The team is now dismantled and we have requested bankruptcy unable to pay outstanding bills.
I guess our public silence the last few months already said a lot. It is not out of disrespect that our communication dropped to almost zero… it is out of shame. It is truly devastating to read the negative comments we received by some press and players. With Woolfe being the most passion driven thing we have ever created, it feels horrible to live with the feeling we let you down.
Once the sales numbers began rolling in, the consequences of our beautiful adventure started to become painfully clear.
This is not just the end of Woolfe, but the end of the studio that I founded and nurtured through ups and downs the past 13 years. In 2002, when I founded GRIN with 2 partners, it was our goal to develop independant games. At the time we were focussed on browser based 3D games. Not an easy market to make a living from at the time. Less than 2 years after we started my 2 partners stepped out; there just wasn’t enough work to go round.
While not losing my passion and still spending every minute of spare time, I generated my basic income doing work-for-hire jobs. Every year the company grew a little stronger, a little better, a little more stable. Until 2 years ago, GRIN had 5 full-time employees exclusively making games for clients, we even made enough money to save a little cash on the side. We would use these savings to create the game of our dreams. Little did we know this would be the beginning of the end…
The optimist in me led me to believe we could actually pull off making a “bigger” indie game. I really wanted to prove an indie game did not have to be rendered in pixels or stylized as a solution to cut development costs. I wanted to believe that a team of 6 to 10 people could make a game that looked and felt AAA. Boy was I wrong!
At first we could not believe that our “baby” was not more successful, in our emotions we started looking for explanations not related to the game. Maybe gamers are just spoilt brats, bashing on everything, maybe there is an oversaturation of indie market, maybe all the free-to-play games by big studios are giving players a false sense of value. How could less than $10 be to expensive for a beautiful game like Woolfe? How could this be our fault?
Of course none of the emotional excuses above are the reason of our mixed steam rating. We can only blame ourselves…
Our lack of experience just could not be compensated with passion alone.
Why on earth would we want to increase the scope of our game without increasing the budget. Ok, it is understandable that you get inspired to try new things in gameplay, you have to experiment to come up with creative ideas and solutions. I’m not saying the ideas we came up with were impossible. But changing gameplay from 2D to 3D had a major impact on overall development cost (we found out a little too late). Collision detection for instance (and you can’t even really see that) became such a big issue so fast. Instead of having a simple 2D track where you would not be able to collide with small environment props like crates, piles of stones or skulls. Now every little element had to collide, every crooked stone on the floor had to trigger correct foot placement.
The same goes for the fences that seem to cause so much frustration with some players. Although is was a conscious game-design decision, I believe the feeling of freedom the 3D movement opened up, gave players the sense that Woolfe was no longer a platformer, but an open-world type game (more than once compared to Assassin’s Creed, which is an honor, but also a curse as we would never be able to compete).
Although our rules for fences and borders were used very consequently throughout the game, we just couldn’t get players to see them as an environmental gameplay challenge.
Not to mention the combat… OMG! How much more work it turned out to be having enemies follow and engage with the player in the semi-open environments we had grown to love.
Like a “smart” drug dealer might say: Don’t get high on your own supply…
What about our Kickstarter backers?
The people that believed in us from the beginning? People we made promises too. People we have let down. Even worse… people we will not be able to give the full rewards they invested in.
The crazy thing is, that we have most of the rewards ready for postage. All the backer stickers and letters of enlistment just need a stamp. All the poster sets printed, signed and ready. The artbook is ready to be printed, the soundtrack is ready for distribution, the DVD case is ready for production. But we have literally no money whatsoever to pay for stamps, let alone print the artbooks and dvd-cases.
What about Volume 2?
I think it is quite obvious now that we will not be able to finalise production of Woolfe Volume 2. With the low rating of Volume 1, all interested publishers have backed off and we no longer have the financial means to self publish… But we still have loads of assets and we think it would be a shame to let them all go to waste… maybe there are other developers out there that would like to take a shot at making new volumes of Woolfe. Maybe they can achieve what we were unable to accomplish. If our visual style is our strongest element we should make this available for others who are stronger at making gameplay. We would want nothing more than that the legacy of Woolfe would live on forever, or at least longer than a few months.
So with a heavy heart I have to communicate that as of now the IP of Woolfe, all of the assets and source code is now for sale via the appointed trustee Cathérine Lannoy. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I would like to end this post with a very big thank you to my wife for standing by my side in this turbulent period, I hope she forgives me for pulling her into this dangerous adventure. I want to thank my parents and family who have supported me all the way, even financially when things got really rough these last few months. My friends for putting up with my limited conversation topics and recent period of isolation. My former employees that have become some of my best friends. The people who invested in GRIN. The amazing fans that helped us push the limits of what we could achieve. But I would also like to add word of thanks and support for my colleagues and fellow game developers here in Belgium and the rest of the world. YOU ROCK!!! Never stop doing what you’re doing, you have the power to make your dreams come true, but beware of the pitfalls. Beware what you risk, you do not want to be in my position now. You do not want to lose everything you worked so hard for.
As for me, I going to take it easy the next couple of weeks/months, but I have learnt so much about game development the past few years and I don’t plan on letting that knowledge go to waste. And as always, if there is anything I can do for you or help you out with, don’t hesitate to contact me (but give me a little time to get my shit together first please…).
If you want to know more about what game developers go through, I suggest reading this very interesting post of a former game developer on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/3cg2hc/repost_as_a_former_developer_theres_a_lot_of/