Thoughts on The Gunk
It’s always a mixed bag of feelings when you release a game you’ve been working very hard on. You both desperately want to keep working on it because there are so many flaws you can see, but you also want to never see it again because you’re so tired of it. Now with some distance between me and the development, I feel that I can be proud of our achievement and think on the game with a clearer perspective.
The Gunk has gone through a lot of phases. It ended up being a short but sweet adventure game where the primary focus on exploring an alien planet and secondary focus on the relationship between the two protagonists. The story and atmosphere are top notch and it has one of the best depiction of a two person relationship I’ve ever experienced in a game. The writing and voice acting between Rani and Becks feel so real and believable that I could almost see myself going to a theatre just watching two stage actors performing the script on a stage.
The game mechanic is quite simple and never gets that challenging but it focuses on rewarding the player and making them feel good about what they’re doing. There are enemies, so there are some risk, but the game never gets difficult enough to put a break to the story or atmosphere. This wasn’t always the goal, so even though I’m quite happy with the end result, there were often times I was worried that we were making a too simple and forgetable game.
Our previous games have had a lot of focus on systemic gameplay where everything else came secondary to the main loop. In The Gunk we started out with that same mentality but as the games focus shifted with time, we also had to change the amount of effort with put in each discipline so that we would have time to finish it all. I eventually shifted gears completely and accepted the fact that gameplay wasn’t really the focus of this game. I would have to work to make gameplay just “good enough” to work with the story and the world.
With that said, I really wish we could’ve done more with the gunk sucking mechanic. That mechanic feel so nice and we put so much effort into it that it’s kind of a shame that it doesn’t evolve more. How it starts out is pretty much how it ends even though there are some smaller developments. I think we should’ve had more focus on that mechanic and perhaps completely removed the enemies and instead made more gunk-related hazards.
The same goes with the upgrade system. In it’s first iteration it had much more in common with a crafting system but it had to be simplified to the point where it’s barely more than a shop menu. Collecting various ingredients in a strange planet fits the fantasy and the story so well. It would’ve been a good thing for the gmae if collecting was more varied and more exploratory. I think we ended up with a good compromise and some juicy loot container interactions, but more experimenting with a more crafting-like feature would’ve made more sense.
All things aside, I’m very happy on how the game has been recieved. Many has had a lovely time with the game and enjoyed it for what it is. The reviews have also been fair in their assesments often pointing out things that we already knew; the game isn’t for everyone but those who it’s for will really like it.