The God of War vs Shovel Knight
The incredible team at Yacht Club Games
The incredible team at Yacht Club Games

What inspired the team to create a “next-gen” 8-bit game as your first Kickstarter project in Shovel Knight?

At WayForward, as we worked on a lot of retro remakes of well known games, retro revivals, retro sequels, etc such as Double Dragon Neon, a boy and his blob, Contra 4 and more, one of the ideas we continually threw around was how fun it'd be to create the first game in a new franchise from the ground up, the same way they had to in the 80s! There hasn't been a new franchise created in that NES spirit, and it felt like the perfect time to do so. Games were getting more complicated than ever; a return to a focused set of mechanics, graphics, and gameplay felt very appealing.

Who is Shovel Knight inspired by? Are there any secret metaphors behind your now iconic character?

Shovel Knight at its core was inspired by our love of all the NES classics. Games like Mega Man, Zelda, Mario, Castlevania, and more all built the foundation we worked from to create the character. When creating Shovel Knight himself, we started by focusing in on a single gameplay mechanic. First there was the idea of a character who could defeat enemies from above with a plummeting attack. Maybe there would be some enemies you had to flip off the ground to expose their weak point and then follow up using the plummeting attack! When we thought about what kind of device could be used to scoop something up, a shovel soon came into focus! We didn’t want this new shovel wielding character to be an oddball in his own world - he should be a master of shoveling. So we crafted a world with a large variety of knights who specialized in all sorts of combat styles, weapons, and armors.

How did Shovel Knight earn the honor to face the God of War? Was this deal brokered in Hades or Olympus, or somewhere in-between?

Somewhere in between Hades and Olympus is a magical land called SCE Santa Monica Studio. The wonderful people in this land granted Shovel Knight access to the God of War kingdom. When putting together ideas for where the little blue knight could head next, we had a crazy thought that maybe he could clash with a foe from another land. From style, combat, and overall intensity, Kratos was first on our list as a chance encounter we wanted to see make the jump over to 2D! We couldn't be more honored to have Shovel Knight take part in God of War's incredible history!

Smiley faceCan you give some insight into the collaborative art and gameplay process in creating Kratos with both our respective teams?

It was a blast! We had the pleasure of visiting Santa Monica Studio's gorgeous brand new facilities to discuss our gameplay, story, art, and sound ideas with key members of the God of War team! It was very exciting to bounce concepts back and forth and get a better understanding for how the God of War team viewed their character and world. After we laid the foundation with the team, Yacht Club Games went into development mode and start crafting gameplay, music, and the look of the character. It was quite a challenge to pack all of Kratos' muscles into so few pixels! Every time we saw a new attack or animation go in-game we thought “This has to be even more intense!” to match the spirit of the series. I think because of that, Kratos ended up as a well rounded and hearty boss battle -- and of course contains no shortage of screen shakes! We definitely got an appreciation for how much work Santa Monica Studio has put into the franchise, and why Kratos is so beloved. It was an absolute pleasure to work with everyone!

It was quite a challenge to pack all of Kratos' muscles into so few pixels! Every time we saw a new attack or animation go in-game we thought “This has to be even more intense!” to match the spirit of the series.

Was there ever consideration to make Kratos more than a secret boss battle?

Of course! It was hard to not make an entire 8-bit game starring Kratos! He's a powerful character, and it's very easy to get carried away trying to him larger than life. Containing ourselves and Kratos into just a boss battle was difficult to say the least. That’s why he leaves Shovel Knight with a special item that can give Shovel Knight a familiar trick or two to take back along his main quest.

Where is Kratos’ allegiance lie in the Order of No Quarter?

He doesn't play any part in it! Kratos has his own mission and purpose. Shovel Knight and Kratos bump into each other by chance. Their battle is a result of mistaken identity and penchant for battle! Given the chance, I’m sure the Order of No Quarter would try to recruit Kratos into their own ranks. But Kratos pledges allegiance to no one!

If Shovel Knight were to face another “boss” guest character from any game in the history of Santa Monica Studio and our partners, who would be next?

I think we'd have to go with Flower. Sure, that might seem like a bizarre choice, but our pixel artist, Nick Wozniak, is obsessed with the game. And what theme would better fit with a game whose main character wields a shovel. Would Shovel Knight have to plant flowers very quickly or would he hastily be trying to dig them up? Most likely, everyone's allergies would be completely out of control, and only Shovel Knight with his trusty Shovel Blade could rectify the situation! It'd be a crazy encounter for sure!

Fast forward 8 months after the initial release of Shovel Knight, incredible reviews, and newfound passionate fan base, all that added up, what has really surprised you and the team the most about the reception to the game, that you did not expect?

Simply how much people really fell in love with Shovel Knight’s world, characters, story, and gameplay. We never expected in a million years to have cosplayers showing up at our convention booth dressed as their favorite knight! So wild! Or to have people, even almost a year after its release, still emailing us about one small touch that really stood out to them. Making a game requires such a small attention to detail in a wide variety of places. To hear that these details were not only noticed but appreciated is always uplifting for the team. Or to have players like our most recent intern who, only after playing Shovel Knight, had his parents introduce him to NES games like Mega Man and Zelda for the first time. We dreamed of people discovering wonderful, classic games because of Shovel Knight, but never did we think that would become a reality!

Yacht Club Games is an inspiration for successful Kickstarter projects. You need to catch some lightning in a bottle no doubt, but ultimately, what do you feel were your keys to success if you were to advise other small indie development teams pursuing the same?

Hard work and unrelenting passion! When we started two years ago, creating a successful 8-bit game for the PS4 probably seemed like a ridiculous notion. But we didn't let that deter us! We worked very hard every day to create the game we had dreamed of since the start. We spread the word for the game like it was as big and noteworthy as any AAA game. We listened to our supporters and slaved away to make something we knew they would both love and hopefully be surprised by too. We're incredibly grateful our backers gave us the opportunity to make this game, and our hard work every day is our way of saying thanks!

Follow Yacht Club Games and CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD Shovel Knight for PS4, PS3, and PS Vita!

topics: development, game
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