So, the tool that you made for the game -- let me get this straight -- is actually designed so that you manipulate paper.
AE: You actually fold. Yeah, yeah. For real. The first amazing one for me was the elephant. The lead artist at the time, Men Lu -- he's still an artist -- he laid out this flat piece of paper, and in the editor, you can place down these fold lines and start, piece by piece. And then you can animate them, and you can set triggers on them. And at that point, the paper was no longer a low poly art style. It was now this completely legitimate, completely honest thing.
And that's fed back into the game, in the sense that every asset, you can now get as a PDF. So as you play through the game, you unlock. You get sent a PDF of every asset, so you can print them out.
I love the idea that someone goes to your desk -- and I'm changing it each time I think of this -- it's like, "Where did you get the four-foot high dolphin papercraft thing?" It's like, “Yeah, that was in the really hard bit. You have to go down that path in the story."
MH: Most of the concept art is being made with paper.
RC: It's true.
MH: The office is filling up with all these paper things. It's not concept-on-paper anymore. The concept is paper, I suppose, and you actually make it and give it to the artist to make.
MH: So there's an integrity in the art style.
All the models in the game? Are the environments are being modeled traditionally?
RC: No, everything is constructed that way.
AE: Everything is paper.
Is there a real version of everything in the game, like a real paper vision in the real world?
RC: Oh, yes.
AE: So, the announced level, we have a diorama. Our web designer... I haven't realized this until today, so I thought he was just a super genius, maybe he is, but he apparently was a closet papercraft nutter, and we didn't know this. He's built a diorama of the whole opening that you see in the trailer that's just been released, and photographed it. And the engine programmers are looking back at it and going, "Hm, yeah, we should tweak it like this." It really looks like a screenshot from the game. Yeah, everything is legit. The engine tech to do all of the folds and stuff is actually relatively hardcore. There's a lot of crazy math...
MH: Paper surface preservation algorithms, or something. [laughs]
AE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. I remember Mark going, he's got Mathematica up, "Alex, I've got the perfect curl equation that maintains the length as it unfolds and stuff." It's really nice.
What's the advantage of doing it that way, and does it change the process of even designing the game?
RC: I think it makes it a very cohesive process. Rather than thinking, "Oh well, we'll do this concept, and then we need to rebuild that concept in Max," and then we think, "Oh, does that look papery enough?" and then you rebuild it again in paper, you just work through it in one process. As we are building this rich world, we want to get on with building it, rather than doing lots of iterations of these characters and these creatures that you're meeting.
MH: It makes it believable as an art style, as well. That's why there's a common theme in the whole project, getting this world into that world via your godlike powers, and camera and things, and also bringing that world out into this one.
AE: Right, So on that point, I love the fact that subversively, we're going to teach all of the Vita gaming community about UV mapping. Because basically, there's this loop where you can print out, say, the elk on paper. You can color it in with your favorite Sharpie pens. And then if you use the camera feature in the game to reskin the elk, you can actually recapture it. You can just take your T-shirt and make a texture, but if you've carefully drawn the papercraft one, hopefully we can make it so that it maps perfectly onto the elk, and you can retexture the whole game. And that actually feeds into the game design, because then you feel more connected. You meet that elk two hours into the story, and it's like, "Yeah, dude, I drew you, so I'm gonna help you out."
MH: The story is about you getting this message from this other dimension delivered to you. So it all feeds into that basic storyline, of making these two worlds meet, I suppose.
AE: Real life and Vita life.
RC: The message that is inside Iota's head, then carrying it as the messenger. This message is totally unique, so that you're kind of taking the character all the way through on this huge adventure in order to find out what this message is at the end. And we'll be able to use all the stuff that's been going on to make sure that every player gets a really amazing surprise at the end of it.
MH: When he says unique, he means every person that plays the game gets a message that tailored to that person. It's going to be...
That's an interesting challenge. If you said the message is unique to every person, that's not hard to believe, but tailored to the person, that's a little bit more...
MH: Well, if they've been playing it for that long, there's a lot of information you can gather.
Where did the other idea -- of the Vita being the world and the interaction between the real world and the Vita world -- arise?
RC: Well, I think it's just building out from that initial thing, of just seeing that visual of yourself inside of the game world. Everyone has played games with front touch stuff, and it's cool. You're kind of sliding your finger around a bit. But I always feel distance from the world. I don't feel like I'm really in there, feeling it. I'm just sort of pawing at this like glass box, trying to get in. Whereas with the back touch, to really make it a lot more of a visceral experience -- that you are really blending these two worlds together. We're doing a lot of work to make sure that everyone's fingers feel like their fingers, customizing the skin colors and sizes.
Yeah, I was wondering about that.
MH: Yeah, you get to calibrate your finger.
RC: So Mark can play with glittery fingernails.
MH: Oh, yeah. [everyone laughs]
AE: Stefan's working on the skin shader right now. We have our top shader guy cranking on skin tones at the moment.