January 17, 2012

Q&A – Gaijin Games Talks Runner2

QandA Runner2 Gaijin Games
With the BIT.TRIP series wrapped up on WiiWare and recieving a retail release on both the Wii and 3DS last year, Gaijin Games has been working away on Runner2, which intends to extend the familiar feet of Commandervideo to digital release on Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network later this year. As a spiritual extension, or perhaps deviation on BIT.TRIP RUNNER, fans of the series likely have a good idea of what to expect when the game releases. And yet, following updates on the Runner2 blog and wondering what Gaijin might bring to the Xbox 360 and PS3 has left me with plenty to ponder.

Since I like to get my answers straight from the horse’s mouth whenever possible, I took some questions about Runner2 to the nearest horse available, only to find it rather stubbornly silent on the subject. Fortunately, Gaijin’s Alex Neuse happened to be standing next to the horse at the time and generously agreed to help me out.

Gamesugar: Since the arc of Commandervideo’s journey came to an end this year, and received a retail release on the 3DS and Wii to boot, it seems like the first question to ask is, given the choice, what made you decide to make another BIT.TRIP inspired game, specifically one feeding from RUNNER?

Alex Neuse: BIT.TRIP RUNNER was one of the most fun games in the series to work on, and we had a ton of ideas that we had to keep out of the original game due to time constraints, etc, so we wanted to revisit the gameplay and themes of RUNNER before we moved on from the BIT.TRIP world.

GS: Did you ever consider porting the games to Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network – those HD and Super Turbo Editions are pretty popular after all – or was the pursuit here always more a case of, we have the technology, better, stronger, faster?

AN: We have been asked this question often. Our fans really want HD versions of the original games, and while we’d love to give them to the world, a certain 1st party won’t allow games already released on the Wii to be released on their platform, so one of those two is 100% out. The other one… Hm…

QandA Runner2 Gaijin Games
GS: Jumping from the Wii to those other consoles, was the visual potential overwhelming at first? I’ve been curious about whether the HD factor buried you in ideas that have been refined during development, or if there was always a pretty clear vision of what the game is shooting for from the start?

AN: We’ve always had a pretty clear vision of what we’d do in HD. Even while developing the original series on the Wii, we were constantly remarking “ooh, if this were in HD…” So, we’re bringing a lot of ideas over that we had shelved due to technical constraints the first time around. There’s not a lot that is overwhelming when dealing with an HD presentation. In fact, it’s more liberating than anything.

GS: The WiiWare releases often made me feel like I was being schooled at controlling a game, almost as if I were graduating to each new release in the series. Do you see a challenge to dropping players not familiar with the series to date into Runner2, or do you see the gameplay as immediately self-explanatory?

AN: BIT.TRIP RUNNER was always the most accessible game in the series, so we don’t think that there will be much of a shock to gamers when they pick up Runner2. There’s something that’s inherently understandable about controlling an on-screen humanoid avatar. In many ways, the abstractness of the other games was more confusing to players than the myriad moves that Commandervideo can do in RUNNER. Also, we’ll have a good tutorial system.

GS: Since Runner2 is hitting XBLA and PSN, I’m obligated to slip in a marketing question. BIT.TRIP originally released on WiiWare after all, and faced the challenges developers had pushing awareness of the service and the games it offered, I’m wondering what you think of both the continuing potential of digital distribution on consoles, and if you’ve gained some insights about what it takes to draw gamers in. Gaijin has been very open about Runner2’s development for instance, even offering peeks at very early code of the game in motion, which we certainly don’t see very often.

AN: Raising awareness of one’s game is always a challenge, and it’s a unique challenge each time. Certainly, having an established series will help, as gamers will recognize the name and the main character, but we can’t deny our belief that the development blog (and other similar efforts) are super important. It’s rare that a development team shares work-in-progress news about their game, and we hope that doing so builds some buzz. Really, though, we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just trying to do what we think we’d like to see if we were on the receiving end.

GS: Speaking of early glimpses at the game, I couldn’t help noticing Commandervideo’s jump-slide move. Any chance you want to give away info on more slick moves up the Commander’s sleeve this time around?

AN: As a matter of fact, we’re going to announce a new move relatively soon. Keep watching to see one in action soon! But he’s going to have at least 5 new abilities… At least.

GS: You’ve posted a few old cartoons on the Runner2 development blog as inspirations for aspects of Runner2. I found that pretty damn interesting, because I’m a fan of old cartoons and have always been a bit fascinated by the way so many of them use exaggerated movement to bring more life to the screen and revel in the art of animation. Is there anything you can tell us yet about how Runner2 might revel in that way?

AN: We’re hoping to push the wackiness of Runner2 in everything we do from the background imagery and environments to the animations on all of the characters. And this isn’t just a stylistic preference either; it fits in with the story. Basically, the Timbletot has hit Commandervideo with a Reality-Unfusion Beam, and Commandervideo’s reality has become unfused. Whereas Commandervideo is used to existing in a blocky, rigid world, all of a sudden, everything is smooth and strange…

GS: Since I’d regret not asking you about it, today’s super bonus challenge question is whether you’re still putting some time toward LaserLife. I should mention that today’s prize for the correct answer is a lovely stainless steel four-slice toaster.

AN: Right now, we’re all hands on deck with Runner2, so we’re not thinking of much beyond this current project, but Laserlife is something that we do talk about in the office a lot. Laserlife still has a very special place in our hearts, so I don’t think it’s going away.

*Runner2 is slated to release in 2012, and you can stay up to speed on developments via Gaijin Game’s Runner2 blog.


  1. Seeing that early prototype video is exactly what I need to do.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — January 17, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

  2. Hopefully we get a 3DS or a Wii U release for Runner 2. I showed my support by buying two of their bit.trip games (and the retail Wii release), so I think us Nintendo fans should get a shot at it.

    Now, if they send me a review copy for the PSN version, then all will be forgiven…

    Comment by EdEN — January 18, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

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