I told Toby Fox to skip questions he didn’t find interesting, and boy did he take me at my word. Frankly, I don’t blame him. When I’ve answered questions about things I’ve created, it was my hunger for recognition that made me sing my finest song. That’s where Toby Fox differs. He doesn’t seem to give a fuck what people think of him. Nonetheless, he took the time to answer my email, and I thank him for that. Now enjoy this (somewhat one-sided) conversation about Undertale, a game I quite enjoyed playing, by a guy who begrudgingly let me interview him. But hey, I did recommend he pull a Ted Kaczynski after all. Nyeh heh heh.

The Existential Gamer: Can you pinpoint the birth of UNDERTALE as an idea, or did it sort of coalesce in your mind over time?

Toby Fox: It originated when I decided to create a battle system in Game Maker. Then I made a game around it.

TEG: I really loved the fact that many of the branches in UNDERTALE‘s story seemed to lead to miniature “voids” where I was forced to contemplate what I’d just experienced without being “improved” in any quantitative way. Do you think that as gamers and people we have become addicted to numbers / money / experience in general?

TF: The addictive quality of “numbers increasing” is what drives a lot of games. But some of the most important things in life can’t be accurately represented by numbers. As for people’s lives, I have no comment.

TEG: The protagonist in UNDERTALE is of ambiguous gender. This is also true of many of the monsters he/she encounters along the way. Was this a design choice, and what role does androgyny play in your vision of the world?

TF: Skip

TEG: Romance was one of the most interesting aspects of the game. In some situations there are sexual undertones in the dialogue, but these quickly give way to absurdity. Why did you choose to include flirting as a mechanism, and what role does sexuality play in a world like Undertale’s, where the storyline centers around the polar opposites of violence and non-violence?

TF: Skip

TEG: If you had to pick someone to spend the rest of your life with, would it be Sans or Papyrus? Why?

TF: Skip

Undertale by Toby Fox
TEG: A book in the Snowdine library reads: “Love, hope, compassion … humans have proven that their souls don’t need these things to exist.” Do you perceive the morality play in UNDERTALE as beyond the duality of “good vs evil”, or are these terms still useful to us as human beings in the 21st century?

TF: Regarding UNDERTALE‘s morality, my opinion is kind of irrelevant. I’d be interested in what you think about it, though.

TEG: What’s the last game you really, really enjoyed playing? Why?

TF: Ghost Trick, because the story was excellent and tied into the gameplay in a novel way. Highly recommended if you like Shu Takumi’s other games.

TEG: What’s the game you’ve played the most over the course of your life? Why?

TF: UNDERTALE, because I had to test it.
Second place: Earthbound, because I was part of an Earthbound fan community and it was a cornerstone of my life. (Editor’s note: Toby has since published a tweet that reads “recently i said in an interview that the game i had played the most ever was earthbound and i just realized IT’S ACTUALLY SMASH BROS MELEE”)

TEG: UNDERTALE doesn’t dig very deeply into the backstory of its protagonist, and there is no mention of his/her parents or life before falling into the hole. Why is that?

TF: Skip

TEG: You composed the entire musical score of UNDERTALE, and I found it to be gorgeous and atmospheric, an integral part of the story-telling. Did you write the pieces specifically for the game, or did they exist before the scenes they score?

TF: Over 90% of the songs were composed for the game. I always wrote the songs before I started programming those parts, besides the credits song. Having music helps me decide how the scene should go.
Here are the songs that were composed for other projects, then absorbed into this one:
– Nyeh Heh Heh
– Bonetrousle
– Heartache
– Another Medium
– Fallen Down
There’s an arrangement of a song from a previous project here, as well. People are well aware of this one.

TEG: Although I wouldn’t place UNDERTALE in the “post-apocalyptic” genre, there is a real feeling of wandering through a world in the aftermath of a cataclysm. Why have video games and art in general become so obsessed with the end of the world, and where would you place humanity on the spectrum from “no end in sight”  to “it’s already happened, dude”?

TF: UHHH??? SKIP???

Undertale by Toby Fox
TEG: What’s next after UNDERTALE? Do you see yourself working more on games, music, or something else entirely?

TF: Beats me.

TEG: Has the success of the game come as a surprise to you? Are you enjoying the attention from the media or is it a bizarre nuisance?

TF: Hmmm… I guess it’s slightly more than I expected. I’m glad I can make a positive difference in so many peoples’ lives, but I hate answering interview questions.

You can buy Undertale here, and hey, it’s all about talking to monsters like me.

  • Garbledina

    All those questions skipped are skipped because of much of the game is up to the interpretation of the player. Undertale is a very personal experience, and unless confirmed directly by Toby Fox, or by empirically by the in-game lore, no one theory or label is more valid than another, meaning that you can’t really postulate anything about stuff like character sex and gender and backstories (unless otherwise noted).

  • Sapphire Crook

    I love how Toby doesn’t want to fuck with those ‘big’ questions. “Dude, I don’t care, that wasn’t the point”.
    People don’t like that answer because it’s bad clickbait, but Toby genuinely seems to feel that’s just not relevant. Don’t try to get him in a camp.
    ‘s rude.

    • Jerakal

      Honestly that’s what makes the interview for me. The fact that Toby didn’t feel like fucking around with the interviewer’s agenda.

      • Sweet Shot

        That’s actually kind of a dick move. He should have declined the interview all together if he had no intention of answering any questions.

    • Zoe Papillon

      OMG IT’S YOU *hugs*

    • HUEHUEHUE

      Hey it’s you. I’m one of your subscribers.

  • CannibalColohaust

    I’d say it’s pretty damn rude to include all those questions he didn’t want to answer. What’s the point of that? To make yourself look smart, or to pad out your word count?

    • Skip

    • Skip

    • Kelohmello

      I actually think it’s pretty humorous. Adds to the mood of the article. If it were someone who hadn’t made such a bizarre and awesome game maybe not, but in this case it seems pretty fitting to me.

    • Jerakal

      Well, I think his reply is pretty telling.

    • Sligneris

      It makes it clear what he doesn’t want to comment on, though. It makes a statement itself.

      Also, I think these questions wouldn’t be included if Toby didn’t want them in the interview.

  • TooManyMelibe

    Haha, maybe the Tobe wouldn’t have skipped so many of these questions if they weren’t CRAPPY JUNK. Maybe you should go chase down the guy who made Pacman with that brilliant protagonist backstory question. “Duhhhh why wasn’t this thing that wasn’t in the story not in the story??? Explain!!!” But good job getting Toby to interview anyways, it was a fun read, even if the answers don’t really matter. The best way to learn about how a creator feels is to experience their work :3

  • Rivendellyan

    Just like toby to skip so much, haha. Really like the kind of informal tone of the interview, thank you!

  • Heather Leigh Clark

    It makes me super happy that he decided to skip some of these questions. There’s some things I don’t really want to know (Like gender, parents, etc). I’m proud of him for leaving it up to interpretation and not shoe-horning his own biases into the experience.

    People like to call this the new Five Nights at Freddies, but I just don’t think that’s the case. Toby seems to present just enough information for us all to get the jist and make our own theories, but doesn’t dangle crucial information out of reach and taunt us with it like Scott Cawthorn is prone to. I feel like Toby has a better respect for the players because of it, and the experience feels more whole and honest.

    • Sarah

      I thought the different stories gave different backgrounds of the mc, actually

    • Jackson Dualech

      lol wat? Undertale’s actually of quality, unlike Five Nights at Fredrick’s

      • Fox

        I believe he was referring to people who dismiss Undertale out of hand as another flash-in-the-pan streamer phenomenon with no lasting appeal… like Five Nights.

        Which should be an expected reaction for any indie game that suddenly gets a huge amount of press post release.

      • Sweet Shot

        LMFAO Undertale is good, but it’s not THAT quaility my dude, chill

    • Teco

      For me, I found it annoying how he didn’t comment on his want to make things ambiguous! It makes me wonder if he secretly makes his headcanon the real story while implying that things are ambiguous.

      Asking Toby about how the ambiguity fits in and whether it’s intentional rather than how he’d clear up the ambiguity then getting no answer…

      • Michael Spitz

        At time any attempt to “clear up” such aspects would only lead to further questions, muddying the personal relationship the individual has within the game.
        Toby’s more interested in what TEG’s perspective is seems more than to hint this way.

        • Teco

          really? cus to me it sounds more like he doesn’t want to give spoilers, rather than him wanting the audience to decide for themselves. If it weren’t for the fact I knew this beforehand, I would’ve thought that there’d definitely be an answer.

          • Sweet Shot

            It seems more like he was just lazy

  • Richard Warner

    Every time Toby Fox skipped the question I imagined the voice of the Cinema Sins guy saying it.

    • Rum. Space Rum

      I kept imagining Toby rolling his eyes and saying “oh ffs skip”

  • Andrew Cunningham

    This guy is a legend. You can tell he just doesn’t gave a shit about any of this and wants to go back to playing Smash Bros after spending two years making the best game I’ve ever played. What are you, Toby Fox? (the answer is ‘a dog’, I’d guess)

    • Vavakx Nonexus

      And an annoying one at that.

      • Keepo

        *dog song intensifies*

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  • Fox

    One of the very first things I was taught as a writer was, “Don’t engage your critics.” The idea is that you should have sufficient confidence in your work that it can stand on its own, without the need for you to defend (or explain) it subsequently.

    You make a Thing, but once you release it into the wild, you relinquish ownership. Whether other people enjoy the Thing or not, whether they understand the Thing or not, is not something you can or should control.I haven’t played Undertale yet (it’s on my list, but my life is all Trails in the Sky right now) but I get the distinct impression that Toby Fox understands this principle well. Undertale is done. It’s out there. It’s *here.” Ultimately what *he* has to say about the game is less necessary and less relevant than what *we* have to say.

    • Iphis

      I agree that when a work is done then it’s out there and people will take it as they will, that the author’s opinions on the work aren’t the end all be all of what the work means, and also that a work should be able to stand alone, but I disagree with the idea a writer or artist shouldn’t or can’t comment on their work. I often find the commentary creators provide on their work is really insightful and interesting. The problem is when the creator’s word is taken as “word of god” and no interpretations contradicting it are allowed–basically when the author’s word is treated as gospel or delimits or determines the meanings/interactions/interpretations of and with the work. But I think a creator’s commentary can be a fun and fruitful element of a dialog about a work. If it’s treated as a part of a dialog, as I’ve seen with writers like Toni Morrison, I don’t think there’s a problem with a creator offering commentary or insight into their work or creative process.

      • Fox

        There’s a difference between commenting on your own work, and engaging with critics directly.

        It’s all about your approach: you can either be defensive or antagonistic about what you’ve created, or not.

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  • Tsunderricane

    You had every opportunity to ask him “which sandwich in Earthbound would you rather have in your inventory, Lucky or Skip?” and you didn’t.

    • George Nikeas

      There’s a theory that Undertale is his interpretation of a sequel to Earthbound. Pretty consistent IMO

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  • ‘Skip’ is my new answer to everything.

    • LukeDude759

      Of these three choices, would you rather: Hop, Skip, or Jump?

      • Keepo

        Skip. I just like this word for no reason.
        Maybe actually there’s a reason I just don’t know about. Most likely the fact that I have formality and thanks to skipping it became more of a freidnly conversation with asking questions rather than a TV interview.

  • Rum. Space Rum

    Will people just shut up about Frisk’s gender? Every single monster refers to Frisk as “They”, so why shouldn’t we do the same? It much less complicated than “Gender Amiguous”

    • Keepo

      Well, I just call tchem “he” since… eh, seriously no explanation about it. They just seem to me like a boy. It’s also a personal interpretation though, so I’ll just leave it to your own thoughts.

  • Steve Gatsby

    Undertale 2

  • Li

    He knows about Ghost Trick?! Finally there’s someone who knows and loves that game!!!!! I mean, I’m sure there are tons of people who love the game and know about it, but you hardly hear anything about it XD

    • Keepo

      Well, haven’t heard of it yet, but when I hear about a game that “has a great storyline” I’m positive it’s gonna be fun.

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  • Mike Mairs

    What does the Fox say? … Skip 😉

    • Keepo

      Shit it made me laugh so hard oh my god 😛

  • Shout out to Ghost Trick!!
    Talk about an underrated gem.

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  • Sarah Bangeeta

    well, i think my Undertale’s broken, when i want to defeat flowey the ugly flower the second time, it just sends me back to Asgore, and i killed Asgore 10 TIMES ALREADY! FIX IT PLZ

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  • Iphis

    This interview really annoyed me. It just makes him come off as a pretentious special snowflake. If you don’t like answering interview questions, why agree to an interview? If you don’t want to answer specific questions, why not agree to a particular set of a questions ahead of time? I get that maybe that’s “the joke” or something as part of this interview, but I just find it obnoxious.

    • videogames

      toby fox didn’t know that the interviewer was going to include the questions that he skipped in the article.

  • Ana

    My 11-year-old son created his new character, Metaton at Florida Mesa Elementary. As a mom I was so excited to hear Toby utilize todays youth for his new game. He came to my son’s 5th grade class, asked for a sketch and described the characters and what they would be doing, so a drawing contest took place for his new characters. My son won.. for Metaton. he sketched a computer on a wheel, we are honored the sketch was liked…and that a special thanks to Joe Weimgan was given on the credits of the new game. Do you think we could get Toby’s autogragh, on a picture of the character above that has the wedding dress on it? That would make mom, and son super happy!

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  • catrap0

    Undertale – Megalovania I am Error Sans vhs wave

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  • Pingback: You know, I usually hear people say “Toby said Frisk’s gender is up to interpretation” while trying to defend hc-ing them as binary, but I cannot for the life of me ever recall him saying that ever. What started all that? – payeeha()

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