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So, a confession. My plan for this week was to talk about Obsidian’s Tyranny [official site] – the game, not any rumours of Feargus Urquhart openly stealing puddings from the company fridge no matter how well labelled!> Unfortunately, that plan hit a tiny snag… I haven’t had a chance to play much of it yet. A shame, simply because the genre is well overdue a game that, to quote, Kakos Industries, Does Evil Better.
This week then, a tribute to and call out for the games that at least did evil interesting>.
Fox hadn’t expected – or wanted – it to become so popular, he’s explained in a blog post marking the anniversary. Well! Cobbo straight-up said “You should play Undertale”, our Wot I Think was glowing, Adam tried to persuade the hesitant, and… certain Internauts split into fanatically pro- and anti-Undertale factions. It’s been a weird year for Fox, and his reflections on it all are an interesting read.
A chum’s been playing dark fairytale adventure/RPG The Count Lucanor and urged me to take a look at it, worried that it wasn’t being talked about anywhere. I had to be held down forcibly in my chair while feverishly struggling to escape from the chiptune Bach soundtrack, but that aside I agree that there’s something a little bit special here.
The 18th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards have just wrapped up, with the 16th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards to follow shortly. I was at the ceremony, which took place in a preposterously large ballroom within the conference centre in San Francisco. You can find a full list of the winners, nominees and my thoughts on the outcome below.
Spoiler alert, RPGs are kinda ridiculous. Most games are, of course. While the Mythbusters may have shown that carrying Doomguy’s loadout into battle isn’t as bad as it might sound, there’s a reason they’ve never done a follow-up about doing it after taking a few rockets to the face. Likewise, we can’t know the effect of glugging down fifty health potions a day, but it must mean a lot of pauses for the heroic knight to hurriedly get his armour off for a quick pee-break.
Like a lot of things, there’s a line here – on one side, things that are interesting to see a game justify, and on the other, things that are probably best handwaved. Where does that line lie?
For most games, patch notes that read “Updated on Steam to fix bugs and increase compatibility” would be a nonstarter. Ignorable. Useless.
But Undertale [official site] is not most games. More importantly, Undertale’s community is not like most communities. And thus Undertale’s Patch 1.001 bug fixes and increased compatibilities have been picked apart over the last couple days to reveal secret spaghetti or other such nonsense. Spoilers ahead.
Undertale creator Toby Fox said back in November that it was unlikely that any forthcoming patch will contain anything other than bugfixes. And that appeared to be the case with the update that was released on Steam yesterday, which promises to fix bugs and increase compatibility, but nothing more. Nonetheless, the sharp-eyed members of the Undertale subreddit have determined that there may be more going on than meets the eye.
Determined might be putting it a little strongly, but they certainly seem to have a plausible theory. To make sense of it, if you're not an Undertale veteran, you'll probably want to have a look at Kotaku's summary, which contains some big but necessary spoilers. Essentially—and this will be a spoiler too, so consider yourself warned and look away now if you don't want it blow the surprise, because this is your last chance!—the new content, which includes new dialog and a changed audio file, appears to add the pseudo-mythical character known as Gaster to the game—sort of, anyway.
Prior to this, according to the Undertale Wiki, Gaster's existence was only hinted at by certain in-game characters, and direct references could only be accessed by editing game files. Even now, the odds of actually encountering him are apparently extremely slim—but if the redditors are correct, it can be done.
It sounds like a fairly small thing as additional content goes, but Undertale is an outstanding game—we don't give those Editor's Choice awards to just anyone, you know—in large part because there's a lot more to it than is initially apparent. In that light, this kind of meta-mystery is the perfect way to add even more twists and turns to the game.
Interestingly, Fox seemed to hint at something being hidden away in the update (even as he denied the existence of new content) through a series of tweets he posted yesterday, in which he subtly encouraged players to poke around under the hood. "BTW, just want to clarify, the lack of new content is in no way due to people datamining the game. No hard feelings towards those people," he wrote. "The only reason I tried to get people not to datamine is so fans could experience things before they were found in the code... Anyway, I have no problem with that kind of stuff now. After all, game hacking leads to things like fan translations, which are great."
The patch also fixes bugs of various sorts, as mentioned, but it does not address the problems caused by the latest update to the Steam client beta. If Undertale stops launching after the update, Fox recommended reverting to the standard Steam client.