October 2013 was a long time ago. So long, in fact, that since then I’ve graduated both high school and college, abandoned and rediscovered my dream for a career in gaming, and forgotten that I even kick-started this game in the first place. So imagine my surprise when Humble Bundle informed me that I had one key yet to be redeemed: a pre-order for Night in the Woods. After a long wait the night is almost here, so as we look forward to tomorrow, what do we know about Night in the Woods?
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So what is it?
Night in the Woods is an adventure game developed by development team Infinite Fall—Scott Benson of Late Night Work Club, Alec Holowka of Aquaria, and Bethany Hockenberry—and published by Finji. The game will be released on PC, Mac, Linux and PS4 on February 21st, 2017.
Under the hood, Night in the Woods has a familiar engine. It’s described by the developers on the game’s official website as being “… focused on exploration, story, and character, featuring dozens of characters to meet and lots to do across a lush, vibrant world.” The attention to art and the trailer’s air of uncanny mystery might bring to mind Night School Studio’s ghost story of a game, Oxenfree; the nostalgia for a place once left behind is reminiscent of Fullbright Company’s Gone Home, only this time with company. The question then becomes what will make Night in the Woods a standout title that’s been worth the wait.
Luckily for those of us who have stuck around, Night in the Woods looks like it has the potential to be a fresh game. A 30 minute gameplay video was released by Polygon in the wake of E3 last June, showing us the very beginning of the game. From the moment the game’s heroine Mae wakes up, we’re greeted with playful and sardonic dialogue that persists throughout the video. Her hometown of Possum Springs definitely gives the impression of being a small one, but its full of details and small moments that are satisfying to watch.
Without knowing more to the story, it’s dangerous to make any definitive claims about this game’s success before it’s even been released. But as a twenty something from the smallest state in the USA, its clear goal to give the player the experience of returning home to find things familiar but changed seems to be achieved.
Why so long a wait?
Night in the Woods has gone through more than its fair share of delays, but around October of last year we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the developers announced a release date of January 1st 2017. Of course, that didn’t end up happening, and about two months later we were teased and tortured by the trailer above, which pushed the release date to where it is now.
Considering this latest delay and all those that came before, it’s no surprise that some backers are weeping into their kickstarter receipts. But Infinite Fall, like many indie developers, have only so much time to dedicate to their game. In their January release date announcement, the team explained the lengthy development from their point of view:
“We pretty regularly get folks talking about how the Night In The Woods has been in development for 5 years or so. During the roughest times these past few months I would sit and dream about having 5 years to make this game instead of 3-ish. But regardless of the reality, the perception is that Night In The Woods has been in development for much longer than what it has been- a pretty standard 2-3 years.”
Words like these are a good reminder that fans and developers run on different timelines. Given that Infinite Fall’s team is just three people, getting a game done in about five years doesn’t seem that far fetched.
It’s also not as though we’ve been met with radio silence this whole time, either. Infinite Fall released two short, sweet, and completely free supplemental games in 2013 and 2014 to give fans a taste of Night in the Woods’ world. Longest Night (2013) features the game’s heroine Mae and her friends looking up at the stars in the night sky, and was updated again in 2015 to include more of the sharp writing that the game is already known for. Lost Constellation (2014) lets the player play through a chilling folktale, spend their very first night in the woods, and create snowmen possessed by ghosts. Over the past five years these small games have not only helped create a clearer picture of Possum Springs and its inhabitants, but they’ve managed to generate a mystery about Night in the Woods that could soon be revealed.
What We Know
With the work put into supplementals; the small team size; and the intricacy of Night in the Woods’ art, music, and writing all in mind, the wait for Night in the Woods ends up making a lot of sense. And if we’re lucky and the game is true to its trailer, maybe the old adage will come true and good things will come to those who wait. Night in the Woods definitely has the potential for a rich story with strong gameplay to match, but we’ll have to wait one more night to find out for ourselves.