Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare is a 2D platform game mapped to a 3D cube. Players control Vanessa, a young girl with a penchant for puzzles. One day, while exploring her father’s antique shop, she discovers a mysterious, mechanical box. The device magically sucks Vanessa and her world inside. Now, Vanessa must use her considerable puzzle-solving skills to twist and turn her way to freedom, in this groundbreaking game from independent developer Bad Pilcrow.
Across more than three dozen levels, players guide Vanessa from her starting position to an exit. Standing between Vanessa and freedom are a number of classic platforming mechanics, including spikes to avoid, blocks to move, and enemies to dodge. The twist? Her two-dimensional world lies on the surface of a three-dimensional cube, and players must rotate each face to find clever solutions to a wide variety of problems.
The game is framed by gorgeous cutscenes from lowbrow illustrator Kyle Leavitt. The intriguing and macabre images set the stage for Vanessa’s story: a tale of an eccentric girl who learns to use her powers for the benefit of everyone – even those pesky bullies whose actions cause the central conflict.
Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare features an online leaderboard to empower competitive gamers. By improving their time and number of turns in each level, players may increase their scores and work their way up to the Top 25.
For gamers that have mastered the thirty-six story levels, Vanessa also features downloadable content. Players may go online to access even more challenges, further extending the entertainment value of the game.
Music from acclaimed underground artist Telethon drives the memorable soundtrack – a blend of classical Baroque and 8-bit nostalgia. The Astringent Game Journal writes, “It is definitely a soundtrack that both stands out on its own, and serves as an excellent complement to the dark atmosphere the game exudes.”
Young or old, hardcore or casual, there’s something for everyone in this clever game. Without a doubt, you’ll find yourself happily trapped in Vanessa’s nightmare!
I woke up one morning with the name “Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix” stuck in my head, along with a well-defined vision of how her world might look. These weren’t just abstract fragments, either; they were almost tangible. I could see the steps I had to take to make it a reality, and I was filled with enthusiasm at the challenge it would provide. When you’re struck with inspiration like that, you can’t hesitate. You just have to start working. So I did!
Vanessa is unique in several ways, but the most striking is its presentation. Mapping a 2D world to the surface of a 3D volume is something I’ve never seen before. It makes otherwise basic platform mechanics feel fresh again. For those who haven’t played it yet, imagine Super Mario Bros. meets Rubik’s Cube, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.
Vanessa’s principle development took approximately nine months. I began working on the PC version of the game in February of 2010, and completed it in October.
Level design was both the most difficult and most satisfying aspect of Vanessa’s development. In some cases, I set out with a clear goal in mind for a level; in others, brute force trial and error did the job. What became clear early on is that a standard approach to level design doesn’t work for Vanessa: the critical path from Point A to Point B can be foiled by the player’s ability to rotate individual faces of the puzzle cube. A level design can make sense in your mind – even on paper – but break down once you start playing with it in the engine. Vanessa required extensive testing for its levels, but in the end, I’m incredibly satisfied with the result. I love it when players suddenly realize the solution to a particular puzzle – you can see exactly how empowered they feel operating in Vanessa’s design space.
Before Vanessa was on anyone’s radar, I received an e-mail from an indie game enthusiast in France. He had seen a trailer I posted of the game on YouTube, and asked if he could conduct an e-mail interview with me for his website. That vote of confidence from a total stranger meant the world to me. So, as a thank you to our first fan, Anthony Franchitti, the official box art for the game will be an homage to French artist Eugene Delacroix’s famous painting, “Liberty Leading the People,” with Vanessa leading her classmates over a pile of spiders.
The title of the game came to me in a dream. It has to be one of the wordiest names in game development history. I tried, but could never settle on a pithier title. Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare, despite its length, is a moniker that accurately reflects the quirkiness and charm of the game.
I grew up in Cape Coral, FL, but currently reside in Orlando.
University of Central Florida – go Knights!
I knew I wanted to make interactive entertainment from the time I played my first game of PONG. Since then, I’ve been teaching myself how to design, program, manage, test… whatever skills I felt I needed. My Master’s degree is in Modeling and Simulation, and I’ve tried to employ all my understanding of usability that I gained from that education into making Vanessa an intuitive game. Since 2006, I’ve been a professor of Game and Simulation Programming at DeVry University in Orlando – you should register for one of my classes! – and the task of educating such passionate students has really helped me to both practice and refine my design philosophy.
My collaborators are fantastic people, and our stories are legendary. I’m going to try and tackle everyone in chronological order. I met my wife, Kimberly at a coffee shop in Cape Coral back in 1999. She voices one of the characters in the game. Seven years ago I met Matt Kamm, one of our composers, at a college party. Kyle Leavitt worked with me on another game, Snail Shot Torpedo, back in 2009. We met because he responded to fliers I posted at the University of Central Florida, looking for an artist. Several members of my team are students or graduates who studied under me at DeVry University: Pierre Borges provided the amazing narration you hear during in-game cut scenes; Mathew Santiago transcribed classical music and composed original themes; Jose Mayi programmed a useful level editor. I met Jonny Ashley on Newgrounds; he hopped on board Vanessa fairly late in development and provided the character animation.
Super Meat Boy. When it comes to games I enjoy playing, I’m a completionist. There’s just so much to unlock and even though it’s maddeningly difficult, and I’ve rage-quit many times, I keep coming back to it. At the moment, this game is my White Whale.
There will always, always, always be a special place in my heart for David Crane’s A Boy and His Blob. From a critical standpoint, it’s far from perfect, but even its flaws are charming. I probably learned more about game design from A Boy and His Blob than from any other source.
Every game I play exists because someone cared enough or fought hard enough to make it happen. When you approach games with this thought in mind, you can appreciate them more deeply, even the ones that aren’t much fun. I don’t think I have a least favorite game, really; however, I tend to avoid playing games that depict realistic violence. Those experiences just don’t appeal to me as a gamer, not because I’m offended, but because I’m bored. What else can designers possibly say about violence that hasn’t already been said in a hundred other games? It’s been done to death (no pun intended).
I had lunch with Ralph Baer, The Father of Video Games. He gave a lecture at DeVry’s campus in Orlando, and afterwards, my supervisors and I took Ralph and his assistant, Bill Harrison to a restaurant down the street. Breaking bread with the man who invented the home video game console, the light gun, the Simon handheld game… it was a surreal experience.
An older cousin outgrew his Atari 2600 and passed it on to me. Ah, nostalgia!
Wii. And by the way, Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo: if you’re reading this, the true home of Vanessa is the 3DS! Search your feelings, you know it to be true.
Other hobbies? You mean I can have more than one?! I’m going to have to look into this… All of my collaborators are involved in personal projects of their own. For instance, Matt Kamm, who provided remixes for Vanessa’s soundtrack, makes amazing music with his band, Telethon. Our other composer, Mathew Santiago, recently wrote a novella. Kyle Leavitt (lead artist) enjoys being awesome in his spare time. I hear Jonny Ashley (character animator) is building an entire set of living room furniture out of sugar packets he steals from restaurants. Pierre Borges, who provided the narration in Vanessa’s cut scenes, enjoys crushing his enemies, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentations of their women. My wife Kimberly, who voices one of Vanessa’s classmates, collects cats.
David J. Sushil
Pierre Richard Borges II
Matthew J Kamm