Ruin of the Reckless is a game that has gained a lot of buzz in certain circles. With a successful Kickstarter campaign, a number one spot on Reddit, and currently being one review away from a Very Positive overall rating on Steam, the game is very much worth the attention of players.
People who have been following Ruin of the Reckless (such as the 498 backers on Kickstarter), will recognise the top-down rogue-like fighter, which pits main character Stella or Stargrove (or both, in cooperative mode) against waves of enemies as they fight their way up a mysterious ruined tower. A brief look at the trailer shows how fast-paced and overwhelming the game may seem at first and that impression is justified. Given this is video game journalism of the year 2017, a comparison to Dark Souls is somewhat obligatory, perhaps in some reductive and somewhat inadequate statement like this:
“Ruin of the Reckless is like Mario Brothers meets Dark Souls.”
The game is not that. Ruin of Reckless is fast, kinetic, violent, bizarre, genuinely challenging, and quite funny. While the game does have that lovely pixel art forever associated with Mario Brothers, it does not give up its secrets all at once, and players should expect to die a handful of times before they get the hang of playing. Furthermore, Ruin of Reckless is far more light and jolly than Dark Souls, including enemies such as a rat/racoon hybrid called a ratcoon and a rabbit in a roman helmet called Hoplite. The game bears little resemblance to anything players have come across before and is much its own beast.
OnlySP took a moment to speak to Charles Webb about Faux-Operative Games’s origins and the various influences that fed into the studio’s first project.
Only Single Player: So, to begin with, how did Faux-Operative Games get started?
Charles Webb: “[Co-Founder] Danny [Crockenberg] and I were playing Samurai Gunn and we were super impressed with it. Around that time, we read an interview with Beau Blyth talking about how he ‘didn’t know how to program’. We eventually realised that was something of an exaggeration, but quickly set to work making a really poor conversion of Samurai Gunn into a top-down game. That game ‘eventually’ became Ruin of the Reckless, after many iterations and obviously… quite a bit of changes from the original format and implementation.”
OSP: I read that Faux-Operative Games started off making board games, before you changed to make video games. As someone who is beginning to notice how many voice actors used to play tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons as kids, I’m curious about what board game design taught you about making video games.
Webb: “Oh, that’s actually true! Yes, we made a game called Faux-Operative, which is obviously where the company name comes from. Board game design is a lot different than video game design, but there were definitely some common threads. Mostly I would say for us it was the progression system… Faux-Operative and RotR actually use similar progression systems where we focus on horizontal progression… so it was a well-honed idea by the time we got to RotR. As far as parallels between the two game design ‘schools’, I really couldn’t say much… they feel very different to me.”
OSP: The Kickstarter campaign for Ruin of the Reckless—your team’s first game—seems like a tremendous success, raising $17,656 of a $10,000 goal and was featured on something or another. Did you expect it to go so well and what do you think made your game so appealing to so many people out there?
Webb: “Well, based on what we had seen in the market, and the quality of our campaign… we certainly expected to raise that much or more, to be honest. I think a lot of that speaks to the quality of our art, and also the quality of our original Kickstarter. Maybe we should have offered it for free to anyone, rather than just to backers above a certain limit! Looking back there are many mistakes we made which probably cost us a lot of funding. I think we could have done even better given the quality of the product.”
OSP: I was wondering if you could just run everybody through what Ruin of the Reckless is about, to introduce people to your game.
Webb: “Ruin of the Reckless is a rogue-like brawler similar in tone to something like Nuclear Throne, but with a focus on horizontal progression… meaning you very rarely get ‘larger numbers’, but instead gain new abilities over time that change the options available to you. It’s really, really tough and rewarding.”
OSP: I just thought I’d ask about the inspiration behind the game, since the synopsis—that the player has to fight their way up a tower through waves and waves of enemies—seems like a very Bruce Lee kind of thing, but the fast-paced gameplay is far more, well, fast-paced rogue-like action game than anything remotely kung fu. So what was the initial idea for Ruin of the Reckless and how did it change?
Webb: “Well, as I mentioned earlier, the original game—which didn’t turn out that great—was a top down clone of Samurai Gunn. Ruin of the Reckless was originally a fun ‘side-mode’ for our Samurai Gunn clone that was framed more rogue-like. I think that’s why RotR often feels like a fighting game, since it is built on those same mechanics from the original game. We definitely love kung fu movies and bad 80s movies. There are a lot of hidden references in the game for that kind of stuff.”
OSP: The art in this game is very well-done, and even looked like it was near completed about a year ago, when you launched the Kickstarter campaign. However, one of the reasons you gave for launching the Kickstarter was to complete the art of the game. What was your inspiration for that art style and how on earth did you improve it?
Webb: “We were really lucky to work with an incredibly talented pixel artist named John Sandoval. He really set the tone of the earlier art in the game, and got it looking really nice. From there, we set out to reproduce the tone of his work with other artists. It was no small feat to find other people talented enough to follow in his footsteps. Mainly what we were doing with the Kickstarter money was just finding additional contractors that could match the style for new enemies and assets.”
OSP: One thing that struck me was that this wasn’t an easy game. At one point when I was playing (after I died like nine times and only got to the second level), the helmeted penguin, Pauliver, approached me and gave me a card that enabled easy mode, which was called “Baby Mode” in-game, which struck me as both humbling and hilarious. What was it about hard games that appealed to you enough to make Ruin of the Reckless a game like that?
Webb: “For games like this, we just feel like there is ‘no point’ if it’s not hard. For me, the worst kind of single player game is a ‘content tour.’ What I mean by that is, the game is just showing you a bunch of random stuff, and you mash away and it’s ‘fun’ because each new situation is novel. The experience is kind of like a roller-coaster. For me, that is a waste of a game. I want to be challenged, I want the game to ask ‘What will you do in this situation?’ and require a lot of careful thought and attention to properly navigate the answer to that question.”
OSP: Also, one of the things that accentuates the fast-paced nature of the game is the gloriously kinetic soundtrack which sounds like the original Mario theme on speed. Now, that soundtrack was done by a number of great musicians, from the groups LRAD, Protodome, and Slime Girls. How did you get those acts involved, and, I guess, how did they change or add to Ruin of the Reckless?
Webb: “We originally just searched ‘chiptunes’ on google and probably listened to 100+ different chiptune artists looking for people to contact. We pretty much immediately settled on Slime Girls and Protodome as our favourites of the bunch, we weren’t really interested in putting anything else in the game besides those two acts. When we contacted them, I remember stressing out for days thinking about what we would do if they refused to be in the game… since we really didn’t have a backup plan. Luckily both Pedro and Blake (the guys behind those acts) are incredibly cool and worked with us to come up with a licensing scheme that was within our budget. The guys behind LRAD, who only did one track, are actually personal friends of ours and when we heard it we just thought it fit perfectly so we asked them if we could use it.”
OSP: The humour of the game obviously sticks out along with the great writing. My favourite character was obviously the penguin in a helmet who runs the player through the tutorial and then, yes, gives them the baby. It’s also got quite extensive world-building, which differentiates it from Mario, which is the only game I can think to compare it with. It’s kind of strange that there isn’t even a writer’s credit for the game. Did you guys write that yourselves?
Webb: “Oh. [Laughs] Yeah, I didn’t think about that. We wrote everything ourselves. Mostly Danny would write stuff straight off the top of his head and then I would go in and edit it down to make more sense in the world and fix grammatical/spelling errors. Pauliver was an early design we always wanted to put in. He’s actually based on a stuffed animal that my girlfriend keeps in our bed. We originally wanted him to have a much greater role in the full game… and I still have a lot of plans for Pauliver if we ever get the chance to elaborate on his story. That is a character with a very rich, in-depth backstory within the Faux-Operative Games universe.”
OSP: Ruin of the Reckless is very notably a cooperative game, with players having the option to have a second player join in to perhaps make things less chaotic. Writing for a website called Only Single Player, I’m just wondering what makes Ruin of the Reckless a great single player game, given that it’s a cooperative game?
Webb: “Honestly, RotR definitely has a single player focus on the way the content is designed. Single player RotR is an experience like no other game… we wanted to have the resource management elements of Resident Evil, the action elements of Nuclear Throne, and even some of the strategical elements of traditional rogue-likes such as Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. It’s a really dynamic, ever-changing, and complex experience with a lot of emergent depth as you find new combinations of items and abilities. To me that is the essence of a fun single player game, something that gives more as you [go].”
OSP: The game has been out a month and I just thought I’d ask how has it been just letting go of your baby and letting everybody play it? How’s the response been?
Webb: “The response has been pretty positive. We are exactly one review off of a ‘very positive’ rating on Steam, which means that 90% of reviews are positive. So within our community, the world of press, etc, etc, the game has been really well received. We also got to #1 spot on Reddit and sat there for about 11 hours so we must be doing something right! Obviously, more sales would always be good though!”
OSP: Well, obviously, you’re still reeling after having completed the game, but I was wondering what’s next for Faux-Operative Games? Any plans that you can talk about publicly?
Webb: “We do have some plans right now, although we’re not sure what exactly we want to do. We may revisit the old Faux-Operative board game and see if we can handle the logistics of production now, and we have a few new video game ideas in the works. Right now, we have nothing to announce, but there is even a possibility of another Kickstarter sometime in the relatively near future. Keep your fingers crossed for us!”
OSP: And finally, thanks so much for your time and best of luck with your future games!
Ruin of the Reckless is available now on Steam, Humble Bundle, GOG.com, and Itch.io. For more information, check out the official website for the game and be sure to follow OnlySP on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for all the latest in single player news.