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Exclusive: Vander Caballero Discusses Papo & Yo, The Emotional Journey of Bringing The Game To Life and Minority's Next Game Silent Enemy

Papo & Yo originally released on PlayStation Network in 2012 and  just arrived for download on digital platforms for $14.99 on PC. We recently chatted with the game's creator Vander Caballero about bringing the emotional story to life, the creative process behind Monster, Minority's next game Silent Enemy and much more. Read on to check out the full interview along with some of the game's screenshots and the PC launch trailer.

AMANDA DYAR: First off tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the gaming industry.

VANDER CABALLERO: When I finished High School, there were no game design programs. Design programs at universities involved computer labs that people only used to edit text with. So, the closest thing to designing games was industrial design and I’m really happy I made that career choice! Did you know that Shigeru Miyamoto studied industrial design? So, I completed my studies in Italy and moved to Montreal when Ubisoft was just starting and working on Playmobil games. The rest is history.

AMANDA: How did Minority Media, Inc. get started and how does it differ from other companies out there?

VANDER: We are a bunch of developers who are getting older and we can’t take to developing another shooter. We had our fun with power fantasies, but now it’s time to move on. I have realized that as I get older, I play less videogames and I watch more movies. Often, I ask myself why this is the case, but the answer is simple: videogames are not giving me what I need in order to evolve. I love games and I want to grow old playing them, so I decided to create games that can bring change to people’s real lives, like good films and books do. 

AMANDA: In regards to Papo & Yo, what was the process like for transferring such a personal and inspiring story into a video game?

VANDER: It took many years of therapy, many years of learning how to make AAA games…and many failures. We had to wait for the market to change so that titles like Papo & Yo could come into existence and, finally, that time is now. Digital delivery systems have allowed us to inexpensively create games that the marketing department of a larger developer would typically never approve.

AMANDA:Papo & Yo is a very polished and beautiful game that you would expect from a big time company. How did you develop such a great title on an indie budget?

VANDER: There is a myth that says you need extremely large budgets to deliver a polished third-person experience for consoles or PCs. But Papo & Yo has proved that this is not true. With barely 1.5% of the budget of a production like Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed, we can deliver an emotional journey. Papo & Yo cost us $1.5 million: a small team of five people, ramping up to 14 for a period of 2 years.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF), which provides financial support to independent developers, helped us with $1 million, while the Sony Pub Fund provided $500,000. We were able to convince these two parties to invest in the project by inexpensively developing a game prototype that engaged and showcased its emotional capabilities, something that could potentially influence the industry. 

AMANDA: I too came from an alcoholic background with my father, and the story of Papo & Yo was very emotional for me. You have stressed the importance of talking about subjects like this. Was that one of your main reasons for doing Papo & Yo? To finally voice all of that pain that you have never talked about in order to let it go?

VANDER: Yes, you hit the nail on the head! That’s what many people didn’t understand about why I was so vocal about alcoholism. You can only defeat the sorrows caused by alcoholism by talking about it, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of because it’s not your fault. 

AMANDA: The storyline of Papo & Yo revolves around the quest for a young boy to save someone he loves from addiction, but in real life this isn't always possible. Do you think the game's emotional story can empower those who are dealing with these same real life issues to stand up and do something about it before it is too late?

VANDER: That was the whole purpose of the game. I remember being a kid, playing Mario, then cruelly realizing that when I pressed “Power” and the game was over, the harsh reality of my life was still there. This taught me that escaping through games wasn’t the solution.

Knowing this, I eventually grew to want to develop a game that could help kids like me and my older siblings cope with this terrible reality. When you’re there, it’s very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That why I want to bring this sense of hope to gamers who went – or are going through – similar struggles. 

AMANDA:  Tell us what the creative process involved for bringing the character Monster to life?

VANDER: There was a lot of prototyping involved. I still remember the first time I completed the walking cycle of Monster and put it into my prototype: I was blown away by the feeling of having this big monster walking and me running after it, trying to catch it, trying to get close. But the monster didn’t care about me; it was indifferent! Suddenly, it felt like real life. The moment I made the monster angry and it bit me and threw me in the air, it was really difficult for me…but that’s the part of the creative process you have to go through in order to change your life with others.

AMANDA: You have stated that becoming a father was a way to heal, and I can see this myself as a parent. How did this impact the ending of Papo & Yo and are you content with the legacy that the game is leaving behind for future generations?

VANDER: This game is the biggest gift I could create for my family, for my children. I hope that when they get older, they’ll be able to play it and talk constructively about the terrible experience that inspired it…and that I went through. I also hope that many gamers get to experience Papo and have a conversation with their loved ones about what this game means to them. 

AMANDA: What other projects are you currently working on and what does the future hold for Minority Media? Will there be a Papo & Yo sequel? 

VANDER: There will be an emotional successor to Papo, but we can’t talk about it now. However, we can talk about our next game: Silent Enemy! At Minority, we want to create meaningful and emotional games. Silent Enemy is the emotional journey of someone that deals with the crushing weight of bullying and we hope that Silent Enemy will be an inspiring and empowering experience. 

About Papo & Yo
Papo & Yo tells the story of a young boy named Quico and his brutish, mostly-friendly pal named Monster, whose most threatening feature is not his set of razor-sharp teeth, but his addiction to poisonous frogs. After devouring one, Monster catapults into a violent rampage from which no one, not even Quico, is safe. As Quico, players must navigate a magical, imagination-fueled world to save their beastly companion from the biggest danger of all: himself. Papo & Yo was released on PlayStation Network (PSN) in August 2012, with releases on additional platforms planned for later dates.

About Minority
Minority is an independent game development studio based in Montreal, Quebec. Founded in 2010 by Vander Caballero, former Design Director at EA Montreal, through a partnership with Rezolution Pictures, an award-winning film and television production company, Minority is the home for passionate and experienced creators who could not stand to develop yet another shooter game. The studio’s first game, Papo & Yo, based on Caballero’s childhood, garnered international acclaim. To learn more about the team, visit the official website at: www.weareminority.com.
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