Contrast is one of those “back of the napkin” type games.
Guillaume Provost, lead developer for Contrast, penned the idea in his notebook while sitting at a cafe in Lyon France.
“The project really started while I was still living in France. I had just left Arkane Studios to go take the ‘deep’ plunge and work for myself,” Provost said. “I didn’t really have the intent to start a studio at the beginning; I mostly wanted to do contract work and live by my own rules.”
Now the game is just a few months away from being fully realized. Compulsion Games first title appeared on Steam Greenlight in spring of 2012. It received the greenlight for development in October. Provost said that the team expects to have the game out around April. A look at their website hints at a new trailer and more details coming soon.
“The two things we are going to be developing in the coming months is giving the players a bit more of a glimpse into the narrative journey they can expect from the experience…” Provost said. “The other thing we’ll be revealing is the depth and extent of the play mechanics surrounding the shadows. We’ve invested quite a bit of creative efforts in the relationship between shadows and the world. We’re pretty excited about unveiling the different ways in which you can interact with the world.”
Shadows are a key part of Contrast and pervade nearly every element of the game. Gameplay revolves around literally moving into and out of the shadows. The narrative of this game is inspired by Film Noir, a type of Hollywood crime drama that was shot in black and white.
“We liked Film Noir because it is a media that has traditionally used high-contrast lighting with shadows playing a preponderant role,” Provost said.
Provost credited games like Shadow Physics and Lost in Shadow for the way they developed the idea. “I felt like those were interesting takes on a mechanic that could be expanded to a much wider and more interesting play experience,” Provost said. “Portal is a good example of this; although they didn’t invent the concept , they took it and explored it properly, opening the public’s eye on what could be done with that kind of mechanic.”
Contrast was the impetus for bringing together a bunch of industry veterans to form Compulsion Games in the first place. The team was founded when Provost brought his idea to the Game Developers Conference.
“When I saw excited they were about the concept, I decided to really invest myself into it,” Provost said. “This prompted me to move back to Canada and incorporate a business here because I felt the climate was more friendly to startups”
It’s clear after watching the original teaser trailer that the team knew what they were doing. Provost worked for Arkane Studios before setting out on his own. Much of the sets were created by PixelNauts Studios and level artists Alex Golebiowski and Chris Iacobucci. PixelNauts did sets for the game Darksiders among other titles. Much of the recording work and sound in Contrast is done by Wave Generation Audio. Their team has worked on such games as Assassin’s Creed II and Mass Effect 2.
Development for Contrast accelerated once it found a platform. Compulsion games released their first trailer in the spring of 2012 when they first submitted the project to Steam Greenlight. Since the the game got greenlit in October, the team has used much of the feedback they got from going through the process.
Provost said that the feedback they got through Steam was “tremendous” and “very positive.”
“The community seemed to really like the audioscape, so we hired on (Laura Ellis) to come score some custom songs written for the game,” he said. “We also worked on redesigning the characters, polishing their animations and giving them a stronger identity”
One of the biggest developments in the game was landing Jazz Singer Laura Ellis to do more audio work for them. The teaser trailer features a song by Ellis and in November they sought her out to do more music from the game. The trailer hints at a murder mystery involving a lounge singer at a Jazz club so her voice work will play a key role in setting the atmosphere for Contrast.
Provost discovered Ellis by accident. He was trying to land the intellectual property rights for the song “Cry Me a River” sung by Julie London in the 1950’s. After finding out that obtaining the rights proved too costly, he searched for an alternative. “As I was on my way home that evening, my iPhone was playing a bunch of songs that I really liked in the genre, and I fell in love with this one specific song and it was by Laura,” Provost said. “So with just a few days to spare before mastering our trailer, I googled her on the web and found an old webpage of hers and just cold-called her out of the blue.”
The one detail that Provost remained tight lipped about was the story, which revolves around young eight-year-old Didi and the mysterious protagonist Dawn. The story is seen through Dawn’s eyes and she is the one with the power to move between shadows.