In the latest documentary from videogame YouTube channel Noclip, the team interviewed members of poncle, including Vampire Survivors creator Luca Galante, about the development history of 2022's breakout indie shooter, which started as a creative outlet for Galante from his day job working on a mobile gambling game.
Galante is understandably precious about his privacy, and only provided audio interviews for the documentary. Otherwise, he's cheekily represented by a little Muppets-style Dracula puppet in the video. After a childhood defined first by Commodore 64 oddities and, later, the original PlayStation, Galante emigrated to England to pursue a career in games.
He started in food service, and later sampled other games industry jobs, but seems to have spent most of his career before Vampire Survivors at a company making a slots game for mobile phones. In the face of this stable, but creatively unfulfilling day job, Galante found an outlet in more expressive game development in his spare time.
For a time, Galante committed to a grueling schedule working long into the night on a Unity-based RPG before scaling back and starting work on Vampire Survivors as a lower-stakes, more fun project in Java. A former coworker now collaborating with Galante at poncle, Sam McGarry, describes how their colleagues couldn't tear themselves away from a prototype Vampire Survivors during a hobby project showcase at their former employer.
Regarding Vampire Survivors' killer price and eventual meteoric success, Galante said that "It wasn't priced in a smart way, it was priced in a fair way," noting that while he recognized his own preference for cheaper games on Steam, he mostly wanted the price to reflect Vampire Survivors' initially very bare bones construction and use of asset store sprites. Vampire Survivors initially released for just $3, later rising to a princely five bucks as new content and features were added.
There are a lot of other fun tidbits in Noclip's documentary as well: the "Santa Water" item's name is a play on words for the Italian word for "holy," and its appearance and deployment were inspired by the holy flame effect in Divinity: Original Sin 2. It also blew my mind a little bit to learn that Galante still primarily works in Java, with poncle converting that work into Vampire Survivors' new, more advanced engine.
This is hardly the end of Galante, poncle, or Vampire Survivors' story, either. The game's latest paid DLC, Tides of the Foscari, arrived in April, and poncle announced its latest free update at the PC Gaming Show before making it available June 12. In a post accompanying the Tides of the Foscari release, Galante declared, "We'll be done with VS for real only once I—or you—get tired of it."