Shovel Knight Showdown Game Modes: Building the Single-Player

Xbox One


  • The Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package, made up of five complete games made over the course of five years, will finally be complete
  • Shovel Knight Showdown and King of Cards will launch as free updates for owners of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
  • We think these games offer something truly special, from a fast-paced multiplayer battle game to a grand, sweeping single-player adventure

On December 10, Shovel Knight Showdown and King of Cards will launch as free updates for owners of Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove on Xbox One. We think these games offer something truly special, from a fast-paced multiplayer battle game to a grand, sweeping single-player adventure. We can’t wait to share them with all of you.

The Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package, made up of five complete games made over the course of five years, will finally be complete! We’ve had quite a few adventures with Xbox over the course of those five years — even the Battletoads paid a visit to Shovel Knight’s world. King of Cards and Showdown really are the cherries on top, and we hope you enjoy both!

Building Single-Player

Our desire for Shovel Knight Showdown on Xbox One was
to create a big, standalone game with tons of variety that you could play
again and again. Part of that “full game” feeling needed to come from Showdown
having its own adventure! It needed a way to delve deeper when multiplayer
wasn’t an option. The story and characters needed to make meaningful strides.
And if you did have a partner around and you still wanted an adventure…we
wanted you to be able to play, too! We began putting our core pillars in place
to develop a great story mode, as well as other single player content, too.

Shovel Knight Showdown

Crafting Story Mode

So, what is a story mode? We obviously wanted to convey some kind of story, encourage you to play through the game as all the characters, and entice you to play repeatedly. Additionally, it’d be ideal if it helped you see the full breadth of content in the game, so you knew exactly what was available in the multiplayer. But how would we show so much content in a fun and surprising way? That led us to brainstorming about how we could combine a standard “fighting game arcade ladder” with our randomized game mode, Chester’s Choice!

Many fighting games like Mortal Kombat feature arcade ladders, but they rarely feature interesting or unique setups. We like arcade ladders and think they work well, but since Shovel Knight Showdown is so focused on gems and platforming, we figured that mixing the platforming gameplay up was critical.

We liked the approach to arcade ladders found in games like Super Smash Bros’ Classic Mode that are set across a long series of stages with each tier presented as a fun encounter that mixed up modes, settings, stages, and characters along the way.

Shovel Knight Showdown

We decided to randomize our story mode: battles, settings,
and modes would be shuffled, though they’d start from a handcrafted base rule
set, like Chester’s Choice. This way, we could ensure the battles were fun
setups that emphasized the story and characters, while also creating replay

While our story mode gameplay could carry some story in
terms of the scenarios you encountered, we knew that wasn’t enough. Each
character’s story needed to be like its own little story episode! We won’t go
into detail about how we designed the intertwining narratives in Shovel
Knight Showdown
— that’s a tale for another day! But once we were done, we
had lots of story points that we wanted to get across! 

First, we gave each character an intro and outro cutscene
using in-game graphics. These scenes would set up the story and pay it off at
the end. The outro cinematic would also work as a reward for finishing the story
for that character.

Shovel Knight Showdown

We spent great efforts to ensure that each character had a
worthwhile story. During the story battles themselves, each character was
assigned unique rival or impact character that you’d encounter several times.
These impact characters were hand-chosen for each character to try and make the
most interesting story possible. Through the cutscenes and rival encounters,
each adventure would have its own little story arc. Best of all, as you played story
mode as each of the unlockable characters, the fully intertwined story would
become clear. Taken as an aggregate, these stories made Showdown feel
like a grand adventure worthy of its own title. 

But there’s more- Two
players can play the story cooperatively
! Because Showdown is
primarily a multiplayer experience, we wanted the single-player content to have
the option of being played with a friend. Sometimes you want a change of pace
from battling one other, and cooperative story mode is a great alternative! The
battles can be quite different in single player or coop- we hope you try them

Story mode is crammed full of special events, unique rule
sets, boss battles, and finally, a cool new minigame: Targets Mode, which we’ll
discuss next.

Shovel Knight Showdown

Targets Mode

In addition to story mode, we thought it would be important (and fun!) to have a mode that let players practice the characters in a different, non-threatening setting. A target or scoring mode seemed like a good fit.

We like how target modes in games like Super Smash Bros. can encourage players to use the full breadth and depth of each characters’ moves that would lead to a new realization about how to execute their abilities. But Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove already has hundreds of single-player challenges and stages…adding more just felt uninteresting. We also wanted our target mode to train the player for an unlimited time period.

We felt that a classic arcade-style score attack might do
the trick. We’d put the targets on randomized paths that made interesting
navigational challenges, and we’d group them up to test your attack ranges.

Shovel Knight Showdown

The idea is simple enough: break the targets entering on the tracks for points! If you break a group of targets in a row, a bonus will be added for completing the “chain”, along with two extra seconds of playtime. Once you run out of time, the game ends! In this way, the game could potentially last forever.

If Target mode was going to last a variable amount of time, we had to ensure that the gameplay didn’t feel static! Like one of our favorite single screen sore attack games, Bird and Beans, we focused on having dynamic elements. In Birds and Beans, as the game progresses, the floor gets destroyed and you have to play differently! In our Target mode the stage will change layout, a hazardous bomb (or helpful smart bomb!) can appear, and even the emcee Percy will engage in various antics. We ramped all these behaviors to a crescendo!

Targets can get wild as the score increases. The targets
start moving faster, there are new types of targets, and the ground can drop
out. We tried to keep in mind Bird and Beans’ simplicity. We spent a lot of
time trying to reduce the number of elements in the game while creating an
experience that could potentially last an hour (though Target mode runs rarely
exceed a couple minutes). The dynamic elements in the mode emphasized your need
to intuit your chosen character’s abilities and figure out how to best reach
all the targets on screen.

Shovel Knight Showdown

(The Target Mode combo meter rewards players for breaking
chains of targets without making a mistake.)

You may have noticed one more thing in the HUD: a combo
meter! After we had implemented the targets moving and chaining together in an
appealing way, we found we needed something that encouraged the player to move
quickly and avoid mistakes. The combo meter we implemented increases when
targets are chained but degrades quickly, essentially telling the player to
“hurry up!” It provides much-needed tension… making a mistake and it goes to 0.
Losing that combo can really set you back!

Target mode can be encountered in story mode with the
objective being to reach a score goal, but it can also be played solo. It’s a
rite of passage to try and achieve a great Targets score with your chosen
character, as it displays your mastery.

Practice Mode

While we could add modes forever, we didn’t want to overload
Showdown! But from the beginning, we figured a training mode or Practice
Mode would be required. We tried to make it as streamlined as possible.

Shovel Knight Showdown

All Mode-d Out!

From single-player to multiplayer, there are a wealth of ways to play Shovel Knight Showdown. All in all, we learned that when developing a multiplayer game, making content is only half the battle! It must be presented in a variety of modes that showcase it best.

We think Showdown and its various modes are a blast
to play! The game should be simple to pick up and understand, but there’s lots
to explore and master with every mode. We hope you enjoy playing and replaying
to uncover Shovel Knight Showdown’s secrets!

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