Yacht Club Games

Category: Design

Plague Knight Mobility Design

Developing the Plague of Shadows expansion to Shovel Knight has been quite the tricky experience for us here at Yacht Club Games. We’ve never had the pleasure of continuously building new content for a complete, existing title before. When we pitched an all new playable boss campaign during the game’s Kickstarter, we were thinking of something small along the lines of Mega Man Powered Up: a simple character swap with a slight mobility change or a new ability between the boss characters. Of course, we wanted it to be fun and exciting…so we decided to go bigger!

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Dance! The Story of a Useless Button!

Many fans of Yacht Club Games have noticed a weird trend in the games we’ve worked on: we almost always add an action, assigned to a specific button, that has little or no purpose for either the gameplay or the story. Initially, this may seem to fly in the face of our design sensibilities which favor simple gameplay and mechanics. Why would anyone design a mechanic that doesn’t benefit gameplay and instead adds another potentially confusing action.  “Games should be simple!  One action! Like jumping in Mario!  Why would anyone decide to do something so dumb?!” Today we’re going to try and explain why we add useless actions to games, and explain some of the weird and fun things we’ve done in the past.  This quirk might not fit every game, but it’s definitely a unique re-occurring element to us that adds a little bit of flavor!

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Breaking the NES

In case you missed it, this is a reposting of an article we wrote for Gamasutra.  Check out the original here!

Shovel Knight is a game that embraces the look of NES classics, but has some major differences when examined closely. When setting out to develop the game’s aesthetic and play style, we at Yacht Club Games had a few goals in mind. Instead of emulating the NES exactly, we would create a rose-tinted view of an 8-bit game.

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Digger’s Diary Detailed!

Shovel Knight is a game being initially released on 3 platforms: Nintendo Wii U, 3DS, and PC (Steam, Humble Store). Creating a new version of Shovel Knight isn’t as easy as pressing a button; taking on a new platform is no simple feat! Each new device brings new specs, controls, quirks, expectations, and features which need to be considered across the game. We don’t just want our game to run on the system, we want it to feel at home there too! So…when it came time to develop Shovel Knight on Wii U, we were already brainstorming about the wild world of Miiverse!

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Checkpoint Design

Checkpoints are a contentious subject when it comes to gameplay design.  Especially in a retro style games, there are many schools of thought. First off, let’s define a checkpoint: for our purposes, it’s any mechanic that saves the player’s progress, allowing them to return to it in that position after dying or losing.

Some people think that repeating content is never good and copious checkpoints or even quicksaving should be implemented; think the quicksave ability in a game like Half Life, where you can save the game at any time. Other players are purists, and think progress shouldn’t be saved until you beat a stage!  The Yacht Club thinks there is no hard and fast rule: it depends on the game you are trying to create, the emotions you’re trying to evoke, and the experience you want your players to have.

For Shovel Knight, we knew from the beginning that losing, lives, and checkpoints would be important to get right.  Lack of checkpoints and hard limits can typically cause a lot of frustration in classic games. We wanted to retain the mechanic, but do away with the inherent frustration of having to repeat large swaths of content.

Iterating on checkpoint design was a slow and painful progression, but the result was worth it.  There were 3 main versions of the checkpoint mechanic, so let’s go through them!

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