Showing at PGF this year in the lead up to an early 2017 release, Jacob Janerka’s adventure game Paradigm has managed to attain a cult-like notoriety, attracting the attention of gaming celebrities such as PewDiePie and Edmund McMillen (of Super Meat Boy fame) both for its distinctive look and feel and unique take on the conventions of the Point-and-click genre. Through a well-targeted crowd funding campaign, Jacob was able to go from demo to full-time development and is now putting the final touches to his passion project. We caught up with Jacob Janerka again at this year’s Perth Games Festival to talk about the unique challenges of solo development and building for what is still largely considered a niche genre.
Paradigm has been featured previously at the Perth Games Festival, what are some of the changes the game has undergone since last year?
The game has changed quite a bit from last year to now. All the interfaces have been completely revamped, the menus have been polished, and, generally, all other things throughout the game polished to be funnier/push the games narrative better. Hopefully, before release, I will be completely revamping Paradigms walk cycles.
Have there been any major areas of revision in response to feedback?
Yes, a majority of the changes are probably a product of player feedback. This being my first game, you generally have inexperience of what players expect. I made the game playable with only a mouse, added a more in-depth tutorial to teach the player better, Tumour Cutie Chats (in-game hint system in which you talk to your tumour), a hotspot revealer, and some general stuff to improve the player’s motivation. As I mentioned before, these are all a product of playtester feedback.
In regards to your own development process, what tasks have been the most frustrating or time consuming?
I’d say the final stages of bringing the game to be ready for commercial release. Most of the content is there, but you’re spending hours just tweaking little bits of dialogue, fixing bugs, improving puzzle logic, etc. It just becomes an endless pit of changes that its impossible to tell where it can end. Just lots of tedious work. However, in saying that it’s really nice to see all the parts come together as it all begins to feel like a real game.
How do you keep up with the demands of promoting your game without sacrificing creative output?
Generally, most of Paradigm’s promotional work comes from just showing images that I’m working on at the time, so they run in tandem most days and are quite easy to balance. However, there are far more time-consuming parts of promotion too like conventions/talks/networking. Really it’s just a case of planning ahead and making sure you’re prepared. Not leaving the house a lot helps too, haha.
Are there any ways in which games production has impacted on your personal life?
Game development has provided a lot of positives in my life such as creative fulfilment among other things. Probably the most negative impact is less of a personal life. It’s always a romantic idea of the pained artist working on his masterpiece for hours on end, especially in the games industry where long hours are fetishized. However, a lot of the time this comes down to poor time management, haha.
What are some of the pros/cons of working in the point-and-click genre?
The pros are that it is a relatively ‘simple’ genre and you don’t have to worry about more complex technical problems like hit boxes, game feel, balancing, etc. The cons are that it can be quite a niche genre and comes with pre-conceived notions of what a point-and-click adventure is. No matter what, you will be compared to the originals of either Sierra games or Lucas Arts games if you go down that classic route.
How has the experience of building Paradigm changed your perception of games as a career?
Primarily it’s given me a new outlook of what it really takes to finish a game and work on a multi-year long project. Especially as a semi-solo developer you realise just how many different things it takes to bring it to market. Personally, it has me really excited for the next step! Especially if I get to continue to make creator-owned projects.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those embarking on a solo game making journey?
Always plan ahead. Spend at least once a week reevaluating where you are on the project, and what you need to do. “Just doing it” can let some unplanned problems come up in the future. Also, playtest a lot, and playtest early, no matter what game you are making. I knew the importance of this, but I still think I undervalued it earlier in the project.
Is there are anything different you would do next time around?
Haha, I think most creators could write thesis’ of what they wanted to do differently. Yes, most definitely. I would have made a draft of the game from start to finish with placeholder assets and spent a lot more time planning the flow of the story. It’s much better to catch problems earlier on rather than later when all your actual assets are in the game. Having a solid framework to start from is probably the best thing you can do for your game.
What’s been your overall impression of the Perth Games Festival this year?
As always, it’s been wonderful. It was unfortunate it was on a day of the Grand Final, and the weather was terrible. However, we still got a really good turn out. Also, it’s wonderful to see all the new games people are making in Perth, some I know from last year promised to come this year and they came through! Hopefully, this cycle of inspiration will begin to grow Perth to a major games hub.
Here are some other places where you can find out more about Paradigm: