This week, Gaming Rebellion caught up with indie developer Dean Razavi of Vidar for a quick Q&A. To those of you who don’t know, Vidar is an RPG Puzzle where everyone dies. It is an innovative video game seeking to offer customization and true randomization, inside of an interactive, slice of life experience.
As of the time of this writing, their Kickstarter has less than one week to go, and is dangerously close to meeting its goal! Naturally, Vidar has not only piqued our curiosity here at Gaming Rebellion, but even inspired some of us to dig into our own pockets and hopefully experience this one-of-a-kind piece of art.
When asked about the overwhelming support for this endeavor, Razavi had to stop and take it in,“I seriously can’t even,” he explained, unable to find the words, “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to demo the game as part of various indie showcases (Boston FIG, MAGFest, Playcrafting NYC) and when I talk to people and explain the concept and someone’s eyes light up, it’s the best feeling”.
Razavi was extremely receptive and passionate when describing his new venture. Vidar is the product of not only a lifetime of video game love, but something wonderful created from the loss of a close relative to Razavi, “Vidar is about hand-wringing without action, something I saw a lot of in myself. At its core, the game’s theme is about making the most of our limited time here, and for my first entry into the video game industry, I can’t think of a topic more personal to me right now”.
The influences in Vidar span so many genres and its unique randomization promises are ambitious to say the least. “Oh man, I pull influences from all over!” Razavi exclaimed. Although he emphasized that there were too many inspirations to mention, he noted a strong emphasis was born of Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please.
“From a developer perspective, you can do way worse than looking to Lucas Pope for some serious lessons. What he manages to do with all of his games is tell a grand story in a small setting. In [Papers, Please] you’ve got civil wars, terrorism, a starving family – all of these macro- and micro-stories are playing in this game and told in a really compelling way.”
“In Papers, Please you’ve got civil wars, terrorism, a starving family – all of these macro- and micro-stories are playing in this game and told in a really compelling way.”
Jumping into setting, Razavi’s mind really opened up in an unexpected way, “But the entire game (Papers Please) is in a passport booth. Like seriously, the scope is tiny”. He was moved by Pope’s talent and ability to create such mass inside of a seemingly small world, “I’m trying to do that with Vidar, tell a compelling and wide story in a very small environment and gameplay scope”.
Naturally, Razavi is inspired by Miyamoto’s legendary Nintendo creations. His most influential is the Legend of Zelda series, “I’ve also been replaying a lot of Zeldas recently,” he admits, “About a month ago I wrapped up the HD remix of Wind Waker, and my husband and I played through Link to the Past this past weekend. We’re now on Majora’s Mask!”
“I’m approaching all of these [games] with a critical eye, dissecting every dungeon to try to figure out how Zelda has become the definitive series for puzzle dungeons. I feel like every time I reach a new temple, I’ve learned a totally new lesson”. And that’s what Vidar is ultimately aiming to achieve. A game that rivals classics in a totally revolutionary way.
“As for stylistic influences,” he gushed, “I’m far from competent when it comes to the artistic side of things, but both Becca Bair and Adrian Jakubiak have definitely pulled from golden-era SNES RPGs”. Bair is the Colorado-based artist Razavi has hand-creating each immersive microcosm, and Jakubiak is the composer. “Games like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger have survived where, say, early 3D games haven’t. Their survival is almost entirely thanks to their timeless art, and so to tap into that nostalgia those games are definitely prime sources of inspiration.”
He went on, noting that the N64’s now dated graphics did not hold up well. “What Becca and Adrian have both done is take the source and then twist it,” explaining the depression inspired pallets in the sprites, “So for graphics, what that means is intense desaturization. SNES games were intentionally brightly colored, they wanted to pull you in and flash in your face”.
Jakubiak has also created something similarly bleak within Vidar’s music. Just two days ago the game’s Kickstarter mainpage posted a haunting track from him as an update. “At the start it has a really strong kooky melody, it’s undeniably tune-driven like most of the Uematsu tunes that set the standard for game earworms,” Razavi gushed, “But at 1:07, it starts to go off the rails, something is amiss. The melody tries to come back but fails to put us back on track”. Mastering a degree of sinister and offbeat ambiance was a must for Vidar, “Many of his tracks do this – start with the reference and then fall apart in a beautiful way”.
“I’m compulsive, I Google “Vidar Kickstarter” in the morning to see if there’s like a Kickstarter roundup or something that I should tweet about,” the developer blushed, “ In the first week, someone who I’ve never met posted a link to the campaign in an RPG forum they frequented. Like, they liked the game, and wanted to share it with someone”. The impact of this first fan was so stunning for Razavi that he was moved to tears, “ The thought that someone else might tell their friends ‘Hey, check this out’ was just so amazing”.
And the support hasn’t stopped feeling a tad overwhelming for Razavi, “I’ve been working on Vidar for well over a year now,so I’ve poured a lot of emotional energy into it. It’s my baby and my story. And it’s something I’ve made with my own two hands, it’s the first time I’ve made something I want to make”. But with the promise of a truly randomized and personal game, with NPC’s that each fulfill their own lives and stories around you. A game that is small but big, Vidar has become something important to hundreds of gamers across the globe. Their Kickstarter is a testament to just that!