Interview with Yacht Club Games

Yacht Club Games has a real winner with Shovel Knight. Shovel Justice!

Yacht Club Games has combined classic/retro gaming with the modern era of gaming with their baby, Shovel Knight. Many feel that Shovel Knight should be up for game of the year! I had the chance to play/review Shovel Knight for the Wii U and the high praise is warranted, the game is that good.

Does the success and appeal of Shovel Knight surprise you guys? Going in, did you think this ode to retro gaming could get as popular as it has?

Absolutely! It's a shock every day that Shovel Knight has sold so well and still continues to be adored by our fans. We couldn't be happier with the success.

How did the idea of Shovel Knight come to be? How did you know that the Nintendo eShop would be a good fit for the game? Was the idea of creating a full-scale game, that didn’t need downloading ever thought about for Shovel Knight?

The idea of Shovel Knight came from our desire to create a game based on a couple simple mechanics, like those you'd find in the NES days. For that reason, we thought Nintendo platforms would be perfect, as we were trying to replicate a lot of the joy and experiences we felt when playing those games. We always saw Shovel Knight as a downloadable game, but that doesn't rule out the possibility of a physical release of Shovel Knight one day!

Is there a sequel in the works? I think I remember you guys mentioning that going in the Super Nintendo 16-bit graphic style wouldn’t be out of the question for a sequel. I apologize if this isn’t the case.

Nothing is in the works at the moment but we love the idea of continuing the Shovel Knight series with a technological trend like that. A Super Shovel Knight and then Shovel Knight 64 would be amazing! It'd be so much fun to advance the simple mechanics in the same way all the classic series did.

Personally, I love the fact that Shovel Knight pays homage to classic old school games, like Mega Man. Was that always the case, playing off of classic gaming franchises or was the game going to be something different at the start of development? Was there one classic franchise more than others as a launching point for development?

Definitely! We very much saw the game as a love letter to Nintendo and NES games. The initial inspiration for the downthrust and combat came from Zelda 2. The 8-boss game structure, and level design was strongly influenced by Mega Man. There are so, so many other games we looked to for inspiration, but we were very clear about making sure there were no direct references or otherwise in Shovel Knight. We wanted the game to stand on its own, even if you had never played NES games.

I’m a sucker for great video game music and Shovel Knight has some of the best music around. What went into creating such a diverse soundtrack? Any thoughts on releasing the soundtrack online/for purchase?

Jake Kaufman is extremely talented, passionate, and unbelievably hard-working. That's really the key! We also were lucky enough to have the legendary Manami Matsumae, the original composer and sound designer on Mega Man, contribute two amazing songs to the game. You can find the soundtrack online under the 'pay what you want' model. For more info, check out the following page:

The game has some of the best shovel based characters. (I may have built that up but I’m sticking with it) Was the process of creating the character lineup a tough one? What went into the character development process?

Absolutely, every part of making a game is time-intensive, incredibly difficult, and a drawn out process. For the bosses, we typically started with the theme. For example, Mole Knight started with the lava theme. Once we had 8 different theme ideas, we started to figure out what kind of names or characters would be different and unique. From there, we came up with designs which were then translated into pixel art. Then they went back for another round of concept which was used to create the final pixel version in-game!

Sticking with the retro game theme, what classic gaming franchise would you guys love to get your hands on and create something special?

I think this answer is probably different for every person at Yacht Club Games, but for right now we just want to make original games! That's where our true passions lie...but it'd be hard to say no to something like Metroid, Mega Man, or otherwise.

What has the reaction to the game been from other Independent developers?

Really positive! The indie community has really embraced us, and we couldn't be happier to be a part of it.

Going into development/story for a game with national/international releases in mind, is there ever a time where something is written and you think will everyone understand what I’m trying to say here?

Of course! We spend a great deal of time thinking about that in regard to every aspect of the game. Will players understand a boss's pattern? Will players find this joke funny? Will players make an emotional connection with the protagonist? Will players learn all of the mechanics in the game? At every moment we have to put ourselves in the player's shoes, and it's extremely challenging to know if something will work or not!

What does Yacht Club Games have planned for the future?

Right now we're working on the update content for Shovel Knight. That includes 3 playable boss campaigns, gender swap mode, challenge mode, and a four player battle mode! There's lots of Shovel Knight to come - I hope everyone will stick with it!

I would like to thank my friends over at Yacht Club Games for taking the time out to conduct this interview. Check out more on Yacht Club Games and Shovel Knight at the Yacht Club Games web site.


My name is Steve and I'm from New Jersey. Been a Nintendo fan for as long as I can remember and have enjoyed writing. Also a fan of the Devils/Jets/Mets.

Published Dec. 4th 2014

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