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As we redesign the game for WolfQuest 3: Anniversary Edition, one thing we’ve focused on is hunger. The game has always used a simplistic model for hunger, embedding it in the Health meter so eating is how you restore your health. There’s some truth in that, and it’s useful for simple, straightforward gameplay, but with WQ3, we are fundamentally rethinking how hunger manifests itself in the game. Some players have suggested adding a hunger meter, but we are very reluctant to add more meters, which add to the player’s cognitive load with diminishing returns.

We have three goals in mind:

  • Model real wolf hunger and behavioral patterns.
  • Discourage indiscriminate hunting and slaughter.
  • Make it easy to understand the current situation at a glance.

WolfQuest is all about representing real wolf behavior. There are strong stereotypes about wolves being voracious killers, always hungry and on the hunt.  But, in reality, wolves only hunt when hungry and after a big kill it might be a week or more before they need to hunt again. Prey seem to know that wolves are not always hungry and herds might graze peacefully quite close to wolves that are not in hunting mode.

So what is hunger? Like pain, it’s simply a signal from your body to your mind: “Hey, you need to do something about this!” So we want to model that in the game. But there are other physiological aspects of hunger and eating, for humans and even more so for wolves. After a big meal, wolves will lay about — for hours or even days — while they digest the food. They certainly do not get up and hunt again — both because they’re not hungry and because their body is instead spending energy on the hard work of digestion. And hunger is not really a linear progression: An hour after you eat, you still feel full, you don’t feel 90% full. Humans grow hungry again after 4-8 hours, while for wolves it’s more like two to five days. So hunger should affect your motivation to find food. We see this with wolves, who are lazy after a big meal, but after awhile, they become very energetic and keen to find more food. And then after many days without food, hunger will truly start to affect both energy and health.

While digesting, your energy will drop perhaps 40-50% — so you’ll still be able to move about and do things, but you won’t have enough energy to hunt elk or run long distances without a rest. The best thing to do is act like a real wolf and sleep it off.

So in WQ3, the energy (green) meter in our new health badge will reflect this situation: After you eat a big meal, it will actually shrink, because you simply have less energy available while digesting that food. After 24 hours, the meter will begin to grow again, taking another 24 hours or so to reach its maximum size. As the meter grows, your actual energy within that meter will also grow, indicating that your body is has the motivation and energy to hunt again.

We’re also redesigning how the Health meter works, to make it more realistic and less gamey…but that’s a topic for another day.

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