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In The Fold: Ancient Workshop Reveals Origami Sim

A mouse click has never been so powerful. The idea of simulating an aesthetically pleasing pastime, only to make it even more aesthetically pleasing, is something that James Brown of Ancient Workshop has embraced wholeheartedly. He has begun a task in earnest: to make a game that simulates the art of paper folding in a beautiful, soothing way. Watching the videos of his experiments is like getting a giant bearhug glomp from the videogame industry.

Codenamed Project Blue Comb, Mac developer James Brown has just posted up his first experiments with his new origami simulator. An industry veteran, James tells funambulist and all round friendly badger Dan Grill in this neat interview that he worked in the mainstream games industry for 10 years (including stints at EA & Lionhead) before going indie. His last excursion was Ancient Frog, a lush green sticky frog sim where you enable your tiny frog dude to eat his invertebrate dinner. It won all sorts of nice acclaim, including the Intel Atom Developer Challenge Grand Prize for Most Elegant Application and the IMGA Winner for Excellence In Design.

But grab a look at these little virtual folding experiments Blue Comb has produced:

Cover image for YouTube video

Says James in his blogpost:

I started coming up with a design where you'd explore a world made up of collages, and along the way you'd discover new Origami models that you could transform into - a fish would allow you to swim, a bird would let you fly and so on.

So I sat down and started coding. Clearly the first thing I needed was some sort of editor to create the models… and that's where I got trapped. It turns out that creating an editor for Origami is really tricky and really interesting. Eventually it became apparent that this game was going to be mostly about the editor, and the exploring portion was off at a bit of weird angle to it.

For a while I decided that I would do away with any game aspect - it would be purely an app for learning, creating and sharing Origami designs. Eventually I settled on the minimum viable game for it - a puzzle where you unlock Origami designs by matching patterns as you fold, but with a sandbox mode that contains All The Work.

The work on this looks exquisite, as well as being something that looks easy to understand and play. I keep thinking of my mumma bear, the artist, who pretends she hasn't time to play games, but she will sit and play with materials, fabrics, felt, metal and threads as if she is competing against herself. When I lived in Japan she sent me a hundred green origami paper cranes in the post from Scotland, ones that she had folded since I'd left. It makes me think that those who might not be so keen on shooty-bang-bang-explosion-HURR games might find some pleasure from games in this form: in the quiet contemplative interactions, smooth slow motions of the mouse, and the graceful accessible platforms, like MacBooks, iPads and home PCs. That there is room for these, and scope for them to sell, is really a wonderful triumph.

Cover image for YouTube video

The most intriguing thing about this game is the development process: not only has James described his journey from 'gamey' game - that is, the one in which you progress through collages and achieve several animals to transform into - to simple origami editor, but he is also detailing how difficult and interesting each of the folds are to programme. The involved way James talks about the folds makes me want to learn to code.

Cover image for YouTube video

You really should read about this project. It's really something. No release date as yet, but I hope we hear more about it soon. Lovely.

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About the Author
Cara Ellison avatar

Cara Ellison


Senior Scottish Correspondent, often known as the Notorious C A E, though mostly by her mum