Road to the IGF: Blendo Games' Quadrilateral Cowboy

Blendo Games' Brendon Chung speaks briefly with Gamasutra about the nuts and bolts of Quadrilateral Cowboy's design, influences, and four-year development.

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.

Blendo Games' cyberpunk heist adventure Quadrilateral Cowboy has proven to be a bit of a hit, winning nominations for both the Excellence in Design and Seamus McNally Grand Prize awards at this year's Independent Games Festival.

Quadrilateral Cowby is also an honorable mention for this year's Nuovo Award, and together the three honors paint a decent picture of what makes creator Brendon Chung's latest release worth studying.

The game shares its charming "blockhead" aesthetic with his previous works, Thirty Flights of Loving and Gravity Bone, but puts it to use in service of a game that's longer and more challenging than either.

By reaching back to the days of analog computers for inspiration in designing Quadriteral Cowboy's blocky vision of a cyberpunk future, Chung has built a puzzle game with an utterly unique aesthetic.

What it asks of players is equally unique: master Cowboy's own (approachable) scripting language, along with its odd array of gray-market gadgets, to play the hacker in a series of filmic heist missions.

Here, Chung speaks briefly with Gamasutra about the nuts and bolts of Quadrilateral Cowboy's road to the 2017 IGF. 

What's your background in making games?

Prior to going independent with Blendo Games, I worked in the AAA game space for a handful of years. Before that, I made games in a hobby capacity for about a decade.

What development tools were used to build Quadrilateral Cowboy?

Quadrilateral Cowboy uses id Software's Doom 3 engine (id Tech 4). The editor I used was DarkRadiant, a fan-made toolset. Art assets were made with Blender and Photoshop. Audio work was done in Audacity.

How much time have you spent working on the game, all told?

Quadrilateral Cowboy's development time was roughly four years.

How did you come up with the concept?

I grew up using command-line interfaces. Nowadays we mostly use graphical interfaces, so I felt revisiting the world of command-lines now would create a particularly timely contrast.

What inspirations influence the unique look and sound of Cowboy?

I was one of those kids who liked to take things apart and (attempt to) put them back together. Quadrilateral Cowboy is partly about my fondness for those old analog things. In the game, your crew uses big, clunky, mechanical machines -- back when buttons were tactile things that clicked and resisted.

What is cyberpunk?

To me, cyberpunk is a magnifying glass of the current day.

Do you consider this game to be cyberpunk(ish) at all? Does it feel at all in line with any other genres of fiction, or do you think of it as akin to nothing but your own work and ideas?

Everything I do is built on top of other people's shoulders. Quadrilateral Cowboy takes a lot of inspiration from existing works, cyberpunk and otherwise.

How do you sustain yourself as a dev? Specifically, how did you do it during Cowboy's 4-year development cycle?

I have a catalog of previous Blendo titles, and was fortunate enough to have them generate income during Quadrilateral Cowboy's development time.

What do you think are the biggest hurdles and opportunities for indies today?

Sustainability has always been challenging. If you dig deep into how developers sustain themselves, you'll often find that luck plays a tremendous part. This includes myself. I'd like to believe there's a better way.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

I played a handful of them, and they're all great. I was particularly taken with Event[0]. It delivers some absolutely wonderful narrative.

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