Released on PSN yesterday, Derrick the Deathfin is an underwater adventure about an angry teenage shark who must seek retribution for the death of his parents, turned into soup by unfeeling human scum. Okay, so we get games about vengeful aquatic animals every other week, but this one’s different. Spaced over 32 levels in 11 environments, it employs the most beautiful handicraft visuals, with every location and inhabitant designed to resemble a paper model.
Progressing through the cardboard continents involves collecting diamonds and jumping through flaming paper tyres in the sky. There are also speed levels, medals and trophies. It is rather lovely. And it is the work of two people. And there friends.
To find out more, we spoke to Different Cloth’s Gordon Midwood about the madness of modelling an entire PSN game from bits of paper…
So how did Derrick come about? And why papercraft?
Like all truly great ideas, the genesis of Derrick the Deathfin arrived whilst drinking. I was sitting in a London wateringhole with some of my celebrity pals when the subject of Ecco the Dolpin came up. This sent me into something of a drunken headspin: as I explained to the yawning masses gathered there that evening, I loved Ecco on the MegaDrive almost as much as I loved Sonic. What if there were a game that combined the feeling of jumping out of the water in the original Ecco with the pace and crazyness of Sonic? Over the coming days I had the idea of setting it in a flat papery world, sort of like a Parappa the Rapper visual style kind of thing.
Before I set about pitching this idea to Channel 4, I made sure to get the multi-talented Ronzo onboard. We had been friends for a number of years, and I always suspected his unique goofy characters would work great in a videogame. I never told him that of course until I had the opportunity to work together with him. And this was it!
Together we secured funding from Channel 4 and Screen Yorkshire for the project and began to scope out the look and feel. As we were chatting, Ronzo had the idea of creating a game out of proper 3d papercraft, rather than the flimsy flat pop-up stuff I had originally imagined. We were instantly both very excited about it. So we set about doing it.
So how long did it all take? And was it just the two of you?
Well the game took around two years to make from end to end. The core of the team is myself and Ronzo – we have been the only ones working on Derrick fulltime for the duration. When I say fulltime I obviously mean about 14 hours a day! Beyond us two it gets a little complicated though. Ten24 ere contracted to model and animate all the 3d assets in the game over a period of around 4 months, and they did an insanely good job. Pitstop Productions were contracted to produce all the audio. They embraced the whole handmade feel of the game & did a superb job, creating a really lively original score. Most of the effects were made with real life crafting objects too (ripping paper, crumpling paper, popping bubble wrap and so on). Tuna were involved in the first 9 months of production, helping out on a consulting level as well as helping me to produce much of the core code on which the game runs.
Did you make absolutely all of the fish and backgrounds in paper?
At the start we created absolutely all of the fish and backgrounds in paper, then much later as the process got smoother we were able to go straight from sketch to 3d papercraft model. I would guess 90% of the scenery and 70% of the creatures were actually made up as real papercraft. It took Ronzo and his team of helpers around one to three days per object to create the papercrafts.
And how did you transfer those assets into the game?
The process begins in the talented but oddly distorted mind of Ronzo. He transposes things directly from his mind onto paper in the form of sketches by means of a pencil. From there he and his team of helpers build the actual papercraft that roughly correspond to those sketches. These papercrafts are then photographed from all angles and sent to our 3d friends over at ten24 who model and animate everything beautifully. From there I import the models into Unity and away we go!
How helpful has Sony been in the project?
Sony has been very supportive right from the start of the project. They liked our initial proposal and have helped us to get this far with a lot of positive feedback on the game and of course assistance through the QA and release processes.
Are there any plans for a Vita version?
Derrick the Deathfin is a PS3 exclusive. Luckily we had the good sense to choose Unity as our game engine so working on PS3 has been relatively easy. Clearly though making a console game is a massive step up from developing mobile or browser based games as we had previously – both in terms of the expected quality of the title and rigerousness of the platform owner. It’s a lot of work basically but it’s been worth it for sure – we are immensely proud of Derrick!
Any multiplayer or DLC planned?
None of the above. We are a tiny team of two at our core – with me doing all the game design and development and Ronzo creating all of the characters and art, so we have had to be realistic in what we wanted to achieve. Which in my opinion is no bad thing, helps to create a tighter more focussed game.
If you want to make your own characters from the game check out Derrick on Facebook where Different Cloth are posting two new downloadable papercraft templates a week. Make a Puffer Fish or a Triangle Fish!