Former NISA guys to go indie with Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~

Monday, June 29th, 2015

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Undead Darlings | Banner

Welcome to the Funpocalypse

During E3 I had the honor of sitting down with Ryan Philips and Nick Doerr, the Co-Founders of Mr. Tired Media, to talk about and get a sneak peek of a project that was officially unveiled today on Kickstarter, and which will be discussed in just a few days at Anime Expo. What’s this project, who are these guys, and why are they doing this? Well let’s get right to answering the first of those. What we discussed and what was shown to me is a visual novel and dungeon crawler RPG called Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~, and what these guys hope to do is bring the funpocalypse as they call it.

Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ is a game that began life as a visual novel, but during development became an RPG dungeon crawler in the vein of say Demon Gaze. The story takes place during the apocalypse and a zombie plague has ravaged the land. Thankfully there is a cure that was developed by the father of our hero, Reginald P. Happenstahnce (or Reggie for short.) The problem is there’s only one mason jar full of the stuff, enough to cure one person, which of course means you need to find a way to mass produce this thing. Thus enter the “Darlings” of Undead Darlings, a group of girls who didn’t finish the transformation into mindless zombies,  who will stand by your side and possibly offer up one of themselves as a test subject for the cure should you succeed in your goal.

The primary cast will consist of Reggie, six female protagonists, and one male support character. While I can’t touch on everything here, what I can say is that while the characters will feel familiar due to the tropes they invoke at first glance, they often have put a bit of a twist on them. Take Cecilia, or Cici for short. At first glance you’d look at her and expect someone who’s the gorgeous and rich airhead that values looks and status above all else. Then you come to find out that not only is she actually pretty smart, but one of her hobbies is programming games on her calculator. One of which is called “Verbnounia” and based on the Zork games. Another example of this would be Summer who is a genki tomboy except she occasionally will say things a jersey girl would say, or Emily who in addition to being a “chuunibyou” type character who speaks cryptically, also carries around a stuffed bear named Dichroma that resembles Monokuma from Danganronpa. The developers actually went ahead and wrote out character analysis sheets for every character in order to give that extra little twist to these archetypes in a “West meets East” fashion. To drive this home, let me touch upon the enemy designs I was shown.

Undead Darlings | The girls

From left to right: Cici, Kairi, Buck, Summer, Pearl, Jordan, and Emily (with Dichroma)

The game will contain 30 different enemy types, with pallet swaps of course, and each of these are pretty unique. For example, there’s the zombie office lady who wields a keyboard, or the zombie sign spinner, a zombie grandma, or a crow wearing a hat and smoking a corncob pipe. In addition the development team is looking into making the pallet swaps of each of these enemy types vary to some degree, such as the crow having a different style of hat and say smoking a cigar, or having the signs the zombie sign spinners wield say different things. This is of course not including bosses. While this is all very early work, the fact that there’s this much thought being put into all the little details is promising. Characters and enemies are only one portion of a game, though. What about the mechanics and technical details?

Mechanics-wise, as I mentioned, the game was originally conceived as a visual novel, so story is a big part of the game. In addition, dating sim elements are present and connecting with one of these girls will be a big portion of game and resolution of the story. CGs are of course a reward for reaching certain milestones, with about 26 being present in the game. I’ve been told the focus here will not be on fanservice and instead be more on the characters themselves, especially as the rating the team is shooting for is T for Teen. So if you’re expecting say Senran Kagura levels of sexuality you may be a bit disappointed.

One thing of note though is that, unlike some dating sims where you can lose some relationship points with the girls based on the choices you make, that won’t be the case here. Instead the points you earn, you keep. I’ve been told this was done to make New Game+ runs a bit easier, and this game sounds like it was designed for multiple playthroughs. Aside from the VN portions you’ll also be exploring various dungeons in first person. I was able to see some very early builds of both a mall and a school area, which are being used to test out the mechanics, as well as a very early build of the battle system, and it looks fine. While indeed early, all of the basics of the battle engine are present and working, which is an accomplishment in itself, especially considering the game runs in a self-made engine that was built in Unity. In particular, one of the reasons Unity was chosen is because of how it handles lighting, and the shadow work in the environments does feel quite impressive. The school area in particular was used to show off these effects and it does create a sense of foreboding in the atmosphere. It also allows the team to reuse the engine and all of its tools in future projects. What all of this shows however, is how serious Mr. Tired Media is taking this game. Having spent six months already building and testing the basics, this isn’t a fly-by-night project, but rather what they hope to be the start of a franchise or series.

Undead Darlings | Mr. Tired Media

“You’re doing a great job, Mr. Tired!” ~ Mr. Tired Media’s Tagline

That begs the question as to who are these guys? Mr. Tired Media was founded by Ryan and Nick, who are former NIS America employees and have done work with Idea Factory International. In particular both of them are industry veterans and Nick has even been called “The Godfather of Moe” at one point. They’ve had their hands in many different projects and were also responsible for crafting the personalities of the characters from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series during its localization. These are guys who understand the game industry and what it takes to make a game. It’s also one of the reasons why they decided to strike out on their own. They wanted to try their hand at making something unique and special. Something that did more than just continue to rehash the same ideas and mechanics we’ve all seen, and to be honest, something that allowed them to do what they’ve wanted to do, all while having some fun. That’s actually one of the reasons they’re calling the end of the world the funpocalypse. If the word’s going to end, you might as well have some fun, right? The rest of their development team are indie programmers from the Seattle area while the lead artist is actually from Artist Alley at Anime Expo. So where is this Kickstarter and when is the game due out?

The Kickstarter can be located here and the estimated launch date is May 2016 on PC. It’s about a year off still, but the developers are hoping to use that time to include quite a few things. One of the stretch goals will be the possibility of adding voice acting, with additional goals being a release for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, in that order, depending on what goals are met. Mr. Tired Media already is licensed to develop for the Sony platform and the version of the game I saw was designed to run at Vita resolutions, though it was running on the PC in Unity. Right now it’s a matter of funding to finish the remainder of the game and go through all the necessary quality checks required for launching and updating on those platforms. If you want more information about the game, check out the trailer below, and if you happen to be going to Anime Expo this year, consider stopping by their panel on Friday July 3rd at 8:45pm in Live Programming Room 5. We’ll do our best to stop by and cover the event and report back anything new that’s revealed. If you’d like to reach out directly to them, visit their site here and drop them a line. One of the things they are seeking is input from fans of Visual Novels and RPGs. As Nick himself put it: “A company and business are only as strong as the fans.”

About Benny Carrillo

A gamer since the days of the NES, this professional otaku adores Mega Man, Super Robot Wars, Yuri, Visual Novels, the Slice of Life anime genre, and of course Hyperdimension Neptunia. His mission on oprainfall is to help deliver the news straight to you.