One of the first drafts for the main menu
Since the game has been released, two months ago, it’s a good time to talk about how this project was made before moving on to Milk Episode 2 (we’re working on it and it will be a hell of a ride, I’m telling you !). Spoilers ahead so don’t read my post if you didn’t finish Ambre.
Romantic comedy versus zombies
The rough idea came when my roommate and I were talking about books he has been reading lately. The one he described was a zombie one (I forgot the name) : in a chapter, the narrator interviews a little girl who survived a invasion and lost her parents. Her testimony is really touching but then, the author reveals that the one talking is a very old woman trapped in her past. She believes she’s still a child going through the tragedy over and over again. I found that twist really interesting and I wanted to use it in one of my stories sometime.
During that summer, I had to take the train to go to Paris for the Epitanime event and I saw the same film poster in every station I was. It was an ad for a new romantic comedy about a happy couple flickering when the woman suddenly lose her memory in an accident. Unable to remember the one she loved, he had to seduce her once again to regain their lost happiness. Wikipedia told me it wasn’t a good entertainment because it was too convenient (happy end, yada yada). No matter. The fact remains that I asked myself what would become of my partner if I woke up, one day, not knowing who he is, and how I would act. Since I really changed since I was young, the result is always surprising.
First draft of the “swing” CG
Combining this two elements, I had a premise of what Ambre could be, but I was missing a lot of pieces. I know what kind of twist I will use and a rough idea of the plot, but I had to fill it and to find a reason for the heroine to go out of her mind. The story could have died inside my head if I hadn’t come across a surprising source of inspiration.
First draft of the GUI chibi
Cinderella ate my daughter
I sometime watch That Guy With The Glasses’ podcasters, at random, and I stumbled upon a review of Nicki Minaj’s Moment 4 Life. I really don’t know a thing about celebrities, I’m not interested in this subject, and the only thing I heard about her was my friend rambling about how her music is “shit”. But this song marked me because it’s a display of the modern Cinderella syndrome, a subject that fascinates me.
Test placing sprites on the background
Every trope is here, in the lyrics as well in the imagery shown. The young woman is talking about her yearning of social ascension, like it’s something owned, about how she’s not lucky but a “chosen one”, about how her new position makes her some sort of queen/princess. And she repeats that she wants her fleeting dream to last forever. The music video is only emphasizing that obsession with an imagery : there is a fairy godmother who’s taking care of her, the “star” is giving a ball in order to show her money and her idleness (big house almost like a castle, lot of guest, beautiful furniture, the scene with the chocolates which is really revealing of what we think luxury is, reminiscent of Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette). But we also see a prince charming, another starlet just like her. The music video is even showing them getting married with fireworks and all, like the endless happy end in fairy tales.
First draft of the “photo album” CG
Except that there is a lot of small details to ruin the perfect picture : the couple is totally isolated when celebrating, like if being stars, they had to create a vacuum around them ; they aren’t even faking love, their wedding sound so fake (they could pretend for the music video sake but no; it’s really only symbolic, more like a marriage of convenience/business), and more importantly, we’re never show what happened before the fairytale’s happy end. Don’t tell me Nicki Minaj didn’t had to work her fingers to the bone at one point, and I don’t think it was as “aesthetically pleasing” than the fairy tale part. Speaking of which, her body is totally ruined by surgery ! I saw what she looked like before on the Internet and wow, she was cute, she became some kind of aesthetical monster with a twisted look, it’s such a shame (she doesn’t look like a normal woman anymore, look at her eyes, her lips and her breasts).
From Cinderella to Ambre
When I heard this song, I was fascinated, not by the music or the singer, but by what the character embodied. By the fact that someone sacrified all she had in hope to become a new Cinderella with a dream-like life, as shallow and empty she can be. I couldn’t help but thinking that the song’s wish was both incredibly superficial and incredibly human. I really wanted to use Cinderella syndrome into the incomplete story I imagined so that it’ll become the reason Ambre had sunk into madness.
First draft of the hospital background and alternative nightmare version
Ambre’s plot was very short, so I wanted to keep it to try the Nanoreno contest, but at that time Milk Episode 1 wasn’t even finished, so we had to rush through that before rushing through the Nanoreno almost in one go. There were a ton of difficulties : Roganis, our usual composer left for Japon, leaving us without music, so we had to find someone else really quickly (we had luck Kimino answered our call) ; besides my computer died at that time, leaving me unable to handle the team as easily as I wanted. Toward the end, both graphic artists were exhausted : Melow had fallen sick and Morsy didn’t know whether she would have the time to finish the CGs because of her internship. Hopefully the game didn’t need that much assets, but hurry prevented us from polishing a bit more (the last background, the dead leaves).
Old street background and first draft of the new one
In the end, the team managed to complete Ambre just in time. Feedbacks were pretty positives too. I didn’t think I would use Cinderella again but I’m quite satisfied with the result, though I had difficulty in writing it at first. I liked to toy with readers’ expectations and I hope to do that again in the future…sorry for those who really believed the story was about a sweet and innocent little girl X’). Now that it’s done, stay lying in wait, there will be more news about Milk soon !
EDIT : the game’s soundtrack is now available here