Woolfe The Red Hood Diaries owes a lot to its early players.
Fans of the stylized reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood as action platformer, are the game’s official testing department and translators. And the group doesn’t just work for free, they’re actually paying for the right to both own the game and volunteer their time to help bring it to life.
“We have six people: two artists, two programmers, a writer and myself,” said Wim Wouters, founder and CEO of Grin. “So we needed a QA team and we didn’t have the budget to hire one. We went to [Steam] early access and it really, really helped us.”
It helped because those early access buyers, who paid $10 for the game, became the fledgling studio’s QA team. While those early access gamers who are working on Woolfe paid the full price for the game, they’re happy to contribute for free, Wouters said.
That’s in part because everyone knew what they were getting into when the pre-bought the game. Wouters and his team have been talking about the assistance they need since Kickstarting the title.
“We specifically mentioned that,” he said “It’s a very short period before launch, six or seven weeks before launch. And they really get it.”
And it’s not just QA that players are helping with. Fans also translated the entire game and have been play testing things like boss fights to help the studio fine-tune the game.
“We use Twitch stream to get their feedback and they seem really involved,” he said. “We’re also doing the casting of voice actors with our audience and fans. “
While not everyone seems to like the idea, those who don’t simply don’t support the game, Wouters said.
“When we did the community translation thing there were people who said, ‘That’s not fair, people are supposed to be paid to do that job. We’re not getting paid to do your job.”
Wouters argues that while players aren’t getting paid to help out, they are getting some experience. And the team does have a professional editor going over their translation work.
Big Bad Wolf
The game tells the story of B.B. Woolfe, the son of a industrial capitalist who recently inherited his father’s fortune and power. Under the father, the whole city came to life around the factory.
“It was his father’s factory and it was doing a lot of good for the city,” Wouters said. “But then the father dies and the son takes over and he’s not so friendly.
“He starts putting in machines to do the people’s jobs first. He wants more control and gets really paranoid. Then people start disappearing.”
Among them is Red Riding Hood’s father.
The game plays as a platformer with a bit of light combat throw into the mix.
Red Riding Hood obtains an axe early in the game, and can use it to take out the toy soldier guards that seemed to make up the majority of the enemies in the demo I played.
She also can learn four types of magic which unlock the ability to deliver aerial attacks, frontal attacks, an axe throw and a secret attack. Hood can also use stealth to avoid enemies.
The game features three kinds of the wind-up toy soldiers as guards, wolves, fairies, rats and the Pied Piper as a mini-boss.
All said the single-player, story-driven game is about two-and-a-half hours long.
The game represents the first original title the studio has made for themselves since giving up on an attempt to make online 3D games in the early 2000’s, Wouters said.
“There was no monetization that really worked,” he said. “So we did a lot of work for hire like a forklift simulator and educational apps for pre-schools or stuff for advertisers.
“We had to stop the whole thing and had to find a way to earn some money. Doing work for hire, stuck in that vicious cycle, this was our escape route.”
Woolfe The Red Hood Diaries is due out March 17 on Steam.