"Hi, I'm making a game where all characters have embroidered animation," developer Eva Navratilova declared in a tweet about her upcoming platformer, Scarlet Deer Inn. The accompanying video shows a young girl running through a vibrant, beautifully-painted village while similarly embroidered geese flap nearby. It then cuts to a close-up of an embroidery machine crafting the little girl's run cycle. Alright, I'm already sold, but how do you actually… do that?
Hi, I'm making a game where all characters have embroidered animation. pic.twitter.com/nMgNOsCNKcApril 29, 2023
The answer is pretty simple, with some deep roots in the history of 2D graphics. As demonstrated in a video uploaded by the developer, Attu Games is creating sprite sheets with the embroidery, then scanning them, touching them up, and working them into the game. The process doesn't seem that different from how id Software or Rare translated physical or digital 3D models into sprites for Doom and Donkey Kong Country.
Scarlet Deer Inn's physical medium, though, is pretty unprecedented. As Navratilova wrote in response to a query on Twitter: "No one's ever done it before, so it's exciting" This presentation also dovetails nicely with Scarlet Deer Inn's setting, which Attu describes as being "inspired by Slavic folklore." The inherent old-fashioned coziness of the embroidered art strikes me as a perfect fit for those folk inspirations—it reminds me of how much last year's Pentiment hit it out of the park with the combo of illuminated manuscript illustration and 16th century Bavaria.
The embroidered characters really pop against Scarlet Deer Inn's painterly environments. I know everyone's describing everything as "looking like Studio Ghibli" these days, but Scarlet Deer Inn's crisp blue skies, rolling hills, and the not too-unfriendly looking denizens of its underworld really do scratch that Ghibli itch for me.
And there is an underworld: eventually it looks like you trade those bucolic village environs for spooky caverns, and I can't wait to see what Attu games does with this premise. You can wishlist Scarlet Deer Inn on Steam, and follow Attu Games and Eva Navratilova on Twitter to keep up with development.