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MechRunner Inspired by Robotech, World War II, And the Tunguska Event

Posted on Friday, May 2 @ 18:00:00 Eastern by

MechRunner combines the popular mobile gaming genre of endless runners with transforming robot action combat, all set in an alternate timeline where an explosion in the Russian wilderness in 1908 actually brought high tech weaponry to Siberia.

We got a chance to speak with the developers behind the game and dig into the multitude of inspirations driving the project. John O'Neill is President of Spark Plug Games and Lead Engineer on MechRunner while Ben Lichius is Vice President and Art Director on the project. We also spoke with Josh Nizzi, co-creator of MechRunner.

That explosion in the Russian wilderness actually happened over a hundred years ago. The Tunguska Event is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history, but the developers at Spark Plug use the lack of understanding surround Tunguska to their advantage.

"I like alternate-timeline stories," said Ben Lichius. MechRunner takes a "'what if' approach to real events in our history and plays them out to create something that, for all we know, could have happened."

"The Tunguska Event is a great jumping off point for a story like that because we understand so little about it, even after all this time," Lichius continued. "We looked at some Russian weapons as reference early on, but I wouldn't say there's a heavy Russian influence in the game, visually. For players that want to dig deeper into the story though, they'll find some familiar Russian themes like idealism, the struggle for power, betrayal, and redemption."

MechRunner aims to please fans of transforming robots, especially since the developers have a long-standing fondness for Robotech.

"The idea of the two modes for the XP [mech featured in the game] came from love of the Veritech Fighter and the different abilities in each mode," Josh Nizzi explained. "When designing the XP the VF was probably my biggest inspiration. I even did an unlockable XP skin that pays homage to the VF-15 color scheme."

"There was inspiration from all over the place for the enemies, but probably the most influential were the crazy vehicles of World War II," Nizzi said. "We just wanted the designs to be fun. There is some logic behind them, but mostly the designs come from the kind of gameplay we wanted and what we though looked cool."

MechRunner combines combat and running gameplay to force players to try new things and alternate between two main interactive loops, but that doesn't mean Spark Plug hasn't elminated any overlapping between running and blowing things up.

"I'd say it's about a 50/50 split [between running and combat]," Lichius explained. "There are distinct sections that are dexterity-based challenges and those are broken up by encounters." You might run and gun at the same time, too, but Spark Plug "really wanted to give the game an arcade feel and that meant making it as simple and fun to play [as possible, though] it gets pretty intense!"

MechRunner is currently in development for PlayStation platforms and PC, but John O'Neill was sure to stress that no platform is off the table, including Xbox and Nintendo systems.

"We really felt that the visual bar we were setting with the mech and the tone of the game called for some pretty impressive techincal specs [and] we felt that targeting PlayStation and Steam initially would allow us to showcase and introduce players to this new brand," O'Neill said.

The developers are using the Unity engine which will allow for added platform freedom down the line "when the time is right," but O'Neill stressed that Spark Plug wants "to make sure that when we add support for a new device, that we evaluate the features that make that platform unique and tailor the MechRunner experience specifically to those features."

MechRunner is currently on KickStarter. The team is seeking $25,000 to bring the project to PlayStation and PC, with a $10 backing netting the game via Steam or a code for both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita platforms.
Related Games:   MechRunner
Tags:   interview, indie
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