Behind the Curtain: The Making of Sable Maze – Forbidden Garden

Posted by Conor Murphy on July 23, 2014 in Game Art, Game Development -- Share:

Daily Magic Productions, creators of the Dark Dimensions series, is constantly striving to prove that they’re not a one trick pony. The studio’s other franchise, Sable Maze, is back for its third outing, and this time, the game has taken a decidedly fantastic turn. But how did Daily Magic arrive at such an idea? I sat down with them to get the whole story!

As work on Sable Maze: Norwich Caves was winding up, Daily Magic was trying to find their next game idea. One of the artists brought in a poster of a classic Alphonse Mucha for inspiration. That same week, several team members started to notice items had gone missing from around the office. They were all small, inconsequential trinkets, supplies, or junk… but the sheer number of missing items started to bewilder employees. Even more alarming was that their entire stock of office cookies mysteriously dwindled within two days! Several of the artists also began to find small piles of a strange sparkling dust lying around desks and windows. It wasn’t long before a new friend, and the inspiration behind Sable Maze 3, made herself known.

You see, one of Daily Magic’s producers was surprised to learn that she had her very own fairy godmother! Sensing the frustration caused by the creative block in the office, the fairy godmother, Gryzelda, had come to sprinkle a little of her fairy dust on the team. But fairies also like to cause mischief, and no fairy can resist a good cookie. Once caught, Gryzelda agreed to help Daily Magic create Sable Maze 3… if she could be part of the game. And so, Sable Maze 3 would take place in the fairy world, and Gryzelda would be the inspiration for all the fairies in the game.

On Gryzelda’s advice, a strong art nouveau style was adopted for the game. Because of the timing between the addition of the poster and the arrival of the fairy, Alphonse Mucha’s art became the key visual inspiration for the game world. On top of inspiration, there were several things that Daily Magic wanted for their newest game. They set out to create striking, fantastic visuals unlike anything in their portfolio and to show a strong transition between a “real world” and a fantasy world within the game. That contrast between worlds was an important concept for Daily Magic in creating Sable Maze 3, and they wanted to reflect that contrast in the narrative as well. The motivations of the antagonists had to be written in a more interesting way. Instead of a definite “bad-guy,” the team felt it was important to show a relatable mixture of emotions and reasoning for the villain’s actions. This also meant crafting a story where the plot could be more open, allowing for twists and turns to engage the player. With the world finally decided on, and the artists ready to begin their work, Daily Magic’s journey to the fairy world could finally begin.

With every game, team members gain new skills and knowledge and improve their ability to create breathtaking experiences. This time, every member of the Daily Magic team learned a little something. The artists are now fluent in the art nouveau style. The designers learned a lot about combinable objects and implemented them for the first time ever in a Daily Magic game. You may remember the well-loved cat helper from Ominous Objects: Family Portrait… What you might not know is that Sable Maze 3 was actually the first Daily Magic game to integrate an animal companion. This meant the designers spent a lot of time coming up with interesting and exciting ways to use the new little helper.

Opening the game with a plane ride pushed the animators to discover new ways of using their tools to create awesome effects. Everyone liked this animation so much that the team added another flight later in the game! This also led to more passion from the animators and artists when creating the characters – they especially hope that players will remember Queen Mab after playing. The same passion went into the myriad of furry creatures that inhabit the world of Sable Maze 3. The team loved them all so much that they decided to add a bestiary to the game so that players can enjoy the, too.

Of course, making games is no easy task. Even with all things learned, some aspects of development don’t always go as planned. Sable Maze 3 went through many changes and adjustments to become what it is today, and every change made the game better. The game was created through what Daily Magic calls “collective intelligence,” meaning that the whole team was pushed to give insight and opinions on the core design. Every animator, programmer, and artist had input, and that resulted in a much stronger game. Sometimes, it even allowed animators to put a little bit of themselves in the game… literally!

Daily Magic Productions takes a lot of pride in this installment of Sable Maze, and sincerely hopes that players can see all the hard work and heart that went into crafting the game. Even though they had a little bit of help from their magical friend, each team member really poured himself or herself into the project. Their parting words for the audience were a hearty “Thank you for playing!”

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Conor is a Marketing Manager with Big Fish, working out of the Seattle office. In his spare time he enjoys watching science documentaries and playing old school adventure games. Get in touch with him on Twitter! or Google+

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