Archives: Derek Yu



Brandon Boyer

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Honestly quite old, but dug up again as Spelunky creator Derek Yu adds paintings of that game to his DeviantArt account, the illustration above is a tribute to a legendary anonymous Dwarf Fortress recounting called The Hamlet of Tyranny.

Yu summarizes the encounter thus: “Daneken, the captain of the guard, makes his final stand against the fire demon Ashmalice. He wields the sword called Endless Death of Tears and prepares to plunge it into the demon’s heart, avenging his fallen comrades.”

I bring it up again not just because it’s completely stunning, but because every time I think about the still basically impenetrable Dwarf Fortress, I remember the tweet above, which I still firmly believe with all my guts, and which — now that Spelunky‘s been released — I want to give all my money to support a Kickstarter for.

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Brandon Boyer

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The biggest late night bombshell that could be the most excellent news of the week: creator Derek Yu has simultaneously announced that his long-in-development procedurally generated 8-bit platformer Spelunky has officially hit its 1.0 milestone for PC, and is now freely downloadable from its new home at

But that’s not the bombshell bit: that would be the greyed out icon for an upcoming Xbox Live Arcade version of the game, which Yu (and his newly established studio moniker Mossmouth) has confirmed will be arriving in 2010, adding:

It’s going to be much more than a straight port of the PC game – I’m planning on stuffing it with new graphics, audio, and other features for XBLA users. With all the other great independent games on XBLA or coming to it, I’m hopeful that Spelunky will feel right at home there. I think it’s a cool platform and I’m excited about what I’ll be able to do to make the game special.

If you haven’t played the game since I last mentioned it here in December, you’ll be surprised to see just how much its evolved, just how much more rich and complex it is, and — even through it’s as punishing (if not more) than it ever was — it’s still one of the most vital indie developments of the past five years.

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Brandon Boyer

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There’s an easy way to tell when you’ve got a veritable indie hit on your hands: its TIGSource forum thread goes from 0 to 34 pages in just over a week, before the game’s even been properly finished. So it has gone with Derek Yu’s Spelunky.

You might know Yu from his work as co-creator of the previously mentioned Aquaria, TIGSource itself, or more mischievously from his 2006 freeware gore-em-up I’m OK, a fully playable answer to Jack Thompson’s ‘Modest Videogame Proposal’ (which I wrote up slightly more in depth at the time).

Most easily and commonly described as Spelunker meets Rogue, Yu’s game retains all of the unforgiving difficulty of both (though much more forgiving than the former’s trip-to-death strictness I noted before), but excels at the latter’s sense of procedurally-generated loot collecting and cave crawling, just now in 8-bit sidescroller form.

In your travels downward, you will die — you will die a lot, sometimes within seconds of entering the first level, for stupid reasons and even when you’re at your most careful, but every cheap death is a necessary part of the learning process (its readme.txt implores, “Don’t be afraid to die! But also don’t be afraid to live!”), and the sense of accomplishment for a smart and successful run is one of the best we’ve seen in some time.

Yu hits all the right notes from simply its run/jump physics (not since Cave Story has it felt so joyous to just move), to its itchy-trigger-fingered shopkeeper, destructible landscape and Indy Jones boulder chases, to that burdensome sense of dread that builds with each successive bar of gold you collect, knowing how important it is that this time you make it out alive. His algorithms are able to smartly weave together endless scenarios with those building blocks for players to create their own stories in ways the code couldn’t possibly have conceived.

Now thankfully natively supporting joypads (its somewhat clumsy initial keyboard configuration being the only thing hampering full-on recommendation at the time), Spelunky would have made an apt ‘best indie’ of 2008, but let’s now call it a bar set very, very, high as we plunge into 2009.

Spelunky [TIGSource]