Night in the Woods is a recently released adventure side-scroller from the team at Infinite Fall. Players follow Mae Borowski, a cat, through a decidedly shitty part of her life. Having recently dropped out of college, she returns home and finds that nothing stays the same forever.
The team at Infinite Fall – Alec Holowka, Scott Benson and Bethany Hochenberry – were kind enough to speak to me about their new adventure game. In the course of the interview, we discuss how Mae and her friends came to be, some post-game decisions and how the team views the reaction to the game thus far.
What made you choose animals to personify the characters?
Alec Holowka: When we started the game, it didn’t have animals in it. It was actually a lone female protagonist in the woods. That was our first concept. We were messing with that for a bit and then Scott drew these characters. He basically drew the main cast, like doodled them and sent them to me. That was instantly way more interesting.
Scott Benson: I think our original idea was a lot more like the artsy indie type game. A very solitary character in this very pretty woods. We worked on that for a few weeks and that wasn’t really catching us. Animals are easier to go around your personal guards and you can easier identity with them.
The sexuality of the characters in Night in the Woods really doesn’t matter. Was that another reason to go with animals?
S. B.: I think any sort of abstraction, you see it in comics as well, allows you to pick which particulars you talk about. We leave a bunch of empty space that the player can go and fill in themselves. That automatically makes you feel more connected to the character. Since it is abstracted, you sometimes have to do more work to connect this identity to this cat. Look at something like Thomas Was Alone; it’s just square and circles, but by the end you empathize with these characters even if they are just shapes. We didn’t go that far to use a square, but also people like animals.
Night in the Woods leaves many mysteries unresolved. Is there a reason you kept so many open and do you plan on explaining any in the future?
S. B.: It would be funny if there was no mystery and we just forgot. From the start, we were okay with people filling in things themselves. That’s always more interesting. If you leave things for people to think about, its a different kind of experience for the player. Since the game is so much about exploration, if you give everything, there is no exploration going on. To give the bigness of exploration, you need to have the feeling that there are going to be things that you miss.
You bucked the trend of going left to right in video games. Was there a particular reason you went right to left?
S. B.: We drew the map that way, honestly. I think a lot people expect a better answer than that. I drew the map, one end was in the west, the town was in between and your home was in the East. We’ve seen pieces dissecting the meaning behind it. Literally, we just drew the map that way. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it until people started mentioning it.
A. H.: I never thought of it as any particular reason. I wish I had thought about it, then I can pretend I had some deep purpose behind it.
S. B.: [laughing] It’s a commentary on the original Mario Bros. No, it was just cool. We wanted to do it.