So it finally came to light. After eight months of really hard work our game is now available on Steam. My name is Lukasz Ratajczyk and I’m the art director of Selma and the Wisp, and I’d like to share some experience on game production with you.
It was november 2015 when we closed a big project in our company and everyone was really exhausted. It was a huge amount of applications for the museum in Warsaw. We thought it was a right time to do something else. For two weeks we were asking our boss for permission to start our first game project and then, Radek Zdunek - CEO of Toucan Systems - finally agreed. He designated four people for the project and this is how Toucan Studio was born.
It took few days to decide what kind of game would it be. First, we were thinking of a small mobile game inspired by “Badland” but after a few brainstorms, plenty of great ideas came to our minds, we realized that mobile game is not enough for us. Foutunately, we have number of creative teammates.
Selma and the Wisp is an action platformer game with some logic puzzles. Titled Selma is a little girl that felt asleep one night and had a terrible nightmare. Her mother read her a story about a Will-o'-the-wisp. Selma didn’t realize when she felt asleep. The only thing she remembers is waking up in her bed alone with a broken lava lamp. The Wisp was already there. Suddenly a dreadful hand came out from under the bed. Run - Selma thought, but there was nowhere to run. Here is where we start a game. The Wisp is the only hope that can save Selma from a danger around her.
Our first inspirations were “Badland” and “Limbo”. We had a concept of platformer that would be set in eerie land and this basic thought that stayed untill the end. The natural choise of the character was a child who would face the nightmare. This idea opened us a door to various concepts. Nightmare like any other dream is full of different locations and objects. Child’s imagination is the topic that let us go crazy with unexpected obstacles. But only one hero wasn’t enought. We found our second hero in slavic mythology. It was the Wisp that lead travelers through the woods and swamps. It was a crucial decision to give the player contol over the Wisp. Eventually the Wisp is the guide and the oniric creature in our world. Selma is the one to survive so all the actions made with the Wisp affects her.
Lilith, Eloise, Arleen or Selma?
In the concept phase Selma was only a nameless child. Before we decided what age should it be, we were thinking of a baby crawling on all fours. Our second thought was a spirit of a child wearing a pyjamas, but the thing that inspired us to choose current visual appearance of Selma were enormous eyes and sticky hands like in Tim Burton movies. The name of our character came out just before releasing the first game trailer. We had to have a title! The working title was Darkness or sometimes Dreams. Up until now our game repository is named Darkness. We organised a competition in our company for the name of the hero. On the list appeared names such as Lilith, Eloise and Arleen. The funiest title proposition was “Hypnophobic Lili Lost in The Darkness guided by Psychopomp” but we found it to long so we decided to title our game Selma and the Wisp.
2D experience in 3D world
Selma and the Wisp is made with Unity 3D 5.3.3 which was a perfect choise for that production. Our programmers have a huge experience working on this engine. The core logic for the game, called by us, Universal Trap Control System, allowed graphic designers to work in Unity to set up whole levels. This system controls physics and animations that depends on triggers for the heroes. Movement of Selma is a complex artificial intelligence depending on Wisp position on the scene. Selma detects places to jump, climb or avoid on her own. The interesting part is that Selma is a flat 3D model with armature and animations. Her 2D look is upgraded by a handdrawn normal map that allows her to react to the lightning on the scene. All the models were made in Blender. Selma and the Wisp is a mixture of 3D models and 2D sprites. Ortographic camera let us combine these two and it’s sometimes hard to detect which object is a 2D sprite, which is a 3D model.
Late hours with pizza
Selma and the Wisp was published on 4th of August 2016 on Steam. July was very exhausting for all the team. Game was almost finished but there was still so much to do! Three weeks before the premiere we released a demo for the press. When first articles showed up, reviews were positive but few mistakes came out. We had to work a bit on Selma’s movement and some other stuff. We had already published a trailer with a premiere date so the deadline was just around the corner. The heap of orange and yellow todo-stickers was growing each day and the deadline was knocking at the door. In the afternoons when only a Toucan Studio team was present in the office, with pizza slices in our hands, we were polishing our child till nights. We were listening that mindblowing song Rockin' and Rollin made by Bad Lip Reading on YouTube. This one hour loop song became an athmen for our late working hours on Selma and the Wisp.
We did it!
It was hard but we did it. Up until last hours we were fixing bugs, working on intro for the game and many other. The day after premiere we where like zombies. Was it worth to torture ourselves so much? Definitly yes. Each one of us is proud of Selma and the Wisp and we managed to make the game that is addictive and just lovely. That eight months were a great positive experience for whole team and we’ve learned a lot. It was our first game and I’m quite sure that we did a fantastic job. The time we spent working on Selma and the Wisp was amazing and I hope our future productions will be even better.