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Multiplayer Mario on acid: The making of ReRunners

How Klang Games brought the MMO-platformer to life
Multiplayer Mario on acid: The making of ReRunners
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Back in 2013, three developers decided to bring together their experience in online multiplayer games to create a massive, online, multiplayer platforming-racer game.

Three years later, and following investment from London Venture Partners and a publishing deal with Tilting Point, Klang Games has brought its dream to life as ReRunners.

To find out more about the game's development, we spoke to Ívar Emilsson, co-founder of Klang Games, about the initial idea, the core design, and how the company pitched such a strange concept to investors. What was the initial inspiration behind ReRunners?

Ívar Emilsson: We wanted to make a game that offered an MMO experience accessible anywhere, but was suitable for the average gamer.

Collectively, the team has vast experience working on massive multiplayers; we understand the rewarding experience they bring, but also how intense they can be, which puts some players off.

The idea behind ReRunners is to help bridge this gap.

How hard was it making the initial pitch of a multiplayer racing-platformer game to investors?

Well, we pitched our vision for Klang as a whole, rather than just ReRunners per se. We hope that our passion was what "sold" us.

But, it's all about how well you connect with an investor, and whether you share the same vision.

ReRunners is certainly a taste of what we offer; but, overall, our dreams reach much further; this is something we feel our investors believe in.

ReRunners allows us to grow and work as a team, refining our working process and team spirit.

What was the draw of making a game in pixel art, and how much iteration did the style go through before you settled on the final version?

The beauty of pixel art is that it's recognisable and timeless; it has a sense of nostalgia with it too.

“The beauty of pixel art is that it's recognisable and timeless; it has a sense of nostalgia with it too.”
Ívar Emilsson

It was always the intention to create a game in pixel art, but with deep detailing and a modern twist; it was a conscious choice.

The Mario and Sonic games were also inspirations for the art direction, as you can probably tell!

How long did development take, and how many people worked on the game?

Well, the idea for ReRunners came to us about three years ago; we've been in full-ReRunners mode for about two years now.

The game has gone through a bunch of iterations, especially during soft launch, once we started receiving real player data, rather than just following our noses.

The core Klang Gang is a team of eight, but we've also had a bunch of interns come through, who've helped us out a lot.

Did you use any notable tools or technologies?

The game was created purely in Unity3D, founded by fellow Icelander David Helgason. Maybe that's subconsciously why we decided on Unity.

Since the game is multiplayer, we, of course, need game servers.


We picked Go as the programming language, and we've been extremely happy with that choice. Its opinionated approach on functionality helps keep the codebase nice and tidy.

Performance wise, it works perfectly for what we're after in ReRunners.

“In an ideal world, we'd have no F2P mechanics.”
Ívar Emilsson

Oh....and beer. Lots of German beer.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome during development?

Getting the right balance for an F2P game has been a challenge.

In an ideal world, we'd have no F2P mechanics - in fact, that's how we looked at it at first. But, in order for us to stay alive, we needed to implement monetization.

It's a tough thing to get right; we're still improving and perfecting this "elephant in the room".

What did you learn from soft launch?

The game's soft launch went from retention building, to FTUE optimizations, then monetization.

So, we kind of learnt nearly everything there was to learn during this period. We dramatically reworked the FTUE, and the whole user experience.

Before we implemented a dashboard (which acts as a menu), we found that people were getting lost in the Overworld, unsure of where to go, or what to do.

“IAPs and general F2P mechanics put you as a developer in a catch 22 position.”
Ívar Emilsson

So, we created the dashboard, improved the map, added a bunch of UIs to make it easier to get straight into the action with a couple of button presses.

At what stage in development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?

Once we added the dashboard, and worked the game's usability, we felt like we had something very special between our thumbs.

ReRunners uses both IAP and rewarded video ads. How did you decide on this monetisation strategy, and how has it been received so far?

In general, IAPs and general F2P mechanics put you as a developer in a catch 22 position. But overall, we've had a positive reception!

All ads in-game are based around incentives, say to double rewards or receive in-game currency, rather than forcing the player to watch an ad.

The player doesn't have to purchase anything or watch an ad if they don't want to. But, it depends on how deep they want their ReRunners experience to be.

How happy are you with the game's worldwide launch so far?

It's been overwhelming! We've had such a great response, and the feedback has been amazing.

Of course, we've had a few hitches; nothing runs smoothly. But, these hitches help to improve the game.

What plans do you have for updates to ReRunners?

We have so many ideas. Too many, if anything. The next biggest feature will be 1 vs. 1 Challenges against your in-game friends, as well as your real-life and Facebook friends; this should be out in the near future.

We're also workings on teams, and team-based racing missions, challenges  and tournaments.

In our roadmap, we also have new levels, character heads and clothing, solo quests, and game modes. Soon, we'll be making our roadmap live so everyone can see what we're working on.

Beyond ReRunners, what does the future hold for Klang Games?

Hopefully, we'll be expanding the team, so the rest of us can take a vacation.

We also have plans for a second game, but that's all top secret at the moment.