First you controlled a paddle, then a laser shooting “core”, and after that, an ever-expanding globular mass. Game designer Alex Neuse discusses the innovative Bit.Trip series with us, and the upcoming Bit.Trip RUNNER title in which players will finally control Commander Video himself.
RoboAwesome: Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what your role in the production of Bit.Trip RUNNER is?
Alex: My name is Alex Neuse and I’m the Designer on BIT.TRIP RUNNER. I’ve been in the industry since 1997 and have a very deep passion for originality in video games.
RA: In today’s video game market, it is rare to see game sequels that so radically change playing styles like the Bit.Trip games do. Was this something you wanted to do from the inception of the series, or was it decided on after BEAT released?
Alex: This was our intention from the start. The BIT.TRIP series deals with the stages of life that one goes through—each of which is very different from the others. We wanted to make sure that the gameplay decisions we were making supported this notion of personal growth. Humans are always learning new things, and we wanted that point to come across through our gameplay.
RA: Each Bit.Trip game not only changed playing styles, but it also changed control schemes. Will RUNNER offer players something new in the way of controls?
Alex: RUNNER has the most familiar control scheme of all of the games thus far. If you’ve ever played a side-scrolling platformer, than most of the moves you do in BIT.TRIP RUNNER will be second nature. From the jump that you can hold down longer to jump farther, to the slide, and the kick, we’ve got all the standard moves covered. We’ve also added a few of our own surprises as well.
RA: RUNNER is said to be an “on rails” platformer, with the usual rhythm-based elements. This isn’t a type of game that’s typically done: were there any specific titles that you drew inspiration from?
Alex: You’re absolutely right. We consider BIT.TRIP RUNNER an on-rails rhythm-platformer. The games that we drew the most inspiration from were probably Vib Ribbon and Pitfall!
RA: To me, VOID has been the hardest of the three games so far. How do you think RUNNER’s difficulty will compare to that of its prequels?
Alex: Because the gameplay in BIT.TRIP RUNNER is so familiar, I expect more people to be able to excel at the game. That said, however, BIT.TRIP RUNNER does offer challenges on par with the rest of the BIT.TRIP games. One of the nice things about changing up the controls with each game is that there’s something in the series for everyone.
RA: You seem to have left some of CommanderVideo’s story ambiguous and open to the player’s interpretation. Are there any key points that players should get out of the plot revealed in RUNNER?
Alex: I’d like the players to realize that RUNNER is all about CommanderVideo taking the world by storm. Basically, this chapter in his story addresses a human’s drive to succeed. The idea of “success in life” is very ambiguous, so it’s intentional that we’ve kept the story open to interpretation.
RA: The music in gameplay footage of RUNNER has a different overall tone to it compared to the previous games. Did you use a different musician, or was the change made to relay the general mood of this title?
Alex: All of the in-game music for each BIT.TRIP game is composed by the same person. We adjust the mood and themes of each game’s score as we enter pre-production. With RUNNER, we wanted a much more driving, yet happy, sound. This is a hopeful game about CommanderVideo excelling against all odds and never losing heart.
RA: Are you still planning on there being six Bit.Trip games? If so, how do you plan on making sure the remaining two keep the same fresh feel that has been present in each entry in the series so far?
Alex: As planned from the start, the BIT.TRIP series will remain a six game series. We hope to keep the gameplay fresh by simply making games that we love. If we enjoy the games while making them, I think that that joy and energy will carry through and be apparent to the players.
RA: Do you think the Bit.Trip games would have been so successful if it wasn’t for the WiiWare method of distribution?
Alex: I think that the BIT.TRIP series would have seen much more success if we had been able to go multi-platform. As a developer, I really like working single-platform, because I’ve found that a lot of multi-platform games end up being compromised to the lowest common denominator among the platforms. However, I think that the WiiWare audience is smaller than we’d initially thought, so going multi-platform might have been a better choice. Also, the WiiWare service has a lot of potential, so if you know someone with a Wii who hasn’t connected it to the internet, start poking them until they do!
RA: I think six dollars is too cheap for these games. Have you heard or read anyone saying that the price point was too high?
Alex: We’ve heard from people all up and down the price spectrum. Some think the games are too cheap and some think they’re too expensive. Most of what we’ve heard is that they’ve been priced “just right”. With BIT.TRIP RUNNER, we’re going to be selling at an 800 point price-point, because the game is much bigger than our previous games. In the end, we try to set our prices at what we think the games are worth. And we hope that players feel that those prices are appropriate.
RA: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to address with our readers?
Alex: I can’t think of anything specific right now, so I guess the last thing I’d like to mention is that there are a lot of very interesting games available for WiiWare and I’m glad to be a part of that family. If your readers haven’t discovered the joy that can be had on the WiiWare service, encourage them to plop some points down and start downloading!
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you, RoboAwesome.