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Interview: Yacht Club Games; Developers Of Shovel Knight



Few games were as surprising as last year’s Shovel Knight. Taking the currently very popular revivalist retro approach, the game made the whole industry look and re-think just how much can be done with 2D graphics and a reliance on mechanics. I recently caught up with one David D’Angelo of Yacht Club Games to talk about the success of Shovel Knight, his first DLC and what the future may hold for the shovel-wielder.

Anthony: Shovel Knight managed to top numerous game of the year lists last year, with no sign of it disappearing from gaming discussion. Has that affected how you approach furthering the game at all?

David: Definitely – we’re always paying attention to what people like and what moments and gameplay really stick. We know we aren’t perfect, and any discussion of Shovel Knight helps us make sure the next content we create can be even better!

The base game itself was one of the most complete experiences I’ve played recently, and it strikes me as a painstaking endeavour. Did you manage to get every mechanic you had planned to fit in the final product?

Pretty much! We didn’t manage to get in all the stretch goal content we promised, but there weren’t too many things we cut out of the game. We had to delay the game a few times to make sure we could squeeze in everything we wanted!

This new DLC places the player in control of one of Shovel Knight’s adversaries, which is both an interesting premise both in terms of story and gameplay. Is there some sort of timeline that connects them, or is this simply another story just within the same gameworld?

The stories won’t connect. It’s simply another story within the same gameworld.

Shovel Knight is a game that relies on having an arsenal of approaches, making traversal possibly by different methods. What can you tell us about Plague Knight’s bag of tricks, and will the level design follow the same pattern of having multiple ways of traversal depending on method?

Plague Knight is really propelled by his explosives. His standard jump is much smaller than Shovel Knights and he doesn’t have a downthrust. To account for those actions, Plague Knight has a bomb jump which launches him across the screen. He can also throw bombs mid-jump which will cause him to hover in the air. The level design has remained largely the same as the original adventure, but there will be small tweaks here and there to account for his significantly different mobility.

Plague Knight’s story is a little different from Shovel Knight’s; it’s driven by ego rather than revenge. What can we expect of the story-telling in Plague of Shadows?

Using his maniacal scientific mind, Plague Knight is seeking to concoct Serum Supernus, the Ultimate Potion. However, to retrieve these ingredients, he must extract them from his former allies… the villainous knights of the Order of No Quarter! Lots of quirks about Plague Knight will be revealed over the adventure. Maybe there’s more to it than just creating a potion!

That’s two down with Shovel Knight and Plague Knight. Will we see any of the other Knights of No Quarter have their own DLCs?

Yes, King Knight and Specter Knight will also have their own campaigns.

Jake Kaufman’s soundtrack for Shovel Knight is incredible. Will there be any new music in Plague of Shadows?

Yes there will! Expect around 5-10 songs that fit new gameplay, story elements, and more throughout the adventure.


Speaking of the music and story-telling, the world in which Shovel Knight is set is very distinctive, with obvious influences being molded together. How did you go abut designing the eccentricities, and was the connectivity of it always a feature? Were there ever any ridiculous puzzles, like the ones in Simon’s Quest and Legend of Zelda II, planned as part of it?

We definitely avoided any ridiculous puzzles! But we did take a lot of inspiration from Castlevania, Zelda, and more to help us build a distinct world that fit together.

2608879-1325845803-89358The term “Kickstarter project” has become a touch loaded, along with the advent of Early Access. You guys very much took your time when you got the funding, and it shows, but was it hanging over your head that you were a Kickstarted project? And if you were to launch now, would you have chosen the same avenue for funding?

It’s hard to say! I imagine we would, but we’d have to evaluate what avenue felt best. Kickstarter not only provides funding, it provides a great community of fans, and allows us to market the game through our fans.

Putting the DLC out for free, along with making all press assets, freely available from announcement is a move that’s practically unheard of. Did you always know you were going to expand Shovel Knight, and was making it free always the planned course of action?

Yes, the DLC were stretch goals of the Kickstarter, and we originally planned they would release with the game. Since we couldn’t create all the content in time for release, we decided to release everything as DLC over the course of the year.

As a company, you’ve openly embraced fan-art and creators making tangible forms of Shovel Knight. It’s great to see a company embrace a community like that. If someone wishes to create something from Shovel Knight, and sell it, how should they go about that?

If someone would like to sell Shovel Knight work, they should get in contact with us! We have a few great merchandise partners such as We Love Fine, ThinkGeek, Fangamer, and more that we can work with to sell fan creations.

As a studio, does Yacht Club Games have any plans to expand, perhaps into other game types for Shovel Knight, or other projects in general?

We don’t have any solid plans yet. We’d love to expand the Shovel Knight franchise with sequels…maybe Super Shovel Knight or Shovel Knight 64. We’d also love to do crazy things like Shovel Knight RPG or Shovel Knight Hoops. We see Shovel Knight as a franchise that will live a long time, and hopefully be in lots of games. That said, we’d also be very happy to create something totally new!

You’ve got Kratos appearing in your Sony versions, and Battletoads in your Xbox versions. How did those deals come about, and which Nintendo character would you most prefer to have appear in Shovel Knight’s world?

It was quite simple actually! We just asked Sony and Microsoft if they would be okay with us using those properties, and they replied yes. They’ve been very supportive of us bringing Shovel Knight to their platforms and we couldn’t be more grateful! We would love to do the same with Nintendo, but it can be very tricky to work with their IP. I would love to see someone a little more out there…like Tingle!

There’s been a lot of fan outcry for maybe a Smash Bros. appearance for Shovel Knight. If it were possible, would that be something you guys would also be up for?

YES YES YES! We would love more than anything to see Shovel Knight in Smash Bros. That would be a huge honor.

Finally, will we ever see a physical copy of Shovel Knight released?

We’d love to create one! We don’t have anything to announce at the current time though.

Shovel Knight can be bought now on PC and Nintendo 3DS/WiiU, with the Playstation 3/4/Vita/Xbox One versions coming April 21st. The Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows DLC is expected sometime during the Summer.