Kickin’ it with Spark Plug Games – Mechrunner

by Antonio Garcia

Today we have a double-sized interview for you with Spark Plug Games and Josn Nizzi to talk about Mechrunner.

4cr: Time to get started with this Kickin’ it with. Can everyone introduce themselves for our audience?

Ben Lichius

Ben: I’m Ben Lichius. I’m the VP and Art Director at Spark Plug Games.


John: I’m John O’Neill, President of Spark Plug Games and lead engineer on MechRunner.

4cr: You have a Kickstarter to secure funds to finish Mechrunner. It’s an “endless runner” type game, with a bigger focus on action than most of the other games in the genre. What more do we need to know about Mechrunner?

Ben: Well, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that the action in the game involves 40ft mechs with swords! Also, we really tried to make the action and experience of piloting the XP-41 (the player’s mech) as cinematic as possible. We want it to be fun to play and just look and feel really cool – just like piloting a giant robot should.

At its heart though, MechRunner is an arcade game. The core mechanics reflect that, but we’ve tried to mix it up a bit too. Between dodging dynamic obstacles, slicing up enemies, rescuing civilians, upgrading and using weapons like missiles, cannons, swords, and guns, and battling a variety of bosses, we hope there’s enough for gamers to enjoy. The levels are also procedurally generated so you will never play the same course twice.

4cr: Why did you decide to turn to Kickstarter for the $25,000 in funds to complete Mechrunner?

Ben: We are very close to completion, but we know we need some help to push the game across the finish line in the way that we feel the game deserves – and we feel like Kickstarter is the perfect place to do that while engaging gamers, and mech fans at the same time. We hoping to raise funds for things like voice over work and polish, but we’re also hoping to get feedback from everyone that will, hopefully, be playing our games.

John: This really was what we felt that Kickstarter was designed to do — help enable those passionate indie projects get the little bump they need to get over the finish line, and to involve the community in the creation of a great game.

Mechrunner 2

4cr: The game is set for a release on Steam, Playstation 4, and Playstation Vita once it makes it to its main goal. Since you’re developing the game on Unity, have you considered releasing it on Wii U and/or XBO as well?

John: Absolutely, and that’s definitely one of the strong selling points of using an established engine like Unity. We can get the game up and running on many platforms, and for us the desire is to build and support the game for each platform and to take advantage of a specific set of features. We don’t just want to port it over, we want to make sure each platform is done right, so that takes time and focus on each platform. It’s what Kickstarter will help us do, hint, hint.

4cr: Are you planning any extra goals in case the campaign goes over the main $25,000 goal?

Ben: We have things like new weapons, new mechs, new levels, and new enemies as stretch goals right now. We’re excited about the idea of adding more content to the game. There’s lots more to the world of MechRunner and we hope we get the chance to build on what we’ve done so far.

4cr: Are the rewards only of the digital variety or have you considered any physical rewards? If so, what can we expect?

Yes, there are physical rewards available now. We have t-shirts and 11×17 prints, signed by the master himself, Josh Nizzi. We’re also extremely excited to be working with Ownage, the 3D printing company, to produce both a 3” bust of the XP-41 and a full 6” figure kit. They’re going to look amazing!

Mechrunner Boss

4cr: Care to tell us a bit more about the boss battles in Mechrunner?

Ben: What’s an arcade game without boss battles? Each district that you visit in the game has its own unique boss enemy. All of our bosses mix up the style of play from what we’ve been doing to that point. It’s nothing completely new, but we do it in a way that takes the core game mechanics and adds a twist to it. For instance, the first boss is an armored train. All other enemies in the game you stop to fight, but the train is a (pretty intense) chase sequence.

The other notable thing about the bosses is that you get to decide when to face them. As you play, there are branching paths that lead to new districts and bosses and it’s up to the player to take them. If you don’t feel like you’re up to it, or you want to try and get a specific power up before facing a boss, you can continue on your current path and the entrance to the boss section will reappear again later. So bosses aren’t a requirement. They’re there to add variety and an extra challenge for players who want to test their skills.

4cr: Thank you for your time. Do you want to add anything else before we go?

Ben: Check out the Kicstarter, but be sure to check out the website too for lots of cool information about the game. We’re excited to finally be telling everyone about it!

John: Thanks for the opportunity! We love these types of games and we’re really proud of what we have accomplished this far in MechRunner. Help us get over that little final hurdle!


And now, it’s time to talk with Josh Nizzi.

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4cr: Hi Josh! Welcome to Kickin’ it with. Can you give our readers an idea of who you are and what you’ve worked on before?

I’d call myself and Entertainment Designer. I’ve worked in films as a Concept Illustrator for about 7 years on movies like Transformers 2-4, Avengers 1-2, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2. I have around 14 years’ experience working in games like Red Faction 1-2, The Punisher, Mech Assault 2, Fracture and some unannounced stuff for Epic Games.. (Dang reading this makes me feel old.)

4cr: You’re working together with Spark Plug Games on Mechrunner. What exactly are you in charge of for this particular game?

I’m in charge of picking the bugs out of John’s beard and also some art stuff. I mostly do concept art and game models. But with such a small team we all wear a lot of hats so I fill in where I can.

Iron Man 3

4cr: How does the process change for working on a game like Mechrunner compared to your process for the work you’ve done on Transformers, Iron Man or The Avengers?

From a concept art point of view it’s not very different from working on a film. It’s still about conveying an idea or design before time and money is spent putting it into production. On MechRunner I can be a bit more loose, at least on the concepts where I’m doing the game models.

4cr: How much of your work will end up in the digital art book that is being offered as a reward?

Everything that isn’t horrible will be in there. I think we have a lot of cool stuff to show. I love that we have an interesting world where all this stuff comes from, but at the same time we don’t take it too seriously.

Mechrunner 1

4cr: Where can people check out some of your work or contact you for a project?

They can visit my website. In the coming months I’ll be able to put up some cool stuff from films I worked on coming out this summer.

4cr: Thanks for doing this interview. Is there anything else you want to mention?
This has been a fun project to be a part of. John and Ben are good guys to work with. Hopefully the fun we’ve had making this game translates to players having fun as well. If it doesn’t, blame John and Ben.

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