Virtual Homes: Turnfollow
Recently, I covered Turnfollow’s latest game, Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment. In it, as the title might suggest, you play the part of someone packing up the rest of their stuff on the last day at their old apartment. What struck me the most whilst playing, was the sense of place the apartment had — in my Itching For More I said it felt more like “ an old apartment instead of a room of objects”. What I want to look at in this piece is how Turnfollow achieve that, both in Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment, and Little Party, one of their previous games.
Packing Up and Little Party, have similar approaches to creating the sense of detail and density Turnfollow so easily achieve in both games, however they employ these ideas differently. However, there is a main theme to apply to the technique they use, and that one of small, meaningful details. These small details are intertwined throughout both games, in every aspect, creating spaces that, rather than being owned by you, feel like someone is sharing it with you.
The thing that both share initially, is the music. Music in games is an often overlooked aspect, yet it is integral to each piece. In Little Party, music fades in and out depending on the situation — whether that be characters playing instruments, background music or a song softly playing as the camera pans in on the Mum at the beginning of the game.
Packing Up also heavily features music, but instead of a traditional soundtrack, it gives you 4 songs to pick between on an in-game music player. Whilst these songs also contribute towards the space, the novel part of Packing Up is that you need to pack up the music player and the amp, stopping the background music, adding to the sense of finality and melancholy the game subtly builds as the room empties.
Packing Up’s main source of small personal detail, is in its item descriptions. Each item you pick up contains a sentence about it, overlayed on top of a photo. This sentence takes a rather prettily modelled 3D object and turns it into someone’s possession, giving it a thought or a story behind it. Through these descriptions, an idea of the person behind them is built up.
Little Party uses a similar tactic, but instead of item descriptions, it is through dialogue. The dialogue proves a small bubble of personality, which emanates throughout the rest of the game. Characters joke with each other, fondness subtly displayed through their words and actions. As you wander round the house and the outside, you feel less like an outsider, awkwardly watching someone else’s life and instead feel connected on a deeper, more personal level than before. The Mum turns from a 2D sprite into a proud parent, happy to help her daughter.
Little Party also scatters objects around its environment — objects whose only purpose is to fill the environment with character. Masks hang from the wall, colourful books sit on shelves, a gate stops you from going downstairs. These give the house a sense of purpose, giving the player more of an insight into the goings on of the Mum and Daughter.
Yet, to create an impeccable inside, one must believe that there too, is an impeccable outside. Turnfollow does this brilliantly, allowing you to explore the outside in Little Party, rivers and a small path leading through the trees to your house exist within its world, giving you a greater sense of space.
Packing Up’s main character is its apartment — one that you never quite leave. Instead you can peer at the outside world through an ajar window, sun streaming in through it. The world within Packing Up is quite different to Little Party’s leafy paradise, instead a bustling outside world full of noisy trains and sun bleached blocks of apartments stare back at you.
Creating a believable outside is key as it lets the inside grow in believability, expanding the world the game is in. The trains in Packing Up both play along the theme of travelling, and push the boundaries of the world out further — trains have to have a destination. Little Party’s garden’s entrance extends from a busy road, it too leading somewhere away from our setting. The outside places more of a focus on the inside, giving the player an anchor within the world, a purpose, a temporary place to exist.
And perhaps a temporary place to exist is what Packing Up and Little Party aim to purvey. Whilst I’ve written about more permanent habitats within games, Packing Up and Little Party give us limited time within these worlds, placing you at specific points in the character’s life. Instead of placing ourselves into the homes of others, we place ourselves into the others directly, exploring the specific beat in time.
The small sense within the game let you savour your time with it. Whilst I played Little Party over a year ago, it still sticks in my brain as a highlight of my Itching For More series, due to its transient quality. These worlds aren’t for me to sit in forever, in fact they aren’t even built for me. Instead, we are given the opportunity to exist, observe and walk away, a homemade, bite sized slice of a larger world to treasure.
Little Party and Packing Up the Rest of Your Stuff on the Last Day at Your Old Apartment are both by Turnfollow and are available to download, alongside the rest of Turnfollow’s portfolio, here.