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Developer Interview: Hollow Knight – Promising Platformer With Lots To Hide

Hollow Knight was a part of the Indie Showcase at PAX Aus this year to reveal the tremendous amount of diversity of Australian indie games. I caught up with William Pellen, the Design Director at Team Cherry, at the show to talk about the art style and the world within Hollow Knight.

Hayden Waugh: So, William, would you be able to give us a quick rundown of the story behind Hollow Knight?

William Pellen: Well, the basic setting is that it’s an old ruined insect kingdom underground. It used to be a nice place but it’s fallen into ruin and, now, a plague has spread down there. Basically, you play as a character that’s come to investigate the kingdom and find some stuff out. It’s quite vague at the start, and we don’t give players heaps to go on, but as they continue playing the story unfolds and becomes a lot more clear.

HW: The game has a very gothic-like feel to it. What’s the significance of that?

WP: Well, different areas in the game have different styles. For instance, the first location in the game is heavily based around a Victorian location – like raw iron and broken bits. It’s meant to evoke, like, a slightly melancholy and ruined kingdom type of feel and there’s lots of monochrome, mainly because it sets the mood.

HW: How did you decide on integrating all the levels together?

WP: We decided to make a nice interconnected world instead of structuring it level by level. We’re super-keen on that type of game because it’s really fun to explore the nooks and crannies, then go into a new area and find out that it curls back into a previous area in a really interesting way.

We wanted to make a game where it feels like a little world, and we found that the best way to do that was to make a game that you can actually move through, rather than just repeatedly start and finish.

HW: There aren’t a whole lot of games that feature the 2D art style that you guys have gone for. How did you arrive at creating Hollow Knight in 2D?

WP: We have a 2D animator who does a fantastic job, and we’re really keen on old-school 2D games like Zelda 2. I mean, you can make games like this using 3D graphics but, man, there’s only three of us!

HW: And, with the demo I’ve been playing, there’s no enemy hit points or skill trees. Is that something you’ll be looking at implementing later?

WP: Yeah. You’re never gong to see enemy hit points, although actually, we’re thinking about using them during a few boss fights. But, we didn’t want it to be a very ‘numbers-y’ game, like after every time you hit a dude you see the exact amount of damage you’re doing. There’s definitely stuff you unlock though, for sure, like new abilities as you play though – new spells and equipment and stuff. There are also shops in the game where you can delve further into upgrading your equipment, as well.

HW: I noticed that Hollow Knight is coming out for the Wii U. Why the Wii U and not the mainstream consoles?

WP: Well, we had a Kickstarter going for the game at the end of last year and Nintendo contacted us saying they were interested in having the game on the eShop. Also, the Wii U was one of our stretch goals. A lot of people were requesting that specific console.

HW: That’s all my questions! Thanks a lot!

Hollow Knight is set for release in Q1, 2016 for PC, Mac and Linux. It’s also coming out later on for the Wii U, with plans for a possible release on other systems.

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