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Responses by Daniel Isaksson, technical director; Thomas Oger, producer; and Paul Witherden, design director, North Kingdom.

Background: The purpose of this site was to announce the video game Den of Wolves during the Game Awards and to keep the community interested and involved during the game’s development. After landing on a typically polished website for the upcoming game, users are directed to a multiplayer experience where they can decrypt teasers from Den of Wolves. Users are encouraged to work together, sharing their discoveries and theories on channels such as Discord and reddit.

Design core: We wanted to eschew the established Hollywood “hacker aesthetics,” looking instead to real-life exploit tools as well as the demoscene. Our ambition was to imagine a tool created by a rogue individual and to embrace the accompanying constraints: we limited ourselves to the PETSCII character set and grid for the decryption puzzles; a single typeface, size and weight; and a restricted, stripped-down, harsh color palette.

Favorite details: Several members of the team had backgrounds in the demoscene and drew on that when it came to details throughout the experience. We had a lot of fun designing and writing ASCII art, snippets of text-based lore, PETSCII illustrations and the identity of the tool itself. It’s been gratifying to see the community enjoy these details and invest time in discovering them all.

Navigation structure: It was important for our client to retain a traditional landing page and navigation upfront so users wouldn’t feel thrown off. For the hacking tool, however, we wanted some friction in terms of user experience. We really thought of it as a tool—homemade by a standalone hacker—and that drove our thinking throughout. The juxtaposition between these two worlds effectively immersed users in the experience, encouraging and rewarding curiosity.

Technology: The website’s front end is a Next.js application built in TypeScript and hosted on Vercel. The content of the application is defined and published with the Sanity CMS. A lot of the visual effects on the site are rendered in WebGL but also a lot of CSS work. There’s also an implementation of an xterm terminal for you to play with. The back-end part of this application is a multiuser web-socket server used for grouping users in rooms and for matchmaking so that you will always have someone to play with.

The back end is built with a load-balanced, socket-centric container approach hosted in the cloud on Amazon Web Services. The back end is written in TypeScript. Sharing interfaces between front end and back end makes development both fast and reliable. The Colysues library is used for matchmaking and splitting users over multiple web-socket servers.

denofwolves.com

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