The origin of Chonky, a unique approach to designing a game

Hello, my name is Max and I am one of the founders of Enhydra Games and its current CEO. As my colleagues and I have quite the journey behind us (and most definitely are not finished yet), I wanted to grant you a look behind the scenes of developing a game and share our experiences with you.

To start things off, I would like to talk about how our game “Chonky – From Breakfast to Domination” came into being, where its main characters, the Chonkys, come from and how we created a game around them.

Our little poster kid

The vanilla way

I could talk at length about the different ways you would normally plan a game. From trying to fulfil your audience’s wishes, to brainstorming game mechanics or trying to find a “unique selling point”.
Normally you get these aspects sorted out and fill in the blanks later, modeling your game like clay around these core mechanics to create a coherent bigger picture.
But you can read about these in hundreds of other articles.

The Chonky way

For Chonky, we chose the unconventional way to start with nothing but art and model the game around that. Even though it might not seem that different to the techniques mentioned above, you will soon learn that it creates its very own set of challenges and advantages.

The birth of the Chonkys

Our Art Director and Technical Artist Nadine Büsch is the mother of the Chonkys and their many ancestors. The first of these prehistoric Chonkys saw the light of day at the end of the year 2017, as so-called Manbags.

These lovely flower sacks (that brawled their way through a multiplayer shooter nonetheless), were subjected to a series of improvements.

There are actually quite a few more of these little critters that fought their way through different game genres and might get covered in greater detail in their own articles one day.
But now that we know how Chonkys look and where they got these stunning looks from, let’s move on.

More than Characters

The next step we took was to give them actual characteristics based on their looks.
We sat down and thought about how such a creature might think and act, what hobbies it could have, how relationships between them and their world would be like and so on.

Opinions were challenged and justifications demanded (something along the lines of them being too chubby to hunt, being contradicted by the fact that you do not need to move fast for fishing, for example).
All of this helped to create a well-rounded and, in some sense, realistic species.

Building a game

After the Chonkys had transformed from a mere concept to an actual species, it was time to build a game around them.

Not a rocket scientist

We had decided that Chonkys were not the smartest cookies and wanted to reflect that in the game design. Therefore, we chose to create an RPG with a skill tree, the twist being that this skill tree was hidden from the player, as Chonkys were far too dim to just know how to learn a specific skill.
We then also concluded that they did not possess the ability to remember more than four skills at once.

But at this point, the inventive nature we had assigned to them came back at us. Chonkys might not be geniuses, but we had concluded that they are aware of that fact.
Therefore, it felt only natural to give them a diary, an option to write down all the things they find, so that they can look them up whenever they forget them.

This was perfect for a game, as it gave a reasonable explanation for many systems that are normally used in RPGs (a map, a quest log, a dictionary about monsters, descriptions of unlocked skills, etc.).

A chonky world

Like everything else in our game, the world was built around the Chonkys. All things there had to be chonky since this was going to become Chonkus Prime, home of the Chonkys.

Chonky food

All was going well, but soon we stumbled upon a problem. Chonkys looked adorable, their world looked cute and so did the monsters we wanted to put there.
Hard to club something that just looks adorable.

We could have forsaken our attempt at basing everything off of the Chonkys, but I honestly believe this would have harmed our game substantially, as it would have destroyed the consistency of our world.

To solve the problem, we needed to take a step back and cut out the cuteness at one point. We had wanted to base our enemies off of beloved animals like otters or raccoons and make them even sweeter by using the chubby art style of our game.
They would have become so cuddly in fact, that no one would ever see them as a threat. But then we switched to animals that are generally despised (like spiders or maggots) and gave them the chonky treatment.

They still fit perfectly into our cute world, but now nobody hesitated to attack them.

A vicious Spoder

Of course, there were many more steps and decisions we made, but I think this is enough for one day.

What can you take away from this?

Choose something that is at the core of your game and base the rest on it.
Strive for coherency, as players will feel home in a world that follows its own rules.
Try to solve problems in unique ways, your game will profit from your creativity.

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