Creating Magic with Paper and Light in Papetura
Despite huge advances in gaming technology, I can still tell the difference between something that exists in the physical space and a virtual creation.
There’s some unique property our senses detect when we view something real. We know it’s tangible. We know it has weight. It’s perfectly imperfect. Not the kind of crafted imperfection we see when a programmer places something deliberately into a virtual scene. Even ray tracing, which emulates light beautifully, is still an emulation. There’s a permanence to something that physically exists and we know that if we reached out, we could grab it.
For so long developers have tried harder and harder to push the limits of technology, to immerse us in their artificial worlds. We’ve seen some staggering examples over recent years like Death Stranding, The Last of Us II, and Half Life: Alyx.
Solo developer Petums is turning the quest for virtual realism on its head.
For the puzzle adventure game Papetura, Petums has crafted a physical world and captured it digitally. Like an artist, Petums uses paper as his canvas and light as his paint soaked brush. The result is something quite remarkable.
Here’s the synopsis from the developer:
“Papetura tells a story about a lonely paper creature, Pape, trapped in a flowery prison. One day Pape escapes and finds little Tura, a magical being that he’ll take care of. Together they will have to face dark and flaming monsters which will try to burn down their beloved paper world.”
The demo for Papetura is available on Steam and you really should check it out. It takes no longer than 5 minutes to complete – the gaming equivalent of an amuse-bouche – but the short experience left me wanting more. I’ve now digested all of the development blogs and videos, where Petums shares his creation process and it really has to be seen to truly appreciate it.
Hand-making each scene for Papetura is a painstaking process. Designed on the computer first before printing and then cutting and gluing to shape organic places for our protagonist Pape to explore.
And this isn’t just a visual feast
Floex, real name Tomáš Dvořák, has composed an atmospheric soundtrack for Papetura. His previous works include Machanarium and the Samorost series.
As I tried to help Pape escape from his cell, my ears will filled with low strings, tinkling piano, and woodwind flourishes. This, coupled with the visuals, makes of an almost palpable experience – as If you could feel the pressure in the room.
Breaking New Ground
I should mention that creating something physically and digitising is, in itself, not a new concept. Games like The Neverhood, which was a claymation adventure a la Morph (for those old enough), and Cuphead, which featured physical backgrounds, both exampled this technique. But it’s the simple beauty of paper, light, and shadow that really makes an impact in Papetura.
The game features simple point and click mechanics. Click on a spot and Pape rustles over. Click on an object and Pape will interact with it. In the demo you pick up an insect cocoon that you can use to shoot bugs at out-of-reach objects. I’m excited to learn what other ways we’ll see our paper hero navigate this incredible place.
I’ll reserve judgement on this intriguing title until the full release, but all I know at this stage is that this game must be played.
Papetura releases on PC and Mac February 2021.
For more information on the game visit the official site
You can play the demo on Steam
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