Following on from my interview with Mikael Forslind at Elden Pixels, I subsequently discovered that the company had started to venture into publishing games in addition to developing them. After looking at their Twitter feed, I saw the first game they were publishing for release on the Switch; another vast and wonderful Metroidvania game entitled Cathedral. Originally released late last year on Steam by Helsinborg-based indie developer Decemberborn Interactive, the game was met with an extremely positive response from gamers and critics alike, and has since been streamed on YouTube and Twitch by a number of popular personalities on the site. The game relies heavily on exploration and backtracking across the game’s massive 2D open world, as well as incorporating challenging gameplay and a series of innovative boss fights.
Eager to find out more, I reached out one of the game’s two main programmers, Eric Lavesson to see what he had to say about the release of the game and the challenges that he and the development team had confronted throughout the game’s creation and about the upcoming port of the game to the Nintendo Switch. Here’s what Eric had to say about the development cycle and release of Cathedral:
What were the influences behind your game?
We had a ton of different influences, both old and new: The main character and the graveyard where inspired by Ghost n’ Goblins and Ghouls n’ Ghosts. The idea of making a game featuring a knight originally came from wanting to make a game in the same vein as Wizard & Warriors. Zelda 2 was a huge influence as well throughout developing the game (I’m one of those odd people who prefer Zelda 2 over the first one). A few of the more obvious modern influences are probably Rogue Legacy and Shovel Knight, both of which I played a ton of during the early development of Cathedral.
What were the most exciting aspects of development?
Probably everything I’ve learned along the way. Opening my own company, throwing myself into a world I knew very little about. Going to conferences and meeting gamers and other devs. I knew programming going in, but everything else regarding game development is something I have picked up along the way.
What were the most challenging aspects of development?
Without a doubt getting the game done. It was close to never getting finished a few times during the years; sometimes due to stress or pressing yourself too hard and taking long breaks from it, sometimes due to budget issues, and sometimes due to just because you simply couldn’t find the time to work on the game. Seeing the game getting done is a great reward though.
How rewarding has it been for you and the team to see Cathedral garnish the popularity it has done since it’s release?
Very. It feels like you’ve accomplished something just by having the game “out there” – no matter what happens, it’s impossible to give up at this point because the game is already released. Once you’ve released it, you have in many ways succeeded, regardless of whether the game sells well or poorly. Seeing people actually play the game on streams, and talking about the game, and actually liking it is a huge bonus. I can be a bit stressed out at times, especially when I see people who don’t like the game, but the majority of our players do seem to like it.
Similarly, a vast majority of the negative appraisals on Steam seem to compare it to Shovel Knight and how they don’t think Cathedral is as good as the former. I personally believe these criticisms are pretty unjustified, since Cathedral, whilst sharing similarities to Shovel Knight, is an entirely different experience with different things to offer gamers. How would you respond to that?
This is going to be a long answer: I always had a soft spot for various “knight games” that were available for NES and Sega when I grew up, such as Wizard & Warriors, Ghost n’ Goblins, and even more arcadey games such as Golden Axe. I also loved exploration-based games in the style of Zelda and Metroid and wanted to combine those things into one game, but I wasn’t sure how to pull off the NES style. I started working on Cathedral in December 2014 and played Shovel Knight at the same time. I remember thinking “Wow, these guys really pulled off the 8-bit look”; I thought it was perfectly executed, and I felt like this is such a good way to present the NES-style in a modern era, so we definitely drew a lot of inspiration from there. I personally always thought of Cathedral as our tribute to both the games we grew up with as well as the games we play today, where me and Mattias (the other developer) picked parts that we loved about those games and incorporated it into Cathedral in some form. I very much loved Shovel Knight, and it definitely colored my opinion on how to present a “faux” NES style in the modern era, and that absolutely affected Cathedral. Cathedral is first and foremost a Metroidvania though, so I still consider them to be different genres, plus there are just so many other games I could point to as a source of inspiration as well. If someone decides that Cathedral is a Shovel Knight clone, I can’t really do anything to change their mind except respectfully state the way I see things, but I think you’re missing a lot of the love that went into making the game, as well as the references to the games that came before. That being said, there are definitely worse things to be compared to than Shovel Knight 🙂
Are you looking to bring the game to other platforms in the future?
We’re still hoping to bring it to Xbox and PlayStation – no concrete plans so far though. Hopefully, we’ll have some more news on this in a not too distant future!
On the subject of porting the game to the Switch, if you and the team could develop for any Nintendo franchise of your choice, which would it be and why?
I think I’d have to go with either Zelda or Metroid. How cool would it be to make your very own Metroid game?
What’s next for Decemberborn Interactive?
Currently, we’re in the final phases of our Switch port for Cathedral. Simultaneously, we’ve been working on a yet undisclosed project. We still don’t know what will come of it, but we’re basically building a prototype for a new game out of a bunch of ideas we’ve had for a long time and never quite fit into Cathedral. It’s a really fun phase of game design, where we kind of just brainstorm and test ideas, and hopefully a few of them will stick.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
If I open up Twitter right now, I’d probably see ten games at once that all look cooler than what I could ever do. It’s easy to become discouraged to work on your own stuff sometimes when you see all the awesome games people are working on. But remember that very few take that extra step to actually finish their game and release it. Aim for making something with a reasonable scope, and be resilient enough to finish it. It’s a very rewarding feeling, seeing your game out there.
Do you have anything else to add?
Well, I was going to leave a good recipe for pickled herring brine, but I saw that Mikael of Elden Pixels already did that, so no. Nothing off the top of my head!
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Eric for taking the time to speak to me regarding this awesome title and to wish both Decemberborn Interactive and Elden Pixels the best of luck with the Port to the Nintendo Switch. There will be a review of this game up on the site very soon and will be a very positive one; I’ve enjoyed every aspect of this game from beginning to end and there are a lot of positive talking points to go over. Until then, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed drafting it up.
Scouse Gamer 88