Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Art of Gaming: Anna

Within my group of friends, many of them are fans of the horror genre of games. Be it the thrill of slaughtering countless undead, having the unholy powers of demons or trying to uncover the mystery of how something leaked into our world from the great beyond, they would always tell me their feelings on such games. One thing I've come across several months back by pure chance was a video by YouTube personality Cry (ChaoticMonki) was his short lived playthrough of the game Anna (lasting only 2  parts). Since then I have been curious about it so I thought I would take a bit of a better look into it. 

Created by Dreampainters Software and released in September 2012, Anna is a first-person horror adventure which has a story line described as Set in an abandoned sawmill nestled high in the mountains, Anna challenges you to uncover horrific clues and use them to solve puzzles related to your character’s dark past. As you play, Anna will unlock locations and unveil new secrets”.Watching the trailer and what playthrough I had found, the style reminded me of Pan's Labyrinth (2006) with it's ties to reality but with an intricately woven story and imagery of dark fantasy. There was also elements that reminded me slightly of Ladyhawke (1985). As far as the symbols that were used in the game, many of them have roots in old European folklore mostly from the areas of France, Italy and Germany. It did make me wonder what exactly was the inspiration that the people at Dreampainters had when they created the game. I wasn't prepared for the response and pure giddiness of the developer over me asking my question:

Hi Dawn!

Thanks for your email!
In "Anna" the whole art direction was around colours: we wanted to make strong use of colours to transmit emotions.
So, in the exteriors, lights are very strong, greens are strongly saturated (as they are in the mountain regions the game is set into) and in generals colours are quite alive.
In the inside, the contrast is much higher, to provide a crisper image, and light colours drive the situation. We used these main coding:

- Light Yellow = This is the natural colour for a candle or a lamp. The meaning is "Everything is normal"
- Red = "You're not welcome here"
- Purple = "Something creepy is going on here"
- Blue = "You're guilty"

The last one comes with blocks of ice in the level: this is a reference to Dante's Inferno, in which the traitors are buried completely or partially into the Cocito, a gigantic ice lake.
The general style we chose for the environments comes from the idea that the entity in the house, Anna, is deeply linked with nature, so going on with the game, the levels get more and more natural elements, like plants on the walls and roots coming down from the ceiling. Also, we used a lot of elements from the Valle D'Aosta Region, in Italy, and mostly from Ayas, which is where the game is set.
We used these elements:
- Sabots: are the classic shoes used there
- The water sawmill: it's design in quite typical of that region
- The stove: It's directly modeled out of an original '700 stove in there
- The flour machine: in the ground floor there's a flour machine which is made around the true floor machines in that sawmill
- Castor & Pollux: these are two mountains called "twin mountains". There are a couple legends about their formations, all regarding lost love.
- Symbols: the game contains a set of symbols from the Alps folklore and directly from the Ayas region, like this one:
Which has been found in the region and dated to medieval times.

We're working on an enhanced version of the game, which includes even more elements.

Let me know if you want to know more about anything :)


Reading over the information, I was glad that I was right about the region of folklore but I hadn't even considered that color could be an inspiration in itself. It does makes sense considering that the game itself is very atmospheric so what better way to communicate to the player then by color instead of by sound. 

If you're interested in checking out the game yourself, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.com - Anna $9.99

As of Feb. 4, 2013 - After a bit of discussion with Nina (writer for Dreampainters Software), I was happy to discover that she sent me the link to the website's blog where she had written an entry about what I had posted on their game 'Anna'. Feel free to check it out!
Art of Gaming and Need for Coffee - written by Annarosa-Nina


  1. Hello Dawn, I'm Annarosa, community manager at Dreampainters. I'm going to write a little post on our website http://dreampainterssoft.com about your piece, so... Can I pubblic one of your draws to illustrate it? I especially love the one with the peacock ;) Let me know it at: annarosa.girardini@dreampainters.com

    1. Salutations Annarosa!
      I actually don't have a problem with it. Let me go ahead and email you with the information.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. No problem. I'll go ahead and forward the original message to you.

    4. Hi Dawn,
      sorry, I'm foolish. The correct email address is:


      Sorry -_-'

    5. LOL no worries. I'm figuring that since it's a new email, you're not used to it as of yet. I forwarded it to you so hopefully it gets through.