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Chronic Logic, 2004 Chronic Logic, 2004

game gish edmund alex josiah lot time games
Chronic Logic returns to the IGF with Gish.

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The Gama Network established the Independent Games Festival in 1998 to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers. They saw how the Sundance Film Festival benefited the independent film community, and wanted to create a similar event for independent game developers as well as the student population of game developers. This year there are two categories, Web/Downloadable and Open. Finalists in each category are competing for five $1,000 awards and a sixth $15,000 grand prize.

Returning finalists Chronic Logic were nice enough to spend some time online chatting about their finalist entry for this year's competition: Gish. What the heck is Gish? The fact that you can't even associate anything to the name of this game is one of many original traits the game features. But don't worry, it shall all be explained in the paragraphs that follow. If you missed them last year, be sure to check out our interview of them and Pontifex II.

Who are you and what was your role on Gish?

Edmund: I'm Edmund McMillen, creator and artist
Alex: My name's Alex Austin, I did programming and design
Josiah: And I'm Josiah Pisciotta, I helped with programming, design and gathering resources

Exactly what is Gish about?

Gish's basic story is that you are a ball of tar, and your girlfriend has been taken into the ground by an unknown assailant and you need to go into the earth to save her

What was the inspiration behind the game?

I think the thing that really inspired me to make Gish was the frustration I was having with a lot of games these days. I'm a big fan of 2D games and I had been playing a lot of GBA games at the time... and I kept asking myself, there has to be more here that hasn't been done. I wanted to make a game that was 2D, but totally different... a game that would give you the same feeling when you play it as Super Mario Brothers did when you played it for the first time. I also wanted it to be different; I wanted it to have style and humor as well as really good game play

What about the main character, Gish?

I was working on flash game at the time, and I wasn't happy with how it was turning out... I was playing around with a character that was made of black smoke, and eventually he turned into a solid tar creature. I really liked the tar creature and stayed up that night writing Gish

Where did the name Gish come from?

The name holds a really deep meaning; I saw it on a road sign, when we were going to get Mexican food. : We actually went through a lot of names, but they all meant something that we didn't want associated with the game. So I wanted something that didn't mean anything, but sounded like how Gish looked. Seriously though, Gish was taken off a road sign on the way to get Mexican food

The game from these screenshots looks really dark. Is that just because you're underground or is it a dark game because your girlfriend's been kidnapped?

the game is dark over all, though the tile sets change as you go through the earth. But in a lot of ways the overall feel of the game is pretty dark, music and humor wise, so a lot of the levels show that

Are there any other gameplay modes besides the single-player story?

Yes. Aside from different single-player modes, we have a few vs. modes. In the end I think the vs. modes will stick out to a lot of people even more than the story mode. So far for single-player play we have story mode and collection mode. Collection mode is basically Pac Man-style gameplay where you have a limited amount of time to collect all the tar balls in the level. As far as vs. modes, so far we have Gish sumo and Gish football. In Gish sumo, two players fight on a swiveling platform trying to knock each other off

What are you guys looking to add?

As of now we are about 25% done, so there is a lot to add
Josiah: about 25% done,In terms of content
Alex: The programming is pretty close to finished
Edmund: I'm trying to push close to 100 levels in story mode
Josiah: By a 100 he actually means 10 :)
Edmund: Ha. In the end there will be a lot there to play with: a full story mode, a few different single player game modes, many more vs. modes, and some other little fun stuff tossed around here and there

Looking at these screenshots, it seems to be a 2D platform game? What's the gameplay like?

The graphics are basically a 2D side-scroller, but the gameplay is different than any 2D platform game because it's all physics-based. So Gish is an actual physical model of a blob of tar: he can stick to things, slide around, grab other objects and throw them around…

Right, I remember last year we discussed your physics engine in use with future games, so this is another application?

Yeah, it's the same engine as in our other games, with a few improvements that allow more possibilities

How have you guys improved the physics engine over the past year?

The main thing that's been improved is the object collisions; they're more stable, allowing us to do objects with different properties, such as mass and elasticity. In this game you can really see it with Gish: he can get squished, flop around, wrestle with other Gish-type creatures, etc

Do you guys have any plans for licensing this engine at all?

We are open to possibilities, but do not have any plans for licensing at this time. The physics engine has been developed for our own use, but we are collaborating with another company using our physics for another game, although they are not the exact same physics used in Gish or our Bridge Building games

How long has the game been in development so far?

We started development on Gish about 5 months ago, but we were also working on a number of other projects, and most of the work for Gish was done in 3 very long nights right before the IGF deadlines

Gish was primarily programmed in what language? Using what tools?

Gish was programmed in C, using OpenGL for graphics, OpenAL for sound, SDL for input, and Oggvorvis for music
Edmund: For graphics, most of the background tile sets were all done in Photoshop, and the bad guys and other graphics were made with flash to give it more of a cartoony feel. I used flash for the animation as well

When you say Flash for the animation, does that mean the game uses SWF files for animation or are just the frames used?

Flash was used as an art tool only; all the frames were exported to Photoshop. I just used Flash because it has an easy cartoony feel

What kind of tools did you guys use for stuff like scheduling and source control?

Our brains :-) We don't use anything for that

Why not? Since the team is small enough?

Yeah, it's not really necessary since were only about 10 feet away from each other
Josiah: Yea we all work in a small office so it's not hard to communicate

What was the most serious bump along the road of developing the game?

Me trying to explain how the game will play to them. It wasn't an easy sell
Alex: Yeah, I thought it was a dumb idea at first. Actually also the object collisions took a while to get working right. I learned that object collisions are hard :-) And that sometimes it's better to take the time to do it right rather than just doing it quickly

What's the game editor like? Is it an in-game editor or a separate tool? How was it made?

it's an in-game editor, nothing too fancy; it was coded in with the rest of the game. You can change the background and foreground, add objects, change objectives and stuff like that

Was there any scripting used in the game?

No. There are things that will appear to be scripted events, but are actually simulated, like huge blocks falling down or things collapsing. For example, Edmund made a level where you have to ride collapsing pillars over to the other side of a chasm, by placing blocks in a way that they fall as you get near them. We will probably add something similar to scripting to allow for different events, but it won't be a scripting language, because I'm too lazy to put that in :-) It will probably just be something with the object editor

You said you guys were working on other things during Gish's development - can it be spoken about?

We were working on a game with a company called Detective Brand. We were also working on Insurgency 2048 for a good portion of the time and keeping up with our other games

Guys, good luck to you and I'll see you at the GDC

Alex: Thanks see you there
Josiah: thanks, we'll see you there

Interview conducted by Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora.


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