A steampunk device

Very early on, our trusty developers had the idea to figure Sembl as a machine. Seeing as it’s an iPad app, we started to think about it as a handheld device, made of wood and metal, so *of course!* it wasn’t long before we started to draw on the wonderful steampunk zeitgeist for inspiration.

I wondered how faithful we could be to the figure of the device – how plausible (in a non-slavish way, of course) – so I started to sketch.

Hand-drawn sketch of a device with a button, a slot, an aperture and a key

Above is a rough (and dodgy!) early sketch of the spine of the device, where teams will register to play. Below is me dreaming up how a node on the gameboard might change as it becomes available and then filled with an object.

Hand-drawn sketch with notes of three connected nodes, one 'locked', one with an aperture and one filled with an image

These are early ideas; they may well be superseded by those of the visual designers… but drawing in this way helped me to think through the visual dynamics of gameplay and, yep, fed my already substantial enthusiasm for this project!

4 replies
  1. Charles Cameron (hipbone)
    Charles Cameron (hipbone) says:


    As you know, I’ve spent the best part of fifteen years on the HipBone family of games, and it is delightful to see the amount of care and thought you’ve brought to bear on them.

    I love the steampunk look, and am eager to see what further developments arise.

    Thanks again!

  2. Cath
    Cath says:

    So much yay for me here too, Charles. I believe it was almost ten years ago we first started talking about bringing the gameplay online!

    Steampunk also inspired a backstory for the game. That’ll be the next post :)


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  1. […] Cath’s Sembl version of my game looks like it is going to be a beautiful steampunk affair… […]

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