RCR’s Big Update: Who, What, How?

The #1 downloadable PS Vita game for October just got better!

Retro City Rampage launched last month and the reception’s been amazing. It was the #1 downloadable PS Vita game for October and holds a 9.5+ customer score based on well over 1,000 ratings over the three platforms.

Still, with the high praise there was room for improvement. Striving to make the best possible game, I have spent the past month making it even better based on the feedback from you, the players.

The updates are now available on all current platforms: PC (Worldwide), PS3 and PS Vita (North America). The still to be released platforms (XBLA, WiiWare and EU PS3/Vita) will include all of these updates day one. There is no release date yet for the remaining SKUs, but all versions are complete and either well into certification or starting shortly.

As the remaining SKUs were not yet out the door at the time of launch, I made the decision to take this as an opportunity to ensure that at minimum, those still waiting for the game would get a better experience from the get-go.

The update includes faster cars, tips screens, shop icons on the map, additional tutorials, checkpoints, level balancing and more. Some missions have even been completely overhauled for the better.

The Changes: What and Why?

Strategic Missions

A core pillar of RCR throughout development was to go beyond just driving and shooting missions. One of my approaches to this was to design missions which required the player to stop and strategize. If they went in guns a-blazin’, they’d be killed and need to try again. Unfortunately, I didn’t deliver this messaging clearly enough and some people went in expecting a standard GTA-style experience throughout. I also didn’t emphasize the importance of stomping on enemies, nor jumping to dodge and avoid rockets, gunfire and vehicles running you down. Jumping, stomping and throwing are as important as any other weapon in the game, but players who went in with just fists and guns and came out feeling frustrated.

To address the strategic missions, I have added additional tutorials, re-balanced some of the gameplay and tips screens are now displayed after repeated failures. The strategic gameplay required on certain missions is not something that I’m going to change, but those who need more guidance should now have a much easier time with them. They can think of it as pulling out an old Nintendo Power! Players can also watch replays on the Leaderboards of the top players for additional tips.

Players who have mastered the game will likely notice little difference, but those who have gotten stuck will find the ride much smoother.

Checkpoints

While the average mission in RCR contained 2-3 checkpoints (which is more than most open-world games), those that did not stood out and gave some the perception that they were sparse. This was intentional, to increase the challenge and the consequence of actions. However, in cases where the player would fail and be required to replay one or two minutes of gameplay became frustration to some, and was amplified for those who went in with only a run-n-gun frame of mind as they’d hit a brick wall each time. More checkpoints have been added to ensure a more enjoyable experience for these players.

Mission Changes

Car Tailing. Yes. I call this out for being a boring task then make the players do it. However, in RCR the player needed to not just follow the car, but also find coffee kiosks without losing them for a frantic juggling act. This was an unpopular mission to some, but the car tailing was a red herring. It’s unpopular because failing towards the end meant replaying another two minutes of gameplay. To remedy this I added a checkpoint in the middle, tweaked some mission variables and most importantly added the Coffee Jitter Power which flips the game to run at 2X speed for 30 seconds, cutting the length of the mission in half yet again. Sadly, this power was actually on the todo list throughout the project but cut due to time constraints before submission.

Platforming. Yup. The mandatory Sweat Bomber levels were a frustration to many. These have now been completely overhauled. I’ve gone so far as to even add a rhythm game style tutorial bar showing which buttons to press and when after repeated failures on the first level. However, the real cause of the frustration was an oversight of mine involving jump distance. In order to make it over wide gaps, the player needed to run and jump. However, many players tried to jump from a standing position and saw the levels as impossible. This has also been addressed, and accelerating is no longer required before making long jumps. Oh, and these levels are also completely skippable now after three failures at the cost of unlockables. By completing all three levels, you’ll unlock an additional Arcade Challenge and a Free Roaming Mode playable character.

Side Quests. Fun fact! Several of the optional side missions were the very first missions developed for the game, before the final story was written. They didn’t quite fit once the game became more ambitious with more in depth missions. However, rather than cut them I decided to leave them in as optional ones. While I hoped that everyone would enjoy the overall package and see these as extras, the sad state is that some critics tug on any loose string that they find and these more mundane missions were held up high to the spotlight, some even using them to “sum up” the game. To address this, I’ve reworked them and added more depth to bring them closer to the level of the rest. Be warned though, they’re now much harder and require more skill to beat, as is the case for many of the optional missions. The purpose of most optional missions is to give the advanced players more challenge (which funny enough was cause for criticism by some, but that’s why they’re optional!).

Remember: It’s Two Games in One

Knowing well that many players just want to blow things up non-stop without any story whatsoever, I built half of RCR to cater directly to this audience. Next to the Story Mode there are also nearly 50 Arcade Challenges and a Free Roaming Mode. Players who just want to jump into the game and go crazy are covered. There’s something for everyone in this game so enjoy what speaks to you.

Conclusion

Throughout development I had a lot of people playtest the game and opened my ears like a sponge for all of the feedback that I could get. I’d rush to address it and a better game was the result. I credited this as being a key reason for the game’s awards and hot reception leading up to its launch. However, in the final couple of months before submission, the task list was overflowing. Being a one man show, I had to juggle everything from the programming, design and bug fixing to the business, production, trailer, store assets, marketing, emails, PR and most of all, certification and platform requirements. I didn’t want to let everything else on my plate prevent the game from being as complete as I wanted it to be and the story flow felt like it still had holes. Not to worry, because I knew just the missions to fill in the gaps and got everything done in the nick of time. However, having created the game and having years of practice, I underestimated my own skill playing it. Late in the project I was able to speed run it so easily that I became worried that it felt way too easy, so I made these new missions significantly more difficult. That wouldn’t have been an issue had there been time to run playtests on these missions, but there wasn’t any. I was so over worked, sleeping so little, and physically ill from the years of seven day work weeks that in the end I sometimes had to reverse-call in sick asking my testers to work from home as I couldn’t make it into the office.

The strong lesson to be learned here is that playtesting is critical for everything that goes into the game, especially at the end. You, and your testers are all masters of the game in the end and it’s difficult to judge difficulty without fresh eyes. Sounds like common sense, yes? But it’s really tough to balance things and sort out tasks when the mountain is so high it’s out of sight. That being said, the final boss is hard; deal with it. It’s the final boss! ;)

What makes this even more interesting is that throughout most of RCR’s development, people would always ask me what my favourite missions were. I honestly couldn’t answer that question because I liked them all. However, in the end I could answer that question very easily. My favourite missions were all of those last ones that I squeezed in. They were challenging and therefore fun. The engine, tools, art and audio were all done, so I could just take ideas straight out of my head and make them a reality. There were no bottlenecks in the way and the creativity could flow. So with that being said, one of my favourite missions was one of the least popular among players. You as the player were given dynamite and told to blow up 20 vehicles. To me, this was the pinnacle of my vision. Why? Because it sounded so simple, but you really, really had to think hard to strategize a plan or you’d be slaughtered. I nailed it. Too bad many players weren’t on the same page. For every reason that I enjoyed the mission, those who were playing it under a run-n-gun mindset faced nothing but frustration.

The perfect strategy has you stopping incoming traffic then timing how long you spend between dropping the dynamite and jumping out of the way, as well as figuring out which direction you need to jump to relative to where you placed the dynamite. Focusing on smaller vehicles that can be blown up with a single stick reduces the number of times you need to dodge explosions, and jumping is also critical in avoiding police trying to run you down. The mission actually popped into my head after having so much fun playing the dynamite Arcade Challenge and realizing the depth of strategy required. The problem with making a game with everything including a kitchen sink is that some players either don’t expect or don’t like certain directions that you can go in. I guess it’s just like those old NES games that switched between platforming levels and racing. I hated those racing levels at the time and just wanted more platforming.

As mentioned up top, the game’s received a month of additional tweaks and polish. More than I could list (without boring you!). If you’re playing on Steam, the good news is that you’ve already (automatically) got the latest version. For PS3 and PS Vita, click “YES” when prompted to update. For other PC versions, go back to your download page, log in and download the latest version.

About Brian Provinciano

Brian Provinciano! Founder of Vblank Entertainment, and the programmer, pixel artist, designer, producer, bizdev, (blah, blah...) behind Retro City Rampage!
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15 Responses to RCR’s Big Update: Who, What, How?

  1. AG Awesome says:

    I just wanted to say thanks again for releasing such an awesome game. You did a fantastic job and the wealth of fixes and improvements here only makes things better and shows your commitment to the game.

    Your post after the update was a little sad to read. You contributed so much of your life to the game and its disappointing to know a few shoddy reviews got to you. I take it a large portion of it was directed at IGN.com. To be honest the reviewer of your game is a complete scum bag and an embarrassment to gaming in general. The fact that he praised your game in previews only to blast it in the review shows that he was raised with no tact and probably got into gaming about a year ago. Do not let a POS like that get you down. Ign has been decimating every Vita game in the same manner because “they aren’t the same as the console version”. Ignorance at it’s finest.

    Anyway thanks again for the sweet update!

    Also, if you do another update maybe toss in a screen size adjustment for the vita version, lol.

  2. Andy H says:

    I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work on this amazing game. It was a day one download for me and I was thrilled to try it out after reading about it for so long. I really appreciate your latest update and respect the way you look at the success and criticism of this wonderful title. As for the references, for me they are icing on the already impressive cake. I do love the nods and I find myself getting most of them. I was born in ’78 and am a definite child of the 80s so seeing Ghostbusters, Saved By The Bell, Bill and Ted, etc. parodies is a hoot! I love the game. I can’t praise it enough. I admit, I spent about an hour or so trying to beat the Sweat Bomber level and racked up quite a few deaths on that one, but it was pretty sweet when I finally beat it. Keep up the great work! I hope to see more titles in the future from you after you’ve had time to rest!

  3. Benjamin McLean says:

    The problem really isn’t so much that the end boss is hard. It’s that it is bad design to present players with this totally unrelated separate game at the end in which nothing you’ve earned or learned or collected previously matters. Imagine playing through Final Fantasy 7 and then finding that the final boss is not Sephiroth and your characters high level doesn’t matter because now you’ve got to win at a Poker minigame. It’s frustrating because it’s not what the player signed up for. The final boss should bring everything you’ve learned and experienced in a title together.

  4. It’s more of a bonus segment. The final game world boss happens before that. A lot of NES games did the exact same thing.

  5. Aaron N says:

    Nice work on a great game Brian! I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve played of it so far, and I think you’ve done a very good job of balancing the difficulty level for old-school and new-school games alike. I haven’t found anything that I think is too hard so far, but then again the games that I played while growing up did not have auto-save, or unlimited lives, or anything like that. Compared to some of my favorite games of old, that I still pop in the old NES on occasion, your game is much less frustrating. While games like Contra, Super C, Battletoads, the Megaman series, Mario games, Blaster Master, Ghosts ‘N Goblins, Festers Quest, etc. are fun, they can also be frustratingly hard at times. I haven’t gotten to the last boss yet, but is it harder than the last boss on Contra: Hard Corps on the Genesis? Just when you think you’ve got it beat, it transforms into some other crazy alien intestine pile. As long as it’s a little easier than that, then I think you did ok. I love all of the old references too, I can’t believe how many of them I recognized. On a side note, I would love to see this ported to Android some day. If you’ve never checked out Robert Broglia’s emulators, he uses a common platform that he calls Imagine that seems like it would be a perfect fit, with controller support, touch screen controls if you don’t have a controller (yuck), and platform specific back-end tasks handled. Please check out his website if you get a chance. I would consider your game great even if it was developed by a large team of developers, so it think it’s even more amazing that you created this great game on your own. To all the haters that are giving crappy reviews, maybe they should try playing through the games that I listed above first to get some perspective, and then come back and try your game again!

  6. Brian says:

    I had a blast and beat the game twice already, once before the update and once after. I didn’t have a lot of problem with the difficulty either time- I died a lot on my first run, but I don’t get frustrated with that kind of thing that easily. Thanks for making this game. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainly enjoyed it.

    I might have to play through using a different screen setting, haha. Maybe the black & white Game Boy one. Especially since my save file got messed up (I installed the update on my Vita while my game was frozen in the middle of connecting to PSN) and locked me at a low percentage on the leaderboard.

  7. Awesome! I thought something was different when I played this morning…

    How does this affect our rankings leaderboards for the challenges?

  8. Robinmon says:

    therealKINDLE / ..Another review that just ttaolly ignores the sound music? I feel sorry for the sound engineers who put so much effort into making games sound fantastic.. Because lets face it.. The only they get noticed is when there’s NO Sound or music!

  9. AG Awesome says:

    your game suks like my mums arse oh & you suk as well

  10. Andy H says:

    im unfair as well just like my boyfreind AG Awesome

  11. spatuluk says:

    Why are you holding up the EU release this time? Apparently it’s passed PSN QA, and they’re waiting on you:

    “Posted on 19 December, 2012 at 3:27 pm by Fred Dutton
    The next Store update is 9th January. It shouldn’t be long now – we’re just waiting for the developer to confirm his preferred release date.”

    The delay’s gotten so stupid that I’m tempted to boycott the game. It’s offensive!

  12. Great job on the game and keep doing what you’re doing.

  13. Brian Walsh says:

    Really looking forward to trying this game out. Looks like an awesome throwback to old school gaming.

  14. alainvey says:

    I’ve had my eye on this game for around 2 years now, and I’m pleased to say now it has been release that I am not disappointed.

    My message to Brian is: you should be really proud of this; I think it does exactly what it was supposed to do, and is tremendously well-executed.

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