Grin founder on overambition and selling Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries to Rebellion

Grin founder on overambition and selling Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries to Rebellion
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

October 21st 2015 at 11:30AM

‘I will no longer have to bow my head in shame or guilt when someone approaches me claiming they backed our project'

Rebellion has acquired the IP rights and all the assets for Kickstarter-funded game Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries.

The platformer, based on a dark and twisted version of Red Riding Hood, was developed by Grin Gamestudio and raised $72,138 during its crowdfunding campaign, above its target of $50,000.

Despite this success, the game’s suffered a poor commercial performance after its release in March earlier this year. The studio ultimately filed for bankruptcy and its team disbanded. This meant it was only able to release one volume of a planned two-part series.

Speaking to Develop former Grin founder and CEO Wim Wouters said the project’s failure was down to several factors, including rising expectations and the team’s inexperience on bigger titles. The studio also decided to go without a publisher and take out a loan, a decision that would later play a part in sealing its fate.

“Our goal with Woolfe was to stand out in the indie scene by creating a very rich look, rather than another minimalist game in an already crowded space,” said Wouters.

“That strategy resonated with our fans; Woolfe was green-lit on Steam in record time, nominated for awards and even featured in Microsoft’s E3 keynote. Suddenly some publishers wanted to sign us, but some developers advised us not to go with a publisher if we could finance Woolfe ourselves. So we took out a loan and began a Kickstarter to raise our own funds, and that went successfully.

“But after that, that’s when things started going wrong. Ambitions and rising expectations pushed our scope to a higher level that required more resources. Then when we returned to publishers, they were concerned over our experience creating bigger games. That concern proved to be valid.

“Because of budget constraints we cut the game in two and focused on polishing the first part as much we could. We knew there were issues and things that could’ve been much improved, but our time was up.”

The studio’s eventual closure meant it was unable to ship all the promised backer rewards, leaving many in the lurch. After winning an auction for the IP and assets however, the UK developer Rebellion has pledged to fulfil all backer rewards, both digital and physical.

Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley said fulfilling backer rewards “seemed like the decent thing to do”, as the IP wouldn’t exist without their support in the first place.

“We’ve been told that many of the outstanding rewards are ready to go out and we’ll be arranging delivery of those at no extra cost to the backers,” said Kingsley.

“Our understanding is that there are some rewards that we’ll have to produce ourselves – such as the art book – so we’ll be sorting those out if we can and getting them sent out too. At the moment it looks very likely we’ll be able to provide and send on all of the outstanding physical rewards at no extra cost to backers. We’re the perfect people to take this on in many ways because we’re already well versed in producing books and merchandise for the likes of 2000 AD and our book imprints.

“One potential complication is that we might have incomplete records, so we’ll be reaching out to the community to check that we’ve done what needs to be done.”

Though Rebellion has acquired all the rights to the IP, it will not be updating the original Woolfe game, and it’s unclear if it will bring the title to console as originally planned by Grin.

Kingsley also said no decision has been made on whether to make Volume 2 or any future Woolfe content, though it could happen in future. Part of the problem stems from the game being built on Unreal Engine 3, which is largely incompatible with the studio’s in-house Asura game engine.

“Our understanding is that there is some content that has been made for Volume 2, but we don’t know exactly what this is yet,” said Kingsley.

“Similarly, we build all our games in our in-house Asura engine, so we don’t know exactly how things will translate over to our technology. It’s no slight on the troubles Grin had but I think it’s important given the current circumstances to not raise fans’ hopes up and to be absolutely clear that nothing’s been confirmed just yet.”

Wouters said the crowdfunding campaign, release, studio closure and now the sale of the IP has been “very emotional”, but Rebellion’s gesture of good faith to backers has helped put his mind at east.

“Although I have found almost all backers are really understanding about our situation and are happy with the game they did receive, I will no longer have to bow my head in shame or guilt when someone approaches me claiming they backed our project,” said Wouters.

He added: “Although I might not be a part of Woolfe's future, I am still very proud of what we actually did manage to accomplish. And maybe it's just a gut feeling, but I really think Red Riding Hood and the story of Woolfe is going to be huge some day. Mark my words.”

Additional reporting by James Batchelor.