InterviewInterview - Chronic Logic

It's the end of the holidays - you've explored San Andreas; fragged every friend you once had (told you not to kill them all); your orc is stuck in queue as the multitudes try to join you much too quickly. Isn't it time for something fun? Computer Gaming World called Chronic Logic's Gish one of the "best free games on the web" in their January edition. Game Tunnel voted Gish the #1 Indie Game of the Year. Bridge Construction Set won the Independent Games Fesitval award for 2003. So....why aren't you playing these games? Please tell us a bit about yourself and about the formation of Chronic Logic?

Alex Austin: My name is Alex Austin, I'm 28, I live in Santa Cruz, CA where I've been making games for about 3 years. In my free time I write music and sleep. I enjoy light bulb lit dinners and short walks on the beach.

Josiah Pisciotta: My name is Josiah Pisciotta and I joined Chronic Logic almost 3 years ago. Two friends of mine, Alex Austin and Ben Nichols, founded chronic Logic in 2001. Ben Nichols has since gone on to start his own company and now Chronic Logic is owned by Alex and I. To start things off, why bridges? They seem to have been your first 3 games.

Alex Austin: I started off with the bridge idea because it seemed like something simple enough that I could finish it. Since the original game we've done a few more when we have enough ideas on how to improve it, and because of the fan support. How did word spread about the first version of "Bridge Builder"?

Alex Austin: The first version spread entirely on its own, the only site I managed to get a news item on was After a couple months I pretty much gave up on the game and got a real job. During that time it spread quite a bit on its own, even after I had to take the site down because the name was trademarked. Were you surprised at all by the number of hard-core amateur Bridge Engineers out there?

Alex Austin: I was surprised at how good people were, I remember with the original game I had a bridge that I thought was as cheap as it could possibly be, only to see someone else make it for about half as much. Do you think the audience consists of primarily people who really care about bridges? Or do you think you gained puzzle hounds that do it for the challenge, rather than the content as well?

Alex Austin: I don't think very many people found our games because they were looking for a bridge building game, I think they're just looking for something fun. It's kind of like SimCity, take a subject that hardly anyone is interested in, and try to make it fun. You've experimented with other puzzle type games. Are those just diversions as you seem to indicate on your site? Or do you see a future for CL in online puzzle games?

Josiah Pisciotta: Triptych was created because we needed to create a game in two weeks without any art resources, so the game had to be something semi-simple, like a puzzle game. Word Peace was created just for fun as a little side project. Puzzles games are very much just a diversion for Chronic Logic and we do not see a future for CL in puzzle games. What do you think about the casual gaming portion of the industry? Tired or Wired? And can you think of any better term than Casual Gaming?

Alex Austin: Right now the casual gaming market is overcrowded, too many people think they can make a puzzle game in a few months and get rich. What they don't realize is you have to spend the next year doing a huge amount of marketing if you want to succeed. I think there will always be a demand for games that you can play without a huge commitment however, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a puzzle game. The only term I can come up with right now is softcore games, but I don't think the marketing guys will pick that one up.

Josiah Pisciotta: We want to make games that are fun, challenging and interesting. When we make games we are our own target market and we have no interest in casual gaming. Obviously there is a huge market for casual games, but we hope that audience will mature to more complex and interesting games and they develop as gamers. A better term for casual gaming, nothing flattering, simple games? sucky games? Mindless games? Do you think that the casual gamers will eventually get sucked into more sophisticated titles? Have you seen career puzzle solvers jump to Gish for instance?

Alex Austin: I definitely think that people will want more interesting games, even if they still don't have a lot of time to play. There's only so many ways you can match up 3 things of the same color. The problem is right now there's not really anything in between, it's pretty much either a really simple puzzle game or one that assumes you've been playing games for years. I think 2D games like Gish could be good for that area, although Gish might be too difficult for some people.

Josiah Pisciotta: We definitely hope they will. I think as more people get familiar with gaming and digitally distributed games some of them will eventually grow in their appetite for interesting and challenging games and this will lead them to more complex and "hard core" games such as ours. Speaking of Gish, what brought you to a 12-pound ball of tar? All of your other titles are puzzle games, why go to a side- scroller?

Alex Austin: Well the 13-pound ball of tar was too heavy :-) Actually it started out as just an idea of Edmund's, and just took off from there.

Josiah Pisciotta: We are all fans of the classic NES, so it was normal to want to make the latest and greatest side scrolling game. The 2d environment makes the games easy to pick up and play, and the modern physics and lighting makes Gish damn fun :) Do your Gish aficionados realize they are actually solving puzzles? I mean, it definitely doesn't have the pace of a manic side-scroller, do you think that turns people off or add s to their enjoyment?

Alex Austin: I think the speed works well for people starting off, since being in a physics based world is different than most games. There is a code for people who want to play at a faster pace.

Josiah Pisciotta: I am sure the game is to slow for some people, but others enjoy the pace of the game. Also as you get better at Gish you can actually increase the speed tremendously. So once people get into the game it does get a bit more face paced as they learn to control Gish better. You are getting great reviews out there from the mainstream sites, and congratulations on the New York Times. Do you think the Press is properly handling Indie gaming? And are they the key to it becoming more successful or do you see another vehicle?

Alex Austin: I think its going to take a breakthrough Indie game to really make people pay attention, right now Indie games are usually thought of as niche games, which most of them are. Once there's something that everyone is playing, it will change that, like what Counterstrike did for mods. The mainstream coverage we've got for Gish has been surprisingly good, but it hasn't been a huge boost in sales.

Josiah Pisciotta: It's pretty difficult to get much coverage by the "main stream" Press. Indie games have begun to get some recognition by mainstream press, which has made it easier for us, but there is still a long ways to go. I would think that some sites would want to set themselves apart for every other site and cover more than just Half-Life 2, but these sites are still few and far between. Maybe its something we will see more of in the future. We look at any kind of press coverage helping, but don't see any one type as the key to success. Have you thought about consoles as a target platform? Alien Hominid made the leap from a Flash -platformer to a console game, how about Gish?

Alex Austin: It would be cool to have Gish on a console, but there's a huge process involved in getting a game published for a console. What do you feel the place is for 2D-platformers have any place in this 3D Halo 2, Doom III world?

Alex Austin: Some games work better in 2D, especially platformers. I haven't owned a console since the Super Nintendo because I hate 3rd-person cameras. Of course none of the big game companies are going to make a 2D game, since 3D is 1D better, but I think they're missing out on a huge market.

Josiah Pisciotta: If a game is fun then there is a place for it, I don't care if its 2D, 3D, or 4D :) So, what's next? Gish 2? More puzzle games?

Josiah Pisciotta: We are currently working on a Golf game with a company called Detective Brand. We will see what happens after that. Ok, time for the final clichŠ¹ interview question: If you could only take three games on a desert island, what would they be?

Alex Austin: Ultima IV, Civ 2 and Pirates

Josiah Pisciotta: Civilization 2, X-com (the original) and Planescape Tournament or any one of the other Baldur's Gate games. Reviews
Gish - November 16, 2004
Bridge Construction Set - October 25, 2004

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About the Author, Dave Sanders (A.K.A Vulgrin)

Dave lives with his wife and three kids, doing independant software development consulting and fits games in every nook and cranny of his free time. He particularly enjoys seeing new and fresh ideas from the Indie Game Studios, and believes that they are the true future of gaming. He'll play just about anything if you put it in front of him, and usually like about two thirds of it. He's also an "0ld Sk00l" gamer, having cut his teeth on Adventure, the Vic-20, Apple II and Infocom. Back when playing a new game meant you had to type the program in from a Family Computing magazine, during a snowstorm, up a hill, both ways.