The developers of GoNNER answer some of our questions about the game.
GoNNER is a game that effortlessly blends platformer elements with those of a roguelike game. The game immediately arrests the viewer’s attention with its wonderful visual style which is exuberant without being incoherent. The game’s complex gameplay system ensures that you will stick with it until you master everything you can.
To learn more about the game and its development, GamingBolt reached out to the developer Mattias Dittrich, Joar Renolen and Martin Kvale, and they provided the following answers.
"I like setting up very clear limitations for myself when making a game, those limitations then inform how everything will look"
There’s sometimes so much going on in the screen at a time in this game! How did you manage to keep the action cohesive and manageable?
Haha, yes. I was sometimes a bit worried that it would be too much, but the games that I drew inspiration from, Downwell, Nuclear Throne, Binding of Isaac etc tend to play on that edge between intense and overwhelming. I like intense games like that, or at least I did at the time of development, so I think it came pretty naturally that GoNNER was going to be as intense as I could make it.
The game’s art style is something that immediately stands out. What was the goal with the art style, and how was it achieved?
I like setting up very clear limitations for myself when making a game, those limitations then inform how everything will look. In GoNNER, some of those restrictions where that every sprite needed to fit on a 64x64px grid, there’s no antialiasing (there is an option for post AA in the game now though!), there’s no transperancy etc. I, Ditto, also do both art and programming, and programming takes a lot of time, so I needed to limit myself quite strictly on how much time I spent animating! That’s a very long way to explain: “I’m a pretty lazy animator”. 🙂
The characters in GoNNER all feel quite quirky and distinctive. What was your approach to character design?
Following the same idea of restrictions, I had a pretty clear mental image of what makes a GoNNER character, hollow eyes, big bubble shapes and such. The first 3 or so characters I didn’t really think much about it, but after that it honestly just became a process of trying to make as many distinct looking characters as possible within the very narrow space that I had set up for myself with those restrictions. And I like it when things are cute!
What can you tell us about the music behind the game? What were your inspirations?
Joar Renolen: The music in Gonner is different from anything else I have made. Each track is basically just rough sketches made in no time. Martin was encouraging me to be quick, which is the complete opposite of my usual routine. I had never made a soundtrack prior to GoNNER. The time spent on making the robotboss soundtrack is equal to the length of the track itself. I’d upload tracks that I had barely started on, and moments later Ditto would have a build with the track in it. The music was made with a few vst-synths and some drum sounds that consists mostly of some of martins sound effects with a few tweaks. Having these limitations on sounds and time was actually kind of liberating and probably the key to having the soundtrack sound fun, weird and consistent. I don’t remember what my inspirations were at the time, but i recall being very into everything psychedelic and weird sounding.
How difficult was it to compose the sound effects for a game like Gonner?
Martin Kvale: About composition of sound effects of the game, it was mostly about trying out a single piece of gear I owned, the synth/sampler called the OP-1. I would play with that for about half an hour of the time and then clip out the sounds I liked the best. I would send it to ditto with a few instructions but more often not, and he would then implement things as he saw fit. The rest was iterations and enjoying the back and forth between me and Ditto.
"I design in a very spontaneous way, using programming almost as a sketching device"
Being an indie developer, would you say there’s a difference in how you approach game design that makes games like GoNNER possible? If so, how?
I know a lot of designers that will first plan everything out very neatly before getting down to actually implementing it. I’m the complete opposite. I design in a very spontaneous way, using programming almost as a sketching device. Sometimes that’s a very positive thing since I save time on sketching and planning, sometimes it’s terrible when I spend a long time working on a feature that ends up not working with the rest of the game because of something that I could have realized if I had just thought it through a bit more!
With a challenging roguelike game like this, how do you ensure that it remains fun without getting too frustrating?
During development, I would obviously playtest the game a lot, whenever it became too easy for me I got bored and made it harder. I always considered myself pretty “bad at games”, so my reasoning was that if I can beat this game without too much trouble, it’s probably too easy. However, a lot of people tell me GoNNER is a very frustrating game, haha, so I don’t know if I was completely successful in that regard!
How did work to ensure that each boss fight played out uniquely?
Boss fights are difficult. I honestly think the bossfights are the weakest part of GoNNER, but who am I to judge? 😀
Were there any major challenges you faced during the game’s development?
Quite a few, haha! Life is a challenge in itself, and making a game is a ridiculous challenge no matter how you look at it!
What are some of your main inspirations that you drew from when making this game?
Spelunky, Mega Man, Downwell, Nuclear Throne, Super House of Dead Ninjas and Hotline Miami just off the top of my head.
"My dream is to make games that matter to a couple people, not to figure out how to steal your attention for long enough to make you wanna give me money for it"
What inspired the idea of using different heads that grant different attributes and abilities?
Haha, a bug actually. So, everything in GoNNER is drawn in white, then colored through code in the game. So if something is supposed to have more than one colors, it needs to have layers of sprites (images) that go on top of each other. So, I wanted to have the head and the body of Ikk to be different colors, but something got messed up and the head didn’t stick to the body properly!
The game is not confirmed for the Xbox One. Why is that?
Because we haven’t gotten anything confirmed with Xbox yet! We’re talking, so we’ll see what happens, but I’m not promising anything!
Can you tell us what resolution and frame rate you are targeting for PS4 Pro version?
I honestly didn’t even know the PS4 Pro had different framerates than the regular one. It’ll probably run smoothly, if that’s the question? Trying to live up to the all latest technical specification is not my goal in life.
"“More pixels, more frames, more stuff” isn’t too interesting to me, I’d rather play a 30fps game with good visual design and game feel than something boring and stale and filled with unplayable cutscenes that’s in 4k"
The current generation of consoles will probably end in the next couple of years. What is your biggest expectation from the next PlayStation and Xbox?
I expect the next consoles to have even stronger CPU’s and GPU’s and terraflops. I expect the shooters to have even higher resolution blood than they do currently. I expect most consoles to become more like smartphones, dealing with apps for netflix and youtube through your gaming console. I expect more photorealism. I expect no expansion on game mechanics or depth, but focus on story writing, acting, huge music scores and expensive cutscenes. However, I expect Nintendo to keep being the odd one out and experiment with a bunch of weird and interesting stuff, I love nintendo so so very much.
From a developer perspective, do you think the next-gen console era will be the 4K/60fps era?
I wish vectors would be more mainstream than it is. Vector graphics allow for any resolution, but is still pretty expensive to render. “More pixels, more frames, more stuff” isn’t too interesting to me, I’d rather play a 30fps game with good visual design and game feel than something boring and stale and filled with unplayable cutscenes that’s in 4k.
Was the game successful for you from a commercial standpoint?
I think it was, yeah! I didn’t get rich by any stretch, but I can pay my rent and eat enough to not starve for at least a couple months more before I need to start worrying about money again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for universal basic income to become available so that we can all collectively forget about money and start making art together instead.
Is there anything more you’d like to tell our readers?
Take care of, and be sure to remind people around you that they matter to you. People can’t read your mind, so even if you think a lot about a person, they won’t notice until you show them a little affection. It’s so easy to make someone else have a slightly better day, and yet it’s so easy to forget that. Like, when was the last time you called your mom to tell her that you think she’s cool or something?