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Interview with Syrenne McNulty of I've Got to Run!

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to review a little Wii U title, I've Got to Run! Developed by the one-woman team at Four Corner Games, Syrenne McNulty got to forage ahead in her passion for video games by releasing her first game ever on a home console. She has just released a new press docket stating that I've Got to Run: Complete Edition! is on the way with new DLC augmenting the original game, as well as a DS release forthcoming. She is also hard at work on four more titles, so she is not anywhere near done. This writer felt intrigued at the chance to get to know a developer as they are starting out, and sent some interview questions her way:

Tell us about your history: How did you get into programming? Is this a main job or a side fun thing for you? Are you a one-person army for a while, or are there future plans? What are the biggest challenges for you personally in game development?

Programming is actually just something I picked up out of necessity to realize my vision. I never studied game creation, but learned programming and various facets of it in order to attain my goals. Development is a hobby for sure – my “real job” is being a journalist.

 So 4 Corner Games is officially a one-woman studio; however, for an upcoming game (codenamed MMM), I announced yesterday that I’m going to be hiring Rebecca Gunn, a wonderful artist, to help me realize the project.

 Sadly I can’t talk about the biggest challenges, but there are certainly some features that seemed totally easy when I announced them, and I regret ever committing to now. DLC is the big one, though the modes themselves are coming along just fine.

 What inspired you to put your first game out on the Wii U? Are there others you've made before that I'm simply not aware of, as I'm not much of a PC gamer?

No, I’ve Got to Run! is 4 Corner Games’ debut game, although the studio has been around for about 5 years making prototypes. I had an idea for one that I thought would be a good fit for WiiWare, but then the market totally tanked and I put everything aside. I was presented with an opportunity in early 2013 to resume game development, so I started working away at a game that ended up being too large for me, and worked on that for most of the year.

 What made you choose Wii U/Nintendo? How was the development process and submission to them?

I was actually called out of the blue by someone at Nintendo one day to ask if I wanted to develop a game for Wii U – I knew someone back in the Wii days – and then applied. Fast forward a little bit, and I got my big game running on the system; however, I was quickly losing all motivation to move on with it. When I play my own games, and I get super absorbed in an RPG or something, I’ll take breaks to play through a character action game or something small so that I can keep my sanity – I applied the same idea to game development. When you work on one project for way too long, you start to lose a sense of perspective. Because of this, I started up a small game that I thought of making available for free online or something (it was to be a less fun, less polished prototype of what became Endless Classic), but then when I got it running (no pun intended) on Wii U, I got really into it, throwing in more modes and Off-TV play and the like. That game obviously became I’ve Got to Run!

 Submission was a bit rough. I’ve been open about saying that the build that I submitted and is on the eShop for purchase and download was time-stamped in very early March – that means that the game didn’t fail Lotcheck (which rocked that I passed on my first go!), but honestly, the build sat on my computer for the longest time unsubmitted, because I was hoping to do a bit more that didn’t ever really go through – stuff that will be in the forthcoming patch – related to background stuff. Nothing player-facing would have changed prior to submission, so I just went ahead and submitted in early May.

Did you get to choose release dates/price points/etc etc? Has Nintendo talked to you about the rumored "cross buy" that has been rumbling lately? I'm sure a lot of gamers are curious as to if that will happen, so they can get more value out of their downloads! 

I totally got to choose release date and price. Price was 100% under my control – Nintendo recommended a different launch date, but I opted for a delayed launch, which came back to bite me in the butt when I had an extra week to worry about how it was going to do!

 Nintendo has not approached me about cross buy (or Conditional Pricing, as they put it). We are in talks about other forms of promotional pricing, but that has not come up. That might very well be because Nintendo of America has stated that they cannot support the promotion at the time, whereas Nintendo of Europe can (and I haven’t released in Europe yet). Possibly of note is that I’ve Got to Run! and the forthcoming I’ve Got to Run: Complete Edition! for Nintendo 3DS aren’t necessarily the same, as Complete Edition! has four modes not found in the base game of the Wii U game, and won’t be the same code (although they are the same game). I wouldn’t expect cross-buy necessarily, but it might be worth my thinking about to offer a launch discount of Complete Edition! to owners of the other version.

 I saw the IGTR message board was up on the main Wii U Plaza for a while...that had to be exciting! How is the community over there? I'm sure you check it regularly.

Yeah, the game showed up on the WaraWara Plaza for a few days, which was quite the sight! The Miiverse community has been great, though it is slowing down a little bit (as they tend to do). It’s great to see players competing with their high scores, and it’s nice that I’m getting less of the “worst of Miiverse” than I was expecting (“make minecraft”, etc.)

 What made you start with an "endless runner"? I remember talking with you about how there's a programming bit added in guaranteeing all jumps are possible. What other little behind-the scenes parts are you proud of?

So the two things I’m most proud of are

1.)    Yes, the dynamic level creation is excellent. There’s an AI Roy the Marshmallow Boy running ahead to check everything, with enough simultaneous checking to make it near inconceivable that any jump would be impossible.

2.)    The immediate restart. I got the game working with very small data packets which led to being able to restart in 1/20th of one second, meaning the game never stops perceivably moving.

 What's your "perfect game"? What do you want to work on in the future?

If you follow me on Twitter or interact with me for really any period of time, it’ll become clear that I love RPGs. My favorite game of all time is a three-way tie between Final Fantasy VI (SNES),Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Gamecube), and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Golden (PlayStation Vita). I was working on an RPG for a few years (this is not the title I was working on last year that I told you about), but shelved it because it’s not a project that one can do by themselves.

 For the future, I think I’m really over my head in a lot of ways. I’m still working on the patch for I’ve Got to Run!, that games’ DLC, and I’ve Got to Run: Complete Edition! for PC, Mac, Linux, Nintendo 3DS, and an unannounced platform. So that I try to keep my head out of those games too much (as mentioned earlier in the origin story of IGTR!), I’m working on three other games. One of them is the just-announced MMM, which is an action-adventure game where we’re trying to pack an absurd amount of content into in order to make it incredibly replayable. Another is the game that I’ve been working on for a very long time, which I might release some day as “my big game”. It doesn’t focus on gameplay so much, but contains a story that is very meaningful to me. Then there’s one other game that I’m not talking about at this time.

Thanks so much to Syrenne for taking the time to answer my questions. She's pretty open to interview, so if you have any questions you'd like answered, drop them in the comments below or throw me an email, and I'll try to get you more information on the life of a one-woman-development studio.



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