Winner | Seamus McNally Grand Prize | Excellence in Design

Brendon Chung is the creator of Quadrilateral Cowboy.

Each year at GDC, MFA students from the NYU Game Center interview the Independent Games Festival nominees, asking them three questions about their development process. In addition to this interview, you can read all the insightful interviews from 2017 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2018. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Corey Bertelsen: What main concept, image or question began this project?

Brendon Chung: I think the core of it was the command line console.  I wanted to make a game where hacking was done through actual typing commands into a console.  Kind of having the player learn a language, learn how to use it, to do different things.  That was kind of the main thing.

Corey: When did you start incorporating the 1980’s aesthetic?  Was that pretty early on?

Brendon: Yeah, that was pretty early.  I think that’s kind of what I like using for my games in general.  I try to make it seem very analog, very mechanical.  That way it’s easier for the player to see the moving parts.  Technology today is kind of like a black box – it’s hard to tell what’s going on, because I don’t know what’s happening in the circuit board.  But when it’s mechanical you can kind of see the parts, you can see what they do, and that makes it more readable.  

Corey: Whenever I use a command line I feel like a hacker, even if I’m doing something mundane like changing a directory.

Brendon: I grew up using a DOS command line, and there something empowering about learning a new language like that, and being able to speak it.  I think learning in games is fun, and I wanted the game to be held to that.  

Corey: Can you describe a specific experience with another game or media that influenced you as you worked on Quadrilateral Cowboy?

Brendon: I play a lot of games and watch a lot of movies.  In terms of film, a big influence is the film director Wong Kar-Wai.  His most famous work is called Chungking Express.  It’s really wonderful.  A lot of my games are love letters to him and his work as a filmmaker.

Corey: Is there a specific tool or methodology that you feel was important in shaping a unique characteristic of your game?

Brendon: So the way I typically develop my games is I’ll just kind of find some small piece of it that I think will be funny or interesting and I’ll just make that one small tiny piece, and put it into the engine.  Once I see that piece moving, it kind of guides the project, and it tells me where do things want to go.  So it’s kind of : make a thing, see it on the screen, see how it feels, see what that triggers, or where does that one piece kind of lead to next, and just let it kind of organically build itself out.  I generally don’t plan my stuff out too far ahead.  So it’s generally just let the game feel itself out.

Corey, a recovering structural engineer from Minnesota, is studying game design at NYU.  He likes synaesthetic games, improvised music, and pancakes.