Interview with Compulsion (Contrast)

10 Questions With Compulsion Games

We here at Xbox Culture love video games. We love to know the ins and the outs of them, how they are made, where the ideas come from, and just what goes through the minds that create our favorite past time.

I have been lucky enough to get a chance to ask Compulsion Games, the brilliant minds behind Contrast, 10 questions about their game, their company, and just a few to get to know them better.

I would like to start off by thanking Compulsion Games for taking the time out of their busy schedule to have this interview, and I must say personally I love the in depth answers and responses that we received. As a new company, we don’t always get welcomed into the gaming community, but Compulsion Games accepted us and has answered every question we have thrown their was without hesitation, So on behalf of Xbox Culture….. Thank You.

Without further ado Here is 10 Questions With Compulsion Games!


1. We like to start of every interview with the same question, to see the many responses we will get. The question is very simple. What game has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

This is a super cliché answer, but for me it has to be Final Fantasy 7. I was 12 or 13 years old, and I saved up my pocket money (allowance?) for months to buy an original Playstation, just so I could play it (this was before the Xbox days). I still routinely replay it – same as every kid who played a final fantasy game around that age – and I still get mildly upset at the you-know-what scene. I don’t know why it had such a big impact, but I can still remember almost everything about that game.

2. What are the challenges of developing Contrast for multiple platforms?

I think the biggest challenge is that we’re really not a big team – we were an 8 person team, and we ended up launching on 4 platforms. It’s a lot of work, and it is really hard to concentrate on the core game when you have so much engineering work just getting it to run on multiple platforms. It has been much nicer working on the Xbox One version, because we’ve had the time to iron out things we weren’t able to for launch.

3. What Differences, if any, are their between the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Contrast?

The Xbox One version is much more refined compared to the PS4 at launch. It has had the benefit of the bug fixes and changes we made to the game on other platforms since launch, and we’ve been able to tidy up a few things that we couldn’t on other platforms. So, the Xbox One version is also 1080p, but instead of having varying framerates, it runs at a nice, smooth framerate, which we (now) know a lot of players really appreciate. We’ve also worked on refining the shadow mechanics and platforming, and we’re much happier with how it feels.

4. How did you come up with the concept of taking shadows, something that’s just there as a graphic detail in all games, and blend it with the gameplay to create a new and unique play style and level designs?

We were inspired by the original Portal, which encouraged people to think about moving through space in different ways. Contrast’s shadow mechanic was just one idea we had, but we felt it was the one with the most potential. However, it’s a tough one to build – there is a lot about dynamic shadow gameplay that you can’t appreciate until you build it (eg, your gameplay depends heavily on your framerate, meaning we had to do a lot of optimization).

5. Contrast is rich with puzzles, what goes into making a good puzzle? Is it trial and error, or a lot of pre-planning?

It depends – for a new mechanic like shadow shifting, you have to invent the rules yourself. In our case, we planned a whole bunch of puzzles, and realised that they just didn’t work in practice. For example, shadow platform sizes change as you move towards/further away from your light source, but it’s really difficult to tell how much until you get it in game. So, while you can plan things in advance, you need to iterate constantly on the actual puzzle in game in order to make it work, and then need to iterate further based on feedback from players.

6. We at Xbox Culture love the idea behind ID@Xbox. How did you as developer react to the announcement from Microsoft and how Influential was it in your decision to make games for the Xbox One.

It was very exciting! We probably would not have developed the game for the Xbox One without ID@Xbox, because we would have needed a publisher. Self publishing allows us to be very flexible, which is great for indies like us.

7. Contrast’s setting, which appears to be 1920’s Paris, is gorgeous. Was this the setting that was planned from the start? If not what other setting ideas were thrown around?

No – actually, the game was originally intended to be a cyberpunk dystopia! That was back when shadow shifting was just one of many “hacking” abilities. Over time, we realised that we wanted to focus just on the shadow mechanic, so we looked at settings that would complement it. Film noir from the 40s and vaudeville from the 20s worked really nicely together, and allowed us to put together the pretty unique world that you see in Contrast.

8. I love the work your team has done with Extra Life, and I love the idea of hiding the Extra Life Logo in-game. The PS4 and Xbox 360 versions include a trophy/achievement that pops when the logo is located, I understand the achievement list for Xbox One hasn’t been released yet, but can Xbox One gamers expect to be able to search for the logo? How did your team get involved with such an amazing charity?

Yes, Xbox One gamers will be able to search for it :) We got involved with Extra Life a couple of years ago, thanks to our designer, Joshua Mills (https://twitter.com/ShuaReborn). Josh has been really enthusiastic about Extra Life for several years now, and so now we have yearly gaming marathons for charity at his house. It was also his idea to add the Extra Life shoutout inside Contrast, and we were really happy to do it!

9. The two main characters of Contrast are Females. This is sort of a rarity in the Male heavy Main Character department of Video Games. Was this a conscious decision your company decided on to help fill the void of Main Female Characters, or was the story written and this is just how it played out?

It was really just about the story itself. The discussion about representations of women in games is an important one to have, but I think it’s as important to focus on writing interesting, different stories in games that are told from different perspectives. If it’s always about a guy saving the world, the story will get a little stale. We wanted to write about a little girl – our writer and creative director are both dads to young girls – and it makes sense that a little girl’s imaginary friend is also a girl :) So, that’s why our two main characters are female – while we’d like to say “absolutely, we’re trying to make a positive difference in the world!”, in reality, we just wanted to write a good story.

10. Lastly we would like to thank you for your time, and we are just curious if your team has any ideas for the future at Compulsion Games and if we can hope to expect more projects on Xbox One

Naturally, we have ideas about the future :) But, we’re just focusing on supporting the Xbox One version of Contrast for now. Hopefully you guys and girls will enjoy it!

Well folks there you have it, let us know in the comments below what you think of the interview, were there questions you would have asked if you were conducting the interview?

Also don’t forget Your Xbox Culture Staff will be participating in the Extra Life Foundation on October 25th at 8 am through October 26th at 8 am for 24 hours of straight gaming for Childrens Miracle Network. Whether you donate your time or your money to us or one of the other amazing teams participating, just know that its all for the kids, and they deserve everything we can give them.

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Written by: Hugo

“Don’t be so gloomy. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ The Third Man

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