Founded in 2012, Parabole Studios are a development team out of Québec City, Canada. After a successful KickStarter Campaign in 2015, raising just over $44,000 of a $40k goal, the studio are currently developing their first major title Kôna. Split into four seperate episodes, Kôna Day One is set to launch on STEAM’s Early Access program later this month. The eagerly anticipated first-person adventure game where players take on the role of the games protagonist Carl Faubert, a private investigator who is looking into the mysterious disappearance of several Northern-Quebec inhabitants in 1970.
For our first Interview of 2016, we caught up with CEO and Co-Founder of Parabole, Alexandre Fiset to find out more about the mystery that surrounds Kôna.
PressA2Join: We’ve been interested in Kôna ever since its introduction on KickStarter. For readers who might not know too much about the game, can you explain a little about the concept and how the whole idea for Kôna came about?
Alexandre Fiset: The idea behind Kôna started off with something very simple: driving a vintage snowmobile in a huge map. After a while, we saw potential and began brainstorming about building a universe around it. The snowmobile is an Olympic 1969, so we thought we could make a story around that period.
We chose 1970 because it was a big year in Canada (especially in Quebec) and we had a lot of references we could use for the atmosphere of the game. There were things happening with the Native American communities, so even if the story is surreal, we wanted to build the game around these events to create the most immersive experience possible.
We’ve been thinking for a long time about making short games that blend many genres, so with Kôna, we made a surreal interactive tale that blends mystery, adventure and exploration with some survival and horror elements. You move in first-person and the action takes place in a small village in northern Quebec. You first play as Carl Faubert, a private investigator hired by a rich businessman to investigate acts of vandalism done on his properties. When you arrive at the meeting point, Hamilton is not there and it looks like something is not right in the village. The mystery starts here.
The first act’s title is Kôna: Day One because the story happens in one day, as opposed to more survival-focused games which have a day/night cycle. In this episode, an omniscient narrator introduces the player to the game’s universe.
You plan to release Kôna as four separate episodes, was it always your decision to develop the game with episodes in mind rather than a full game?
Alexandre: We learned to be careful with the way we present the episodic format of the game. We won’t sell season passes anymore and will instead do other Kôna games as different acts. Each act, which will include 2-3 hours of gameplay, will feature a different perspective in the game universe.
So, what can players expect from the first episode of Kôna?
Alexandre: Snow! Lots and lots of snow. Jokes aside, as the game blends many genres, players should expect the unexpected. You like to explore? Go ahead, but the cold will be there to remind you that Kôna is a lot more than just exploration. Not only will players be immersed in a story-rich adventure, they will have to think before they act as if they were actually in the character’s shoes.
What kind of video games did you enjoy while growing up, is there anything that inspires you now as a developer yourself?
Alexandre: We played many kind of games. From adventure games like The Legend of Zelda to RPGs like Final Fantasy, playing some Super Mario or Donkey Kong Country along the way, we do find inspiration everywhere. Good thing about liking many genres is that inspiration comes easily, not only for game mechanics, but for art, design, etc.
Nowadays, our preferences have changed and we play a lot of them more to study them. We look at them with a developer’s perspective now, and that has changed the way we play games forever. Recently, we played The Long Dark, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, SOMA, Broken Age, and other games, mostly in the survival and adventure genres. We’re really impressed with what developers delivered and this alone is a great source of motivation to surpass ourselves.
Frictional Games: SOMA
You have previously stated that “Kôna is a game built for people with brains. There are no such things as waypoints or mandatory tutorials”, is it safe to assume there will be very little hand holding during Kôna?
Alexandre: It is and we have to choose. Otherwise, the game would be a constant tutorial as there are new elements consistently thrown at you throughout the game, which means many different game mechanics like driving, walking, running, etc. Of course, we know that we can’t just drop the players in the middle of nowhere and expect them to survive without any clues on what they need to do. In an exploration-focused game though, we do want players to think on their own. There will be some tools to help out a little of course, but you won’t have an arrow on the top of the screen to tell you where to go.
Throughout Kôna, Carl is able to explore the environment around him with full use of his Pickup Truck and later in the game, a Snowmobile, can you explain a little about the size of land players can explore, what kind of limits are there?
Alexandre: The map is 3 square kilometers wide (1,16 square miles), but players will not be able to go everywhere from the start. There will be places accessible only with the snowmobile, for instance. The areas are technically accessible, but sometimes, without proper tools, the character’s life might be in jeopardy.
We want players to be able to explore as much as possible, but the story is a crucial part of the game, so if we let them go too far from the action, they will miss out on the experience. Some of the survival elements will play their part in that, too. Not to worry though, it’s not linear at all. A fair amount of the environment will be accessible from the start.
Cliffs, mountains, rivers, and the cold are a few examples of what might limit the player’s exploration.
Carl encounters different enemies within Kôna, one of which is a Wendigo, previously seen in games such as Until Dawn. Without spoiling the game, can you explain your thoughts behind opting for a character such as the Wendigo and how Carl can defend himself within the game?
Alexandre: The Wendigo is there because it’s part of the story. This creature walks only at night, looking for something, or someone. There is a whole context and many reasons behind its existence. Right now, we can’t tell you more than to not expect a Slender.
Carl will be able to defend himself in different ways through the game. You don’t want to fight? That’s fine, just scare wolves away by shooting in the air or throw them a steak! This is only an example, but our goal is to give players as much freedom as possible without making the game too easy. As players progress through the game, encounters will become more difficult.
The ability to take photos throughout the game in order to build up past scenes is an interesting one. Can you explain how this plays a part in Kôna, also are the photos key to the Carl’s progression in the game?
Alexandre: Photos are not key to the progression, but taking pictures will help players understand parts of the story better. Plus, these pictures will be added to the journal and will unlock additional narrative content.
Visually, Kôna really appeals. The beautiful snow driven atmosphere is an amazing backdrop for a game. How much fun was it to create and are you happy with the outcome and reception the game has received so far?
Alexandre: It was a nice technical and artistic challenge, but also a lot of fun and we’re really satisfied of the result. We live in Quebec ourselves, so we do experience these storms sometimes! Accurate weather is important to us to ensure we have the best in-game atmosphere.
We want players to feel the cold in their living room, and players that have tried our game felt it! We received a lot of positive feedback on what we have made so far, so I think we’re on the right track.
When Kôna’s KickStarter campaign ended you’d fallen just short of the stretch goal that would have seen a console release, is there any update on the possibility of an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 version for Kôna?
Alexandre: After the Kickstarter campaign, we didn’t think it would be possible at first. We also realized that $44,000 to make a game was good, but it wasn’t enough for us. What we knew is that this money could help us find more funding. Now that we have passed the half-million budget mark, not only do we have a much better game on our hands, but we will do everything in our power to release it on both consoles.
You’ve experienced Kôna with the use of Oculus VR, in your opinion why should potential buyers invest in the Oculus Rift and can you see it being the future of video games?
Alexandre: As our goal with Kôna is to give players the most immersive experience, VR is a no-brainer. Most players who played it on PC already felt immersed, but playing it on VR is something else. You feel like you are actually there, battling the elements.
We think that VR is definitely part of the future of video games. It gives so much more immersion and it opens many doors to developers to create great game worlds.
For readers who are now almost ready to spend their hard earned money on Kôna, is there anything else you would like to say about the game that could tip the scales?
Alexandre: We’re working really hard to provide an affordable experience with a level of quality that’s comparable to games made on a much higher budget. We want to deliver something that’s beautiful and unique while still maintaining amazing value. With Kôna: Day One, players aren’t just getting a good-looking indie game, they’re getting the first act of an adventure that’s going to develop in exciting and sometimes totally unexpected ways.
Huge thanks to Alexandre Fiset of Parabole for taking the time to chat with us.
Kôna: Day One is set to launch through STEAM’s Early Access late January 2016.