand running up and down Shadow's back.
Quest Begin: Welcome to the Valley