3. The Way We Worked
Part of my ambition for this studio has been to cultivate an atmosphere where different ways of working are embraced and integrated into the process, if it has the potential to create something good. As I mentioned, we made sure we did this in the conceptualization stage and this very much set us off on the right track.
We also tried to make sure this ethos extended throughout the build. For example, if I wanted to spend a day experimenting with a puzzle design, I'd do that for a while before returning to the main planned schedule.
Sometimes, that would send us off in another interesting direction. We'd also have inspiration days, where we'd take the day off and visit a gallery in London and spend the time talking about the game.
It was important that we didn't feel wedded to our desks; if we weren't feeling productive, we'd go and work somewhere else. A lot of ideas, as most people will attest, don't happen in front of a computer.
For me, it's on my bike or in a cafe. It might sound like an "indie dream" stereotype, but a lot of the ideas were created in a cafe where there the pressures of a blank screen and internet distractions didn't exist. And then, of course, we'd return to the studio to do the production work. (See Figure 7.)
We've basically been very open to different ways of working, and this sentiment has laid great foundations for the forthcoming sequel, where we're designing a whole city. We're working with an architect for this, who brought up the idea of creating a cardboard "sketch" of the models where we could test composition, lighting, and camera angles; she can knock them out in a couple of hours.
We immediately saw the potential of this and have incorporated it into the way we're designing this world.
Figure 7: Building the model
4. Appropriate Technology
Logically speaking, if you wanted to make a realistic-looking game environment, you might go with a 3D modeling tool. But at our studio, the team's specialty has always been 2D animation. To engage in 3D modeling would have changed our entire way of working and necessitated having to deal with unknown quantities. This would have been too much to deal with, as we were trying to be creatively ambitious in other areas. Even though we ultimately stretched Flash with what we were throwing at it, it was great to work in an environment that we were comfortable with and allowed us the luxury of focusing on the details.
Using Flash also made sense from a financial point of view. We wouldn't need to license any new technology, and we'd be able to create versions which would run on PC, Mac, and Linux, all from the same source files. With the recent development and continued improvement of Adobe AIR, it proved to be a massive stroke of luck that we chose it. It meant that when we wanted to port the game to iOS, we could use the same source and save a lot of time and effort, while keeping the game identical. In fact, it enabled us to add improvements such as a higher resolution for iPad and new improved sounds and responses for touch controls. Since then, it's also enabled us to port to Android, Kindle Fire, and Nook with relative ease.
We were really pleased that we had created an environment where there was great potential for storytelling, whether it be actions you perform in the game or the history of the environment you're in. As we developed the game, we began to draw in all sorts of details that revealed elements of Granddad's character and the player's relationship to him. For example, there are many details dotted around the house such as framed photographs and a bookshelf with his reading material and design sketches (see Figure 8). We've developed an entire back story, which is slowly revealed in parts throughout the game and leaves enough unsaid so that there's plenty to explore in the forthcoming sequel.
Figure 8: Grandad and his books
I'm really interested in the potential that games have for conveying a point of view without forcing it down a player's throat, and I'm excited that we've created a world in which we could explore this. A number of ideological strands run through the game on the subject of self-sufficiency, care for the environment, and family relationships, but they're designed to be so woven into the experience that they're inseparable.
We recently had a review on TouchArcade that put words to something which is never explicitly stated in the game: "[Lume] looks to make us proud of doing our best by the world and ourselves." It's both delightful and humbling to hear sensitive reviews like that and they put this sentiment in words better than I could. I think it goes to show what a great medium games can be for imparting ideas through action, atmosphere and storytelling. There's such potential for emotional engagement, and they can be the perfect embodiment of that old phrase "show, don't tell."