High on Life and Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland says that he and the development team at Squanch Games knew the FPS game would be polarising, and that some players would “just hate it,” as the shooter becomes the current most popular release on Game Pass – above even Minecraft – despite the issues noted in our own High on Life review.
Speaking to Xbox’s director of programming Larry Hryb, Roiland explains how the development team at Squanch anticipated the varied response to High on Life – reflected in the sharp contrast between its Metacritic score, Steam reviews, and success on Game Pass.
“We knew this was going to be a polarising game,” Roiland says. “We’ve known that for a long time. There are going to be people who love this thing and then there are going to be people who just hate it, for the same reasons the people that love it love it. But it was really about what games do we love, and what do I really wish existed right now, as a gamer.”
Roiland outlines some of the design decisions behind High on Life, explaining how his intention is sometimes to take existing game mechanics, then tweak and perfect them until they work in a way that suits his own gaming tastes.
“I’ll play a lot of games if they’re close to what we’re working on and I just make a ton of notes,” Roiland says. “I might have positive things to say about certain elements of a particular mechanic, and then I might have things I don’t like, or want to change, and get specific about how I would love to try changing them.
“I did it on High on Life. There are many mechanics we have in the game that have been done, and there’s an example of the best of this mechanic, but then we see if we can tweak it this way or that way – here’s a mechanic that’s so cool, but they didn’t nail it in a way that was satisfying for me…and here’s what I would want to do to really land that plane.”
Roiland also discusses the decision to put High on Life on Game Pass, where it has become the most popular third-party release on the service of all time, also beat Mojang’s monolithic Minecraft to the top of the ‘most popular’ list. Roiland says that Game Pass is “really good marketing” which can help convert players who may otherwise be ambivalent about a game.
“I ultimately came to the conclusion that it’s a value add, because there’s a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have picked up the game, who have played it,” Roiland says. “If you believe in what you’ve made, and feel confident that you’ve made something special – and we do – those folks can become evangelists in a way for the title.
“In a way, it’s really good marketing. If someone is on the fence and raising an eyebrow, if they’re a Game Pass subscriber, they can just download it and dive in, and I do feel it will win them over.”
Make sure you have the top High on Life system requirements if you’re thinking of trying out the comedy shooter. You might also want to know how to get the High on Life secret ending, or otherwise try out some of the other best new games, just in time for Christmas.