Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Postmortem

Art by Kellan Jett
Cassady in WTWTLW
A screenshot of the Rocky Mountains from WTWTLW

What Went Right

1 Gathering a fantastic crew of incredibly talented writers from a variety of diverse backgrounds. This was one of the early “big ideas” of the game — that it would be interesting to attempt game narrative as an anthology work, asking a number of different people to each write a separate story, tied together only by theme and the fact that they exist in the same world. Of course writing teams are not a new thing for games, but attempting to present many separate narratives instead of one big central one is, to the best of my knowledge. And the talent of the individual writers was critical. I wanted this to be a game that stood mostly on the quality of its writing, and nearly every review of the game, except for the ones that were wrong, recognized and celebrated the incredible work of the character and vignette writers. I am also very happy that we managed to represent a huge amount of America’s diversity in the writing staff for the game, and I’m proud that we gave a number of new or unheard voices a place to tell their stories.

Dupree, written by Cara Ellison and voiced by Elizabeth Maxwell
A vignette about scary children, written by Bruno Dias
Dire Wolf, quoting the game’s title early on
Leaping forward
UI is the most important art

What Went Wrong

1 Lack of playtesting, especially closer to launch. The biggest complaint from reviewers after the game launched had to do with the pacing, particularly in the later parts of the game. The reason for this is simple: we didn’t play it much. While we had a full QA team, they were focused on finding functional problems. When all the systems were in place, it was very late in development, and playing through the game took 10–20 hours. If you make a 10–20 hour game, guess how long it takes to playtest? And so I only managed to do a few full playthroughs of the game near launch. I didn’t make time to send the game to friends and colleagues, either — it was changing so rapidly and I had so very much to do. As a result, I completely missed the fact that the slow pace, combined with collecting ALL the content on the first time through an area, combined with the fact that the game asks you to traverse areas multiple times in order to chase down all the characters, meant that the late part of the game could get dull and empty. This was exacerbated for reviewers because they often need to play the game fast, to hit a deadline. Additional playtesting might also have exposed the weaknesses in our tutorials, the repetition in certain content, and various UI and experience hiccups that I now feel should have been polished. Since launch, I’ve addressed many of these issues — the best playtesters, it turns out, are an army of disgruntled reviewers. (This is absolutely not true.)

Ray, written by Jolie Menzel
California’s Central Valley. Having a map to work from doesn’t mean you get to skip level design
How many games have the verb “Pierre”?
Probably it’s in the couch cushions
topical.jpg

A Dim Bulb Lighting the Way Forward

Now I’m going to get in to the reception of the game and my conclusions about what it means for me and the game industry as a whole.

Headed into New Mexico
Tell me about it

The End

That’s it! Thank you for reading this far, for engaging with the story behind this game, and for playing it. And thanks to all the supporters I and the game have had through the years of development, it has been a wonderful ride. Not one I’m sure I’d take again, offered the chance, but certainly an adventure.

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Johnnemann Nordhagen

Johnnemann Nordhagen

Johnnemann is a 19-year veteran of the game industry. He has worked across a variety of games, roles, and in AAA and indie spaces.