It feels like TUNIC has been pumping out trailers and information for years now, and there’s a good reason for it. Announced way back in 2017, it’s been worked on by largely one individual – Andrew Shouldice – and he has been taking that time to perfect the experience. All of that blood, sweat and tears is visible in TUNIC, which looks nothing like a game that has come from a single designer.
We were given the opportunity to talk to Andrew and jumped at it. We wanted to know what kind of demon-pact meant he was able to produce it on his own. Or mostly on his own.
Could you please introduce yourself and your role on TUNIC?
Hi! My name’s Andrew Shouldice, and I’m working on TUNIC. I’m the primary designer/programmer and artist/animator on the project.
Could you give us a quick rundown of TUNIC?
The quick pitch goes something like: “TUNIC is an isometric action adventure about a tiny fox in a big world, where you explore the ruined world, fight monsters, and find secrets!”
TUNIC is beautiful, somewhere between Zelda and voxel art, and the presentation is so smooth. How did you land on Tunic’s art style?
It took a lot of iteration. The original intent was to develop a really simple and straightforward art style that would be visually cohesive, and easy to build on. My modelling skills were not especially well developed at the start of the project, so I wanted to work within those constraints. Those first prototypes had a lot of entirely flat colour on low poly geometry, relying mostly on lighting to add depth. As I gained more experience, I ended up being more confident about adding detail. This was sometimes a problem, because too much visual density stood out as “wrong” in a world that was otherwise so simple. The challenge in developing what we ended up calling “tunicy” art was finding that sweet spot: something that is detailed and visually interesting, but stays true to its geometric origins.
It feels like a huge achievement for one developer. How much help have you had along the way? And was it something that you’ve been able to throw yourself into full time?
Lots of help! From nearly the very start, the audio team has been contributing tremendously: Kevin Regamey of Power Up Audio, and Lifeformed (Terence Lee and Janice Kwan) have really brought TUNIC to life. More recently, we’ve also brought Eric Billingsley on board, who has been doing great work helping to decorate and polish all the areas of the game (as well as helping fix bugs!).
But yes, I’ve been working on it full time for a while now, and I’m really excited (and terrified) to finally release it.
You just have to look at Youtube comments on your trailers to see ‘Zelda’ come up over and over again. Is the comparison fair? Was it a game you had in mind when making TUNIC?
People do indeed bring up Zelda a lot. There’s obviously a lot of inspiration from those games in TUNIC, but if there was one in particular, it’s the original. It’s kind of a tired observation at this point, but I really admire how that first game sets a world out before you and offers very little direction.
TUNIC was announced at E3 2017, nearly five years ago. Has announcing early helped or hindered the game?
Hard to say! Since the very start I’ve wanted to share what I’ve been working on, whether it was posting vines or making trailers. Maybe it was naïve or premature to announce at a point that was, in retrospect, very early, but it’s certainly been an exciting journey. Recently, we’ve been able to share less and less (it’s a game about secrets after all!), so getting to finally show it to the world is going to be an interesting experience.
Have you had a community already building around TUNIC?
Yes! The Finji community as a whole is really positive and supportive, and there are already a few speedrunners who have taken a shine to the game. During the recent demo events, it was wonderful to see people share secrets and offer each other hints. There’s this notion that every mystery gets spoiled these days, but the community has already adopted a practice of helping each other out with oblique tips as opposed to straightforward walkthroughs.
How much time should we set aside to play TUNIC?
Good question! I’ve seen people spend a great deal of time, even with the short demos. A reasonable estimate would be something like 6-8 hours, but finding every last secret might take a lot longer than that…
What is your approach to difficulty in TUNIC?
TUNIC is all about feeling small and vulnerable in a big world. For me, there’s something special about feeling like you’re in way over your head. I want players to muster their courage, think carefully, and forge on. That being said, TUNIC is not meant to be a game that revels in difficulty. There are in-game tools to help give you an edge, so every encounter is not about perfect execution. And for those who are less interested in the game’s combat, there are options to keep your HP pinned at max.
How open are you making TUNIC’s world?
It’s fairly open, although it might not seem that way at first. Players will probably end up taking on challenges in a certain order, but part of playing the game is discovering there’s many different ways to approach the world.
It seems to take an unusual approach to language, using its own and only translating certain parts of it for the player. What are you aiming to achieve with this?
I want people to feel like they’re just a little bit lost, in a world not made for them. The language is meant to help with that. I have important memories from my childhood, flipping through instruction booklets for games I wouldn’t play for decades, marvelling and wondering about all the cool stuff in them. I want to evoke that wonder in people — feeling like they don’t quite understand what’s going on, and that there’s something more to find.
And finally, the main character is adorable. Any chance that players will be able to get their hands on merch? Do you have a little TUNIC figure on your desk?
Thank you! Good question — right now we’re focused on getting the game finished, but I know I would love to have a little fox figurine at some point.
After all that waiting for TUNIC to drop, it’s got a release date. Sketch the 16th March in your calendars, as we suspect that this will be a fantastic Mr. Fox. Oh, and you can be sure that a review will quickly follow.
Huge thanks go out to Andrew for giving us some time. You’ll find the game launching on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC and Mac.