If there was ever a genre suited for telling stories then point-and-click would be it. Capable of turning its hand from comedy to mystery, the ability to immerse a player into a world by making them part of the story is unmatched. Resonance is a new title from Wadjeteye Games and places a player in the shoes of not just one main character but several.
We talk to studio founder Dave Gilbert and Resonance developer Vince Twelve about their exciting new project…
7outof10: For those unfamiliar with Resonance, could you tell us a little about it? What is it all about?
Vince Twelve: Resonance is a point-and-click adventure game where you take control of four characters and their memories to work your way through a complex sci-fi mystery. A scientist has died after creating a terrible new technology and the race is on to secure his secret vault before the technology falls into the wrong hands. The player can use the unique short-term memory system to talk to any character in the game about practically anything you see! So you’ll have to do some logical thinking to figure out how to navigate the game’s tricky puzzles and twisty plot.
What would you say influenced the story of Resonance the most?
Vince Twelve: I drew inspiration from a number of TV shows, movies, books, and comic books. I’d name Twin Peaks as one important inspiration. I watched the entire show while in a hospital bed early in the game’s development and knew I wanted a similar atmosphere of mystery and peculiarity.
Telling the story from the perspective of three different characters and breaking it into pieces is quite a different approach to storytelling, was it difficult to write from that angle?
Vince Twelve: Four, actually! The game was definitely difficult to write and program because of the decision to have four playable characters. Especially later in the game where they’re all working together and you can swap between them. This creates a ton of extra work because your writing and code has to take into account the huge number of combinations of ways the player can explore the story and interact with characters and the world. It really becomes mind-boggling.
What inspired the very interesting use of STM and LTM as opposed to a just a conventional inventory? It appears to play a large part in the game, but did the concept come before the story was fully fleshed out or evolve as a useful way of allowing players to go back over key pieces of information?
Vince Twelve: I wanted the game to require the player to think logically about how to overcome obstacles. The example I like to use is a locked door and a locksmith. In a lot of adventure games, if you see a locked door and you go to talk to the locksmith, the game will provide you a list of dialog choices including “Hey, could you unlock that door for me.” This is practically spoon-feeding the solution to the player since all you have to do is exhaust all your dialog options in most cases.
So I wanted to come up with a new way for the player to communicate his or her intentions to the game in a way that wasn’t so easily brute-forced but also to have this communication take place via an easy to use and understandable interface. The theme of memories was already very important to the game’s story, so it was a natural metaphor for this interface. In real life, if you were to run into this locked door, you would “store” it in your short-term memory, and then walk over to the locksmith and talk to him about it. That natural process informed the design of the STM (Short-Term Memory) system.
Why include a point system? On one hand it’s obviously a great way to compare player’s talent at weaving their way through your puzzles but the decision to kill the player when they reach zero could be seen as a little harsh.
Vince Twelve: This is actually a system that we re-thought and changed after the press preview was distributed. I wanted the characters to be in actual danger in the game to keep tension high. So, character death was important. But how do we handle that fairly?
Since fate was another theme in the game, I added this concept of “fate points” that you would earn during gameplay. If you would fail in the game, rather than run to your most recent save-game, you could instead rewind the game (fate correcting itself) at the cost of a few fate points.
But in the end this felt too punitive, so we decided to de-couple the point system from the rewind system and just allow the player to rewind as many times as needed. Janet, our programmer, still wanted to keep the point counter, so we left that in as a side challenge, but it now goes only one way: up!
In many previews I’ve seen the voice acting has been highly commended. How hard was it to find actors that fit the key roles? And as they grew into them, did you find yourself altering lines to fit the personality they brought to proceedings?
Dave Gilbert: I found three of the four lead characters almost instantly! As soon as I played the first build I knew exactly who I wanted to play Ed, Anna and Ray. It didn’t take much convincing to get Vince to agree. The hardest role to cast was Bennet. Originally I had Brian Silliman earmarked for the role, but he already did the “tough gravelly cop” thing when he played Azriel in Gemini Rue so it sounded exactly like the same character. I asked around, and it turned out that Sarah Elmaleh (Anna) knew Logan Cunningham and he lived very close by. I was familiar with his work on Bastion, so I knew he could do the type of voice we wanted. I was very happy when he agreed he could do it.
Vince Twelve: One instance of the lines changing to fit the voice actors is seen in Detective Bennet’s first scene. I wasn’t happy with the introduction to that scene; it was too wordy. But when I heard that we were getting Logan as the Detective, I rewrote the intro to be kind of a film-noir narration, because I really wanted to hear it in that gravelly voice!
Personally I’m a great fan of pixelised point and clicks as opposed to their polygonal brethren. However, in this day and age why do you choose to stick with 2D? And what benefits do you and your animators see from that style.
Dave Gilbert: Mostly budget more than anything else! You can get very evocative 2D art for a reasonable cost, but getting quality 3D art is significantly more expensive. It’s very quick and simple to make a 2D animation and get it right into the game. With 3D you have to deal with meshes and rigging and modeling and all sorts of things that I know nothing about, and there’s so much that can go wrong at any stage of the process. I’m a bit of a luddite, so I find 2D art much easier to work with. You have frames which make up an animation, and that’s it!
Vince Twelve: Absolutely. Time, budget, and familiarity. Plus, it just looks gorgeous! Look at it!
Have you ever been tempted to go episodic?
Dave Gilbert: I’ve done the episodic thing with Blackwell, and for the most part it’s worked out great. But I was lucky. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have started out with an episodic series! The consumer confidence is just not there yet. Aside from Telltale, nobody has ever pulled off the episodic thing successfully and gained the trust of gamers. While the opinion of Telltale’s games vary, nobody ever doubts that they will finish what they start. After four Blackwell games, people generally believe by now that I am going to deliver on the next installment, but I still get emails from people saying that they don’t want to get invested in the series without knowing if it’s going to be finished or not. So episodic games are much harder to sell, even if they are cheaper/quicker to produce!
Vince Twelve: I briefly considered breaking Resonance into three episodes just because it was taking so long to complete. But the story wasn’t really structured in a way conducive to an episodic release. The episodes just wouldn’t have stood up on their own.
As developers in the midst of the adventure scene, do you feel like the attention surrounding high-profile Kickstarter projects is helping the genre flourish?
Dave Gilbert: I think it’s great! Anything that brings more attention to point-and-clicks can only mean good things for us.
I have very fond memories of the quite evil Discworld, though never quite managed to complete it until the era of Game FAQ. What is the one point and click that thwarted you but you still loved?
Dave Gilbert: Probably King’s Quest 3. I spent months being blown up, dusted, transformed, and all-around humiliated by that wizard Manannan! This was in the days before internet walkthroughs, so I had no choice but to solve it on my own. When I finally DID best him, I could only describe the feeling as “absolute euphoria.” Take that, stupid wizard.
Vince Twelve: The Space Bar. What a brilliant but deeply flawed game! It had the most amazing sense of style with great settings and characters, but it was punishingly difficult with little-to-no readability on some of the puzzles. Zero indication of what you were supposed to do. Even playing through it with the help of a walkthrough I still didn’t understand the logic behind some of the puzzles. Even so, I have loved that game ever since I played it back in high school, and have a secret desire to somehow acquire the IP and make a sequel.
Thank you very much to Emily Morganti for arranging the interview and Dave Gilbert and Vince Twelve for taking time out of the schedule to talk to us. Resonance is out 19 June on PC and is available through WadjetEye Game’s website.