Els’ adventure To the Wolves starts with a sacrifice gone wrong

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To the Wolves is a Twine adventure where you play as Ella, a young woman left to die by her nearby village. Instead, she finds herself buoyed by a series of different helpers, from the house left by a previous occupant to a beautiful, mystical wolf. Oh, and a witch, sort of. And . . . other stuff? It’s a lovely game of survival and reframing.

How long have you been making games?
Technically since high school, since I messed around with some RPGMaker and custom Ace Attorney case engines. I studied game design in uni and made some small/unfinished projects during that time, but my first complete game was … actually, To The Wolves itself, in 2016. So anywhere between twelve (yeesh) and seven (still yeesh) years depending how you count!

What tools do you like to use?
Right now I’m all in on Game Maker. It has a good combo of usability and flexibility, and the community is really great, even if the engine can be a little buggy sometimes. I use a Yarn implementation in it called Chatterbox for the narrative side.

What themes or genres do you like to explore?
I love taking existing genres and cliches, and putting new spins on them, especially if the spins are queer. Anything with horrific or spooky aspects is good, although I think I’m more the psychological-type than the gory-type.

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of making games?
Favourite is definitely coming up with ideas and then making them happen, it’s really satisfying. Least favourite … Anything where I have to make art decisions. I have no artistic sense at all, so it’s pretty stressful. If it were up to me all my games would be white text on a black screen, but that’s not very interesting.

Is there a game that has affected you recently?
Ooh, recently, huh … Well, I recently played the remastered Famicon Detective Club games, and they gave me a really good appreciation for where a lot of the genre’s conventions come from, and how far we’ve come since then. They’re also really well-written mysteries, in my opinion. It’s impressive what you can do just by remastering graphics — they put a lot of love into the art and especially the animations, and it really brings the game to another level.

“[I]f the people around you are trampling on your happiness, I hope you can also find the strength to survive.”

To the Wolves is about a young woman who is sacrificed. Is this inspired by folklore, history, something else?
It’s definitely meant to be a folklorish, fairytale-ish story. There’s a little bit of inspiration from European witchcraft traditions, and the persecution thereof, as well. It’s also inspired by classic revenge stories. I think Ella and Carrie could be friends.

The “waking up in a strange place” portion reminds me of classic text and adventure games. What was it like making this in Twine?
Heh, you nailed it. I played a lot of classic text and adventure games as a kid, but I also wanted to learn Twine, so I was determined to make it work. I’d approach it differently now, but I’m pretty proud of things like the lighting-the-fire section. I think TTW is about the perfect level of complexity for Twine before you start needing to learn things like Javascript, which was beyond my skill level at the time (and probably still is in some ways). I kept learning about new features and adding them in, like word substitution and saving/loading …. which was probably not necessary, but you know how it is.

“If it were up to me all my games would be white text on a black screen, but that’s not very interesting.”

How did you plan and “storyboard” the different chapters?
I’ve probably still got the scribbles somewhere — I hand-drew big ol’ flowcharts. I had some scenes I knew I wanted to do, like the various hunter scenes and wolf meetings, so I listed them out and then figured out the connective tissue.

I got the victorious ending — do you have a favorite of the endings? Can you describe it without spoiling?
Victorious is probably the best “ending” — something I regret is that the actual, non-early-game-over endings aren’t as varied as they could be — but I think my favourite “path” is the one where you follow a certain thread and meet a certain someone early. There’s a lot of weirder, more experimental prose on that path, and the themes get pretty dark, which I find fun. Really embracing the “monster”.

This game is about surviving and discovering a hidden, maybe even better world. What would you like players to take away from it?
Sometimes it’s okay to burn it all down and start again. Maybe not literally. But if the people around you are trampling on your happiness, I hope you can also find the strength to survive, seek out others like you, and build your own kind of happiness.

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I'm a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics and an avid reader. Bylines at the Awl, Eater, GamesIndustry.biz, Scientific American, Unwinnable, and more.

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Caroline Delbert

I'm a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics and an avid reader. Bylines at the Awl, Eater, GamesIndustry.biz, Scientific American, Unwinnable, and more.