The Joystiq Indie Pitch: Resonance

Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We believe they deserve a wider audience with the Joystiq Indie Pitch: This week, Vince Wesselmann throws it back to an adventurous era with his point-and-click title, Resonance, which launched today on Steam at 10 percent off.

The Joystiq Indie Pitch Resonance

What's your game called and what's it about?

My labor of love is called Resonance. It's a point-and-click adventure game where you take control of four characters and their memories to work your way through a complex sci-fi mystery. A scientist has died after creating a terrible new technology and the race is on to secure his secret vault before the technology falls into the wrong hands. The player can use the unique short-term memory system to talk to any character in the game about practically anything you see. So you'll have to do some logical thinking to figure out how to navigate the game's tricky puzzles and twisty plot.

What's the coolest aspect of Resonance?

One of the unique features to this game is the Short-Term Memory system, which is tightly interwoven with the dialogue system. In most adventure games, when you talk to a character, you choose from a small selection of dialogue options the designer has chosen for you. Resonance has that as well, but it adds on the ability to "remember" any object you see in the game using your Short-Term Memory. You can then use these memories in conversation with any character in the game.

Since the correct options are no longer served up on a silver platter, you'll have to think critically about which topics of conversation might help you in each situation. And with hundreds of possible objects to talk about, brute-forcing these solutions is right out the window. The window, by the way, can also be used as a Short-Term Memory in dialogue.

Is the Short-Term Memory system your way of keeping the genre fresh?

I look at it as an evolutionary new feature for the genre. It gives the player a huge array of possible interactions for each situation, without relying on a cumbersome interface full of rarely used verbs. It's a pretty easy-to-grasp metaphor.

One other cool thing about the STM is that, aside from puzzles, this system allows you to really explore the world around you. You can talk to characters about objects or events to hear their unique perspectives on them. Ask that guy about his flamboyant cubicle design. Ask that girl about the painting in the room. Ask that police officer about the picture of his fiancé. You'll get a unique, fully voiced reply to these questions.

What inspired you to make Resonance?

First and foremost is my love for point-and-click adventures. I grew up on the LucasArts classics, Myst, Riven and countless others. I was living in Japan teaching English after college and found myself with a lot of time spent staring at a desk. So, I started making several freeware games.

Around this time, I became a dad and suddenly had to start thinking about money. So, more than a little inspired by Dave Gilbert's success with The Shivah, I set off on my own commercial undertaking. Little did I know, it would take five years and I would wind up being published by Dave's Wadjet Eye Games and working alongside Dave's wife (Janet took over programming duties last year) to get the game done.

Tell us about the development process.

When I set out to make the game, I knew I was going to need some high-quality team members to make the best-possible game. So, I organized a handful of amazing artists and a musician via the internet. We're an international team (Japan, USA, UK, Greece, Latvia) who have been working together for five years and no one has ever met anyone else on the team. Until Dave and Janet joined the team last year, that is. I'm pretty sure they've met since they're married, but I'm not ruling out the idea that they are a single sentient AI until I meet them in the flesh.

What do you think is the perfect length for a point-and-click adventure title?

About five years. Oh! You mean play time? Well, then...

That's a hard question. Play time is tough to measure on an adventure game since different people will get stuck on different puzzles and some people will just follow a walkthrough all the way through no matter what. I think the length needs to match the story in an adventure game. You don't want to pad a flimsy plot out into an eight-hour game. Resonance has a complex, meaty plot, with twists and turns all the way down the line. I think it supports its 8-10 hour running time with ease.

Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?

My unwillingness to start at the bottom of a ladder and climb up, I guess. I've got game design and story ideas now, and I want to see them come to life. No game company was going to go, "What's that you say, young, unproven wanna-be game designer? You say you have an idea for a game and it's going to be really neato? Well then, you start Monday!" It's just very nice to have complete creative control over a project.

Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?

I've definitely been inspired and driven by the successes of a number of other indie developers and hope to, in turn, inspire others to create. So, if that makes me part of a movement, then yes. I just like making games and sharing them with people.

The Joystiq Indie Pitch Resonance

Sell Resonance in one sentence:

Resonance is an exciting point-and-click adventure game featuring four swappable characters, a mysterious and complex sci-fi plot, gorgeous graphics, and devious puzzles.

What's next?

Hang out with my family. Play some games. Resonance has been part of my life almost as long as I've been a dad, so I'm going to need some space before I'm ready to dive back in. I've got some ideas, though!

Resonance is 10 percent off on Steam today, in celebration of its launch. The free demo, full game and boxed edition of Resonance are available on Wadjet Eye Games. Pick it up now before your short-term memory fails you.

If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.