Monochrome Paris is an indie developer specializing in VR experience however they are entering into the mainline video game development with their very first project Tandem: A Tale of Shadows. Recently we got an interview opportunity with the developer and we managed to get some questions answered from them. Answering our questions about the studio and their project Tandem: A Tale of Shadows here is JB Grasset, CEO of Monochrome Paris. This is our interview with Monochrome Paris, the developer behind the upcoming puzzle game Tandem: A Tale of Shadows.
GH: Tell us a little about Monochrome and how the studio was formed.
JB: Monochrome was created by 3 people in 2016 to develop VR experiences. We were lucky to be asked for the design and creation of a museum for a private collector of Chinese contemporary art, then a second for DIOR’s 70th anniversary. We then created experiences for product launches in events settings.
We then extended our offer with 3D realtime to AR experiences, digital installations, motion and projections.
GH: Tell us a bit about Tandem: A Tale of Shadows? What was the inspiration behind the game and how did the concept come into creation?
JB: At one point we all decided we were going to try and come up with platformer concepts. Our lead developer, Gabriel, had had this idea for a while that if you hit pause on a game, let’s say a top-down game, it would be pretty cool to then play the image as a 2D level. Because inherently, if you navigate a level in top-down view, it’s the same thing as playing it as a platformer, just with different physics. Then we added the shadows concept and we built from there!
GH: Since Monochrome Paris has been previously working mostly on VR, how did you guys decided to create a game which was not essentially in VR? How was the overall experience of creating Tandem: A Tale of Shadows?
JB: During the second half of 2019, we developed a first VR game, Singularity5. It was a fairly simple wave shooter in its mechanics but with an extremely rich artistic direction.
After selling 2,000 copies of the game, we decided that the next gaming experience for the studio would be a PC and console game, just out of pragmatism, by comparing the size of the two markets 😊
While developing this first game, we learned everything as we went, step by step. We learned where our strengths were (concept, gameplay, art direction, VFX, SFX, music) and our weaknesses (narrative, animations, publishing, marketing and communication).
For this new game, we called in outside consultants or recruited the right people whenever our skill level was deemed too low.
GH: Tandem: A Tale of Shadows features a unique dual gameplay design. When the game concept was being designed, was the dual gameplay mechanic a part of the game right from the start of the concept or was it incorporated into the game further down the road?
JB: Yes, I confirm that the dual gameplay mechanic was a part of the game right from the start of the concept. This gameplay has been validated before the story and art direction.
GH: What was your main inspiration behind Tandem: A Tale of Shadows?
JB: We had 2 types of influences for the creation of this game:
- in the video game: Little nightmares, Limbo, Inside, Alice in wonderland,
- in cinema and literature: Sherlock Holmes, Tim Burton, Disney, Lewis Caroll and Jules Vernes.
GH: Coming back to the concept of the game, was creating a puzzle-platformer the main focus of the studio right from the start?
JB: Yes. When we laid the foundations for this game, we decided on the following principles:
- a dual mechanic gameplay,
- an artistic direction combining Disney and Tim Burton,
- a type of puzzle-platform game.
GH: We absolutely loved the art style of the game. Could you tell us a little bit about how the game was designed visually and what inspired the unique art style of the game?
JB: Thanks for the compliment. We are delighted to read that you are sensitive to this artistic direction. As we said above, our influences in this game are Tim Burton, Disney, Jules Vernes, and German expressionism. Through our professional past, we also have solid experience in respecting the codes of the luxury industry (watchmaking, architecture, fashion, …).
GH: Emma is played in the top-down view while Fenton features sidescrolling. Were there any challenges in combining two different gameplay styles into a single title?
JB: It’s in fact very challenging. Something you don’t always realize as a gamer is that it’s easy to make a game beautiful, but it’s really hard to make it beautiful and readable for the player. There’s just a lot of information to convey. So, having essentially two levels combined into one, and since it’s a puzzle game, you have to make sure everything is easy to understand in both dimensions at once. I think that’s the main challenge because it touches on every aspect on the game from level design to prop design and we all had to adapt the way we’re working and thinking about the game.
GH: Are the switches between the two modes seamless or does the game loads them separately?
JB: It’s a little of both! Essentially, it’s seamless and instantaneous, but we do process the shadows only when the player switches for example.
GH: Since the game will feature some boss battles as well, how will they play out in terms of gameplay? With the duo work together in defeating the bosses or will both the characters face separate bosses in the game?
JB: EMMA and FENTON will have to face or avoid a boss at the end of each universe. But only EMMA will be truly confronted with the boss and will be able to defeat him only with the help of FENTON. FENTON, for his part, will not have to fight a boss in his dimension.
GH: Is there any sort of character customization in game?
JB: We have not left the possibility of customizing the characters in this game.
GH: What sort of enemies and monsters players can expect to see in the game?
JB: EMMA will have to face a number of enemies who are not monsters. They are building blocks of storytelling and artistic direction that add a touch that is both childish and frightening. For example, they will be mechanical toys or animals.
GH: Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is essentially a puzzle game, what would you rate the difficulty of the puzzles in the game. We have seen some really brutal puzzle platformers in the past. Where you would place Tandem: A Tale of Shadows in terms of difficulty?
JB: Here’s a little secret: I don’t like puzzle games that much! Tandem is definitely not Braid for example. For me that kind of difficulty is really frustrating so, maybe let’s think about the easiest puzzles from Portal and that’s kind of our goal. A puzzle where it’s more about discovering a cool mechanic. I think the player should have fun even if they find the solution by accident. Like “hah, so that’s how that works, that’s cool”. So, no levers to pull in the right order with a math degree required. Pinkie swears.
As for the platforming, same thing. If you know the solution to the puzzle, it shouldn’t be a chore to execute it. Our goal is to keep it interesting but accessible to everyone!
GH: Are there any future plans for Tandem: A Tale of Shadows expansion or DLCs?
JB: We are now focused on this version. Like I said, it is our first PC & consoles game. So much to do, so much to learn! We don’t know yet if we’ll work on Tandem II or another project. We have designed a lot of levels not included in the final version. It could be DLCs later.
GH: What are the studio’s future plans? Are there any projects currently in development at Monochrome Paris apart from Tandem: A Tale of Shadows or are you guys planning to go back to developing VR games after this?
JB: When you release your first game you can easily get scared. It is a big investment, both personal and professional. You put all your heart in. The only question is: will the gamers like what we did? We are therefore impatiently awaiting the response! If the answer is positive, we are already dreaming of a next game.
We’ll capitalize on what we have learned about this game and continue to develop PC & console games. Unfortunately, the VR market remains a niche market for the time being. We remain attentive and passionate but it is much more at risk than for PC & consoles.
Monochrome’s Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is slated for a 2021 release on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC however a confirmed release date is not known at this point. If you are interested in the title, you can head over to Steam and add the game to your WIshlist. You can also check out the previously released cinematic trailer for the game.