race car model

Card Board Game

James Id here.  I’m the programmer, modeler and animator for The Legend of Bum-bo, and I want to talk about cardboard.

Why 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 cardboard.

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 stick.

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.

How Cardboard…?

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 created.

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최별이 - CHOI Byul I by KRWonders
Via Flickr:
Seoul Auto Salon 2012