This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.
Promesa is an exploration of memories and dreams - of the connections we make with someone when we truly listen to them.
Julián Palacios, developer of the Nuovo Award-nominated Promesa, sat down with Gamasutra to talk about the difficulties that come with transferring your feelings into visual reality, the sense of space and existence that comes with 3D spaces, and the things we share when we're connecting with someone we're listening to.
Hello, I’m Julián Palacios. Promesa is a personal project, which means that I did all the design, visuals and programming. Still, I have some friends that helped me along the way, and without whom Promesa would not have been the same. Domiziano Maselli recorded and composed the soundtrack, and together we overviewed the sound design. Andrea Cedraro helped me with 3D modeling and texturing in some of the scenes, and my brother Martín did the animations.
Capturing the imagery of a deep relationship
I first started toying with Unity in 2015 when I was doing a bachelor in new media, I had some graphic design skills and I knew a little bit of modeling and web programming.
I was in love with experimental videogames and wanted to make something by myself. I made two short experiments, and after better understanding my interests, I started working on Promesa in late 2016.
In 2016, I made Cartas, which was a short narrative about immigration. Starting from two real letters written at the end of the 19th century by immigrants, I made some visuals that mixed real elements like architecture and landscapes in a surreal way. I was trying to mix the facts told in the letters with the individual feelings of uncertainty. After Cartas, I realized that I wanted to keep exploring this idea, but in a more personal way.
In the summer of 2016, I went to visit my grandparents (we live in far away countries), and the idea for Promesa came after a conversation I had with my grandfather. We both were not feeling well, and for the first time in our lives we shared our feelings openly. What I realized then was that our relationship (like all deep relationships) was full of underground images and dreams that were shared between the two of us and that were part of my identity. I had a lot of clear images inside that I wanted to express, so I started working on Promesa.
On the tools used to create Promesa
Apart from Unity, I used 3ds Max for modeling and Photoshop for texturing (I know, I’ll have to update my software knowledge, once I finish with Promesa).
Promesa consists of scenes and short texts. It doesn’t have a traditional narrative or story. It’s more about experiencing these places for a short time and feeling present in them. The scenes are also very linear. They are built more or less like a dolly shot, but the things you are seeing undergo some changes and variations while you wander through them. The goal was to develop emotional tension from the things that happen while you are walking through them. There’s not much to “understand”.
Connecting themes with an instrument
In this, music helped a lot. I knew I wanted to match some places with music, but it took a lot to figure out the right way to make the soundtrack. Finally, we settled on connecting each of the themes with a single musical instrument, as a way to complete the emotion of the scenes in a way that could not be possible with the visuals only.
Bringing intuition into existence
I think that for this particular kind of work, the challenge was to be true to the images I had inside and that needed to be translated into audiovisual form. The images are intuitions that I had lying in my mind for a long time, but translating them is hard and feels like going blind. Actually, when I started developing Promesa, the narrative structure was totally different and was completely uncertain. I figured out how to tie things together during the process. I learned to give up on having complete control on what I was doing, and I had to “have faith” in the images. Of course, it’s not something that can be applied to every work.
Creating a feeling of reality
I find the most powerful thing about 3D space is the feeling of reality it can evoke - the feeling of being somewhere. I think it has a lot to do with memory: these feelings are tied with our experiences of reality. In a way, remembering is feeling (seeing, listening, etc) and vice versa.
Promesa has been a way to investigate my memory, dreams, and fantasies, and the feelings they evoke. Even if all of this is very personal, hopefully the scenes can evoke similar or different subjective feelings in the player. My hope is for players to be able to relate to that.