Talking World Design With The One Step From Eden Creator

Looking into Eden.

It’s not often that you pick up a game and instantly know that you’re about to invest countless hours into it. One Step From Eden hits the target on every level, from its vibrant art-style, classic soundtrack, and most importantly, gameplay that demands your full attention and skill. I could go more in-depth about why it’s easily one of 2020’s top indie games, but I think our reviewer covered that pretty well. 

Instead, I was able to contact the developer of One Step From Eden, Thomas Moon Kang, who shared words about the lore of Eden, insight about some of the characters, and notable influences of the direction he took with the game. WARNING: as spoilers about the ending and some key elements of the game are discussed below!

Can you further elaborate on what the location of Eden is? In the ending where you do spare every character, the characters are shown to be entering Eden, and it looks to be a peaceful futuristic city. However, in an alternate play-through where you do not spare any of the characters, Eden is shown to be full of powerful monsters, and hostages still appear and need to be saved.

Eden is surrounded by all of these dangerous environments. The “monsters” in Eden on the evil route are actually the security for the city, which is why they all share a similar white and futuristic aesthetic. Your intrusion can cause a lot of chaos resulting in “hostage situations”, but really that’s more for the consistent gameplay.

How does this connect to the final boss, Serif, and are her intentions for the greater good or simply for self-preservation?

Once you get past all the security, you face Serif, whose main goal is keeping Eden safe. She isn’t worried about self-preservation since she’s immortal.

Is there a reason that Shopkeeper has the spell necessary to defeat Serif, or is that simply a gameplay element meant to make it more challenging for the player to achieve that ending?

I’ll leave it up to the player to decide why Shopkeeper has the spell necessary to defeat Serif.

The dialogue during boss fights tends to change depending on the characters that are encountering each other. The most obvious one that people will catch on to is between Saffron and Hazel, who appear to have a friendly banter with one another when they face each other. Are there any significant character dynamics that you can elaborate on hinted at during these encounters? 

The short quips during boss fights are there to give them a bit more character in an easy, immersive way. They are mostly based off of who the characters are and what they believe in and how they would interact with each other as a result of that rather than their past relationships. Of course, there are a few exceptions like Hazel and Saffron who knew each other before the game takes place, but it’s mostly there to show more about the characters.

You have mentioned in the past that One Step From Eden is inspired by Mega Man Battle Network in terms of gameplay. Did Battle Network influence Eden in any other capacity, such as setting or story? Are there any other specific games that you feel inspired you in your creation of One Step From Eden? 

I’ve been influenced by so many games over the years, especially many from the GBA era. Battle Network had the biggest influence on gameplay, but not too much else, though I did like how unique the Navi and virus/enemy designs were. Some of the theme and feel was influenced by The World Ends With You (which the name of the game is a reference to). A lot of great, punchy roguelites like FTL, Nuclear Throne, and Slay the Spire were all great games to learn from and inspired me while I was working on One Step From Eden.

There are also many fun references to other video games as well in a lot of the spells, such as the reference to The Legend of Zelda with the Deku shield in the “Entrench” spell icon, and the Earthbound reference with the name of the spell, “Pekay Fire”.

There are so many that I’ve lost track. The icon artist Larry Boyd also added a few that I hadn’t even realized like the Deku shield. TVTropes actually has a pretty comprehensive page on all the references in One Step From Eden! 

One Step From Eden does very well as a roguelite with the wide selection of spells, abilities and characters, which really adds to its replayability value. Is there a specific reason why you decided to blend the grid-combat system with roguelite, or did you entertain the idea of creating Eden as a game with a more linear gameplay and story at any point?

When I was deciding what to create, I knew a full-fledged JRPG was way out of scope for a one-person project. At first, the game was more visual-novel-esque with a lot more story and characterization, but as I distilled the game down I realized the real-time card combat was what was really special, so I focused around that. I wasn’t fully set on rogue-lite from the very beginning, but I realized how essential it was for encouraging freedom, exploration, and a low barrier of entry to deckbuilding.

With a roguelite, you just jump in, and you build your deck as you play, and even if you make a bad choice, you can try something completely different the next run. I think that’s really liberating and fun because you never know what you can do next, the possibilities feel limitless.

At certain points during levels, you can take a route that is considered “dark”. These routes appear to have stronger enemies, and also have a Shopkeeper that seems sadistic, and wants your HP instead of money. Are these routes simply for an added challenge for the player, or does it have more implications about the world of Eden?

I absolutely loved the concept of an “undernet” in Battle Network, so I wanted something that had a similar vibe. A dark, mysterious, dangerous place where the player could go higher-risk for a bigger reward. They are there for the challenge and mystique, and at the moment there isn’t an official thematic reason behind these “dark” zones.