Colt Canyon Interview: Talking Game Development with Retrific Game Studio

Colt Canyon

I sort of fell in love with this addictive little roguelike called Colt Canyon, which is the work of Retrific Game Studio. Retrific is a single-person studio based in Germany, and the public face of the game developer Jonathan Mannshoven.

I emailed Mannshoven to chat about Colt Canyon for a bit, and he was gracious enough to answer my questions. I’m posting the full interview in its entirety (edited ever-so-slightly for flow).

Colt Canyon is a roguelike set in the Wild West. This ends up being a really great pairing of two things we don’t see together often. What are the influences and inspirations for Colt Canyon?

The original prototype that Colt Canyon is based on was developed for game design class at the Cologne Game Lab, back when I was still studying Digital Games. My task was to develop a game based on two keywords: Help and Cowboy. My solution was a game very similar to what Colt Canyon came to be, just much more simple. My decision to make it a roguelike comes from my personal passion for roguelikes, which is fueled by games like Nuclear Throne.

When it comes to inspiration, during the development of Colt Canyon I remember a bunch of stuff that influenced me, especially modern westerns like Django Unchained, but also various games like Hotline Miami or Hunt: Showdown, and all kinds of other stuff that I saw in my Twitter timeline.

What are some of your favorite video games? These don’t have to be the ones that influenced you, just the ones you really love.

I love all kinds of games. This question is a very difficult to answer, and the answer I would give you know might be totally different from what I would tell you in a couple of weeks or even days.

Overall, I am a big sandbox fan and don’t like sitting through endless cutscenes. I love games where you can just do your own thing, experience your own adventure, and explore the game’s mechanics. So of course one of my all-time favorites is Minecraft, even though I haven’t played in a long time. At the moment I like to play RimWorld and Factorio. But I also love to play with friends, even competitive shooters like Counter-Strike.

Colt Canyon

Just two of the (many) details that make Colt Canyon feel so endlessly replayable are stealth kills and the ability to squeeze through fences. Stealth kills is an enormous feature and squeezing through fences is a tiny one, but both of them “feel” really satisfying. There’s just a little bit of resistance when you squeeze through a fence, and the stealth mechanic seems to have just a tiny amount of “lock-on” to it. Can you tell me about the process of refining these features until they feel so good to play?

Do you know the phrase: “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature?” Well, the squeezing through fences was such a feature. It was a bug at first, but quickly became a refined feature when it turned out to be fun and helpful.

I am always trying to get all parts of the gameplay to feel satisfying, and often it takes several iterations before a feature is satisfying enough. For some elements this is easier than for others.

Of course, it’s not easy to describe how to achieve such a thing. It’s something you need to get a feeling for.

The game also plays really, really fast. Movement is quick and light, and the game sort of bursts into these unexpected moments of chaos frequently. Did it take a lot of time to balance the gameplay speed, or was that just something that emerged naturally?

It’s something that depends a lot on the player. The thing with Colt Canyon is that some players tend to play very safe and slow and other like to rush in guns blazing. It was not easy to balance the gameplay in that regard without restricting the players too much. 

Colt Canyon

Another thing I adore about this game is the soundtrack. What was the process for choosing the game’s music, and how active were you in creating it?

The music was created my Luigi-Maria Rapisarda. I only gave general directions for the music and let him mostly do his thing, but I did ask him to make it somewhat modern and inspired by classic western movies.

Are there any features you had to cut for the sake of time, budget, or scope?

Of course! A lot of features I would’ve loved to see in the game needed to be cut, for all kinds of reasons. But some of them, like the customizable run, made it to the game post release.

However, I also added a lot of other features that were not planned originally. For example, the detailed companion system was something that just emerged over time during development.

Colt Canyon

One feature that I didn’t even notice until I was several hours deep is the fact that you can pick the gender of both your starting character and your character’s partner. This probably wasn’t a hugely difficult thing to pull off from a technical standpoint, but I’m sure a lot of people really appreciate the freedom of choice here. What influenced this decision, and what has the feedback about it been like?

I think most players have not noticed this feature, so I did not get a lot of feedback about that. It’s just a small detail that I wanted to add simply because I could and because I understand that not every player wants to play as “generic cowboy dude that rescues generic damsel in distress.”

Colt Canyon has a pretty robust cast of characters. Is there any one character you’d say is your favorite, or do you love them all the same?

I love them all the same.

Do you have any advice for someone just getting into Colt Canyon? What should a new player be aware of?

Don’t rush, use the dodge roll to your advantage, and remember that you don’t have to kill everything that is moving.

Also, this question is maybe kind of random, but is there a way to use console commands or to play seeded runs in the console version of the game? In the PC version, you can press F1 to bring up the commands menu, but I’ve not been able to find this menu anywhere on the PS4.

The console is PC-exclusive, but the run settings exist on console as well, and that’s also where you can specify a seed. You can find it in the character selection screen (the gears symbol). However, a seed that works on PC might not result in the same run on a different platform.

Colt Canyon

The roguelike genre is more than 40 years old at this point, yet it’s still wildly popular. What do you think it is about the genre that gives it so much staying power?

The challenge and replayability in roguelike games is something that tickles the right kind of person in a way that will make them always come back for just another quick round. But of course the main reason for it staying so popular is the ever-growing catalogue of games that use roguelike elements but give them their own twist. This way, everyone will find that one roguelike game that they enjoy, and just like that, a new roguelike fan emerges.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions today! I definitely look forward to playing more Colt Canyon, as well as whatever you end up making next.

Thank you for this interview and your interest in Colt Canyon.

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