In 2014, the indie scene was rocked by a strange person in armor wielding a sword name Shovel Knight. The character would go on to find his way into various other indie games while receiving many updates which added new adventures and characters to titles.
Now, developer Yacht Club Games is exploring new adventures for the hero in the Nitrome developed Shovel Knight Dig. Additionally, the team also announced they’ll be publishing Cyber Shadow, a ninja adventure game. We had the opportunity to talk to Nick Wozniak of Yacht Club Games to discuss not only the success of Shovel Knight but also a possible future for the hero.
Azario Lopez: Yacht Club Games is expanding the Shovel Knight universe with the upcoming release of Shovel Knight Dig, how did the idea of this come about?
Nick Wozniak: We know and love Nitrome, their work is great if you haven’t yet check out Bomb Chicken. Anyway, their work is excellent and we reached out to them saying that we wanted to do something new with Shovel Knight and explore other genres and new gameplay and then asked, “Are you up for it?” to which they replied, “Hell yeah, we are.”
AL: When Shovel Knight was created, did you think that it would turn into this long series of updates and collaborations?
NW: No, but we always wanted Shovel Knight to be a franchise. It wasn’t conceived of as a pixel game, instead, we created Shovel Knight and then a pixel game of him. This is why all the illustration art is a full illustration of the character.
We knew we wanted to do more with Shovel Knight and have him in different games or give him a TV show, a movie, toy line, bedsheets, and shampoo, we basically wanted Shovel Knight to be everywhere. When you wake up, you eat Shovel Knight cereal and put on your Shovel Knight socks, then go to bed after your Shovel Knight steak dinner.
AL: What is it about Shovel Knight that you feel appeals to fans so much?
NW: I have no idea, but I think it could be because he is a character who is very relatable and there’s nothing that puts you off from him. He has the horns and he’s faceless, but he’s kinda small in stature and the underdog. I feel like he has a timeless appeal, similar to Mario and Sonic. His design is just easy to love and it helps that the gameplay in the game is accessible to everyone. We never wanted people to think, “Oh, I’m too young to play Shovel Knight.” Which is why it’s so cool when we receive videos of four-year-olds playing it or a ten-year-old finally beating the enchantress.
AL: Would you say that Shovel Knight is something that connects modern gamers to the past, without a recreated old character, but instead a fresh take on the genre?
NW: I think Shovel Knight does that. The idea was to create an homage to 8-bit games in a way that is more than visual. What’s not as obvious and what we care about more is the gameplay and how well it works. At its core, Shovel Knight is all about bouncing on things and having fun. There isn’t a ton of story or gimmicks, even though those things may help games, it’s more about entering a room, seeing a bunch of obstacles and knowing that as Shovel Knight you’ll be able to get through it. The other characters make things a little different since players have to rely on the character’s unique skills to get through areas.
AL: Is there a game that Shovel Knight hasn’t appeared in that you would like to see?
NW: I do enjoy the Shovel Knight cameos. Anything that comes our way for a possible collaboration we’re always down to look into.
AL: Well with that said, Yacht Club Games is heavily connected to the indie community, why was this a direction your team has decided to take?
NW: I think it’s more of us not being afraid to share knowledge and not having restrictions on that. I think it’s really hard to get certain information as a game developer and that’s bugged us forever. Things like game sells and how the business side of things work is sort of hidden for the most part. It’s more of us not being a giant conglomerate and being as accessible to indie developers as possible.
AL: What was it about Cyber Shadow that made you guys want to publish this project?
NW: I’ve been following Cyber Shadow for a long time and we loved the idea of being able to expand our curative juices a little bit. We wouldn’t ever necessarily do a ninja game ourselves, but this allows us to explore the idea without changing the companies structure. So working with these teams allows us to do things like a ninja game, a Spelunky game, or a puzzle game.
AL: After years of Shovel Knight and introducing new characters, do you have ideas of characters who you haven’t shared yet?
NW: Definitely, for the upcoming titles, Spore Knight and Drill Knight are some of the early ones who we’ve revealed. We basically have a doc at the office full of dumb and great ideas.
AL: Do you think Yacht Club Games will stick with the pixel visual or will you ever expand to other graphical styles?
NW: Originally, we did pixels because it was feasible for us to do and create an entire game by ourselves. During early development, I did the art for Shovel Knight by myself, which isn’t something that you could do in 3D. In the future, we’ll definitely explore 3D games and possibly hand-drawn games. With different partners, we can do that as well.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans looking forward to your upcoming titles?
NW: This is the end of Shovel Knight One and we are looking forward to putting a bow on it and putting it out there for everyone to really enjoy. The physical release is a way for us to put all of that content on one disc or cartridge. It’s a send-off and we are super happy it’s done and we are looking forward to the next thing. Be patient as we prepare our next steps and more stuff will be coming soon.
AL: Is it sad to say goodbye to Shovel Knight?
NW: It’s a little sad, but I’ve also been working on it for six years, so I’m a little tired of looking at Shovel Knight. I recently broke something last month by changing something that I did like six years ago. Because it’s the same game, you have to use the same code and we’ve just created the 10,000th task a couple of weeks ago.
AL: So what are the chances of a Shovel Knight 2?
It’s possible, but right now I want to do something else, something different. Maybe start a new IP and see what that looks like.
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