Some of you may recognize Yanderedev from his posts around the web, but I recently had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his incredibly unique project Yandere Simulator, a game that promises to be equal parts hilarious and horrifying.
GN – First of all, I’d like to say thanks for taking the time to be here and answer some questions. I know there’s a fair number of people out there who will be very interested in hearing more about the project. To start, why don’t you give a quick introduction of yourself, your history and your game for the readers.
YD – My name is Alex. It’s always been my dream to be a game developer. I worked at a video game company for three years. When I felt like I had developed the skills that would allow me to create my own games, I parted ways with that company to become an independent developer.
Eight months ago, I pitched the idea for Yandere Simulator, and it got a very strong positive reception, so I decided to start developing it. It’s a stealth game that borrows a lot from the Hitman series, but has a lot of “school simulation” gameplay elements and lots of gameplay options that make it quite different from Hitman. It’s intended to be a game that can be played in many different ways; lethally or non-lethally, with violence or with social sabotage.
GN – How did you first come up with the idea?
YD – I always warn people that the origin story for Yandere Sim is a little bit underwhelming. I saw a very inexpensive schoolgirl character model for sale on the Unity Asset Store, and I asked my friend what type of game he would develop if he had to use that model for the protagonist. He suggested a juvenile delinquent simulator. I always want to push things to the farthest extreme, so I asked, “Why stop at a delinquent? Why not make her a serial killer?” From there, I pitched the idea for a “Yandere Simulator” to a high-traffic message board. A lot of people commented on the idea, and suggested some really cool-sounding features. The hypothetical game started to sound really fun, and it seemed like people were genuinely interested in the idea, so I decided it would be worthwhile to actually develop the game.
GN – Could you give us a little background on the development? How many individuals are involved with the project, or are you developing it entirely on your own?
YD – I started developing the game entirely on my own, but during the time I’ve been working on it, a lot of people have contacted me and volunteered to help out with development. I’ve been contacted by numerous writers, voice actors, and musicians, a handful of 2D artists and 3D modelers, and even a few animators and GUI designers. I’m really thrilled with all of the people who have reached out and offered to help, purely out of their enthusiasm for the game. I haven’t actually formed a real “team” or designated anyone with formal job titles; I just request models or artwork or voice clips or music tracks every now and then. After the game’s structure is firmly in place and all of the gameplay mechanics are working properly, I’ll start to select people to be formally designated as official team members. Until then, everyone pitching in on the game is just a generous volunteer whose help I am very grateful for.
GN – Are you surprised with the level of fan support and assistance you have received?
YD – I was extremely surprised; I didn’t expect so many people to offer to contribute to the game completely for free, purely out of their enthusiasm for the game’s unorthodox subject matter. It’s very rare to find people who are so excited for a project that they’d be willing to contribute to it without any promise of compensation. I’m very thankful for everyone who is helping me out with the game’s development.
GN – Speaking of the subject matter, on your site you describe the game as a cross between Bully and Hitman. What other kinds of sources are you drawing inspiration from, as far as both the gameplay and the aesthetic go?
YD – Other stealth games like Metal Gear Solid provide some great reference for stealth game design. Stealth games that take place in social environments, like some of the levels in Dishonored, provide some ideas and inspiration, as well. Japanese RPGS with school settings, like the Persona series, provide a lot of reference for how to “game-ify” high school life. The “pop art” visual design of the Persona games is also influencing Yandere Sim’s GUI design. Outside of games, I also take inspiration from Japanese films and anime that take place in school settings, or feature yandere characters.
GN – Can you give a brief definition of the term “Yandere” for the readers who may not know?
YD – It can be a little difficult to define that term. It refers to a female character who is so enamored with a male character that she is willing to murder any girl who may pose a threat to their relationship. Often, the male character does not reciprocate the girl’s feelings, so the girl is committing murder to protect a relationship that doesn’t even exist.
Westerners may be familiar with the “Overly Attached Girlfriend” meme; the yandere archetype could be considered an anime version of that meme.
GN – Can you give us a short rundown on how the gameplay works and what players need to do to accomplish their objectives? You said there would be multiple ways to complete your objectives. Besides the obvious, how does a pacifist solution differ from an aggressive solution?
YD – If you’re familiar with the Hitman game series, the core gameplay is very similar. You walk around an environment, equip weapons, use weapons to kill NPCs, drag corpses, dump corpses in hiding spots, and try to avoid being detected by other NPCs. Unlike Hitman, Yandere Sim also imposes time limits on the player; because the setting is a school, there are classes at set times. Missing class, or being spotted performing unethical actions, damages the player’s reputation. The player’s reputation affects how other NPCs react to them. Going to class also allows the player to allocate “study points” into different subjects. For example, investing points into physical education results in faster running speed and corpse-dragging speed.
Non-lethal methods require the player to stalk NPCs and find out about their “weaknesses”. By following an NPC around, you’ll eventually learn who they have a crush on, where their locker is, what their routine is, etc. For example, if you know of two students who have a crush on each other, you can leave love letters in their lockers, causing them to meet up on the school rooftop and fall in love.
There are a lot of nuances to the gameplay; for example, taking a picture of a girl’s panties and sending that picture to another student in exchange for a “favor” might cause that student to bring a certain weapon to school for you, or turn the other way when he sees you stealing or trespassing.
The player’s methods of eliminating the rival girls will determine the game’s ending; not just pacifism and aggression, but also whether the player used violence or social sabotage will also affect the way the narrative concludes.
GN – Let’s talk a bit about how the game’s development is going. What features have you been working on recently, and what are you going to be working on in the near future?
YD – Recently, I’ve been re-implementing some of the earliest features that I programmed. Some of these early features weren’t implemented in the most efficient way, so I’m re-programming them in order to optimize the game and cut down on bugs. I’m very serious about following proper coding principles while I put together the game.
My short-term goal is to produce a playable demo that is meant to demonstrate a “school week” in the game. I’d like to have the demo out within the next 3 months, so in that time I’ll be focusing on the features that I most want to include in the demo. One of my highest priorities is getting NPCs to react properly to witnessing murder, and programming all of the different outcomes that can result from it.
GN – What are the most significant challenges you’ve faced so far? Has programming in unity presented any problems you’ve had to work around?
YD – Fortunately, there is nothing about the Unity engine that has made development more difficult. It’s an extremely user-friendly engine that makes game development relatively painless. The most significant challenge I’ve faced thus far is getting the gameplay to meet my own expectations; I have extremely high standards for quality in video games, and I refuse to release a shabby product, so I’ll spend hours refining and tweaking and tuning features until they feel just right. My perfectionism might eat up time, but I think it’ll only serve to improve the game in the end.
There are many features I can’t implement without corresponding assets – I can’t get the dynamic music working until I have some music tracks to use, and I can’t implement mopping until I have a mopping animation. I could just use placeholder music, or have the mop levitate in front of the protagonist until the animation gets in, but that’s not the sort of stuff I’d be proud of showing off in a blog update.
GN – It’s good to see somebody trying their damnedest to release a finished product. Seems to be happening less and less often lately. What is your vision for the final product? Will the game have a campaign/story, or will it have more of a “lose and start again” mentality, similar to a roguelike?
YD – There will be a “campaign” that is intended to be fairly linear. It will take place over the course of 10 weeks; each week, a new girl develops a crush on “Senpai”, the boy who the protagonist is in love with. The player’s objective is to somehow eliminate this girl before the current week is through. If the girl survives the week, she will confess to Senpai, and the game will be over. After disposing of all 10 love rivals, the protagonist will finally confess to Senpai, and the player will win the game. Because of the numerous different ways to eliminate each target – setting them up with another boy, bullying them until they commit suicide, framing them for a crime, getting them expelled from school, or just outright murder – hopefully the game will have many hours of replay value and will encourage countless playthroughs after the campaign is finished.
There may be separate gameplay modes, such as a roguelike mode where you keep getting new targets and have to eliminate as many of them as possible until eventually you’re caught.
GN – How about mod support? It’s possible that giving people the tools to create their own scenarios would breathe a lot of life into the game and its community.
YD – Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, the Unity engine does not facilitate user-made mods. At the moment, the most I can promise is the ability to have a custom soundtrack, or custom textures on uniforms. I can investigate whether or not it’s possible to actually mod Unity games beyond simple art assets, but I’m very hesitant to promise mod support at this point in time.
In place of mod support, I might include a level editor or scenario editor within the base game. I will most likely need such editors as tools for developing the game, so including them in the final version of the title shouldn’t be an issue.
GN – Are you trying to parody the yandere archetype or make the game comedic in any way? Or is your intent to stick to a darker tone, more like something from the horror genre?
YD – While the game isn’t meant to be a satirical in nature, there are many anime tropes and stereotypes that will appear in the game. I would certainly like to include some comedic elements, but those elements probably won’t steal the limelight.
The game will only be as dark as the player’s actions; when the player performs violent actions, the game’s HUD changes to become darker and grittier. When the player behaves properly, the game’s HUD is clean. When many dead bodies are discovered at school, students begin to become paranoid, and the atmosphere at school becomes dark. When there are no corpses being discovered, the atmosphere is bright and cheerful, like a slice-of-life anime. I would even like for the game’s background music to change based on the player’s current actions – it may sound peaceful, or it might sound disturbing.
Yandere Simulator might be considered a horror game where YOU are the monster, and must disguise yourself as a cute anime schoolgirl. But if you choose to dispose of all rival girls using only peaceful methods, then it’s just a cute school sim game.
GN – Do you expect to run into any controversy over how the game handles topics like bullying, depression, suicide or murder? How would you respond to potential complaints or attempts to interfere with the game’s release?
YD – In eight months of developing the game, I haven’t heard any complaints about the game’s morbid subject matter. No one has contacted me to tell me that I’m developing a disgusting and filthy game. I don’t know if this is because the game has not yet gained any real mainstream exposure, or if this is because everyone can recognize that this game does not actually advocate bullying or murder in real life.
The strong negative reaction to the controversial “Hatred” trailer did make me feel somewhat concerned for Yandere Sim. When Hatred was removed from Steam Greenlight, my heart sank. However, the fact that Hatred was reinstated on Steam Greenlight restored my hope. If a game like that can come out on Steam, then I’m not worried about my own title.
I will be very interested in finding out what kind of reactions the game generates, after more people start to notice it. However, if anyone tries to condemn the game for it’s subject matter, I presently can’t imagine what I’d say in response to them, beyond “It’s only a game.”
GN – So you do intend to release the game through Steam Greenlight? Have you given any thought as to a potential price point?
YD – Steam is my personal favorite method for purchasing games, so I’d be delighted to release the game on Steam. As for the game’s price, that will depend entirely on how much funding it recieves.
If I launch a fund-raising campaign through Kickstarter, IndieGogo, or some other similar service, and the game meets its funding goal, then I won’t have to use my own personal savings to complete the game. I would only charge enough money to make up for all the time I’ve spent developing the game. If the game doesn’t meet its funding goal, and I have to pay for the rest of the game’s development out of my own pocket, then I’ll have to increase the price of the game in order to earn back what I lost.
I’m imagining that the game could cost as little as $5 or as much as $20, depending on how much it costs me personally in order to develop.
GN – You mentioned the goal of putting out a working demo in the next three months. Do you have any idea on when the game will be released in full?
YD – That also depends on how the game is funded. If it recieves no funding, the resulting game will be very bare-bones, and will come out shortly after the fundraiser fails. The game will lack impressive features, lack a variety of animations, and lack diversity in character models. Without any funding, the game may have production values so poor that nobody would even want to play it.
If the game does recieve funding, then I will spend subsequent months putting together the best game I possibly can, with the best production values that the budget can provide me with. If the game recieves funding far beyond its original goal, then I could afford to add many more features to the game; this would greatly extend development time, but also result in a much better product.
Depending on what kind of funding the game gets, it could be out a few months after the fundraiser, or sometime late next year.
GN – When are you looking to start the fundraising campaign?
YD – I’d like to release a feature-rich playable demo early in March, and use that month to get feedback on the demo so that I can polish it and refine it as much as possible. If the demo is in great shape by the end of March, I’d launch the Kickstarter in April.
GN – As of right now, Yandere Simulator appears to be a PC exclusive. Any plans to bring it to OS X or Linux, or perhaps even consoles? What about distribution methods other than Steam?
YD – One of the Unity engine’s greatest strengths is the ability to export a game for nearly any platform with almost no changes whatsoever to the game’s code. It would be trivially simple to produce a Mac build of the game, although I haven’t done any research yet into Linux. Likewise, it would be nearly effortless for Unity to spit out a Yandere Sim executable that could run on Xbox or PlayStation, although it’s a lot more troublesome to actually get a game released on those platforms.
After the Steam release, I’ll start researching other PC distribution methods, but until then, Steam will be my target platform.
GN – Where can anyone who is interested in doing so find you and follow your work?
GN – Lastly, do you have anything else you’d like to share with the readers?
YD – I definitely don’t want to make a disappointing product that lets people down, so I encourage everyone who is interested in the game to share their suggestions and provide feedback on the direction of the game to keep me on the right track. Currently, the only playable builds available for download are just simple sandboxes without any real gameplay, but pretty soon I hope to provide a true demo, and I hope that I get tons of feedback on it – every bit of critique will help!
GN – Good to hear. Thank you so much for your time, it’s been great talking to you.
YD – I’m very grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to talk about the game!
GN – Of course. I’ll be following the development and looking forward to the release, and I’m sure plenty of our readers will be doing the same.
If this interview has piqued your interest even slightly, I encourage you to go check out Yanderedev’s website and follow him on Twitter. By all accounts, the project is shaping up well, and we’ll be paying close attention to bring you more coverage of the game as we get closer to its ultimate release.