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In Pirofauna by Polish indie studio Petums, fire is the hero of the forest

Why can’t fire and the forest, plus all its inhabitants, just get along? Well, for one thing, fire burns everything in its path to a crisp. That seriously hampers any hope for a long-lasting partnership. But not in the world Tomasz Ostafin, founder of indie studio Petums, is creating. In Pirofauna, players take on the role of a cute little flame that uses its searing powers to bring light into the dark and misty forest and save the animals from all sorts of nasty creatures.

“I’ve never seen a game world where fire is portrayed positively,” says Tomasz Ostafin. “For me it is a neutral thing, an element, neither good nor bad, but one that deserves respect. Therefore, for balance, I create such a positive image of fire. Of course, it didn’t all start with philosophizing. I created a map of the forest, it was dark, so I added a quickly made hero there, the little flame character. The flame illuminated the forest and it looked nice. I thought that the world of paper was a place where such a flame could really have an impact on the surroundings, so I chose this direction.”

Pirofauna is the second game by tiny indie studio Petums. The first game Papetura was successful enough for Ostafin to make game development his full-time occupation. “Petums is actually just me. But since I thought that one day it would become a bigger studio, I had to come up with a name”, explains Ostafin. “According to Google it means ‘tobacco pickers’ in a certain language, but in fact it’s my childhood nickname. I live in Bytom, Poland, which is also where I have my headquarters.”

Works of art

After the release of Papetura, Ostafin struggled to find that spark of inspiration for his new game. “Ideas worth pursuing take time,” he says “I was looking for good ideas for a really long time. Now that I found that little flame the game almost creates itself. You see, when the idea is successful, the gameplay appears by itself, you don’t have to think about it.”

Petums’ games are truly works of art. All characters and props in the world are handmade in paper by Ostafin. He uses different kinds of paper in natural colors that he illuminates with various lights and LEDS. The result is a mesmerizing, almost tangible world not often seen in video games. “Such is my fate that I chose paper as the medium from which I create games. The first one was the Papetura game, where I built entire physical models. It’s the same this time, but I create smaller elements that make up a larger world.”

Inexplicable shapes

“I was raised studying modernist architecture and the associated thought process where form follows function. I try to avoid it as much as possible, because I really don’t like overly simplified things, like modern architecture often does. So, I add different flavors and sometimes inexplicable shapes to simple forms. Generally, I try to take the essence of each object or character and present it in paper or drawing form.”

Ostafin: “The feature I’m most proud of is setting fire to everything you can! I’m still working on it, especially on optimization, but I know it’s possible.”

So what does his creative process look like? Ostafin jokingly explains: “Let’s say you walk into the room while I’m working. It may look like I’m sleeping. But no! I really visualize everything, next steps, ideas and prototypes. For this game I only created a few attempts, I dismissed all others in my head. The time will come that I will have nice levels in the game to test with players, then everything will be revealed.”

Keep your cool

Being a full-time game developer and the primary breadwinner for his family comes with a certain amount of pressure. “The hardest thing in all this is to keep your cool,” Ostafin admits. ‘Especially when it comes to marketing. Also, programming. Sure, I can handle it, but it’s not really my thing. Keeping up to date with marketing trends is quite a challenge, I hear that a lot from other creators as well.

See what goes into creating the paper world of Papetura.

When my daughter was born, I had a lot on my mind. I thought I would do the same marketing work as before, but what a surprise… There are numerous festivals and opportunities, but I didn’t get into almost any of them because I missed the deadlines! Oh well, there will be more next year.” There is no release date set yet, but Ostafin promises that it won’t take as long to create as the first game. (That took seven years…)

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.

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