As I just happen to be a fan of Mr. Tired Media´s upcoming Japanese-inspired Visual Novel Dungeon-crawling RPG hybrid “Undead Darlings” (for Windows, MAC, Linux and PS4), I thought that it would be a great idea to do an interview with Tired Media. Well, guess what? I got the chance to sit down with “Undead Darlings” project/creative director Nick Doerr. So we talked about everything from censorship in games, fan service, “Undead Darlings” to Mr. Tired Media´s plans for this year. And with that said, please enjoy my interview =)

Robin TGG

Would you be so kind and introduce yourself and your studio to our readers?

Nick MTM
I’m Nick Doerr, founder and jack-of-all-trades for video game development studio Mr. Tired Media. I’ve been involved in the game industry since late 2006, when I was hired on to help at Joystiq back when they had a slew of “sister sites”—I was eventually given the role of site lead for their PS3Fanboy site and as an irregular contributor to PSPFanboy (you can still probably find old reviews of mine; Uncharted, Wild Arms XF, Brave Story, and more are still out there). In 2009, I moved out to southern California when I was offered a position as localization editor at NIS America.

I chose to leave them in 2014 to found this company, where we aim to create Japanese-style games that offer unique Western experiences. This is different from “catering to the Western market” that some Japanese devs have attempted; we want to tackle subjects, characters, and material that is generally not on the radars of Japanese game developers. Undead Darlings is our first attempt to mesh Japanese gaming with our unique spin.

mr tired media

The story behind the logo and the name of Mr. Tired media is most definitely worth reading up about.

Robin TGG
How did you come up with your studio name “Mr. Tired”? And how did the “Undead Darlings” project come by? And have you worked on that game for a long time?

Nick MTM
So, back at NIS America, my good friend and former business partner Ryan Phillips was the marketing manager—and one of the only non-Japanese managers at that. When the other managers would hand out paychecks, they would say お疲れ様です (otsukaresamadesu), but Ryan wanted to have an English equivalent (even though he’s quite fluent in Japanese). To define the Japanese phrase very loosely, it means “you look tired [because] you’ve been working hard, good job” (Google translate says “cheers for good work”). He took the general meaning of the phrase and used it to create his English version: “You’re doing a great job, Mr. Tired!” Or Mrs. Tired, or Ms. Tired…whatever the case may have been. And that’s where our name came from! A bit of Japanese, a bit of the West!
Undead Darlings was the result of a brainstorming session with the four original folks who comprised Mr. Tired back in mid-2013.

We were trying to think up crazy game scenarios since we had just experienced things like Katawa Shoujo, Hatoful Boyfriend, and were working on titles at NIS America like Danganronpa. From the Western side, post-apocalypse and zombie scenarios were all the rage, but they all took the same perspective: the world’s an empty, scary place and zombies are bad and need to be shot in the head (or whatever). On the Japanese side, visual novels, cute female character designs, and RPG-style gameplay are all standards for the types of games we were used to working on. Ultimately, we chose to blend the two together to create a unique scenario for both Japanese and Western markets: Undead Darlings.

We’ve been working on it ever since; 2013 until today. It had been a part-time side project until we relocated to Seattle, WA in late 2014. That’s when we found more team members and started working on all the aspects outside of the story and characters.

undead darlings zombie girl

I can´t remember the last time I saw a zombie girl this cute :3

Robin TGG
“Undead Darlings” is said to be a “Japanese-inspired Visual Novel Dungeon-crawling RPG hybrid!”. So I´m kind of curious to know how that combination came to life?

Nick MTM
The game was originally just a visual novel, actually. However, once we saw how fans latched onto games like Demon Gaze here in the West, we looked over the game’s scenario and figured a dungeon crawler would be a natural fit and only increase costs a little bit. Well, we were wrong about the last part, but in terms of programming and actual content, it’s the best genre to have weaved inside of a visual novel—basic programming (no real-time AI, frame-dependent hit detection, physics, etc.), primarily static enemy art (we will have animating components to our foes), and grid-based 3D dungeons. It all came together quite well. However, the separate elements—each inexpensive to implement on their own—have added up to more than we had tucked away for development costs. The icing on this bitter cake is that now we know exactly how much we need in order to complete the game, where it all goes, and when we can expect each element to be finished.

Robin TGG
As of lately I have noticed that there are plenty of visual novel games all over the place (no matter the format). Do you have any idea why visual novel games have become so popular among Gamers nowadays?

Nick MTM
I can’t claim to know exactly what contributed to the VN explosion, but I’m grateful for it and have my own theory. A lot of games will try to claim to be “the one that set it off,” but I think it’s more of a boring, business-y reason. Primarily, the spread and growth of digital platforms. It took a lot longer for Japan and their developers to agree to releasing titles in a digital-only format, especially if it involved a PC version or port of a title not originally released on the PC.

As an example, back at NISA, there were several VNs that could have been considered on PS2, PSP, and the like—heck, NIS Japan has the very successful Hayarigami series that has never left their shores—but the low returns on the high localization costs (since the games are mostly text, they would take longer to complete than an action-centric game) in a largely untested market (at the time) was far too risky for a retail release. Now small localization studios can pay freelance/contracted translators and/or editors, and then release the game on a digital platform for a teeny-tiny fraction of the total publishing pipeline cost. To me, that’s why visual novels have started to come to the West in such a torrential fashion.

undead darlings time to die

I don´t think it´s a very wise idea to anger a zombie girl with a knife…

Robin TGG
For those who don’t know what “Undead Darlings” is all about, could you give them a proper introduction? I would also like to ask how the development progress is doing? (is the game 40-50% done?).

Nick MTM
Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is, to reiterate, a Japanese-style visual novel and dungeon-crawling RPG. This romantic-horror-comedy game follows the journey of eight characters—six female zombies, one human male, and the protagonist—as they seek out a safe haven across several tried and true post-apocalyptic locations. The protagonist, named Reggie, inherited the cure for zombification from his father—the main scientist involved in some shady experiments that may have caused the outbreak in the first place—and he and his zombie friends (plus the other guy, named Buck) go out to find a safe place where they can mass produce the cure. Reggie has no idea if the cure he possesses is for one use or several; if it should be injected, consumed, smeared all over the infected, et cetera… So while the girls urge him to use it at first, they soon realize there’s not enough information to ensure it gets used properly.

During dungeon crawling and the RPG portion of the game, the girls take the front lines in battle against the zombie horde. Since they have already been infected, there is little risk to them should they get hurt again. Reggie plays the role of loot donkey, carrying all the items the girls come across while exploring dungeons. Buck plays the role of a storage center—his big hybrid truck is where you can drop off the items you want to save for later. Battles are traditional turn-based affairs with some unique twists; there’s a lot to talk about, so I’ll stop myself before I rant about it for pages.

Visual novel segments allow you to make several choices in every conversation that will then focus attention on different girls. Gathering “hearts” for the girls in these conversations will let you unlock their specific character arc scenarios, which is where you’ll learn a whole lot of interesting tidbits about them—along with unlocking the over 20 gorgeous CG images illustrated by the super-talented artist Hitsukuya. We’re so stoked that she was willing to contribute her style to our game!

pc bro principal

Political correctness, third wave feminism and SJW mentality has caused censorship, anti-freedom of speech/creative freedom and a toxicated environment in the video games industry.

Robin TGG
What´s your take on fan service, censorship in the games industry and the ongoing SJW/feminism and political correctness nonsense in the world of games?

Nick MTM
Yeesh, get ready for a long answer. That is a BIG question.
Like with everything that has two opposing parties, it’s important to remember that each side has some valid points—it’s the extremists and people who fail to take the time to do even the most basic research that make it hard to take either side seriously. So I’m not going to talk about if one is right or one is wrong; both have interesting points, but my beef is with the kneejerk reactions you read about on gaming sites or see in comment sections.

Nobody likes everything. Nobody likes all the same things—and only those things—that you like. Do you know what I do when I see something that is “offensive” to me? I laugh, shrug, and move on. Sometimes I even join in, because self-deprecation and allowing oneself to be vulnerable is a sign of ultimate strength to me. I don’t understand why there’s any reason to raise a stink over something you personally disagree with. I don’t like shrimp—so should I get pissed off if someone makes a game where you are rewarded for eating shrimp? Or if I am forced to make a tiny shrimp bikini and put it on a live shrimp for the big shrimp competition? No. I just don’t play that game. Someone else will and they might love it—the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to LET THEM. If you don’t like something, in the words of Louis C.K., “go make your own, then.”

Fan service is a subgenre in the exact same way that adventure, real-time strategy, simulation, and fishing mini-games are. It’s a specific, designed, and intentional element of a game. What’s hard for fans of anime-style games is how this element has become almost standard in every title; I enjoy it myself, but I also want there to be more options where it isn’t present (the Ys games are a fine example of this). It’s stupid to demand a game like DOAX3 to not have fan service. It’s not stupid to ask for a DOA game that is a serious volleyball simulation—where the entire roster is present and all wear official volleyball team attire and bounce physics more closely match the real world. Asking for either to not exist because you’re offended by it is censorship in the literal sense. Understanding this difference is integral to both sides of this “nonsense,” as you put it.

Localization, when done properly, is not censorship (and even I’m willing to admit that I’m not perfect, and I haven’t always done it “properly,” but I also remain proud of the extremely hard work I’ve done, and for the hard work the translators that I worked with have done). However, when you can sense a translator’s or editor’s personal opinion or agenda bleeding into the text, that’s a red flag for (perhaps subconscious) censorship. One thing I’ve learned since leaving NISA is that your opinions have absolutely NO PLACE in the game’s script on which you are working. If someone says something really idiotic or “sexist,” then suck it up and translate/edit it to be really idiotic or sexist. That is objectively the right thing to do; it is your job. Again, if you don’t like it, go and make your own. I’m from Atlanta. I had no connections in the game industry, I do not come from money—if I can do this, you can do it, too.

fire emblem fates censorship

It´s no wonder why people want to import the Japanese version instead…

I would love, love, love another shot at localization with all the insights and new perspectives I’ve gained since leaving NISA and by extension, California. But that’s where all these localization companies are. It’s something else I’d like to try and change someday; where you are and where you’ve grown up shape your personal ideologies and how you view opinions that do not match your own. A game’s localization would vary greatly between a team working on it in Los Angeles, a team in New York, a team in Louisiana, and a team in Ontario. Local dialects, syntax, and work ethics would change almost every line of dialogue by themselves! I can’t count all the times where a line I edited was brought up in a script party with other editors as being wrong or not making grammatical sense. Where I come from, these were common phrasings or local sayings I grew up with. They had no idea what they were! Doesn’t make it wrong or right; just different.

I think the absolute worst thing we, as developers, can do is patronize those who wish to have more representation in the games they play by treating their inclusion like a development “checklist.” The “token” this or that, being tossed into a game design in the same way that the requisite “ice dungeon” or “fire cave” is. It should feel organic. It should make sense given the context of the story and world. If a character wearing a miniskirt enjoys throwing high kicks, you should probably have panty shots, because that’s what would actually happen; otherwise, the character design goes against the general design philosophy of the game or developer. This will be literally the only place I ever say this, because my whole idea behind this was to not bring attention to it and simply let it exist as organically in the game as it exists in the characters’ lives: as a given.

Reggie’s father, the scientist who developed the cure, is African-American. Reggie’s mother is Caucasian. This is never brought up because it’s not important to the story and I don’t want it to get forced into the narrative like a Kia commercial gets forced into an episode of The Glades. To me, that defeats the very purpose of the concept that developers are attempting to address. It stands out—it does not mesh inclusively. I know the whole shebang goes way beyond the inclusion of minority races; this is just one simple example.

undead darlings battle

It´s battle time!

Robin TGG
Which games, movies, animes and mangas inspired you while making “Undead Darlings”?

Nick MTM
Games: Phantasy Star IV, Demon Gaze, Dungeon Travelers 2, Katawa Shoujo, and Danganronpa. Movies/TV Shows: The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead…anything zombie culture-related, really. Anime: Sankarea, Clannad (any Key property is very inspiring for the feels).

Robin TGG
I´m probably not the only person out there that wonders why you went for an “undead” theme for your game (maybe you wanted to stick out from visual novels crowd?). So was there any particular reason behind you went down that road? And did your “Undead Darlings” idea evolve over time? Or has the idea remained pretty much the same over time? I ask you this, because I had this idea that your game might have evolved from being an action/platform game, into being a visual novel instead.

Nick MTM
I think I covered this in some previous answers… To reiterate, it’s been the same concept the whole time. Only the scope changed from visual novel to also being a dungeon-crawling RPG.

undead darlings girls

There are six different zombie girls to be found in the world of “Undead Darlings”.

Robin TGG
Is the “Undead Darling” girls inspired by real people around you? Or did you base them on something else?

Nick MTM
I can’t actually speak for every character! When we were first coming up with the character concepts, the “original four” members each took one or two characters and filled out a “Character Analysis” sheet that I provided to them. It helped to fill in physical details, personal details, and more. It’s a very powerful writing tool I always use when I write general creative fiction. I took their answers and we fleshed the characters out from there together.

I believe the characters I came up with from scratch were Pearl, Reggie, and I think Jordan. Every character follows a general archetype from anime: childhood friend, tsundere, the sporty/athletic one, and so on. Other than that, the backstories for each are entirely original (or as original as you can hope to be these days). I try not to incorporate too many elements from real people I know, especially myself. It’s a very easy pit to fall into—writing each character like they’re you—and that’s a surefire way to have dialogue that sounds like it all comes from one person’s mouth: yours.

Robin TGG
Just the other day I found out that “Undead Darlings” is a 300,000-word visual novel game. Is that correct? And will there be voice overs for most of the dialogs?

Nick MTM
That is correct! It may even end up larger, since I haven’t written all of the sub-events yet. While I’d love to have all of it voiced, that would be an impossibly large expense (voicing 6,000 lines at NISA cost about ten times the line count, on average—and 6,000 lines might be like, 75,000 words). However, there will be voicing no matter what. The very minimum voicing I have planned and have calculated expenses for is ~150 lines per character. Some will be battle, and then the rest would be “general phrases” that play based on the context of the line, similar to Demon Gaze…or Valkyria Chronicles 2 (ugh, Avan’s laugh)…or Skies of Arcadia, or…any number of games. The more funding we’re able to receive, or the more I can scrounge up through personal means, would allow us to voice more parts of the game. It would be amazing to have each characters’ personal story arc scenes to be voiced. Only time will tell.

the battlefield 4 illuminati easter egg

I wonder whether “Undead Darlings” will contain any Easter Eggs? Like BF4´s crazy illuminati Easter Egg, for example.

Robin TGG
Will there be a lot of Easter Eggs, alternative endings and plot twists in the final production of “Undead Darlings”?

Nick MTM
Count on it! Eight endings are planned, there are plenty of references to relevant media (or in Jordan’s case, cult classic films—she is a bit of a film buff, so their inclusion is natural), and Easter Eggs galore could be added in through crowdfunding. People can pledge to have a piece of graffiti art of their choosing (or of their making) added to the walls of dungeons. This can be a signature we can help them design, or if they want to create their own specific little phrase, design, or whatever, that’s more than welcome.

Robin TGG
I would love to know how you have balanced up the “romance”, “fan service”, “dialogs”, “turn-based RPG combat” elements of the game? For example, is there going to be more combat moments than romantic parts? Simply put, will the players get a good amount of all those things? (a nice mix of everything, so to speak).

Nick MTM
Expect a nice mix of everything. I’m estimating a 100% completion rate to take around 50 hours, and it feels like a pretty even split between dungeon crawling/battling and enjoying the visual novel conversations. General conversations and sub-events are more comedic or informal in nature, character arc events are very emotional and romantic (I’ll admit that I cried a little when typing some of them), and there is only a little fan service in the images (dialogue is a different story, but that’s also a different kind of fan service). I have a different game in concept stages that would benefit a lot more with a higher amount of fan service, and that’s why I want to have a variety of genres in all the games Mr. Tired Media develops. Create something for everybody! Even if it takes several games, the options will all exist!

Robin TGG
What thoughts went through your head when you found out that “Undead Darlings” had been greenlit on Steam Greenlight? And what do you think about your chances of having a successful Kickstarter campaign?

Nick MTM
Being Greenlit on Steam happened at the very end of our original Kickstarter campaign (which also served as the formal announcement of our game in general), and by that time we had realized the title would not get funded in its current state. Getting Greenlit was very motivating for us in that difficult period, because it told us there was an immense number of people who found the concept interesting, but not enough to put money down on it as it stood.

We’ve rebounded as best we could and put every penny we have into getting the game into a more showable state for this current Kickstarter campaign. I’d hate to jinx it by estimating success/failure, but I’ve seen titles that looked a little rough to me get funded for way more than we’re asking, so I’d like to think that we have a shot. I also think there’s a lot more at play in regard to crowdfunding these days than having a cool-looking game and being transparent and honest about your tiny and penniless game studio, but that rant will have to wait for another day. Suffice to say, the steady stream of developers that delay their game into oblivion, fail to deliver altogether, or vanish without a trace have not done a service to those of us who really need funding and have every intention of delivering the product being shown (not that they didn’t, but again, it’s a rant for another day).

the undead darlings team

Say hello to the “Undead Darlings” squad.

Robin TGG
Do you think that it´s very likely that you´re going to release “Undead Darlings” during Q1 or Q2 next year? (for Windows, MAC, Linux and PS4). And do you have any plans to release UD to other formats such as Xbox One and iOS?

Nick MTM
If we successfully secure funding, I have every intention of getting the game out to people by this time next year. I’d love to say it would be ready earlier, but I know that even with our development pipeline scheduled out for a Q1 release, tons of stuff can get in the way and cause delays. As our main programmer told me once, “Take your timeline, double it, and add 6 months. That’s usually what happens.” Funding would allow us to put everyone on a 3-month full-time contract to complete asset creation and programming. Double + 6 months = this time next year, so…that’s my “safe” estimate.

I’d love to release the game on every platform in existence, but take a look at Mighty No. 9. They added all these stretch goals to do just that, but it has instead stretched them so thin internally (heh) that every release platform has had to get multiple delays (since I think they also used “simultaneous launch” in their wording for all platforms?). We’re a small studio and I believe understanding your limits is key to becoming a trusted developer. I know for a fact that we can handle PC and Sony platforms. The others would involve hiring more people, additional testing, and a whole ton of back-end setup that we can’t handle as we stand now. Someday, these other platforms should absolutely see our games. We just need to release the game first, use any revenue gained from the sales to fund ports to other platforms, and go that route. It kind of stinks, but like I said, knowing one’s limits is the only way to deliver a product in a timely fashion. Only make promises you are confident you can keep.

undead darlings battle

I have killed a lot of enimies in the world of games. However, I haven´t killed all that many zombie cupcakes before.

Robin TGG
What´s your plans, hopes and expectations for 2016? (when it comes to “Undead Darlings” and Gaming in general). And intend to visit any Gaming events this year?

Nick MTM
It seems like gaming gets better and better every year. I haven’t had a lot of discretionary income to spend on newer games, so I have an increasingly long backlog to get around to…

I want to go to E3, but if it doesn’t look like we’ll secure funding, I won’t be able to afford air fare and a hotel—I’d rather spend that money-getting more assets or programming done, anyway. I also plan to attend PAX Prime (and have a playable Undead Darlings demo if we’re funded!) and other events local to the Seattle area where I live.

As for hopes, I hope that we see more Sega properties get localized. I hope to have a true Phantasy Star V someday. I hope I’m wrong about VR. I hope people can believe in what we’re trying to create at Mr. Tired Media, and I hope you’ll check out our Kickstarter and back us! You’re not just backing this game. You’re backing the entire studio’s future!

Thank you so much for your time, and I hope my walls of text didn’t keep you from learning some interesting stuff!

tgg author avatar robin ek
Robin “V-Act” Ek
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @TheGamingGround

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4 Comments ON " Undead Darlings interview with Mr. Tired Media "
  • MusouTensei

    I’ll keep an eye on it.

    • So am I 😉 And I hope to do a “let´s play” video of the game asap as well =)

  • David

    Looks like another game for me to keep an eye on.

    • Sounds like a good plan to me 😉 As “Undead Darlings” is something out of the “ordinary”.

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