According to more than a handful of titles that were released in the past year, rich, well thought out stories have no place in video games, almost always being shunted out of the way for energetic, on-trend gameplay. Indie title Woolfe, however, is the game that has both, riffing off of the well-known cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood to make a title that’s a stealthy, engaging and intriguing solution to all of the bland games out there. We are very much looking forward to what Woolfe has in store and so we’ve spoken to Wim Wouters, the game’s Creative Director, to find out more.
With the original Red Riding Hood story centred on a young girl horrified and distraught to find that her grandmother had been eaten by a ravenous wolf, an antagonist then taken down by the mighty huntsman, Woolfe puts the power in the hands of Red Riding Hood herself, eschewing the notion that the story’s lead is anything but badass.
In fact, Red’s story in Woolfe is all but a complete spin-off, seeing her face the titular B.B Wolfe (who is described as Red’s “demon” by GriN) and an army of tin army soldiers in a welcome dose of platforming and stealth gameplay that equals in a breath of fresh air in the genre. Woolfe’s world is bright, colourful and vibrant, whilst still conveying the dark, underlying sense that all is not right in this young girl’s world and it draws you in like a fish on a hook (Woolfe) to a shark (us) that’s not eaten in several decades.
GriN are the team of talented devs bringing Red’s story and world to life, strapping the game’s ambitious concept to their independent backs, determined to carry it to its 2014 release date and give us all the joy of a wonderfully thought out game with a female protagonist who is youthful, vulnerable and human and not just ‘strong’. Of course it’s obvious that we’re excited about the title and so we’ve spoken to Woolfe’s Creative Director, Wim Wouters, in an interview that you can read below.
Interview: Woolfe Creative Director, Wim Wouters
J Station X: Little Red Riding Hood is an incredibly famous fairy tale, what inspired you to take on the story for Woolfe?
The whole Woolfe project had quite an interesting start. About one year ago, we were looking for an extra 3D artist to work on a children’s app we were creating. We had several people who applied for the job and one of those people was Davy [Penasse, GriN’s 3D Artist]. There were a few reasons why we could not use him for the specific project, for instance he worked with a different 3D modelling package and was still employed by another company so he could not start right away. However, he had an amazing portfolio with lots of after-hour work [he had] made. One of the things that caught our attention was a short 3D movie about a cartoony Red Riding Hood in a dark and gloomy forest. We were so inspired that we made him a proposition. A small team of creatives (art director, writer and Davy) spent one month to create a game design document to pitch for funding. If we were granted the funding we would hire him and we could create the game together. We spent our time well and created a twisted fairy tale divided into 3 large chapters, using the original Red Riding Hood stories as a starting point and ending with… well you’ll have to wait and see…
Apparently our pitch was received as one of the best concepts to date and we were granted $60.000 to start production and in May, Davy quit his former job and we’ve been developing Woolfe ever since.
JSX: Many people have focussed on the wolf and he could be controlled, but what made the team choose to centre the game on Red Riding Hood?
Red Riding Hood symbolizes innocence… when something bad happens to innocent people, it opens the path to an interesting story about revenge and vengeance.
JSX: The game looks great, but it’s certainly ambitious, especially for an indie dev team like yourself, is the game more than you bargained for and what difficulties have you faced?
Yes, we are just a team of five people working on Woolfe and our ambition to create the most beautiful game is… eu… ambitious. Actually it’s the reactions we are getting from gamers and press that are really freaking us out. The expectations are getting higher and higher, which is great, but also makes us want to live up to them. This does have implications on our current developments… Even more focus is going to getting every detail right… and there are A LOT of details in our game. When we started the actual production in May, we planned to have a beta of chapter one ready by the end of December. I can already tell you that we’re not there yet… We have most of the basic structure in place, but we are putting a lot more effort in details and atmosphere than originally planned.
JSX: For those who know the story of Little Red Riding Hood but not much about Woolfe, could you describe the gameplay?
Basically it’s a sidescroller platform game with puzzles and melee combat. We get a lot of inspiration from classic platformers like the original Prince of Persia. Of course we’re adding epic boss battles and a lot more special effects, but our main intention is not to make the hardest game possible. We want the player to be part of a rich, visual experience while uncovering the details of the dark story. Tim Burton meets Prince of Persia would be a short description of what we are trying to achieve.
JSX: What else do you think Woolfe brings to the story, that people don’t already know about the classic tale?
The story is one thing that is very hard to elaborate on without touching a few possible spoilers. Let’s just say, that where the original Red Riding Hood story is about warning young girls about men with bad intentions, [Woolfe tries] to warn about a society with bad intentions. We are trying to stay true to the fact that fairy tales have a purpose of “educating” people.
JSX: Finally, episodic releases are incredibly popular at the moment, do the team plan on releasing the game all in one go or in bitesized, episodic chunks?
Indeed, it was our initial idea to release in episodes and technically it still is. Why? It’s the only way we can give something to our fans faster. Also, it could help in financing the development of the full game. Although we are rich with passion, we just can’t afford to pre-finance the complete development in one go. We all have rent to pay and I also have 2 kids to feed, so the financial side is no small issue.
There are a few considerations we might not have thought through thoroughly… Marketing wise releasing one episode costs just as mush as marketing a full game. Also, the next episode will always sell less than the first episode and gamers are easily distracted by new games coming out almost every day, they might have a “been there done that” feeling after the first episode. We might have to put a lot energy into convincing them that is really is worth it. But most importantly we would have to sell enough units to pay back our current investment and then more to actually start making the second episode… it’s quite a risk.
We’re talking to a lot of people with more experience on the matter and unless we find a way to finance the full game we will release chapter one in spring 2014.
Thank you to Wim for a great interview!
Woolfe will be released on PC in 2014, with a possible PS4 release in the future.