Yacht Club Games Interview

Yacht Club Games Interview

David D'Angelo gives us some chat on Shovel Knight

So, I've been away from Wii's World for about a month. I've been on work placement at Uncut magazine in London for 3 weeks, so I've been emailing around for interviews. One game I thought about that seems to shine compared to most retro styled games is Shovel Knight. The eShop sensation is available on 3DS and Wii U, and I thought I'd give Yacht Club Games an email. David D'Angelo responded, and was willing to give us his words on some questions.


1) Where did you get the name Yacht Club Games? Do you guys like yachts or have had fabulous experiences with them?

We thought Yacht Club Games was a description of everything we're not. We're not about money or class or putting ourselves above others. We're just here to make great games.

2) During Sean's time at WayForward, what does he rate as his most accomplished game he's worked with?

I can't really speak for Sean, but we all worked at WayForward. Some of the best games I think include Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, Bloodrayne Betrayal, and Double Dragon Neon.

3) Is Shovel Knight the only game you have completed developing so far? Are there other prototypes looming around?

Yes it is the only game we've completed, but there are a couple prototypes that we abandoned. Who knows, maybe one day we'll pick those up again.

4) How did the idea of Shovel Knight come to light?

We had been making retro revivals, remakes, sequels, etc like Contra 4 or Double Dragon Neon, and we got the idea stuck in our head that'd it'd be fun to go back and try to make the original game in a series, just like they did in the 80s. Along with that, we were surrounded by modern games at the time that had complicated controls, experiences, and gameplay. It felt like the simple mechanics of an NES style game would be a breath of fresh air!

5) Even though making games you would want success, did you anticipate the response for this?

During our Kickstarter, we had no idea how successful it would become! After the Kickstarter finished, we had a fair idea for how the game would sell down the line, but it always surprises us to see how well the game is doing. We really appreciate all the love and admiration our fans have given the game and our work - we'd be nowhere without them.

6) How did you get in touch with Manami Matsumae to compose some music for Shovel Knight?

We had a supporter, Mohammed Taher of Brave Wave, during the Kickstarter who told us he had a crazy idea - instead of giving us money for the campaign, what if he could get Manami Matsumae to contribute a few songs. We thought he was absurd and lying as we knew Manami hadn't worked in games for a long time. But there was no real downside of following up with him! It turned out he was already in contact with Manami through Brave Wave, and was excited to work on the game!

7) Besides Shovel Knight, what else do you like most about Jake Kaufman's compositions?

Everything Jake outputs is amazing. We have worked with him on a ton of games over the years, and it's always a pleasure to know he'll deliver an amazing soundtrack.

8) Out of the Shovel Knight games on the Nintendo systems, which one does everyone prefer and feel proud of the most, 3DS or Wii U?

Oh that's a tough question! I think it differs for each member of the team. I personally like playing the game on a big TV and exploring the Miiverse, so I usually stick with the Wii U version. But I'm probably most proud of the 3DS version because it was a ton of work to get the stereo-3D looking great and having the game always run 60FPS. Also, I love the StreetPass battle mode! I think most of the team prefers playing on the 3DS for the portability.

9) What is the formula of making sure the characters in your game remain prominent and memorable? Like their appearance, characteristics and personality.

There really isn't a formula - that would make it a lot easier! But what we try to do is put a lot of hard work, attention to detail, care, research, and heart into all the characters. They may not be memorable, but at least we know we did our best to make characters that are meaningful to us, and hopefully that extends to the fans playing the game.

10) 8-bit styled games from recent indie developers have been successful, like Retro City Rampage and, of course, the fantastic Shovel Knight. How important is it to have a retro theme for newcomers to the 8bit world?

I think it depends on the title, but for us it was very important. For starters, we wanted to make sure players knew what Shovel Knight was about. We could have created the same game with 2D HD illustrated assets that had thousands of frames of animations, but then it wouldn't be clear that Shovel Knight was about simple game mechanics that brought you back to an 80s style game. For newcomers, we thought it was important to let them know 8-bit games are a thing! Hopefully, for younger players, Shovel Knight will serve as the stepping stone to classic games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man, Zelda II, and Castlevania.

11) Was the main map screen influenced by games from the Super Mario Bros series?

Definitely! Super Mario Bros 3 in particular reminded us how much fun it could be to pick your next stage in a game, and we wanted to replicate some of that feeling while simultaneously adding our own spin.

12) How difficult is it to place hidden areas in levels? Is the planning of the level design complete before you add extra stuff?

It's very hard! A way you've discovered a secret in the past makes something in the future less easy to hide due to knowing what kinds of things to look for. The basic level structure is laid down at the start, so the level design often includes the secret locations from the get go. But the actual layout of how a secret is discovered and uncovered might be the last thing we design. It isn't too consistent of a process, whenever the idea comes and whatever idea suits the current situation is what we go with. And then we do plenty of testing to make sure our intentions pay off in the way we wanted.

13) With simple controls, do you ever find games with those repetitive? And if so, how would game developers overcome this problem in the testing stage of game development?

Of course! That was one of the great struggles with Shovel Knight. Building a game of a few moves can be extremely difficult. Often a solution is to throw a lot of new environmental objects or enemies at the player, but that can also be overwhelming or seem random. So finding the right balance between how many objects and enemies to introduce in a given stage helps a great deal in displaying the uniqueness of the simple mechanics.

14) As you have had nothing but praise from the main critics, how do you tend to 1-up Shovel Knight with your next game?

That will be tough for sure, but whatever we do, I hope it's surprising! We want to create delightful, fun gameplay experiences - as long as we keep working hard to do so, I think our fans will be happy with our output.

15) Will there be a sequel to this game? And if not, how do you plan on making it stay relevant? Would you release it on different platforms or add updates?

Who knows if there will be a sequel! Right now we're working on free updates for the game which include a challenge mode, 3 playable boss campaigns, a gender swap mode, and finally a 4 player battle mode. There's a lot of content to come, and hopefully it'll make Shovel Knight relevant for a long time!

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Matt Clewley

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Zachary Wickwire said:

This was a good read. I am glad to hear that they have so much planned for Shovel Knight, it was easily one of the best games I have played this year and I am very happy to know that I'll have plenty of opportunities to revisit it in the future.

4 years ago

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Rob Jones said:

Nice one Matt, good interview.

4 years ago

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Matt Clewley said:

I'm excited as well Zach! And thanks Rob, expect more to come!

4 years ago

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Andrew Gray said:

Hey Matt I know this is a little late, but did Yacht Club like my review of the game? Did they mention it at all? I'm curious.

4 years ago

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