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From Elite: Dangerous to Cuphead – 4 handmade videogame experiences


It’s a challenge for any video game to stand out these days, especially if it’s not backed by a multi-million dollar development and marketing budget. (Destiny, we’re looking at you).

So some developers try to do something new and fresh to give their creations a unique spin, often taking their cues from other media, especially movies, where sets, props, models and animation is sometimes handmade. And it’s not just the way games are designed that is changing, it’s the way some are being played too…

Blue Flamingo
Blue Flamingo is a shoot-’em up with a twist.

At first glance, Blue Flamingo by Might & Delight (above), looks like a straightforward shoot ’em up in the style of arcade legends like Raiden and 1941. But look closer. See anything different? Watch the video below.

The game’s visuals use handcrafted miniatures – the plane and the enemies were build by hand, while the background landscape is a detailed 32 foot-long model, filmed on a dolly track and digitised for the game. It gives Blue Flamingo a more realistic and stylish feel, using the same approach that George Lucas used to film Star Wars. The game is now available on Steam.

Cuphead is a run-and-gun game in the style of a 1930’s Disney cartoon.

If Blue Flamingo takes us back to 1977, Cuphead goes back even further in time. This sideways-scrolling, run-and-gunner isn’t just inspired by the distinctive look of 1930’s Disney cartoons like Steamboat Willie and Betty Boop. The developers at Studio MDHR have used beautiful old-school, hand drawn cel animation and watercolour techniques, combining them with the fast-paced gameplay of classic games like Gunstar Heroes, Contra III and Mega Man X. The jazzy score only adds to the retro feel.

In the same way that Blue Flamingo used real models for its backdrops, Lumino City’s beautiful gaming environment was built by hand with the help of architects, artists, prop-makers and animators.

Lumino City model
Lumino City is built with cardboard, paper, glue and electric motors.

“Everything you see on screen,” says the game’s developer State of Play, “was made using paper, cardboard and glue, culminating in the building of a 10 foot high model city. Laser cutting was used to create finely detailed environment, and miniature lights and motors were built in to bring it to life.”

Lumino City is the follow-up to State of Play’s earlier card and paper puzzle game for iOS and Mac OS X, called Lume.

The original Elite was released 30 years ago and captivated an entire generation of gamers with its vast 3D universe, free-form gameplay and a compelling quest to become an ‘elite’ pilot. The 21st century remake is even more astounding. Elite: Dangerous features astonishing HD visuals, realistic physics, and a vast and beautiful game world that simulates the 400 billion star systems in our Milky Way galaxy.

Elite: Dangerous
Elite: Dangerous is a vast and realistic space sim with 400 billion star systems.

While some might argue that Elite deserves the immersion that only a VR headset like the Oculus Rift can provide, German gamer Markus Boesen has forgone such bulky face gear and created his own £3,000 spaceship cockpit. Check it out for yourself below.

His IMAX-style setup features three BenQ projectors aimed at two screens (and a section of wall), a Saitek X52 Pro joystick and a custom-made dashboard with three tablets. A TrackIR sensor mounted on a baseball cap detects head movement and shifts the onscreen view accordingly, while Voice Attack software translates spoken commands into actions, allowing Boesen hands free control of his spacecraft’s systems.

Perhaps this is the ultimate handmade gaming experience. Or have you seen something better?


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