Woodblock Prints vs Games

Mario Kart

I came a cross a link to Ukiyo-e Heroes last night (reddit? facebook?). I remember seeing it when it was first on Kickstarter and thinking it was kind of neat, but it’s come a long way since then. The art itself is pretty cool, but what struck me were Dave Bull’s videos on the woodblock print-making process. Their collaboration essentially works like this:

  1. an artist designs the print
  2. the woodblock artist slices the design into 10-20 layers, then painstakingly carves each piece by hand over a couple of weeks.
  3. each piece individually bears very little resemblance to the design as a whole, but when fitted together in layers they create the final design
  4. once the “development” is done, an unlimited number of prints may be created from the blocks (this is still a manual process, but one that can be outsourced)

Is that really so different than a small video game? Replace the woodblock artist with a programmer and the artist with a game designer (which, sometimes, is still an artist). Once a design is in place, the programmer carves it up into various classes and units of code and painstakingly brings it to life. After some weeks or months of toil, a finished product emerges which is capable of spawning many copies. There may be a little bit of manual work left for distribution, but the game at that point is ostensibly an artifact much like various woodblocks.

Game development is certainly a lot more iterative than woodblock carving, but it’s always nice to draw inspiration from random places.

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