The Tulse Luper Journey is SubmarineChannel’s online multiplayer game based on the adventures of Tulse Luper, a character created by film director/renaissance artist Peter Greenaway. A lot of people have been working for more than three years to create a unique online experience that has all the qualities of an alternate reality game. New sub-games are added every week. Time to find out a bit more about how this ambitious game came to be. So, who better to ask than Submarine’s very own Peter Hofstede, producer of the game, and involved with every aspect since its inception. We asked him about The Tulse Luper Journey and about his experiences working in the Dutch game industry. And we found out which next generation console is gonna be on Peter’s X-mas wish list.
The Tulse Luper Journey: Suitcase game nr. 17 'Alcohol'
Who came up with the idea to add a game to the ever-expanding universe of Tulse Luper?
Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix (ed: directors of Submarine), and Peter Greenaway. It was Greenaway’s plan to use the story of Tulse Luper as a basis to experiment with new forms of storytelling. The Tulse Luper project, encompassing films, books, exhibitions, DVD’s and more, was designed to make it easy for other people to join. In his quest to break the boundaries of traditional media, it made sense to look at games as a new means of communication and interaction between artists and their audience.
The Tulse Luper Journey seems like a true collaborative
game development project. How did that work out in practice?
It’s very big. By now, around a hundred different people have somehow contributed. The work is divided between Submarine [ed: SubmarineChannel’s big sister] and the co-producers. They are Opixido in Paris, Moccu in Berlin, The university of Art and Design in Helsinki and Kasander film in the UK. The co-producers work with students and artists. In the Netherlands, we’ve worked with students from the HKU - the Utrecht School of the Arts.
At Submarine, we work on the overall game: the interface, visual style, gameplay and multiplayer features. The co-producers work on individual suitcases. Every suitcase features a game and a short animation that fit in with the overall story. It’s been quite challenging to set up a collaborative process where the work is divided in this way. In the beginning we faced some technical issues because we were trying to freeze the specifications for the developers while we were still working on our bit of the game. Things like the size and frame rate of the games, the software to be used and the way the overall game relates to the suitcase games had to be fixed at an early stage. Getting people to agree on a common style for the suitcases and making sure that the scenarios were of good quality wasn’t easy either.
The Tulse Luper Journey: Suitcase game nr. 7 'Vatican Porn'
At the moment, collaboration runs smoothly most of the time. Everyone’s been working hard to produce great games and animations. It’s a lot of fun to see what people come up with, how they interpret the Tulse Luper story and how they push themselves to create something new and interesting.
The Tulse Luper Journey: The Nordberg Institute
So, what exactly was Peter Greenaway’s role in the development of the game?
He challenges and inspires the artists to break away from what’s been done before. He’s visited the co-producers and spoken directly with artists and students who presented their work to him. We’ve presented the Tulse Luper Journey on several occasions together with Peter Greenaway as well. Furthermore, he’s been involved in brainstorms, scenario creation, creation of prizes for the best players. Most importantly, he guards the overall quality of the project.
What’s the appeal of the Tulse Luper project?
For developers and artists, it’s interesting because they get an opportunity to work with people across Europe on a very ambitious large scale project while still being able to create something that is based on their own individual qualities and ideas.
For players, it’s interesting because the Tulse Luper universe offers them a setting and a story that is very different compared to other online games. It triggers you to reflect and discuss the stories and ideas behind the suitcases. It also offers people an opportunity to add their own ideas to the mystery of Tulse Luper. And it’s free!
The Tulse Luper Journey: game interface, the Huyen Center Lab
Holland has great designers, painters and architects. But why do you think
the game industry lags behind compared to other European countries?
Compared to big European gaming regions like the UK, France and Scandinavia, Holland has never been a big gaming country. People just don't buy a lot of games here, it's a very small market. Without a solid home market, you have to publish and distribute throughout Europe or even worldwide from the start, which makes it a risky operation for investors. The lack of corporate interest probably had an effect on the number of young people wanting to get into game development. It's always been hard to get funding for setting up a game company. Next to that, game specific education never existed. Over the last five years this had changed dramatically. There are now several schools where you can study different game specialisms like 3d animation, game design and programming. The first students have now graduated so we can probably expect several new startups. The success of Dutch developers like Guerilla, Playlogic, Khaeon and Engine shows that it is possible to run a professional game development company. Investors now believe that it is possible to make a profit in game development, even in the Netherlands. So, the gaming future looks bright and orange.
The Tulse Luper Journey: Suitcase game nr. 70 'Spent Matches'
It’s always fun to ask gamers about their first memorable game experience,
the one that kept them hooked on gaming. What’s yours?
On a holiday as a child I played a racing game on a broken arcade machine. I was an extremely simple black and white affair, but it had a proper steering wheel. I played it for three days straight and never looked back.
We heard that as head of development for Lost Boys Games
you were responsible for the first Dutch Playstation title.
Yes, I was. It was the unforgettable Dodgem Arena. A futuristic sports game, in true Wipeout style. It was fun to make, but I wouldn't recommend dusting off your playstation to play it ;) As far as I know, it was the first Dutch PS1 title on the shelves, and I guess that's worth something.
Here’s a tricky last one: Console or PC?
Consoles have soul and allow you to sit on your sofa while playing a game. PC’s don’t and they’re more expensive, so there’s no room for dicussion really. However, some games just work better on a PC, especially when keyboards are involved. This year, I'm looking forward to Nintendo’s new console the Revolution. I think we're going to see some crazy new games that take advantage of their motion sensitive controller. It's on my Xmas gift list already.
> Play The Tulse Luper Journey
The Tulse Luper Journey: Suitcase game nr. 2 'Toys'