Cellar Door was unheard of until it released Rogue Legacy last June, despite having released several successful flash games. The 2D platformer was designed to capture the unforgiving nature of one of its creators’ favourite games, Demon’s Souls – so much so that they named their prototype ‘2DDS’. Released after countless iterations, Rogue Legacy was the world’s first ‘rogue-lite’, according to the studio – with a PS4 and Vita version on its way, co-creator and lead programmer Kenny Lee reflects on emerging from the unknown.
“Believe it or not, more people have played our flash games than Rogue Legacy, but nobody had ever heard of of Cellar Door. They just played the games and didn’t see who made them,” Lee tells us. “Even though our games did well, we did sort of bask in relative obscurity. Hopefully people will now say ‘that’s the Rogue Legacy guys’ – that matters to me.”
Kenny lives with his brother and co-creator of Rogue Legacy, Teddy, and along with a few other remote artists and musicians, they make up Cellar Door. “A lot of people say you shouldn’t work with family, if things fall apart it gets really tense, and I obviously didn’t listen to that advice,” he says. “We’ve had lots of fights about our games, but we don’t have to put on that veil of professionalism. Being frank does help to speed things up, I can just tell him when I don’t like something he’s doing.”
Rogue Legacy’s quickfire play is a natural for portable devices, and Kenny agrees the game will feel right at home when it’s released on Vita in a couple of months’ time. “Even though it has the smallest user base of all consoles, we got flooded with people saying they wanted the game on there,” he tells us. “The fans swamped Sony with it, and because of the awesome support they showed for our game, Sony came to us. Even if it doesn’t sell on the Vita, I certainly want it there; it seems like a great match.”
Due to their lack of coding experience on consoles, Kenny and Teddy were introduced by Sony to Abstraction Games, the company who ported Hotline Miami to PlayStation 3 and Vita. Cellar Door still has the final say on any game-changing decisions, but Lee is confident that the game has been left in capable hands. “We don’t like dealing in absolutes, we are trying to be open minded about this,” he says. “If they can come up with a good reason to use the touchpad, for example, then by all means we’ll certainly consider it, but nothing like that has come up yet.”
You won’t be swiping on the screen to activate abilities or tapping on candelabras to smash them, then. “We wouldn’t force functionality in, that always turns out terribly and we don’t want to go down that route,” says Lee.
Unconvinced by the commercial success of the Xbox One and PS4, Kenny and Teddy are using the PSN release of Rogue Legacy as a trial run. “It’s like open season, nobody knows what’s going on, so we’re using Rogue Legacy to test the waters of the PSN and the PS4. It will affect how we do business going ahead with our future games,” he says. “Working with Sony is pretty awesome. They came to us, and they’ve been nothing but accommodating. They’ve shown a lot of interest in our game, they’ve been fantastic to work with. Microsoft has been a little bit harder to contact, unfortunately.”
Cellar Door started work on its next project early in March, and if the diversity in its back catalogue is anything to go by, the new game will be something completely different. “Some people might consider it a bad habit, but we don’t work in the same genre twice,” says Lee. “It’s bad because we’re running out of genres to play with – we’ve made text adventures, full adventure games, tower defence and a bullet hell shooter. Rogue Legacy was our platforming game, so the next game, if we follow that trend, will not be in the spirit of Rogue Legacy.”
Rogue Legacy fans shouldn’t be too disheartened though, as the brothers do still plan to work on a sequel. “We do want to make it, we just didn’t want to jump on it straight away,” says Lee. “We’ll most likely hire another programmer when we do. It took us about a year and a half to make the first game, so we could get Rogue Legacy 2 in development in the next two years.”
Kenny and Teddy are ironing out some of the engine problems that plagued the first game in the weeks surrounding its release, and Kenny is determined to learn from his mistakes and give the follow-up a smoother launch. “I’ve been itching to start game development for months now,” he adds. “I enjoy programming a lot, so I’ve been denied that for a very long time. After the success of Rogue Legacy we realised there was no going back. This was something we love to do, and that’s why Rogue Legacy will always play a special role in that. It has allowed us to do this for the foreseeable future, and that means the world to us.”