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Feature Article

How Cuphead's Devs Gambled On A Dream

Rolling the dice.

Much like the characters of Cuphead and Mugman, brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer's experience in making their dream game started with a big gamble. While many fans were looking forward to the game since its 2013 reveal, few knew of the struggles that the creators faced when making their dream game into a reality. The journey making this run-and-gun platformer was a remarkable one for Studio MDHR, and in the weeks since its September 2017 release, the developers have been welcome with open arms by a loyal and dedicated audience. Though it's now a million seller, the hardships of development still linger in the minds of its creators.

In an exclusive interview with the creative force from Studio MDHR, GameSpot learned the true story about the making of Cuphead, and how the brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer took many personal risks to make this game happen--and with its success under their belt, the duo are now looking to the future.

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One of the most striking elements of Cuphead is its detailed and lush visual design. As a callback to classic animation of the 1930s, Studio MDHR's game evokes a certain rubbery exuberance throughout the many levels Cuphead and Mugman travel through. But the creation of the game's visuals turned out to be a trying task for the small team. Evolving over the course of the game, the animation style and technique became increasingly more elaborate in design and visuals, which showed an enormous attention to detail, but also meant each battle and event had a particular style and tone that set itself apart from what came before.

"Everything in the game is done classically, for the most part. Everything is hand drawn on paper, it's hand inked on paper. All the backgrounds are watercolor paintings." -- Chad Moldenhauer

To make the game in-keeping with its throwback aesthetic, the developers chose a traditional approach to creating its design. Over the course of its development, the game's visual design and implementation proved to be the studio's biggest challenge, all made worse by the limited number of people available to develop the game. From painstakingly painting foam mock-ups of background architecture, to illustrating by-hand the many characters and bosses that are found Cuphead, Studio MDHR went the extra mile to bring the world of Cuphead to life--but at great cost to their careers and personal lives. But over time, this approach began to pay off, giving the game its iconic and vibrant style that put it on the map.

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Along with its beautiful visuals, Cuphead built a reputation for its uncompromising challenge. A clear contrast to the vivid, and even inviting graphics on display. In the years before its release, the throwback game was known as something to not take lightly, which the developers felt weren't that unusual when compared to the retro games it sought to replicate. While they acknowledge that difficult games aren't for everyone, the brothers refined their gameplay system that rewarded those that approached the system with patience and perseverance.

Making games is an incredibly taxing and time-consuming affair, which is something that the developers know all too well after their journey. There's much more to learn from our extended talk with the creative minds at Studio MDHR. Be sure to check out our review of the game, along with videos detailing the influences that the team pulled from, and just how they managed to recreate many of the game's most memorable, and challenging stages.

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