Shovel Knight PAX East 2018 Interview Part 2

Hope you guys enjoyed the first interview! This second part is with Sandy Gordon! He’s a brilliant pixel artist who’s immensely driven! We loved talking to him and really appreciate our time with him. As always, thank you to Yacht Club for the opportunity! 

I’m extremely looking forward to Fara and the Eye Of Darkness.

I haven’t heard anyone say that in years! Sorry to say, but Fara’s kind of dead. I’m not too sad about because I’m working at Yacht Club. Prior to Yacht Club, it was my main project. Internally the company kind of exploded.


How was it working with a limited palette for the making of Shovel Knight?

Modern pixel art is definitely it’s own form of beat. It’s really freeing to work with a limited palette because you need to work figure how to make things work. It’s very similar to a puzzle

What’s your background when it came to pixel art?

Man, it’s really hard to pinpoint a single situation. I did graphic design for 2 years and then picked up pixel art. I started pixel art around 4 years ago as well as animation.

So how’d you get involved with Yacht Club Games?

Actually, it was through Twitter. I kept on posting my work through Twitter, especially some of the Fara stuff like the animations. I spoke with the other pixel artist  Nick Wozniak who’s the other pixel artist at Yacht Club. We talked a few times through Twitter DM’s, I saw they were looking for an artist and I applied.

Was the animation of the of King Knight inspired by Wario in any way?

Absolutely! A lot of the designers are huge fans of Mario games and Nintendo fanboys. Pretty much all the campaigns are inspired by Castlevania, Zelda, Megaman, and many more. Wario for sure was the inspiration of the mechanic.

Thoughts on Celeste as a game? Especially with it being one of the more recent pixel art based games

I love it! I haven’t had too much time to play, but it’s a great game. I’m friends with the developers and we were talking during the production of the game. I was actually supposed to do some work for the game. Nothing was finalized, but Celeste is great! I’m super happy for the success and although it’s a different art style than I’d do, it really fits the game. Very Meat Boy inspired.

Which of the Knights did you enjoy the most?

I only started a year ago at YCG, so I didn’t do animation for most of the Knights. I started with the King Knight campaign. I did do animation for the King Knight campaign, a lot of it. I did a few of the NPC’s

What were the color rules for the Shovel Knight?

The NES Palette. It has a restrictive set of colors that we wanted to adhere to. The Palette has around 56 colors. We have a little palette of those colors at all times that we use as a reference and color pick from.

How strict were you with following with the rules when it came to adhering to the rules of the NES, even outside of pixel art work?

There are a lot more layers of parallax scrolling in Shovel Knight than the NES. The NES will have a platform layers, a single background layer, and the characters moving on that, it’s around 2-3 max. We have at times 5 layers. Clouds or mountains will be moving at different speeds. We have a few ‘cheater’ colors in the NES palette to make things a little easier to manage and make things more modern. Some characters might have up to 5 colors whereas the NES would have around 3-4. With those in mind, we did our best to stick very closely to the original restrictions.

Within the pixel art community, is this a heavy topic within games when it comes to 8 bit and 16 bit games?

There are definitely some purists. There are people that will say “That’s not a retro game, the hardware wouldn’t be able to run it!”. But honestly, I doubt most people would care. Shovel Knight not 100% restricted like the NES is.

Why do you think these kinds of games, retro games in particular, are so much so prevalent nowadays?

It’s hard to say exactly why. It’s hitting a nostalgia button, that’s for sure. People that are 25-40 that grew up on the NES, the Genesis, even the N64. They all remember playing games like these as kids. They would go “Whoa, I really liked Mario 3 or Mario land. I want to feel that again”. It has retro aesthetics and sensibilities, but with modern touches, so it doesn’t feel old. With that, we had a lot of kids playing our game with their parents. Their parents could have introduced their games to their kids, and the kids don’t have a frame of reference. It’s a generational thing.

Obviously, Shovel Knight has made quite a few cameos in other games like Blaster Master Zero and Yooka Laylee. Are there any art or design requirements you have for the developers when working with Shovel Knight?

We don’t necessarily have requirements for Shovel Knight. We do ask that they don’t charge to play as Shovel Knight. That’s not really okay. We’d like it to be a free cameo. We’d like to know if it’s a sprite or a 3D Model so that we can determine the consistency of Shovel Knight.

How do you feel with all the support and love that Nintendo gives you guys?

Man, I love the attention all the amiibos are getting. Heck, I want them! It’s incredible. They’ve been very very supportive. It’s been a beautiful great relationship.

Last question, you use Patreon. How has it been using that platform?

I wish I could update mine more and cater to the fans more specifically. I’ve put out tutorials without any real focus, but I tried to cover as much as I could animation wise. It’s been great to have the fans response and I want to make more of them.

Overall we’d like to thank the Yacht Club Games team and both Mike and Sandy for their time. It truly was great talking to them and we appreciate their time.

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