As SpeedRunners races on to Nintendo Switch, we speak to Casper van Est, co-founder and game designer at DoubleDutch Games.
SpeedRunners is race game for up to four players – either locally or online – in which each participant hopes to gain an advantage through pure platforming skill and canny use of level terrain and power-ups.
What makes the game particularly memorable are the moments of intense emotion it creates. The last-second squeak across the finish line, a well-timed grapplehook swing, or expertly aimed rocket. Each race elicits feelings of joy, rage, pleasure, and glee in equal measure. The game’s vibrant visuals clearly communicate the chaos on screen, and the result is an accessible game of risk, reward, style, and bravery.
SpeedRunners debuted on Steam Early Access in 2013 before receiving a full PC release in 2016, with a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One outing shortly after. Touted as the multiplayer Super Mario game Nintendo never made, SpeedRunners quickly found an audience and, for a time, held its own as an esport.
We caught up with Casper van Est to discuss the release of the long-awaited Nintendo Switch version.
Thumbsticks: The Xbox and PlayStation 4 versions of SpeedRunners were released in 2017. Was it a difficult process to bring the game to Nintendo Switch?
Casper van Est: Of course, every new platform has its own challenges, but I don’t think it was particularly difficult to bring the game to Switch. We’re a small team, so it did take us a while, but we also wanted to make sure it would be a good game and that it would perform well without any issues.
Did you have to make any specific changes – such as the change in screen size – to accommodate docked and handheld play?
Not really. Our main focus was making sure the online multiplayer worked properly, and of course that the game would be easy to pick up and play, as one would expect of any Nintendo Switch game. So for instance, making sure all the different type of controller configurations were handled properly.
Does the Nintendo Switch version of SpeedRunners have any new features? Does it include both online and local play? How many local players does the game support?
The Switch version has the added feature of supporting wireless play, so if you have multiple Switches in the same room, they can play with each other, which is a lot of fun and a really cool feature that sets the Switch apart from other consoles. Other than that, the game basically has the same features, so it includes both online and local play as well, up to four players.
SpeedRunners has been favourably compared to the Mario Kart series. It certainly has the vibrancy and inclusiveness of a Nintendo game. Are you pleased to finally bring it to a Nintendo console?
Is the game’s library of user-created levels available to Switch players at launch? And have you been impressed by the community’s user-made maps?
Yes, the game includes a selection of the best maps made by the community. While I’m proud of the levels that we designed ourselves, I actually feel like the user-made maps may provide more interesting challenges to experienced players. These maps have been created by players who know the game as well, if not better than I do. Which means they know what makes a level challenging, even after you’ve played the game for hundreds of hours.
SpeedRunners has a remarkably enthusiastic fan base and was, for a time, an esport. What do you think makes the game so instantly appealing?
When we started working on the game, I initially designed it for my 15-year old self, who used to play local multiplayer games at home with my friends. Naturally, some of them were better at certain games than others, and what I wanted to was create something that all of us would have enjoyed and be able to compete in. So initially, the game was focused on being as accessible as possible. For instance, the idea was that in many maps, you can simply hold the right stick to the right, and you’ll be able to run along quite some time. Of course, in the end, you’ll be outrun by your opponents, but you’ll feel like at least you had a chance. The short matches and the many opportunities for interaction (and the possibility to grapple your opponents) also help in making it accessible!
Then, during development and based on feedback from the community, the game and its mechanics slowly started to get deeper and deeper, which allowed for esport type levels of complexity, which was a really interesting thing to see come out of such a simple concept.
Are there any aspects of player behaviour or technique that have surprised you?
Well, there are a lot of players out there who are far better at the game than I am. And I mean by a lot. They are just so incredibly skilled and can pull off tricks that I didn’t even know were possible! Like the reverse grapple, which is a very tricky, but cool-looking technique.
And from an artistic and creative perspective, how do you feel about the game after all this time?
We’re still super proud of it! I think the core concept of SpeedRunners is simply a lot of fun, and not really dependent on the latest graphics techniques or anything like that. So the fact that the game has been around for a while only goes to show how much fun it is. And of course, I think the Nintendo Switch is the perfect console to play it on. When you have your friends over, you can play it as a fun party game on the big screen, and when you’re by yourself or on the go you can easily hop online to find someone to play a quick match with.
SpeedRunners is available now on all console platforms, PC, iOS and Android. The Nintendo Switch release is accompanied by a free demo which is well worth trying.
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