The Metamorphosis of Hollow Knight, with Team Cherry, Aussie Developer Interview
In this mite-sized Q&A, Adelaide-based indie developers, Team Cherry, talk us through their beautiful, ruined world of insects and heroes, Hollow Knight, which has spread its wings and released on Nintendo Switch.
Tell us about your studio, Team Cherry, and the team behind Hollow Knight.
We’re a three-man studio in Adelaide, South Australia – Ari Gibson, William Pellen and Jack Vine.
The team was formed around a mutual love of classic adventure games like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Faxanadu, and a desire to build new adventures in the same style.
Take us through the development journey of Hollow Knight, from its beginnings to where you are now.
Hollow Knight actually started as a game jam project!
During a game jam, the idea is to build a small but fully-formed game within a tight time limit (usually about 48 hours) with a small team and focused on a central theme. The theme for the jam was “Beneath the Surface”, which we thought was really interesting, and instantly conjured up an image of a lone explorer digging deeper and deeper into a strange world, deep underground.
We didn’t quite hit the deadline for the jam (which was back in mid-2014), but that idea grew and grew, with the help of our Kickstarter backers, into Hollow Knight.
The world-building in Hollow Knight is one of the many reasons people are drawn deep into Hallownest. What inspires you to create these beautifully sad and charming tales that allow us to resonate with... well, bugs?
We don’t really plan these things too far out in advance. We just come up with characters that we think are interesting and areas to explore, then throughout development we constantly think about what these bugs are thinking, where they might go next, how they’d react to events and so on. It might sound weird, but a lot of these little stories kind of just play themselves out.
Do you have a favourite critter from the game? Why does this particular character resonate with you?
Our favourites tend to be characters that were fun to make or made us laugh, like Zote or Dung Defender, or the horrible slobbering fluke monsters you find in the old waterways.
What was your process for pacing the game in terms of its difficulty scale for newcomers versus more experienced players? Do you have any tips for newcomers in defeating that hard-to-beat boss or getting through to that just-out-of-reach new area?
One of our big focuses was always giving the players plenty of options for forging their path forward, so if they encounter a difficult foe or get stymied by a tough area they can always withdraw to town, gear up, and choose somewhere new to explore. The best advice for the game is probably just to keep exploring, and don’t hesitate to leave a challenge for later if it’s frustrating you!
How did composition of the game’s haunting orchestral score come to be?
That’s all thanks to our composer and sound designer, Chris Larkin, who lives and works here in Adelaide as well. Chris has done fantastic work in movies and games (including a brilliant soundtrack for Chris Johnson’s Expand) and he had a good grip on the feel and mood of Hollow Knight from the start.
What’s it like working as a developer in South Australia? How do you think your environment has shaped your games?
It’s good! Adelaide is a cosy place, super affordable, and has lots of great cafés and restaurants tucked away in its nooks and crannies. Having a quiet and comfortable little space to ourselves to work in made working on the game a lot easier.
Now that the final free Hollow Knight Expansion is out, is there anything more in store for the series (that you can talk about?)
Our next task is working on the second playable character for Hollow Knight: Hornet! We’re going to be a bit quiet about her adventure, though, until we have some more stuff to show off.
And once the saga of Hollow Knight is complete, what’s next for Team Cherry?
Brave the depths of a forgotten kingdom, in Hollow Knight
Beneath the fading town of Dirtmouth sleeps an ancient, forgotten kingdom. Many are drawn beneath the surface searching for riches, or glory, or answers to old secrets. As the enigmatic Hollow Knight, you’ll traverse the depths, unravel its mysteries and conquer its evils.
The world of Hollow Knight is brought to life in vivid, moody detail, its caverns alive with bizarre and terrifying creatures, each animated by hand in a traditional 2D style.
Every new area you’ll discover is beautifully unique and strange, teeming with new creatures and characters to discover. Explore the expansive Hallownest, take in the sights, and discover new wonders hidden off the beaten path.
● Classic side-scrolling action, with all the modern trimmings.
● Tightly tuned 2D controls. Dodge, dash and slash your way through even the most deadly adversaries.
● Explore a vast interconnected world of forgotten highways, overgrown wilds and ruined cities.
● Forge your own path! The world of Hallownest is expansive and open. Choose which paths you take, which enemies you face and find your own way forward.
● Evolve with powerful new skills and abilities! Gain spells, strength and speed. Leap to new heights on ethereal wings. Dash forward in a blazing flash. Blast foes with fiery Soul!
● Equip Charms! Ancient relics that offer bizarre new powers and abilities. Choose your favourites and make your journey unique!
● An enormous cast of cute and creepy characters all brought to life with traditional 2D frame-by-frame animation.
● Over 140 enemies! 30 epic bosses! Face ferocious beasts and vanquish ancient knights on your quest through the kingdom. Track down every last twisted foe and add them to your Hunter's Journal!
● Leap into minds with the Dream Nail. Uncover a whole other side to the characters you meet and the enemies you face.
● Beautiful painted landscapes, with extravagant parallax, give a unique sense of depth to a side-on world.
● Chart your journey with extensive mapping tools. Buy compasses, quills, maps and pins to enhance your understanding of Hollow Knight’s many twisting landscapes.
● A haunting, intimate score accompanies the player on their journey, composed by Christopher Larkin. The score echoes the majesty and sadness of a civilisation brought to ruin.
● Complete Hollow Knight to unlock Steel Soul Mode, the ultimate challenge!
Hollow Knight is available now on Nintendo Switch eShop.