Feature – GameCityNights – Season 5 Episode 4

Posted: June 23, 2014 in Feature, GameCity
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Back to the world of alternative interpretations of world building we go. We’ve had a general-ish chat with lots of piccies, a nice glimpse into stop motion animation and now it’s the turn of the mutilated tree – Paper and card, and how it is used to make a unique-esque world for us all to immerse ourselves.


GCN1Paper animation has been around for ages, normally as background with cells for the characters, but once moved in animations such as Captain Pugwash and more recently – the early episodes of South Park, with its blocky houses and crudely simple looking characters (before it went the way of the computer). To start off though, I apologise for the poor quality of these pictures. They’re screenshots of some footage I took.

gcn2Katherine Bidwell, co-director of State of Play Games talks about Lumino City, the sequel to Lume which has finely handcrafted environments.

Established in 2008, State of Play Games publish their own games and always have some form of handmade element in their games, be it a city made of cardboard or small motors making things turn, and combining the real with the digital.

Lume is what State of Play Games is most famous for. Released in 2011 and available on steam and iOS, the entire world was made by hand out of paper and cardboard and everything seen is real apart from the animations of characters. Katherine was here to talk about Lumino City, which is still ‘Coming soon’.

One of the things Bidwell is asked about the making of worlds from paper with varying degrees of thickness: “Why by hand? Oh why oh why?” the answer comes from the heart “Making things by hand helps break down the wall between invention and final artwork. In other words as an artist you get a more immediate and truer representation of your idea. What I mean to say is ‘as a viewer you can more easily see the intention of the artist. That is, the work feels more human. I mean it’s got soul”. See? When you’re trying to convey your feelings sometimes it can be a bit tricky getting the words out.

Due to the understandably large time and financial expense that would come from building a city, Lume was built on a smaller scale with minimal locations. They have never self-published a game before so was too big a risk going for the big city from the off. Bidwell stated that “it was always our intention to make big city” and the decision to restrain themselves paid off, both on a commercial standing and, possibly more importantly, proving to themselves that yes, they can build something like this and it will be appreciated and “now it’s time to build the game we always wanted”.

Great minds think alike?

Great minds think alike?

When working on Lume, State of Play Games Co-Director Luke noticed this similarly-minded image in a café and got in contact with the artist Katrina, who was an architect, who better to help craft a city? Thus began a collaboration based on this sketch alone, and they worked for over a year on ideas. Naturally the city is integral to the game (the clue is in the name) “Having an architect on board was brilliant” Bidwell says. “She came with completely fresh ideas and she hadn’t really played games. We showed her Lume and she loved it.” Game and architecture came together in perfect harmony. Every model had to ‘work’ for once the model was made there wasn’t any going back.

gcn3This stage of the design phase was described by Katherine as “Rough but crucial”. Portions of the image have been stuck on with Blu-Tack as the building process was fluid. Pieces could be easily relocated to see if they worked better and then other pieces may have to be moved also to accommodate the change.

Next, a wireframe was made in Flash, “The idea must be proven before model making as you can’t change it afterwards”. Making it in Flash made even more crucial by the model making being irreversible, especially when they look as amazing as what State of Play Games can churn out.


One fresh idea from Katrina came in the form of laser cutting. This little wheel here actually spins and such precision could not have been done in as little time by hand. Plus it smells really good apparently.

One fresh idea from Katrina came in the form of laser cutting. This little wheel here actually spins and such precision could not have been done in as little time by hand. Plus it smells really good apparently.GCN8 Something a little bigger than a microwave was needed to power this.


gcn7Another nice piece of technology utilised was small motors to make things spin. In Lumino City this windmill-lighthouse-combo (cunningly titled the lightmill) has to spin and is used in a Morse code style puzzle. A microwave purchased from Amazon provided the motor for this.

Coming at you from the past, stop motion is also gcn9implemented. Inspired by the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, space was tight so they built upwards instead of outwards. Lumi must find a way to make this apartments move in an out. Little details were added, balconies with little washing on. Originally setting up some sort of rig and misusing more microwave components was planned but was deemed too complicated ultimately stop motion was decided as the better option.

gcn10Finally, motion control cameras. Lume was hand filmed originally, and a good friend of Katherine was a BBC wildlife cameraman, which is always good to know one for those rainy day situations. With no budget, and being “proper indie”, he filmed Lume in his mum’s front room with all the lighting he could borrow. For the grand scale of Lumino City, gcn11a living room was considered a little cramped. Motion control cameras were used to get in tight for that close up action and smooth transitions. However, they could only afford to hire a studio and motion control room for one day as they are “crazy expensive”. Naturally, there was big pressure to make everything and get everything filmed in just one day.

So, with all these good bits, what cons can there be? Katherine Bidwell breaks it down for us:

  • Time. Lumino City is bordering on 3 years in production.
  • Meticulous attention is required. When working with pixels you can have nice render and duplicate the code. In the physical world every exterior and interior feature is made as a model.
  • Having to memorise the entire game for one day filming. All the shots. Every angles. One day.
  • Things cannot be changed after filming.
  • There is a risk of getting a scalpel in your foot. Luckily no one actually did receive such unwanted treatment, but it almost happened. You don’t get that kind of danger working at a keyboard.
  • A dog may eat your game. These things can happen. I did ask if the offending piece would feature in Lumino City, complete with bite marks, however I was told it was sufficiently patched up. Devastated.

Until next month!

GameCityNights is an event that happens on the last Thursday of every month at Antenna in Nottingham. For more information check out http://nights.gamecity.org/

Facebook: State of Play
Twitter: @state_of_play
Katherine Bidwell – @Kathandthat

And if you were ever interested: Kowloon Walled City on Wikipedia

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