Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Undertale and Curly Braces

Shamus Young | 29 Feb 2016 12:00
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Some reader questions this week. First off, Undertale:

Hey Shamus,

[...] Why in particular was Undertale so popular? What factors in 2015 caused it to have such a response from the community?


I'm not complaining about the game or it's success (or at least not seeking to), or trying to change anyone's opinion, just curious why and how everything came together to cause the response it did. I can see the story, the characters (eventually), and the exploration/surprise/problem solving values being strong factors (and nostalgia for a specific audience), but it still doesn't add up for me.



I'm in the same boat as Karl. I was caught completely off-guard by the wave of Undertale fandom, and when I played the game for myself I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. It's not a bad game. I certainly didn't hate it. But my own tepid appreciation seemed really strange when contrasted with the sheer intensity of the public response.

It was a strange phenomenon. Here was a game with deliberately simplistic gameplay, garish retro graphics, little or no marketing, and which was a PC-only release. And yet it became one of the most culturally significant games of the year. In terms of memes, jokes, and sheer fan enthusiasm, it rocketed past the hype monsters like Fallout 4, Metal Gear, and even my personal 2015 favorite Witcher 3.

Anecdotally, Undertale fans seem to love the game for the characters. The characters resonated with people and stuck with them long after the game was over. For whatever reason, that didn't happen with me. I liked them well enough, but I didn't fall in love. I thought Sans was cool, but not more cool than (say) Urdnot Wrex, Faridah Malik, Isaac Kleiner, or Killian Darkwater.

But given how many people loved the characters and how few people ended up in the same boat as Karl and me, maybe the question isn't, "Why did people love Undertale so much?" Maybe the question should be, "Why didn't I?"

I don't know. I'm actually really jealous of the die-hard Undertale fans. I don't know why the game connected with them, but they sure did seem to be having fun with it.

Hey Shamus,

[...] I'm wondering about textures. As I understand "2k textures" mean that every texture file has 2048x2048 pixels. So, assuming I'm playing on a 1080p screen, I would always see such textures downsampled (unless it's a FPS and I'm staring and some wall from close distance).
Considering the above am I right thinking that having textures in resolutions higher than my screen resolution is not noticeable? Or am I missing something?

Take care and have fun,

You're right on all counts, except the assumption that "standing close to a wall" is something rare outside of an FPS. 2K is indeed a lot of texture data, but that data might be spread out over a large area. If a 2K texture covers an entire wall of a room, then the moment that wall is larger than the screen (like, if the camera is inside the room) then you're effectively zoomed in on it, and one pixel of texture data will end up stretched across many pixels of your screen. A single non-repeating 2K texture on something the size of (say) a book is probably massive overkill, while having a 2K texture on something the size of a barn is actually really stingy and the game will probably look very blurry and low-detail. (Assuming the player would stand close to the barn during the normal course of play.)

So it's not really important how big those source textures are, what's important is how much texture data you see per square meter. When a game says it has "2K textures", it's like learning someone's weight without knowing their height. They might be very fat or very skinny, and you can't make use of the first number without the second.

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