Ten Questions With… Jake & Zach (Hypercane Studios)

Ten Questions With… Jake & Zach (Hypercane Studios)

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Rage Runner recently made the jump to PC and had us hooked with its challenging, but addictive gameplay. The game epitomizes the “just one more try” gameplay and is one of those titles that will keep you coming back for more no matter how punishing it gets. We caught up with Jake and Zach, the two brothers responsible for Rage Runner to tell us more about their game.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

Hypercane Studios consists of two brothers, Jake and Zach. We live in Vancouver, WA (US not Canada) and honestly we’re pretty much newbs in the game industry. We’ve been hacking away at various side-projects since 2011 just because doing that kind of stuff is super fun. Rage Runner was our first major title to be completed.

We’re both married, Jake has a 5 year old princess, Zach has 2 dogs. We do our indie development out of our homes.

How did the idea for Rage Runner come about?

We made a remote desktop app for the Star Wars MMO in 2012. The loading screen in the app sometimes took 20 seconds to pull data down, so we thought it would be cool to have a simple mini game to play during the loading screen. An endless runner in a trench made sense. The little mini game ended up being pretty fun, so, in typical indie style, we feature-creeped it into a full game.

What are the games that influenced you and how?

Wow, that’s a loaded question. Every game we’ve ever played?! (see the TED talk: Everything is a Remix). The Star Wars arcade cabinet was a pretty obvious inspiration, but probably more for the stress level than game mechanics. That game was more about shooting than obstacle avoidance but you really felt the pressure when that duct came up, we wanted to capture that feeling of pressure! The speeder bike scene in Battletoads was used as reference many times. If you don’t remember that level in Battletoads, you should YouTube it as it’s seriously one of the most difficult quick movement scenarios of any game. Star Fox on planet Corneria for their general ship mechanics. Max Payne bullet-time powerup as influence for the super brakes.

What features of Rage Runner are you the most proud of?

Probably what is most satisfying to us is that we successfully created a game that is both difficult and satisfying. We’ve played these levels more than anyone, so when we die and say “ok, just one more time”… that’s something we’re proud of.  As far as features that are visible to the player, the freedom of choosing powerups and also how some levels are designed so perfectly around the music that they give you chills. 

We hit a spot in the development where the game felt alright but it was missing that special something to make it more demanding than the typical runner. Adding the vertical ship control was kind of our eureka moment for Rage Runner. We still remember the day we put it in and designed a level around it. It took the gameplay from fun to badass!

What was the biggest challenge while creating Rage Runner?

Without a doubt it was teaching players how to play. We went through so many iterations of this it was crazy. First we had no instructions or tutorial and naturally at the trade-show, no one understood how to get fuel and how to get powerups. So then we put a tutorial in the game but everyone would skip it and then give us advice like “you should think of adding boosters to the game”.  So then we made the tutorial forced and made it loop until you successfully beat it, now players couldn’t beat our tutorial because they weren’t reading the giant text in the center of the screen telling them “B BUTTON FIRES MISSILES, FIRE A MISSILE TO CONTINUE”! We finally made the realization that the people that were unwilling to learn the game weren’t the type of people that enjoyed this type of game. So we ripped the tutorial out, much like Shigeru Miyamoto making you acquire the sword in Zelda all in the hopes of adding a layer of nebulosity to foster the growth of a community that would share tips and secrets.

What aspect of creating the game was the most fun?

Level design. Nothing is more fun than playing new levels or watching someone play a level for the first time. Tweaking physics is always a fun thing as well, mostly because of how things break in ways you never considered. 

In hindsight is there anything that you would have changed about the game?

Sure, lots of stuff. We probably would have started with PC and not tried to support the lower-end mobile targets, that was a ton of work for us both in code and models/textures. It would have been nice to have some more context around why you are flying down these trenches. We had some backstory ideas that never made it to the screen but you can see hints of them in the Steam Trading Cards.

What are the future plans for Rage Runner/Hypercane Studios?

The future of Rage Runner will largely be dictated by what our fans want. More levels and a level editor are the obvious things. But we’re more excited to hear ideas from the community. We’d also love to schedule some events in the future where we do a live stream of us trying to beat highscores and playing community levels for the first time. For Hypercane Studios, first and foremost, if people are playing a game we’ve made, we want to continue to support that game – you aren’t buying Rage Runner the Game; you’re buying Rage Runner the Service. Beyond Rage Runner, our future plans are to make the best game in the world.

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

Zach: The most unusual things on my desk are a soldering iron and a gorilla pod that’s being used as a microphone stand. 

Jake: My most unusual thing on my desk would have to be a non-slip kitchen mat under my keyboard.

Anything else you would like to add?

We are stoked to finally be on Steam and to have a permanent hub for our Rage Runner community. We are both active participants in the community and look forward to fans dropping by, uploading screenshots, fanart and topping the leaderboards.

You can check out our review for Rage Runner HERE to see why it is such a great title and then head over to the Steam Store to grab yourself a copy. We look forward to seeing what Jake and Zach comes up with next and can’t wait to see that “best game in the world” they have planned for the future! Thanks for answering our questions guys it has been a blast.

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