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Interview: Edmund McMillen (Gish)

JUNE 18, 2008

Hi Edmund, how about we begin with a little introduction of yourself?

I'm Edmund McMillen, co-creator of Gish, Triachnid, Coil and a few other indie titles.

Are you working on anything else at the moment besides Gish 2?

I'm currently working on Gish 2, Triachnid 2, a game called Grey Matter with Tommy Refenes (Goo!) and a few other Flash games that are in slight limbo.

Can you explain to us what Grey Matter is about?

Sure thing, Grey Matter is basically a Robotron shooter, but the player doesn't shoot. The game is mouse-controlled and takes place inside someone's brain. It was something small me and Tommy jumped into a little while back just so we could have something we worked on together.

How much of Grey Matter is already done?

Grey Matter is pretty far along, I'd say the only thing holding it back is two (or possibly three) bugs. Could be done soon, could be done later.

Which project will you be releasing next? Is there a date attached to it?

I think Triachnid 2 will come out in a month or so. Possibly before the end of June. We hope to make it more user-friendly this time. :)

Gish and Chronic Logic

Would you consider releasing a discounted Bonus Maxi Combo Pak combining the joys of both Gish 2 and its predecessor?

Sure. I'd love to remake Gish 1 with the new engine (for Gish 2) and put it out just to see how it plays with Gish's new body. I might make that a personal project of mine after Gish 2 is done.

Why did you elect to make a sequel, rather than applying the same imagination to a new concept? Is it because you've run out of ideas, or because you like money?

I think there was a lot Alex and I wanted to do with Gish 1 that we couldn't do back then. And we have grown a lot. There's just so much more I want to do with Gish 2, and I've had a lot of the ideas mapped out from when Gish 1 was still in development.

Honestly we had originally started to design a game called The Book of Knots, it had a biped as the main creature you control. At that time we didn't have all the rights to Gish due to the break up of Chronic Logic, and it took a few years to get those rights back. Once we got them back I think we were both inspired to work on Gish again, so The Book of Knots kinda turned into Gish 2.

But also I'm sure knowing that Gish 1 was still a staple indie game title, it helps attract some more attention when we do finally release it. But Gish 2 will be a much different game then Gish 1.

What's up with your relationship with Chronic Logic?

I personally was never a part of Chronic Logic. I came on as a freelance artist and pitched the basic idea of Gish to Alex after working with them for a few months. Alex took the idea of a sprite-based blob and turned it into a physical one, hence Gish was born.

Alex left Chronic Logic after Gish. I left too, but I wasn't really ever a part of the team to begin with. Josiah now runs the Chronic Logic website, while Alex and I started Cryptic Sea. It took a while to get one-third of the rights to Gish back, but we finally did. We are on speaking terms with Josiah, and we still have a business relationship with him.


Has Reggie called you back yet? (in reference to the video where Edmund records himself attempting to contact the Reggienator)

Heh, a few weeks after that video went up we got a call from Nintendo. It wasn't Reggie but it was someone high up in the ranks there who wanted to talk about WiiWare, and we are still talking to him. That's about all I can say.

Our goal is to get on all consoles, and we would love to launch on Steam... I can say we are currently talking to them all, but won't have any info till we have Gish 2 further in development.

Are there any other games out there that you look at and think 'I wish I'd made that. I totally could have made that'?

Hmm.. probably Pokemon. But I wish I made Katamari. I love that idea.

Any recent indie game favorites?

Lemme think. So many games coming out now it's hard to remember them all.

I asked Raigan and Mare the same question, and they answered N.

Haah, I'd say N as well. Me and Alex played the hell out of it.

How did the portrait you did for Raigan and Mare happened?

I talked to them a lot at GDC. I drew a lot of non-game stuff then, and I thought I'd do one of them. I did one for the cover of a Matmos album, and I've also drawn the Behemoth team. They sometimes use those pics when they do interviews. But I mostly draw myself and my wife. I'm just that cool.

If Derek Yu is the George Lucas of indie game creators, what is Edmund?

I'd hate to say it but I guess I'd be more the Tim Burton of them. My work tends to be darker themed.. so I guess that fits.

Are you secretly Derek Yu?

I could be, though there are pics of us together. I feel like if I was Asian I'd look just like him. Well, that would be my goal if I was Asian - to look like Derek Yu.

If I was black I'd also try to look like Derek Yu, but that's a whole other deal...


How do you keep track of all your projects, involvements and websites?

I tried to put everything together on my old website, Everything is in .exe form though.

How do you come up with names for your games?

Names, huh.. I dunno. I never thought my games had weird names. I guess the creatures tend to have strange names. I usually just throw out words that sound like how the creature would look.

I mean that's why Gish is called Gish. Gish sounds like how I'd imagine him sounding and looking.. all gishy.

Out of everything you've released (personally or as a team), which is your favorite work?

I love Gish, but my personal fave is Coil. It means a lot to me personally and I put a lot of heart and thought into every aspect of the game.

Can you tell us the actual story of Coil?

No. The meaning is different for everyone, and I'm not going to ruin someone's personal experience by telling them that they are wrong. The game is about life and death. Everything else is left up to your own interpretation.

What's the best or most memorable feedback you've received for any of your works?

Probably "you suck, I wish you were dead". I got a lot of that back in the day. It was actually a big motivator.

Any positive ones?

Yeah. The most recent comment I got was from someone who said that Coil brought them to tears and helped them deal with the idea of death a bit more.

Can you tell us a little about the upcoming mobile version of Gish?

Ah, I didn't think many knew about that...

Might as well plug it. If I could remember everything you did, I'd ask you to plug all of them even.

Basically a programer e-mailed Alex with a prototype of Gish on the cell phone. He's a big Gish fan, and it looked really good so we basically gave him the ok to make his own version of Gish for phones. Here's the trailer.

I haven't played it yet but the game looks good, I think he did a great job. It's also fun to see my art remade in pixel form. I'm a big fan of other artists redrawing my stuff in their own style.

high res version

Gish 2

What's the progress status of Gish 2? Any updates on a scheduled release date that you're aiming for?

The goal is to get it done by the end of the year. We are still semi part-time on it now and working out the core ideas and things we want to play around with in-game.

We had originally gotten pretty far with the IGF build, but totally tossed it because the both of us felt it wasn't offering anything new. We want to do something totally fresh with Gish when it comes to theme and gameplay so we needed Gish himself to feel fresh and new to us.

We had talked about splitting him in two a while back and Alex came up with the particle body idea. We recently put up a test video of the progress of that design. So far it's looking perfect for what we want to do. Florian and I have been working on it for about a month. But as far as development goes, we are still working in all the core gameplay stuff, we have a ways to go.

Can you briefly explain the new features to be found in Gish 2?

For starters he's made of particles now, so he can be split up and get bigger or smaller. The game features a living world that is very, very large compared to Gish 1, and will contain more than five or more large dungeons with big bosses.

There will be day and night cycles, physics-based water, tons of new cool physics neatos, tons of physical cel-shaded bad guys, lots of items that will affect gameplay, collectible stuff, hidden stuff, different endings and all that. Good stuff, that's a big one. Good stuff will be found in Gish 2!

I kept thinking that you must have had at least half of these features done if you're shooting for an end-2008 release date for Gish 2..

You would be thinking wrong!

Will you be releasing any new trailers soon?

We are currently working on outdoor lighting and day night cycles, so our next trailer will show that. It will be more of a graphics test.

How large is Gish 2 compared to the first one?

The maps are about 64 times larger than Gish 1 maps, but I'm not going to be taking up all that space. It will be a lot bigger than Gish 1.

Which games influenced you most during the development of Gish and Gish 2?

With Gish one we played a ton of old school games - Mario, Pitfall!, Pac-Man. But I'd say mostly Mario. Gish 2 would be Zelda 1, Shadow of the Colossus and Ultima IV.

How have you improved the formula established in Gish 1?

Gish 1 was a play on Mario. The level progression and all that was totally Mario. Even the story was a big homage to Mario.

Gish 2 will play out more like Zelda 1. There is a focus on exploration, a living world to explore. You have a basic goal, but your goals might change depending on how you play and what you find. It will feel a lot more open-ended than Gish, and there will be a lot to discover for yourself. I am trying to capture the magic that a lot of games back in the day seemed to have.

Honestly though.. we are making Gish 2 on our own terms, and we are going to finish most of the game before we take it to consoles so they don't try to change anything big. The story in Gish is pretty dark and we would really like to do it our way before we let others get their hands on it. It's a long road we have ahead of us, but we finished Gish 1 in six months altogether.

How much will the game retail for? And is online multiplayer a possibility?

It will be $20 for the Windows XP and Vista versions. Online multiplayer is a maybe.

Will there be a demo for Gish 2? How about a Linux port?

Yes, there will be a demo and a Linux port.

What's the best way to help fund the development of Gish 2 right now?

Send us cash. hell, I dunno.. get me some freelance work. :)

I'd imagine that buying every item in the Cryptic Sea catalogue would help..

Yeah, give Blast Miner another chance.. it's good now I swear. We have like 50+ new levels and even new objects. The game is only 10 bucks too!

Also, send money to [email protected] via paypal! If you can add that, I'm sure I'll get mad cash. Asking for paypal donations always work, that's why we are all so pimped out.

high res version

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