WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

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Dj SheepWolf
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WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by Dj SheepWolf » Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:56 pm

Hello everyone!

It's been three years since I played WolfQuest. Three years I deepened my knowledge about wolves. And it's no wonder I was very happy to host an interview with the developers of one of my favorite games. Also was in this year that WQ made ten years and as a birthday gift I hope users like to know more about it! ^^
I remember about two months ago I posted a thread about this interview and users asked questions and some of them were selected to be delivered to the developers. Now, we have the complete interview with the chosen questions answered!

1. What was the initiative to start the productions of the first version of WolfQuest?
Dave Schaller:
I had been noodling on an idea for a multiplayer game about wolves for several years. It seemed like a perfect match: Wolves are social animals, so are people. Wolves work together, hunting or playing, just like people. Wolves have complex ways of communicating with each other--vocalizations and postures. Just like people.

So I began looking for a zoo to partner with on such a game. In 2005, after we working with the Minnesota Zoo on a tiger breeding simulation game, I mentioned the concept and they agreed to partner with us on a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for WolfQuest. We pitched it as an innovative project that would bring the immersive, compelling drama and action of video games to informal science learning while creating a model for nationwide distribution. We were awarded funding in September 2006 and developed Episode 1 for release in December 2007. It was the first videogame that NSF had ever funded.

2. What were the main difficulties of working with WolfQuest development?
Susan Nagel:
Aside from technical and budget challenges and limitations, one of the biggest challenges was how to make a game that is fun to play but also strives to be scientifically accurate. As Dave wrote back in 2007 on the developer’s blog, “At first glance, the life of a wild wolf looks like perfect material for a realistic eco-game. And at second glance, and third glance, and fourth glance. But now that we’re chin-deep in game development, we keep running into conflicts between good gameplay and realistic wolf behavior. Wolves sleep 15 hours a day, on average. Much of the rest of the time is spent trotting cross-country, hour after hour, marking their territory and looking for prey. And when they do find prey, the hunt fails far more often than it succeeds. None of those aspects of a wolf’s life would make for satisfying gameplay. So in those ways and many others, we are not making a realistic game. No one would play it if we did.”

3. Before working on WolfQuest development, did you already have any experience in this area (game development)?
Eduweb had been making online learning games since 1996, but those were generally relatively short and 2D at most. WolfQuest was our first 3D simulation game and we learned a lot as we went! Check out the original developer’s blog from 2007 to see how it all unfolded.

4. How long are the developers' working days? (From Arctic)
Susan Nagel:
When you do something you love and you are your own boss, it is often hard to work regular hours. Research and brainstorming spills into “off hours”. Updates and new releases are always crazy busy. When the server hiccupped on Christmas Day, Dave was working! Most players are online evenings and weekends and sometimes this means we are too. Another challenge to regular hours is that fact that many of our team members live in different time zones around the world. So it is not unusual for Dave to be chatting with them during their work hours. However, we do try to keep regular weekday hours (8:30am to 6:00pm is a typical day) and shoot for about 45 hours a week of actual desk time. This is usually doable unless we are launching a big update or such.

5. What was the most difficult concept to develop for WolfQuest? (From Neamara)
Dave Schaller:
We spent a lot of time deconstructing the elk hunt. In real life, those are wild and crazy, rough and tumble events that biologists don’t fully understand. We had to interpret that and distill it down into a simple set of actions that would represent those actual hunting behaviors while also being simple enough for a ten-year-old to pick up and play. What we ended up with looks awfully simple and obvious, but it took us a long time (or at least it felt like a long time) to get there.

6. What fueled the decision to use the Unity engine for developing WolfQuest? (From DerpBacon)
Dave Schaller:
We originally planned to use Adobe Shockwave 3D, which was seen at the up-and-coming 3D platform in 2005. But after working with it some, we realized its limitations would greatly constrain our game design. So then we looked at Torque 3D, which was certainly the dominant 3D game engine for indie developers at the time. It was good for certain kinds of games, but not especially well-suited for open world roleplay/simulation games like we had in mind. Then Unity caught our eye when it won an Apple Design Award for software in the summer of 2006. Though still quite fresh on the scene, it looked very promising, so we chose it as our game engine. There was some risk in that choice – but fortunately, it was the right decision. In the years since, both Shockwave and Torque have disappeared while Unity has grown to become the dominant game engine for everyone but AAA game studios. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if we stuck with Torque.

7. Did you think WolfQuest would be this popular when you first began development? (From SolitaryHowl)
Dave Schaller:
Nobody imagined it. We’d done reasonably well with our online games in the decade preceding WolfQuest, but they were mostly aimed at students in classrooms – we just had to make games that were more fun than what else the student might have been doing instead. Our goal with WolfQuest was to make a game that would be fun enough to play at home, and we did think that wolves held sufficient appeal to make it a success. What nobody anticipated was the passion that players would bring to the game, which in the early days was rather overwhelming. Even after we recalibrated our expectations, players’ enthusiasm and especially their persistence continued – and continue today -- to amaze us.

8. Will more complicated interactions between wolves and wildlife/ even the environment be possible due to the change in systems? (From Wolvencall)
Dave Schaller:
The ultimate goal in game design is “easy to play and hard to master, so we’re definitely wary of overcomplicating player actions. (Someone once compared the game’s keyboard inputs to a flight simulator, and they didn’t mean that as a compliment.) But yes, we are currently building more naturalistic systems for the Anniversary Edition and Tower Fall, while also trying to keep them simple enough for our broad range of players to learn quickly and have fun doing over and over again.

9. How do you feel working on WolfQuest development? (From Wolf Duda)
Dave Schaller:
Every day that I wake up and know I can work on WolfQuest, I’m happy. There are about a thousand different parts to the game, each one posing its own particular challenges, so it never gets old. Some days it certainly gets frustrating! But never old.

10. How do you imagine the future of developments?
Dave Schaller:
With the new codebase that we’re building now, we will have a great foundation for more episodes and expansions. We have no shortage of ideas, even before we look at the forum threads with players’ ideas. As long as people keep buying the game, we expect to keep it going!
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Re: WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by SolitaryHowl » Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:56 pm

Very interesting, thanks for posting. :)
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Re: WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by duskypack » Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:37 pm

Thank you so much for interviewing them! I'm so glad to be in a community with such dedicated and passionate developers (and fellow players). It really makes me look back on my own Wolfquest experience and how it has shaped me as I've grown. I really haven't loved it any less even after six years (my anniversary was about 10 days ago), it's unlike any other game I've played.
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Re: WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by Phasoli » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:56 am

This was an amazing interview! It's always exciting to me to be granted a taste of the inside scoop of any major project. Perhaps one day, we'll be looking at an official WolfQuest Documentary. :wink:
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Re: WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by wolf567 » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:20 am

This is great, thanks for organising and conducting the interview Dj SheepWolf! Great insight and an interesting read :)
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Re: WolfQuest's Development - Complete Interview

Post by LunarWolf94 » Mon Sep 18, 2017 5:36 am

The only thing I don't understand is why people would complain about the keyboard setup. I mean, yes, there are a lot of options, but there aren't any combos or anything like that to make using all the options more difficult. All the features which are important (biting, moving, lifting pups, feeding them etc.) are simple and easy to reach. ._. I'd rather keep it like it is now than having to press buttons to open menus and then click on options what to do. That's way too time consuming.
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