Created in conjunction with Channel 4’s City of Vice TV series, Littleloud crafted an interactive game that merges 3D, Flash and broadcast-level budgets for a broadband extravaganza.

Violence. Murder. Prostitution – it’s all there in City of Vice, Channel 4’s groundbreaking series on the birth of British policing, set in Georgian London.

This murky underworld also forms the tapestry for the broadband game Bow Street Runner, an interactive drama taking Flash games into a whole new era, created by Brighton-based digital studio Littleloud.

The game was designed to support the Channel 4 TV drama – a five-part series that charts early attempts to introduce policing into London. The game doesn’t shy away from its gritty, often seedy subject.

Needing to be more than a promotional tool with flair, Bow Street Runner had to deliver a digital learning experience, and offer the user a chance to explore the world of the Bow Street Runner in their own way.

The game delivers, with a polished environment that merges live actors shot against greenscreen, a 3D cityscape, and a range of interactivity that recalls famous games such as Myst and The Journeyman Project.

Players can interact with the scenery, delve into objects hunting for clues, interrogate suspects, and roam the streets of London tracking down a murderer.

Clues and mini-games are introduced at pace – in the first episode, as well as tracking a killer and spotting clues, you can play interactive pub games, listen through walls with a glass, and even repair knife wounds inflicted on a hapless prostitute.

Littleloud certainly has previous when it comes to high-value interactive games. It has worked on similar projects for the likes of Paramount and the BBC, and it worked on creating an episodic drama with 7NK, Shakespeare Murder Mystery.

But the Bow Street Runner project pulled Littleloud’s experience and skills together, raising the bar for broadband gaming in the process. “All the way from casting to costume, FX and music, we regarded this as a broadcastquality production,” says Littleloud creative director Darren Garrett, who worked as the director on Bow Street Runner.

“We wanted to match as closely as possible the quality and feel of the original series using the time and budget available.”

Re-building the underworld

The finished product succeeds in looking like a TV production. Featuring five episodes with different themes and an overarching plot that is resolved in the final episode, Bow Street Runner has all the hallmarks of a TV series.

It required the team to authentically recreate Georgian London, use more than 20 different actors and more than 25 different locations – not bad for a Flash game.

Initial pre-production work revolved around experience points that see the player’s character earn promotion through the policing ranks. The 3D sets formed both the acting cues and backdrop to the game, with LightWave used to create each 3D scene.

Paul Simpson, lead designer and interactive director for the project, cites LightWave’s fast radiosity rendering with HDRI maps and occlusion node as instrumental in setting up realistic environments that were naturally lit.