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Rise up, werewolves! Throw off the shackles of a tyrannical military police state. Fight for your pack! Fight for your honor! Fight for your freedom! You are one of fifteen pups born in Haven, a government internment camp where werewolves are forced to live and work. Raised in this refuge since birth, you’ve never known the freedom of the wilds. You soon discover the elders have selected you for a mission that will put you directly into the cross-hairs of both the military and werewolf radicals alike! Werewolves: Haven Rising is a 300,000-word interactive novel by Jeffrey Dean. I sat down with Jeffrey to talk about his upcoming game and experiences writing interactive fiction. Werewolves: Haven Rising releases this Thursday, July 26th.
Tell me about the world Werewolves is set in.
Werewolves: Haven Rising takes place in an alternate timeline where knowledge of werewolf existence became commonplace after an outbreak of violence between two werewolf packs in a small US city. Thousands of innocent humans were killed, sparking a military intervention which all but wiped the werewolf species out. The game itself takes place in the ruins of New Haven, Connecticut, the site of the triumphant final victory of the US army over the retreating werewolf hordes. Walls were erected around the destroyed city and “Haven” became an official refuge for the few hundred werewolves who had abstained from the fighting. They’re kept there, isolated from humanity and watched over by a small military outpost.
These imprisoned werewolves were expected to die out over the following decades, but they proved resilient, making homes for themselves and starting new families. They raised a new generation who have never known freedom—learning, playing, and working within one of the few habitable neighborhoods left within the bounds of their small, decaying urban world. The reader plays the role of a young werewolf born and raised in captivity, coming of age as tensions grow between the wolves and their human captors.
This isn’t your first interactive game rodeo. What drew you to writing interactive fiction?
I grew up reading books from the classic Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy lines and other lesser-known series. Eventually I moved on—most gamebooks were written for a younger demographic—graduating to computer and tabletop roleplaying games. I didn’t return to the interactive fiction fold until 2013, when I discovered the new wave of gamebooks on smartphones and tablets. Unlike the games I’d played as a kid, many of these were written for adults and I was immediately hooked again. It was almost two decades later and it felt like I’d never left the genre.
Soon I was inspired enough to try my hand at gamebook development. I’d been writing short stories and blogging for years, but I’d never dedicated myself to composing a full length novel. My first gamebook, Westward Dystopia, took me a year and a half to write and design. I originally released it for Android after developing a basic engine to handle the branching text and combat dice rolls. The app was fairly well received, and I was encouraged to run a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book as a physical copy. The crowdfunding was successful and allowed me to release not only Westward Dystopia, but two additional gamebooks: Spire Ablaze and The Lords of Benaeron. Around the time I was writing Spire I got addicted to Choice of Games and decided to look into their author program. It took me another year to apply due to my Kickstarter obligations, but once Lords was published and sent out to my backers, I reached out to CoG with a few pitches. Guess which one they liked!
Do you have a favorite Choice of Games game or Hosted Games game?
You always remember your first. Choice of the Deathless grabbed me hard and didn’t let go until I’d played through it at least half a dozen times. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Metahuman, Inc here as well since it’s a very close second favorite.
What were the challenges for you, writing in ChoiceScript?
Honestly? The hardest thing for me was getting used to the house style. I was coming from a gamebook perspective rather than a more nuanced interactive fiction framework, and it took me a while to wrap my head around things like always needing to have at least three choices, intentionality, and all choices being more or less equally viable. In the old Fighting Fantasy books a wrong choice killed you dead. That’s a no-go here, of course.
Technically speaking, I have a background in computer science, so ChoiceScript itself didn’t prove too difficult for me to wrap my head around. I set myself up with Notepad++ and the ChoiceScript syntax highlighting plugin and I was good to go!
Werewolves is just shy of 300,000 words, which is quite an accomplishment. Can you talk a little about your writing process?
Whew, yeah, this thing is a beast in its own right—basically the length of three decent-size novels! My previous gamebook, The Lords of Benaeron, was 180,000 words and in paperback that sucker is fairly thick and dense. I’ve toyed around with the idea of printing out the code for Haven Rising just to flip through a ridiculous number of pages, but thus far I’ve managed to avoid the temptation. Narcissism doesn’t look good on me (or does it?)
Regarding the writing process, the pitch system here at CoG is fairly advanced, necessitating an in-depth outline before the writing starts, so I knew exactly where I was going from day one which is more than I can say about my previous books which always swept me along on the journey. At the risk of giving the standard ‘boring author’ answer here, my process is relatively straightforward: I make sure that I sit down at my laptop every day regardless of how I’m feeling and just write. No excuses. I’m a slow writer—I self-edit as I go, so I only average around 1 to 1.5k words a day—but I end up saving time after the fact by needing fewer revisions than the average author. I also do a lot of my writing in the middle of the night when there’s very little to distract me. There’s nothing quite like writing a werewolf battle scene in the dead of night with a full moon lighting the room.
Short answer, Bernard Pivot-style Questionnaire
Favorite color. Black.
Favorite word. Inveterate.
Profession other than your own you would like to attempt. Musician.
Profession you would never want to attempt. Call center.
Silver Bullet or An American Werewolf in London? An American Werewolf in London.