Resonance Interview

The developers at Neocell Factory have been hard at work on a new horror/role-playing Xbox game entitled Resonance. Any game that incorporates both RPG and horror elements definitely perks our interest, so we sat down with the game’s lead programmer, Francois Masse, and lead artist, Denis Girard, to learn more. Our questions and their answers to follow:

GB: First of all, where do you currently stand in the development of Resonance? What platforms (Xbox, PC, etc) will the game be available for? Any plans to migrate the game to other platforms down the road?

Francois: We’ve just completed our prototype, so we have implemented every basic element of the game, established the game’s ambience, made use of the Resonance, and implemented sound and music. We’re really excited about the results.

We have been developing on Xbox since the very beginning. For now we have no plans to make it into a PC game, Neocell Factory is aiming exclusively for the console market. But a GameCube or even a PS2 version are not out of the question.

GB: Can you briefly detail the storyline for the game and what RPG elements the game will have?

Francois: The storyline unfolds in a Renaissance-fantasy setting. You play the role of Faye Wynter, an investigator under the King’s authority. Her mother dabbled in witchcraft, until caught and burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Her father was a king’s elite knight, but loved his wife and stood helpless when her secret was discovered. He took his on life. Faye, now an orphan, was brought to the court to be raised, and served the King when she came of age. Still, from her mother’s blood she inherited a very special gift. The game begins when Faye investigates an eerie little village and its surroundings.

GB: Tell us about the different environments in the game and any obstacles you’ve run into creating them.

Francois: There were many small challenges we needed to tackle for the ambiance and gameplay to emerge as we envisioned. A lot of work was put in giving the designers a lot of power over the features we programmed, with powerful scripting and integration tools. More energy was put to create cutting-edge special effects, taking full advantage of the Xbox’s features. All that research isn’t easy; you never exactly know what you’ll find, exactly where you’ll end up.

The toughest challenge was of course to start the whole project from scratch. New team, new engine. And we had to start at the same time as everybody else. So we needed to program game content and build the game engine at the same time. Normally we would’ve started months before the artists began production. But as a startup company, we don’t have all the liberties we’d like.

GB: You’ve chosen the NDL’s Gamebryo engine for the game. Can you tell us a bit about its capabilities?

Francois: Gamebryo gives us amazing power with shaders, its tools work seamlessly with 3dsMax, it gives us many tools to debug, profile and optimize our code, powerful collision detection, great animation manipulation features. Everything’s there, it gave us all the features we needed to build our game engine.

GB: Any plans to offer Xbox Live support in order for players to download new content?

Francois: Absolutely. We want the game to be Xbox Live aware and have content download.

GB: Has it been difficult creating the artwork and sound for the game in order to provide a sense of horror?

Denis: We’ve been doing a lot of research into the horror theme since we began this project. We watched lots of horror movies and played many games that are based on horror and retained the elements that gave the most intense emotions. We then tried to apply those principles in our game. My guess is, when you play Resonance, you’ll be highly tempted to leave your living room lights on! Our in-house sound engineer is also very efficient at providing the right mood at the right time. Resonance is, without a doubt, a game that puts a strong accent on ambience. Our art director Vivian Rocray and I are always trying to capture that particular ambience for Resonance that’s influenced by movies such as Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and some great games like Eternal Darkness and Silent Hill. You can expect to see some freaky stuff in there!

GB: What type of creatures will Faye combat in the game? Care to elaborate on any of the more nightmarish ones?

Denis: The setting for the world of Resonance is based on the renaissance period of our history, but the world is a fictional one. I can say that a lot of the creatures in the game will be humanoid but of course with the particular Resonance twist. Faye (our Heroine) will be facing different types of ghost-like enemies related to the (other world) and these will be scary as hell.

GB: Can you describe some of Faye’s powers, and any special effects you’ve created for them? Any particular favorites?

Denis: Faye has the ability to communicate with the (other world) and she gets her dark powers by channeling this energy into her own world. The design team created some very innovative gameplay for those powers. Unfortunately for you guys, I took a vow of silence regarding the definition of the powers. Although, I can tell you that since Faye’s powers come from the land of the dead, they will involve some ghastly special effects with a hint of magic. Since I can’t say any more, my favorite one will stay secret for now (evil grin).

GB: We’ve read that you’ll be placing riddles and other puzzles in the game. How challenging for the player are you planning on making such obstacles?

Denis: I can’t elaborate much on the puzzles in the game for obvious reasons. What I can say is that they will be challenging enough to keep you busy, but not too much so as to be frustrating. Most of our puzzles will actually involve thinking and will be tied into the story.

GB: To conclude, what do you feel makes Resonance stand out from other RPG and Survival Horror games?

Francois: It’s a new approach to the genres, we’re mixing up the best parts of two worlds. It’s something that needs a lot of effort, of courage even. So many companies won’t want to push the envelope, to go out of the (every-game) bounds. But put in effort, vision and experience, and we’ll prove that twists to classics are more than welcome. they’re awaited.

We’d like to issue our thanks to everyone at Neocell Factory, especially Francois and Denis, for taking the time to answer our questions!

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