The side-scrolling pixel shooter, GunWorld, is very much an anomaly. The gameplay is obviously inspired by classic NES games like Mega-Man and Contra, and the game’s music and art very much follows the same sentiment. By all rights, the game should have been a critical success, but much of the audience found it to be too difficult and a bit unpolished.
I recently had the chance to interview the developer, Joe Modeleski, about the difficulties he faced in the development process of the first game, and the vast improvements he has made to the game’s upcoming sequel.
GameSkinny: The story of GunWorld is about an alien invasion, and using the Gun Mother plant to fight them off. How did you come up with this story and what were you major inspirations?
Joe Modeleski: The story came after the GunPlant/GunMother game mechanic had been decided. I had this silly idea that the game be about guns growing like flowers, and that the whole planet and its civilization just enjoyed these natural GunPlants for as long as they could remember. We were shooting for a pretty generic 1980’s kind of style. Initially I was inspired by Alien and Predator (which is why Dwayne is modeled after Carl Weathers), so we went with aliens.
Actually, the basic plot really only exists to throw people for a loop when they get to the ending. There is this whole gag (that most people will never see because the game is too hard) where you learn that the aliens were actually trying to take the guns away for GunWorld’s own good, and it’s twisted into a generic “man is the real monster” thing when you respond by blowing them away. I just thought it was really funny.
GS: This is a non-linear game, very much in the vain of the Mega-Man franchise. Why did you decide on following this format rather than using a more linear progression like the Mario franchise?
JM: The game is Mega Man inspired because I love games like Mega Man and Metroid. Non-linear progression gives the player more of an incentive to play around and experiment in the sandbox, at least more so than they would get out of a more linear platformer. The idea was originally for each level to have branching paths and all enemies/bosses to have weaknesses to specific weapons. This would require the player to experiment before they find an “optimal” route through the game. It was an attempt to give the player a reason to keep playing after finishing the game.
Of course, it didn’t pan out that way. The game was on a strict 4-month budget when it was first made, so the branching paths and greater Metroid style concepts were cut. It kind of came out like a shadow of what I wanted it to be.
GS: There have been a few patches after the initial release of the game, as well as a port to consoles. What areas do you think the game has improved on subsequent to its release?
JM: The game has improved mostly in difficulty and accessibility. Now, it’s still way too difficult and alienating to all but the most dedicated and skilled platformer players, but it was way worse at launch. The save function didn’t exist, so if you closed the game you had to start over. That was too brutal. Some of the levels and bosses have been tweaked as well to make them more fair.
GS: GunWorld is self-proclaimed to be very difficult. Why was this design choice taken instead of making the game easier for a general audience?
JM: I chose to make GunWorld unforgivingly difficult for two reasons. The first was because I was trying to build an NES-inspired game and I wanted to intentionally build a game that had all the same flaws of many of those older games. The absurd difficulty included. The second was because there is a niche audience of players that are really good at platformers, but a very small amount of games that appropriately challenge those players. I wanted to build something satisfying to that group.
GS: Many 8-bit style games have found success on IOS. Are there any plans on porting this game to mobile devices?
JM: No, twitch/precision based games like this require tactile feedback to play properly. I wouldn’t want to have to depend on the player having some sort of gamepad case to play the game. If I were to make a mobile game it’d be built around a touch-interface control scheme.
GS: What are the future plans of m07games after all the work with this game is finished?
JM: I’m currently working on GunWorld 2, which is planned to be released on Xbox One in January 2016. I’ve gathered an immense amount of feedback from the first game and developed Gunworld 2 with a 10 month development cycle. It’s bigger, it’s more refined and polished, and it goes to great lengths to be more accessible while still providing a challenge for really skilled players. If GunWorld 2 does well, it’s built in a way that would allow me to easily support it with free additional content in the future, so I’d like to look forward to that. I’ll move on from GunWorld after the sequel though, and find something else exciting to work on.
It was truly a pleasure to be able to interview Joe. The release of the first GunWorld was rushed, but Joe worked hard to improve on the deficiencies of the first game through patches and has worked tirelessly on the game’s upcoming sequel for more than twice as long as he did on the first one. Follow him on Twitter @ and go to the studio’s website here if you are interested in further updates on the GunWorld franchise.