A few years ago, Vancouver-based developer RocketChicken released CodeRunner, a unique spy game that made the real world your setting. By walking around town with your cell phone in hand, you could hack ATM machines, read texts, and leave dead drops for other agents. Now, the iOS title is getting a sequel, and Story Director Jeff Macpherson took some time to answer our questions. While we refer to the game as “CodeRunner 2″ in the interview, the final name is now CodeRunners.
Invisible Gamer: “CodeRunner was one of the most innovative iOS games to release in the last several years. What did you learn about the medium during its development?”
Jeff Macpherson: “We learned that walking in the real world is a very challenging gameplay mechanic. We’re essentially requiring players to exercise and travel in order to advance their game, but we’re not a fitness app.
We’re a game that indulges a secret, double-life fantasy that draws from your real-world environment and projects a fiction back over top. Walking is by far the best way of achieving that completely immersive experience. The downside is players have to take those first steps to understand how rewarding it is and it’s a lot to ask.
It was a risk to make CodeRunner in the first place because there was nothing like it and no prior game from which to learn. But it’s always a risk to make a game and you may as well do something which, at the very least, will make an interesting failure. In our case it was precisely the risk (and not the resulting game) that was our greatest success. We gained a reputation for having new, creative ideas and as a result are working with Ubisoft on an undisclosed project.”
Invisible Gamer: “The original game ended in a cliffhanger and let the player explore other agents’ dead drop locations and secret messages. Will CodeRunner 2 be a longer experience, or are you still aiming to keep it contained?”
Jeff Macpherson: “It will be a much longer experience. One that should last a few months. Depending on the uptake it can be extended even longer through DLC.”
Invisible Gamer: “You mentioned before that the sequel would be releasing on iOS, Android and Blackberry. With the original game mimicking the iOS interface for text messages and other forms of communication, does the team have to recreate the look of the other operating systems, as well?”
Jeff Macpherson: “Yes it will release on many devices. Right now we’re looking at message UI custom to the game. So it looks more like a piece of tech that allows for message interception rather than emulating the device’s native UI.”
Invisible Gamer: “CodeRunner let players interact with each other through secret passwords and messages scattered throughout different cities. How will multiplayer change in CodeRunner 2?”
Jeff Macpherson: “In CodeRunner 2 players participate in one another’s story lines. Cooperating at times, facing off at other times. Player interaction works both locally and internationally. The story world is much larger and includes the global community of players.”
Invisible Gamer: “I discovered the original CodeRunner through my time working at Classic Game Room, and it seems to have been very well-received by critics. How important was the media exposure, and will it have a greater impact on future releases?”
Jeff Macpherson: “I think media exposure and critical praise was a significant part of our success. Because CodeRunner didn’t fit into an existing game genre and we had no serious marketing budget it was really tough to get the message out. It needed game journalists to communicate what the game actually was. In many cases even they resorted to saying “Look, I can’t describe it, just trust me you have to try it for yourself.”
Having third party fans who could champion the game was a major boost. And not just the big guys. Often smaller or even hobbyist critics were the ones able to dedicate the amount of time needed to play this unknown game for any meaningful length of time. But you know, very often the small guys are the ones that first spot the counter-culture or underdog projects. They can take risks and write about obscure things. In that sense we were in the same boat.”
Invisible Gamer: ” Thanks for your time, Jeff. Anything else you would like to add?”
Jeff Macpherson: “Wish I could share more! Ping me in a few months. Thanks for caring enough about our games to ask!”