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The Two Failed Games That Led To Hollow Knight

"Hollow Knight" became a revelation to 2D platforming fans when it surfaced as a part of a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. Promising a charming yet grim art style, memorable NPCs, and tough-as-nails boss battles (pun intended), the project easily hit its funding goal and several of its stretch goals in its active month. The popularity of Team Cherry's hit Metroidvania continued to grow following release, with several fans even creating an uproar over a perceived "Hollow Knight" clone featuring a similar art style and mechanics. But Team Cherry did not plant the seeds for "Hollow Knight" with ideas it generated specifically for its Kickstarter campaign. The story of the little knight began a few years earlier.

For over 50 iterations, the Ludum Dare game jam has invited teams of unproven indie developers to test their skills at developing a game with a short turnaround time — developers like Team Cherry. William Pellen and Ari Gibson, based in Adelaide, Australia, shared their stories regarding the scrappy origins of "Hollow Knight." In short, two Ludum Dare game jams led Team Cherry to what eventually became "Hollow Knight." These events helped Pellen and Gibson nail the "Hollow Knight" art style and the appearance of the game's protagonist before they created the Kickstarter campaign.

From Hungry to Hollow

In 2013, Ludum Dare 27 tasked participating developers with creating games based on the theme of "10 Seconds" (via Newgrounds). Pellen and Gibson came up with the idea for a game they titled "Hungry Knight!" that starred a familiar, white-horned bug in its journey to kill other bugs for food. YouTube videos of the game depicted The Knight from a top-down perspective slashing enemies with its nail (via Astoroth), a mechanic that formed the basis of combat in "Hollow Knight." Following Ludum Dare 27, Team Cherry rendered artwork featuring this same character exploring the bleak reaches of what became Hallownest (via Rock Paper Shotgun).

Shortly before the Kickstarter, Team Cherry participated in a subsequent Ludum Dare under the theme "Beneath the Surface." As Ari Gibson shared with Rock Paper Shotgun, this resulted in the first concept art of Dirthmouth and the Forgotten Crossroads, the game's starting areas.

This second game jam truly put Team Cherry on the path to "Hollow Knight," William Pellen explained to Game Informer. "We kept talking about what sort of game we could make that would fit," Pellen said. "We thought of the little insect knight exploring a deep, old kingdom beneath the surface of the world."

"Hollow Knight" may have found its audience mostly through its Kickstarter, but Team Cherry set the foundation for the game well before then. The story of the original game has technically not come to an end given how "Hollow Knight: Silksong" was originally meant as DLC for "Hollow Knight," but has since morphed into its own project.