Little Briar Rose uses a stained glass art style to create a charming fantasy mood for its fairytale world. Its story of princes and princesses, daring rescues, and magical creatures just seemed suited to this whimsical art style, according to its developers.
Siliconera reached out to Pierro Dotti and Fabiola Allegrone to learn more about how this art style came about, as well as the challenges that come with creating everything in the world out of shards of glass.
The stained-glass design really gives Little Briar Rose a unique look. What gave you the idea for this art style?
Little Briar Rose‘s art style is our interpretation of what an ancient fairy tale is: a story imbued with colors and sharp black lines.
This project was born for a contest with more than 700 challengers. As a first step, we decided what type of game and story we wanted to tell. Then, we wanted to make sure that the game had a unique look, so we aimed for something new. A stained glass window fits very well with a fairy tale, but we wanted to push that farther than the game’s intro. Creating a whole game in a stained glass style was an amazing challenge!
How did you design the characters and locations with this style? What thoughts went into conceiving a place or person made of shards of colored glass?
We had our idea in mind, but we had to do some research. A strong inspiration was Walt Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast intro, that shows a "fake" stained glass window and plays with lines to create nestled shapes.
We were aiming for a drawing style closer to comic pop culture. We decided to mix the art nouveau freedom of shapes with a French/Japanese drawing style. This is where Little Briar Rose moved away from traditional windows.
A big chunk of time was used for this, since it’s pretty difficult to define the style itself; it is a calibration between art and readability.
What is the process of creating a character or place in this style? How much work goes into creating them?
Contrary to what you would assume, creating images with this style does not take more effort than other toon-like art style. There are just a few things that have to be kept in mind: the meticulous segmentation of colored shards, and a constant variation of the color brightness due to the variation of light. The best way to connect the black lines is to connect all the sharp points with a line. Usually, stained glass windows rely on a fully connected net to avoid weak points. This gives a great amount of beautiful details.
However, creating characters takes a bit of time, since they are all animated with traditional techniques.
What drew you to retell a fairy tale story? How did you make it your own?
A few years ago we made a short, unreleased adventure game inspired by The Pied Piper of Hamelin. It was a pretty fun experience. Adapting a well-known story can give you a strong initial idea, giving you the freedom to re-invent the story and inspire the players. The more the story has been told, the more you want to give it a totally new interpretation. The game American McGee’s Alice is a strong example of this, with its dark, creepy, and psychological mood.
We started reading all the ancient versions of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, and we found them rather different from the collective imagination. The first 17th century version even talks about a rape.
We took the Brothers Grimm’s version, whose title is the one the game refers to: Little Briar Rose. This version is pretty short and absolutely un-heroic: many tried to save the princess, but only the luckiest arrived when the curse was almost over, got to save the princess without any effort. Thanks to this unexpected version, we decided to retell this story, keeping the peculiar un-heroic aspect of it!
You mention minigames and side games. What sorts of diversions are in the game for the players to enjoy?
There are different types of minigames, all of them blended within the storyline. The heroic Prince will be asked to help gnomes to design a building, tailor a fairy dress, trick a proud merman tribe, and more. Also, in each chapter, there are puzzle games to be solved in order to continue the adventure.
Why add those to a point & click game? What do the minigames add to the experience?
Minigames are a way to alternate and introduce new mechanics in the game. They add a bit of variety between one puzzle and the next, without moving away from the main game genre.
One of the most interesting inspiration is Machinarium, which makes extensive use of minigames and puzzles during the adventure. There is also The Curse of Monkey Island and its epic Banjo Challenge!
What challenges do you face when designing a point & click game? How do you design puzzles that make sense to the player, yet aren’t so easy that they solve them quickly?
Finding the right balance is the main focus when developing any kind of game. Designing point & click games requires a mix of storyboard and game design. You have to avoid to make things too simple, or the game gets boring very early.
What happens in most cases, though, is that you think you’re making a simple puzzle, just to find out that you’re the only one able to solve it! Our fun way to call this problem is: The D&D Master dilemma. In our case, we decided to keep a strong connection with the storyline, creating different types of puzzles that, if you pay attention to all the dialogues, are quite logical.
Most of the game is made of dialogue-based puzzles. This fits with our aim to create a game able to drive you inside the fairy tale world mood and share in the sense of wonder.
How do you work those puzzles into an old fairy tale story so that they make sense?
Since the original fairytale wasn’t really deep in explanation, there is no real difference between working on a fairytale or on an original story. Little Briar Rose is our personal interpretation of the fairytale. Only the basic elements are the same. A prince, a sleeping princess and a fantasy set. We were free to create whatever we need to.
We purposefully decided to keep the un-epic mood, creating an easygoing, often hilarious, fantasy world. Forget dragons or horned witches! The prince will have to handle other epic quests, such as… A loving date between a fairy and a goblin! Don’t underestimate the effort a prince has to put to win against a fairy whim.