Talking Tunic with Its Creator Andrew Shouldice

Xbox One

Since its debut during the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing, players have been patiently waiting for the launch of Tunic, an action-adventure gameabout a tiny fox in a big world. We look forward to the day we can explore the mysterious island and its secrets, but in the meantime, we caught up with the creator of Tunic, Andrew Shouldice, about the game’s E3 2018 debut, updates on development, and the inspirations behind the game.

Q: The last time we had a chance to go hands-on with Tunic, it was E3 2018. Can you give us an update on the game on what features you’ve been working on since then?

A: It’s a secret!

Ok ok, here’s a peek. Day-to-day, I’m working on a pretty diverse set of things: making boss fights, building new areas, modelling environmental details, fine-tuning feel — there’s always something to do. Now more than ever, production is an enormous concrete to-do list, rather than a set of vague questions. 

In the past few years, Tunic has more solidly figured out what its overall shape is. I’ve always known that it’s a game about exploration, combat, and secrets, but exactly how that forms into a cohesive whole is a complex problem to solve. In retrospect, the structure hasn’t changed too much, but my confidence in the details has crystalized.

Q: Take us back to what it felt like to see Tunic appear during the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing. Did you know your game was going to get such a prominent spot during the show?

A: We knew the trailer was going to be featured in the press conference, but we didn’t know when it was going to show up. We were sitting in the Microsoft Theatre, and every time the screen went black between trailers, we tensed up, not knowing if this was the moment or not. It was heart-pounding, but in a good way. Seeing the trailer up there, representing so much work and anxiety — not just on the trailer, but the game itself — was pretty amazing. It was one of those “hhhhuh, I guess this is really happening” moments.

What I also didn’t know was that Phil Spencer himself was going to segue out of the trailer and mention my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia. That was a real cherry-on-top.

Q: What struck us during our time with the game were the similarities to another tunic wearing hero – all good comparisons in our book. What other inspirations are you drawing from in the creation for your hero and world? 

A: Tunic wears a lot of its influences on its sleeve, for sure. A lot of people mention The Legend of Zelda series, and there’s definitely a through line there. If I were to compare Tunic to a Zelda game though, it would be, more than any other, the very first one. I have a soft spot for games where you’re given very little direction aside from “go find the treasure, it’s out there somewhere” — games where uncovering secrets feels like you really found something, as opposed to just getting to “Chapter 4: In Which The Protagonist Finds The Secret”.

It’s hard to be absolutely sure where each part of the game came from, but I can name a few things I’ve actively admired while trying to get things right while making Tunic. The feeling of dodging through an attack and being perfectly positioned to land your own hits, from Bloodborne. The sublime, perfect isometry of Monument Valley. The mystifying, ever-present text of FEZ. The sprawling yet intricately connected world of Dark Souls. The imposing and boxlike villains in The Secret of Kells. The ruined world of a powerful civilization, from Nausicaä and Laputa. The dumbfounding and world-spanning riddles of La Mulana and Myst.

If Tunic manages to synthesize all these and can give people at least a fraction of those feelings, I’ll be happy.

Q: As a game designer, how do you like to balance the diversity of combat vs. exploration vs. puzzle solving? Do you think you’ve struck that “perfect” balance here with Tunic? Why or why not?

A: It’s tricky! I’m not going to boast that anything is “perfect,” but pacing is something we spend a lot of time thinking about.

I’m actually not the biggest puzzle room fan, at least not in this kind of game, and at least not in the traditional sense. Maybe I’m overly cynical, but I raise an eyebrow at the idea that someone would lock their treasures away with a block-pushing puzzle. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Sokoban game, but seeing one passed off as a security system feels a bit like busy work made for Me The Player, not a plausible part of the world.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems to figure out in Tunic — they just take on a different form. I’d rather people ask “wait, how do I get there?” or “I wonder what this was for”.

Q: When can we look forward to playing Tunic again? Do you have a target launch date you’re aiming for or is it more of a “When it’s done, it’s done” release?

A: No official launch date yet. 🙂

Thanks to Andrew Shouldice for taking the time to share these exciting updates about Tunic. For the latest news on the upcoming title, stay tuned here on Xbox Wire.

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