Vinícius Cortez, the founder of Cortez Productions and Darkness Paradox, gave a sneak peek into the game concept, visuals, mechanics, and storyline.
80lv: First of all, could you introduce your studio to us? Where are you based and what interesting projects have you worked on previously?
Cortez Productions a very small team, we are all from Brazil. Darkness Paradox is our first project together, but everybody in the team is very talented and everyone is a gamer which is very important because we know what the actual gamers need – new experiences. A lot of the games today revolve around the same concepts, and while there are a few creators that try to innovate, we all know it is dangerous to bring something new. It’s basically going into an unexplored area.
Revealing Dark Paradox
80lv: As there’s literally almost no information about the game, could you reveal Darkness Paradox’s mystery to our readers? What is the game about? What was it inspired by? What experience should the players expect to get from it?
I will start by explaining our first teaser. What you can see in the teaser is an apartment of a survivor, but not a traditional one we usually see in most of the actual games. There are no guns, knives, medkits or other traditional survival equipment. I’m not saying you will not need these things in Darkness Paradox, but that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the Light. If you pay attention to the environment in the teaser you can see a lot of things related to Light: box of matches, lighters, candles (a lot of them), and a flashlight.
And here’s a question: “How would you survive in a world where the darkness is not just the absence of light anymore?”
In Darkness Paradox, the world was entirely taken by the Darkness, and when playing the game you will find the answer to that question.
The game is being mainly designed for multiplayer in which each player will be a survivor, but with something special in common. As you play you will discover more about your character and your friends’ characters. The game is a lot about team play, there will be moments when your life will depend on your friends. So you better make sure to pick the right people o play this game with you!
Darkness Paradox is a Spiritual Survival Horror, and there are 2 worst things that can happen to you in the game: Death or the “Collapse” when entering a Coma state.
When suffering the Collapse you will understand why it’s a Spiritual Survival Horror. Also, that is the moment when you will really need your friends.
The main inspirations for Darkness Paradox are:
- Vanishing on 7th Street (Movie)
- Alan Wake (Game)
If you like Alan Wake, you will love Darkness Paradox.
I’ve watched Vanishing on 7th street for the first time about 7 years ago and I just loved it. I really recommend everybody to watch it.
Another inspiration is the work of a game designer who I’m a big fan, Hideo Kojima. Kojima’s work inspires me because he always tries to innovate – he even created the “Stealth” game genre, and now he is innovating again with his new project Death Stranding.
The experience that the players should expect to get is a Survival experience where horror is a consequence. In horror games, the horror is just there by default while in Darkness Paradox horror is a consequence depending on how you play. It’s also an experience of Life and Death, with something in between when you enter the Coma state, as said above.
80lv: How did you organize the planning and concepting stages of the project? What’s important here for indie game developers in order to prepare the project for a quick and stable start?
I’ve started writing the concepts of Darkness Paradox about 3 years ago. I tried to use a lot of tools to organize the planning of the project: Trello, Google Docs, and so on. But the one I liked the most by far was Zenkit. It’s is pretty similar to Trello, but there are more functionalities, and it’s more customizable. I still use Google Docs, however, just for the stories and scripts.
When talking about the entire game planning, it’s definitely better to use an application for it like Trello or Zenkit. With Zenkit you can organize both the planning and concepting stages of the project very well. Here is a screenshot of our project in Zenkit:
You can even upload pictures and other files, here it is some concept art of a character:
This is an enemy you will be facing in the game.
Developing Visual Style
80lv: It’d be nice to hear about the way you worked out the visual style: what principles did you base it on? What’s a good way to approach the development of the visuals for a title in order to get a united and captivating result?
First, you need to define Art Direction, and then you can start working on the visuals based on that direction. I recommend using Pinterest to look for atmosphere references that you like. Make a folder with the images and ideas from which you’d be able to choose the best ones that would fit in your game.
Another important thing to consider is that Storytelling in the environment is part of the visuals. An environment that does not make any sense, even if the graphics look good, will not look as beautiful as it could be with a story.
For Darkness Paradox, I wanted a more desaturated look while avoiding making everything dark. For that, I choose to use the light of the candles and the moonlight.
80lv: Storytelling plays a huge role in almost any game genre, however, in single-players it always the first thing the players pay attention to. Could you share your take on the development of the storyline for a game and smaller elements of storytelling that can help create the wholesome atmosphere? How did you approach this step in your project and how did you unite it with the visuals?
I like to develop the storyline in parts by using index cards, and I think it’s a good idea to do it. First, write all your ideas on these cards, then start organizing them until you have something interesting. There is an app in the Microsoft Store called Index Cards, I recommend trying it.
Developing a storyline for a game is not always like creating a story for a book. It’s more like a script most of the time. I’m not a writer and I was able to create the storyline without a problem. For example, if your game gives choices that lead to different paths in the storyline you will need to create a flowgraph to organize that.
In Darkness Paradox, there exists a general story of the universe, and you will be able to discover it by exploring, finding documents, talking to NPCs, etc. The player will have a lot of freedom in the game. It’s not linear, and you can end up missing the story or not understanding something if you don’t investigate. Also, you will not have main objectives and instead, you’ll define your objectives and strategies yourself. There will be quests that you can accept but leave unfinished if you want, and so on.
I think the more freedom you have in a game, the more you will be immersed in it. That way you will feel that you really are the character you are playing.
How did I unite the story with the visuals? That is an interesting question. I think that was basically by leaving specific props and items in the environment. Almost everything in the environment – including some elements on the characters – has a piece of the story.
Developing in Unity
80lv: Now, let’s move to a more technical side of the game. Could you tell us about the engine you used for the game and what advantages it brought? Did you use any innovative approaches and techniques during the production? Are there any shortcuts that helped you to optimize the whole process?
We are actually using Unity. The first teaser was developed using the Standard rendering in Unity, and now we moved to the new one, HDRP (High Definition Render Pipeline).
HDRP gives us a lot more options, resources, and tools to create more realistic visuals. Here you can see a screenshot of our character being rendered in real-time with Unity HDRP:
That was not possible with the older Unity because we didn’t have a Subsurface Scattering Shader needed to render realistic skin.
HDRP also gives us Volumetric Fog and Lighting which makes an incredible difference in terms of atmosphere.
As for the shortcuts that helped optimize the process, I think we haven’t used any yet.
Some of the Game Mechanics
80lv: What are the main mechanics of the game? Can the players expect something unique in terms of gameplay? Were there any interesting technical decisions your team has made when working on the game mechanics?
One of the main mechanics in the game is the Coma state as mentioned above and also the Light and Darkness concept, especially for a multiplayer scenario.
An important technical decision was made when creating the Light and Darkness mechanics. At that time, we were deciding which technique we should use to detect light: colliders or shaders. At the moment, we are using colliders (triggers), but as the development progresses we will probably utilize both methods together.
Join Alpha Demo
80lv: When will the game be released to the public? Are you planning to launch any closed and/or open Alphas and Betas? When and how will the players be able to test the game?
We plan to release a closed alpha demo this year. We’ve opened registration for it already, head here. This registration will let us estimate how many players the servers for the demo will need to hold.
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Thanks for reading!