Contrast and the Future: Interview with Compulsion Games

I sit down with Sam Abbott of Compulsion games to discuss Contrast 1 year anniversary and Future Projects for the Indie Company.
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Compulsion Games is the studio that brought us the shadowy noir puzzle solving indie title Contrast. Released November 2013, Contrast followed the story of Didi and her imaginary friend Dawn and it followed their wild adventure through the 3D and 2D worlds. 

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You progressed through the game with both characters, but mostly solved 2D shadow puzzles with Dawn. The story mostly deals with righting the wrongs in Didi’s life, which makes Dawn act as bit of a guardian angel. With plot twists by the dozen, you wont expect what happens next, besides having fun with shadow platforming.

I reached out to Compulsion Games on the eve of their 1 year anniversary of Contrast’s release. I had seen many interviews with the company before so I had expected to have a humorous conversation, and I was not disappointed. 

Jay Prodigious: First off, I want to start by saying congratulations on a great success with Contrast. I’ve seen the 91% approval rating on Steam. How does it feel that your finished product is so well received?
Sam Abbott: Thank you!  It’s a bit of a surprise – as you know, Steam user review aggregates came out relatively recently (and well after the launch of Contrast).  Until then, we had a feeling that “well, we did okay”.  But metacritic wasn’t quite as nice to Contrast (bit of an understatement really), so when the 91% rating came out, we felt pretty great about it.  It’ll be interesting to see how the system evolves as people get used to using the Steam rating system, but for now, I’m just glad people have enjoyed Contrast 🙂
JP: I know the scores for the game were mixed but it generated great feedback from players. How did you deal with the lower score before the initial wave of support for Contrast came?
SA: Haha, not well!  The reviews were super mixed, but by and large, the players really enjoyed it, particularly on Steam, except when they were yelling at us for getting stuck in boxes.  We just focused on supporting the game as well as we could, and enjoyed feedback from people in the community.  We reached a really varied bunch of people, and people’s experiences and emotional attachment to games is always just so nice to hear.
JP: I noticed in previous interviews, you mentioned your team was versed in larger gaming projects while funding Contrast. The exposure to Portal and The Orange Box lent ideas to the game, but I was curious if the roles your team played in Far Cry 3 and Darksiders tilted the scales for ideas on future projects?
SA: Yes and no.  The problem with AAA experience going into an indie studio is that you want to keep that high production value, but can’t compete on scope.  So, what we’re trying to do is create games that play great, look great, but were created as cleverly as we could.  For example, in Contrast we used shadows to tell the story of the game.  That was originally intended to be cool, but also save us work on fully animating things.  It didn’t quite work out that way, but it’s an example of how we try to be smart with our time. 
JP: Keeping on with future projects, in 2013 Compulsion Games mentioned you weren’t looking ahead as far as another game. With 2014 close to an end, have you changed your opinion on if you may develop another game?
SA: We have 🙂 We started work on a new project a little while ago, but unfortunately we’re not ready to announce it yet.  It’ll be a bit different to Contrast, but we’re building on what we did well on Contrast, and it’ll definitely feel like another Compulsion game.  
JP: Whether you’re working on new games or not, with Contrast’s 1 year anniversary coming up (congrats by the way), have you thought of doing any additional content for it?
SA: Yes, we thought about it very hard at the end of last year.  Unfortunately, we’re not going to be creating any more content for Contrast.  This is mostly to do with wanting to take a break from Contrast – it was really draining by the end, and we wanted to work on something new.  But we’re not ruling out going back to create another story in the Contrast universe, it’s just that we won’t do it for a while.
JP: What about something to celebrate the anniversary outside of game content? My vote is for a big cake that you can only eat in the shadows.
SA: Great idea!  I have no idea what to do.  I’ve only just realised that the anniversary is a week away, that’s embarrasing!  Just too busy working on the new one, I guess 🙂 
JP: I couldn’t help but admire your website. I can really see you guys have fun with your work. I mean a newspaper based site where the news paper breaks the forth wall? Genius! Can we see this sort of fun nature humor translate into your next possible project?
SA: Oh, definitely!  The website was our first creation, and it’s a good example of what we want to do as a studio – we want to be innovative, but quirky as well.  (, check it out before it gets a facelift…)   We’re injecting a lot more black humour into Next Compulsion Game, which is really fun to work on.
JP: One last question for you, and I’ll try to end the interview on a humorous note. Your past interviews always ended on a humorous note and after viewing the site, I could see you’re no stranger to jokes. Not being one to deny tradition, if the Zombie apocalypse started right now, what would your projected survival rate be for each member of your team? Who would be the first human shield?
SA: Horrible!  Literally none of us have any survival skills.  I think our art team would sacrifice themselves willingly, they’re just so nice.  I’d die making a pointless speech about health and safety, falling off a ladder without any zombies present, but I think our programming team might come out okay.  They seem to enjoy hitting things, so I think that natural talent could translate into zombie killing.

 While I’m sure the Human Shield portion of the questions was a bit off but the interview went really well. It looks like Compulsion is working on a new project, while they wouldn’t give anything away in terms of it, I’m certain we might hear from them soon enough. They are hard at work on the title as it took them some time back and forth to be able to comfortably sit down to respond.

Keep an eye on Compulsion games, and while biding your time waiting for news about their next game, go check out Contrast. It is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and on PC. 

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Jay Prodigious
Have been writing since I can remember, have always loved reviews (gaming mostly), and have a knack for the written word.