When you think about your life, do you ever think about the past and ask yourself, “What if I could go back to that time and do things differently?” I am sure we all do, but as much as I think we would all love to, realism comes into play and we cannot change the past. But with Virtual Reality, in a way that we can. We have the opportunity to enter a world and make choices that in hopes are the right one like much in life, but sometimes given a chance to make the wrong things right. And when I heard about Timeless Paradox and the ability to go back and change history, I had to know more. So, I reached out to John Jiang the creator of Timeless Paradox to get more information on Timeless Paradox as well as some of his experiences with Virtual Reality.
Interview with John Jiang
Hello and welcome to The VR Dimension. Could you please introduce yourself?
“Thanks, my name is John Jiang. the creator of Timeless Paradox.
I am 28, and I am living in Sydney with my wife now.
As you may sense from my name, I was born in mainland China, and I started traveling after the age of 19. I spent 3 years in the UK study computer science as a bachelor, and then move to Australia, where I met my wife there.”
When did you get into developing games and what have been some of your favorite influences?
“About 4 years ago, I started to get myself into game development. Since I got a computer science background, so everything started quite smoothly.
The trigger should be one day when I was shopping in JB hifi (the electronic store in Australia). I saw the new VR equipment for sale. It was a very stunning experience when I first put on the gear and see the world of virtual reality.
But then I found VR games at that time are very limited, not many companies are willing to make VR games. So, I started to think why not make a VR game that I want.”
For those that may not be aware, what have been some of the games and projects that you have been a part of?
“No, actually developing this game is also using my spare time. My daily job is running a small trading company, which I started 5 years ago, mainly focus on canvas importing for artwork and wide format printing in Sydney.”
Timeless Paradox was just recently put on Steam. Can you tell us more about the game and some information about the champion of the story?
About the champion, our heroine, I named her Estel, which indicates the star and hope. I believe being a champion is like being a hope and guidance to people around. But “great power always comes great responsibility”. So, in my story, every champion has the same destiny, a destiny of sacrifice.
The game is divided into two parts. The first part is focusing on revealing the past mysteries through time fragments in the Time Palace, a place records the flow of time.
In this part, I want to deliver the message: a champion is still a human.
The second half is about redemption. The message I want to deliver through that part is: a normal human can also be a champion. In this part, it will be our player’s turn to defy the inevitable fate.”
Looking at some of the pictures and the trailer, the artwork is really beautiful. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the art style?
“The art style of this game is divided into two parts. The 3D part and 2D part. The 3D part is done by me, which is based on cel-shading rendering. This art style is very suitable to deliver a story along with comics. Besides, it is very cost-efficient when I build the 3D character models, fewer polygons are required under this art style, which can improve the performance of the entire game. You know, now VR games still require players to have high-end PCs, reducing the PC requirements will enable more people to have the chance to enjoy the game.
The 2D part is done by a young and talented artist YUMEATO. We found each other when I finished the game’s main program and story. Her artwork style is fantastic and suits my game very well. She is very helpful and thoughtful, even some of the 2D comic cutscenes are her ideas.
I believe having her join completed my game.”
I really love the idea of being able to go back in time to correct a wrong. What can you tell us about the time aspect of Timeless Paradox?
“Playing with the time has a price. We may think we can change everything into a good way, but will this eventually be?
The time aspect in my game is a loop, fates and destinies are inevitable. Just like the chaos theory, “apparently-random states of disorder and irregularities are often governed by deterministic laws.”
But can we change the outcome by not changing the past? It appears to be a paradox. But I believe my players will find their way during the gameplay.”
Are there any secrets we can expect when playing?
There are many boss battles involved in this game, and each one is designed in a special mechanism. If players find the right way, every boss battle can be easily overcome. But if players cannot find a way, brute force is also an option.”
When working with Virtual Reality, what do you find the most challenging and surprising when it comes to developing?
“There are two things I think challenging: One is about the gameplay design and the other is performance optimization.
Firstly, Before I designed this game, I had thought a lot about what makes a VR game interesting. I required myself to design something unique but very easy to learn. So, here comes the sword skill system in this game. It requires hand motion to trigger, and players’ face direction to decide the skill’s aiming direction. These are two critical parts of data that the system can read from players, and it is also a natural behavior for players to look at what they want to aim. So, if players can get desirable outcomes through comfortable motions, they will have a very positive gameplay experience.
Secondly is always about optimizing, since VR is a new technology, many traditional optimizing ways are not suitable for VR games. I did a lot of experiments to seek the right way to design good looking and optimized environments.”
If someone came to you asking for advice about working with Virtual Reality, what would be the top three things you would tell them?
- Prepare an old computer. Build the game indeed requires a very high-end PC. But it is always worthy to prepare an old computer to run the test. If something is not well optimized, FPS drop is very likely to happen when running your game on an old computer. FPS drop can be very visible under the VR environment. For me, I used a 6-year-old laptop to do tests.
- Be unique but natural. Some VR games they have very unique systems but very hard to learn by players, some VR games have a very common system, but apparently there are too many similar products on the market. So, think more about human’s natural reaction and what our current systems can read during the prototype design process.
- Always prepare at least two spare copies of your project, and backup in a system and smart way. If your team is a small team or even a one-man army, it is always too risky to put all eggs in one basket. During my game development, I prepared two portable hard disks for backup, because it is still possible that your PC and one backup are broken at the same time.”
What are the top three things you would tell your younger self?
“I believe we will eventually build multiple beautiful and fantastic worlds in virtual reality. In these worlds, there will be no boundaries among games, films, and people. I’d love to call it a new type of game “the interactive game”.
Timeless Paradox is a prototype of this kind of game, and in this VR experience, players can feel they are part of the story, and definitely they will get their unique experience through the game gameplay. And this is also the game I wanted for a long time.”
I really want to thank John Jiang for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his experiences and for giving us a closer look into Timeless Paradox.
Timeless Paradox is coming to Steam on March 3, 2020.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.