Derek Yu talks about Spelunky 2 and how his daughter inspired him creatively
Posted by hb on June 2nd, 2018 @03:09PM
Derek Yu has opened up about developing the anticipated sequel to Spelunky, suggesting that although a lot of procedurally generated games have come out since the first game, Spelunky 2 will feel like a fresh experience.
The developer stunned Spelunky fans across the world late last year, as an announcement trailer was unveiled at Sony's Paris Games Week. And, while details on the sequel continue to be sparse seven months on, he gave numerous teases on the Tone Control podcast in a conversation with Gone Home and Tacoma developer Steve Gaynor about what people can expect.
"I've always toyed with the idea to make a sequel," Yu said. "A lot of really cool games have come out since Spelunky 2 which are procedurally generated, but nothing has really felt like to me what my idea of Spelunky 2 would feel like.
"And then, there also aren't many indie sequels. I think indie developers spend a lot of time on their game and feel very burnt out. They have the freedom to try new ideas, and they do. There aren't a lot, so part of me thought of it as a bit of a challenge - this isn't something that isn't done very much, and doing something people aren't doing is a way to stand out a little bit from the crowd. Spelunky 1 had a lot of currency behind it as an idea and as a concept, and it seemed like to abandon that and do completely new stuff was sort of a waste of that work."
Yu addressed some of the comments that the first Spelunky didn't need a sequel - and said that while he understood the sentiment, he compared the approach he is taking with the Spelunky sequel to how Nintendo approaches Mario games. "Spelunky 1 is totally done. It feels like a complete package," he said. "I think about that game like Super Mario Bros. 1.
"People say Spelunky feels like a perfect game, and I understand what they mean. I think a game like Super Mario Bros. 1 is perfect and you don't want Nintendo to just keep adding to it. You want them to make Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 and all the way to Odyssey. I think it's the same thing with Spelunky 1. I think it's perfect with all its imperfections, and with Spelunky 2, I want to extend upon the world and upon all the mechanics in ways I don't think I've seen before and that fit more uniquely with Spelunky."
He added: "With Spelunky on Xbox, we had the freeware version as our blueprint. I could be like, 'Is it going to be like the freeware aspect in this aspect? Let's do this, but change it up a little like this. And let's add this to the game - it's going to fit in with the rest of the game in this way, and then pointing at the freeware version for that, too'.
"And it's very similar to Spelunky 2 where we've got Spelunky 1, and where a lot of the times, I can be like, 'This part of Spelunky 1 is something I would like to extend, or this part is something I would like to replace with this'. It's a lot of figuring out what makes Spelunky 1 really Spelunky. What's the core we really want to pull out."
Yu also talked about how his life experiences have heavily influenced the sequel, suggesting that there may be more prominent story elements compared to the first game. Since the release of Spelunky 1, he has had a daughter - and the announcement trailer for the sequel hints that the protagonist will be the daughter of the first game's main character.
"It's strongly implied," he shared. "I think people know - I've talked about my family life a little bit, being a dad, and how inspirational it's been. That's been influential on me. My daughter has been a big inspiration creatively, and it makes so much sense in that Spelunky 2 is a sequel to 1 coming after I became a dad. It feels personal to me.
"With the freeware version, it was very mechanically focused in terms of the design. I didn't have a personal story or things that were happening to me in my personal life like that. I think the game came out of a personal situation in that, Aquaria was very intense and I wanted to move back to making a game solo - but the actual game itself was not trying to tell that story. It was more, these are kind of cool mechanical ideas and these are themes that work well with the mechanics.
"With the Xbox version, it got a little more personal in the sense that Yang was telling people to do their best and to not be afraid of failure."
Gaynor shared with Yu his theory that the decision to feature Yang as the tutorial character was influenced by being Yu being an Asian American game developer and as a way to include "personal representation", to which the Spelunky creator agreed. "For sure, there are things like that," he said, and followed it up by elaborating on other ways Spelunky has represented him as a person.
"I think the whole cyclical nature of the game - I'm not religious myself, but that kind of feeling of struggling through something and starting over, it has mirrored the way I feel with my life developing these games one after another and slowly building up my understanding and my knowledge and my mastery of my craft. I think Spelunky is a lot about that.
"But it's not as overt as putting Spelunky Guy's daughter in Spelunky 2. There are themes that are pretty obvious from the trailer - family and friendship and things like that - that mean a lot to everybody but have also meant a lot to me in terms of my career as well. I've met friends along the way, including other game developers and people I've worked with, and now I've started a family and am trying to be a game developer in that context. And I'm also thinking about my daughter who is part of a new generation and thinking what she's going to do with her life."
Elsewhere in the conversation, Yu said that he would have only collaborated on Spelunky 2 with Blitworks - who previously ported the first Spelunky game to the PlayStation platforms.
"They were the only people who had the skills and the manpower and also the experience with Spelunky and the familiarity in that I've worked with them before to tackle this," he explained. "I would be nervous about working with a new team, because I do know that team dynamics are so important and now I understand I work in a very specific and particular way where, for example, if I work with a company and they're a company that wants a Skype meeting every morning, I can't do that. That would be too taxing on me.
"I know from experience with Blitworks, we worked in a way that gelled, where we do have a lot of communication but it's through emails, it's through Google Docs, and then it's occasionally Skyping and meeting in person during GDC. We communicate in a way that feels more natural to me. So they were the perfect fit for Spelunky 2."
Spelunky 2 has been confirmed for PC and PlayStation 4, with a release date and additional platforms not yet announced.