Alex: Hello everyone, we have a special interview for you today as we're joined by Celia Schilling, media marketer for Yacht Club Games. We're going to discuss Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon which is releasing in just a few short days, I'm sure you must be flat out right now!
(You can listen to the interview with both the video and audio versions below. The audio version is available and all of your favourite podcast apps - please be sure to leave us a review)
Celia: Oh man, I'm so excited! I'm just ready for everyone to experience the puzzle adventure.
A: It's such a departure from the standard Shovel Knight so I'm so interested and I have a tonne of questions. But first up, if anyone's not familiar with this game, can you please give us a brief rundown of it?
C: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon is a puzzle action adventure with a dungeon crawling twist. It takes everything we love about falling block puzzles and mashes it up with dungeon crawling aspects into an all new adventure.
A: So what made the team think "this character should be in a puzzle game"?
C: We've always viewed Shovel Knight as an all-encompassing franchise, so I guess the first one is puzzles! But aside from that, it was actually a very happy happenstance. As per usual, my colleagues were looking through Twitter and they spotted this really cool game call Puzzle Knights. So my colleagues were like, "wow, this is like a puzzle roguelite adventure, this is really interesting, we love both of those genres!" and so our team starting thinking about it and said, "let's reach out to them and see what happens".
So we reached out to Vine, which is this one guy named Russell and he was ecstatic. He said, "yeah, let's work together on this!". He had actually finished his version of the game and was looking to release it the next week but then this all happened. So after the obvious hi-5s went around, we started working on it together and three years later, we are now able to release Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon.
A: That's crazy! Just imagine from Vine's perspective getting that email.
C: Well it was a Tweet, actually!
A: Even better! Imaging looking at your phone and seeing that notification.
C: Well we were definitely excited to meet him too.
A: Was Russell a fan of the franchise before Yacht Club reached out to him?
C: I think he had dabbled in some shovel justice here and there. So he was a fan and we became fans of him. So when we teamed up with him, it was a really collaborative project and we actually pulled in a couple of people alongside him to work on Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon. It turned into an awesome team with great synergy.
A: That's great! Was creative differences ever an issue?
C: I think the biggest problem was figuring out when we were going to cut off adding in all of the cool stuff. We had to ship the game eventually! The team kept pitching new ideas and the great thing about Russell and the rest of the team is that they were so into every idea that came along. In the end, I'm not sure who came up with what.
A: Was translating all of those characters into a puzzle game challenging?
C: It certainly was an interesting process. In Shovel Knight Showdown, we thought the same thing, taking all of these beloved characters and putting them into a brand new world. And actually, through that process, it was quite nice because the cute style of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon matches up well with the stylistics of the Shovel Knight universe. For the process of coming up with moves, Russell, Michael and few others in the team were pitching ideas back for forth about that and how they would interact with the world and more often than not, the team loved the ideas and wanted to move forward with them.
So at the end, we thought "what is the most fun?" and when designing based around that, it came down to questions like "should we make the characters more powerful and how do we balance them?". The focus was more on fun and gameplay style... how do we make everyone fun?
A: I'm really curious about how each character plays. For example, does Plague Knight have a specific ability?
C: So potential spoilers so read ahead if you don't want to know but Plague Knight's special ability is that he has a poison touch. In addition to his regular move, after you hit a certain enemy, the entire chain will have an additional damage point hit to them. So when you fight him in the boss battle, he uses explosions just like in Plague of Shadows and there's a lot of crossover like that.
So when you think of it like that, Shield Knight has a shield and Spectre Knight gets health from taking out enemies as opposed to using potions. Each character has a different ability that matches up with their personality in the Shovel Knight saga.
Mole Knight digs, spoiler alert! He has become one of my favourite characters in Pocket Dungeon because it provides more puzzle aspects to the gameplay.
A: And there's a new Knight in this game who seems to be fond of puzzles.
C: There's actually a couple of new Knights. First off is Puzzle Knight; he is your peculiar, puzzle-loving mentor in the Pocket Dungeon. He's been there for a little while and he's your guide to help you delve out too because he's also trying to figure that out. He even says, "I don't know how to get out of this confounded cube!". So you team up with him and Chester in the wagon and go forth on an adventure.
You'll also get to meet the mysterious Prism Knight. Not much has been revealed about her as of yet but she's really cool.
Then there's Scrap Knight who is actually a Shovel Knight: Dig character. So there's a crossover already! So typically, you can find her rummaging through junk in the magic landfill. Where you'll meet her exactly within the Pocket Dungeon is a surprise but you'll get to fight her as well. Her abilities are amazing and I can't wait for people to start delving in and playing as her.
A: You mentioned Shovel Knight: Dig which is now 2022?
C: We did make an announcement, so get ready to delve into Dig in 2022. We just gave the year window. Once we get closer to launch, we'll announce more information as to when that release window is.
A: That's understandable. So once we've delved into Shovel Knight: Dig, is there an idea of where we hope the series will go?
C: My colleagues are always coming up with fun new ideas for where Shovel Knight will go. What would you like to see?
A: Well if anyone knows me, they'd know I'm a huge fan of 3D platformers and from memory, that's been in people's minds with Shovel Knight for a long time. I'm pretty sure Yacht Club games did a little spoof on this for an April Fool's joke a couple years back - Shovel Knight 64.
C: So many people still tweet at us asking when is it coming. I just say, "I don't know, when is it coming?".
A: But like you said, the Shovel Knight universe can so easily adapt to all different kinds of genres so starting off with that standard 2D platformer makes sense, in addition to all of the expansions, but you can take the characters anywhere; they can go RPG in a turn-based route, you can go the strategy RPG route and you've now gone the puzzle route with Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon.
C: We did hint at some Pocket Dungeon DLC, so that's something on the horizon.
A: That's exciting! Can you tell us anything about that?
C: No, we can't. We'll delve into that more in 2022. We initially weren't planning on making any DLC but we just fell so in love with the game that we just had to do it. So we've made plans and we look forward to talking about that soon.
A: Are there plans to continue working with Vine?
C: Well we're working on the DLC and it's not like we're just going to hi-5 and say goodbye. I would like to see Pocket Dungeon 2, 3, 4, 5 - the whole saga! But that's just my own hopes rather than an actual announcement. Don't get too excited.
We've had a really positive experience working with Vine and I don't know what the future will hold. Maybe a Mario Party-like saga. I don't know what the future holds but we certainly enjoy working with Russell.
A: That would be really cool! Shovel Knight Party.
C: Right?! Or Shovel Kart.
A: Yes! You could go back to the pixel art Super Mario Kart style
C: Oh my gosh, I would love that! Who knows?
A: Yacht Club Games have been really busy lately with Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, Shovel Knight: Dig and you guys have also done some publishing this year with Cyber Shadow. That must've been exciting.
C: That was so much fun! That was actually my first shipped game with Yacht Club Games, I love Cyber Shadow so much. What's funny is that Aarne, Mechanical Head Studios, is also a one-man team who we also found on Twitter. I'm seeing a pattern here...
A: Hint for indie developers on Twitter.
C: I know, right?! Literally, I think that's the best way to give yourself exposure marketing-wise just because you don't know who's out there looking
A: Absolutely, neither of these developers would have expected to one day get a message from Yacht Club Games.
C: Yeah, probably not. You never know...
A: So in that case, you guys are keen to work with other developers but in the meantime, has the core Shovel Knight development team been coming up with new ideas as well?
C: Well Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon was certainly a collaborative process and we've been alongside Vine every step of the way. In addition, we've worked on the dialogue, the fun story and the illustrations for marketing purposes that my colleague Morgan did. Meg was also someone that we brought on to work with Vine to help out with the pixel art, he is amazing, so talented! Literally everyone on the team has had a hand in this project.
A: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
C: Well, the cool game we've been talking about, Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon, will be out December 13th on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam. It's currently available for pre-order on Nintendo Switch and Steam and if you pre-order it on Steam, you get the soundtrack for free! And if you haven't delved into the saga, we have a loyalty discount where you can get 60% off Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove if you pre-order Pocket Dungeon.
A: Thank you so much for joining us Celia, we really appreciate it.
C: Yeah of course, thank you so much for having me!
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