James Id here. I’m the programmer, modeler and animator for The
Legend of Bum-bo, and I want to talk about cardboard.
Edmund and I grew up in households where cardboard and office
materials were more plentiful than toys and games. After playing a
video game for the 500th time sparked our imaginations, we
would take to making our own fun using paper, glue, tape and
Instead of creating the vehicles and weapons from the video games
I’d play, I tended to work on making my own games and toys. For
example, instead of making a race car modeled off of the ones I’d
play as in Pole Position, I would create a race car arcade game. The
track, complete with racers, was drawn on a coffee can. A dollar
store toy car would glide over the track, suspended by a Popsicle
Besides mimicking video games, I would often make my own
board games. They were usually modeled off of something from my
brother’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, or the incredibly
expensive and involved board games I’d see on television such a
Volcano Island and the Grape Escape.
I’m unsure of exactly how we decided on using these kinds of
memories to inform the design of Bum-bo. I do know that, once we had
decided on using Bum-bo as our central character, Edmund and I would
talk at great lengths about our childhoods; the lack of hesitation we
had in regards to building our imaginary worlds, and ever present
drama of our home lives serving as this ever-present backdrop to our
childish art. This seemed to fit without the world of Bum-bo and
Isaac, and we agreed unanimously to create the game entirely of
Popsicle sticks, tape, paper and cardboard.
When the aesthetic was chosen, it just seemed natural that it
would take place in various cardboard boxes. While the scope and
quality of all the elements in the game are more exaggerated than
what one child would be able to do, we still wanted to limit it
within the realm of possibility. Would an eight year old James be
able to craft an intricately detailed sewer? Not exactly, but I’d
compromise by painting a box to have the details of a sewer, and add
additional cardboard shapes where it felt lacking.
We had decided that all the pieces would then resemble the board
game pieces I used to make. Enemies would be flat, but stand up on
their own, like doorways in Hero’s Quest. Items and puzzle pieces
would resemble tokens from something like Dungeon!. Essential
environment pieces like platforms and NPCs would be arranged and
animated like the house in 1313 Dead End Drive.
A design like this establishes clear rules for creating the 3D
models. First, all models would have to appear to have been created
from sheets of cardboard. All 3D details would have to be created by
either layering cardboard, bending it, wrapping it, or crushing it.
Second, animation would have some real world explanation. Cardboard
elements with large frames of animation would make the characters
seem to have a life of their own, making the real-world aesthetic
redundant. Fewer frames of animation, each a new cardboard object,
more closely resembles how I would “animate” characters I created
as a child. My dopey barbarian got injured? I’ll just switch his
bad-ass paper figurine with one of his guts dripping out.
Edmund designs all the characters, items and the HUD using Adobe
Animate, and I then use those illustrations to model a cardboard cut
out. Depending on the character’s size, I will create extra layers
of cardboard or build it out more like a paper craft model. I then
create textures to put the illustrations on to appear like the
character was drawn on cardboard, instead of the cardboard being made
for the drawing.
To truly sell the aesthetic, I’ve relied heavily on scanning real
elements, and creating textures for physically-based rendering.
Using real scans and software like Allegorithmic’s Substance
Designer, I can create cardboard that has the subtle wear and
ribbing, along with illustrations that don’t quite cover the
surface, as permanent markers tended to not do.
It is my hope that the focus we’ve had on the aesthetics of the
game does more than break the fourth wall: We hope to capture the
feeling of playing as a child who is playing with characters he has