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Parallax Devs on the Importance of Rifts, Dimensions, and Toast [Interivew]

DIYGamer was very intrigued by the IGF 2012 entry, Parallax, from Toasty Games. Lewie brought you the first look of the beautiful monochromatic first-person puzzler this past weekend.

Since seeing the trailer, I was eager to speak with the developers at Toasty: Zi Ye and Jesse Burstyn, who are both students at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. I wanted to know what inspired them to create Parallax and (maybe more so) what inspired the Toasty name, especially since I love bread so much.

Can I know more about you both? What are your backgrounds in games, and where are you located?

Jesse: I’m currently working on my Master’s degree in human-computer interaction. One of the first projects I undertook when learning how to program was recreating Duck Hunt in Visual Basic in 2003. It was a resounding success, albeit far too easy as players used a mouse instead of a light gun.

Since then, my game development experience has been limited to course assignments, such as checkers and small rogue-likes. Throughout I’ve still been involved as both a player of digital and tabletop games and in the community, as a former moderator of GameFAQs. Parallax is my first serious push as game developer – under the guidance of Zi, who has much more experience than I do.

Zi: I just finished my 4th year of undergraduate studies and am currently working as a programmer at one of the University’s labs. Game development has been a hobby of mine since middle school, but I’ve never finished a full game – only bits and pieces. Parallax will (hopefully) be my first published title.

Who’s working on the music?

Some major decisions still need to be made about the music in the final game. Since neither of us are great at composing music, any music that we do include will be done by another artist. Of course, we may choose to remove music completely, and leave the player listening to the eerie sound of interdimensional rifts.

Are there ever more than two dimensions? Why or why not have more than two? (I am guessing two dimension restriction works suits the interchanging of the black and white graphics)

There are only two dimensions. We could easily have had three or more dimensions, but we felt that this would simply add an extra layer of complexity to the game without introducing a new kind of challenge for the player. We experimented with many different color schemes and visual styles, and found that the black and white style was the most effective at conveying the idea of two different dimensions.

What games/media inspired your creation of Parallax?

Although we try not to draw the comparison, Portal was definitely an influence on us. There are only so many first-person puzzle games out there, so it isn’t hard to find similar elements between Parallax and Portal.

What elements in past games are you hoping to improve?

Our primary goal is to make a game that is fun and that people want to talk about. That having been said, we also wish to show that a first-person game can be visually appealing in its own way without using bump mapping, ambient occlusion and the like.

In Parallax, who is the player and who is the voice telling you things like “five” and “don’t walk on the wire”?

For now, the player is just the player, and the text bubbles are just instructions. We haven’t really considered a back story or a plot for the game yet, but Parallax is still in beta, so we have time to think about that.

Is the entire game in black and white?

Yes, the entire game is in black and white, including the menu system and splash screen. You will not find any other color in the game – not even gray. We think this gives Parallax a rare level of visual cohesion.

How is the game controlled?

Parallax currently runs on PC and Mac, so the controls are standard first-person controls (WASD + mouse). Because we are only tentatively planning for other platforms, the control schemes for those platforms have not yet been worked out.

On what platforms and when do you expect to release this?

We are primarily working on PC and Mac versions and are tentatively planning for mobile platforms. We develop Parallax in our spare time, so there is currently no hard-set release date, but we expect to be finished in 2011.

Where did the name Toasty Games come from?

We were originally called Flying Toaster Cat, after a character I made up. It was a flying… toaster cat. However, we decided that name was too long and unwieldy, so now we’re just Toasty Games.

How important is toast to every meal? Do you prefer butter or other toppings?

Zi: Toast is life. I like mine with melted cheese.
Jesse: Butter, jam, peanut butter, nutella, you name it.

With a name like Toasty Games, how could I not ask them, right? Anyway, if you missed the trailer or are otherwise longing to see it again, be sure to check out this Parallax coverage. More IGF 2012 interviews coming this week! Thanks to Zi and Jesse for giving us some insight into Parallax!