The unique development constraints of Cuphead’s painstakingly hand-drawn art

“The ideas have to be great, because the workload to implement even the tiniest thing is enormous.”

Cuphead co-creator Chad Moldenhauer explains how the game’s art affected its development process.

GamesRadar+ has published an interesting look at how Cuphead developer StudioMDHR created the upcoming game’s hand-drawn animation, and how that art style ultimately impacted the rest of the game’s development.

To stay true to Cuphead‘s 1930s cartoon inspirations, each character, object, and background in the game is the result of computer-free, hand-drawn artwork.  Because of that, even slightly changing something like a character movement or projectile in the game can amount to a massive amount of work.

“We can’t just move a hand up 30 pixels or squash a head down 10 pixels, the whole action has to be redrawn from scratch. This means we end up doing a ton of planning and iteration before anything gets to that level, as we can’t afford to throw out a lot of work,” said Cuphead co-creator Chad Moldenhauer.

“Similarly, we always have to keep in mind how much work is going to be involved in any action. If we want to add a new attack for an enemy, it could be over 30 frames of animation plus all the implementation work.”

He notes that even animating smaller and seemingly simple characters is no easy feat since every enemy, big or small, in the game is animated at the same rate. He offers a flower enemy as an example, saying that even it required over 100 frames of hand-drawn animation.

While Cuphead’s hand-drawn art amounted to a significant amount of extra planning and work, Moldenhauer notes that the absurdity 1930’s cartoons, in general, were a big source of inspiration for the levels and enemies in the game. You can find his comments on that part of Cuphead’s creation, as well as a look at how the game evolved beyond just a boss-rush mode, over at GamesRadar+.

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