An Interview With… 13AM Games (Runbow & Beyond!)


Every gamer has different tastes, some like shooter games, some like platformers and then you have addictive gamers who are obsessed with Zelda, Witcher and Xenoblade Chronicles. But then you also have the type of gamers that just love colourful, fun platformer games with a delightful soundtrack as you attempt to go from one end of the level to other. If you’re that kind of gamer, it means one of two things, either you clearly play Runbow, or you haven’t yet and you really should!

Supports up to 9 players online and locally, plenty of Guest Characters to play as, 6 game modes and a whole lot of unlockables, Runbow really is a game with a lot going on and after being a Wii U exclusive for almost a year (originally released in North America on August 27th) Runbow will also be coming to the 3DS, along with a Deluxe Version of the game for both Wii U and 3DS. So with a lot going on and the fact that the developers of Runbow, revealed themselves to also be publishing Dadako’s Pirate Pop Plus under the 13AM Shipping Solutions name, (the new publishing arm for 13AM Games,) I to get the chance to talk to Justin Fernandes, Level Designer and Co-founder of 13AM Games. From Runbow, to a sequel and even 13AM Shipping Solutions, we covered a range of subjects, so if you’re interested in seeing just what came out, you’re going to scroll down to check out the full interview, but be warned, we did include some fan questions too:

 The Runbow Reaction:

Miketendo64:Since the initial release last year, Runbow seems to be doing rather well for itself, with more and more gamers becoming fans. Does it continue to surprise you how well received the game continues to be, or have you now become used to it?

Justin Fernandes:It’s always surprising, absolutely. It can be really difficult to step back and take a look at your work and see its flaws and strengths. Luckily we were pretty confident with Runbow that we’d created something fun, but there’s never a guarantee that your game will catch on. The market is full of cool and creative products, so for people to take the time out of their day to play ours is incredibly humbling.

 

The Runbow Name:

Miketendo64:How many names did you go through before you finally landed on Runbow?

Justin Fernandes: Believe it or not, Runbow is the only name that the game has ever had. Our Producer, Dave Proctor, came up with it during the jam and it stuck. I asked him about the name a few seconds ago, and he described it as, ‘grim premonition of the dark spectre of puns that would come to pock the game’s hellish wordscape.’ Good times.”

Miketendo64: “Well with a way with words such as that, Dave clearly has a future ahead of him as a writer.”

 

The Jeers:

Miketendo64:As someone who played videogames as a child, with siblings and friends, I’m used to hearing things such as ‘Are you going to be any longer?’ ‘I’m going to make a sandwich’ and ‘You’re getting better.’ But what made you think of implementing these type of the comments, these jeers into the game and how long did it take to come up with all of them?”

Justin Fernandes: Well, the jeers are actually there for something fun to look at while the game is loading (wink-wink.) But that was never their initial intent. We’re always throwing little jabs at each other while we play in the office and one day, one of our Technical Directors, Marty Kugler, threw some of them in really quickly and people that played the game loved it!

It’s hard to say the exact length of how long it took. We had a huge list of jeers going in a document that everyone could access and throw ideas into. We eventually picked through and refined that, but we also created a separate list sometime down the line when we were developing the Bowhemoth mode so that it could have its own custom set of jeers, so it was kind of a process.”

Runbow Inspired:

NeoGalaxyStorm: What thought process did you go through to make this game what it is? What inspired it?”

Justin Fernandes: Oh, wow. Describing that is going to be tough. So, Runbow started as a game jam game, and back then, all it was, was 8 players the size of a thumbnail, racing to get through a doorframe first. Basically, the Run mode that you find in the final game. When we decided that we had something fun on our hands and that we wanted to work on it, we looked at what we would want in the game if we were fans and developed it from there. We asked ourselves things like, “Would we be disappointed without online support in this game?” or “Would we be disappointed if we bought this and there was no single player?” Often times, the answer was yes, so we made something that would fill that void.

It was inspired by an endless number of things. Each member of the team brought their own inspirations and put in their creative ideas into it. I’m one of the level designers, so I would try to have my work reflect the things that I loved about my favourite platformers.

 Visually, the game went through a few different makeovers. First, we looked at the style of the artist Saul Bass, but over time, we leaned more into the visual style of things like the Pink Panther. And, of course, we were inspired by old movie posters. Those influenced the overall aesthetics of the game pretty early on in development and stuck with us all the way.

 

Highs, Lows and Music:

Miketendo64: Runbow is a game of highs, lows, funky colours and even funkier music, so what has been your worst moment during the whole Runbow Saga? What has been your best moment? And what is your favourite piece of music in the game?

Justin Fernandes: My favourite moment was definitely attending Pax East 2015. It was the first time that I’d had a chance to demo the game to a crowd of that size and I don’t think I could ever describe how amazing it was. Seeing people light up and laugh whilst playing something that we had worked so hard on was incredibly rewarding.

The worst time would have to be discovering that some of our design / UI ideas weren’t clear enough two nights before we had to ship a major demo. We have levels called ‘Collectibow’ in the game where the objective is to collect a set number of coins, and we learned the hard way that we weren’t very clear about what the objective was. We watched over and over as testers ran past the coins and failed the level. It was a nightmare. We ended up trying out 4 or 5 fixes before coming up with one that actually worked, and it was fixed surprisingly quickly, but it was very stressful.

As for the soundtrack, I think all of the music is great. Dan Rodriguez, our Composer, is a master of creating earworm. If I had to only pick one track, it’d be the Winter theme from the DLC. I love playing with that track in the background. Dan’s returning for Pirate Pop Plus, and I’m sure fans will be happy with what he’s come up with for the game.

Miketendo64: “That’s reason enough to check out Pirate Pop Plus in my book.”

 Version Differences (Wii U, 3DS & Deluxe):

Miketendo64:Other than the Wii U version being able to support up to 9 players, and the 3DS version utilising StreetPass to create, collect, and share player cards around the world, what are the other differences between each version of the games?

Justin Fernandes: There are a few differences between each version of the game. Both the Wii U and 3DS Deluxe versions include the original game and all of the DLC, but the Wii U version includes the full soundtrack and the 3DS version includes four unique 3DS Themes.

The biggest difference between the versions right now is that both Wii U versions of the game include ColourMaster Mode, whereas both 3DS versions have StreetPass functionality instead.

 

Runbow Deluxe is Runbow 1.5:

Miketendo64:What is your stance on Runbow Deluxe and Pocket Deluxe Edition? Do you see them as the 3DS’ Hyrule Warriors Legends to the Wii U’s Hyrule Warriors, a 1.5 version? Or do you see them more as Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight, it’s still game 1 but there’s more to it.

Justin Fernandes: “The special part of the Deluxe additions are that they come with all of the DLC content included upon purchase, so I’d say from that standpoint that they’re more of a 1.5 version, since the main game doesn’t include those bits.

 

More DLC for Rumbow?:

Miketendo64:In April, Runbow saw a huge update in the form of Satura’s Space Adventure. Are there any plans to make another dlc update such as this one, any time in the near future?

Justin Fernandes: We don’t have any DLC planned, pending the release of Shantae. I think we’re all comfortable calling the game a complete package at this point. We’ve had a wonderful time working on Runbow and we’re all very proud of what we’ve accomplished with it, but now we’re looking forward to stretching our legs and seeing what else we can do. That being said, we’ll always continue to support Runbow and its fanbase.

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Runbow Sequel:

Miketendo64:Between the upcoming Deluxe Editions, Runbow Pocket and publishing Pirate Pop Plus, do you have any desires to extend on your Runbow IP or develop a new game entirely?

Justin Fernandes: “It’s hard to say right now. We definitely love the Runbow IP, and it obviously has a lot of room to grow. We’ve often talked about what we’d do differently if we had been able to do the game over again, and we got to flex a little with Satura’s Space Adventure, which was very satisfying. But at the same time, we’re still a young studio, and I think we’re all looking forward to seeing what else we can bring to the table. Time will tell!”

Miketendo64:Well whatever you do decide next, with Runbow getting the attention it is, there will be a lot of eyes watching.”

 

Shovel Knight is a Must for Runbow 2:

Miketendo64:Should you do a Runbow 2 and you could only bring back one previous cameo character, who would it be?

Justin Fernandes: We were very privileged to be able to showcase so many great characters, so I would be happy to have any of them return. If there could only be one, I’d choose Shovel Knight simply because he was the first one we had in the game, and he kind of started the whole thing for us, so he has a special place with me.2Guest appearances. Favourites & Relocating Bones:

Miketendo64:Runbow is packed with plenty of cameo appearances, but which character is your personal favourite one to play as? And which character was the hardest one to implement into the game?”

Justin Fernandes: Well, I probably spend most of my time playing as Hue, Val, or Satura, but I’m biased. When I do play as guest characters, I like to try out as many of them as I can, but I tend to play more as CommanderVideo and CommandgirlVideo, or as Princess because I really enjoy how they look in our game.

 As for which were the hardest to implement, I went to one of our Art Directors, Takashi Koike, to get his opinion, and he named Unity Chan, Lilac, and Princess. We use a system called Spine for giving the characters bones for animating. Because those three characters have unique pieces for their skirts and hair, Takashi had to relocate several bones on each and adjust all of the animations to uniquely suit them.

Miketendo64:Well it’s a good thing they’re digital characters because relocating bones, yeah that doesn’t sound painful at all, except a lot!”

 

ConBravo! 2016:

Miketendo64: “You recently attended ConBravo! 2016, what did you make of the event and how was it for you?”

Justin Fernandes: It was a great event. It was our first time attending, and the staff and organizers super helpful and we met a lot of cool people. Plus, we got to introduce a few groups of people to Runbow for the first time ever, which is always fun to do.

 

Humble Friends of Nintendo Bundle:

Miketendo64:Runbow was recently included with the Humble Friends of Nintendo Bundle, how did the inclusion come about? Did you approach them or did they approach you?”

Justin Fernandes:Nintendo was setting up another bundle with Humble Bundle, and they asked us if we wanted to be a part of it, and we were super stoked! A lot of us use Humble Bundle, and the chance to be a part of something that not only helps with charity, but shares a ton of video games is something that we loved the idea of doing. I’m really happy that we got the opportunity to participate.”

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Deluxe Editions Physical Release for Europe:

NotTheWizardofOz:Nintendo have recently announced two titles for the new Nintendo eShop Selects range. Is there are chance you could if need be, form a deal there to ensure a European physical release for both Deluxe editions of Runbow?

Justin Fernandes:We’ll have more information on the Deluxe editions and their regions soon. So, stay tuned for that.”

 

13AM Shipping Solutions & Pirate Pop Plus:

Miketendo64:As we’ve learned previously, 13AM Games is now no longer just publishing your own games, but also intend to publishing others too, such as Dadako’s Pirate Pop Plus. What promoted you to want to go down this route? And what made you choose Pirate Pop Plus to be your first?

Justin Fernandes: We started 13AM Shipping Solutions because publishing is something that we wanted for our company. We love indie games and we believed that we could help bring more of them to life with the resources we have, so we moved on it.

Our Creative Director, Alex Rushdy, met Hawken King from Dadako at the Tokyo Game Show last year and he was pretty taken away by some of the projects that they were working on, so he shared them with the team when he got back. We all thought the beta of Pirate Pop Plus was great, and we’d been discussing publishing a title, so we reached out. Everything just kind of fell into place.

 

No Pirate Pop Plus Spoilers Here!:

Miketendo64:Being so you are the Publisher for Pirate Pop Plus, will there be a certain Runbow character available as a playable character for the game?

Justin Fernandes: We’re just as excited to answer these questions as you are for the answers, but for now I’ve got to stay hushed up about that. All will be revealed soon, so keep an eye out!”

Miketendo64:We most certainly will.”

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13AM Shipping Solutions’ Goals:

Miketendo64:What is your plan with regards to publishing other games? One or two a year or something else entirely?”

Justin Fernandes:13AM Shipping Solutions is about bringing games that we’re excited about to as many people as we can. We don’t have any set goals necessarily. Instead, we look for projects that we think are cool and truly believe we can help succeed. That might mean one a year, or it might mean five. It all depends on what we think we can take on and what we find.”

 

“The Greatest Mistake you can make as a Developer:”

Miketendo64:What you guys have gone on to do is without a doubt a feat, so do you have any advice, or anything you would like to say to aspiring game developers who wish to follow the same path?

Justin Fernandes:The best advice that I can give to people that want to make games is to always be playing them. Play every kind of game, even if they don’t fit into the genres that you tend towards, and see what you can take away from them. Turning a game away without at least trying it is the greatest mistake you can make as a developer, because you can find inspiration for your own ideas from the most unlikely of places. If you only play the same games over and over then you’ll never experience anything new and your creativity will likewise become stale.

Most importantly, play your game. When you’re developing something, you need to be playing it constantly, because if you don’t think that your game is fun, then there’s a pretty good chance that other people will feel the same way. The sooner you realize your mistakes, the sooner you’ll be able to fix them and the less likely you will be to make them again in the future. ”

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Talking to Justin, we got to learn a lot more about a game we love and hear more about the future of 13AM Games and 13AM Shipping Solutions. Sure we may not have got any “exclusive spoilers” during our interview, but it’s not always about that and I’m actually happy with what we were able to get. So a big thanks goes out to Justin Fernandes for supplying us with all our answers and from all of us at Miketendo64, we wish you and the rest of the 13AM Games team, the best of luck with your future endeavours not to take us out, here’s Justin with the final say:

Thank you! To anyone who plays our games, or follows us on social media, or made fan art for us, thank you! That’s the first thing I always want to say to any fans, because sharing our games with you is what drives us to push forward and do better. Every time we get a piece of fan art, it feels like the coolest thing in the world and we share it with the entire office. Our community matters to us a lot, so if you ever feel like reaching out, we’re listening!

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