This making-of was originally divided into a few posts, but I decided to merge them into one, for better reading experience. Warning! Lots of pictures inside ;)

I have quite a few materials left from Cinders’ development process and I thought it would be nice to talk about some of them. First things first:

The Menu!

The whole concept of the menu was that it was supposed to be heavily stylised, inspired by secession and art-deco themes, drawn in just a few colours. This was going to be the general scheme for the whole game, linking all the GUI elements together. Like a layout for a book that you can easily tell apart from the others. Something we can use for more than one fairytale, making it a part of consistent series. And I think we succeeded. Think of XIXth and early XXth Century posters for plays and films. It was always a stylised illustration that became iconic, not the visuals of the movie / play itself. Just take a look:

And a better example, something closer to what we aimed for, a 1917 Cleopatra. It’s the stylised poster everyone remembers today, not the cinematography, no matter how stunning it was.

The film (costumes, actors) looks great even today, but that’s just it. It does what is expected of it and it does it well. And this was the outlook I had on the whole game. We’re doing a fairytale, so we need storybook illustrations inside of it. But it’s not what has to be the most distinctive – that’s the role of the cover. Today’s film posters live a very short life because they use simple promotional photos. It’s very rare you remember them after a while. There are exceptions of course, more artistic posters, and those are the ones everyone knows. Try to recall some of the latest blockbuster posters – it’s hard. But think of films like: Metropolis, The Silence of the Lambs, Clockwork Orange, Jurassic Park, Kill Bill, Jaws, The Godfather..

We all know them, even if we didn’t actually see the movies, because they are illustrations. Not the modern “paste as many people as you can and make them look epic” kind of posters. They’re not using bits of the films, but create a stylised image that encapsulates the film’s mood and message. That’s what we wanted to have in Cinders’ menu. On a side note – the main reason I’m a big Quentin Tarantino fan is exactly because how consistent and stylised his work is. Even the posters are always original and illustrative. But I digress.

The main inspiration for Cinders’ Menu..

was this poster. Emile Bertrand’s 1899 lithograph for the Massenet’s opera “Cendrillon,” featuring the Fairy Godmother. It might not show at first (and it’s good, otherwise it would be plagiarism ;)), but we fell in love with how well it shows the character and how those flowing lines work to make it dynamic. So we thought: “Hey, let’s make something similar, only animated.” And this is how Cinders’ menu, with the animated water, moon and clouds, was born :)

The amount of effects and layers used actually almost killed the idea. We wanted the game to work on all computers, even netbooks, and it turned out that putting so many animated details and large sprites really puts a strain on the low-end video cards. Luckily, Tom managed to find the right balance.

As to why it’s in purple / orange shades, that’s a whole other topic. The short answer is – I’m no fan of the colour blue. Sadly, it worked well at first (it’s a night scene), so I tried very hard to find something else that looks even better. Not a very good reason, perhaps, but I’m allowed some extravagances once in a while, right?

Okay, I’m done with all the babbling, time to look at some sketches!

This is the very first (and extremely sloppy) sketch done for the menu. It shows the general composition and how it fits the smallest resolution we support. Next ones are more developed variants, with and without trophies. I was very insistent on having them shown directly in the game’s menu. I think it’s the best way to show the player their progress. And it’s just a fun feature too.

The colourful brackets are the frames of all the different resolutions we support, how they crop the image. I used them for every location, to make sure that even netbook players won’t miss the most important details of the scene. Below you can see the final sketch for the menu, mostly polished and with some of the trophies visible. This is what Tom got and had to turn into the animated storybook cover you see in the final game.

And that’s all for now. Next to come: locations & characters :)

The Godmothers

Okay, I’ll try to avoid the obvious bits about duality, different moral choices, the Godmothers representing two views on life et cetera. I’m sure everybody knows how it works. But why did we choose to have two instead of one in the first place? Well, that’s another topic. We thought that if there would be a real Cinderella, who survived on her own for so long without any help, she surely would know better than to accept the help from otherworldly beings that promise good things and want nothing in return. Sounds suspicious, doesn’t it? That’s how Madame Ghede was born. A “Godmother” with her own interests and goals. Mysterious, yes, but also very rational and with a no-bullshit attitude. Once we had that idea it was very easy to develop a full character.

Madame Ghede

It’s rather obvious what was my idea for her. A Southern American, smart, black lady. Often misunderstood for what she looks like and what she represents. A Creole to simplify it, although I am aware that the term has several different meanings. One of them (from what I studied, as I’m obviously not American) refers to people of African descent born in Louisiana and this was my inspiration. This, and the whole differentiating between Hoodoo and Voodoo. As you can see there were 3 main variants we were choosing from. The first one is the closest to this idea (in terms of clothing and style), the second was a quick change of mind, when I thought maybe it would be better to go with a generic witch instead, and the third variant is what we all liked most. Something in between. And a more fantasy, over-the-top variant of the two. It suits her well. Back then (early 2011), I was very inspired by images and legends of Catrina, Baron Samedi and similar themes, hence skeleton paintings on her body. Her name is an obvious reference to Guédé. To quote Wikipedia: In Haitian Vodou, the Guédé (also spelled Gede or Ghede, pronounced [ɡede] in Haitian Creole) are the family of Loa that embody the powers of death and fertility.

The Fairy

For some reason, working on the Fairy was actually harder. As you can see, I had quite a few different ideas and not one of them I wanted to be close to the usual concept. One was a sort-of Hindu goddess, a creature that looked more like a monument than an actual person. The middle sketch shows a fairy equivalent of Ghede, a dark-skinned, tribal spirit. As much as I liked the concept, I thought it was too much out of place with everything else. The third one is also interesting, but not enough fairy-like to my taste. She looks like some sort of elvish royalty. Not the kind of thing I was aiming for. And it also didn’t go well with anything else we had in game. And then I sketched this:

I merged some of the previous ideas and mixed them with the more traditional image of the Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. This approach ensured she isn’t out of place style-wise, but she still manages to be otherworldly, one of the Spirit Folk. That is, of course, after some final touch-ups, because – as you can see – I kind of lost her in the middle, and she started to look like an elf again. I’m pretty happy with the final image now. An inspiration for this change was the work of our two writers, Hubert and Agnieszka, who joined us earlier this year. It was because of them that our Fairy got some real character and attitude at last. She was no longer a bland fay, but became a Shakespearian sort of Fairy – dangerous and demanding a high price for every single gift she offers.

That’s all for now. Next to come: locations and main characters!

Locations!

Some turned out well, some turned out okay, and some I just can’t stand. Let’s see :)

Some of the first ones

Cemetery is one of my favourite locations in the game. It’s one of those that just “clicked” with me very quickly and painting it was a lot of fun. Except for the bloody fence. It looks ridiculous, but it’s too late to get rid of it now. The Town is just the opposite. Architecture is not my strong point and remains my biggest complex and flaw. That’s why I’m both proud and unhappy with how it turned out. It has a lot of mistakes, but in the end it also has a nice mood to it. It works well as a background, so it serves its purpose, and that’s most important thing. The Crossroads (the bottom one) is actually a mix of two locations. As you can see on the WIP, the first plan was almost done at that point. That’s because it was the first location sketched for the game. But the second plan – back then – was just some random forest. Later, it turned out we need a place where you can see the whole game’s world in a way – the forest, the different paths, the palace, the town. So what you see here is a re-painting of the old piece and the final location that made it into the game.

Some of the last ones

Most of the last locations were a bit rushed. Back then, we thought the game is going to be released much earlier, before we ran into some problems. So what you see on the left are the quickest thumbnails, done so they can be put in the game quickly, and just wait for the final polish phase. That’s why they don’t really look how I wanted them to look in the first place. They still worked ok, though. After all, it turned out I did have enough time to polish them with some eye-candy details :). I dare to say the Garden is one of the prettiest, but also a bit of a screw-up on my part. It looks a bit out of place compared to the rest, at least in my opinion. This is because it was the last location painted for the game, a few months after the rest was done. At that moment, I was focusing on some more realistic pieces and it shows in this one too. I had so much fun painting the background bushes and foliage – very happy with the results – and I forgot it should suit the more stylised look of Cinders. It’s not a big problem, as this location was going to be used only in its night version anyway, but I’d still prefer if it didn’t look that realistic. Funny how I thought earlier that such quality shouldn’t ever be a flaw ;)

Main characters!

This is the last post about the making of Cinders. It was supposed to be the first one, but I thought if I’m going to reveal Cinders’ ball dresses it might be better to wait a bit. So, just in case, this post obviously contains spoilers.

Cinders

The main character, so she was the first one I sketched. We didn’t like the usual image of Cinderella – a girl who is undecided, has no personality whatsoever, and lets everyone else act for her. That’s why the first thing that had to go was the image o a blonde lady in a pale, pastel dress, the one you saw in Disney films. I wanted our Cinders to be a redhead with more attitude. You can still be a good girl playing her, but this is a woman who’s learned how to survive for many years. There’s just no way she can be as naive and bland as she’s usually pictured. Well, that’s our opinion at least.

To make it even more noticeable, we decided she needs to have two ball dresses to choose from (indirectly – it depends on her actions). One that is more traditional, fairy-like, and innocent. The second suiting a manipulative seductress she can become (or just a more pragmatic girl who doesn’t believe in magic).

This is the only place where you can see Cinders without her Ball Mask, actually :)

 

Stepsisters and Stepmother

As you can see above – it’s Gloria, our lovely stepsister. She’s changed quite a bit since the first sketch. At first, she was a more sexy and self-confident variant of her sister, Sophia. Their dresses were similar in colours and style. Her name – Gloria – was supposed to be a joke on her being not that adorable, while Sophia’s was supposed to be a pun on her being not that smart. But we thought this is too one-sided, just like in the original fairytale. The ugly, stupid stepsisters and a naive, but pretty Cinderella. All ruled by a vicious and evil Stepmother. Real life isn’t that simple.

So we thought – what would be the reason for them all to become the clichés we all know? And this is how Gloria – the daughter trying to mimic her strong Mother, the only role-model she ever knew – came to life. She can be a stereotypical, angry, and spiteful stepsister we all know, if you choose to act like that’s what she is. But if you’ll give her a chance, you’ll learn much more about her qualities and backstory.

Same goes for Sophia. She’s not just a more shy and stupid version of her sister, she has a very unique character. A vile, cynical creature – yes – but also a vulnerable girl, who has been broken by her mother’s lack of trust in her qualities and favouring Gloria over her. Even her general style – different dress, different attitude, and view on most things – reflects how hard she’s trying to distance herself from the rest of her loving family. Of course, it is your choice if you want to learn that during your playthrough or not.

This is the screenshot that sums it up well, I think. Sophia, who’s always using cynicism as her defence, Gloria trying to be like Carmosa, even dressing like her, and Carmosa – a strong woman, able to change her loyalties if it suits her long-term goals. Our Stepmother also has quite a few shades of grey to her. You can see her as a cliché – vicious, evil woman who’s trying to make Cinders’ life a living hell. But you can try to befriend her and earn her respect. You will learn a lot about what made her who she is now, and maybe you’ll actually grow to like her?

As a bonus – sisters’ ball dresses. Even here you can see their different attitudes. Gloria is a young version of Lady Carmosa, trying to play her cards like her Mother has taught her – showing off her physical qualities mostly. Sophia’s dress is much different. She doesn’t care about the whole royal affair, nor feels particularly attractive and her visual style tries to reflects that.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed those series. The next making-of might come soon, but it will be about a different game. Our new project :)