Devs Talk All Things Risk of Rain Returns

Roguelike games have seen massive growth in popularity over the last decade, and 2013’s Risk of Rain by indie duo Hopoo Games played a major role in shaping the genre into what it is today. A decade later, their indie classic is being revisited as Risk of Rain Returns, a remake that aims to modernize the game with upgraded visuals and improved features while staying true to the original vision. Today Technology spoke with Hopoo Games founders Paul Morse and Duncan Drummond about Risk of Rain Returns and how the team approached the remake’s development. Players can look forward to improved visuals, a new game mode, new monsters and items, new Survivors, and streamlined multiplayer. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Q: Risk of Rain Returns is introducing two brand new survivors. Can you talk a little about those? Morse: There’s quite a bit of Survivor designs that we had in mind. It’s probably our most favorite type of content to design and create, so I think shipping Risk of Rain Returns without having new Survivors felt like kind of a miss. Drummond: I would say one of the things that we’ve always played with is supportive characters. That’s something we flirted with a little bit with the Captain in Risk of Rain 2. And even the direction the Engineer was heading towards in Risk of Rain 2. So that’s kind of an interesting space that we’re still navigating. We still want all the characters to function in single-player, but we’re leaning a little bit more towards the multiplayer aspects like, “Hey, what would be fun If I could play a character that could really help out the team?” So I would say that was one of the goals we’re going for. Q: What particular improvements have you guys made in terms of the multiplayer experience? Morse: It’s probably like, the most requested thing I would say since launching Risk of Rain 1. I mean, obviously, it was 10 years ago this year that we made it. It was just me and Duncan doing what we could to make multiplayer work. And I think that was kind of a hassle for players who wanted to just click and join and get connected to their buddies. I think that the port forwarding and all the IP stuff were kind of difficult, but at the time, it was what we had to work with. Now that we’ve launched Risk of Rain 2, we wanted to bring Risk of Rain Returns up to that standard. It’s a game that should feel modern and should be shoulder-to-shoulder with games that are launching in 2023. So I think the multiplayer was the big one for us. We wanted to make it super simple. It’s extremely similar to Risk of Rain 2 where you can just toss an invite to your friend on Steam, you know, the “quick join” aspect of it of like, “Here’s my code, just join my lobby, if you want.” So just making things easier for players to get connected without having to use third-party tools or weird stuff, it has been a major improvement. I know the team has spent a lot of time actually networking a lot of stuff. I think we got away with quite a bit in Risk of Rain 1 of just kind of showing the client or the user who was playing what they want to see, and not everything was actually networked. I think now there’s been many months of work on improving actual net play and how things are replicated and how things feel for both people playing or all four people playing. So there’s been the most improvement in that area, I would say. risk-returns-1 Q: Did developing Risk of Rain 2 give you guys any insight into how you wanted to revisit the original? Morse: Stuff that players really loved about Risk of Rain 2, we tried to take those concepts of those systems over and bring them in. But I think some small stuff that we learned, I mean, the team working on it and then me and Duncan as well are just better designers than we were 10 years ago on our first game. There were little things that we thought were really important to the game, and we found it wasn’t actually super important that they were exactly like that. So we updated those in Risk of Rain 2. We liked this choice that we made or updated, let’s continue to do that for Risk of Rain 1. So there’s been some small gameplay tweaks I think players will be super happy to hear about. Q: How have you looked at Risk of Rain’s modders during development? Morse: I think that’s the best. Obviously, you know, Duncan and I moved on to Deadbolt and then Risk of Rain 2, so we weren’t actively supporting the community that was there for Risk of Rain 1. So I think the coolest part was that the people, the modders, who had been doing this for five-plus years know the game better than Wedo. So it’s always cool to have the team that’s working on it, like the super hardcore modders who know everything about the game. It’s kind of nice to rely on them when they’re like, “Hey, we think this scaling thing is a little too difficult for this thing.” We’re like, “Yeah, you’re probably right. We trust you guys.” So it’s been nice having that group of people who are experts in the game take it forward. So super excited. RELATED: Gearbox Now Owns Risk of Rain Franchise Q: Any mods that stick out to you as particularly interesting? Morse: Probably the ones that add more content. I mean, that was always the coolest thing for us to see like, “Hey, that’s something that exists in the game that we created that we didn’t have to design or do the art for or animate it or anything like that.” Drummond: It’s just a neat feeling, seeing stuff in our own game that we’ve never seen before. Like, “Oh, what is this? What is this item?” There are quite a few mod packs that have a lot of stuff like Starstorm that comes to mind. Morse: People have taken stuff that’s in Risk of Rain 2 and kind of tried to mod it and “backport” it into Risk of Rain 1. It’s always super cool to see stuff like little REX crawling around in pixel art. So that was always very inspiring for us to see. risk-returns-3-1 Q: Will Risk of Rain Returns have similar modding capabilities? Morse: Yeah, we’re being kind of built by modders. They want to actively do things that wouldn’t prohibit modding. And I think that we’ll have some announcements and things in the future about what we want to do with the game. But I think that, right now, they’re very focused on getting the initial version of it out. I think that they’re actively thinking, like, “How can we make sure that the same experience we had modding Risk of Rain 1, players can now pick up Risk of Rain Returns and have that same or an even easier time getting into it and making content on their own?” So it’s definitely not being forgotten, I would say. Q: Risk of Rain Returns will have some new monsters and items, are there any you’re particularly excited about? Morse: The Topaz Brooch kind of stuff, like some barrier-related items, I think there were systems that we were super proud of for Risk of Rain 2, that we didn’t even explore in Risk of Rain 1. I think the Brooch was a pretty cool one and it’s a simple item. It’s not going to change the entire trajectory of your run or something, but it is stuff that’s like “This item was designed well.” It’s cool that people like picking it up and changing the HUD. There are a lot of those kinds of good design aspects to it. Drummond: There are a couple of items in Risk of Rain 2 that changed your skills and I know we’ve been exploring items in that space as well. RELATED: Risk of Rain 2 Announces ‘Major’ Anniversary Update Q: You mentioned how improving the multiplayer was heavily requested by the community. What other player feedback has helped guide the development of Risk of Rain Returns? Morse: There’s obviously tons of feedback on the scaling and the difficulty of the game, like when people first pick it up it’s like, “This game is super hard!” And you have people who have played for hundreds or thousands of hours who are like, “I want new modes that are way more difficult.” So it’s kind of tough to take all types of feedback. Drummond: Yeah, because this is still spiritually Risk of Rain 1 upgraded, we couldn’t make just arbitrary decisions like “We just don’t like this thing anymore.” We still want to respect the original, this is supposed to be spiritually similar. So I would say we’re generally leaning towards just raw improvements. That’s why we’re looking at the art, we doubled the resolution. Looking at the multiplayer, we’re just looking at adding more content. We’re not really trying to rework a lot of the core bits of the game, since it is spiritually supposed to be the same core. Morse: I would say that there’s been some feedback on the teleporter events in Risk of Rain 1 compared to Risk of Rain 2. So that’s definitely an area that we have chatted a lot about and have been seeing some improvements. So players will be pretty excited about that feature. risk-returns-3 Q: Risk of Rain Returns features over 40 Providence Trials. Do any of them stand out to you as particularly interesting or challenging to develop, since each one is pretty unique? Morse: I think the Trials were something that the team came up with independent of Duncan and me. We didn’t suggest “We need a new game mode, we have got to do something cool!” They had this idea for the trials and they pitched it to us like, “Hey, this is not in Risk of Rain 1, but it’s something cool that we want to take on and it is like 40 plus little individual minigames.” And at heart, I think that the core team that’s working on Risk of Rain Returns is game designers and game creators, and they want to make stuff. So having them each take ownership of maybe 10 or more individual little mini-games is pretty cool for them. So I think they’re super excited. Each one is very different. They kind of remind me a little bit of like, in Super Smash when there’s like those little side things that you can do. It’s just the fun little things that you don’t really see in a lot of games. And I think that a lot of the creative stuff is where they can really express the new stuff for Risk of Rain Returns that are hidden in there. So I think they were just super excited to add this. Drummond: There are quite a few little platforming ones that I find fun, mostly because there isn’t that much platforming reflected in the main game. It’s the same game mechanics, but it’s kind of fun to see it in a new light and be like, “Okay, how do I cross this jump with the skills and abilities that I have?” Morse: It’s a good way for them to show off new stuff too like the Loader’s alternate skill is obviously much different than the previous one. So it teaches the player and shows them what the potential of that alternate ability is. You’re not getting killed and it’s kind of a safer space, which is cool. RELATED: Everything Announced for Risk of Rain 2’s Survivors of the Void Expansion Q: In the decade since Risk of Rain came out, roguelikes have exploded in popularity. How do you feel about the genre’s evolution and Risk of Rain’s place in it? Drummond: I would say that Risk of Rain sits in a unique spot in that it’s multiplayer. And then we don’t really have permanent meta progression in the same way that most modern roguelikes have as well, where you get stronger each time you play. You start pretty neutral each time. I would say most roguelikes are definitely starting to steer away from both of those elements. And so I think it still stands out as a special bit of history here that stands out still today, seeing as there aren’t quite as many games, even in the roguelike space, that feels like Risk of Rain. Morse: It’s always cool to see game designers email us, and they’re talking about certain features. And we’re like, “Oh, yeah, we recognize that, we’ve seen that a while ago.” And it’s always a cool little nod to see like, “Yeah, I think we helped shape that a little bit in that specific zone.” Drummond: The time mechanic is still pretty unique as well to Risk of Rain, you don’t see that in a lot of the roguelikes, they tend to be more about room-to-room progression. It’s kind of more like outdoor exploration. risk-returns-4 Q: Will Risk of Rain Returns be seeing post-launch content or is it shipping as a more or less complete package? Morse: We’ve been talking to the team about how now that we’re getting closer to launch think they’re excited about the game and what there is and the systems that they’ve built up and how to explore those. So I think, obviously, very focused on polishing things and getting ready for launch. Drummond: We’ll see how it goes. Morse: I think if players really like it and people are interested and engaged, then there’s definitely more that could be done. Drummond: Yeah, we’re definitely just focusing on getting everything that we have wrapped up, but everyone’s very excited to think of new Survivors and items and stuff like that. RELATED: Risk of Rain 2 Crosses Impressive Player Milestone Q: One of the best things about Risk of Rain is its dynamic soundtrack and how it interacts with the game. Have you touched on the soundtrack for Risk of Rain Returns? Morse: We talked to Chris a lot, you know, like in Risk of Rain 2 and Risk of Rain 1 and we’ve worked with him for 10 years. So it’s always good catching up with him. I think a lot of the tracks from Risk of Rain 1 he’s very proud of it. When people talk about the game, they always say, “Oh, yeah, the music is so good.” It’s very, you know, “coupled” with the game. So I think we don’t want to switch that up. We’re not doing a different soundtrack, or remixing everything. I think there’s some small stuff that he wants to update to make sure it sounds high quality and crispy and good, and he is filling some gaps where we had to reuse songs in certain stages or certain boss fights. So there’s new Chris music coming. But we’re not redoing everything. I think the original soundtrack is too good to mess with. Q: What’s your workflow with Chris like? How involved are you in his process? Drummond: Usually, we just let him do whatever he wants to do. And then we’re like, “Alright, we got this selection of songs. where might they fit best?” Morse: Yeah, I think that’s always been interesting, it’s exactly as Duncan described it. Initially, we told him, “Hey, you’re the expert. We know what we’re making, if you want to just do your thing and make you music that you want to make, that sounds good.” And we kind of just let him go, and he would send us stuff and we’d listen to it together in the morning when we got it. Drummond: At one point in development, we got the song “Coalescence” and were like, “Oh, this sounds way different, we’ll just stick it at the end.” I think the music does drive a lot, and the game is wide enough that you can just find slots for these songs, but we sort of just let him have free rein and then we just get great music and figure out where it goes. risk-returns-2 Q: How did you first link up with Chris Christodoulou? Did you know him beforehand? Drummond: I think we went on YouTube and searched “best music composer top 10” or something. And it was some random YouTube video, and we’re like, “We’re going to email him.” But it was kind of a random YouTube video. Morse: We emailed a few people. I think half of them replied. Half of them didn’t reply, and then I think we heard a track that Chris did on a small game called Hexadecimal or something like 12 years ago. And I was like, “Oh, that sounds really cool. I like this one. Let’s email him.” and he was like, “Hey, sounds good. Let’s do it.” He was one of the only ones to be super interested and trusted two kids to make some free music before the Kickstarter, so yeah, he’s been fantastic. Q: In the same vein, how did you guys get into making games together? Morse: I’ve known Duncan since Elementary School, third grade. We’ve always been friends, and we’ve always been interested in games and played games together. Drummond: Yeah, it just happened organically, really. risk-returns-7 Q: After Risk of Rain, you worked on the stealth action game Deadbolt. Do you have any ideas or plans for other titles outside of the Risk of Rain series in the future? Morse: Duncan and I are always going to be creative, always thinking of cool stuff, always wanting to make games. I think a lot of the effort right now is going into Risk of Rain Returns, and then with Gearbox kind of shepherding the Risk of Rain IP and things on Risk of Rain 2. There’s a lot going on in that section. So it’s always nice for Duncan and me to think about what we’re going to do next, or what we want to work on and what’s exciting us, and maybe things that wouldn’t fit in the genre that Risk of Rain sits in or, you know, taking stuff from that. So I think we’re always like doing new stuff. Drummond: There’ll be some new stuff one day from us as well. RELATED: Risk of Rain 2 Console Patch Adds New Boss and Playable Character Q: Speaking of Gearbox, with their acquisition of the IP, what’s next for you two? Are you going to be involved in Gearbox’s Risk of Rain projects perhaps on a consulting basis? Drummond: I think we’ll always be interested in how it’s going with Risk of Rain. And if there’s ever a need for help, or if we want to see what’s going on, I think it’s always going to be collaborative between us and Gearbox. But mostly, we just want to make sure that the IP is in good hands and all the products are great. That’s why we’re really focusing on Risk of Rain Returns right now because it’s collaborative work between us and Gearbox. So we can help and say, “Hey, this is how we do stuff as we make a Risk of Rain game.” And that can be really valuable, as well. Morse: It made a ton of sense. We want someone to continue supporting the community for Risk of Rain stuff and creating cool stuff. And I think it didn’t really make sense to have anyone else do it other than the team that we’ve been working with for three or four years now, who gets what we’re making and takes it forward. Our biggest focus right now is making sure all this stuff that comes out is still quality, that people are happy, and that it’s fitting the vision. After that, Duncan and I can make something new. Q: What are you most excited for players to experience with Risk of Rain Returns? Drummond: I think I’m pretty excited for people who played Risk of Rain 2 to play Risk of Rain Returns, mostly because I know Risk of Rain 1 hasn’t aged the most gracefully, but there are a lot of elements in that game that I think are timeless. Things like the soundtrack and some of the art choices. So I’m excited for people who really liked Risk of Rain 2 but didn’t want to play Risk of Rain 1 because it was too old to give a newer version of the game a shot. Morse: I think we always assumed when we launched Risk of Rain 2 that all of our players were going to come from Risk of Rain 1, and they were going to be like, “Oh, this is so great.” But I don’t know, I think a very small percentage of Risk of Rain 2 players have actually played Risk of Rain 1. So I think it’s going to be cool, like Duncan said, for them to go back and see how this is where it started. And we’re not like, watching a stream of it and nervous that it’s going to hard crash. It just feels more stable. So I think we’ll be excited to show it off. risk-returns-6 Q: Any final thoughts before we wrap up? Morse: The team is super excited to get it out there and to get people playing and get feedback. That’ll be a very exciting day for them. We’re just trying to make things good. Getting polished, getting ready. Risk of Rain Returns is in development and is set to release in 2023 on Nintendo Switch and PC. MORE: Homeworld 3’s Roguelike Mode Is Inspired by Risk of Rain 2

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