Running With Scissors is a studio that has secured their place in history. Launching Postal back in the mid-90s, they quickly built a reputation for pushing the envelope on what is tasteful in video games. Bursting onto the scene with a game that had everyone talking, the studio has subsequently released four titles in the Postal universe, with the most recent one only just breaking out of the early access designation.
With a movie, comic, and even more titles in the pipeline, Postal and Running With Scissors are not going anywhere. They are constantly looking for new ways to release games, push the limits on what is tasteful, and build experiences no one else dares.
Sitting down at PAX East 2022, CGMagazine had the pleasure of catching up with the studio talking to both Chief Officer and founder Vince Desi and Mike J Chief Bidet Officer at Running With Scissors. Discussing the studio, their history, and what is next for the Postal franchise, the Running With Scissors team give a clear take on what makes them and their studio special, and why they have built the worldwide fanbase they have. While they may not be to everyone’s liking, they are a studio that believes in the games they release and supports their community in any way they can.
CGMagazine: How has Running With Scissors changed over the years?
Mike J: So, this year is actually our 26th anniversary and our 25th anniversary of the first Postal. Postal came out in 1997, and Postal 2 came out in 2003. I started the company in 2001. The abortion that is Postal 3 came out in 2011, and then we released an add-on for Postal 2 in 2016 called Paradise Lost.
We made that because we had gotten the games on Steam in 2012, we sold a ton of copies and we wanted to give these guys new content. We made a complete total conversion of the game, full add-on called Paradise Lost, then we remade the first Postal, which is called Postal Redux. It’s now out for PC, Mac, and Linux. Dreamcast has a version of what kind? I don’t know.
Vince Desi: A specialty publisher approached us. It’s a hardcore cast of audience.
Mike J: Yeah, and then our first console game was Postal Redux. It came out for Switch first and PlayStation second. No Microsoft yet. They’re not approving it, despite the fact that Nintendo has. And then 2 and a half years ago, we released Postal 4 on Early Access on Steam, then two and a half days ago we released Postal 4 out of Early Access.
CGMagazine: Running With Scissors has a reputation, how do you think that has changed in recent years?
Mike J: So, it depends on who you talk to. I’d say if you’re talking to the mainstream gaming press, it’s probably gotten worse, and I don’t think it’s anything in particular other than it’s sort of built into their DNA to dislike us.
I’m not saying we make amazing products, but they give us zero credit, giving us mostly just hate and hit pieces. Which is fine, I’m okay with it. We sort of live in the muck, and we trademarked the worst game ever. You know, we got a 0 out of 10 on Postal 2 from a computer gaming world. And most recently we got a 2/10 from IGN and a 1/10 from GameSpot for Postal 4.
So does our game need work? Hell yeah, it needs work. We’re an indie team making an open-world game, which is maybe the stupidest thing you can do. And I’m not saying that in jest, it is funny, but it is a stupid idea, we are not known for our smart ideas. Postal 4 is a labour of love by a bunch of fans that are making a game that’s way over our own heads, and it does have a lot of problems, but they will be fixed.
I mean, we’re known for working on our games forever. We’ve got a patch coming out for Postal 2 real soon. So, 19 plus years, it was literally just the 19th anniversary of Postal 2 coming out a couple weeks ago. So, you can be sure that there will be Postal 4 updates in perpetuity.
CGMagazine: Just jumping back to the first Postal and Postal 2, those were a very big change in the game design, top-down artistic style to a 3D shooter. Why that move?
Vince Desi: Prior to the original Postal, we were making mostly kid’s games, which was called back then Edutainment. I did a lot of games for Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Sesame Street, and we had our own internal engine back then. Then Doom came in, and it introduced a whole new first-person perspective. At that time, we didn’t have a first-person engine ourselves that was internal.
So, when we decided to basically create our own IP, we wanted to get away from the kid’s games, I created the new label, Running With Scissors. We still have the old company, which was called RSP, and what we did was we had core people from that company working on the new Postal design. We had other people at the old company that were making things like Free Willy and EA kids. So, we were using that money to self-fund the original Postal.
In our office, we had an arcade machine for just breaking loose, and it was the old Robotron. If you’re familiar with that game. It’s a top-down wild shooter. And so, we wanted to make a game that, as I call it, easy to play, hard to master, just shoot, shoot, shoot. No drama, no storyline, nothing too crazy. Then we got the idea artistically in Postal one, the levels are all hand-painted. Very unique. I don’t even know another game that’s done that to this day. It was extremely tedious, but again, a labour of love. So, one was different, 2 was what was easier for us to transition to.
I know Postal one has a reputation for being a very dark game and scary, but I never felt it that way, I felt it was comical. One day somebody came into my office and said, well we could have so many sprites on the screen moving at the same time or whatever, and I said, “Well what does that mean in terms of having characters?” They said, “I don’t know, maybe we could get six, maybe a dozen.” So right away I said, “Well look, in that case, we need to create some kind of group scene that we could slaughter”, and I thought of the marching band. I don’t know why I thought that. So, setting the marching band on fire became a real Hallmark scene of Postal one.
By the time we started working on Postal 2, obviously first-person shooters were much more popular, and we just thought it’d be a good game in that format, so let’s do it. As Postal 2 design was evolving, the idea was what could we do to make it even funnier and more stupid. Cat Silencer, raining cats, we brought in Gary Coleman, the famous TV child star. I know this sounds funny, but that’s really the evolutionary process at Running With Scissors. We have original designs, we get into it, and one thing leads to another.
One of the advantages of being a smaller team that’s self-funded is that we decide what we want to do. In making the game, I always want it to be fun. I always tell everybody on the team, if you have an idea, we’re open. Ideally, your idea is going to contribute to the fun factor. Postal is one of those rare games that Mike can be playing right now, and we’re watching, we’re going to laugh.
CGMagazine: You have managed to make a Postal movie, had expansions, and released a few games in the series now, how has the fan base evolved over the years?
Vince Desi: So, we’ve sold probably in total, 10 million units of Postal games. The fan base is strong in the United States, in the UK, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, and Germany.
Mike J: We’re banned, but it’s big there.
Vince Desi: It’s still a big market. We’re now in the 25th year of the brand, that’s very interesting. There’s an indie film company that’s making a documentary about the company and the brand. We are coming out this year with our first spin-off, not a sequel, with a company called Hyperstrange, it’s called Postal Brain Damaged. It’s a boomer shooter, it’s retro, it’s very cool looking, it’s very slick, it’s that style of game. And we are really happy and excited. It’s came out in June. We also have a comic, a vinyl, and a board game.
We are blessed, and I always say this, and I mean it, our fans are passionate Postal players, they really are. I mean, people live and breathe it. I think a big part of that is that we personally are involved with the fans. We answer email, I answer social media, people call me, my number is public, and we’re gamers that are fans that have developed this. And we don’t have jobs, you know, that whole idea of if you could work at something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. We’re fortunate, we’re blessed.
Now obviously we can make a handheld puzzle game and make a hell of a lot more money, but we do what we do. It’s a lot of fun. So, in that sense, it’s an opportunity to do what we do. And it’s crazy because when we say we’re independent, we don’t have a publisher funding us with 50 million dollars. We’re dealing with 30, 40 people and multiple mortgages, loans, and credit cards. We funded the game. Not to say I wouldn’t take $10 million, but the problem is the moment you do that, we are subject to a producer or editor. And I got to tell you with all due respect to those folks, you lose the creativity in the game. It’s just not going to happen.
CGMagazine: What’s next for Postal?
Vince Desi: All the fixes. Lots of deals.
Mike J: We’ve got to fix Postal 4. We left Early Access because we had to, we didn’t leave Early Access because the game was done.
Vince Desi: You don’t want to be in Early Access for long.
Mike J: We’re very public about it, you can take some heat for it, people expect a finished game, but it’s not done, and we’re going to keep working on it. Brain Damage is coming soon and there’s a lot of stuff that could potentially be in the pipe, Postal 2 is one of those things. TLC for Postal 4, and we really do need to finish that other IP at some point, it’s called Assault and Battery, it’s about toys.
It’s like the Toy Story of the Postal universe, so it’s different. We worked on it for a little while, but there’s only so much money you can spend on it because you can’t make a lot of money. So, we need to put that game out just so we can monetize it, get it out there, but also that universe has a lot more to be explored. There is more to Running With Scissors than the Postal fans would like to think.
CGMagazine: And if people want to learn more about Running With Scissors, where can they go?
Mike J: GoPostal.com or check out our socials, on Twitter it’s @RWSbleeter, on TikTok it’s @RWSstudios. I know it’s a little bit of a nightmare that they’re not the same everywhere, but that’s where we’re the most active.
CGMagazine: Anything else you want to plug in before we wrap up?
Vince Desi: Listen, just play and have fun, that’s what gaming’s all about.
Mike J: Yeah, go check out Postal 4, preferably watch some of the streamers. If you want to get some good laughs, read GameSpot reviews, and read the fan reviews on Steam too. Those are pretty positive.