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Cuphead is set to release its big DLC edition, The Delicious Last Course, on June 30. This $ 8 expansion will add new bosses, weapons and Miss Chelsea, a new playable character that comes with unique abilities including double jumps. .
For fans of Cupheads, it’s very exciting. For GamesBeat, the idea of more cupheads seems a bit scary. We have, um, some history with the original game.
So when I got the chance to play The Delicious Last Course during the Summer Game Fest Play Days event in Los Angeles this past weekend, I was determined to do well and have a little respect for the name of Gamesbeat.
And I did just that, managing to beat the demo boss – a diabolical ice wizard that could turn into a fridge, a snow monster and a giant snowflake after trying for less than 15 minutes. Now, I know, this might not sound like the biggest achievement in the world, but it still felt great.
Putting aside my own narcissistic quest for honor, it’s easy to see that The Delicious Last Course will serve Cuphead fans well. It’s the boss-based animation mayhem that made the original such a big hit. It’s just more, which is exactly what good DLC offers.
In the glowing joy of my victory, I had the opportunity to chat with Studio Director and Executive Producer Maja Moldenhauer at Studio MDHR. I asked her about the development of a large DLC of Cuphead, but at first I reluctantly asked for recognition.
Gamesbeat: Normally I don’t ask this, but because we have a bit of a reputation with cupheads… you’ve seen me play demos. I want you to go to the record and tell people how I did it.
Moldenhauer: [laughs] Mike, you did a great job, and I’m glad to see that knockout.
Gamesbeat: Was DLC always in the cards for Cuphead?
Moldenhauer: Its origin came after the launch of the game. Like many developers, there are some things you can’t get due to time, budget, etc. We couldn’t bring them into the main game, but we couldn’t let those things go, we could get them out of our memories and thoughts. For one thing, we want forty to be part of a trio of heroes. Again, we didn’t get that in the original game. And then the cartoon was paid homage to which we still want to pay tribute. It was just stuff we couldn’t let go.
Gamesbeat: Chelsea is interesting. I had no idea she was dead, I think until a while ago.
Moldenhauer: Yes, the story is that she is trapped in an astral plane, a kind of haunted universe. She eats this magical cookie that keeps her alive. Sorry, she doesn’t. Mugmen or cupheads eat cookies, and they swap places. That character goes into an astral plane and Chelsea becomes real. The whole story around DLC is that they are looking for some magical elements so that she can live forever.
Gamesbeat: Is it even a gameplay thing? When you beat DLC, can you play as she does without equipping the charm?
Moldenhauer: No, you always need a cookie charm.
Gamesbeat: Now how do you feel about having a cuphead as this multimedia franchise? You have Netflix show, merchandise. Is it more than you imagined before?
Moldenhauer: Absolutely. It’s been a while, you know, because the original game has come out. The Netflix show has already dropped its first season. But it still doesn’t quite count for us. We never thought that would happen. It’s wild. You can’t put it into words.
Gamesbeat: There’s a lot in this DLC, lots of new bosses, new characters. Given the time involved, have you ever thought that you could spin it in Cuphead 2?
Moldenhauer: According to the material, it may be a lonely game. According to the storyline, it fits better with the original game as a DLC. And just looking at the style of the animation, we thought we’d group it together as a chapter. We quickly rejected the idea of being alone.
Gamesbeat: Chelsea and all these new charms are worth playing in a base game, right?
Moldenhauer: Yes, that’s right. You don’t even have to beat the base game to access the DLC. You only have to beat one Samadhi. After you beat Samadhi in one of the worlds, a mystery character will appear on a nearby shore or dock, and it will take you to DLC Island.
Gamesbeat: What’s the problem we’re seeing here? Do you think that DLC can make this even more difficult than a base game?
Moldenhauer: No, I would say that it is a natural progression in terms of being an extension of Inkwell Isle Three. As you play Isle One, the boss and pattern and health are a bit easier. Then it moves on. This is probably the natural order after the last Involvement Isle in terms of challenge level.
Gamesbeat: After working on Base Game, did you learn any lessons there that you applied to DLC?
Moldenhauer: There were a lot of procedural things out there that made it more efficient. The number of frames of animation in DLC, we really pushed and tested in terms of how far we can take animation in gameplay. This DLC island has a ton of frames. We haven’t checked the actual inventory in terms of how many frames compared to the main game, but I would say they are very close to this one island.
Gamesbeat: Is there a point where this stuff looks pretty good for almost old-style animation?
Moldenhauer: No, that’s a good point. I would compare DLC to an era a little farther and closer to the early Disney era. Fantasy Era. Layers and layers of effects, sparkles and all that stuff, it’s definitely a little later, the years after 2D animation.
GamesBeat: That’s a high thing to compare it to!
Moldenhauer: Absolutely. I would say it’s a goal for us, to get there. That is the standard by which we were working. We’re not there, for sure. We took the necessary time to ensure the quality. We didn’t just rely on the pride of success of the original game. We really want to give fans something new, something inventive, creative, exciting. Not what they saw before.
Gamesbeat: The other big part of Cuphead is aesthetics, music and everything else. Is that another big part of the DLC?
Moldenhauer: Well, to put it in perspective, the original game was around I think it had 60 to 65 musicians on the soundtrack. This time we have over 110. It was difficult to record soundtracks during covid, because of the capacity limitations in the room and things like that, but we did it. Chris Madigan is the composer again on the soundtrack. He definitely surpassed himself. You’re going to hear influences from Rococo to early western movies, but within the same original jazz that we had in the original game.
Gamesbeat: I think it’s interesting that the level of run and gun doesn’t look so much in DLC. Is it a matter of focusing on what works best in the original?
Moldenhauer: I would say it was more that we wanted to experiment with something new, something we haven’t shown or talked about yet. We wish there was an element of surprise for the fans when they got their hands on it. The purpose of the platforming stage is to collect coins, so you have money to go to the store. We wanted to experiment with something new in terms of how to make money. It was a more practical thing.
Gamesbeat: Forty double jumps are great. Is it hard to go back to Cuphead or Magman after messing with it?
Moldenhauer: There is probably a slight twist in terms of rehabilitating Moveset after playing with Chelsea for so long. But it clicks back. You will get used to it. It is complementary. There are such things, for example, I can’t play particularly well with Chelsea’s Dash Perry. I prefer my jump time. I think it will only cater to different choices.
Gamesbeat: Dash Perry is nice, and he’s interesting, but sometimes when you see him you find yourself dashing for pink things, and you can accidentally hit an enemy or a projectile.
Moldenhauer: OK, OK.
Gamesbeat: What does it feel like to be so close to launch?
Moldenhauer: Euphoric. We are a very small and nimble team. Many of us are in the weeds. For example, I re-enacted the game this time. Getting out of it and seeing it in its entirety is wild. Seeing all the pieces came together. We are very excited. We are really excited. We are probably the most excited to see the reaction of the fans.
Gamesbeat: The royal process, what is it?
Moldenhauer: It’s all still on paper. It’s not on the celluloid, considering the price against what it looks like. Animators, they will start by imagining something outside, a design for the boss. Then they will go to the key frames, how it will react. Then it comes in between. Once that animation is set it passes over to me. I will put another layer of animation paper on top. We clean and ink it. Then the same is scanned. It is digitally colored. This is the first time we have used digital in this process.
Gamesbeat: How many drawings will you make in a productive day?
Moldenhauer: It really depends on the boss. I talk a lot about mileage internally, when we predict, in terms of how long it will take the boss to ink. It all depends on the detail. That’s what mileage really is. It can be anywhere from a six minute frame to a 14 minute frame.
Gamesbeat: How does it feel to bring people here and play this thing now?
Moldenhauer: That sounds awesome. I can’t say what has been happening by everyone for the last two and a half years or the fact that we are finally delivering and shipping this, but it is more than we expected. We are very proud of it.
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