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:
- an artist designs the print
- the woodblock artist slices the design into 10-20 layers, then painstakingly carves each piece by hand over a couple of weeks.
- each piece individually bears very little resemblance to the design as a whole, but when fitted together in layers they create the final design
- 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.