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Shovel Knight interview - 'Nintendo are indie-friendly!'

Sean Velasco talks us through making his "next-gen 8 bit game" before its Kickstarter campaign closes

Your comparisons - Mega Man, Castlevania and Dark Souls - paint a very clear picture of the game. Just how hard is Shovel Knight going to be?

Sean Velasco: We have a reputation for making difficult games, but we're trying not to make this one "Nintendo Hard". Shovel Knight should reward your learning, observation, and practice, but never feel cheap or unfair. However, if we did Challenge Mode, there would be some insanely tough challenges...

A lot of Kickstarter games are offering Wii U support as a stretch goal, whereas you promised Wii U and 3DS versions as part of the overall target - what made you so confident in the Nintendo platforms?

Sean Velasco: Because Shovel Knight has its roots with our love of Nintendo games on the NES, we decided to make these platforms a priority. Additionally, Nintendo has been a great partner with us so far; they are becoming quite indie-friendly! However, we love our Vitas, Playstations, and Xboxes, and would love to see Shovel Knight on every platform under the sun.

What has Nintendo's role in the game's development been so far? Do they have a hands-off approach or do they act in an advisory capacity?

Sean Velasco: Nintendo has talked us through the process of getting dev kits, informed us about how marketing and distribution works on the eShop, and has generally lent us an ear on whatever questions we might have. They are not, however, involved in the day-to-day development of Shovel Knight.

Can we expect to see any differences between the Wii U and 3DS versions? Or even between the Nintendo versions and PC?

Sean Velasco: The Wii U version will have offscreen support (for playing Shovel Knight in bed!) and the 3DS versions will be presented in wonderful stereoscopic 3D! We also intend to use the bottom screens for something purposeful and cool, but we aren't sure about that functionality yet. We want to try to keep all versions as similar as possible, for a uniform player experience.

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You've just had a playable version of the game at PAX East. How helpful was it to have outsiders play your game while it's in development?

Sean Velasco: It is always extremely useful! During development of A Boy and His Blob, for instance, we brought in kid testers weekly for design feedback. But that sort of controlled testing pales in comparison to a wild PAX show floor demo! Every jump, enemy placement, and aesthetic decision was put to the test. While people loved our Shovel Knight demo, we have learned lessons about players' expectations and made changes both to level design and overarching design.

You're making a great deal of the game's development being open to the community. Do you feel as though indie developers have a better chance to make the game their fans are interested in because of that two-way discussion? Could that compromise the game's original vision?

Sean Velasco: We have always been sticklers for consistency of theme and tone. I think because of this, Shovel Knight is a game that people can 'get into' really easily because it's understandable and fun. And when people get into something, they start getting creative! I spent much of my youth drawing new Robot Masters and Koopa Kids, so we wanted to give players today the same opportunity. We are currently running a Shovel Knight art contest, and the submissions so far have been astounding!

With that said, we know that too many cooks can spoil the game. At our previous gigs, we got a ton of experience protecting the core of our vision from this problem. Fear not; as long as we keep heading toward the same design beacon, we think it's okay to have excited fans give us a hand! We are already really stoked at their creativity.

How do you feel about the future of indie development on Nintendo consoles? Are there any other upcoming eShop titles you're excited about?

Sean Velasco: Nintendo has a good environment set up for indies now; it's just a matter of getting more developers onto their platforms and singing them to the hills! As far as the eShop, we've been happy to be able to download even full-sized titles. We all just got Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate as a team, so we're definitely going to be slaying monsters on our 3DSes for a while. After that, we are really looking forward to Wonderful 101 on the Wii U. Platinum makes some of the best games out there right now, so we are really excited!

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  1. gazamataz Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:18

    I'll start by saying I'm not much of a retro gamer. I did really enjoy Kid Icarus 3d classic but i would usually rather play something shiny and new looking given a choice.Having said all of that this game looks amazing and is an exception to the rule.It's cracked the look of a later day N.E.S game perfectly and the controls look very responsive and inventive, but it's that music thats made Me want to hit people with a shovel it's heroically cool.I'm very surprised that I want this game as much as I now do.

  2. TOMB Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:29

    If they let you slide down a slope while sitting on the shovel then i getting this game. :D

  3. MJTH Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 13:35

    I backed this game on Kickstarter when it first went up. I like how it's going. Looking good.

  4. JoeOdranDoran Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 14:55

    I've backed this. If you pledge $15, you'll get a code letting you download the game for Wii U or 3DS, for free! I can't wait :)

  5. Waldy565 Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 16:28

    I love anything retro, even though I'm a 2000 kid (born 96) so this sounds amazing, and I love all of WayForward's ideas and stuff. It's great Nintendo are finally embracing indie companies, which reminds me... I must really get on with my project :P

  6. ultimatebuffalo Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 16:46

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.

  7. Mmmyeah Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 17:07

    I like how I have now seen a couple of developers saying that they want to release their game on Nintendo consoles in honour of the fact that their game is heavily inspired by Nintendo. Adding to that hearing now that Nintendo are great for independent developers to work with.

  8. Commandervideo Tuesday 9th Apr 2013 at 17:51

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.


    I suppose there is still some hope, if cult country gets approved then why not issac. Does Nintendo expect us all to go buy a vita to play handheld isaac or what.
    But anyway, Shovel knight looks awesome!

  9. MartinIsAwesome Wednesday 10th Apr 2013 at 11:28

    Great interview, Joe. I really like the look of Shovel Knight and I'm really looking forward to seeing it's release on the eShop, especially considering how Jake Kaufman is attatched to do the music.

    if they are so indie friendly then why not port Binding of Issac onto 3DS? its such a backwards way of thinking, millions of people bought issac, no one has complained about it. all they did was waste a money making oppotunity and broadening the range of titles available. games great.


    I suppose there is still some hope, if cult country gets approved then why not issac. Does Nintendo expect us all to go buy a vita to play handheld isaac or what.


    The difference is Nintendo's strict policies regarding the depiction and representation of religion; Renegade Kid have already established that thier upcoming Cult Country is NOT about christianity or any other existing religion, whereas The Binding of Isaac makes blatant references to christianity.

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