Sprite design featurette

We wanted to share another featurette on how a game like this gets made. Today, Bannon Rudis will show you his creative process for designing the many fighting moves for the game, including the one pictured below for Paul, the pugnatious boxer. Enjoy!

Here’s the final result!

A small studio is living big dreams with River City Ransom: Underground

We asked local writing whiz Chelsea Edgell to write something about our ‘origin story, since we know it is a little incredible. Enjoy! —CC

Many in the industry fantasize about making a follow-up to their favourite childhood game. The challenge is finding like-minded talent, and transforming that dream into a reality worthy of inheriting the throne.

Though they had never met and their lives had little in common, Daniel Crenna and Bannon Rudis shared more than their enthusiasm for River City Ransom (or Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari), a much-loved beat ‘em up released in 1989—they also shared the desire to see a follow-up game, and the professional chops to make it happen.

What they both lacked was a team.

Crenna had spent much of his childhood designing concept art and game pitches with his brother Dustin, mailing them to game companies in hopes the property owners would take interest. In this respect, the brothers were not unlike many who would go on to work in the games industry as adults.

Fast forward a few decades; Dustin Crenna is now a veteran composer and sound designer with credits in the Halo, Bioshock, and Battlefield franchises. Daniel Crenna has 28 years of programming experience, having produced open source software with millions of downloads. So when Daniel secured the rights to the recently-lapsed River City Ransom trademark partly on a whim, the stage was set.

Meanwhile, Bannon Rudis had quietly been working towards much the same dream. A talented artist with unbridled enthusiasm for old-school games, Rudis had designed sprites and other art for an imagined sequel to River City Ransom—and was looking for a developer to help make it happen.

Crenna stumbled upon Rudis and his work while searching for an image to use as a Twitter background, of all unlikely things. While Rudis had made inroads with other developers, none could match Crenna’s resources or dedication. He was serious about putting the trademark to good use and serious about making a follow-up worthy of the name, rather than a simple homage or creative tribute.

At this point, the newly-formed alliance had to confront its most daunting hurdle yet: licensing.

Securing the trademark was hardly sufficient, as Million—founded by former employees of Technōs Japan—owned the rights needed to make a legitimate, licensed follow-up to River City Ransom.

While well-versed in software and game development, the team was tackling this sort of challenge for the first time. Spurred on by passion and bolstered by the work they’d already done, the team embarked on the process of learning to navigate the murky waters of international business etiquette and putting together a successful pitch.

Although emotionally prepared for rejection, they emerged with a license, a blessing from the original developers… and a suddenly looming deadline. Retaining the trademark and license entails shipping within a time frame, in addition to an obligation of loyalty to the original game.  

As Crenna wrote in a discussion about balancing indie finances and creative freedoms with working on a licensed title: “we do have free roam, the ability to craft a game as we see it, but naturally, as a licensor, we do have obligations to stay true to the spirit and to the point of our predecessor.”

Yet honoring license requirements is hardly the only duty hanging over River City Ransom: Underground. The original NES cult-classic has many enthusiastic fans—fans eager to be impressed and vociferously averse to disappointment. The team is investing a great deal of personal time, money and effort, but unsurprisingly there are those who remain skeptical.  

Dedicated fans have reacted in two ways: “Awesome!” and “Please don’t screw this up.”

As news of the game slowly percolates through online communities, pressure mounts. The game must balance the expectation of loyalty to the original with the need to live up to the standards of a modern industry; thus the necessity that River City Ransom: Underground be stylistically old-school, but nonetheless innovative in its approach to storytelling and gameplay.

Fan support can help this lofty dream come to fruition. With a Kickstarter campaign underway now until October 9th, the opportunity to get involved directly is here.

After all, the support of fans old and new alike will be critical in making the game as good as it can possibly be. But in addition to backers, it also takes an all-star team.

To ensure that River City Ransom: Underground lives up to expectations, the team has added top-notch talent.

Even with their ambition and proven ability to roll with the punches, Bannon Rudis, Daniel Crenna and Dustin Crenna aren’t doing it alone. With Daniel’s leadership sliding him into the role of accidental producer, additional development talent was obviously needed. Mark De Verno is the team’s resident math nerd and gameplay developer, bringing his skills to the already well-qualified table.

To keep a connection to the source material, and for assistance with story and aesthetics, Conatus tapped beat’em up legend Yoshihisa Kishimoto, the grandfather of the Kunio-kun franchise and director of Double Dragon, for this project. 

And to ensure that River City Ransom: Underground is as fun to listen to as it is play, the team has also enlisted the talent of 8 bit chiptune king Rich Vreeland—news which should please fans of FEZ, Shoot Many Robots and Cat Astro Phi.

For the team behind River City Ransom: Underground, making the game is both a dream come true and a ton of work.

Daniel Crenna acknowledges that story of a small indie studio snagging the license to live a big childhood ambition can seem a bit incredible to some, but this only fuels his motivation. His experience in the software development business and his growing interest in the challenges of game production give Daniel confidence that the time is ripe for River City Ransom: Underground.

“Game development has always been my final destination, as far as career,” he says. “So we’re making it happen.”

River City Ransom: Underground is scheduled for release in Summer 2014 if successful on Kickstarter. For more information, tune in to the Kickstarter at http://kck.st/1e9tgOq, visit rivercityransom.com, and follow River City Ransom on Twitter.

We’re right down the middle! http://kck.st/1e9tgOq

Achievement Unlocked: Yoshihisa Kishimoto

From Day One we’ve understood the challenges of creating a sequel to a game with a loyal following, especially when we were not alumni members of the original’s creative staff. We knew we’d need help if we were to recapture the spirit of River City Ransom on this project.


We are happy to report that Yoshihisa Kishimoto has agreed to join this effort as a creative consultant, advising us on art direction, the storyline, and the intangible elements that make a Kunio-kun game what it is.

If you don’t know who Yoshihisa Kishimoto is, start here. Yoshihisa is the original creator of Kunio-kun, and his classic Renegade and Double Dragon games have helped define the beat’em up genre. Most recently, he was story supervisor on Hot Blooded Tough Guy Kunio: Fighting Concerto in Japan. 


To celebrate, we’re opening up a new reward tier, DRAGON TWINS, which unlocks player skins for Kunio and Riki you can use in place of Alex and Ryan. We had a tremendous last week, and hope you’ll help spread the word about our project!


More Great News

We listened to your feedback about in-game credits. The team huddled and came up with a solution. The founder’s wall, as we’ve called it, will no longer just be a list of names on our web site; it will also live in the game itself! The original in-game credit reward will remain as an entry in the game’s credit screen, but everyone whose reward includes the founder’s wall will be able to find their name in a special attraction in River City itself.

Due to popular demand, we’ve opened a few more slots of SOUL PROPRIETOR.

Dustin Crenna speaks sound design on River City Ransom: Underground

I wanted to give the backers a look behind the scenes at a brief ‘making of’ video for the sound effects design of River City Ransom Underground.  I know I’m a fan of these types of videos and I thought maybe someone else out there would appreciate them as well.

River City Ransom is a game we all know and love, that much goes without saying (even though I just said it…or typed it…whatever). It’s already been stated that we want to stay as true to the original as possible, yet also bring something new to the table.  For me, that was the greatest challenge.  How do I attempt to do something a little different, and yet stay ‘true to the original’?  I suppose I could have stayed with the NES-style sounds that were awesome in RCR1, and that would have been enough, but that wouldn’t fit within the team goals of River City Ransom: Underground.  We are trying to make everything a little bigger this time around.  At the same time, I couldn’t stray too far from what made the first game such a hit, or this sequel would lose the overall feel the original had.  My solution is in the video below:

Another reason I wanted to share this video with you is because I believe we should help each other as indie game developers. We should give the public a first-hand look at what goes into making a video game, and we should share our tips, tricks, and knowledge with other game designers to help out with their own projects.  It seems a lot of indie game companies do retro throwback games for their projects, and often times need that good ol’ 8-bit sound to accompany their creations.  Some people might not even know the first thing about how to get started.  When you’re an indie game dev, you’re usually on a small team and are responsible for more than one segment of the game. Heck, you might be making the game entirely on your own and might not know the first thing about sound design - so I hope this helps.

For those looking for some free NES VSTs I mentioned in the video, everything I’ve used can be downloaded here:


You can purchase Plogue Chipsounds here:


And Reaper is here:


Have fun storming the castle! (storming the castle = creating your own NES sounds)

River City Ransom: Underground is live on Kickstarter.

The making of Ryan


We hope you are enjoying your weekend. Picking up from earlier this week, we couldn’t show you Alex without also letting you take a peek at Ryan. 


Ryan’s in-game “play card” shows he’s a crafty trickster, confident in his abilities and quite willing to show you how age has made him better than ever.


Ryan is the classic River City Ransom fighter. He has all the moves you loved, evolved to match the new game’s combat aesthetics. He features his traditional bōsōzoku attire and attitude.


Thanks to everyone for their support so far! We’ll keep this train rolling, and we’ll have some news to share next week which we’re certain you’ll love.

Some images (c) Million Co. Ltd and used under license.

Back us on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1e9tgOq

The making of Alex

First, we want to say thank you for an enthusiastic first response. We’re already 13% backed! Before we started this project, we had no idea how many people still burned a candle for River City Ransom, and it’s been great watching all the comments and posts from so many people who share our love for the game.


We also wanted to show you some concept art for our rendition of Alex (aka Kunio-kun). We’re influenced by the original North American and Japanese box art, as well as other Kunio-kun games in the franchise. Here’s the result of that exercise where we’ve tried to imagine what Alex might look like 25 years into the future.


For his in-game “playing card”, we originally went with a design for the Polygon feature that wasn’t Kunio enough for us, so we kept trying until we came up with this rendition of our favorite brawler.


When it comes to combat, Alex should retain some of his classic fighting moves, but also evolve to keep up with the many other fighting personalities in our game.


As a powerful brawler, we wanted to give Alex some crowd control ability, as you won’t fight enemies two at a time in this game. In one move, we pay homage to one of Alex’s alternate DNA strains. See if you can spot it.


Thanks for tuning in and we can’t wait to give you more news tomorrow!

Some images (c) Million Co. Ltd and used under license.

Back us on Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1e9tgOq

River City Ransom: Underground on Kickstarter

We’re happy to announce that our Kickstarter campaign is live as of 1PM EST today and in full swing! We’ll be using Kickstarter itself to post updates, but we’ll re-post the big ones here on the blog.

Take a look and if you like what you see, consider backing us to make this game a reality!

Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1e9tgOq