An interview with Shovel Knight’s David D’Angelo

Shovel Knight is a game that captured the imaginations of its players, offering them a glimpse of nostalgia, as they were invited to relive a reimagining of what made the 8-bit era so great. Featuring Colourful characters, diverse environments and a classically inspired retro soundtrack, Shovel Knight has gone on to sell 1.2 million copies after a successful Kickstarter campaign. We recently had a chance to talk to David D’Angelo, a programmer on the game, about the hit indie sensations success and its impact on the industry.

Inspired by NES classics such as Mario, Mega Man and Duck Tales, Shovel Knight lets you take on the role of a chivalrous Knight on a huge quest. Drawing off its retro influences Shovel Knight tasks the player with defeating the evil Enchantress and saving his beloved in the process, all the while wielding his now infamous weapon of choice, a shovel. D’Angelo told IIG this concerning Shovel Knights initial design.

“Shovel Knight was born out of gameplay design! We wanted a character that could make a scooping motion and do a down thrust attack. The only weapon we thought worked was a Shovel!”

Shovel knight 1
Shovel Knight’s map is reminiscent of the classic NES game Super Mario Bros 3

In terms of impact, Shovel Knight did not exactly make Yacht Club Games millionaires, but it has left a lasting impression on the industry and exemplifies how the indie game sector is growing. With a staggering 14,749 backers on Kickstarter, it is clear that indie games, such as Shovel Knight, have a massive audience and are delivering something mainstream, big budget titles are not capable of. D’Angelo told IIG this on Shovel Knight’s popularity.

“I think it’s a return to a more simple game with lovable characters, world, and interesting dense level design and game mechanics. The depth comes from the world and levels rather than from the character’s control mechanism. I think there was a longing for players to return to that kind of gameplay.”

The use of this classic formula may be what gives indie games like Shovel Knight such broad appeal. Giving older players that sense of nostalgia, as they relive what they consider to be the heydey of gaming, whilst at the same time introducing a younger crowd to the fundamentals of what made games so fun. Shovel Knight’s sales were consistent across all systems, demonstrating its wide appeal. It is also worth noting that although it seems the console sales were relatively low, in fact, more physical copies were sold on Xbox and PlayStation platforms aligning the total number of copies sold with that of Steam and the Nintendo 3DS.

Although the game may have gone on to sell reasonably well for the studio it was not all smiles and rainbows, they faced the usual troubles experienced by any small development team.  D’Angelo had this to say in regards to Shovel Knight’s development.

“It was a struggle from the first day to that last! We didn’t have enough money. We were operating in total fear of failure and not delivering up to our own and other’s expectations. We were working 24/7 to make sure the game came out before we ran out of funding. It was tough!”

Development struggles aside Yacht Club Games went on to create an unforgettable character and a game that they one day hope to become a franchise. Creating a game full of characters with colourful personalities and simple yet memorable designs is what turned Shovel Knight into such a success. The world has charisma. This is something that goes back to what originally captured the imaginations of players with now legendary characters such as Pac-Man and Mario. Yacht Club games are continuing this tradition and hoping to add Shovel Knight to that illustrious hall of fame for video games most beloved characters.

“We would love to do spin-offs in the future. We see Shovel Knight as a franchise, so it’d be great to see him in as many games as Mario!” Said D’Angelo.

Shovel knight 2
Shovel Knight is full of crazy bosses and lovable characters

Thankfully with the Treasure Trove edition coming out at the start of March and further plans in the works to add more campaigns, it seems Shovel Knight is around to stay. Whether you love or hate the game it cannot be denied that it has had a profound impact on indie games and the way in which they are marketed, but one question still remains unanswered. Obviously, the thought at the front of everyone’s mind is will we see a sequel to Shovel Knight and if so when? Well sorry to disappoint folks, but D’Angelo had this to say to IIG on the subject.

“We would love to make a sequel one day, but none are in the works at the current time.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about Shovel Knight you can check out Yacht Club Games website here.

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