Cuphead devs entirely rebuilt the game after E3 2015

You probably recognise Cuphead [official site] because you’ve been hearing about it for years. The action platformer was first announced at E3 2014, and it’s finally out on September 29. In between, the developers at Studio MDHR quit their jobs, remortgaged their homes and essentially rebuilt the game.

Until 2015, Cuphead was a series of boss battles with a distinct, 1930s-inspired cartoon style, not the platformer that we’ll be able to play in a few months.

“The truth is that we started Cuphead as a three person team, just working on the weekend,” lead designer Chad Moldenhauer told GamesRadar. “With such a small team we knew to keep our scope small; there were just a few bosses and a couple of weapons and everything was just less insane.”

But feedback from a 2015 demo revealed that players were hoping for more. So were the developers. They had originally envisioned a much larger game, but decided on a more conservative scope. After E3 2015, they went back to the drawing board.

“We realized that there were a lot of people out there that wanted what we were doing,” Moldenhauer said. “My brother and I quit our jobs, remortgaged our houses and began expanding the team. This was our chance to actually deliver the game we wanted to make all along, rather than the cut-scope game we originally planned with a three person team.”

Since then, they’ve added large, scrolling levels and a host of enemies for the eponymous Cuphead to fight as he repays a debt to the devil.


  1. Cvnk says:

    I hope this proves a success for them. I wouldn’t have the guts to make that sort of commitment. Which I suppose is why I’m sitting in a cubicle working on boring projects.

    • Ghostwise says:

      On the other hand, it might also be why you’re not living as a vagrant.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      Speaking as a former videogame dev you are wise. My last game was a success but if I’d remortgaged my house I’d now be homeless. Making games is super risky. Never remortgage your house for your business.

    • Zordan says:

      I think theygot some solid numbers since the game created quite a lot of buzz. The only problem I see is making this XBone and Windows 10 exclusive – that is not the installbase you want to bet your mortgage on.

      • Malcolm says:

        Suspect this exclusivity will come with a slice of Microsoft Cash. Hopefully enough to safeguard their mortgages!

  2. jellydonut says:

    This always reminded me of Rayman, it would have been a shame if it did not deliver a game that at least had the scope of old Rayman games.

  3. Phasma Felis says:

    I didn’t realize it had stopped being just a series of boss battles! They should maybe make that clearer in the trailers.

  4. Eery Petrol says:

    They remortgaged their house on the gamble that positive community feedback will translate into high sales, for a game called Don’t deal with the devil. Ironic.

  5. Jokerme says:

    Oh, man. This game looks so good. This is the kind of visual advancement I expect from games. Realism isn’t the only path we can take. This is amazing.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      10 years ago, I was honestly worried that the need for increasingly expensive ultra-realistic graphics was going to leave the gaming industry moribund, with no one willing to risk sky-high development funds on anything but established formulas.

      The indies saved us, I think.

  6. tslog says:

    If this game kept it’s boss battle only set up I would never play it. Maybe on sale at Steam 2 years from now ( I’m Australian so despicable Valve has as Australian tax that makes all Games on their store more e$pensive. Makes me try games out a lot later than I would thanks to that rip-off).
    But with more pacing and enemy engagement variety now I’m far more interested.

    Their commitment to this game by the monitory risks they took are commendable if very risky. But why was that remortgage risk to their family necessary ? What were the publishers/ platform holders doing ?
    Was it a case of gave you some promotion but you’ll then live or die on your own ?

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Publishers are often reluctant to pay for an extra year of development of a game. “We had a deal where we’d pay you X and you’d deliver Y. Now you want us to pay you twice as much? Why not release the all-boss-battle game as it is now and then release your platformer version as a sequel?”

      And that’s assuming you have a publisher, which I don’t think these guys did. They were probably working on it in their spare time and hoping to self-publish when it was finished.

  7. klops says:

    Early Disney films were all about tying the action to the music. Last time I saw Cuphead, it had none of this and therefore it loses (or lost after the big changes) the biggest thing connecting it to those early cartoons. It looks very nice, but doesn’t (or didn’t..?) feel cartoony.

    • Ryuthrowsstuff says:

      There’s a hell of a lot more (and better) to early animation than just Disney. And they hardly pioneered the action tied to music style. It predates them, and substantially Disney’s early cartoons were largely rip off of other studio’s work. Mickey is just a thinly disguised copy of Oswald the Rabbit. Both the Flieshers and Warner were better known for their use of music to boot.

      The musical thing is a carry over from the silent era of film. You couldn’t have sync sound. But you could have a live band (often just a piano or organ player though) or loosely synced record playing in the theater. So while the silent era toons were made to sync to particular musical beats and sounds. At exhibition they wouldn’t neccisarily end up getting played with that same track all the time. And the sync would be considerably looser. The actions would be generally animated to match with a certain meter or timing. And major actions would be tied to specific sound cues (slide whistles or trumpets often). The sync sound era things could get considerably more complicated.

      The game has a certain limitation in that it be pretty complicated to tie player controlled actions, and computer controlled reactions to them to pre-recorded music tracks like that. But you absolutely see evidence of the looser sort of sync to the general beat for general actions and to specific sound cues in gameplay videos. I’d say they got enough to get the same feel.

      • klops says:

        Oswald was a product of Disney studios and Disney’s Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon with a synchronized soundtrack. Sure, there were other cartoon makers too and sure, not all had good sync, dut does this feel like an early cartoon to you? From Disney or Fleischer or other “muchbetterthandisneys!”?
        link to

        Or does it feel fun? Hopefully the rebuilt game has changed enough.

  8. Merus says:

    Given that what I played of the platforming levels was utterly uninspired, I’m hoping they’ve either improved them a lot or have parents to move in with.

  9. Louis Mayall says:

    I have such a weird primordial fear of that animation style. I think I watched the King Midas, Noah and Three Little Pigs cartoons in this style and they scarred me.