I spoke with Jacob Janerka on his current endeavor, Paradigm…
1) When and why did you start making games?
I started making games quite later than most people. I started off wanting to be a concept artist for quite awhile however I found most of my strengths lay in thinking of stories and creating bizarre characters. The kind of stuff I wanted to do would be near impossible to fit in with established companies and the jobs I were getting offered were either paid below the poverty line or terrible deals that would never pay off. So then I finally took the plunge of fulfilling a childhood dream of making video games.
2) What inspired you to make a Point and Click Adventure Game and what inspired the unique world and story?
Other than the fact that I’ve loved adventure games for a long time, it made sense to make an adventure game with the limited technical skills I had. I knew no programming, however there is a nice selection of adventure game engines out there which allow you to overcome that, such as Visionaire, the engine I currently use.
As for the world, it’s inspired by many, many things, it came from both experience and necessity. At the time I was obsessed with dystopian fiction and sci fi movies. I eventually ended up with a story based around those themes, however it wasn’t till I traveled to Europe I started to build the finer details and the setting. After spending a week or so after the trip trying to decide where I wanted my story to be set, I thought about the limitations I had and what I could bring to the table. I decided on an Eastern European setting since there wasn’t many games out there that did and being of that descent I believed I could give a unique flavour to it. Also economically I knew I needed to voice the main character if I were ever to make the game because of monetary reasons. And Eastern Eurpean accent was by far my best.
3) What is the most important game mechanic in Paradigm and how are you getting it right?
Point and Click adventure games aren’t known for their groundbreaking mechanics. However a mechanic that is very important for me in Paradigm is multiple verbs. Many Modern adventure games simplified it with one click interactions. However I missed the amount of unique exploration you could achieve from having multiple verbs, thus it was important for me to make each interaction somewhat unique. While it adds a lot extra work, its definitely worth it for the world building.
4) What are some unique game dev problems specifically for point and click adventure games you have encountered and how have you overcome them?
Probably one of the hardest design problems in and adventure game is of course puzzles. Ideally you want a puzzle that progresses the narrative and with a fair difficulty. However the biggest conflict I find is that the puzzle can’t be too hard or to easy. To easy and people complain they felt no accomplishment. Too hard and people complain it was frustrating and give up. You need to find that sweet spot that is challenging but not to the point you want to bash your head against a wall. To overcome this really the only thing you can do is rigorous play-testing. Get feedback then tweak and refine till you hit that sweet spot.
5) The artwork of Paradigm is beautiful. What is your workflow like in producing these characters and scenery? Do you have any tips in creating game art?
Thank you! Honestly My workflow has changed multiple times during the process of game dev, however now I will make sure to design the general plot and puzzles in a scene before I touch any drawings. Same goes with when drawing characters. Once I have everything planned I then do line art, test it in-engine. Then finally if it works begin to paint.
As to tips, really the best piece of advice is to practice as much as you can. Work through your weaknesses one at a time and have a general idea where you want your art to go. If you have no idea, start off with studying the fundamentals. Colour, light, composition and anatomy, If you have a solid understanding of all of these, no matter what style you draw in, it’ll look good. Proko.com is a great place to start if you have no idea.
6) What is the biggest lesson you learned while developing Paradigm?
I’ve learnt a lot of things while developing Paradigm, however two things probably stand out the most. Planning and design is your best friend. Nail these first then move onto anything that required time and resources, and you’ll save a lot of grief later down the track. Also just taking scheduled breaks and playing video games! I put off playing video games a lot because I was spending so much time developing. However you need to see whats out there and get inspired.