Do you ever think about hand-drawn animation? Like really, really think about it? And the absolutely massive amount of artwork that goes into even making a single short walk cycle? StudioMDHR certainly thought about it a lot during the development of Cuphead. Then the studio turned right around for Delicious Last Course and decided to do about the same amount of animation work again.
For a DLC.
According to Maja Moldenhauer, the sheer volume of animations in Delicious Last Course stemmed from the team’s desire to bring to life everything they had left on the cutting room floor of the original Cuphead, with a playable Miss Chalice serving as a catalyst for the rest.
“We really wanted to experiment with the art form…I don’t have an inventory yet or a frame count, but it is comparable to the entire core game in this one DLC. […] With the additional frames of animation, we moved from that more basic style, early thirties [Disney], closer to Fantasia. I say that loosely, it is not anywhere near Fantasia quality, but it’s something we strive for, something we aspire to,” Moldenhauer says.
Moldenhauer quips later that the members of StudioMDHR are the “kings and queens of scope creep,” which is one of the reasons Delicious Last Course is such an animation monstrosity. Originally, the DLC was limited to Miss Chalice and “five supersized bosses,” but quickly other ideas were thrown into the mix, including a specific one Moldenhauer can’t mention just yet that’s “going to be a surprise for everybody.”
“One of the things that we’re known for are boss transformations in the core game,” she continues. “One thing that we did this time was location transformations. In the Mortimer Freeze boss fight that you’ll see, he’s not in the same arena through the whole fight. Every phase brings you to a new location, which means lots more watercolor background paintings.”
Delicious Last Course also offered its animators a different degree of freedom with boss designs that they hadn’t had in the original game due to the design process itself. In Cuphead, Moldenhauer says the team asked composer Kris Maddigan to “make a whole bunch of music” that they then paired to each boss after it was designed. It’s a process that Moldenhauer describes as “disorganized,” though she admits it worked well enough given Maddigan’s ability and the variety of music he came up with.
But this time, they flipped the process on its head.
“We had the bosses cemented in our heads,” she says. “We knew exactly the cadence that they were going to, whether they were high energy, what the theme was. Then we debriefed him on these levels and bosses and said, ‘Now go.’ Then they’re very tailored and specific…we went all out. The original soundtrack had 65 musicians. This one has 110. Really just to help put things into perspective and scale versus like the core game.”
With such a massive scale of work on Cuphead, we also spoke to Moldenhauer about StudioMDHR’s decision to take its time to preserve its developers’ mental health, as well as where the studio plans to go now that Cuphead is complete.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
Source: IGN Video Games All