Interview: Giving Our Gobs a Workout with the Developers of Runner 2
Posted by Sammy Barker
Running rings around Gaijin Games
When the sequel to the brilliant Nintendo WiiWare title BIT.TRIP Runner was announced for the PlayStation 3 and Vita, we knew that we had to catch up with developer Gaijin Games to find out more – if only to shut up our counterparts over at Nintendo Life who have been banging on about the release at office parties since late 2010. So, we pulled out our battered sneakers and John McEnroe-esque headbands and went for a two-lap jog with co-founders Mike Roush and Alex Neuse, where we got the full scoop on the exercise obsessed BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner 2 - Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
Push Square: The BIT.TRIP titles have proved particularly popular on the various Nintendo platforms over the past few years. For those that don’t know, can you describe what Runner 2 is all about?
Mike Roush: Runner 2 is a side scrolling, auto running rhythm platformer. Much like the other BIT.TRIP games, as you play [the title] the music builds and crescendos into musical madness.
PS: You’ve primarily focused on Nintendo platforms and Steam up until this point. Why have you now decided to bring Runner 2 to the PS3 and Vita?
MR: Most of us at Gaijin Games are Nintendo dorks, but more importantly, we are video game dorks. I personally have always wanted to release a game on the PS3. Then, when I saw the Vita, I was super impressed with the form factor and that amazing little screen. I basically just wanted to play Runner 2 on the Vita.
There is another reason that we are on as many platforms as we are: our multi-platform engine. At the end of the day, we make games for people to have fun – the more platforms our games are on increases the probability that anyone can play.
PS: Can you talk a little bit about the changes between the original Runner and Runner 2?
MR: The obvious difference between the two games is the change in art style. The game has changed in so many more ways, but has retained the same feel and play as Runner. We have diverging paths, dancing, loop-de-loops, square-de-squares, speed boosts, fans, opt-in checkpoints, other playable characters, five worlds, and 25 Famicom-style challenges. It’s basically a much richer experience.
PS: Why did you decide to shed the pixel art in favour of a more traditional graphical style?
MR: We had been doing that art style for over three years, and the team just needed something more refreshing. We also wanted to separate Gaijin Games from the BIT.TRIP art style.
PS: The full game features five worlds. What’s your favourite and why?
MR: World four is my favourite. I like the challenge and I like the art style. The game gets darker emotionally and the boss is just a lot of fun.
PS: We couldn’t help but notice that there’s a playable cheeseburger in the title’s launch trailer. Where did you get the idea for that? Are there any other crazy characters in the final game?
Alex Neuse: Whetfahrt Cheesebörger sure is something else. Basically, here's how it went down. Mike [Roush] was chatting with some of the team in the morning before PAX last year, and he said something like, "What if we just made a game called Wet Fart Cheeseburger?"
It quickly became a tiny inside joke with them. I was not involved. They got the bright idea that Mike should say something about it during an interview, and later that day, while Mike was doing an interview and I was playing the game for backdrop footage behind him, the interviewer says, "Is there anything about the game that you haven't told anyone yet?" Mike replies, "Well, actually we're going to have a playable character named Whetfahrt Cheesebörger in the game." And I'm standing there, not knowing the back story, thinking that Mike has had a stroke or something, and just saying random words. Needless to say, it was at that point when I bonked.
But it doesn't stop at Whetfahrt Cheesebörger. We've also got Reverse Merman, who as you'll see when you play is definitely not a Reverse Mermaid. Then we've got the standard line-up beyond that. Y’know, a drunken pickle, and so on.
PS: What was it like working with [legendary voice actor] Charles Martinet?
AN: Charles is an absolute sweetheart and a professional through and through. Getting into the recording studio with him was a joy. We got to riff back and forth about silly product placement advertisements, and he even came up with some of those on the spot. I believe Tim’s Tomato Grinds is his.
When considering our narrator, we wanted someone who could speak clearly and say all of the impossible things we wanted them to say without tripping over our words. We wanted the voice to be reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoon narrators – a bit silly and full of whimsy. Charles, as you might imagine, fit the bill rather nicely.
PS: You’ve announced that Runner 2 is also coming to the Vita. Is there anything that you can tell us about that?
Since our internal game engine is a cross platform engine, it's likely that we'll keep releasing games on the PSN
AN: Really, since we're in the very early days of development on this version, there's not a whole lot to share. But the game will be fully featured, and will look amazing on that OLED screen. It will be the definitive version of Runner 2 on the go.
PS: Can we expect all future BIT.TRIP titles to release on the PSN from now on? What about the PS4 – are you interested in releasing your titles on Sony’s next generation machine?
AN: Since our internal game engine is a cross-platform engine, it's likely that we'll keep releasing games on the PSN. Of course, who knows what the future holds. We consider each project individually, and if it feels appropriate to release a game on the PSN, then we'll go for it. And you can definitely look forward to some PS4 action from Gaijin Games.
PS: Will we ever see any of the previous BIT.TRIP titles ported to the PSN?
AN: We're not 100 per cent sure on this. Do you think that there's a demand for them? If there is, we would definitely consider it. I think the classic BIT.TRIP games would look amazing in HD on the PSN.
PS: Thanks so much for your time.
Would you like to see the classic BIT.TRIP titles ported to the PSN? Have you purchased Runner 2 yet? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Would you purchase the previous BIT.TRIP titles if they were ported to the PSN? (12 votes)
Yes, shut up and take my money
It depends if any new features are added
No, I'm just not interested in them
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