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Making Chubbins, An Indie Journey - Part 1

Posted by Paul on

A while ago we posted about the reception that Chubbins got when it released last month on the Wii U eShop. Having rounded up and summarized the community's thoughts, I thought it would be fun to also share our own perspective as developers. Hopefully it will be an informative and entertaining look at the creative process behind the game. There may be some spoilers here and about, but since Chubbins is all about gameplay there really isn't much to spoil.

So, you may have heard already that my brother Toby and I have our gaming roots firmly planted in the NES days. We grew up on classics like Mega Man, Zelda and Mario, and we've pretty much stuck solely with Nintendo systems over the years. Needless to say it's incredibly exciting to be developing our own games for the Wii U.

(By the way, there's a price drop starting on 7/24 for Chubbins, just so you know)

Chubbins on Wii U

The concept behind Chubbins originally came together in March 2013. We were looking to make a solid break-into-the-market title for iOS, yet something the two of us could still bring together in a reasonable amount of time on a $0 budget. Years ago our cousin, henceforth known as Dangerous Dan, had made a hilarious little game in Game Maker called Psychedelic Tapeworm. Not only did Toby and I both like the game for it's own crazy sake, but it had an interesting mechanic in that there weren't any solids, so touching your surroundings determined how you moved. Toby at one point even started evolving the idea into his own game called Psyber Sphere, but he never finished it. So, we decided to revisit the idea together as Dahku.

Conceptual Origins

For such a game, where the player essentially bounces around, we knew we needed a round protagonist. As the artist of the team, I just started sketching up whatever sort of ideas came to me until I'd filled up a page with potential heroes for our adventure. Gradually we narrowed it down to three choices, then two, and we had a really hard time choosing between the finalists. In fact, I ended up modeling both characters so that we could get a feel for how they'd look in 3D and in motion, and we plugged them into the base game engine that Toby was working on at the time. In the end we had to bring in some family opinions to help us decide. As adorable as "Fan Man" was, the bunny won out. He felt a little more fun, and potentially friendly to casual gamers. At the same time, we really liked that he had attitude, and looked nothing like the rest of the rabbits you'll find on the App Store with their shiny, bulging eyes and their open smiles with big buck teeth.

Character SketchesFan Man, Runner Up

If you're making a Fantasy adventure, a space shooter, or whatever, you can start to visualize your game's world and whatnot while still not being sure what your knight, ship, or whatever may look like. For this game though, it wasn't until we finally decided on the hero that we could start to flesh out other aspects like using carrots and clovers for items, and a rabbit's natural enemies like badgers and hawks. Looking back on it, I think this process was a pretty unusual way to go about things.

We also chose to use the psychedelic concept as a style influence, in honor of Dangerous Dan's original work. So, why is this bunny bouncing from here to there across these weird worlds? While Chubbins is all about gameplay, we of course wanted to include some hint of a story, and we decided that all the weirdness would eventually be explained by the presence of the poisoned, purple carrot. If you've seen the ending, you know that his appetite was his undoing, and led him through five worlds of torture before finally waking up. That being our approach, we thought it would be fun to incorporate some subtle indications that Chubbins' surroundings, like the purple carrot, were tainted by man. So we ended up giving all the enemies some sort of manmade item, like the fezes for the hawks and bowler hats for the badgers, and so on.

Of course you can only develop a game so far without a proper title. We considered a lot of obvious options like "Bunny Bounce" and such, but nothing felt right until we decided on CHUBBINS, for both the game and the bunny himself. The name had a bit of family history behind it--referencing certain chubby people since 1993--and it just seemed right. We were unaware at the time that there was an unfortunate, alternate meaning that would leave people across the Internet chuckling. What can you do, huh?

Continued in Part 2