During the past couple of days I’ve been working on a process to allow us to convert digital pop-ups into real, hold in your hand and play with, pop-ups. As part of doing this I needed to reconstruct one of the earliest scenes we made for the game: the iconic sakura tree scene. I thought that since I had to rebuild the scene that it might be interesting to people to see the rough stages we go through to get to a final scene in the game.
First of all we construct the pop-up skeleton. This gives the basic shapes that the scene will have and is constructed using the paper kit that we have developed. In the kit there are various shapes such as v-folds and parallel-folds and you can specify the size that they should be and how they connect together. This step is perhaps the most important and most tricky as you have to be able to visualise what the final scene should look like. Normally it’s an iterative process. Jennifer will build an initial version of the skeleton. She then gives this to Ryo to look at to see where we might need to make some changes from an art perspective. Jennifer and Ryo then discuss the layout and go back and forth making changes until they’re happy with the basic shape. Another important thing to check is that the scene folds totally inside the base card. Although the images shown here are in the open state, the scene does fold from the very first skeleton version.
Because I was recreating an existing scene I already knew what the skeleton should be like. The image below shows the initial skeleton for the tree scene. As you can see it looks nothing like the final scene!
Once the skeleton has been finalised we can start on the second part which is cutting. We call it cutting because it’s exactly the same as you would do if you had paper and scissors. The geometry of the original shapes is cut into the shapes that we want. Again this requires a fair amount of experimentation so we usually keep the uncut version of the scene around in case we need to go back to it at some point.
The image below shows the scene in various stages of cutting. First the background mountains are cut, then the mid-ground trees and then the foreground elements.
After cutting has been completed we can apply decoration to the scene. Decoration is additional layers that can be added on to existing folds. These can be added anywhere as long as they are added in exactly the same plane as an underlying fold. It’s possible to create a layered effect with decoration by slightly offsetting each piece of decoration. Sometimes it is hard to decide whether to cut or whether to decorate as in many cases both can achieve the same thing. For example in the image below the tree could equally well have been cut. Usually it just comes down to experience and knowing what is best for a given situation. One advantage with decoration is that we have a library of common decoration such as grass, bushes and rocks which can be easily reused.
The image below shows the scene with decoration added. The decoration is shown in a darker green so you can see more clearly
With these stages complete the scene is now ready for texturing and lighting.
This year PAX East and GDC took place back to back. While the 3 days at PAX East were all about introducing Tengami to new players, watching them play and talking to them, the intention for GDC was to connect with friends and show Tengami to the press.
Monday morning we split up at Boston airport. Phil headed back to the UK while I travelled on to San Francisco. My flight was delayed, but I still arrived in time to attend a press mixer hosted at the IGN offices for independent developers. I shared a tiny table with 2 other developers and showed Tengami to a lot of people over the next 3 hours. The event was great for networking and I collected a lot of business cards from journalists that should come handy a little closer to release.
For Tuesday morning I had arranged to meet with TouchArcade. They had setup a recording area in the lobby of the Marriott on 4th street. I showed parts of the Forest and Ocean demo to Jared, who captured it all on video.
In the evening I attended the TouchArcade party. The food and company was excellent. It’s definitely a party worth attending for mobile developers.
On Wednesday morning I met with Mike Schramm, who wrote a nice piece about Tengami over at TUAWCs.
“Tengami is beautiful. It’s moody and subtle, and felt like the kind of peaceful, quiet game that invites introspection…” via TUAW
Later that day I explored the GDC Expo area, where I found Tengami on display at the Bishamon/Mathlock booth. Bishamon is a visual effects tool that we are using for Tengami. A few weeks back our friend Goto-san, who is one of the developers of Bishamon, asked if they could use Tengami as a showcase title during GDC.
Wednesday evening was the by now infamous Wild Rumpus Party. The DJ sets were all excellent, but my favourite was definitely Chipzel, who some of you might know from the Super Hexagon soundtrack. You can check out her music on Bandcamp.
For Thursday I had signed up for The Big Indie Pitch. The simple idea: put a bunch of mobile developers in a room with a bunch of mobile journalists and have them speed date. There were about 10 different outlets: Slide To Play, TouchArcade, Apple’N’Apps and Gamezebo to name just a few. Each of them sat at their own table and you got 5 minutes to talk to them about your game. While it was a lot of fun to do, it was also unexpectedly exhausting and I swear that half way through the time was cut down to 3 minutes per table. Tengami got some nice coverage out of this event. If you only have time to read one, then check out Apple’N’Apps write-up. PocketGamer filmed all of the “pitches”, the video is embedded below.
“It’s not everyday that I come across a game that is completely unique, and “wow” inducing. At GDC, I got to see Tengami in action, and it looks like an iOS experience not to be missed.” via Apple’N'Apps
My Friday schedule was free until the evening, so I took the opportunity to catch up with friends and spent a lovely day in the park. For the evening I was invited to show Tengami at a French Salon style setting at Team Unwinnable’s mansion. You can imagine this as a huge house, which each room hosting a different game to play. It was a very fun and relaxed environment to show Tengami and I had a spectacular time. There were many amazing games on display, like Gorogoa, Scale or Aztez, but as usual I had only very limited time to look around.
This GDC was very different from previous ones as I didn’t actually have a pass to the convention and unfortunately couldn’t attend any of the sessions. The ticket is very expensive and this year it wasn’t on the cards. Regardless, it was worth visiting, just to meet up with press, business partners and friends. GDC remains my favourite week of the year.
Yesterday Phil told you about our PAX experience, today let’s have a look at what some of the people who played Tengami at the show have to say.
If the demo was any indication, Tengami will be an absolute joy to play, ushering players on a beautifully crafted journey filled with magic and wonder. Via AwesomeOutOf10
At its heart, Tengami is a puzzle game – but one of remarkable invention. Via Rice Digital
This game is gorgeous. The blue and purple paper craft artwork is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game before. The gentle colors and artistic beauty of the world were definitely one of the highlights of my time with Tengami. Via Leviathyn
Evolve names Tengami one of The Best 10 Indie Games of PAX East
Slide to Play preview Tengami: Tengami Hands-On Preview
Polygon’s impression of the ocean demo: Tengami takes to the pop-up papercraft ocean at PAX East
Psychobuttons impressions of the forest demo: Tengami PAX East Impressions
Jennifer and I recently returned from our first ever trip to PAX East in Boston, so we thought it would be worthwhile jotting down a brief report of how things went. Not only was this the first time we had been to PAX, but it was the first time that I had ever visited the East coast of America.
We showed Tengami as part of the fantastic Indie MEGABOOTH. For those that don’t know, the Indie MEGABOOTH is a collective of indie developers that club together to acquire show floor space. By being part of the MEGABOOTH many things are done for you, not to mention the incredible support you get from all the volunteers during the show. The basic booth is constructed for you with carpet, partitions and simple furniture (a table and couple of chairs). Anything else that you require you must supply yourself. Being from outside the U.S. this can prove to be tricky, but thankfully for us our game is on the iPad so we were able to bring almost everything that we needed with us. What we weren’t able to bring was a TV which we wanted so that we could show the game to people passing by the booth. It turns out, rather bizarrely, that buying a TV is cheaper than hiring one, so Jennifer got one at Best Buy the day before the show. As we had no way of bringing it back to the UK, we donated it as a prize in a giveaway to the PAX Enforcers.
We arrived late on the Wednesday night with the show starting on the Friday morning. We knew that the Thursday was going to be really hectic. We hadn’t had enough time to complete the demo version before leaving the UK and we also needed to setup and prepare the booth for the show. In order to get everything done we decided to split up; Jennifer took the job of going to the convention centre and setting up. While Jennifer was doing all of this I had the job of trying to pull together the demo. We were attempting to show a whole new level that we hadn’t shown previously. On Thursday the level was still in pieces and we’d almost given up hope of getting it into a sufficiently good shape for the public to play: there were no sounds or music, the camera work was incomplete and you couldn’t even play all the way through the level. It took me until midnight to get everything together to the point where we felt we could show it. To make Thursday even more demanding, Jennifer came down with a severe cold and temperature and she almost passed out at the convention centre. Unusually for me I managed to avoid picking up the same cold until after PAX. Even feeling ill, she did an amazing job of soldiering on and talking to all the many people who came to the booth on subsequent days.
With everything ready we got up at 6am Friday morning to have breakfast and get to the convention centre in time for the press hour from 9-10, before the show opened to the public at 10. With only me and Jennifer at the show we had requested a helper for our booth so that we could occasionally take some breaks. Eric, who was in charge of assigning the MEGABOOTH volunteers, supplied us with a steady flow of people who had kindly donated their time. We talked nonstop to people who came by the booth only taking a few minutes here and there to take breaks. Even lunch had to be eaten at the booth. By the end of three days of doing this my feet and back were aching and I’d almost lost my voice.
Besides showing the game, I had also agreed to be part of a PAX panel that a friend of mine, Jon Ingold of Inkle studios, had organised. The panel was about storytelling in indie games and took place on the Friday afternoon. Initially I had been a little unsure of agreeing to be involved for two reasons: first I was worried about preparation time and second I wasn’t sure I would have much of value to add to the panel given that Tengami is not a game that has storytelling in any traditional sense. In the end I was glad I did the panel. I managed to grab half an hour on the Friday morning to gather my thoughts and it was a very enjoyable experience. While what I had to say was quite different from many of the other panelists, everyone seemed to agree that this gave the panel a better balance than it might otherwise have had. I did somewhat shamelessly plug Tengami in the panel which was great because we then had a decent number of people who came to see the game off the back of going to the panel.
Looking back on the three days after recovering, I can say that it was a fantastic experience. The overall atmosphere was fun, friendly and inviting. I imagined before going that it was going to be more of a ‘hardcore gamer’ crowd, but in reality the people we met were remarkably diverse and our booth was always busy. I had many wonderful conversations with players about the ideas behind Tengami as well as just indie games in general. Two things in particular stuck in my mind: the first was a woman who upon completing the demo said that she couldn’t thank us enough for making the game. It was exactly the kind of game she wanted to see on the iPad and just wished there were more. To have a player tell you something like that is the most amazing feeling. The second was a seven year old boy and his father playing the game. The boy played through both demos almost completely on his own. Afterwards he told his dad that he couldn’t wait for the game to come out. His dad then told him he should tell me that, so he shyly came up to me and whispered the same thing. I was really touched by this.
Making games is all about people playing games, and ideally about touching people’s lives in some profound way. To be able to achieve this, even if in only some small way makes all the challenges and struggles of development worthwhile. I came back from PAX feeling energised and more determined than ever that we are going to make Tengami the best that it can be.
We have teamed up with the Indie MEGABOOTH to show Tengami at PAX East next week. It is our first time showing Tengami at such a big event, needless to say we are super excited and not just because it gives us the chance to put our awesome Tengami roller banner on display.
For all PAX East attendees we are working very hard on a new demo, that will include a never seen before area of Tengami. As a special celebration we made a limited set of Tengami badges in one of 3 designs. Play Tengami at PAX East and pick your favourite one. Be sure to be quick, as I have a feeling that we will run out pretty quickly.
See you at PAX East booth #779!