The team that composes independent video game studio Citérémis, recently celebrated the release of their second title, Rats: Time is Running Out! The game was made available through Steam on August 19 for Windows. Based in Quebec, Canada the creative team behind the project have been extremely excited and proud of their newest release, and the continuation of their small studio.
Players take control of RedEyes the Rat, an infamous bank thief who is hoping to get his hands on the biggest diamond he can. RedEyes must utilize a variety of special power-ups triggered by munching on rare cheese to help avoid guards, uncover secret doors, or bypass security. Whether through stealth or sheer cleverness players must grab the loot and get out before the clock counts down, and the cops move in. Citérémis’s illustrator and animator Alexandre Tapin, sat down to discuss some details about the project, and what aspects of game development have helped unify his team.
Jesse Tannous: How would you describe the difficulty curve of Rats-Time is Running Out!? Is it designed for players really familiar with the mix of stealth and puzzle solving?
Alexandre Tapin: Our ultimate goal was to simplify the game so that anyone can pick up & play the game with ease. As far as controls are concerned, the player only has to concentrate on the direction the protagonist will take. There are no other buttons to press. The real challenge lies in the player’s ability to make quick decisions in order to evade chasing guards, surpass obstacles & solve puzzles to unlock doors that ultimately lead to the vault all the while being concerned about the countdown of the clock. Even though it will take a bit of time to recognize the different power-ups scattered in the various levels, their effects & how to best utilize them, the player need only run over the items to activate them. Rats is not axed on stealth, even though you can choose to do so at the cost of time, but rather speed & problem solving.
JT: The studio’s first game was Aztaka has a very different visual and mechanical style than your most recent project, Rats-Time is Running Out! What were some of the reasons for the shift? Do you plan to keep making your games this different from each other moving forward? If so, why?
AT: Before explaining the reasons for the visual & mechanical shift from Aztaka, we must first answer the second part of the question. Citérémis’s mission, as the logo of the company reflects, has always been about exploring new horizons. We do not want to paint ourselves in a corner by creating a certain genre of game but rather, we want to follow what inspires us & build on it. Consequently, we can say with certainty that our future projects will most probably have very little resemblance.
As for Rats: Time is Running out!, it has not been a stranger to changes over the course of its development. Developing a game is largely based on trial & error. The initial design, although a necessary step, remains to be a guide which will evolve over time. At first, brainstorming revolved around a concept inspired by Faster Than Light which relies heavily on strategy & the player being pushed forward to succeed. The first prototype was more about the sounds emitted by the displacements & actions of the protagonist which would alarm the guards. Unfortunately, this mechanic simply wasn’t satisfying nor really fun. On a side note, the idea of a rat robbing banks came from a discussion about financing where, jokingly, someone mentioned that they should rob banks. As for the Rat, why not? Seemed logical enough that a rat would take on such a profession & who best to chase it…a cat!
JT: How did this team come together in the first place?
AT: The art of making a long story short…the team came together mostly out of luck & good ol`fashion networking. By November 2013, 4 years after the launch of Aztaka, the Mercier brothers, Jonathan (programmer) & Samuel (Design), whom are also the founders of Citérémis, could no longer contain themselves. The itch had become unbearable & so they decided to embark on this latest project. By mid-November, Jonathan had met Joel Montpetit (Musician / Web) during an acoustic show at St-Adrian-de-Ham & it was really at that point that the design of game started. 4 months later, which was actually the initial deadline to complete the entire game, Danny Groleau, whom was a student in one of Jonathan`s programming courses, joined the pack after the completed prototype was shown to the class. He remained onboard until PAX East 2014. Last but not least, at the very end of January, just two months before the PAX`s reveal, Jonathan met with up with me, an old colleague & friend to help out, revamp really, the art style.
JT: Why are games an important part of your lives? Why do you want to create them?
AT: Every member of this team has different tastes as far as the types of games we play but what brings us all together, as well as other developers I believe, is that at some point, there has been one game that sparked our imagination & left an everlasting impression. Without wanting to sound too corny or cliché, it is a hold that is so strong that it evolves from a curiosity of how games are built & then needing to be a part of, what seems in the beginning, a magical kingdom. It is easy to be passionate about video games because it is an art form that is interactive.
One is given the opportunity to “live” & “grow” in a multitude of roles as well as walk within creative, alluring & imaginative worlds. There is also a desire to want to give to others the same enjoyment & passion that was gifted to us. Video games are a creative outlet which knows no boundaries. By that, I mean that a game can be created with any style or design language, tell any story & can “physically” be shared with others so as to let them enter your imagination. Some of the greatest highlights while developing Rats, while we were at PAX for instance, was to see the reactions of players. Sure, it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but others smiled, laughed & screamed from being chased. It is in those moments that all the past struggles have been worthwhile & gives a great sense of accomplishment.
On a final note, if I may, I would like to thank our friends, families, the gaming community & specially our better-halves for their support & patience to let us pursue our passion.
For additional trailers and reviews of Rats: Time is Running Out! make sure to visit the official website, and Steam page.