Interview: Human Head Sudios talks about Rune revival

(Editor's note: The screenshot above comes from the 2000 version of Rune)

In 2000, developer Human Head Studios, made up of former team member from Raven Software, made their debut with Rune, an Unreal Engine powered third person action game for the PC. Published by the now defunct Gathering of Developers, the game took the Viking and Norse myths and turned them into a fun melee-based game title. The game spawned a PC expansion, Halls of Valhalla, along with a PS2 port, both of which were released in 2001.

It's been over a decade since the release of the original Rune, but the game has managed to keep a small but highly devoted fan base. Human Head went onto developing other games but many people over the years have asked the company to consider a Rune revival. Now it appears that Human Head is indeed making that move. The company recently launched a Facebook page dedicated to the game and confirmed it was "... considering a sequel to the cult hit classic Rune!"

While Human Head is not yet ready to go into details about their Rune revival plans, we got Human Head co-founder and senior level designer Ted Halsted to give us a few more hints, as well as word that Human Head was this close a few years ago to launching a sequel that ultimately didn't pan out.

First, Rune was first released for the PC in 2000. What were the sales like for the game when it was released?

Rune was developed on a very modest budget with a very small team. It debuted in the top 20 for PC sales, so the game was nicely profitable for us and the publisher.

Rune has held onto a small but very vocal following over the years. How does Human Head feel about the reaction the game has generated from these fans?

We are honored by the involvement of Rune's fans.  Long-term, they're a very creative and vocal group, particularly regarding multiplayer.  We were able to do an add-on shortly after Rune's release, Halls of Valhalla, that addressed a few of the things they'd been asking for.  Following that, many of them took matters in hand and added their own impressive mods to the Rune MP landscape.  These mods range from enhancing certain styles of play to fully implemented new game features.  We're just happy that we got a flavor of play-dough out there that excited them, got them interested in working with the materials, and then they themselves became an integral part of the game's long life.

Human Head has developed other games in the past 12 years, including Prey and Dead Man's Hand. Has there been any attempts by the company to launch a sequel to Rune over the past decade before now?

Yes.  I can't name the companies involved, but in the early-to-mid OO's we were at contract terms with a publisher for Rune 2.  At that moment, that publisher was swallowed by another publisher.  Our producer's new boss took one look and pronounced anything to do with swords and/or sorcery a "dead and buried genre" and terminated the deal.

Why did the company decide to launch an official Rune Facebook page after all this time?

We have always been looking at ways to bring Rune into the future. Over the years there have been fan pages out there dedicated to Rune, but we wanted to set up central locations for Rune fans to meet. The Facebook page is one of those central locations. It's also an easy place for us to interact with fans and ask questions and start discussions.

What has the company learned about what people want from a Rune sequel based on the Facebook surveys?

We have a vision of where we will take the Rune franchise and we wanted to gauge fan excitement about different potential aspects of the game. We confirmed that people were interested in brutal viking-on-viking combat!  That's where Rune's heart beats.  Our scenarios also include a twisted dark Norse saga for single-player and co-op.

Is Human Head in fact going to go ahead with its plans for a Rune sequel based on the reaction to the fans?

I can't reveal what we've got planned, but we fully intend to bring digital viking mayhem into the here-and-now.

How does the company plan to fund the game's development? Will it use Kickstarter as other companies have done?

We certainly wouldn't rule out Kickstarter. As a developer, we're pleased that there's a wide variety of funding methods for modern projects, from Kickstarter to investors to the traditional publisher model.

What can you tell us about your plans for the game? Will Ragnar return or will we see a new Viking hero?

Ragnar will be at the center of the story.  What makes him special this time around is quite different, however.  Also, the world of Rune has become a lot more savage.  Ragnarok--the Viking End of Days--has come, and with it, the Fimbulwinter.  Norse mythology is rich, vibrant and rife with treachery and danger.

Will a Rune sequel still be a third person action game with lots of melee combat?

Rune will still be a third person action game with a lot of melee combat!  The combat system is evolving, though.  If Rune was third-person melee to Quake's first-person shooter in that it was more "twitch," the next Rune will be closer to modern shooters in that it will have fast action but many more tactical options.

What other features can we expect to see in a Rune sequel?

I can't go into details here, but given Rune has remained a favorite game of many people due to the multiplayer and the Rune community itself, I can say we expect to place a strong emphasis on multiplayer and especially on clan features.   We're envisioning an action-world of warrior tribes.

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