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Night in the Woods' snappy dialogue inspired by Twitter


The protagonist of side-scrolling adventure game Night in the Woods is a cat named Mae. Like the other characters in the game, Mae acts more human than feline, a 20-year-old college dropout that's coping with both her and her friends' gradual transitions to adulthood. After the PC, Mac and Linux game earned $209,375 on Kickstarter in November, developer Infinite Fall announced a PS4 version earlier this month, which was playable at E3.

Writer and art director Scott Benson's work to provide ambivalent quips and behaviors for Mae that complimented the cynical cat's inner dialogue was immediately apparent in the game's E3 demo. It started with Mae contemplating what news reports would sound like if she chose to burn her room down with her in it. After bounding down the stairs, Mae's mom called her to the kitchen to see if she would be home in time to watch an awful made-for-TV movie about a man that kidnapped his wife. There's an open chair, but Mae sits on the counter while the mother and daughter discuss the film's premise at length (providing players choose to keep the conversation going). The to-do list in Mae's diary then updates: "Watch misery porn with mom."

Benson, a seasoned animator and illustrator from Pittsburgh that is crafting Night in the Woods' story with his wife Bethany, admitted to Joystiq at E3 that drafting lines for a video game is new to him: "I've never written fiction or characters really before," as his previous animated shorts tended to be of the silent type. Benson had an interesting source of inspiration for his witty one-liners, then: Twitter. As he explained, the social media channel "has the same kind of cadence and kind of vague feelings" as Mae and friends display in Night in the Woods.

Gallery: Night in the Woods (E3 Horizon 2014) | 9 Photos

In the demo, Mae carelessly crossed telephone wires and strolled rooftops to meet her friend Gregg, who talked about finally getting out of the much-maligned Possum Springs. Gregg threw a lawn gnome off the roof, which seemingly lands on a car, making him feel better about his current state of affairs. The two characters then chow down on some donuts, and Gregg says his favorite part is the middle, because it is "nothing, surrounded by everything."

"It's about how this time of life is not fun," Benson said of Night in the Woods' story. "You're at the age where everyone older than you is telling you that you should be something and people younger than you no longer give a shit. It's a weird time." In other adventures, "everyone's saving the world constantly," but Infinite Fall's game highlights "the actual stuff that means something to you, the heartbreaks and the disappointments." As if the donut scene weren't on the nose enough about the reckless, youthful culture recreated in Night in the Woods, Mae and Gregg contemplate whether they're high while munching on the baked goods. These moments unfold within minutes, which makes the quick, snappy nature of Night in the Woods' full experience seem promising.

"It's great, because Twitter teaches you how to be concise and funny and how to be rhythmic in your writing, I think," Benson said. "You don't want to put up too much for people to read, you want them to be able to get through dialogue quickly but with character and nuance and all that." Without getting into too many details, "bad things start to go down" in Possum Springs, though the sinister parts of the game's overarching plot will have metaphorical relevance to the changes and indecisiveness of Mae and her friends. We'll learn how that pans out when Night in the Woods launches in 2015.

[Image: Infinite Fall]

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