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How The Line Turned Leo DiCaprio’s Oscar Struggle into an 8-Bit Sensation


Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage has clocked up over 3 million plays in a week – meet the team who made it happen

How The Line Turned Leo DiCaprio’s Oscar Struggle into an 8-Bit Sensation

The glitz! The frocks! The tears! The Academy Awards are right round the corner and one story that’s captured the hearts of movie fans and bookies around the world is Leonardo DiCaprio’s much-thwarted struggle to get himself an Oscar. As the race heats up, animation collective The Line decided to put themselves in Leo’s stylish shoes… and so they created an 8-bit game dedicated to his battle.

Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage  launched a week ago and racked up nearly three million plays. It’s been featured everywhere from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety to Buzzfeed, and was Facebook’s top trending link within 24 hours of its release. Not bad for something that was only pushed out on The Line and Electric Theatre Collective’s social media channels.

It’s not the first time The Line has garnered mainstream kudos for its self-generated projects. Last year, they fooled the Internet with retro animation stunt Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit - but Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage has surpassed all expectations.

LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to Bjorn-Erik Aschim, Sam Taylor and Max van der Merwe to find out why they decided to immortalise Leo’s Oscar race in pixels and what it’s been like to see their pub idea explode into a global sensation.


LBB> How long did it take you to develop the game from inception to execution?

From sitting down in the pub and chatting about it for the first time to putting it up online, we spent about three weeks making it. It was our first stab at making a game, and we were pretty unsure about what we could achieve in the time. We surprised ourselves with what we were able to accomplish. Our initial idea was much less elaborate than the final product, but we saw the potential of what it could be and just went for it. In retrospect I don’t think we’d try and do something like this again in the same amount of time.


LBB> Who actually came up with the idea and what was the point that made you think ‘yeah, let’s make this happen’?

Bjorn-Erik Aschim, a member of The Line, floated the idea of making the game. We’ve been wanting to do a game for a while, and had a little bit of time on our hands between jobs, so we sat down to chat about it with our friend Max van der Merwe, who is an experienced game designer and developer.

All of these other ideas sprung up around it almost immediately, and I think at that point we knew we had something good on our hands. Just the idea that a game like this might exist was so compelling and ridiculous that we simply had to make it in one form or another. There is a certain seriousness in awards season that made it pretty easy to parody. The Oscars have had so much hype around them this year. There had already been so many memes around the Oscars and Dicaprio. I mean, he has more Twitter followers than Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump put together. Which is nuts.


LBB> Why did you decide to focus on Leo and his, er, struggle?

As a protagonist, he’s super compelling. He’s been doing pretty Oscar-y films for years, without ever winning one. It's a story that people know very well already and it's very much in the public conscious. I think the premise of the game is something that people can very easily get behind. In a really absurd way, playing the game almost makes you feel like you're helping him out and doing something good. I don’t know if he cares about winning one, but when you see what he put himself through in The Revenant you really empathise with the guy.

LBB> The mini games are very on point – including the (I think?) unwinnable ‘find the black nominee’ round. With that round in particular, why did you want to get involved in the controversy and include it in the game?

It felt like it would have been remiss of us not to touch on one of the biggest controversies of this year’s awards. It’s rightfully generated a huge stir, and we didn’t want to sidestep it.


LBB> 8-bit gaming has a really distinctive look – what was the process of nailing the look of the game and the characters like? And how tricky was it to create recognisable characters from such a restricted, pixelly palette?

We decided on an 8/16-bit look for a couple of reasons. One, we had no design time and there were only a few of us producing the artwork, so in many ways it helped unify the style. It also makes the images much smaller for people to download. Bjorn, it turned out, was the best amongst us at nailing the caricatures. I think he did a really great job. He managed to summon up the essence of the different nominees with very few pixels. It’s amazing. He comes from a painting background and has quite an impressionistic approach, so I think that translated really well.


LBB> From a production point of view, what were the biggest challenges you faced?

Time. We didn’t have enough of it. There were a fair few late nights and weekends on this job. But the clock was ticking, so we just had to get it out there. I think we’d give ourselves at least three times the amount of time if we were to do this again.


LBB> Is it the first time you’ve had a go at building a game? Is it something you (ETC, The Line) want to do more of in future?

This is the first game The Line has produced. As I mentioned, we teamed up with Max van der Merwe who has experience working on a number of games and interactive projects. He previously worked at UsTwo Games (Monument Valley, Land’s End) and now develops his own games independently. We definitely want to do more of this stuff in future.

We’re pursuing a number of projects already, as well as working on an update to this game which will come out in the lead up to the night.


LBB> There are loads of funny little details in the game – which are your personal favourites and why?

I liked Bjorn’s drawings of DiCaprio in “Act Harder”. So much emotion.

LBB> The game has gone insane, but as far as I know it was pushed out quite organically on Twitter. Why did you decide to push it that way? And what was the point where you realised that it was going to go (excuse the old school terminology) viral?

We put the game out on our social channels, mainly Facebook and Twitter, and we did a video on Instagram, that was it. We’ve done a few things like this before that just spread naturally and we kind of expected the game to be picked up and shared to some extent. Maybe not quite as fast or as widely as it did though. Someone actually leaked the game on Facebook a day before we had finished it and we had to ask them to take it down. The next day, several of our friends were texting us telling us how good our game was. We were kind of surprised. People were actually passing around the unfinished beta version and were already playing it in their offices before it was even out. I think we realised the viral potential of it then.


LBB> How many plays has the game had since its release?

We’re coming up to 3 million plays in the first week.


LBB> And what’s been your proudest moment watching the global press pick up unfold?

Tuning into Bjorn doing a live-translated five-way round table discussion on Radio Colombia for 15 minutes was pretty weird.


LBB> Do you know if Leo has played it yet? And do you think he’s going to get his Oscar this year?

I think the odds are 100 to 1 for him to win. So I reckon he’s in with a chance. We have no idea if he’s played the game yet but we hope he likes it if/when he does. We have actually made a one-off cheat code especially for Leonardo DiCaprio. All he needs to do is get in touch and he will find out what it does. We’re waiting Leo!

Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage was made by The Line Animation at Electric Theatre Collective.

Game Design by Max Van Der Merwe

Concept, Design and Artwork by Bjorn-Erik Aschim and Sam Taylor

Music by Matt Oglesby   Sounds by RedButtonAudio

Website by Tom Loughlin

Made with Construct 2

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Genres: Comedy, Animation

Categories: Sports and Leisure, Gaming

Electric Theatre Collective, Wed, 24 Feb 2016 14:59:33 GMT