Dissection of The Wolf Among Us Ep.

1 Faith
A story critique and analysis reverse engineered through game-play.
by David J. Tiegen

All opinions expressed are my own. I am not an employee of TellTale Inc., I did not work on the
series The Wolf Among Us, and I claim no ownership over those games and their intellectual
property.

Notes
This post mortem/critique/what-have-you was originally written for a general application
to TellTale Games in August 2014. You might have guessed that I haven’t heard from them yet,
so I thought it safe to show the world. I made some additional edits, but the bulk remains mainly
the same as it arrived to their eyes.
I’d like to add that this is written assuming the reader is familiar and has played through
the first episode of The Wolf Among Us. Those who haven’t might still find it informative, but I
suggest playing the game first.
- David J. Tiegen
September 5th, 2014

Well, it’s been more than few months now, so I’m going through one more sweep of
everything for release on the site and some choice relevant places on the net.
- D.J. T.
November 6th, 2014

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Preface
If you’re reading this, you’re probably HR at TellTale Games. I hope you don’t dismiss
this entirely and will deem it worthy of sight from the other hiring powers. I suggest a glance
through the majority, which describes what you already know, to see my critique near the end.
There you’ll find evidence of my skills and tastes when it comes to game design and writing.

What is this and why did you do it?
Think of this as a story-centric game design document sent from an alternate reality
where, after a game is made, a dev sits down to describe what they’ve made, how the story
works, how it could be improved in the next game and so on. I took the first episode of The Wolf
Among Us and used it to show that I can provide insight and support in game production.
Why: A week or two ago there was a title on your jobs page that I wanted. The
requirements sounded exactly like me, and I planned to apply the day afterward. That next day
the listed job was gone. The title was something like Production Assistant or Assistant Producer
or Assistant to the Assistant Producer. The person it described had a degree in writing, theatre
experience, able to proofread and critique scripts, game development experience, and so on. It
was who I am. Unwilling to let the opportunity go, I decided to send a general application
responding to the requirements and with this. I figured any applicant could claim they could
critique, proofread, and assist in game development. How many send proof?

Why do you want to work at TellTale?
This is something you’d save for the interview, but I thought I’d say a little something to
cement why I took the time to do this all for one job application.
The simple answer is that TellTale is a writer’s haven. You can look all over the game
industry and never find a game company that clearly cares so much about their stories, cares so
much about their writers, and cares so much about keeping it that way. I’m confident, given the
chance, that TellTale would provide an atmosphere to grow as a writer and a game developer and
would actually care.

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Table of Contents
Story Structure

5

Of the Episode

5

Of the Subplots

8

Pace

10

Conflict

11

Character

12

Bigby

12

Others

13

Critique

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Story Structure
The Story of the Episode
Diagrams showing the mechanics of each act’s structure are shown with additional info
below them.*The Hollywood three-act structure is considered below my initial analysis for
comparison.

Episode one’s inciting incident is between Bigby and the Woodsman. It comes close to
acting as book ends for the story as he’s confronted in the beginning, absent in the middle, and
confronted at the end. The central conflict between Bigby and the Woodsman is a mirror of all of
Fabletown’s (including Bigby’s) issues with the changes required for transitioning into the
mundy world, mainly repressing identity as a Fable and whether that’s possible, given all the
past history, the psychological issues, and glamours.
The first act is a traditional introduction. Establishing shots and an informative
conversation with Mr. Toad establish setting. The Woodsman completes a transition to
introducing conflict. A conversation with Faith adds Bigby’s relation to this conflict. The end of
this act establishes Bigby’s character, starting with Faith’s interview and expanding with Colin’s
further probing. Faith’s head closes the act by raising the stakes, and enabling the detective trope
to take its natural course.
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The first act doubles as a tutorial. The player first learns of the character forming
decisions, which puts the Player in contact with whether Bigby should enforce a more Fable-like
aggressive existence (plus fight mechanics) or help ease the transition (Faith and the
Woodsman). The second introduction shows the player they can affect story branching (Beauty
and Beast), and eventually this is confirmed in the second act (Prince or Toad?).

Act 2 turns the player from Act 1’s mainly linear play to exploring the world and its
mechanics. Faith’s crime scene transitions the game to a new style of exploratory play, which is
firmly grounded when the player can explore the many options in Crane’s office. Environmental
story-telling plays a main role in propelling this act. The Player can only progress through areas
by classic point-and-click play: examining objects, speaking to characters, and an occasional
item to deal with.
The second act’s turning point is the choice between Prince or Toad. In contrast with the
exploration, the time squeezed choice between Toad or Prince provides an added tension to
prevent this somewhat side quest feeling act from losing the momentum from the close of the
first act. Act one’s immediate tension/fights/chases/revelations are brought to the forefront
through the pursuit of the Tweedles and the impending second show-down with the Woodsman.

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Act 3 has a few book ends. We receive a reflection on right and wrong, first from Colin
and now from Snow. The long and hesitant goodbye at the end of this conversation will alarm
the player that something bad is going to happen to one or both of them soon.
The bar scene is a climax of tensions built up throughout the story. This parallels where
Bigby came to collect the Woodsman and ends up in a fight. The motif of lost identity and the
emerging identity of the wolf are hit upon and revealed for a tragic ending. This, strictly
speaking, is the end of the Bigby/Woodsman story in this episode.
Snow’s head, another book end, leaves the player with a significant image and
cliffhanger.
If the player doesn’t play the other episodes, this story starts with asking “Can Bigby save
Fabletown?” and answers with “No. Fabletown is integrally flawed.”

*The Three-act Structure
Though I culled the story into three acts according to my understanding of how the story
works on its own, it’s worthwhile to fit it in to the classic three-act structure model. It fits pretty
perfectly, which is probably evidence of the writers’ script writing background. Not a good or
bad thing, necessarily, but something to think about when trying to discern the difference
between writing a film versus writing a game.

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Subplots
Main Cast: Bigby, Snow, Faith, Woodsman, Murderer
Supporting Roles: Toad & TJ
Subplot characters: Holly, Colin, Tweedle D, Tweedle Dumb, Crane, The Magic Mirror,
Bufkin, Beauty, Beast, Grendel, Blue Beard, the Prince, The Doorman @ the Woodlands, The
Witching Well, The King
Of twenty or so characters introduced on screen, name-dropped, and insinuated, less than
half were needed to tell the story of the episode: Bigby (protagonist), Woodsman (antagonist),
Faith (victim/counter-point/distraction), Snow (side-kick), and the unknown murderer (plot).
With so many characters left over for the player to experience, it’s worth a look to see how the
story lays ground work for their future use and what story these side-characters tell on their own.
Toad and TJ compose the main subplot. They are some of Bigby’s only allies outside of
the Woodlands. Like Colin or Bufkin, the Toads offer a light heartedness not found in the
majority of Fabletown, where most new characters reveal major conflicts. They’re not without
problems, but Toad provides a lighter experience than the alcoholic and abusive Woodsman, the
suicidal Prince, or the violent Tweedles.
Holly: Besides a quick tease about her missing sister, Holly is a resentful citizen of Fabletown.
She’s mainly just a smart mouthed bartender in this episode. Colors Bigby as an enemy.
Colin: A tease about the Farm. Colors Bigby as a brute.
Tweedles: Plot devices. Raising tension. They also insinuate a mysterious third party involved in
the murders. A subplot that gets some light in this episode, but remains mainly a tease like the
others. Colors Bigby a hero.
Crane: A tease about his subplot with Bufkin and the missing wine, not much is given to the
main story at all by Crane’s initial appearance. Another dimension to Crane is developed by
Bigby’s supposed past anger with the man, but it doesn’t play too much of a role in the episode.
The Mirror: Mainly a prop if it weren’t for revealing that there are limits to what he can show
Bigby. Not strictly a subplot and more another thing to throw on the fantasy spectrum. The
Mirror introduces that magic behaves in its own logic. Colors Bigby as awkward.
Bufkin: He doesn’t serve much purpose other than some comedic relief and the ability to give
some hierarchal idea to Fabletown’s authorities. Like Toad or (sometimes) Woodsman, Bufkin is
another ally, but in the Woodlands.
Beauty & Beast: These guys are just thrown at the player willy nilly. They never show up again.
Don’t add to the story much, other than to introduce mechanics.

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Grendel: Like the Tweedles, he acts to raise the stakes in a situation. He also serves as another
lesson on the status of fables, so much that he almost can be claimed essential to the story, if you
weren’t willing to replace his outburst with another from the Woodsman or Bigby.
Blue Beard: Another tease at the hierarchy of Fabletown. A distracting name to put on the
suspect list.
The Prince: Like Grendel, the player learns a lot about the nature of Fabletown and the murder
from the Prince. Ultimately he serves as a statement about who Faith was, but he could have
easily replaced the Woodsman as yet another person lashing out due to his past.
Doorman: No apparent reason to have this guy here, other than to create a low-security
atmosphere or sew a plot device for something further down the line.
The Witching Well: Not strictly a character, but mentioned enough by some to be considered an
active participant on the sidelines of the story. Enough is said to replace it with the word noose
or the idea of the death sentence. It mainly acts to entice the player about more rules of the
fantasy setting.
The King: Another tease at the hierarchy of Fabletown.
All together, the number of characters introduced to the player is impressive. The effect
of these characters, to someone who plays the game like a short story instead of like a first
episode of a television series, will wonder why Beauty, Beast, Blue Beard, Crane and the Prince
were introduced at all. For someone experiencing this like a television episode, there is a ton to
entice many different kinds of tastes: Beauty/Beast (romance drama), Crane/Blue Beard
(political drama), Witching Well/Colin/Grendel/Holly/Mirror (fantasy), Tweedles (crime drama),
and the Prince (psych drama).
The number of possible subplots:
1. Holly’s missing sister.
2. Crane’s romantic interest.
3. Who do the Tweedles work for?
4. Why doesn’t Beast trust Beauty?
5. What’s Blue Beard up to?
6. What happened between Faith and the Prince?
7. What really goes on at the Farm and who’s getting sent there?
8. How do the Woodlands operate?
9. Where is the king?
10. Toad & TJ don’t own glamours.
11. Glamours in general.
12. How does magic shape the world?

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Pace
The image speaks for itself for the most part. Interesting how choices that branch the
story are evenly spaced. I assume the reason is to let the player forget they exist and grow
complacent, so when another is thrown on them they have to react from the gut. Item related
choices (i.e. Give money to Faith or save it for Holly? & reading or saving the prince’s letter),
act as just another element for the player to doubt and examine. It adds a nice touch to play in the
third act when it’s learned that the money triggered the inability to pay a kindness to Holly.

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Conflict
What drives Bigby through this story is a conflict of identity. The murder investigation
raises the stakes, but the same tensions are acknowledged by Faith’s murder as is Bigby’s fight
with the Woodsman. Identity is quickly shown as a major issue in Fabletown with the entry of
Toad, Glamours, the Woodsman, Faith and Bigby. The personal way this identifies to Bigby is
quickly displayed by how Faith reflects on how big and bad he is or isn’t, right after Bigby’s
fable form almost releases itself. As stated after this scene, many fables view Fabletown as a
second chance to move on from who they were. The rest of the game is examining how fables
have met this opportunity.
The story has a few similarities to popular tropes that should be mentioned.
The fables’ transition from a foreign land to the city parallels an immigrant narrative.
Like China Town or Little Italy, fables occupy their own ethnicity specific neighborhood. They
struggle or just aren’t helped by government assistance (both Mundy and Fabletown authorities),
they are poor, and are stuck in the past. The conflict comes from a clash of culture and the
challenge of conforming to or revolting from the new rules and customs of living in the mundy
world.
I’ll mention the obvious police procedural elements of the story for the sake of it. There
are plenty of shows to name for comparison from The Wire to Miami Vice. A common element,
so far true of the game as well, is that somehow every event that takes place is somehow linked
to the crime. Also we’ve got a crime stopping duo, not just an angry detective with a heart of
gold. The conflict in these stories draws a lot from noir, where the detective himself is battling an
inner demon while fighting some criminal, often where the criminals or victims have similarities
to the inner demon, forcing the protagonist to confront the personal issue. Bigby and the
Woodsman have the same problem in many ways.
Though it can be traced to the direct noir/procedural genre elements of the game, these in
themselves are part of the greater stories of class and society throughout the ages. Character
specific issues draw partially from substance abuse, economic disparity, resentment of the poor
or rich, criticizing authority, criticizing morality, corruption, and crime.
Lastly this story marks itself as a tragedy, where turning points of the stories are often
dramatic reveals of death. That both deaths happen off screen makes it a little of a Greek tragedy,
but the over-all motif of Bigby being a kind of Jekyll & Hyde leaves the conflict stemming from
the monsterish nature of fables.

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Character
Bigby is a case study of fables in general. We get his specific point-of-view throughout
most of the story, but he is also used as a frame to understand how other fables live.
Here is Bigby’s life defined through events in the story.

Bigby’s original components are based off his role (Sheriff), sociability (rough, but with
a soft spot or two), nature (glamour vs the wolf), a quirk (Huff N Puffs), and his bias (underdogs
like Toad and Faith). Though enough to continue with, that isn’t enough to answer the integral
question: “What does Bigby want?”
The game makes an honest attempt to let the player decide this, but the actions of Bigby,
in predetermined portions of the game answer this question too. Bigby is feared, and rather than
caring, Bigby is tired of the burden and effort it takes.
Colin introduces an element of guilt into Bigby’s character. Though tired, Bigby feels
partially responsible for Fabletown’s issues. There is probably a deliberate vague space left open
about Bigby deciding whether he can really help Fabletown or not, since this enables the player
to make that choice for him. But we can say that, at the least, Bigby wants to relieve himself of
guilt.
Crane reveals Bigby’s bias against the wealthy. Poor (lower middle class, at least)
himself, Bigby would like to see Blue Beard and Crane out of the Woodlands, but it’s not
something that especially drives him through the game.

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Bigby’s talk with the mirror displays an annoyance to speak like a fable, suggesting a part
of him wants to really move on and find stability in the Mundy world. At the very least, Bigby
finds his fable past embarrassing. Bigby is in denial of how much his own fable history shows.
When more of Bigby’s fable form emerges in the bar, Bigby shows his duplicity. If we’re
to read into the end as a conclusion on Bigby’s character, it shows Bigby is a fable who wants to
believe Fabletown has changed, and that he is doing the right thing. Enforcing glamours, looking
for acceptance from Faith, and attempting to control his own nature show a cowardice and
exhaustion to face the real flaws of Fabletown, which the game’s characters create a parade of.
Faith and Snow’s murder poke holes in Bigby’s denial and drive him to confront reality.

Other Character Development
Woodsman: The Woodsman is a bleeding heart, so he displays who he is early on in the
story. We don’t know what he wants, but the fight tells us he is haunted by his past, feels a
certain comradery with Bigby, is alcoholic, abusive, and confused. Fairly three-dimensional.
Later in the bar he feels guilty about his past crimes and what he did to Faith. In a moment of
confession the Woodsman reveals he wants to put the past behind him. It’s not an in-depth
character arc, but it counts for a lot since it’s doubled with the change it brings to Bigby.
Snow: Colin introduces Snow to the story, when pointing out that Bigby doesn’t act so
big and bad around her. She shows, first in Crane’s office and then in the taxi, that her first
priority is the well-being of the town. Like Bigby, she begins to question whether she is affecting
Fabletown in the right way. This brain before brawn philosophy creates conflict between her and
Bigby. It also creates her own denial about the violent nature of Fabletown’s issues. She is
effectively three-dimensional. She has a small arc, similar to Bigby’s, in which she goes from
exhausted to considering a new future for Fabletown.
Faith: Faith’s character is a central piece of the plot. Her character is defined by her
silence (ribbon), role (sex-worker/victim), class (lower), and sociability (secretive/guarded). The
game spends the second act trying to define who Faith is. She is fallen royalty, a runaway, the
donkey-skin girl, and so on. The story of Faith is mainly that of a princess becoming poor and
tragically dying, a symbol of Fabletown’s sickness. She is three-dimensional, yet is mainly a plot
device. She has a retrospective arc in the experience of the player, who slowly uncovers the
details of her life.

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Critique
I’ve peppered a fair amount of this thing with criticism and analysis. In addition to that,
below is my main criticism on how the story and mechanics of the game can be improved. Many
fans and reviewers have lauded the successful parts of the game, so I’ve skipped any positive
remarks to get closer to the constructive ones.
Structure
This story in its most fully realized form defines character arcs further and does more to
develop chronic tension in the second act.
The inciting incident sets up a story where the chronic tension comes from the long
lasting issues with Fabletown (Toad, Colin, and the Farm) and the acute tension comes from
Bigby’s guilt and identity issues (Colin & Faith). The Woodsman creates expectations that he’ll
play a central role in the rest of the story. These elements are knocked down by the turning point
of Faith’s death. There’s lots of good things that come from subverting your audience
expectations, but the second act does more than that.
The second act is bare of talk about the Woodsman and Bigby’s issues. The resounding
effect is a feeling that this act ignores anything that happened in the first act. This issue goes on
until the third act, which creates a fragmented feeling of narrative and player goals. This is
heightened by a confused definition of tension.
Faith’s murder becomes the acute tension and the chronic tension is fought for between a
motif of general conflict in Fabletown and Bigby’s personality (largely choice dependent).
Player choices impact development of the mystery plot, but chronic tension is left in a
murkier state. If one sees Fabletown’s dismay as the chronic tension, insisted by the first act,
then progression of the chronic tension is presented through investigating Toad and the Prince.
Their problems are mainly caused by setting and less about new issues emerging in the story of
Fabletown, so I’m comfortable in saying the Fabletown’s issues are not the chronic tension but
further stage dressing.
So, the whole of Fabletown’s problems are a background issue, but not the chronic
tension. Left with defending Bigby’s redemption from his past deeds (and some fear mongering)
as the only option, the game leaves everything a little too vague. Vaguery allows players to make
their own choices, but still the impact seems removed from the story itself. In the first act,
conversations with Colin and Faith directly discuss Bigby’s reputation and explore his guilt. In
the second, these issues are put in the hands of the player. Bigby is no longer interrogated, which
takes the audience one step further from feeling Bigby’s arc is part of the story. This makes the
player’s/Bigby’s choices feel less important. There is a withdrawal from the impact the ethical
choices make.

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Rather than hinge the main branching choice (Toad or Prince) on Bigby’s character, this
choice pivots on an unknown or, at best, a sense of limited time. Why not use this as a chance to
put the chronic tension back into the second act?
Instead, the second act gives peculiar moments of character development. One can
choose to harm or to be kind to Toad. The relative impact of these choices only goes so far as
impacting Toad and TJ. They do not seem to change the options available to the player or change
the direction of how the story moves on its own. If this is a story driven by Bigby, shouldn’t the
choices of Bigby also affect him and how he acts? If a player is more violent, shouldn’t
Fabletown grow sooner distrustful of Bigby? And shouldn’t Bigby then over-compensate or react
some way? The chronic tension is overly isolated. At the least, a continuing dialogue about
Bigby’s character should bridge the second act to the others. The first and third spend time
specifically on Bigby, while the second nearly avoids him.
In a way, there is a call and response for decisions regarding the acute tension. You make
decisions about the mystery and the mystery moves on. The chronic tension has no response.
You make decisions and they have a little impact, but do not end up playing out in any longer
way that changes Bigby or the story en masse. The long term products of character choices are
like props placed on stage for the player to appreciate, but not to be used by them: a missing
arm, a distrustful glance, a dead prince. These things you can kind of count up as points, but
points aren’t as enticing as integrally changing your character. More rewarding than a missing
arm is a future Bigby who has no peaceful dialogue options. Or who, though it might not change
the rest of the game, has a scene where he reveals that he sees a special fable psychologist
specifically for his outbursts.

POV
The second act focuses on Fabletown residents. The result is a game about Fabletown
instead of a game about Bigby. Of course it’s about both, but the order in which an audience sees
it can create issues such as the slight feeling of shift from the first to the third person perspective
in the second act. Not enough to confuse anyone, but it creates a noticeable disjointed feeling
from the stable point of view in act one. Like structure issues discussed above, some way of
pulling Bigby back into the second act’s center stage could prove a fine solution.

Choice
Reviews pointed out that player choices do not activate story branching, but I’d like to
say my own piece on it as well. The choices create a limited variation of minor moments one can
explore through another play through, but without changing the entirety of the game’s story.
There are three main choices that present an opportunity for branching in this episode:

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1. Beauty or Beast: A small story in itself, this choice makes it clear it is something
effecting the long term. So there is no branching in effect for the player in this
episode.
2. Toad or Prince: If choosing Toad first, the player misses Tweedle and the Prince dies.
This is an outcome that passively affects the rest of the story. It does not change
much. If choosing the Prince first, you do get to spend a little extra time with the
Prince. This also does not affect the rest of the story.
3. Woodsman or Tweedle: This, like Beauty or Beast, is a choice about the future of the
game and is not yet affecting the player’s experience. Both bank on growing the
player’s expectations for further episodes.
The branching here is pretty limited. I think there is some disappointment from what
TWD enabled versus what TWAU does. TWD had stakes on the choices that determined life and
death within a single episode and in the long run. TWAU has more subtle stakes in social status
and community reputation. The stakes for these choices are harder to figure out, yes, but should
still give the player a feeling of making important decisions that change Bigby and Fabletown in
a meaningful way.

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