Yacht Club Games

Category: Design

Specter of Torment Level Design Deep Dive (1/5)

Welcome, knowledge seekers! Over the course of Shovel Knight’s development, Yacht Club Games has received many requests to document and describe our level design process. However, it’s been challenging enough to develop games, much less write about them in an understandable and interesting way! But now that we’ve just finished up with Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, we’ve had some time to collect our thoughts about our level design process and whip up a little article series! We hope to provide a little insight into the arcane mysteries of video game level design, and to codify some of the rules and practices we’ve come to value over the course of developing five Shovel Knight games.

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King Knight Hearts

Hey, heartthrobs! Today we thought it might be fun to talk about a very specific design consideration for King Knight. Notice anything particularly different about the health in King Knight’s game versus the previous games?

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Showdown Game Modes: Building Multiplayer

Welcome, Mode Masters! We’re here to talk about the new ways to play we designed for our thrilling new multiplayer extravaganza, Shovel Knight Showdown, as well as a little tale about each mode’s inclusion. Hopefully, our yarn-spinning will give you a taste of what we think is exciting in the game, while simultaneously giving you an insider look into how we flesh out a game experience.

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King Knight’s Map: Building Secret Paths

Hey, Pathfinders! While developing King of Cards, we thought a lot about how to increase the excitement of the game on the map. Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope started as a game with a map heavily inspired by Mario 3. The map was structured so that players would be encouraged to try out different levels if they were having a hard time with any one in particular. Players would have the flexibility to travel in a specific stage order to get to a bonus, or to travel along a different route to find reprieve in a village more quickly. The map was a way to do some world building, and a means to pepper in some flavorful ideas that couldn’t be communicated in the core set of stages. Through the map, we wanted to reinterpret the Mega Man experience of facing 8 core baddies by selecting them from a menu, and extend the depth of that concept just a little bit. This map structure was also used for Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows.

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Specter Knight Mobility Design

From the outset of development on Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment we had a couple of concrete goals and ideas. We wanted to go bigger and better than our previous effort, Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows, and make Specter’s campaign even more unique and varied. We wanted to tell a more serious story with some creepier overtones. Most of all, we wanted to center the game around a truly cool character. Specter Knight was always supposed to be a “tragic but awesome” kind of guy, and we wanted to drive the point home every way we could. When crafting Specter Knight’s mobility, embodying these themes was most important.

Impressions from Plague of Shadows itself was also a huge influence on Specter of Torment! Reception to the alchemist’s maniacal moves… well, they certainly got a reaction! Some people hated how Plague Knight flew all over the place (usually into a pit!), while many warmed up to the explosive trickster after some practice. At Yacht Club, we love the subtlety and possibilities found in Plague Knight’s crazy mobility set, but we saw a lot of frustration too. For Specter Knight, we resolved to create more streamlined and intuitive controls with a lower execution barrier- a playstyle that was in between steadfast Shovel Knight and frantic Plague Knight.

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