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Video Game / WolfQuest

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WolfQuest is an educational computer game created by the Minnesota Zoo and Eduweb, designed to raise awareness about wolves. It is the first video game to have received a grant from the National Science Foundation.

In this game you play the life of a wild wolf in Yellowstone, from finding a mate and establishing your own territory, to raising your own pups. Along the way you are free to hunt (including on a cattle ranch outside the park if you're willing to risk it), interact with other wolves, and encounter other animals such as coyotes and bears. There is also a multiplayer option where players can connect to create their own pack.

The game was originally envisioned to be four "episodes" long, with each one covering a different season and a different stage in a wolf's life. Episode 1, "Amethyst Mountain" (the fall season, which focused on finding a mate) saw its first release in December 2007. Despite funding issues along the way - the game had grown far bigger than its original scope - the game got its second episode, "Slough Creek" (aka "Survival of the Pack"), two years later, on January 1, 2010. This was the summer episode, focusing on a series of missions where you and your mate establish a den site and raise pups. Its "deluxe" version added weather and time - the winning suggestion in a contest - and was released in fall 2011. This was intended to be the "final" version of the game, since everything was about as complete as it could be and there was not enough funding for a third episode; the game had already outlived expectations by several years. This version, now known as "WolfQuest 2.5", remains free on the WolfQuest website.


WolfQuest 2.7 was released in November 2015 - the name was chosen because it doesn't include a 3rd episode, so "WolfQuest 3" isn't entirely accurate, but the changes make it distinct from 2.5. It was originally meant to just be a tablet port of the game with some bug fixes; however, with the unexpectedly large amount of interest in a tablet version, the massive number of improvements in the game, and additions such as a graphics overhaul, new map, and account/achievement system, it was decided that it would be released on PC and Mac as well. The game has since been released on Steam, iOS, Android, and the Kindle store.

The third major revamp of the game, "WolfQuest 3" (also called "Anniversary Edition"), is in fact a full remake of the game rebuilt from scratch, with an entirely new codebase and AI, updated gameplay, graphics and mechanics, and bigger, re-made maps. While there is no specific projected date, they hope to have Amethyst Mountain in early access late 2019, and Slough Creek some unspecified time after. Future purchasable DLC, such as the third episode, "Tower Fall", will be based upon this edition of the game.


Wolfquest contains examples of:

  • Always Over the Shoulder: The main camera setting.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Prior to the release of Slough Creek, your mate was pretty much useless. All it would do was follow you around, and run in circles.
  • Ascended Meme:
    • A fan-nickname for a particular dead tree in the game - the one on the far bottom-right of the Amethyst Mountain map, surrounded by a forest of live trees - was the "Moontree". The Lost River map acknowledges this by having a movie poster on the cinema advertising a movie called "The Moon Moon Tree", combining both the WolfQuest community's meme and the more widespread Moon Moon meme, and showing a wolf near a dead tree.
    • Similarly, a movie poster with a bear and the words "Bob's Angry" was added later on, in reference to players frequently nicknaming the grizzly bear "Bob".
  • Autosave: Added in 2.7.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Bears are dangerous and can kill you in about three or four hits, but at least as of 2.7 there’s a 20% chance of scaring them off each time you bite them.
  • Beating A Dead Player: In older versions of the game, bears would continue to attack your wolf once they killed him.
  • Brick Joke: In 2008, when someone asked on the forum if there'd be any other animal games in the style of WolfQuest, WQ Project Coordinator Michelle joked that the team thought "SlothQuest" could have some exciting gameplay. In 2015, the Lost River map was released, and in the abandoned town you can find some defunct arcade games named SlothQuest.
  • Blog: A new video is posted every Thursday showing what the developers have been working on.
  • Camera Lock-On:
    • You can lock onto anything you can bite, whether prey or predators.
    • A full-screen lock-on occurs when your pups are in danger from a specific predator - can be skipped by the player.
  • Camera Screw: Can happen sometimes, but 2.7 improves it a lot.
  • Character Customization: You design your wolf by picking from five pelt colors and moving the sliders to adjust the hue, and you also choose how to balance your wolf's strength, stamina, and speed. 2.7 adds seven new howls to choose from, ten new pelt colors, and some options such as scars, notched ears, and walking with a limp. Like everything else, Wolfquest 3 refines this system further, with the existing pelts upgraded, more new pelt options, a slider for eye color, and the upgraded graphics allowing you to make absolutely beautiful wolves.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: To portray the way a wolf can scent things, we have "Scent View": the screen is grayscale (or not, with older or integrated graphics cards) with a different color for each type of scent: Purple/pink for elk (with a more reddish tint for the bull elk), green for coyotes and wolf pups, yellow for wolf territory markers, blue for bears, and orange for hares. The Anniversary Edition will have a much more polished and better implemented version of this system that includes such things as the wind blowing the scent particles around.
  • Context-Sensitive Button: Depending on what you're locked on to, the space bar can be used to either attack another animal, eat from a carcass, or pick up/put down pups.
  • Death from Above: The golden eagle is an unusual enemy in that it flies, and therefore is unable to be chased away before it dives down to scoop up one of your pups.
  • Death of a Child: Your pups are definitely vulnerable and can be permanently killed by starvation, predator attacks, and even you.
  • Drop-In-Drop-Out Multiplayer: As long as the player who started the pack doesn't leave.
  • Escort Mission: The final one - taking your pups to the rendezvous point.
  • Experience Points: Earned by killing things, interacting with enemy wolves, and marking territory. Earns you things such as a bonus den choice, one of your pups being pure white, and the ability to name your pups. As of 2.7 it is required as part of the game itself: a certain number are needed in order for dispersals to start appearing in Amethyst Mountain.
  • Fast-Forward Mechanic: You have the option to make your wolf sleep until a different time of day.
  • Free Rotating Camera: You have the option of rotating the camera if you wish.
  • Freeware Game: The 2.5 version of the game remains free (though the text chat of 2.5 has been killed off due to an agreement with the Minnesota Zoo, leaving only phrased-chat and no-chat options.)
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • The early versions of Amethyst Mountain, before Amethyst Mountain Deluxe was released, had some of these:
      • The infamous "Circles" glitch in Multiplayer happened frequently: all players' wolves would suddenly stop moving properly - they would either walk slowly in a perfectly straight line (unable to turn), or run in circles. The only way to fix this was leaving the Multiplayer game.
      • One patch caused wolves to get stuck in the elk-biting position, standing on their hind legs and losing their stamina, making it hard to move and impossible to eat or do anything else.
      • Another patch mixed up the pelt colors and names of the wolves in various save files if there was more than one save file on the same computer.
    • A common complaint about the Lost River map is how easy it is to get stuck in literally any set of stairs. The only way to escape a stairway once you're stuck in it is to reload the game.
  • Game Hunting Mechanic:
    • Naturally important for a game about wolves. You must also protect your kills from bears, and other thieves.
    • Anniversary Edition vastly improves this mechanic. Elk are tougher, so no longer will you be able to ludicrously kill an entire elk herd yourself. It will be a little difficult to take down large prey yourself, so you will favor smaller prey (rabbits, fawns, beavers, etc.) and carrion at least until you find a mate to help you. When you do try hunting an elk or other large animal, you will be given more choices where to bite the animal. The animal may fight back, or if female, defend its young. When you do make a large kill you will not be able to eat almost the entire thing at once like in the old game, so the reward for the effort lasts longer if you successfully defend the kill. Coyotes have improved Al, so they will now hang around near the kill, harass your wolf and try to steal chucks of meat. Bears, mountain lions, and ravens, are also still potential thieves. New animals to hunt are being added; mule deer, beavers, and some others. Bighorn sheep are intended to be added as free DLC later sometime after the game becomes available for early access. Bison are being omitted for now, but are in the wishlist to be added in a later episode along with other animals.
  • Ghost Town: A major feature of the Lost River map.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Anniversary Edition will include a (mercifully optional) "Ironwolf" mode, in which all saving is disabled and the game ends when your wolf dies.
  • Howling to the Night and Wolves Always Howl at the Moon: Originally inverted - before Slough Creek Deluxe came out and the entire game was just "daytime", players could make their wolf howl at any time, except the nighttime cattle ranch mission. Now that we have different times, players can howl at whatever time of day they want, including night.
  • HUD: Contains your wolf's four meters (Life Meter, Stamina Meter, Pack Affinity Meter, and Territory Security Meter), your mate and pups' Life Meters, how much food you are carrying for your pups, and a compass that also shows wind direction and the location of nearby wolf territories and elk hunting grounds.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: A wolf can be near death, but eating a good quarter of an elk or so brings it back to good health in a matter of seconds.
  • Idle Animation: Your wolf will eventually sit down and... lick. Your wolf's mate always remains standing when idle, but will occasionally wag its tail. Pups may bow down in the "let's play" posture, among other things.
  • Instant Death Bullet: All it takes is one gunshot in the cattle ranch to instantly kill your wolf.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: When your wolf sleeps, you can plan what time to wake up in. This is mostly just an aesthetic thing, though elk won't detect you as easily at dawn or dusk.
  • Invisible Wall: The edges of the map are bounded by these, and there's some extra ones blocking you from places you might get stuck.
  • Life Simulation Game: WolfQuest is one of the most influential examples. Many animal sims take inspiration from it. It is also one of the most popular animal sim games because it used to be freeware.
  • Microtransactions: Due to 2.7 and later versions being made without grant money, they're relying on money from the game's sales.
    • While the PC version contains the full game of 2.7 (Amethyst Mountain, Slough Creek, Lost River, all customizations, and multiplayer) for one price, the mobile/tablet version gives the demo for free and offers two microtransactions ("pelt options", which includes all customizations beyond the default 5 pelts, and "full game", which includes Slough Creek, Lost River, and multiplayer.) The total of the two microtransactions comes out close to (slightly less than) the PC game's purchase price.
    • Future updates, such as "Tower Fall", will also be individual paid DLC for both mobile and PC versions of the game.
  • Mighty Roar: Bears.
  • Mook Bouncer: Enter the southern territory when trying to bring your pups to the summer rendezvous point, and one of their pack's wolves will run up to you and you'll be teleported outside their territory, usually a considerable distance toward the direction opposite the one you're trying to go. As of 2.7, stranger wolves now run up and "greet" you at their territory border should you cross it. This merely results in your wolf taking a few steps back and being warned to return to your pups before any stranger wolves get at them.
  • New Game+: Experience points allow you to unlock special abilities and things such as the ability to name your pups, how efficiently you mark your territory, a secret 4th den, and a "white" puppy (who, as of 2.7, is no longer pure white but instead just a noticeably lighter colour than its siblings). In 2.7, experience points are connected to individual wolves, not to save files, which means you can play through the single player campaign again and again with the same wolf, gaining more EXP for it each time you do. Rack up enough EXP for that wolf over time and you'll eventually unlock everything.
  • The Nose Knows: Scent View.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Unless your wolf has near-minimum strength, rabbits only take one bite to kill.
    • Being shot at the cattle ranch results in your wolf dropping dead instantly.
  • Power Up Motif: There is a little chime in Multiplayer when players successfully complete a Pack Rally to get a temporary strength bonus.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: While you can choose to be male or female, the only thing that this affects in-game is your wolf's size (males are larger than females) and which gender dispersal you need to find to be your mate. The gameplay itself is completely the same whether you choose male or female.
  • Respawn Point: In Multiplayer, it's a short distance away from where you died.
  • Save Point: Any time except when a stranger wolf is nearby (due to the fact that many glitches were caused by saving in or near a social arena).
  • Scenery Porn: Wolfquest 3 gives the entire game a much needed graphics upgrade. It looks like roaming in a photorealistic wilderness, with beautiful trees (actual accurate species, each even with varied models!), rivers, mountains, rocks, lush grass, and your beautiful wolf. The other animals also have updated models. Watching a video of the elk running as a herd is just awesome! The map also is huge now.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The game realistically portrays a wolf's life. The game areas (apart from Lost River) are based directly off real areas in Yellowstone - right down to small ponds and a dead lightning-struck tree. The packs - and pelt colors of wolves in those packs - are based on real-life Yellowstone packs (Druid Peak, Slough Creek, and Specimen Ridge in 2.5 and 2.7 which were packs that existed in 2004; Junction Butte, Lamar Canyon, and Mollie's Pack in WolfQuest 3, which were packs that lived in the same area for most of the 2010s.) The customization options added in 2.7 are also based on real-life packs (the Lamar Canyon pack and Blacktail Deer pack), while the "limpy" customization option comes from a real-life Yellowstone wolf nicknamed Limpy. The team consults with wolf biologists such as Dr. Dan MacNulty of Utah State University and Dr. David L. Mech, Senior Scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and one of the most famous wolf biologists in the field.
    • The ambient bird song in the game is all from birds native to Yellowstone.
    • For the Anniversary Edition:
      • The team made a trip to Yellowstone, partly just to make sure the species of plants used in-game are accurate. That's real dedication.
      • The pups have a simplified genetics system determining coat colors, which includes a smaller litter size of potentially extra disease resistant pups if both parents are black wolves. This is is to reflect that in real-life the gene that makes wolves black also is associated with more natural resistances to some diseases, and also to reflect the recent discovery that when two black wolves mate each pup sired has a chance of dying in the womb.
      • Interacting with other wolves (both hostile packs and potential mates) will involve using real wolf body language. This includes the typical wagging tails, snarling, and other well known behaviors, but also includes wolf body language most people are not familiar with, such as resting your chin on the other wolf's back as affection, or "airplane ears," which indicate uncertainty.
      • You may meet up to three dispersal wolves at the same time. It's not common knowledge sometimes multiple wolves (often siblings) will disperse from one pack and travel together for a time before each one eventually finds a mate or dies. Most people wrongly assume wolves always disperse alone.
      • In addition to wolves, the team researches the other animals that are in the game to insure the most realistic experience possible (while keeping in mind good gameplay.)
      • Mule deer stott correctly, appear alone or in much smaller groups than the elk, and have a larger flee distance to reflect that they are more skittish compared to elk. They were also chosen to be in the game instead of white-tailed deer because they are far more common in the Northern range, which is where the game takes place in. The team went so far as to research the exact distance in meters a wolf can get to mule deer before they start to flee, measured it out in game and programed it in. (Though, it turned out to be bad for gameplay, so the distance was shortened.)
      • The stars in the night sky are accurate instead of being random like in many other games.
      • For greater realism and immersion, the ambient bird song has been vastly expanded upon, and ambient sound has been added for other types of animals. One team member made a list of every species of bird living in Yellowstone with sound files for each one, and these were added to the game, with the frequency they occur depending on how rare the species of bird is in real life. As for the other species, in the distance, you can now hear male elk buggleing, coyote packs howling, and a type of squirrel chattering. You can also hear wind. The frequency any ambient sound occurs is being adjusted so it doesn't annoy the player, and you will also be able to turn this feature off if you want.
  • Spiritual Successor: WolfQuest is essentially the same concept as the old Abandonware DOS game Wolf modernized.
  • Skybox: Has different ones for each map's four times of day.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The golden eagle up to 2.5. No matter how many times you chase it away, it will come back. It's less frequent in 2.7.
  • Tuckerization: Many locations and buildings in Lost River are named after developers and beta testers. A full list can be found here.
  • Updated Re-release: 2.7 was this to 2.5, with updated graphics, a new map, an achievement/account system, tons of bugfixes, and some other updated features. 3.0 will also be this to 2.7, as it is an entire remake of the game: a new codebase (since the previous one was a decade old and had become pretty tangled over the years), new AI, remade/bigger maps for Amethyst Mountain and Slough Creek (updated to reflect real-life changes: the burned region in Amethyst Mountain is now a growing forest, and as the packs that appeared in the original game have since died out in real life, they've been replaced with more modern packs), and more.
  • Variable Mix: There's several different music tracks for just exploring and gameplay in general, but there are specific ones for hunting, interactions with stranger wolves, coming across coyotes, and being near angry bears.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • Aside from the predators you have to kill/chase off during the "Defend Your Pups" mission, it's up to you just how many animals you harass, injure, or kill in Yellowstone. This even extends to your own offspring.
    • Foxes don't attack you or your pups, nor do they steal from your kills or do anything else bad to you, and you can't eat them, note  but you may freely kill them for no reason.
  • Video Game Geography: Type 1, of the flat and rectangular variety. With Invisible Walls.
  • Video Game Objectives: Which include finding a mate, protecting your pups, and escorting them to the other side of the map, among other things.
  • Wild Wilderness: Well, it does take place in Yellowstone.


Example of: