By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed indie point-and-click PC adventure game Resonance, describing it as “the best science fiction adventure game since Gemini Rue.” AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with Vince Twelve, founder of xii games and the creative force behind Resonance!
Hello Mr Twelve, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
No, thank YOU, sir.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
My name is Vince Twelve. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska in the US. Five years ago, I was living and working in Japan with my wife and daughter. I had made a few freeware games and decided to take a shot at making some money off of my game making hobby. So, I gathered a team together to start work on Resonance. I served as the writer, designer and programmer.
Resonance, an indie point-and-click adventure game, was recently released to critical acclaim – what is the game all about?
Resonance is the story of four characters who find themselves wrapped up in the hunt to find a recently deceased scientist’s secret vault, which contains a terrible new technology. But other groups who would misuse this technology are also seeking the vault. The game explores the themes of trust, sacrifice, memories and determinism.
Resonance originally started life as a Kickstarter funded project in 2009 – what can you tell us about this?
Actually, Resonance had been in the works for 2 1/2 years by the time the Kickstarter came around. When I first heard of Kickstarter, it was brand new and I thought it would be good to get in on it early. In those days (this was almost three years ago), the biggest projects were in the neighbourhood of $20,000, with most projects going for only a couple thousand, so I thought getting a two thousand dollar leg-up was pretty neat. Of course, nowadays, everyone is aiming for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and succeeding, so it looks tiny in comparison. But Resonance was one of the very first games on Kickstarter, and that’s pretty cool.
The game wasn’t released until 2012 – how did Wadjet Eye Games become involved with the project and what caused the long delays?
During the game’s five year development, my family and I moved from Japan to Omaha, Nebraska. Soon after, I started a new career and we had another kid. I continued working on Resonance during all this, but only when I had time between my full time job and growing family.
I was holding up development for everyone on the team by only working between the hours of 11PM and 3AM, and so after four years of development, when the opportunity presented itself to team up with Wadjet Eye Games to get the rest of the game done, I jumped on it.
How did Wadjet Eye Games’ involvement shape the game?
Quite a bit! First and foremost, they got us to the finish line. Janet Gilbert (one half of the Wadjet Eye power couple) joined the team as the lead programmer, taking over that responsibility from me. This freed me up to focus on all the other parts that I needed to be working on. Wadjet Eye provided a lot of helpful suggestions about the story and game’s design as well, but were great about leaving the final creative decisions up to me. Finally, Dave Gilbert handled all the voice acting, utilizing his growing stable of voice actors.
Did you have any prior experience making adventure games before embarking on Resonance?
I have worked on several freeware adventure games before starting Resonance. You can find them on my website at http://www.xiigames.com.
Resonance is your first commercial endeavour – how successful has the game been and do you plan to make this your full time job?
Sales have been really great. We’ve gotten lots of support from fans in helping to spread the word, and some excellent press attention has boosted the game’s visibility as well. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but according to Wadjet Eye, we’ve broken all of the sales records for their previous games! I do not plan at this time to make this my full time job because I need something more stable for my family. I need to make sure my kids always have health insurance and a roof over their heads, and being an indie game developer is a pretty risky undertaking!
When was xii games founded and who else is involved besides yourself?
xii games is really just the fake name for my fake game company. It’s really just me and a collection of games I’ve worked on. Though Resonance team members (such as lead artist Shane Stevens, background artist Nauris Krauze, and composer Nikolas Sideris) are all members of the xii games family!
The game features four playable protagonists – which of these characters is your favourite and why?
Anna is the character that I spent the most time with. The game takes her through an exploration of her childhood memories, and as the writer I gained a fondness and respect for her while working through all that. But I’d probably like to hang out with Detective Bennet the most!
Do the science fiction elements of Resonance have any real world basis?
I wanted Resonance to be set in a familiar world and feel grounded in reality, so it was important that all the scientific concepts discussed be at least plausible sounding. But, no, I just made all the particle physics up!
How important is storytelling when it comes to adventure gaming?
Very. When I play an adventure game, I’m mostly playing for story. Mind-bending puzzles are a bonus!
I was especially impressed with Resonance’s short and long-term memory inventories – was it difficult making a game with so many different variables and possibilities?
I knew it was going to be complex, but I didn’t expect it to wind up as complex as it ended up being. There are really 12 inventories in the game, and you can ask any character in the game about any object you see in the game using any of four characters at any point in the story. There are a mind-boggling number of possibilities that this opens up. We tried to fill in some meaningful text for most of the probable combinations, but we could have spent another two years just filling in extra text!
The game is made using the Adventure Game Studio engine – what made you decide to use this engine and what advantages and disadvantages did it bring to the project?
I used it because that’s what I knew and that’s what I was familiar with. I made all my other freeware games in AGS. The engine is easy to use and comes with a friendly, helpful and active community!
What other adventure games would you say have inspired your work?
Beneath a Steel Sky, The Dig, Riven.
What’s next for you Mr Twelve?
I’ve got a few different ideas for my next game. I’ve started playing around with some concepts to see what sticks. I’m also taking it easy and devoting a lot of my free time to a hobby that I’ve been ignoring for years: playing games.
Thank you for your time! I really enjoyed playing and reviewing Resonance and I can’t wait to see what you do next!
*SPOILER WARNING: The following additional interview questions contain major spoilers and should not be read until you have finished playing Resonance!*
The game features multiple endings – which do you consider to be the true ending?
I think it’s best if each player chooses which one is the true ending for them. My original design only had one of the endings, so I know which one works best for me.
I found Anna’s death pretty devastating – did you always plan for her to die this way? How do you feel her death adds to the narrative?
When I started writing the story, I did not know that Anna would die. I knew that the group would be betrayed, but as I wrote the story and Anna’s backstory came into focus, I saw that she was headed for a tragic end. In real life, violence is sudden and unexpected, and I wanted Anna’s death to be that way as well. I did not want the player to have time to prepare themselves for the loss.
I loved the moment where Anna kisses Ed on the cheek, then he looks down at the floor and lets out a heavy sigh after she’s left the screen – was this meant as a subtle hint of events and betrayals yet to come?
Yes. There are many subtle hints throughout the game leading up to the vault scene about Ed’s true intentions. This droop of his head as well as a similar action right after the conversation with Dr. Morales at the very beginning of the game were my way of showing Ed’s internal struggle with the guilt of betraying the people around him even if it is for reasons that he believes to be for the greater good.