Nailing down the gooey physics of indie platformer Gish

“I’ve heard people say like oh I’ll just add physics that’ll add emerging gameplay the problem is most of the stuff that emerges sucks it is not fun to do so.”

– Alex Austin discusses why physics based games are still somewhat of a rarity.

The folks over at Noclip have another insightful game developer mini documentary up online, this time exploring the origins of the early physics based platformer Gish.

The full video is a fairly short 30 minute watch, and speaks with both Alex Austin and Edmund McMillian about how Gish was conceived, and the duo’s process for creating and designing engaging platforming levels nearly two decades ago.

Austin cites his past work with games like Bridge Builder and Pontifex as a starting point for the physics that took new life in Gish, but says that the game is a rare sort of title that keeps those physics at its core.

Gish was, you know, the physics are a big part of the gameplay which I would argue is still kind of rare. There’s plenty of games using physics for like ‘hey look at this thing blow up’ or ‘look at these rag dolls’ but they’re kind of just decorations,” says Austin. “Making gameplay out of physics is really really hard because… I’ve heard people say like ‘oh, I’ll just add physics and that’ll add emerging gameplay.’ The problem is most of the stuff that emerges sucks and is not fun to do. It’s a matter of weeding out and figuring out how to control that physics and make that playable for the average person.”

The duo dive into how those physics develop in the full video, discussing how the unique physics of the titular Gish itself had a major bearing on how everything from levels to controls were designed. More videos tracing the origins of dozens of similarly iconic games can be found on the Noclip YouTube channel.