Two years ago, 2D computer artist Jacob Janerka crowdfunded his way out of an electronics retail job so he could focus full-time on developing Paradigm, a weird throwback to Gen X point-and-click adventure games like Maniac Mansion and Myst.
Janerka sets the plot in post-apocalyptic Eastern Europe with an ugly mutant protagonist, and an evil sloth antagonist. Undertones of the classic point-and-click era of PC gaming permeate throughout.
The artwork is masterful pastiche, a trip down a late-‘80s/early-‘90s tech rabbit hole; imagine Gary Larson’s Far Side comics as an interactive DOS game; that’s the best I can describe it.
If you donate to his Kickstarter, Janerka might illustrate your head in a jar, or send you a 1.44 MB floppy disk with personalized bonus content. During production breaks, Janerka publishes one-off vaporwave art nuggets. A Seinfeld point-and-click mini-game; a Stranger Things-inspired game mock up, a 16-bit animated render of the Dude in Big Lebowski.
The game, which is due out January 2017, is full of Easter eggs and oddities — like the Windows 95 PC support bad advice guy:
I caught up with the Perth, Australia-based artist to learn more about his projects, and talk about his PC build.
The Doom and Seinfeld references—and your overall style, I suppose—lead me to believe you grew up in the ‘90s playing stuff like Return to Zork.
I was born 1992. So, some may call me an imposter ‘90s kid as I was too young to experience most of the stuff I like first-hand. However, I have a brother who is 10 years older than me, and with some strategic winging and begging, I was able to get the hand-me-down computers from him. So the only games I was able to play with my rig were the classics from that era like Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Sam and Max, Doom, Quake, Starcraft, etc. One of my fondest memories is getting a Pentium 2 and being able to run Diablo 2 on the computer in my room. It was pure bliss at the time.
You kind of figured out the game programming end of it yourself—what resources were most helpful for that?
I actually don’t have any real programming experience—me mostly do arty, no much programmy. I use an engine called Visionaire Studio which is a dedicated point and click adventure engine which allows you to make a whole game without programming. However it does allow for customization with Lua that I try to pick up here and there. However, luckily, there are kind people in the community like AFRLme which help this clueless artist like me to make the pretty things move.
Can I have an update about where Paradigm production is at currently?
At this moment I’m wrapping up the final scripts and will be starting to implement the voice acting after I come back from PAXaus in November. After that it’s rigorous testing and adding some little extra bits of art here and there which require some unique preparations, like the Dancing IT Guy.
Where did the inspiration come from for the dancing terrible advice IT guy?
So, in Paradigm you enter a world which is basically Windows 98. I tried to think what kind of elements I could implement as art assets, and something I remember as an adolescent is, of course, seeing desktop strippers in pop-up windows. I always thought that was funny to have this low-res stripper on your desktop, so I wanted to make a joke about it. However, of course, I’ve been influenced by the throw backs such as Tim and Eric’s skit, “Paul Rudd’s Computer” and other A E S T H E T I C imagery that is trending now.
You’re on a roll right now. The Stranger Things point-and-click blew up pretty good for you, too. What is it about your art that is resonating with people right now?
Honestly, it sometimes come down to pure luck with that kind of stuff. However there are certain things that definitely resonate more with people depending on the context. One of which is the amount of time, effort and attention to detail. People can really see the love and time you put into something, and if it is of something they love too, such as Stranger Things, people like to celebrate that stuff. At least that’s my theory; sometimes people just like seeing a goofy guy dance and giving out terrible IT advice. [laughs]
Since we’re gear heads over here, what are you using to create? What’s your hardware and software setup like at the moment?
At the moment I have quite the modest mid-range set up; my younger computer parts-obsessed me wouldn’t be too impressed. Intel Core i5-4570 3.2 GHz; 16 GB memory; AMD Radeon R9 200 series; two 27-inch Samsung monitors; 240 GB SSD; and computer case with fans that are too damn loud.
After I finish development, my first point of order when I have some cash is to build a new computer that can render the universe if possible.
Paradigm is expected to launch January 2017.
Follow Jacob Janerka’s Tumblr page.