A Light In Chorus: Making Games Out of Light

A Light In Chorus (ALIC) is a mesmerizing experience. It’s a kind of game you could literally only dream of.

A Light In Chorus (ALIC) is a mesmerizing experience. It’s a kind of game you could literally only dream of. Broken Fence Games managed to create a title that looks like no other games out there. It feels like it was made out of sunshine, fireflies and short summer night. But underneath eerie visuals lies a very complicated technology created by two very talented guys. 80.lv had the pleasure to talk with Eliott Johnson the Designer and Artist behind the BAFTA-nominated indie game A Light In Chorus.

About Broken Fence Games

Broken Fence Games is the company name Mat and I are producing ALIC under. We both live/work from our homes and talk via Skype. Mat lives in Oakland and I live just outside of Sheffield in the UK. A Light In Chorus will be our first released game.

Our backgrounds are in Fine Art and post production (we met at art school almost ten years ago). Outside of that we’ve both worked an eclectic range of jobs (techy and non) before we decided to give the indie game thing a go. It certainly helped to have a broad experience base.

A Light In Chorus

A Light In Chorus © Broken Fence Games, 2015

We want the world to surprise you as you discover new parts of it so we’re trying not to reveal too much right now. At a base level you’re exploring a bunch of overlapping spaces. When you begin the game you’re wandering around what looks like a dead, grey world- you float through walls and steps instead of colliding.

But as you wander further you encounter coloured lights which illuminate and solidify (ie; make collidable) parts of the dead world around them. The gameplay then becomes about finding ways to materialize more of these lights to build out paths through the space and flesh out the stories of these places.

A Light In Chorus © Broken Fence Games, 2015

We want any mechanic we add to use something unique and specific to the aesthetic. One of the ways we’re doing that right now is with object morphing and swapping: allowing you to pick objects or bits of architecture and morph them into other parts. So you can solve a spatial puzzle in multiple ways depending on the pieces you have made available in the environment.

Technology and Tools

We knew the art style would be a challenge to implement and optimize in whatever engine we picked so we ended up making our own. It’s not that we’re necessarily doing more than any other engine is capable but we’re fully in control.

A Light In Chorus © Broken Fence Games, 2015

All software has advantages and disadvantages. Working right up against the limits of what you have forces you to be creative and you’re more likely to learn something. Games might be designed to be played a specific way but that doesn’t mean they have to be. It’s the same with software.

We’ve built a bunch of tools specifically to deal with point cloud generation, there isn’t really one way that works for everything. It’s still very hand crafted in a lot of ways. The way we generate the assets is not too far from a normal cg lighting pipeline though. Most points are the results of raycasting of some form. What you see in the game is not a textured model though. It’s a collection of coordinates and other attached data.

Inspirations and Gameplay

The game came out of some research I’d been doing for an art piece about how visual technology relates to our understanding of landscape. As part of that I had come across these SONAR scans of shipwrecks on the sea bed. They were haunting and beautiful. I wanted to get closer to them and knew it would be difficult to gain access to the raw data, so I went about constructing some tools to generate versions of my own. That’s where the raycasting comes in.


We’re trying to make the most of what we’ve got with the art style and a part of that is seeing how we can use forms or actions that are unique to particles/point clouds to act as indicators to the player. The game is really about learning to read what the landscape is telling you, so we’re trying to indicate things that might normally use a UI with the environment instead- stars, wind gusts, displacements etc. It’s one of the most difficult parts of the design and still very much a work in progress.


A Light In Chorus © Broken Fence Games, 2015

Our Greenlight went really well, and having a little community of people behind us definitely helped. We’ve been to seven events with the game over the last year, some big, some small. It all helps, you never know who you will meet. People have been great about spreading the word, retweeting videos etc. It’s so unbelievably rewarding to see people enjoy the thing you’ve spent hours working in isolation on, staggering. It really means so much to us.

Games in Museums

We wouldn’t be making A Light In Chorus if we didn’t think it was art.

I don’t feel that games really need museums to legitimize them as art though. Even if I can sympathise with the desire to see them there. Ultimately putting games in museums is more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. I wouldn’t seek out the experience of playing a game in a gallery over playing it at home unless it was in some way relevant to the game.

A Light In Chorus © Broken Fence Games, 2015

If anything I’d say that having games in traditional art museums may be counter-productive for anyone really invested in the argument for games as art, as ultimately you’re giving art museums more power to decide what constitutes “real” culture.

One of the nice things about games is that (broadly speaking) you have this much larger reach. Your art can be in someone’s pocket, on their phone, or in the living room on the TV. Whether it’s seen as art or not is irrelevant if it’s still having some effect, still communicating something in a way, or with a nuance that wouldn’t be possible without it, that’s all I’d really ask of any art.

Support A Light In Chorus on Greelight.


Eliott Johnson, Designer, Artist from Broken Fence Games.

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