Following Choice Provisions’ recent release of Runner3, we had the opportunity to talk to company co-founder Mike Roush. We got to talk about the series’ future, the game’s development and details surrounding its release.
Nintendo Enthusiast: Why did you decide to make Runner3 a console exclusive on Switch? What factors helped in your decision? How easy was Nintendo to work with?
Roush: We actually wanted to be launched exclusive. The main factor was, we really just wanted to focus on one console. In the past, we did simu-releases on all consoles and it was really tough. We wanted to focus on the Swtich and our Nintendo fan base
NE: What sort of expectations do you have for the game on Switch? Do you think it could perform better than the Steam version?
Roush: Our hope is that it does! We have heard rumors that Switch is outperforming a lot of marketplaces right now.
NE: How was the process of releasing a game at retail? Were there any challenges that you faced? What made this release different?
Roush: For us it was great. Nicalis took the game and RAN with it, HAR HAR. The hardest part was finishing the game, then sitting on it while the cartridges were printed and cases were stuffed with all those amazing goodies!
NE: Runner3 is your most expensive Runner game to date. Why did you choose a higher price for the game and what makes this one different in that regard?
Roush: There are a few reasons. The main one being, it’s worth that price point. There is a lot of game in Runner3. We have also seen the price of indie games creeping up. I think this is a good thing, because games have been so devalued over the past few years.
We also didn’t want to do our cameo characters as DLC. We wanted to weave them into the plot and world of the game.
NE: How did you approach development of this game differently given that this is now the third game in the Runner series?
Roush: It’s very tough doing a sequel. On the one hand, if you rinse and repeat the previous game, people will be upset. It will be viewed as a Runner 2.5. On the other hand, if you go over-the-top and totally change the franchise, they will be upset.
We really wanted to find that middle ground where people feel familiar with the game, but for them to also feel like a new experience was crafted for them.
We added new features like hero quests, branching paths, a full shop, and challenge levels that we so delightfully refer to as the “impossible levels.”
We also have SO much narration by Charles Martinet for our narrative. The story is just so ridiculous, and I think it really adds to the wacky world of whimsy that we have.
NE: As the Runner series has taken off, the original core series has sort of been left behind. Is there any plan to return to the multi-game/format of the original BT series?
Roush: If people want this PLEASE tell us. We have been talking a lot about this internally, and we would love to do this!
I would like to bring back that same classic BIT.TRIP art style, but really push some modern effects that we could not really do on the Wii. We would want to modernize the gameplay a bit too, for the modern gamer.
NE: Is all the music being produced in-house for the newest game? Or is it coming from other sources?
Roush: It’s Matthew Harwood, the same main composer as all of the other BIT.TRIP games. His music never ceases to amazing me. He’s the type of composer that can just nail everything you ask of him. By example, for our impossible levels, I explained to him what Vaporwave was and he worked his magic.
We also have a guest composer for every BIT.TRIP/Runner game – Stemage (AKA Grant Henry) did all of the music for the Retro Challenges. We worked closer with Grant than any other of our past guests, and much like Harwood, he delivered better than we could ever imagine.
NE: Are there any classic early games you’d like to reference or tribute in your development?
Roush: I always like to tell people we made one of the first auto-runners, and I think we did to a certain degree. Adam Saltsman made Canabalt right as we were shipping BIT.TRIP RUNNER. My mouth dropped because it was so good, and also, how can this happen? Two auto-runners coming out at the same time.
The truth is Moon Patrol was probably the earliest auto runner and really deserves all of the credit. (We want to remake Moon Patrol, how do we make this happen?)
NE: Can you talk a little bit about the style of the game? There’s some weird stuff going on in the levels. What influenced this and how do you come up with these zany ideas?
Roush: I mean, it’s not THAT weird. OK, maybe you are right.
Early on, we really wanted to make a rich world. A lot of my own personal inspiration comes from the films I loved growing up: Labyrinth, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, etc. These movies had so much creativity and interesting visual elements. We really wanted to push this and keep that richness alive.
NE: Can you talk a little about the difficulty level in the game? Not gonna lie, the game is hard, in part because of the limited checkpoints. I can see on the leaderboard that other reviewers are taking a while to get through the game as well. Was this an intentional decision? How do you look at difficulty in your game and weigh that against accessibility?
Roush: This is an interesting question, because we think Runner3 is easier than Runner2 and definitely easier than RUNNER. Ultimately, it’s subjective in some ways.
We want Runner3 to be a game that makes people happy, excited and we want to challenge people. That being said, we also listen to what people want! So… we are working on some updates that will include an easier mode for people. I think these changes will really make the game more accessible for players. But, I will stand by the game we made and encourage players to push themselves!
Runner3 is available as a console exclusive on the Nintendo Switch. Have you had a chance to pick the game up yet?