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Interview with Chronic Logic

The CMP Game Group (producer of Game Developer magazine, Gamasutra.com, and the Game Developers Conference) 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.

The guys from Chronic Logic are certainly no strangers to the IGF. In 2003 they won an Audience Choice award for Pontifex II, and last year they made the finals with Gish, the same game that is running for an award once again this year. So what's new? What's changed since our interview last year? Read on and find out.

So okay - it's been done before but let's do it again :) Who are you and what's your role on Gish?

Edmund: Edmund McMillen, I draw pretty pictures and make things up (AKA art design and concept)

Josiah: Josiah Pisciotta: I helped with design, testing, and resource compilation for Gish

Alex: My name is Alex Austin, I did programming and design on Gish

Let me be the first to say it - Congrats on your 3rd consecutive IGF! This ties you with Shizmoo Games and Digital Eel for consecutive IGF entries. How do you feel about that?

Edmund: The IGF is a really fun experience, I'm very glad we get to go again

Alex: It's pretty cool, it's a good opportunity to meet other developers and check out the GDC

Josiah: I am very happy to be going to IGF for the 3rd straight year. We live real close to GDC so it's great to get the free passes and be able to show our games on the expo floor even if the judges don't like us every year

Not only is this your third straight year, but this is also the second year for Gish - which is also an IGF first. What made you guys enter Gish again?

Edmund: Because reentering the same game 2 times in a row SCREAMS innovation!

Josiah: Last year when we entered Gish into the IGF it was not near completion. The version that was judged actually didn't have bad guys, lighting, or any of the final levels. Even though we brought a near final version to the IGF, it was not the version that was judged. We wanted a chance to enter the full version this time :)

Edmund: Yea, the version we entered was basically 6 collection levels

You guys are definitely coming into the competition this year with a strong pedigree - Gish won Game Tunnel's Game of the Year and Adventure Game of the Year awards. Do you guys think that will help you out even more this year?

Edmund: Don't forget Character of the Year! And we also got 2nd place for Multiplayer Game of the Year. Gish is just a super cool cat, he's got Mojo

Alex: I don't know, the judging for the IGF is kind of strange - It's not a vote on the best game, they just add up the scores in different categories, so you never know

Edmund: It will be cool to have more people know who Gish is at IGF but I don't think it will change the judge's decision

Quality of Life is fast becoming a concern in the industry. As indie developers we're mainly in charge of our own QoL - what do you guys do to take the pressure off and keep it fun?

Josiah: It's pretty easy to just start working all my waking hours sometimes. I kind of get into a habit of waking and coming to the office and working tell I want to go to sleep. For a while we would have a game day where we would spend at least a few hours playing some games. That tends to get pushed aside when its crunch time though. Other then that we just try and take the weekends off. I try and stay active doing other things like playing basketball a couple times a week.

So now that Gish is a completed game, or more of a complete game - what cool new stuff worth mentioning has been added to the gameplay since we talked last year?

Alex: Pretty much everything :-)

Edmund: 6 multiplayer modes, lighting effects, bad guys, bosses, a story…

Alex: And a story ;)


Josiah: The dynamic lighting, particle effects, more vs. modes, 34 story levels, 6 secret levels, 22 collection levels, and over 28 different vs. levels

Edmund: Different game modes…

Josiah: The level editor was also released in the latest patch

Speaking of that level editor, we talked last year about the "scripted" events which are actually simulated - was anything akin to scripting ever added for anything?

Alex: Nope, it's all done by setting up objects and switches, which is probably harder for people to understand, but that's the way the game works

These simulated events are driven by the physics engine at the core of all your games. How's that come along since last year? Any major additions/improvements?

Alex: There's not too much new with the physics since last year, most of the work we did was making levels to take advantage of the physics

Is there anything you guys are looking to add to it after Gish?

Alex: I'm planning on writing some articles on physics, so hopefully other people can come up with some new ideas. I have been working on some drag and lift stuff, trying to figure out a good way to do that

Ok - nagging question! :) What's the current stance for you guys on licensing the physics engine to the public?

Alex: Well when I write the articles it will pretty much explain how it's all done, so pretty much anyone could do something similar. The actual physics aren't as complicated as people think - the hard part is using the physics for gameplay. I'd rather write some articles so other people can hopefully be inspired to come up with new ideas, rather than release a library

Still, have you guys compared the engine to other similar libraries like Tokamak, Newton, Novodex, etc? A lot of people go for pre-built physics libraries due to the inherent complexity of them

Alex: I haven't checked out those libraries, but the way I see it is if someone doesn't understand how the physics work, they probably won't be able to really take advantage of them anyway

You guys specified some tools last year that you were using for development of Gish - programmed in C, using OpenGL for graphics, OpenAL for sound, SDL for input, Ogg Vorbis for music, with Flash and Photoshop for animation/graphics. Have you guys found any new or related tools to help aid you in development, both with Gish and in general?

Josiah: Nope, those tools are all still working well in 2005 :)

Edmund: Pencil, that's about it. Such a good tool.

Alex: I'm still using the DOS editor :-)

Nothing? No Integrated tools? Helpful applications?

Josiah: Yeah we keep it pretty simple. With a small team you don't need much

Alex: Yep

Edmund: All I use seriously is a pen and pencil then animate with Flash and edit with Photoshop

Josiah: Okay, we actually have a thousand monkeys in the other room that do all the work for us

So I assume you guys still use your brains for source control as well? :)

Alex: Yep :-) I use the DOS editor for editing, and compile with command line. It's pretty simple

Awesome. The power of the human mind at work. So to shed light on another interesting IGF fact, and to touch on another tidbit from last year, you guys made it into the IGF again with Detective Brand. Was this your first collaboration effort with another studio?

Josiah: Yes it's basically the first project we have done with another company where we both worked on the actual development

What was the experience like?

Josiah: Well it's still in the works - we have this crazy Canadian guy staring at us right now because he is not included in the interview. The game has taken a long time to get near completion because of a number of re-designs, but it's almost finished now. It's been a learning experience :)

So this was a rather long-distance relationship? What methods did you guys use to manage it?

Josiah: Well it started off long distance, with two of them working in Canada and the two of us here in Santa Cruz. We didn't really use any management tools, but it was not managed very well either, which is why we had so many re-designs. Now one of the guys, Luke, is here working with us so we can finish the game. He is feeling pretty left out right now though because he's not in the interview

Well Detective Brand will be getting an Email from me or someone at GDNet in the near future. So he can feel better now :)

Alex: No, he doesn't get to do that one either

Josiah: He can't check his Detective brand Email here and he decided never to return to Canada (don't tell the INS)

Well I tried. Anyway, that pretty much does it for me. Good luck once again to you guys! See you on the Expo floor.

Josiah: Thanks Drew, see you in March

Alex: Thanks, see you there

Edmund: See ya

Interview conducted by Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora.

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