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.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Now Playing: How Cuphead's Devs Gambled On A Dream

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Back To Top
48 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for sealionact
sealionact

6251

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

Love the review on the windows store, gives it 1 star and says "Too hard, I'm literally crying and can't make it past the first level..." lol.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for greaseman1985
greaseman1985

1498

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 17

User Lists: 5

There's an article on Kotaku that basically says this game is racist because they're inspired by cartoons of a racist era hahaha. Apparently we should discount everything from the past because history is inevitably full of things that we no longer accept, but were the norm back then.

2 • 
Avatar image for RedWave247
RedWave247

1915

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 0

Heck of a gamble that paid off big time. It's well deserved. Cuphead is this year's Undertale (in terms of being a game that'll definitely be on many favourite games lists of this year).

Upvote • 
Avatar image for RadPro
RadPro

641

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By RadPro

It's now approaching 1 million copies sold on Steam alone.

4 • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b
deactivated-5a26032528a9b

315

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 19

User Lists: 0

I could listen to the King Dice theme song all day.

3 • 
Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b
deactivated-5a26032528a9b

315

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 19

User Lists: 0

On the flipside, Motiga, the creators of Gigantic, bet it all and lost.

2 • 
Avatar image for Fartman7998
Fartman7998

1183

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 60

User Lists: 0

Why did everybody suddenly publish Cuphead articles at the same time? I just saw on Twitter posts about other game journalists complaining that Cuphead was racist. Not saying you guys are complaining, just curious. Coincidence maybe.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for zmanbarzel
ZmanBarzel

2358

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By ZmanBarzel

@Fartman7998: The developers have been making media stops recently. They must've hit the GameSpot/Giant Bomb offices late last month as GB posted a video interview with one of the devs on Oct. 25. This type of video takes much longer to produce than GB's raw style, so it's posting later.

The "racism" articles are responses to a thinkpiece over on Medium that ran recently.

EDIT: A correction: the original piece that inspired the responses actually ran over at Unwinnable, not Medium.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Fartman7998
Fartman7998

1183

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 60

User Lists: 0

@zmanbarzel: Ohh, okay, now I get it. Thanks.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for suprsolider
suprsolider

567

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Only cry babies would complain about it's difficulty.

If you think the game is too hard then GET OUT OF MY HOBBY.

2 • 
Avatar image for cainetao11
cainetao11

37221

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 77

User Lists: 1

@suprsolider: Make me ;p

Upvote • 
Avatar image for gegeforce
Gegeforce

200

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Well this is the kind of journalism that I like, good job Gamespot!!! I encourage Gamespot to make more of these kind of specials, it's a good way to create more distinctiveness.

3 • 
Avatar image for killerious
Killerious

428

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Looks like a great game, hopefully it comes to iOS and I can play it on my iPad.

2 • 
Avatar image for RadPro
RadPro

641

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@killerious: I doubt it since Microsoft invested an undisclosed amount in the game which is why you won't see it on the PS4.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

3862

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 139

User Lists: 0

Great feature.

3 • 
Avatar image for ExoticCharm
ExoticCharm

836

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Cuphead is the best game of 2017. It's so fun, and it's refreshing to see something different.

3 • 
Avatar image for uncle5555
uncle5555

557

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

I still REALLY appreciate that you guys post a late game boss and SPOIL it for those of us who haven't gotten that for yet. THANKS... >:-(

3 • 
Avatar image for draco934
draco934

277

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

TRIGGERED ^

Upvote • 
Avatar image for heqteur
Heqteur

1573

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@uncle5555: there's only one way to not get spoiled: DON'T READ OR EVEN CLICK articles about what you don't want to be spoiled.

5 • 
Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

7640

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 49

User Lists: 0

great feature for a great game. wouldn't it be amazing to see studio mdhr tackle the side scrolling beat em up genre (final fight, streets of rage, etc.) next? perhaps the wait would only be 3 years this time around due to all the knowledge gained on cuphead.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hyruler461
hyruler461

152

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@Xristophoros: As fun as that sounds, I feel like they could make an amazing looking RPG style game, maybe turn based or something. They could come up with so many crazy enemies and boss fights and attacks our heroes could do, all in their amazing art style. I would love to walk around in a classic looking cartoon world.

2 • 
Avatar image for jamesbr27
JamesBR27

408

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

I wonder if Cuphead is indeed the most challenging game of 2017 with Nioh on pair.

Nioh is hard as hell and way longer than Cuphead.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hyruler461
hyruler461

152

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: Although I would love to see a massive open world game in this art style :P

2 • 
Avatar image for hyruler461
hyruler461

152

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: who said it has to be a 3d world? The map is a good representation of an over world, and earthbound is 2d and did just fine.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hyruler461
hyruler461

152

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: oh, well I was more comparing earthbound based on its style of walking around, not really by how big the world is (which yeah it's not really massive)

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Xristophoros
Xristophoros

7640

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 49

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: megaman with a traditional animation style would be awesome. not sure capcom would be open to it, though. an original idea with a similar gameplay style to megaman would be just as cool.

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Naylord
Naylord

850

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@Xristophoros: Sonic Mania happened so who knows what the future may hold

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dr_vancouver
Dr_Vancouver

1046

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Is this damn game gonna get a patch? I DL'ed it last month and have been waiting to play on the X, but it doesn't show up in the "enhanced games list" on my Scorp though. I have read of people claiming that they had played it in 4K, reviewers and such. Were they lying to spread misinformation and hype or is something coming?

Upvote • 
Avatar image for Abdulrahman1981
Abdulrahman1981

336

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: are you sure it will run on a 1.6 ghz dual core laptop? I have Core 2 Due and wanted to play this game since it was released but I don’t have Xbox One

Upvote • 
Avatar image for dr_vancouver
Dr_Vancouver

1046

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: I was under the impression that it's all hand drawn, on my 65" 4K TV on a game like that you'd definitely notice 4K res over 720p or whatever it's currently running at. I guess I'll keep waiting for the "world's most powerful console" to be able to run an indie at respectable numbers :(

Upvote • 
Avatar image for hughesyboozy
hughesyboozy

410

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@dr_vancouver: Honestly it won’t look any different, because of the unique way the game is made. On PC I’ve ran it at 1080p and 4K native, resolution makes no difference.

2 • 
Avatar image for sealionact
sealionact

6251

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 0

It's an absolutely gorgeous game, fully deserving of its success...

9 • 
Avatar image for godfather830
godfather830

407

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 63

User Lists: 0

@sellingthings: Well I think it uses a 2D engine, which requires far less computing power. But anyway, great game - I'm happy these guys were so successful. They seem like great people too.

Upvote •