The team at Yacht Club Games has so far proven that the Shovel Knight universe is full of opportunity. The collective expansions making up Treasure Trove were an excellent start, and now the studio is working on something well outside the platforming genre. The new game is called Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon, and it blends puzzle and roguelike gameplay into a unique and admittedly striking experience. Guide Fall’s own Will Quick recently had a chance to sit down with Celia Schilling, Head of Marketing for Yacht Club Games, to learn more about the origins and evolution of Pocket Dungeon.
Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon Interview – Celia Schilling of Yacht Club Games
What made you want to take the Shovel Knight IP and put it into a puzzle setting?
“We love puzzles! And we actually ran into VINE, his name is Russell [Rafferty], and he was creating a game that was called Puzzle Knights. We checked it out, we saw it on Twitter, and we [thought], ‘We love puzzles, and this weirdly fits with everything Shovel Knight related.’
“He’s a very talented developer, and he was creating this game, [and] when we approached him, we saw him posting GIFs every day on Twitter, and we were like, ‘That’s really awesome! Want to work together?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds great!’ And three years later we’re releasing it.”
How much of VINE’s original game remains intact within Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon?
“The core mechanics, to be honest. You attack enemies — back then there wasn’t chaining, so it was more of you trade damage with them. You collect keys, you open chests. Some of the items that you see in Pocket Dungeon are kept from the original game, for example the wooden sword. The progression is very similar. It is more focused [on roguelike gameplay] than puzzle adventure. You go through the levels, if you die, you die, so then you start back at the beginning, like most roguelikes.
“The portrait design, like the overall aesthetic [of Pocket Knights] starting out, it similar to Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon. You’ll have to scroll back on his Twitter to check it out. So yeah, there are aspects to it. But when the game transformed and we did our whole collaborative process, there are a lot of differences, too.”
Is there a reason why Pocket Dungeon isn’t available on mobile? Are there any plans for a mobile release?
“That would be really cool, but right now it’s not in the pipeline. We’re really focused on releasing this, and we kind of hinted — I’ll say it here because it’s in writing on our blog — we did talk about releasing some cool DLC also for the game, so right now that’s our focus. If we ever expand platforms, we’ll be sure to announce it on our social media.
“But as for why [Pocket Dungeon isn’t on mobile], I’m not really sure. I think it’s more [that] we had console in mind. A lot of our inspiration for Pocket Dungeon was from the retro classics like Wario’s Woods and Yoshi’s Cookie, […] so I don’t think it really was too much on the radar when we were planning it.”
Does Yacht Club approach every new title with plans to release DLC down the line?
“With Pocket Dungeon, we didn’t really think about it. And then we got so obsessed with the game that we decided that we had to. But for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, the reason why they have five whole campaigns within it is because they were promised during the Kickstarter.
“So we go way back to 2014, Sean [Velasco], David [D’Angelo], Ian [Flood], the whole crew were like ‘Oh, we’ll make a game! And if it gets funded, we’ll make more! And we’ll add a body swap mode, and one of the games will be a fighting game, and another a card game!’ They were just throwing on things, they were so excited, they’re like ‘Let’s do this!’ So I don’t think it was ‘our philosophy is to always make DLC,‘ it just kind of happens because we’re passionate.”
Was there any moment during development that was particularly challenging?
“Yes. I would say the most challenging thing about the game was that we came up with too many cool ideas. It’s like, okay, we gotta stop throwing cool stuff in there. We’ve got to ship this game, or it’s not gonna come out.
“Another challenge is figuring out what the balance should be between roguelike and puzzle [elements], difficulty; accessibility with the game, to make sure that no matter what your play style is, you’re having fun.”
For more details straight from the source, you can watch the full interview in the video embed featured above. Alternatively, you can find our interview with Yacht Club Games’ Celia Schilling over on YouTube. Schilling can be found on Twitter @CeliaBeee, and while you’re there, consider giving @YachtClubGames a follow as well. As for the team’s latest release, be sure to check out our review of Shovel Knight: Pocket Dungeon. It’s available now on PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.
Kevin Tucker is the managing editor of Guide Fall and From Gamers Magazine. When he's not busy exploring or explaining the latest video games, he spends his time riding his motorcycle, reading science fiction, and playing electric bass.