Interview with Contrast’s Creative Director, Guillaume Provost

Written by on July 15, 2013 in [, ]

Contrast. It’s an indie game and a relatively small title at six-ish hours of gameplay and $15, but it just might be my most anticipated game of the year at this point. I caught my first glimpse of Contrast at PAX East 2013 and have written about it here and here. Contrast is a 3D/2D puzzle platformer where you play as the imaginary friend of a little girl. You, as the imaginary friend Dawn, can jump between the 3D world and the 2D silhouette world. Rich lighting, fantastic 20′s era music and art style, and a mysterious story come together to create what I am expecting will be a fascinating adventure.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Guillaume Provost, the Creative Director for Compulsion Games and Contrast to talk about the news that has come out over the last few months about this promising game.

Tell me about yourself and Compulsion Games. You guys are a new independent developer as a company, but you’ve got some heavyweight titles in your back pocket. I know you and Derek come from some studios with some pretty impressive releases that you have worked on. Is Contrast, Compulsion’s first game as a formal company?

I actually got started as a programmer when I was 17. I worked at Pseudo Interactive for 7 years. When I left I was running the production department, and I left the reins to Derek, who is now my partner at Compulsion. After that I went to Arkane before they were owned by Bethesda, in Lyon, France and that was a great experience, they’re such a talented team there. But I never really found my footing. So after Arkane, I went freelance.

I tried to start Compulsion in Lyon, actually, but that didn’t work out. So I ended up signing onto a project back in Canada that was going to make the family live, then that project got canceled 2 days after I landed.

This got Guillaume back to Canada, where he would later found Compulsion Studios, primarily with the focus on building Contrast. Compulsion Studios has grown to hold an impressive stable of developers. Not only are they driven by Guillaume’s steady hand, but they are also led by Derek Elliot, who was the lead producer for most of the development of Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3.

Contrast is the first original IP we are building ourselves. We have done some other things along the way to help us survive while we built Contrast.

So we’re here to talk about Contrast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I fell in love with this game at PAX East. Tell our listeners/readers about Contrast.

Contrast is a multi-dimensional platformer where you play the role of the imaginary friend of a little girl. You help her fix stuff in her family, and like all good imaginary friends you have super powers - you can run around in 3D like in Tomb Raider, and you can become your own shadow at any time and walk on shadows of other objects.

This game just speaks my language. The art is beautiful, the music is incredible, and time period is fantastic for these kinds of things. 20′s (vaudeville and film noir) - Sultry and sexy, but with some mystery. I’m curious if you came to the game with the plot, and then build the engine and gameplay mechanics around it, or did you have this 2D/3D thing and explore the best way to display that kind of mechanic?

Well, I actually wrote the concept for Contrast in France, and I brought it to GDC in 2009, originally. It started out as a 3D/2D mechanic at first. In my head at the beginning I had smaller scale aspirations for what the game was going to be, but when we saw a number of games like Lost in Shadow and Shadow Physics, it put creative pressure to develop the concept into more than just the mechanic.

It always starts for me with the mechanic. It needs to be something that I find is inspiring at its core. So it’s a toy, it has depth, it’s something nobody has ever seen before. That’s really the core of the design process that I have. What’s the hook? What is really cool, no matter what the story is?

In our brainstorming sessions, we try to brainstorm the environments and the art style that will really marry the mechanic, so we’re building a game that is cohesive at its core. Find the right environments or context that will really marry the type of game you’re trying to make.

The context came first, then the visual style, and finally the backstory came last.

E3 just ended. You guys had a great E3 and were nominated for (and won!) some awards including the best indie of E3 from IGN. What was that like?

Well it was a great experience. Sony has been very supportive. They recognized the value of the product early on and really helped us out. They gave us six stations on the show floor for the game, and they really tried to push the product forward with the public and the press, which was a really fantastic experience. I have to say, they’re really bending over backwards for independents.

At the same time we were also exhibiting with our publisher, Focus, from Europe. I spent most of the conference squirreled away, talking to journalists. It was really nice to have quiet, personal conversations with a number of journalists and say “this is my game, we worked really hard on it.” We don’t walk around with big heads or big egos, we just make cool games, and we just hope we’ll make enough money to make more cool games.

I didn’t expect we would get as good a reception as we did, and that was a really great surprise for me. My only hope is that we can keep the ball rolling all the way up to launch and that excitement is going to translate into people who want to play the game when it comes out.

You just mentioned the other big thing that has happened since April. Compulsion signed a publishing deal for Contrast with Focus Interactive. I think when we talked at PAX you were shooting back then to release in May or June, but that date has been pushed back with this contract. Can you talk about that? What does this deal allow you to do that you couldn’t before? Does it change anything?

Yes we can. It’s been a really great relationship so far – far from the scary stories you sometimes hear about. The biggest thing about signing with Focus is that it gets us onto more platforms. Contrast is not a console or PC game, but it’s got a lot of console DNA in it by nature of it being a puzzle platformer. We wanted two things out of a publishing deal. We wanted more exposure in Europe, and we wanted the chance to get on all the major platforms so gamers who are interested in the concept don’t have to turn away from it because they can’t play it.

The big thing was that we couldn’t go from one version to 4 or 5 overnight and still ship on the same day that we had intended, so that was tough. I didn’t want to give one of the console manufacturers an exclusivity deal for the game or for any period of time, because we’re really loyal to our fans on Steam Greenlight. The guys and girls who supported us on Greenlight really helped put the product on the map originally, so I was willing to delay the SKU so everyone could get it at once, but I wasn’t ready to give away the right for all the fans on Greenlight to not get the game on day one.

I also saw from E3 that you’re going to be on PS4 which is pretty great. Do you know if you’ll be on Xbox One and Wii U as well?

We have been approached by Nintendo about potentially bringing the game to Wii U, but with our current resources, we aren’t ready to announce anything else yet.

There are just so many platforms, so we have to pick and choose based on our resources.

The Xbox One is a little more difficult for independent developers to get access to. I’m sure if we were really aggressive we could get development kits, but we have our hands full at this stage.

Do you think the experience is going to be significantly superior on the Gen 8 consoles?

There are differences. There are always differences between generations, and Contrast is no exception to that. Our job is to a certain extent to minimize those differences to an extent where most people won’t notice them. I don’t think we’re a reason to buy a PS4, but it’s likely to be the most visually interesting console version of the game for the simple reason that it’s got a lot more horsepower than previous generations.

Do you know what your release date is yet? Will it be the same for the Gen 7 and Gen 8 consoles?

The current plan is for us to ship with the PlayStation 4 hardware launch and to ship on Steam and hopefully all the other platforms at the same time.


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Author: Andrew Smith View all posts by

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