Sun 25 Oct 2009
High Res 2D is coming back to the adventure genre! And it doesn’t stop with the recently released Machinarium and The Whispered World haunting your senses with their beauty. The story continues with The Trader of Stories – a fresh new escapist fantasy world that extends beyond just the video game medium. It’s the work of yet another talented Polish adventure game developer (and draughtsman, and writer, and chemist) Marek Rudowski.
You can admire samples of Marek’s art on the game’s frequently updated blog, and even already try the long-polished demo (It’s in English of course). Nevertheless, don’t forget to read our interview as well.
Could you introduce yourself and other people who help you with the creation of The Trader of Stories?
My name is Marek Rudowski. This year I’ve obtained a doctor title in chemistry at the Wroclaw University. Some people are surprise when I say that I’m also a draughtsman, and of course others, that know me as an illustrator, are surprise when they find out that I’m a guy in a lab coat. These two, seemingly different disciplines, have one thing in common. In both imagination is the key to success. And the game “the Trader of Stories” is all about imagination. As a draughtsman I work as a freelancer. I specialize myself in comic books, but do not restrict myself to them. I also make illustrations for stories, design postcards or create logos and websites.
Although The Trader of Stories is my personal project there are other persons who share the responsibility for its creation. First of all there is my friend Maryen. The game The Trader of Stories is a part of a larger project, which I call Dreams of the Forest. I’ve been working on it for about 9 years and Maryen is my longest associate in creating it. She is also a chemist by profession and a great writer by hobby. She helped me with the creation of many characters, and although Myosotis was my idea, she was the one that gave her real life. Neesan, Coni, Adalbert, Bella and many other characters, who appeared or shall appear in the game, are of her design.
The second person, who helped me with creating my game is my brother Martin. He’s the one that showed me the possibilities of the Wintermute Engine (which I use to create the game). Some time ago we tried making a similar adventure game together but we weren’t properly prepared. He’s also a great draughtsman), but for this game he helps me with all the hard parts of programming. If there will be something in the game that makes you think: “I wonder how was that made?” – you can be sure that’s his idea.
There are also people who help me with testing the game. They’re: again my brother Martin, my Wife and my Friends. I also received some great feedback after releasing a demo in the Internet, which helped me a lot to improve the game.
What does the adventure game genre mean to you?
I’m a big fan of the adventure game genre. Or maybe I should say that I was, as some time ago I stopped playing such games. So it would be better if I would say that I’m a big fan of old-school adventure games. Together with my brother we used to play a lot of them (last time I counted there were about 50) and when I look back today one of the best things about them were the gorgeous 2D graphics. It’s hard to explain because 3D do not disturb me in other games (on the contrary) but somehow I think 2D graphic suits adventure games the best (there are of course some great 3D adventure games like Grim Fandango or Gabriel Knight 3 but I do wonder how would they look in the old-school 2D).
What kind of a story do you want to tell in your game? Is storytelling itself one of its central topics?
I think that storytelling is the core of adventure game genre. A good story is important for a lot of different kind of games but adventure games base on it. They are the closest thing to reading a book. I’m trying to make the storytelling part very important in my game. Of course there shall be also different puzzles to solve but I hope the story itself will attract the gamers.
The game The Trader of Stories tells a story which is a part of a bigger tale: the project Dreams of the Forest which I mentioned earlier. It is a sort of collection of stories, biographies, descriptions of landscapes, lots of sketches of a not existing, imaginary world. Together with Maryen we have written also a script for a comic book describing very important events occurring at the turn of two ages. The story of Myosotis, the main hero of the game The Trader of Stories, was part of that tale. Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish the comic book (I hope we will someday) but when I decided to create an adventure game and wondered about what should it be, the project Dreams of the Forest came to my mind instantly. The story told by the comic book was too complicated for the need of a game. There were too many characters in it and the story itself was too long. I decided then to use a story of a minor character, Myosotis. In the game we met her after a very dramatic event in her life which causes her to lose her memory. It’s very convenient because the described world is new for the players and they can learn about it together with the played character. The main goal of the game is to recover Myosotis memory. But will that bring peace to her heart? Shall it be worth all the time spend on journeys, all sacrifices made in progress? During her travels Myosotis will met different characters. Some of them more friendly then others. But who is really her ally and who would like her past to stay in secret? That is something that players have to discover.
You draw all the art by yourself. How did you develop your skill and style? Any comic book influences/fascinations?
All the art in the game was done by me and is pretty much hand made. I sketch all the locations and characters on paper. The colors, though, I add on my computer with the use of a tablet.
It’s hard for me to recall the beginning of my adventure with drawing as I can’t remember not drawing. Comic books always had a great influence on me. During the years I’ve spend with a pencil and a piece of paper I’ve tried different styles ranging from Marvel Universum superheroes through manga to French comic books. By now I feel myself best with the style I present in the game, which is a sort of a combination of all the styles mentioned above. I have my favorites authors but the list is too long (and growing every day) to mention them all.
In the game one can also find many books inspirations, like the Discworld by Terry Pratchett, The Book of New Sun by Gene Wolfe or Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin. I love fantasy books and I’m sure one can find more of them influencing the look of my game even without my knowledge.
What is your approach to creating the gameplay for The Trader of Stories?
To create The Trader of Stories game I have used the WinterMute engine. It’s a great tool for creating adventure games. I find new possibilities every time I start the program.
But first of all the gameplay is done on paper. I have a sketchbook which I try to keep close to me all the time. There I write down the ideas that come to my mind. More then half of it is now full of notes considering the elements of the game. I like to present the scenario with the use of different graphs and charts. In the end it resembles more a drawing then text. I like to think about this part of creation as sculpting. Adding details to the main plot and then more and more details to it is like removing the fragments of stones revealing the shape beneath.
When I have prepared enough material (it’s never really enough but you have to stop sometime) I start to draw the backgrounds and the characters needed for the location I work on. Then I put it all into WinterMute program and write the scripts for it.
If it goes for the gameplay itself first and foremost I would like the game to be dialog driven. For me dialogs are the most important part of an adventure game. There will also be different kinds of riddles but I did not want them to detract the player’s attention from other elements of the game.
Why did you decide to make an adventure game instead of presenting the same story as for example a comic book, an animated film, or even a written story with illustrations?
Mostly because I’m curious of new things. I’ve already made some comic books and I had a chance to illustrate a book. Creating an adventure game was a completely new area for me (I’m still waiting for an occasion to make an animated movie).
I decided to make an adventure game also because I always wanted to make a game. It was my childhood dream. When I was younger I’ve designed computer games on paper with the full knowledge that they will never be made into an actual game. But now it has become possible to do it and I’m very excited abou it. It’s a wonderful feeling to see your character move in the locations you designed and drew.
Finally, an adventure game gives me tools for presenting a story in a different way than comic books or books. Making a game is a difficult task but also a lot of fun.
What does being an indie developer mean to you?
Exactly what it is – independence. I can do whatever I want and whenever I want. But it also has it flaws. I’d like to try someday to work in a bigger commercial project. See how it is like to be working in a larger group of people. It would be a new experience.
Thanks for talking with us. We wish you success with the whole Dreams of The Forest project.
And may I remind everyone to try out the game’s demo.