Envisioned as a “playable poem” by its creators—perhaps surprisingly, Patrick Plourde, the creative director of “Far Cry 3,” and Jeffrey Yohalem, winner of the Writers Guild of America Award—Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed “Child of Light” is an attempt to make childhood fairy tales interactive. It’s set in the enchanted world of Lemuria, and concerns itself with the coming-of-age journey of Aurora, a young girl struggling to save a lost kingdom and her ailing father.
Visually, the game is very much an homage to the Golden Age of illustration, where talented artists like Arthur Rackham, John Baeuer, Edmund Dulac, John Bauer, Kay Nielsen, and Gustave Dore produced stunning work, much of it from 1900 until the start of the First World War. The period saw a strong market for high-quality illustrated books, many of them fairy tales given to children as Christmas gifts. They were often what one would now consider “collector’s editions”—deluxe, limited edition, vellum-bound, and sometimes signed.
Rackham invented his own technique, similar to photographic reproduction. He would sketch an outline of his drawing, then lightly block in shapes and details, later adding lines in pen and India ink. He’d then apply multiple washes of color until translucent tints were created, and later used silhouette cuts in his illustration work. The result was a style that has made Rackham’s work very popular since his death; many of his books are still in print, and his original drawings and paintings turn up in international art auction houses.
Skillfully hand-drawn and given an incredible watercolor finish, the art was put together using Ubisoft’s UbiArt Engine—first used on the fantastic “Rayman Legends.” The game’s art director, Thomas Rollus, fused the illustrations with 2D and 3D animations to create something striking. Rollus has said that he wanted “the impression of being awake in an underwater dream,” and it’s clear that the team has succeeded in this.
As well as reproducing Rackham’s techniques digitally, Rollus also cites the illustrious animator Hayao Miyazaki as a primary inspiration. Miyazaki’s films “Castle in the Sky” and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” played particularly large roles in guiding the game’s artistic direction, with “Child of Light” heroine Aurora taking on some traits of the latter. The style of art nouveau factors large as well, as did a Portishead music video for the song “Only You.” Inspirations abound, in other words—and Rollus and his team have channeled them into one of the most visually striking titles in recent years.
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