Finalist | Excellence in Visual Art

Nick Rudzicz is one of the Creators of GNOG

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 2016 here. These conversations, and much more, will happen when the Game Center returns to GDC in 2017. Learn more about the Game Center at GDC 2017.

Ben Poland: What was the original spark that grew into GNOG?

Nick: So a lot of us met in Montreal indie community events and one day we saw Sam and his tee shirt animation style and we thought, my God you have this amazing visual style we would love to make a game with you. When we were starting out Sam made a pitch for a platformer, as most indie games start out as some kind of platformer somehow. You were a little character that runs around a forest and finds the heads and climbs inside and manipulates them in weird ways. We wanted to flip between the inside and the face of theses heads so we built one of these things in 3D and realized, oh this is the most fun part of the game. Let’s just lean into it and make these heads as weird and as beautiful as possible. If you talk to Sam, he is definitely inspired by toys like Mighty Max and Polly Pocket. These toys look like some object but on the inside it is a whole little world. For example, the toy is an ice cream cone but you open it up and it is a diner inside. So that has really been our guiding principle.

Ben: Very cool, I love the mighty max inspiration. During most lengthy development processes developers can enter what some may call the “Valley of Despair” Did you experience this, and if so how did you push through?

Nick: Well yeah, I personally get into that weekly I guess. I am the programmer so often I am fighting with Unity, or fighting with my own code from a year ago or something. It is hard I guess; I don’t have an exact step by step guide for getting out of it. I find that sort of thing tends to reinforce itself at every turn. This is very personal but, sometimes I’ll be super pissed off or Sam will be super pissed off and it is hard to approach someone in that frame of mind. So we try to be there for each other, we are not hugging each other every day but I’ll make Sam some coffee or bring in some croissants or something. We also have our own support networks in town, friends, family or partners. I my experience there is no magic solution in many ways it comes down to having supportive people around.

I come from a programmer background where we tend to self-isolate or just be very self-critical and self-isolated folks, there is a weird culture of that in computer science. I have noticed this myself that I tend to push people away when I am in that mind-frame. But I have gotten better about that as well. I have begun to say, you know what I can lean in on my friends from time to time and let them be there for me. They don’t have to say a magic word they just have to sit around and say hey Nick you’re a valid human being.

I have talked to a lot of folks about metal health which is something we don’t tend to talk about that often even though it is this really draining thing to work on this one project for multiple years sometimes and it is not going as perfectly as you want it to. So yeah, I believe it is important to be able to talk about this and to feel supported by your friends and coworkers.

Ben: How does GNOG differ from the original vision you had for the project?

Nick: We changed a lot over the course of development. We find tuned a lot of controls. Originally there was a character that you controlled and you would crawl around the inside of these monsters. When you were on the outside of the monster you would have point and click kind of controls and then on the inside you would walk around and manipulate objects. We cut that out, mostly because we did not have the animation budget for it. Also there was a weird control dichotomy for the game so we decided to just keep it to a point and click kind of interaction that most people seemed to understand. Most of it has been removing features like that. Obviously we had this 2D platformer at the beginning and removing that has been a net benefit because we can focus on the one thing that the game does that is really interesting, which is these heads and the toy like quality to them.

In the build we were showing at E3 each level consisted of multiple heads, but we decided to cut each level down to one head that you would focus on. This had the benefit of making the game feel larger, simplifying debugging, and let us focus on making the interactions for each head really good.  

Ben: Thank you so much for your time Nick.


Ben Poland is a second year Game Design MFA student who loves game nights, learning new things, deep conversation, and discovering new music.  “At the end of the day my desire is to create things of value.”