The multidisciplinary combination that Paula Garcés brings to the table is rarely found in a video game producer. We have seen the nexus between comic book creator and video game maker in well-known developers such as Joe "Mad" Madureira (Darksiders), but to that mix Garcés adds the career of a Hollywood actor (and model, and designer) and the main character, Aluna, who is the faithful reflection of its creator. With such a unique profile, Gamereactor has had the pleasure of chatting with the "warrior" currently presenting Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards with great enthusiasm.
Many of you will probably know Garcés from seeing her on-screen. She's from Medellin, but grew up in New York and later managed to gain a foothold as an actress and appeared in films such as Clockstoppers, Man of the House, and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and prestigious series such as CSI, The Sopranos, and The Good Wife. Nowadays, she is currently performing in the popular Netflix series On My Block.
In 2011, Garcés created a comic, one of her great passions. This graphic novel introduced main character Aluna, a Latin heroine who helps the natives during the Spanish conquest of the New World and who discovers that she is the daughter of a goddess. The comic series about Aluna was so successful that the character even appeared in the MOBA Heroes of Newerth, and now she will finally have her own game, Aluna: Sentinel of the Shards, which will be released in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.
GR: She started as a comic character, she became a playable hero in Heroes of Newerth and now she's going to make her debut as the main character in Sentinel of the Shards. How has Aluna grown up over time?
Honestly, it was a slow process to get her to lead and star her own video game. She quickly grew up as one of the most popular avatars in Heroes of Newerth, in that was truly surprising. We didn't know whether to build a Multi Online Battle Arena or an action role-playing game that could allow us to incorporate her story. During this time, we realised that we had something special and that we weren't going to take a decision so rashly. So, we took some years to clarify her story and build her base organically until we felt that it was time for her to have her image on screen.
In this video game Aluna returns to the New World and she'll be surrounded by Inca mythology. What can you tell us about the story?
"Aluna is the daughter of a Spanish sailor/conqueror and the indigenous goddess of South America, Pachamama"
Well, we wanted to incorporate a little bit of the story for those of you who don't know Aluna's background. She is the daughter of a Spanish sailor/conqueror and the indigenous goddess of South America, 'Pachamama'. Pacha's human form was destroyed when she tried to protect baby Aluna from a meteorite. The meteorite exploded and the pieces were scattered all over the world. The only meteorite that contained the mother's heart was given to Aluna, and that part of the meteorite is the source of her powers. The father took baby Aluna back to Spain, where she grew up. She returned to South America once she was an adult, and that's where the game begins. There, her gem is stolen, and you must recover and save her power from being used by evil, which seeks to control it and dominate the world.
From Hollywood actor to comic book creator, and now video game developer, how did your journey lead to you making your own game?
Being an actress exposed me to all the hard work it takes to make a movie or a TV show. There are many people on the set and everyone has a process that helps to deliver the final product. Because of my experience as an actor, I was prepared to deal with the different amazing people who were able to add their magic in this game, such as writers, artists, animators, programmers, musicians, testers and everyone else to make it all flow. It really is an art that doesn't get the notoriety it should. I would also like to thank the Latinos who work with us in Aluna, our artist from Spain, David T. Cabrera, Tunon Benzo from Colombia, our colourist Alivon Ortiz from Mexico, and our musical director Juan Pablo Naranjo from Mexico.
How has it influenced your experience to have worked with top actors from the likes of Assassin's Creed or Batman: Arkham Origins?
First of all, let me say hello to the amazing writers of "The World of Aluna" (Ryan Galletta, Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh). You learn to be patient because artists are so passionate about their work. I must say we were all good from start to finish. Everyone left their ego at the door and we got down to work with a common goal, creating an incredible origins story for Aluna.
Aluna is a strong independent Latin warrior in a century where all the power was in the hands of white male conquerors. What message does this convey?
This story takes place in the 16th century, so you can imagine how men made sure that women "stayed in their place" to avoid begin burned alive as witches. We certainly wrote Aluna's story with a message stressing that you cannot control this girl. On the first comic, Aluna is sent away because she will not follow the rules established for her to be a proper Spaniard. We used those rules and created a tag line for her, where Aluna tells her enemies to "never turn your back", just before kicking their asses. That's a metaphor for "Don't tell me what to do or I'll use it against you".
Is there any similarity between you and Aluna? She seems inspired by yourself...
Yes, of course! I've always felt like an underdog in everything I do. I have to work three times as hard to achieve what I do. As a Latina raised in Spanish Harlem I was always told "you can't do that", even with Aluna. You have no idea how many times I've been told: "it's a good idea, but...". But just like Aluna, I keep saying to everyone: "never turn your back on a lady!"
"In the 16th-century men made sure that women "stayed in their place" to avoid begin burned alive as witches"
Is there anyone like Aluna in our time? Now that feminism is gaining strength all over the world, maybe she could be a reference?
When I think about Aluna and the powers she uses for good, I must say that it is not one woman who stands out, but every woman who has spoken out when there has been an injustice from the beginning of time until now. I think that's why people love stories of superheroes because there are underdogs who overcome adversity.
Sentinel of Shards is part of a very popular genre. Aside from narrative or stylistic elements, what do you think is the best part of the game?
That's a good one, I would say that, as well as the scenario, is the fact that our game mixes the history of the 16th century and the mythological gods of the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs, which makes it different from everything else. Plus, I made sure this game was fun!
Can you give us any more specific clues about the launch date?
We are currently testing, so we expect a release in June, but as I'm sure you know, with the coronavirus we live in a different world these days. However, I hope that things will get better, and we can give you a more specific date.