Winemaker Extraordinaire(2009)

PC Downloadable

Position: Writer, Art Director, Cutscene Director/Animator.

Hotsite

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Winemaker Extraordinaire is a casual strategy games similar to the Chocolatier series.

You play as Maria Bellaventura, a successful business woman who finds herself unfulfilled with her job and grieving her recently deceased grandfather. She then receives a posthumous letter from him, asking her to take care of the family winery in Tuscany. She gladly honors the request.

You must manage supplies, make wine (through three different minigames), sell your productions and fulfill requests from the members of the winemakers’ guide.

Enology is a very interesting and deep theme. It makes you think not only of wine itself, but about travel, tradition, nostalgia, and many other feelings associated with wine. All of this was brought to the table when writing and directing for this game.

In this project I worked along with another Art Director, as I would once more in Avalon. He worked specially in creation and concept art, and I was more focused in the production, directing a team of five artists, but also had a lot of influence over the original ideas for the look and feel of the game.

From the start we knew we wanted a look that inspired nostalgia and tradition. For the interface, we went for an aged wooden look with old looking art-deco paper labels on them, the sort of thing we imagined as what an old wine crate should look like.

The scenery was an interesting challenge. In the game you can travel to several cities around the world to meet guild members, buy different supplies and sell you wines. Each city is represented by a vista. The other Art Director had the idea of making them look like oil paintings. But actually painting each one would take too long and we didn’t have that kind of time. We decided to use 3d models for the buildings. Since they would be more or less the same in every town (a Cellar, a Supplier, a Guild House and a Winery), we could use the same models in different positions. So I created a shader that imitated a hand painted look, and the team had to actually paint only the environment. It saved a lot of time and ended up giving the scenery a detailed, yet hand made look in not so much time.

For other screens, such as the winery and supplier, we tried to maintain the nostalgic, bucolic feel.

The map is something I’m specially happy about. Since the beginning of the project I thought Travel was an important part of the game as it relates to the idea that each wine lets you taste the places it came from. And I think the Map Screen really translates that romantic feel of travelling and knowing different places through the richness of colors and shapes of the seals and the feel of the purple-stained aged paper.

The minigames were very important. Each one of the three represented a part of making wine, and it was very important that they carried the romantic feeling of the process.

Planting minigame

Selecting grapes minigame

Combining grapes minigame

Writing the story for Winemaker was an exercise in exploring new territories. The target demographics for this game was a casual audience comprised mostly by women from 30 to 50. So I tried to create something very romantic, delicate and emotional. I even allowed myself to push this a little in the direction of corny, because I thought it would fit the theme, and I still think it works.

I also wrote, directed and animated the cutscenes. They also followed this melodramatic style. I used simple animation with text to fit the technical and budget limitations, but I think it turned out elegant.

Cutscene storyboard

Opening cutscene

Opening cutscene

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