Charming paper cut-out adventure game Lume from State of Play is up for the Excellence in Visual Art award at this year's IGF. As part of our series of chats with the (PC/Mac-based) finalists, here we talk to State of Play director Luke Whittaker about Lume's origins, the British invasion at IGF this year, games with a handmade aesthetic and his response to the most important question of all.
RPS: Firstly, a brief introduction for those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?
State of Play is an indie team from London, UK, headed by me (Luke) and Katherine. I was a freelance games designer and animator before setting up the company with Katherine in 2008. We met at university on the same interactive media course, so had a shared interest - mine were more on the design, animation and narrative side, and Kath specialised in interactive art and the web. Together we seemed to have the right skills to produce quite individualistic games, and especially games with a handmade aesthetic. I think we wanted to bring things which make a very human element to the work, it seems to help form a connection between the game and the player.
RPS: Tell us about your game. What were its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What would you change if you could?
Lume started out as an experimental adventure game project which was once, quite badly, titled 'Space Girl'. As you can see it's changed quite a bit. It's not in space, for one thing. Though we kept the girl.
We wanted to experiment with a hand-made style, similar to one of our other titles Headspin:Storybook, which was drawn by hand but then given texture and animated on the computer. In terms of being true to the hand made ethos, it was kind of cheating. No harm in that, but after a while the idea occurred that, why not, instead of trying to make it look hand-made, actually make the thing by hand? What if we then filmed that as the basis for the game? We realised what an advantage it could be. If it worked, we could achieve all sorts of things - realistic lighting, focus pulls, depth of field, and an indefinable sense of 'realness' - things which AAA studios might aim for but which might be hampered by technology.
But we also knew there was a reason people didn't make games like this. What if you wanted something in the scene to change? How could you put anything into that scene and make it interactive? It seemed a little insane, we knew we were making if difficult for ourselves. But once we'd done a few more technical tests and realised what was possible, the excitement upgraded it from Difficult to Difficult-But-We-Really-Have-
RPS: What are your feelings on the IGF this year? Pleased to be nominated? Impressed by the other finalists? Anything you worry has been overlooked?
To say we are pleased would be an understatement. We are de-bloody-lighted. I don't think we got any work done the afternoon we found out, I think we barely sat down after that. Like toddlers after too many sweets we were. We've always followed IGF and loved so many of the games it's featured. It's always kind of humbling to see the quality of the games.
RPS: Which game would you like to see take the Grand Prize this year?
I'd love to see it go to Dear Esther. It looks amazing, and has a beautiful subtlety and depth.
RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene of late? What would you like to see from it in the near-future?
It does feel like the UK scene is starting to thrive, and you could argue that's reflected in the number of Brits nominated here. I think people are beginning to collaborate and help each other more and more, and it's not an economic thing - there are playful events and gamejams, and everyone's talking about things that interest them, doing these things for the love. But things are to a great extent pushed forward by the passion of everyone involved, there's little financial help. In future I'd love to see some more options available to help indies fund their ideas. Indie Fund is doing an amazing thing, but it's only one project and it can't help everyone. For one thing it would be great if there were some accessible grants, as we see in many Scandinavian countries.
RPS: And how does the future look for you, both in terms of this game and other projects?
Lume is being launched on iOS and the Mac App Store at the moment, so we're hoping that introduces the game to a whole new audience. It was originally conceived as an iOS game, and we've only now had the tools with Adobe AIR to make that feasible, so we're very excited it. And Lume is actually part one of a larger story, which we'd mapped out before we started. The success to date has really has taken us aback, but it's proved we were right to follow our hearts.
RPS: If you could talk to the monsters in Doom, what would you ask them?
I'd say here's some tea, and please, have a biscuit. Now, can't we all just get along?
RPS: Thanks for your time