An intrepid filmmaker going by the name of TDB Games has created a rousing 24-minute movie called “Yoko” about the destruction of a small city. It’s very good.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of a good Cities: Skylines cinematic flythrough, but it’s rare that I see a creator attempt to do something that looks more like a traditional film with their video capture of the game. After all, it’s hard to do; there are no characters who might perform speaking roles, and it’s very hard to have any kind of control over the little simulated vehicles that populate the game.
“Yoko” breaks all of my preconceptions about what you can do with Skylines as a filmmaking tool. Running nearly a half hour, the short film has a narrative structure like any other movie you might be interested in. We’re introduced to our “characters,” the different districts of the city of Yoko, with occasional glimpses of fire trucks and ambulances. This is a traditional cinematic flythrough of a nice-looking city, and if that was all we got I would be happy.
Except that isn’t all we get. A few minutes into the film, all hell breaks loose. Multiple tornadoes begin to rip through the city of Yoko, and then a meteor hurls into it from the sky. These are followed by fires and the decimation of buildings in some really, really well-filmed segments.
Then the disaster relief heroics kick in, all new day sunshine and steely music. It’s so emotionally resonant that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be proud.
All of this is accomplished through really excellent camera work, sound design, and editing. “Yoko” demonstrates how much you can do to communicate mood and tone, not to mention story, without human characters at all. It’s so good, and if you’ve ever seen anything like this before, please let me know in the comments.