A Chat with the Developers of Woven

Sep 16, 2016

The talented folks at Alterego Games and Digital Forest have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new game, Woven.  The visual style for this game is incredible, as the world of the game is entirely made out of fabrics such as wool, denim and felt.  Even in its pre-Alpha state, the graphics are already a wonder to behold. Of course, the art direction is just the tip of the iceberg.

The story of Woven, narrated completely in rhyme, centers on a mechanical firefly named Glitch and a plush elephant named Stuffy. Glitch is the only metallic creature at the start of the game and he doesn’t remember where he came from. Stuffy yearns to explore the world beyond the glade he lives in and Glitch is hoping to find clues that will uncover his past, so the two become fast friends upon their first meeting. Stuffy quickly learns that his new mechanical buddy has the ability to scan other inhabitants and learn their stitch patterns.  Searching around the the world will also uncover eggnuts, small containers which unlock new fabric styles. With these new patterns and fabrics at your disposal, Glitch will be able to alter Stuffy’s appearance at specific points that contain sewing machines.

With these devices, you will be able to swap Stuffy’s parts with those of animals that you’ve scanned in order to change the abilities that Stuffy has access to. While his heavy frame and sturdy limbs allow him to stomp on the ground, the lighter body and springy legs of a rabbit plushie would give him the ability to jump over obstacles.  You will need to mix and match these different parts in order to solve puzzles and gain access to new areas. For added flair, you can change the texture and color of Stuffy’s body with the fabrics you collect. While most will simply offer a cosmetic change, a few fabric styles can also provide in-game benefits depending on the situation.  You will need to experiment with different combinations to fully explore each area.

After traveling for a bit, you will eventually run into another metallic creature, a wicked robotic spider.  These spiders are unraveling the knitted landscape and threatening the stuffed creatures that come too near.  What their motives are and how Glitch is connected to them will all become clear as you progress through the game. To get a taste of what the game has in store, be sure to check out the pre-Alpha demo. You can download it DRM-Free via a direct link on the game’s website or you can get it through the game’s store page on Steam.

In an attempt to get more information on the world and story of Woven, I was given the chance to chat with the game’s main development team.  Here is what they had to say:

GWW: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me during the Kickstarter campaign.  How are things going so far?

Woven: Even though we had a lot of preparation going into this Kickstarter campaign, it surprises us every time. Having so many people (Youtubers, Twitch streamers, etc.) playing our pre-alpha demo, and loving it, is honestly the best feeling in the world for us game devs. The campaign itself is also going quite well, but we are still missing the U.S. backers, so we hope that we can get more reach towards the U.S. during our campaign!

GWW: Could you take a moment to tell us a bit about yourself and the team working on Woven?

Woven: We are three guys from the Netherlands who each have a passion for games. Dominic and Matthijs started their own game studio over three years back called Alterego Games. They built up their portfolio with the development with 30+ games for touch devices & tabletop games. Somewhere along the line, when they needed more development capacity, they met Vincent who had been developing games for over 16 years with his own company called Digital Forest. It was an instant match and, for over two years, we have developed games together!

Matthijs: Psychologist and story writer. Working on Woven‘s story, narration, game design and community management.

Dominic: Programmer, game designer and user experience designer. Working on the main programming of Woven, special effects and user experience.

Vincent: Programmer, visual designer and game designer. Working on 3D modeling, level design and gameplay.

GWW: In a recent update on the Kickstarter page, you talked a bit about the history of Woven and its origins as a virtual pet game concept with combine-able physical traits through breeding.  Was it difficult to come up with a narrative for Woven once you decided to carry over this body part swapping mechanic from that earlier game idea?

Woven: The original virtual pet game concept, “Doezels”, did not have a narrative, so we started with a blank slate. We each had our own ideas about a story and theme. Within a week, we had the (very) rough draft of the game we now call Woven!

GWW: Speaking of the story, I love how the narration is delivered in rhyme. Where did this idea come from?  What challenges has it presented, if any, with things like localization in other languages?

Woven: A year ago, we developed a game in an internal Game Jam which featured voice-actors for all the in-game characters. We loved this as it added intensity to the story and made the play testers feel much more engaged with the story. Having learned that, we decided we would always prefer this over written dialogue alone. Instead of having speaking plushies, we felt that having a narrator would greatly add to the atmosphere of the world. Matthijs then shouted that he wanted rhyme, which Dominic & Vince instantly agreed on.

Apart from making Matthijs’ own job four times more difficult by not only writing a story, but doing it in rhyme, it will, in the future, create issues for the localization. For this reason, we decided to not include this in the pre-alpha yet.

From a developer perspective, one of the biggest challenges was to get the subtitles running in sync with the rhyme pace of the narrator.

GWW: When looking at this game, it’s hard not to make comparisons to the visual style of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolly World.  Where did the idea come from to revolve the game around characters and environments made out of fabric?

Woven: The idea to make the characters from fabric actually originated from the main game mechanic of being able to attach/remove body parts. It seemed gruesome to do this with beings of flesh and blood. Having torn off enough body parts of plushies in his time (by accident, of course!), Vincent quickly came up with the idea to create beings made out of fabrics. Without realizing that this idea would creep up on us, we soon made another visual/gameplay design decision. We eventually realized that creating a world full with fabrics would vibrate with creativity and would speak to the player’s imagination. We loved that, so we stuck with it. We’ve been happy ever since.

GWW: Even at this early stage, the pre-Alpha demo is a lot of fun.  Customizing Stuffy is definitely a highlight for me.  How many different scan-able animals are you planning to include in the final game?  And how often will your choice of fabric style aid you in solving puzzles?

Woven: That mainly depends on how well the campaign goes, really. We are currently working on two new creatures which will be announced soon. We are also experimenting with a new system for Glitch to be able to not only scan animals, but also fabrics of the environment and other objects.

We are planning to create more puzzles that include the pattern style of Stuffy as an aid, but each one will be very different than what is showcased in the demo.

GWW: In the demo, I also really enjoyed exploring the environment to find hidden eggnuts and unlock more fabric styles.  Will there be any other collectibles in the game and, if so, what sort of rewards might they bestow upon the player?

Woven: I can’t say anything about this apart from hinting that, if the campaign goes really well, we do have some surprises in store.

GWW: On the subject of collectibles, will there be hidden areas or puzzles in early parts of the game that require abilities learned later on to access or solve?  If so, will there be a quick way to travel to previously visited areas in order to avoid time-consuming back-tracking?

Woven: We would love to make the world totally open for you to explore, like in the Elder Scrolls series, and including fast travel options and hidden areas & puzzles in early stages of the game that you can unlock only with abilities gained later on in the game.  The way we are going to present this, however, is still in the experimental stage.

GWW: The game is labeled as a point-and- click adventure game, but it looks more like a 3D platforming adventure game. What was the reason behind focusing on a point-and- click interface as opposed to free-roaming analog controls?

Woven: Early on in the development, we decided that we wanted to try out all different kinds of controls. It was our main goal to make controlling Stuffy as casual as possible. We tried to keep an open mind to already existing control schemes as well as experimental ones. We fell in love with the idea of simplicity; mouse only.

Also, the casualness of controlling the game with just the mouse felt right for how we want players to feel and interact with the world while playing Woven. But keep an eye on the campaign updates…

GWW: It’s crazy to think that this game has technically been in development for 15 years!  What would you say has been the biggest challenge during development thus far?

Woven: Hmm… Well, we can go into the specifics on how difficult it was to get the shaders just right on Stuffy and his environment, but that is technical mumbo-jumbo. Our biggest challenge, thus far, is the amount of detail we would like to add but can’t within our set time-frame. We really wanted to show off our pre-alpha demo while also making it a pretty stable build as it had to be a great experience for our players. These are all very enthusiastic challenges we set for ourselves, but we are really proud of what we, as a small team, have achieved thus far.

We cannot wait to be able to show you so much more!

GWW: On a lighter note, what would you say has been the most memorable and/or most fun aspect of the development process up to now?

Woven: When you are working on a project for this amount of time, it somehow becomes alive. When taking screenshots, we noticed that Stuffy dressed as an Elephant was very photogenic. He really loved taking selfies. Stuffy as a Rabbit, however, was a whole different story. He always blinking, looking away or even looking mad in the camera! (Did you know that Stuffy shows different emotions when he is looking at things around him?) Stuffy really became alive for us, something we could never have anticipated…

GWW: The Kickstarter campaign for this game is chock-full of pretty pictures, amusing anecdotes and a wide variety of awesome rewards.  Which of the rewards are your personal favorites?

Woven: We love Stuffy. We really, really do. So, our favorite reward would be the “ADOPT A STUFFY” tier. However, the ultimate tier “MASTER WEAVER” includes a one of a kind handcrafted Stuffy doll and bronze-cast Glitch. Both have been made by befriended artists with incredible skill. We already have them on a pedestal in the office here as pure motivation!

GWW: Thank you again taking the time to speak with me about Woven.  Are there any final thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Woven: If you have already played our public pre-alpha demo: Thank you so much! We hope you loved it, just as much as we loved developing it! If you haven’t yet played it, please do! It’s free!

And, of course, if you would like us to develop this game further, please help us with our Kickstarter campaign either by pledging or, if you are not able, just a share/shout-out goes a long way towards us being able to develop Woven for you!

As of this writing, there is just under three weeks remaining in the campaign.  While their first week has generated a decent following, they still have a LONG way to go before they can start celebrating.  If you act fast, you can get a copy of the game for as low as $10 with a Crazy Early Bird tier.  Contributing a bit more will get you digital copies of the art book and soundtrack, Beta or Alpha access and exclusive in-game fabric styles.  Higher tiers will reward you with an actual Stuffy plushie, an on-disc physical copy of the game and even a 3D printed Glitch.  The developers are aiming for a November 2017 release window with the game being available on PC, Mac and Linux either through Steam or DRM-Free.

Please, show your support in any way you can.  Help these three developers bring their 15-year old dream to life.  The Kickstarter campaign for Woven ends Friday, October 7th.