It’s easy to surround yourself with so much work that you never really take the time to look at your game from a distance. But it’s important to take a moment with the team to see how far you’ve come with the project. Now that we’re at the release date for I Hate Running Backwards, we did just that. We looked back.
Our game started out as a regular arcade shoot ’em down. But that wasn’t enough. We wanted to do something different, make something new.
We sat down with Damjan Mravunac from Croteam and started brainstorming on this one thing that can make the game feel different but have a familiar feeling about it.
We decided to use the one-liner that Sam Stone says in the original Serious Sam games when you run backwards a lot. And that line is (you guessed it), “I hate running backwards!”
That was the twist we were looking for. The screen in IHRB still pans upwards, like in regular shoot’em ups so you get used to it pretty quick, but your character is actually on top of the screen shooting down. With that certain mechanic, we achieved that besides paying attention to what is in front of your character, you have to watch for what’s behind as well. You never know when a trap, explosive barrel or a pitfall might spawn behind you, which is not that common in shoot’em up games.
Even the legendary Suda51, when I was talking to him and his translator at PAX East this year, called the mechanic “revolutionary.” I really hope he wasn’t just being nice. 🙂
At first, we had a couple of weapons. Assault rifle, shotgun, and rocket launcher. That’s it.
But we came up and added a bunch of weapons since then for the players to use during the game and we wanted to make them as fun as we can. Firing those weapons should feel very satisfying and I think we delivered on that part. The special weapons in IHRB feel different from each other and there’s a wide range of them.
For example, firing a Pinball would cause it to bounce from enemy to enemy several times making a satisfying “ding!” sound while doing it. The Singularity Cannon or Gravity Gun as we like to call it fires a black hole that sucks enemies and projectiles into it, making it easier for you to shoot them. Each weapon was designed to feel good using it and reactions of players who tried them out gave us a sign that we were on the right track.
One other aspect that was very important to us was destruction. We wanted destructible environments in our game and we had a couple of iterations of that. First, it was just objects disappearing behind a cloud of dust. After that, we tried some assets from the Unity Asset Store but since we weren’t happy with any of those, we ended up writing our own. The objects get destroyed into huge piles of cubes now, and some of those are gold cubes that we call Mojo, which is basically our fancy name for exp. Classy, I know.
When you gather enough Mojo you level up your character and get to choose a perk so there are rewards for destroying the environment.
If there is a single weapon that would be my favorite, then I would have to say it’s the hammer. Although Lo Wang uses a katana, but hey – it’s for the same thing!
The hammer can be used for killing enemies, destroying environments and best of all – for deflecting enemy projectiles back into them. It’s a great way to conserve ammo and deal extra damage to bosses. Scrap Jack will fire a bunch of missiles at you, with some of them being homing missiles, and the hammer is perfect for defending yourself in these situations. Heck, you will even unlock an achievement if you beat him by only using the hammer.
Speaking of bosses, they are also a huge part of our game. You hate them and love them at the same time and you will need to learn their patterns and attacks before you can really take them on. You will probably die a lot before that happens. Sorry to shatter your dreams just like that.
When one of our devs made the Biomechanoid boss, I hated him for making it, I hated the boss and I hated my slow hands. Now he’s my favorite boss in the game!
The thing is that the game never really makes you feel like you’ve been cheated. You always have the “I should have done better” feeling if you die in the game.
The bosses in the game are our own versions of enemies and bosses from the Serious Sam games, so we made them our way.
King Scorpion was made to honor the unkillable scorpion enemy from Serious Sam 3: BFE that would come at you if you had an illegal copy of the game.
Our version of Biomechanoid fires laser beams and deploys an impenetrable shield at certain points during the fight. The last boss fight is going to be a very special 2-part battle and you will really have to put in work to beat that.
And now, after a year and a half of work our game is finally coming out, and we are thrilled that we get to share it with Xbox One players!