Hollow Knight is an indie platformer being developed by Aussie studio Team Cherry. It’s all about an ancient world that exists below the town of Dirtmouth. Players take on the role of the Hollow Knight and delve into the darkness, taking on all manner of insectoid enemies. The game is designed to be challenging both in its combat system and in its many, inter-connected areas and maps. It’s one of the indie games displayed at PAX Aus this year that stood out thanks to its artwork, all of which has apparently been hand-drawn. William Pellen, design director at Team Cherry, spoke with me about the game.
“It evolved when Ari (Team Cherry’s animator) and I did a few game jams last year,” Pellen said. “The first one we did was a game called Hungry Knight. It starred this character, and it went around eating cherries, which is why we’re called Team Cherry. Ari was super keen on doing another game with this character. So we started doing this as a side project. There was another game jam that we missed, but the theme for that was ‘beneath the surface.’ It was a cool theme, so it gave us the idea of this big, underground insect kingdom, which is where the game is set.”
Team Cherry started working on the prototype last year for Hollow Knight, and ideas kept on piling up until the game grew to what it is now – a 2D action-platformer about delving into the dark. “We don’t give players heaps of information at the start, but the basic premise is that there’s this ancient kingdom – the Hallownest, an old insect kingdom.” The Hallownest was destroyed long ago by unknown causes, and now there are explorers constantly going down there looking for treasure and mysteries to solve.
“You’re the Hollow Knight, so you’re one of those explorers,” Pellen said. “You’ve come to explore Hallownest. Exactly why the Hollow Knight is there, what his connection is to the kingdom, and exactly what the story of the kingdom is – that’s something that unfolds as you play.”
Hollow Knight was Kickstarted in December last year. Pellen says most of the world has already been constructed. “I’m doing all the enemies right now. We’ve got heaps, over a hundred. One of the key things we want to achieve is constantly having surprises. Lots of weird characters to meet, weird creatures to fight. We want there to be new experiences constantly throughout the thing.”
Team Cherry is looking to release Holllow Knight early next year. It’s currently set for release on PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam. They have also locked in a Wii U release and they’re looking into securing a release on other consoles and handheld devices.
Like many of the indie developers at PAX, Pellen says making the game hasn’t always been an easy journey. “It’s always super gratifying to work on something like this. There’s a less fun part at the start of the project where you have to get all the systems in place and spend a lot of time without anyone actually playing your game. And now that we’re towards the end, it’s more fun because we get to see people get their hands on it and play it. We get to see Youtube and Twitch streams of people playing it. It’s kind of energising and helps push you towards the end.”
The reception for Hollow Knight has been overwhelmingly positive so far. “People are really getting into it. The first thing they say is that they like the art6 style. We get a lot of people to come over and try it who might not be familiar with the game style of an action 2D platformer. But the look of the game has brought them over and they start playing it. It takes them a while to get the grips of it, but they always persevere and keep playing.”
Pellen says those interested in the project can follow Team Cherry’s developer blog, which they use to both keep people updated and to share gifs from the game itself.