IGF Factor 2014: Paralect

By Graham Smith on March 7th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

This drawing will make more sense when we reach games with prominent characters.

Every second year, the RPS hivemind startles awake from its eternal slumber. “Hrmm? Oh, we should talk to all the people making PC games who are nominated for this year’s IGF.” And then we do that. And now we’re doing that. Today we speak to the makers of Paralect, a free, austere, monochrome platformer in which you “spatially explore the monologues of NPCs.”

RPS: Can you begin by introducing Paralect: what is it? Explain it to me as you would a friend you want to convince you’re not crazy.

Loan Verneau, Creative Lead: Let me start by saying I would never try to convince a friend I am not crazy. Some lost causes are not worth the effort.

Paralect is a surrealist adventure/platformer game. It is the fusion between a surrealist autobiography, an experimental game and a personal statement on dealing with cultural differences.

Practically, you are born within the game as a little character in this weird world called the Cobblepot. You jump around the world and talk with “colorful” characters by jumping on their monologues. As time passes by, you start wondering about what lies outside of this “hometown”. From there, things start to fall apart as you are faced with what I like to call paradigm shifts.

The game is experiential, with the story as its focus. The first ten minutes usually take people aback, but once you are past the first paradigm shift, you are immersed in the phantasmagorical universe of Paralect. It’s not a game for everyone, but if you are crazy enough, or open-minded enough, you will discover giant worlds filled with humor, secrets and adventures.

Bryan Edelman, Designer: Paralect is a 2D platforming game that explores the feelings of culture shock. I think it’s about making people understand how it feels to move from place to place over the course of growing up, a time when you’re still attempting to figure out the world. By learning about the characters and the world in Paralect, as well as the inherent rules of its universe, you can start to see your own world through a new lens.

RPS: Given that you’re not selling it, what does an IGF nomination mean to you?

LV: To be selected at IGF is a huge opportunity for us to show the game. Every time a player enjoys the game is a great success for us and IGF is a great opportunity to have more people play it. Of course, this is also a huge recognition of the amazing work put down by the team, and we’re incredibly proud of and honored by the nomination. There are a lot of great games that we respect deeply on that list, so to be among them is an amazing thing.

Avimaan Syam, Writer: As students and experimenters, we have even more to gain from the recognition of IGF. Paralect was a labor of love where a group of students believed enough in Loan and the project to commit hundreds of hours pro-bono instead of working on their own projects. Our nomination is not only an astoundingly gracious honor for our work, but a testament to what people can do if they believe in a higher goal.

RPS: Is there an intent to develop Paralect further, perhaps towards selling a version of it? I notice the version available to download is marked as a beta.

LV: The game is right now in “beta”, which means it is unfinished and buggy. We are working right now on polishing existing gameplay and finishing the last chapter of the game. There is a saying that the last 10% of a game take 90% of the work and that is pretty much our situation right now. We are looking to polish the existing chapters for the show and will finish the game after GDC. What we will do with that finished game is still undecided at the moment. All we know is that we want to release it somehow to the public again, once finished.

RPS: Paralect was made as a student project. Why was it submitted to the main competition rather than the Student IGF? What’s the different benefits and challenges between the two competitions?

BE: We submitted to both the main and student IGF. The competition for both of them is extraordinarily tough, and we’re humbled to be selected in the main competition among some of the highest-quality experiences out there. It’s definitely a greater challenge to be in the main competition, against games that are already critically and commercially successful, but it gives us the honor of being the first USC-based team to be a finalist in the main IGF; that alone is pretty wonderful.

It's quite attractive, for a game of such abstract design.

RPS: Paralect is obviously dissimilar to most mainstream games, and even most other indie games. What do you want to see games do more of?

AS: I agreed to be the writer and narrative designer for Paralect when Loan told me he wanted to create a world and characters similar to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. I wanted to bring my inspirations from other great artworks–be they novels, architecture, plays, film, etc.–into the interactive sphere. I love our process in Paralect because we took a basic form, the platformer, and imbued it with our own wild styling and influences. I hope that more games find the right way to incorporate more disparate voices into a medium ripe for paradigm shifts.

LV: Paralect is very inspired by literature and animation (in particular French Surrealist Animation of the 80s). Part of me wishes more games would explore other arts and reference them. I think there is a lot of self-referencing and cinematic inspiration within our field. The video game culture is fascinating for sure, but it is very young and small in comparison to the amazing library of other crafts out there.

BE: I just want games and other pieces of media to affect me emotionally. Whether the feelings are ones of excitement, awe, fear, or whatever, the only art I don’t gravitate towards are the pieces that do nothing for me.

RPS: Are there any games in this year’s IGF (other than your own) that you hope does well, or worry about being overlooked?

BE: This is the hardest question on here! There are so many amazing games among the finalists, many of which I haven’t fully experienced in a proper setting. Without going too far into detail, I have many feels for Perfect Stride, Mushroom 11, SoundSelf, Save the Date, and The Stanley Parable among others. I love the sound of Crypt of the NecroDancer, but I haven’t gotten any quality time with it yet. That will be quickly remedied on the expo floor, depending on who I have to cut ahead of in line.

LV: There are so many great games at IGF this year, I do not know where to start. We are honored to be in the competition with games such as “The Yawhg”, “The Stanley Parable”, and “Device 6″. I would say the game I worry would get overlooked is the one you haven’t played yet!

There’s a download link for Paralect at the bottom of this page.

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