Wim Wouters on a ‘Crazy Year’ for GriN and their New Game Woolfe
By Brad Jones
“It’s been a crazy year,” says Wim Wouters, founder and CEO of GriN, a studio that has undergone something of a momentous rise over the course of 2014. I spoke to Wim just a couple of days after his return from the massive 340,000 attendee strong Gamescom conference, which he was attending to show off Woolfe, a cinematic fairy tale platformer loosely based on Red Riding Hood. “It was the first time we were actually showing Woolfe to the larger public, so it was a great chance for us to see what they think about the demo that we showed,” Wim tells me. “But, really crazy — I think there were something like 15,000 visitors (that expressed interest in our game) over five days, so that’s immense.”
Wim goes on to mention that the small booth that GriN had at Gamescom was ‘packed’ for the duration of the event, and taking into account the ever-increasing hype surrounding the project, that comes as little surprise. While the project had certainly piqued the interest of many during the earliest stages of its development, it was thrust into the mainstream somewhat after a spot in Microsoft’s ID@Xbox showcase at E3. “We were totally flabbergasted,” Wim says with a laugh. “How come they chose us? They asked, ‘do you want to be on Xbox?’ and we said, ‘well, if you’re going to put us on E3, then we’re going to be on Xbox!”
Woolfe’s appearance at E3 certainly put a lot of eyes on the game and GriN, but there are other benefits to a relationship with Microsoft as well as publicity. “The guys from Unreal are really helpful, and Microsoft also — we thought it would be harder to talk to those big, big names, but they’re actually really open for communication.” Far from some of the horror stories of indie studios being trodden on by industry giants, it seems like GriN are enjoying a very beneficial working relationship with the Xbox team. “We were so amazed, like ‘wow, you’re really talking to us.’ We’re just a six man team putting out our first independent title.”
Of course, this being the first independent title for GriN shouldn’t be taken as a lack of experience. Founded in 2002, the company has been steadily working on well-received contract efforts producing promotional and educational content, amongst other things. Woolfe represents a long-held goal of putting out their own video game software — one that very nearly was realized much earlier in the life of the studio. “We started off wanting to conquer the world,” Wim tells me, going on to describe a time when over 300,000 users a day were flocking to the site where GriN were hosting a selection of online games. With such popularity comes significant overhead, and GriN was faced with having to support the site with ads for casinos and porn sites . Thankfully, the studio moved on from such arrangements, but continue to look into modern ways of finding funding for their work — at present, Kickstarter.
The Kickstarter campaign currently being run by GriN is something of an outlier in the field of crowdfunding. The studio already has enough money to make Woolfe, but feel that they could make a significantly better game with an extra $50,000. If the campaign is successful, that money will go towards additions like a magic system, more variation in the game’s enemies and a further coat of polish. It seems like a fair price for a solid amount of content, but there seems to be a little confusion surrounding the fact that being showcased at E3 then running a Kickstarter campaign seems to be at odds with one another.
“It’s been kind of hard convincing the audience that this project is not to fund the game — it’s just the extras.” Wim says, but that’s not to say that his experience with Kickstarter hasn’t been good. The campaign is currently tracking to exceed its funding goal, having raised more than two thirds of that amount with two weeks still left to go. However, Wim seems doubtful that future games by GriN would necessarily use the service to fund a title completely. “It helps that we have something to show,” he says, referring to the fact that, since the game is well into development, it’s easy to put together an impressive pitch video with plenty of in-game footage. “A lot of games have really cool concepts, but just don’t have enough to show.”
Now, Wim and GriN are set to settle back into development as they prep Woolfe for a release before the end of 2014. “The mood here is really great,” says Wim. “We’re building our alpha as something semi-final, and it’s giving us a taste of what it will be like to have the finished product. It’s a really nice feeling.” You can keep up with the latest news about the development of Woolfe on its official website or by following its official Twitter account. The Woolfe Kickstarter campaign is ongoing as of the time of writing.