Q&A – The Simpsons: Hit & Run designer wants a Switch remake

the simpsons hit and run interview cover art
the simpsons hit and run interview cover art

It’s been a staggering seventeen years since The Simpsons: Hit & Run arrived, and in that time it’s become a cult classic with a spectacularly creative modding community (no, really, they’ve thought of everything from a multiplayer mode to steamed hams).

If you weren’t lucky enough to spend almost every waking second of your childhood zooming around Springfield, kicking things, and running away giggling, then here’s a very quick explainer. The Simpsons: Hit & Run involves the Simpsons cast, aliens, fast cars, a variant of Buzz Cola that makes you act kind of loopy, and zombies. Got it? Good.

the simpsons hit and run interview game logo

It’s been a staggering seventeen years since The Simpsons: Hit & Run arrived, and in that time it’s become a cult classic with a spectacularly creative modding community (no, really, they’ve thought of everything from a multiplayer mode to steamed hams).

If you weren’t lucky enough to spend almost every waking second of your childhood zooming around Springfield, kicking things, and running away giggling, then here’s a very quick explainer. The Simpsons: Hit & Run involves the Simpsons cast, aliens, fast cars, a variant of Buzz Cola that makes you act kind of loopy, and zombies. Got it? Good.

So because we and much of the internet are of the opinion that a remake would be the next best thing since Sideshow Bob stood on a rake, we caught up with The Simpsons: Hit & Run’s senior game designer Joe McGinn, to find out more about the game’s development, what kind of ideas the team had for a sequel, and what a future remake or remaster could look like.

the simpsons hit and run interview homer krusty

The Simpsons: Hit & Run producer, Vlad Ceraldi, recently said he’d like to see the game remastered or remade for modern systems, and speculated that it could happen. Is that something you’d like to see too?

Joe McGinn: Of course – I would love to have it myself on my Nintendo Switch! Having said that, the PC version – if you can find it – not only works on modern versions of Windows, it is compatible with some pretty amazing mods.

the simpsons hit and run interview marge

What changes or improvements to the game would you like to see in a remake or remaster?

Joe McGinn: If it’s a remaster, I’m all about the frame-rate. Don’t change the art style – it’s pretty authentic to the show – but give me 60 fps. I think games just look and feel better that way.

If it’s a remake, that’s a whole other kettle of three-eyed fish. I suppose making a single cohesive, connected environment, that would be a natural these days. But the big focus would be improving the out-of-car gameplay. Hit & Run was our team’s first “platformer” gameplay, so the camera and player mechanics were a bit rough around the edges. I’d love to have another crack at making Mario-level smoothness in the platforming camera and animations so that the running parts felt as good as the driving.

One thing I wouldn’t change is the car physics. We were trying for a Driver-style kind of fun powersliding, and it still feels great today.

the simpsons hit and run interview lisa crash

Did you ever develop any ideas for a Hit & Run sequel? What ideas were on the table?

Joe McGinn: We had some very early gameplay prototypes. I remember our physics guru – Greg Mayer – got connected vehicles working, so you could have a trailer being pulled behind a car with some fun results. But we never got very far before EA won the right to the Simpsons movie game, so sadly there was nothing we could do but move on.

the simpsons hit and run interview bart

People are still hugely passionate about Hit & Run, more than 15 years on from its release. Did you have any idea at the time that it would have such an impact?

Joe McGinn: You know, it still kind of amazes me, when every now and then I’ll meet a young adult and it turns out Hit & Run was one of their favorite games when they were younger. That’s just a nice moment. Then a couple years ago I found out there was this growing interest in the game, and even an active mod community. That kind of blew my mind! So no, I could not have predicted it. It does make me happy. Game developers are entertainers at heart; it’s nice we can still put a few smiles on faces, with something we made so long ago.

the simpsons hit and run interview lisa car

We understand that you collaborated with the cast and writers of The Simpsons during development. How close was that collaboration and what was the process like?

Joe McGinn: The writers were involved at the beginning, to approve the story for the game. Once they agreed on that they left us to our own devices. All the game dialogue, for example, was written by Chris Mitchell. Chris is a great writer with a great sense of humour. And possibly more important he really “got” the Simpsons style of humour, as well as understanding all the characters, which is why it sounded so authentic.

The game used the same voice actors as the show. That was a big chunk of budget but completely worth it, both because they are all so incredibly good and because you could hear a fake easily, it never would have sounded right (and Gracie Films & Matt Groening would never allow it, and rightly so). It did make for a challenge though as we only got four hours of each actor’s time. Dan Castellaneta does Homer Simpson, but also many many other characters so it was hard to get enough lines. On the other hand, Yeardley Smith only does Lisa, so as a result the Lisa level in the game is amazing, with so much variety in Lisa’s lines.

the simpsons hit and run interview lisa

Were there any cut features that you were particularly saddened to leave behind?

Joe McGinn: Not really. Vlad Ceraldi (our producer) was great about getting us nearly two years to make the game, at a time where 3rd party developers like us usually got 12 months. That was a huge factor in polishing the game to a high level of quality. I guess there was some talk early on of one continuous city with no loading screens, but we let that go without too much of a fight.

What lessons did you learn from the making of Hit & Run that you’ve been able to put to use in your career since?

Joe McGinn: When you have a team of people who are really passionate about the work, when they really love it, that’s special. The team back then loved the game, loved the show, and really poured our hearts into the thing. It’s one of the nicest things you will ever experience in work, so my advice is to savor it. It was ten years before I was on another team that loved their game so much – Ghost Recon Online, at Ubisoft – that the team would play it over their lunch break rather than go out for lunch! I think maybe that whatever you do for work doesn’t matter so much as finding a team that cares about it as much as you do. Find something you love, find other people who love the same thing, and work on it together for as long as you can.

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