Eurogamer: Before that fabled meeting?
Dave Cox: Before. We were told we couldn't go ahead with it. I said, well, we've already prepared something. Can I at least come and show you this? And if you don't like it, fine.
We had Simon Belmont coming out of a castle, and a vampire. I don't know if we'll make it available later maybe we will. It looks a bit crude now. But at the time it was fantastic. I flew to America and I showed this and then, thankfully, we got a stay of execution. They said go to prototype. It was a struggle.
Eurogamer: Was it marketing's job to build up hype for the game before release? Did you, as a developer, care about that kind of thing?
Dave Cox: We didn't intend to create a blockbuster. That wasn't the plan. The plan was to reintroduce Castlevania. We didn't have a multimillion-dollar budget. We didn't have 300 people working on the project. We're a pretty small team. Not a huge budget middle-size budget if you like. Nothing like the kind of titles we're compared to.
We thought, let's just make a solid entry and reintroduce Castlevania and then take it step by step see what happens after that. We never looked past this project at all. We just thought, we just want to do it and if this is the last thing we ever do, that's fine.
The hype and build-up was amazing but a little bit scary. You don't expect that. I never expected people to cheer and clap at E3. When I got up on stage I was surprised when everyone went crazy. You just don't expect that well I certainly didn't.
All the hype and goodwill for the game, you always hope in your mind people will like what you're doing, of course. But you don't expect it. When good things happen, it's great. I'm pleased people like the game. I'm proud of the game on a personal level. If it's the last thing I ever do, I'll be totally happy with that. I'm proud to have my name associated with this game. All the people I worked with on this game sweat blood and tears. We cried together. It's got soul.
I've played it hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times I still get chills at certain points in the game. That's a good sign. We have a bit of a joke about it at Mercury Steam. I've got quite hairy arms, so if the hairs on my arms go goink, everyone's like, that's a good barometer that it's working.
Eurogamer: Castlevania is compared to a lot of games. What games is it fairly compared to, and what games is it unfairly compared to?
Dave Cox: I can understand the comparisons because a lot of people playing games are not aware of the history of Castlevania, and are not as old as I am. So I can understand why people say this game's like God of War, this game's like Uncharted. A lot of this goes on in the games industry anyway, where everything's compared to every other game.
I don't buy the comparisons to God of War. I've never been comfortable with it because we never set out to make a game like God of War. That wasn't the intention, at all.
Eurogamer: But do you understand that comparison?
Dave Cox: I do understand. When I look at it now I do understand. But when you've played enough of it you know it's not like God of War. It's got its little moments, but generally it's not like God of War.
Eurogamer: Gamers, though, have to form opinions based on previews, videos and trailers before release.
Dave Cox: Yeah. The demo we released at E3 was a bit worrying. Players got five minutes to pick the game up, play it, and then walk away. They need to be able to do things straight away. So we gave them the tutorial level, which is very combat-orientated because you're teaching the players combos. We were worried people were going to think it's just like this all the way through. That was a bit of a concern.
But I figured if people have fun with it, then they could read previews and reviews and understand the game is not just about combat in enclosed arenas.
Eurogamer: It's not just like God of War?
Dave Cox: Exactly. So it was a bit of a risk. But at the same time, I didn't want to drop them into a stage, die five times and go f*** that. I don't like it. It was a judgement call.
The game is more akin to the original classic Castlevanias. When we sat down, that was what we wanted to do. We wanted to go back to the classic Vanias, platforming, killing enemies as a guy on his way to the castle with a whip.
And we wanted a journey, like the older games. But a lot of games have taken influence from other games. In God of War, there are a lot of Castlevania influences there. If David Jaffe was here I'd chat with him and say, I'm sure there are some Castlevania things in there, and he'd probably say yeah, of course there are.
So I understand the comparisons, but I hope people see there's more to it than that.
Eurogamer: What about comparisons with Uncharted?
Dave Cox: I love Uncharted 2. I got reported as saying I hated it or something. That's absolutely not true. Uncharted 2, that and Batman [Arkham Asylum] were last year's best games. It's wonderful to be compared to a game like Uncharted.