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Shotgun King – Interview with Rémy Devaux


I love a good roguelike game. Starting each new run with an eager anticipation of what random combination of upgrades I will obtain this time. Theorising what items could combine together to let me blow through the next attempt or just looking forward to a new meta upgrade that will change the way I approach the game. There is something delightfully addictive about that “one more run” feeling the genre induces. Scrolling the new releases page I was pleasantly surprised to see Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate, one of the great roguelikes I had played in the last year was getting a physical release so I decided to reach out to the developers PUNKCAKE Délicieux and see if they had time to talk.

Good Afternoon Rémy, thank you so much for responding to my email, I appreciate you taking some time out of your day to answer some questions. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Hi! I'm Remy Devaux, I co-founded PUNKCAKE Délicieux in 2021 with fellow developer Benjamin Soulé and composer Pentadrangle and I do a bit of everything there, from game engine development to support and marketing, and of course making the games themselves!

We've created PUNKCAKE Délicieux with the goal of making a new game every month. We managed it okay the first 6 months, but then we started falling behind and ended up just releasing a lot of games. In three years we've released 18 games total, with a 19th on the way. A new dev has joined us recently and so we're actively trying to get back into the one-game-a-month rhythm, but we still prioritise making the games good over releasing them on time.

We made Shotgun King in 2022, it was our 9th game and a pretty massive success for tiny indies like us!

Congratulations on the upcoming physical release! PUNKCAKE Délicieux seems to be an expert at taking conflicting ideas and making a captivating game out of them. What inspired you to make a roguelike chess game and then to add in a shotgun for good measure?

Shotgun King was originally created for Ludum Dare, a friendly online competition where everyone tries to make a game in one weekend, in accordance with a theme which is announced at the start of the event. The theme this time was "Delay the inevitable". This had Benjamin think of chess, and of how when you only have a few pieces left you just don't stand much of a chance anymore. So what if the king was the only piece left on one side? And then, how do we give him a chance... Well, by giving him a shotgun of course!

In a more traditional story you might expect the good guy to be given a chance against an overwhelming evil force. Is there a particular reason you chose to have the player be a tyrannical despot with a boomstick in Shotgun King?

You're playing this guy who's all alone, so we had to give a reason for that. It seemed really funny to imagine all the other black pieces leaving the black king's side to get a white paint-over, and we do love a story where we're with the bad guy. And besides, we're a french studio. France's history is full of kings, the last of which got his head chopped off for being that terrible. So it's very easy for us to picture them as despots, haha.

Plenty of kings certainly fall in this game, for those unaware on each level of Shotgun King your aim is the same as chess, to "take out" the enemy king (but with a shotgun). Did you encounter any problems adapting chess into a challenging roguelike?

Surprisingly the game came together very naturally! Of course we couldn't have only one white piece moving every turn, the game would be too easy, so we made it so each piece had a small timer and several could move at once. From there it was all about adjusting values, the fire arc of the shotgun, the number of pellets shot, the length of the enemy timers, the hp for each piece…

And then of course the cards you get after each level play with all these values to make a constantly evolving challenge, and also throw some other fun new things into the mix, like the ability for the black king to pick up a white piece and “yeet” it at another one, or to fire all your shells all at once, or having a pawn that's the secret heir, and turns into a new white king when the white king dies!

It's a game that's really fun to add to, even now as we prepare a new content update for the game two years after its original conception!

I am glad to see you are still adding to the game, Shotgun King seems to have picked up a lot of steam even outside of your dedicated fan base which I imagine contributes to its additional updates and physical release. Is there anything you attribute the success of this game to?

The way we see it there was definitely a lot of luck involved. The friendly competition I mentioned was at its 50th edition when we made Shotgun King for it. It's a nice number and we believe it got more coverage than usual for it. We did win the competition which of course helped as well. But even before we got the results, the first version of the game, which was free, was starting to become viral on Youtube. People who covered it in their videos were getting more views than usual for their channel, and so more people started picking it up as well. So I do think the algorithm gods played in our favour here.

In the end when you think about it, Shotgun King is a silly but interesting twist on chess, a game with an international fanbase that's over 1500 years old. We didn't think about this when we made the game, but we certainly tapped into something!

All of PUNKCAKE's games have a clean retro pixel aesthetic, with Shotgun King even having a CRT TV effect to make you feel like you are truly back in the early 2000's. What influenced you to go with this style?

It's an aesthetic that we really love and that we have a lot of experience with, so it's easy for us to make it look good, while still leaving some space for experimentation, like with Shotgun King's very limited colour palette. Personally I grew up with the NES and the various gameboys, and indeed with a computer with a CRT screen, and so both pixel-art in games and the CRT nostalgia mean a lot to me. And the other co-founder Benjamin was in fact already making games at that time, so his love for all this comes back further still, to the early game consoles in the 90s!

We glossed over this a bit earlier but we can’t ignore that PUNKCAKE aims to put out a new game EVERY MONTH. How did this idea start and how do you maintain your sanity?

Haha yeah it's pretty crazy to make so many games, but it has a lot of upsides! First of all it lets us work our way through a lot of ideas, which is super gratifying. But also it lets us learn from our mistakes in a very tight loop, basically the mistakes of this game are lessons for the next. It is definitely a lot of work, especially since we do everything ourselves, I mean we even do our own game trailers haha! So we do our best to take care of each other and work in a way that's not going to burn us out. That is also why we're not actually releasing a new game every month currently, sometimes it's just too much work and it's healthier to just let go and delay a release for a few weeks. It's not always easy, but overall I would say we're not doing too bad!

I think it would be a bit cruel to ask you to pick a favourite but is there a particular game in your catalogue you hold close to your heart and want to talk about for a moment?

I'm honestly very happy with all our games, I think they all have something going for them that makes them worth a try. But since we're on a board game site, I'd really like to mention Rush for the Ages, it's a historical timeline-building card game! It's a minimalist take on the 4X genre, and it takes a couple of runs (and a good read of the instructions) to wrap one's head around the rules, but once you're there it all makes sense and it only takes a couple minutes to play each run. It's a really tight little strategy game that's super satisfying to play!

As mentioned we are on Zatu so I do have to ask, are you a board game player and do you have a favourite?

I really love Dustbiters! It's a postapocalyptic 2p card game with just 21 cards where you try to outlast your opponent while racing away from a dust storm. The design is super tight and clever, is super easy to play, but still has quite a bit of strategic depth. One of the cars is a horse. I love it.

Thank you so much for answering all my questions Rémy. We wish you all the best with the physical release of Shotgun King and look forward to seeing what crazy concepts PUNKCAKE will come up with in the future.

If this interview has piqued your interest you can go and preorder Shotgun King for PS5 and Switch here. I recommend giving it a go if you like strategic games with a roguelike spin. Don’t be fooled by the silly premise, the game requires a lot of thought and planning.

If you want to keep updated on the latest PUNKCAKE Délicieux news and releases you can join them on their Discord or Patreon.

You can also follow their socials on Twitter and Youtube.