Last Thursday, Chad Moldenhauer of Studio MDHR dropped by ID@XBOX to do a live chat on Xbox’s Twitch Channel for his upcoming indie title Cuphead. He took a few questions from viewers during the stream, and I took the opportunity to do a follow-up from my interview regarding some concerns I had about the game.

In pursuit of answers to some of the following questions, here’s what Chad revealed:

Regarding the Gameplay and Difficulty of Cuphead...

We still have platforming levels that we haven’t showed off yet, but the majority will be mostly boss battles.

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This game is about 70% bosses and currently we have plans for about 30% platforming levels, like the traditional sidescrolling Gunstar Heroes/Contra 3 style of levels. We are still creating them and deciding which ones are staying and which ones aren’t. Because we definitely do not like filler in our games, everything we put in is, in our minds at least, the best of the ideas we have, so we’re shooting for about 30% of platformer levels.

The tower in the background was created by taking 180 photographs of a physical model to create the illusion of the characters fighting around the tower.

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The background work is a lot crazier, if you want a bunch of change to happen through the level and you don’t want to have a lot of repeating elements then you need a ton of background work.

We already have plans for future games where we want to move on that approach, like full scrolling levels, not exactly in this animated style but still using the 24 frames per second animation (Note: The game runs at 60fps, but the animation of the characters is done the same way these cartoons used to in the 1930s).

I think some people said that even Phil Spencer mentioned we may need to tone it down (the dificulty). He said in like as a joke, but we still have plans for an easy mode - it isn’t available in the (E3) demo, as you can tell. There will be a difference between easy and normal mode, it won’t be exactly the same thing.

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Studio MDHR added in a Neogaf post:

About the Development of the Game...

We take a lot of inspiration from a lot of the early 30s cartoons even from Disney and Van Beuren Studios, and specially from Fleischer Studios and just took that and roll with original ideas. We kept these cartoon in the back of our minds for inspiration on changing the head into something else, just anything that doesn’t really make any sense unless it is in a cartoon, and try to apply that into most of the stuff that we have in the game.

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Early sketches by Chad Moldenhauer, as seen on Gameinformer.

At the same time we’re hiding a lot of really subtle nods to games we have played in the past. So if anybody is eager to find those kind of details will definitely have to look with a keen eye.

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Any anecdotes from the development of the game you’d like to share?

Hmm… I guess there’s been a ton of funny bugs that happened. The game playing completely upside down at one point, cause we have some bosses that flip the screen or reverse the controls and it kinda leaked over to other bosses. It was kinda nice to try all the other bosses upside down.

Is there any feeling of detachment between the team members? I mean, has the dynamic of not being in the same office ever felt like a handicap to the team?

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It doesn’t just because we use Basecamp as our online collaboration tool, so we are constantly chatting and talking online. I know it’s not the same as being in person, but we are not too out of touch, and then we jump on Skype and see the person who live close; so it’s not a 100% detached.

If everybody on the team seems to be 100% okay without working in an office site, you know next to other people, so I guess if we had a team of people that really need to have that social aspect then it’ll be a lot more challenging, but we are all nerds and artists so I think it works for us.

What about the story… Should we expect a deeper story than shall we say, Super Mario Bros?

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The current build kind of feels like everything just happens for no reason, but we have small cutscenes and some NPCs you can talk to.

I would say it’s more equivalent to Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3 for a storyline, maybe a slight bit more. We really want to focus on gameplay and not a ton on a deep meaningful story, especially because there are no cartoons in the era that had any meaningful stories.

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Also mentioned by Studio MDHR:

  • The parry mechanic of the game that helps build power for the EX Attacks is inspired by the Street Fighter series.
  • There’s a level in the game that’s similar to the Dice Palace stage from Gunstars Heroes.
  • All backgrounds in the game are painted in watercolors, “the same way the masters used to do in the old cartoons”.
  • The current team of eight artists is given lot of creative freedom when it comes to the content of the game, anything goes as long as it can be adapted to the style of the era.
  • There are plans for online co-op, but they acknowledged it won’t be available at launch.
  • They’re planning to implement a Colorblind Mode for those who have difficulty with the color pink.
  • How the original idea started over 15 years ago, but it wasn’t related to what Cuphead is today.
  • What’s inside their cups? According to Chad, it’s their souls.
  • And finally, there are plans for a New Game + mode.

You should definitely take a look at the stream at the Xbox Twitch archive by following this link here, specially if you’re interested on listening to the soundtrack of the game.

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