I first ran into Vignettes on recommendation from itch.io Coder Extraordinaire Amos. He called it a game about spinning stuff until it turns into other stuff, and while that’s technically right he neglected to mention the childlike glee present in the game. If anything I’d sell the game as closer to upending your childhood toy box and reveling in the ensuing mess for hours.
I got a chance to talk to the team behind Vignettes about what it was like making such a wondrous project.
Let's start with the basics: Who are you and what is Vignettes?
Vignettes was made by Armel Gibson, Pol Clarissou and Pat Ashe with original audio from David Kanaga. We like to call it a toyish surprise-o-rama, it's a minimalistic game of manipulation and exploration. The game plays with perspective to seamlessly transform an object as you spin it around, hopping from a flower pot to an hourglass to a bejeweled chalice - it is essentially an exploration game where exploring means finding the connections between the objects and seeing what lies behind each silhouette.
There are also specific interactions to many of the objects, some of them including small puzzles or mechanisms to tinker with!
Skeleton Business is an indie game dream team. How did you come together?
The core team behind the game consists of Pol (me! hi!!), who came up with the idea and handled the majority of the art in the game; and Armel, who programmed the game and dealt with the business side of things - including releasing the game through his 1-person company, Skeleton Business. We collaborated on other projects in the past, and are both part of French games/art collective Klondike (klondike.fr), but Vignettes is the first time we worked together on a commercial project (and the first time we turned a personal project into a commercial project).
What inspired you to develop Vignettes' core mechanic of changing perspectives to change the object?
The game's core conceit was inspired by a few different things, but one of the central ones is Tale of Tales’ game Vanitas. It's a game about symbolism, and about the suspense of waiting to see what object will be presented to you as an omen. Vignettes is definitely a lot more lighthearted than Vanitas, but it still resonates with similar principles, and many of the objects we put in the game are here for their symbolic value on top of their visual design. Vanitas (the game) is itself inspired by the Renaissance genre of vanitas still life paintings, and that ended up inspiring Vignettes’ painting frames as well.
Other than that, the game was also inspired by our own interests and experiences! Each area in the game resonated with us in a personal way, and we chose objects that meant something to us.
There's a certain dreaminess to playing Vignettes, where things are both familiar and strange. What did you want to say with this juxtaposition?
The narrative in Vignettes is very un-specific and suggestive, since it's only gestured at through the symbolism of the objects and their associations. In fact it's not quite a narrative so much as a collection of emotional tones and evocations of specific settings, and the mechanic of surprising & seamless switching between objects partakes to that, by making the progression fluid and blurry. We wanted Vignettes to evoke the same kinds of emotions you can feel while rummaging through an old relative's attic, seeing glimpses of their past life told through dusty, outdated objects. In the end, you know that these objects are clues to a bigger story, but there's only so much they can tell you out of context... But that is also what makes this experience compelling and poetic, because there's a lot of white space for you to imagine many more stories with these prompts! It's like laying down a possibility space that expands with each object.
I ended up spending a lot of time just hanging out and spinning the objects in Vignettes. Do you have any favorite objects or transformations?
There are many objects we like a lot in the game, but the few that stand out are probably (spoilers!) the matryoshka doll and the snowglobe - they're a perfect balance of clunky-ness and consistency on one hand, and detail and layers on the other. But we also both love the spooky cloth doll from the witch's lair, and from the newest update, the coral branch~ (Also I think my favorite of David's music loops is the one from the knight chess piece! Though all of the sounds in the seaside area are incredible, I love them all).
Finally, what do you want people who might be on the fence about Vignettes to know?
There is more to Vignettes than meets the eye! We can only show so much in trailers, but there is a lot about this game that shines in the moment, through minute interactions and small hidden secrets... As IGN wrote, "it contains endless charm within the smallest, most mundane objects" - I know it sounds pretentious to pull that quote but I'm dang proud of the game so whatever. Endless charm! Get on it!!
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