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Wizard Academy: Flitter

United Kingdom
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The 404 kickstarter is definitely going to make it and that game will be made, which is really exciting. At this point I'm finding that I have a bit of energy left to devote towards thinking about the next project: Wizard Academy. There's a lot to write on the topic, but for today I wanted to focus on Flitter.

As with most of the characters, Flitters emergence was an accident. I started out by testing abilities that I thought would make for an interesting game and then found that it improved players' experience for them to be associated with a character. I started off using existing characters that were already known, which proved pretty successful at producing the right sorts of emotional reactions.

Later I started to develop characters to associate these abilities with that wouldn't get us all sued. I wanted to step away from the existing characterisations I had so that I didn't just wind up making fantasy versions of the existing characters, even if making a magical version of Mr. Bean could lead wonderfully into a Jack and the Beanstalk pun. At the time the art budget didn't look fantastic so I ended up clicking through 3DTotal's excellent galleries for inspiration, on the grounds that paying artists to repurpose existing images was cheaper than creating new ones. I came across this wonderful creation by Dani Garcia:

I like tiny scale things, the idea that faries (or other tiny creatures) would experience water in ways that were very different to us is kind of awesome. So I decided that I wanted a fairy character in the game, at the time I was looking for a character to fit the enchantment paradigm. A wizard character who got bonuses to do with acquiring magic items lent itself most easily to something like "Dwaren Runesmith" but I like escaping a cliché where possible, so I came at it from a different angle.

All of the characters in Wizard Academy don't know any magic at the start of the game, the main obstacle to the players is their total lack of knowledge. That doesn't necassarily imply incompetance though and I'd been looking for more interesting directions for it to come from. All of this came together with the idea of Flitter, a fairy magical arms dealer who is in the academy to steal magical items and secrets rather than to study. It fit well, gave the character an excuse not to know magic, justified a magic item related special ability and escaped the the "fairy woman as weak innocent" cliché. Not that Wizard Academy has had a wonderful time avoiding those, but with only a picture, two lines of text and the implications of a special ability to display each character there's a need to draw on some schemas from players' heads.

Since then the decision was made to put more of a budget behind Wizard Academy and hire an outstanding artist to create original art for the project. We were lucky enough to get Sean Andrew Murray, whose work actually evokes the original meaning of the word awesome. If you follow the link make sure you click on the pictures and view them at full size or you're cheating yourself. We passed him some loose notes on each of the characters in the game which has lead to this latest evolution of Flitter:

Would you buy a sphere of annihilation from this lady? I'm told that this is a rough version that's still lacking a lot of detail work. Once that's done the image will need some colour, but I think it gives an exceptionally good idea of the direction that the art is taking. I already knew that the gameplay was great once shelving it for a few months generated death threats, but I didn't stop to think about how it would look. This is just one of eight characters for the default game, when I think about what it's going to look like when we collect all of the art for this project together I get a chill down my spine.

Wizard Academy is going to be awesome!
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