In a defining interview, Vince Desi, CEO of Running With Scissors, said to PCWorld Australia, ”We wanted to get away from the whole ‘I play a soldier who’s in space, saving the world…’ He went on, “They say there’s only seven scripts in Hollywood. In the video game industry, there’s about one and a half!”
When it came to naming their new company, Vince Desi wanted the title to say it all. In a landmark interview with Opium Pulses he goes into detail about their choice:
|"When we decided to become an indie developer I wanted to make sure we distinguished ourselves from what we had been doing and also from the then current toilet flush of typical company names"|
He further explained:
|"The wording ‘running with scissors’ is a twist on the old social term ‘don’t run with scissors,’ something that every kid in America heard their mom tell them when growing up. So it was clear to us that we should call ourselves ‘Running With Scissors’ since we were about everything our mothers told us not to do. Looking back it clearly was a good choice as we continue to go forward with our freedom to do whatever the fuck we want attitude"|
Naming Running With Scissors’ first project wasn’t as easy. Many names were thrown about but all ultimately rejected. ’The Postman Always Shoots Twice’ and ’The Last Nail’ were a couple of their original ideas, but somehow those just didn’t click. When it came to ‘Postal,’ something just felt right about it. ”I knew it should be a solo name,” Vince told us, “so POSTAL was it.”
Postal Classic looked dated the moment it was released, but for many fans it filled a hole where other games had only scratched the surface. The game was set from an isometric view and the aim of the game was to go from place to place in a small town killing anything that moves. No other game at that time had ever made indiscriminate slaughter the sole objective, and as dark and sick as that sounds, it was refreshing to see someone trying something different.
Though the graphics were dated it represented a certain gaming niche.
Running With Scissors wasn’t able to run around willy-nilly doing whatever they pleased though. The release of the first Postal was a mixed bag. The company got blasted by cascades of negative game reviews, juiciest of parts of which they slapped on their Fudge Pack box art. At the same time, it got them a lot of attention. A lot of serious people approached them to get involved.
Desi told PCWorld Australia, “We had phone calls from F.B.I. agents and even the United States Treasury Department. Legal notices from the U.S. Post Office and the Federal Government also showed up at our doorstep.”
The game received unprecedented negative attention for its gratuitous violence.
The heat became so heavy in Washington D.C. that, Postal’s publisher, Panasonic’s Ripcord Games pulled the plug despite the fact that the game sold well. This started the whole blacklisting of Postal. Mr. Desi confided:
|"We didn’t have the support the original Grand Theft Auto got when it first came out.|
I have my opinions about why we were attacked by mainstream media and GTA wasn’t to the same degree. For one, we didn’t have the deep pockets of GT Interactive, who was the publisher of the series before it became Take 2. A lot of paying off goes along the way"
The team really stepped it up a few gears on Postal 2. The game was set in first-person view, and used the then fresh faced Unreal Engine. It was a free-roam game that spanned throughout a 5 day week, each day starting you off with a to-do list based on the campaign story. Tasks could be done in any order and completed it multiple ways. The entire game, unlike Postal 1, could be completed without killing a single person, or you could complete even the simplest of tasks, like buying a carton of milk, by slaughtering everyone in the area, and then strutting away with your prize. You could even tame wild dogs to fight by your side. However, the game allowed people to be a lot more creative in the way that they killed people. Such weapons used in the game were Scissors, Sledgehammers, Lethal Injections, Scythes, Machetes, Petrol+Matches, Napalm, Decomposing cow heads. The list goes on. You could even urinate on people! Which explains why the second game earned so much more negative attention than the first.
Postal 2 (2003) was much more refined and polished.
According to Wikipedia, in 2004, New Zealand banned Postal 2 due to “gross, abhorrent content” and Australia later banned the game due to “excessive abhorrent content”. Malaysia instated its own ban on May 1, 2007, due to “very high impact violence & offensive depictions of cruelty.” The game was also banned in Germany and France. Sweden placed a temporary ban on the sale of it.
Even more offensive than Postal 1, the second was blasted as sick and uncouth.
The game was unique in that the NPCs roamed the large, detailed town, and reacted independently not only to your actions but also the actions of other NPCs, sometimes resulting in fire fights breaking out on the street in front of your very eyes, meaning you would either have to fight your corner to save yourself getting caught up in the crossfire or run for your sorry life.
Despite the game being banned left, right, and centre it sold relatively well. Postal 2 is the most popular game in the series. Official expansions and community mods started to appear, and multiplayer was added to the game using GameSpy servers.
When Running With Scissors initiated talks about the third game in the series, Russian game developers ‘Akella,’ who released Postal 2 in Russia, offered to fund and develop Postal III, while allowing RWS to keep the Postal IP.
In an interview with Jon Merchant, RWS Project Manager, he told me, ”Akella had vastly more resources than we had for Postal 2, so it seemed reasonable at the time they could produce a game that was at least equal to the game we made inhouse”
Postal III was set in third person. It took place in a completely different city from Postal 2, and was built using Valve’s Source Engine. A rocky development cycle, and rescheduled release dates that spanned all the way from 2008 to its final Steam release date of December 2011, resulted in a completely non-existent marketing campaign. Even a year later many fans were unaware the third game had been released, and Steam did little effort to promote the sale of the game.
Postal 3 (2011) had a tough development cycle and was rife with bugs on release.
The game was released in a horrifically buggy state and the promised multiplayer, free roam, and console ports where never released. Most fans didn’t know the game was outsourced and were disgusted with what RWS had done to the franchise. Not long after, RWS removed Postal 3 for sale from their official website. Jon Merchant said of this:
|"We stopped selling the game ourselves some time ago when it became apparent that neither we nor the community would get the SDK tools. We don’t regard it as the third Postal game, just a dodgy spin off that should never have happened"|
RWS make no excuses for the way PIII turned out and are very open about what they think caused the game to turn out the way it did. Merchant explained, ”Things started out well but I think they got hit pretty hard by the economic problems of 2007-8, and it all started to go downhill from there. The final product was very far removed from our original design, and horribly broken.”
The screenshots made the game look like everything Postal should be
Running With Scissors now fully acknowledge the mistakes they made in outsourcing Postal 3 to another company. Since then they have been doing everything in their power to regain the trust and support from their fans. Postal 1 and 2 have been recently released on Steam. All previous owners of the retail release who prove they own the game on the RWS forum or have a copy on their Desura account will receive a Steam copy.
Mr. Merchant remains hopeful:
|"Thankfully we have had much less of a backlash from our immediate fans than I expected, who seem to at least appreciate our honesty on the situation. Of course there is a wider group that assume PIII was made by RWS and think badly of us because of it, and I don’t blame them really. All that said, my biggest surprise has been the amount of people that seem to actually like PIII, although I am absolutely not one of them"|
The whole team is now ready to put what they consider as the ‘Postal Spinoff’ behind them and move on with getting Postal 1 + 2 updated to work on modern machines with hopeful new features like Achievements, Steam Workshop & Improved Multiplayer and availability for people to purchase with ease.
If things go well, we might just see a true sequel to the timeless classic that was Postal 2. Hopefully, built in-house this time. As of now RWS are focusing on using their resources to raise enough funding to make a true Postal sequel. If you remember Postal 1 and 2 from the old days and want to go on a nostalgia trip like no others, check out both games available on Steam now!
Written by Warren Dance, edited by Flint Stocks