undertale art

Toby Fox talks to The Escapist about his upcoming indie RPG: Undertale.

Undertale, the EarthBound-inspired indie RPG, turned a lot of heads with its unique gameplay mechanics and charming story when its free demo hit the net earlier this month. I recently spoke with head developer Toby Fox, about the significance of choice in the game, the inspiration for the combat system, and the game’s proposed development cycle.

First up, player choice seems to play a big role in this game, with players actually being given the option to spare every single enemy they battle. How will player choice continue to affect the game in the full version? Will, for example, some aspects of the game be inaccessible if you made the “wrong” choice? In the same vein, will a “pacifist run”, IE: completing the game without killing any enemies, be possible?

Yes, the choice to kill or not kill will continue to be significant. If you kill certain people, then you can’t be friends with them. Is there any benefit to being friends to people? Is it possible to play the game without having anyone die? Hahaha… I can’t tell you…

“I feel that it’s important to make every monster feel like an individual. If you think about it basically all monsters in RPGs are the same … They attack you, you heal, you attack them, they die. There’s no meaning to that.”

The combat system is another unique facet of Undertale. What was the inspiration for this, in particular, the “defense” segments wherein you must dodge enemy attacks, and do you plan to evolve the system in any way for the game’s full release?

The inspiration for the talking system came from Shin Megami Tensei. I feel that it’s important to make every monster feel like an individual. If you think about it basically all monsters in RPGs like Final Fantasy are the same, save for the graphics. They attack you, you heal, you attack them, they die. There’s no meaning to that. The inspiration for the defensive segments came from the Mario & Luigi RPG games and bullet hell shooters like Touhou. Yes, the system will get more interesting. I don’t want anyone not to be able to play the game because they aren’t some bullet-dodging fanatic.

Here’s a small gameplay spoiler: In the next area, blue bullets start to appear – if you’re not moving, they won’t hurt you. A line of blue bullets will come towards you and then white bullets, then blue, then white. So the game will become more about timing your movements and reading the situation (like in Super Punch Out!!) rather than fitting through little holes. Different kinds of situations will appear as the game goes on.

Tell us a bit more about the story of the undertale world. Right now all we have is that you are “some girl” who fell into the secret underground world of monsters.

The story will be revealed when the full game is released. Though I think we know more than that. Here’s some info from the demo, summarized (spoilers): A long time ago, monsters were sealed underground by the humans. Several human children have climbed the mountain, fallen down, left the RUINS, and were assumedly killed by monsters. One monster, “Asgore” is seeking the souls of these human children. Why? Also, there’s a certain ending to the demo that might raise even MORE questions regarding the nature of the story. Have you gotten it…? Hee hee hee.

You’re developing the entire game pretty much by yourself, correct? Are there any plans to “expand the team”?

Yes, all of the music, programming, and writing is by me. A good chunk of the art is by my friend Tuyoki, and a few others (check the Kickstarter for credits). I may take on a few other artists but I want to do as much of the game as I can by myself. The more people you add to a team the more diluted the final product becomes.

What are your eventual plans for release? I see that your website teases at a Mac client, so I’m assuming we can expect both a Mac and Windows release? Do you have any information regarding how the game will be available, how much it will cost, or a release window?

The game will be released for Windows and Macintosh (the demo is out for macintosh now, actually!!) Not sure where I will release the game, but I am aiming to release it for $10 in Summer 2014 or later.

Undertale‘s Kickstarter campaign has more than doubled its initial funding goal, despite being up for less than a day. If you want to contribute, you have until July 24 to chip in.

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