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Still Alive...

Posted by A Tobias 2 years ago
It's been a while since I last updated this place. It's not that I've done no work on games; I just haven't been able to muster up the energy to write blog posts here! I've been struggling to cope with life, though. I found out there's something wrong with my brain. I've come close to suicide. I wrote about it all in ∞ my personal blog ∞. I'm trying to use this all as inspiration... Seeing my current phase of inactivity as a time for a meaningful idea to form rather than rushing into something half-heartedly.

I've said all this before, but I want to use my skills to make something that has some meaning; ideally something that would affect people's lives beyond the experience, or which would resonate deeply with them, move them. Fighting silly villains to save the world holds no appeal to me anymore... But making a game which explores issues like mental illness or isolation does.

I've been playing around with many ideas, but I've yet to settle on anything for sure yet. Depression, academic commitments, and my few social encounters have been getting in the way.

Taming Dreams was an attempt to draw upon things that resonate most with me in order to make something that'd resonate with others, but I felt it was too... inaccessible, I suppose, or so steeped in typical fantasy stuff that the key themes were lost. There's a whole lot I like about it, though, which is why I keep saying I don't want to give up on it. Still, for now I'd rather cannibalise the bits I like most in order to make a stand-alone game which cuts out a lot of the fluff to focus on what I feel matters most.

The idea that I have is still very much a sketch at this point, but I'll write about what I've got so far then I can develop my ideas openly in this blog.

It'd be an RPG using Taming Dreams' 'agitation' mechanic; 'battles' which are based around emotions and building rapport rather than violent conflict and conquest. The whole point of this is to take something familiar but to express it in a different way; to show that it's possible to have the same sort of gameplay to depict something constructive rather than destructive.

Rather than having scores of 'random' encounters, though, I'd like for them to be triggered by interacting with NPCs directly. Sort of like trainers in Pokemon games. Each 'agitation' then would allow you to essentially tame the mind of the NPC; it'd be sort of like exorcising their demons. I liked writing stories for the NPCs in Taming Dreams, but several people expressed disappointment that they lacked any gameplay purpose or sidequests. Others didn't like that agitation felt unnecessary or unrewarding. Combining the two in this way seems to me a good way of addressing both concerns.

Some NPCs would be special, and could be recruited onto your party by completing quests for them. Each one would have six quests, and completing each one would increase your closeness to that person. You'd become true friends when all were completed. I like the idea of 'making friends' in this way, and it's similar to MARDEK's system of unlocking backstories for your allies as you levelled them up.

The game's protagonist would likely be a young woman called Oneira who's either socially isolated or dissatisfied with her life. The game would take place either in her mind or in her dreams, and would involve her exploring her inner world and overcoming her fears and hang-ups by doing so. We all have to overcome our inner worlds if we want to be truly happy... and I'd hope that depicting that process as a game would allow me and maybe even others to struggle less with the challenge of it all.

I was thinking that maybe she'd fantasise about having some ideal 'soulmate', who she talks to in her head, and who she imagines will bring her true and lasting happiness when she finds him. The game might begin with a fantasy where she expresses her love for him, only for him to be stolen away by a villain called Ego (or Aego or something like that), who tells Oneira that she's unworthy of such love anyway. Ego steals Soulmate away and hides him in some kind of prison, telling Oneira that she can only get to him if she can prove that she can make friends... or something. I still need to clean this bit up. It'd be sort of like an inversion of the save-the-princess thing, but not in a "look at this tough badass girl take the male role and be subversive and feminist for doing so!" (I feel that's been done to death as it is anyway). Oneira would be the typical sensitive sort I like to write; a character who cares too much and doubts herself. Something I can relate to.

The world would not be linear. There'd be the hub area where Soulmate was held captive, but you'd be able to explore the rest in whatever order you wanted. There'd be six of the important NPCs who could join your party scattered around the world, and you'd have to befriend three - to make up a party of four - before you could free Soulmate. This addresses the complaint of linearity that people had about Taming Dreams.

Along the way, Oneira would learn that she doesn't need Soulmate, that Ego is just her inner critic... And that taming both is the key to freedom. It's hardly subtle, though, so I feel I need to think about it more.

The world - being a manifestation of her mind or dreams - would be somewhat surreal. I want to possibly incorporate the 'three ideals' concept from Taming Dreams, and was wondering whether to divide the world into three regions: identity, longing, and judgement. I have ideas for them all, but I'll develop them more before writing about them here. I'm inspired by the game Yume Nikki, though, which had a fairly eclectic dream world to explore, so maybe I'd end up doing something more like that.

Each of the characters could represent a facet of Oneira's own personality, which I'd find interesting to design and to write. I'm unsure whether to make them all look like her in different outfits, or whether to play around with interesting designs that don't necessarily have to even be human. Being free from the constrains of a physical world gives space for imagination to really stretch its wings.

It probably wouldn't be set in Alora Fane, though... which is a shame since I've developed that world quite a bit. It might still use the sentiments and things though. I was thinking that the setting might actually be modern; if there were scenes set in the real world, they might include smartphones and things like that.

I'd love to explore an idea like this, and I will... I have to deal with exams for the next three weeks, but after that I'll have four months of isolation to devote to games development.

I don't want to be too heavy-handed or preachy with whatever I make, but I would like for it to be something that'd resonate with people.

Anyway. I'm still here. I'm still trying to be creative. Life's been getting me down a lot lately, but I have hope that I'll be able to learn from my experiences, mistakes, and my few good social experiences and that I can use what I learn to make a game that'll really mean something, even if it's just to me.

(I've also made more progress on Cultivate, but it's nothing exciting at this point.)
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on 11 Roots


19 United States INFJ 925 PhlegmaticSanguine
(I apologize in advance if this post seems too “preachy” or anything - that’s not my intention at all! I just hope that it may offer you some peace of mind, or to anyone who reads this. Sorry if this isn’t the right place to post this!! ;_; )

In November 2014, my best friend committed suicide. He left no note, but he had expressed feelings of inadequacy over societal pressures such as academics (he was failing some classes) and social standing. But in the end, those things didn’t even matter - it was the loss of someone so kind and bright, someone that I relied on so much. I felt frustrated that I had no inkling of his suicide, even though I had attempted suicide myself before. I was heartbroken that he felt he “wasn’t enough” to be alive.

Pseudo, I feel the same way towards you.

It’s a very bad feeling, to be left behind when others have much more than you do..especially when you feel lonely. I can’t claim to understand the pain and the depression that you go through, because I’m not you. But at the very least, I can understand that it is very, very tough experience to go through.

And I can say that I am so, so happy that you’re still alive.

Pseudo, I just want to say that you have touched so many lives with your creations, the community that you’ve built, the stories you’ve shared about your own life that I’ve read these past 5 years. Your spiritual journey has resonated with so many people who are also struggling with themselves. When I read your blog post about spiritual enlightenment, I was really happy for you. I felt motivated to find my own enlightenment, too - to combat my own depression and to find passion in life. That post was definitely a large part of re-evaluating myself.

Pseudo, it’s because you care so deeply that you are able to touch all of us on such a profound level. Even though it must be so painful for you, it’s because of that pain that others can relate to your experiences. You pour your soul into your creative works and your blog posts, and I am sure that many people feel moved by them as much as I was. I admire your passion to make a difference in other people’s lives. You have certainly made a difference in mine, and many others here in this community - more so than you could even imagine.

In the end, I feel that it’s society that creates these “standards” of “success.” No matter how high we reach, no matter how much we obtain, I feel that a sense of “inferiority” will always follow us. Even the most successful man may feel that he should have even more success in his career or social life, because there is no hard limit to what we can achieve. And when we die, all that “success” is buried with us - but the lives we have touched go on and on throughout generations.

Pseudo, I am glad that you are still fighting. Thank you, for being alive.
24 United States
Hey Pseudo, been a while.

This might be a little eh, but have you played Undertale? For some odd reason, playing it actually reminded me a little of your first two MARDEK games. They both have some odd tongue in cheek humor that seem similar to each other.

But what I'm interested in is the immersion of the game. The game doesn't really seem like it really should be mind-blowingly awesome, but for some reason it does actually reach out to its gamers in a way that I haven't really felt in a while. What I'm saying is that at the end of my play-through I actually felt like I gave a damn about the world that I just left. If the humongous amount of fan-art that the game's produced is anything to go by I feel that it's had the same effect on a lot of people.

I feel that reaching out to people is a central idea in how you want to make games. I was wondering if looking at undertale might help. If you have played it, why do you think it achieves this? I know some people who think that it's pandering... but there are lots of shows that pander that don't connect. There has to be something in the game that successfully does this. Maybe it's the consistent ridiculousness of the game? The quirky characters? The player's choices having weight? I'm just wondering what it looks like to a game-maker I guess.
24 United States
The Jop
Try to think about the people who care about you. I've dealt with depression and that can help. It may not be as impactful from us since we're mostly just words on a page, but you do have a whole site full of people who care about you. I've been following you for years and even though we've only talked a few times I feel a kinship with you, especially with how personal your posts can get.

I know college can be an isolated place where you're not quite sure what your future holds, but you can make the best of it by spending time with people with common interests. I would love to have a career like game designer where I could use my imagination to create almost anything, so I hope you can get financial backing and achieve that dream. Just know that you have a lot of friends to choose from if you want or need to talk to anyone.
36 Bulgaria
The new project sounds fantastic. Wow! Yum!

∞ Eclipse ∞ has summed up my own feelings very nicely. :)
22 Canada
I was playing through the old MARDEKs again the other day, beating the superbosses and re-remembering what incredible games they were in so many ways I don't have space to say in a comment here, and I had a thought. Probably not something you'd go for but I'd like to put it out there anyways.

There are a lot of people out there who would love to see MARDEK 4 made, myself included. It's also widely known that you have very little interest in continuing it yourself. I believe MARDEK is a game that deserves to be finished; deserves closure. But it doesn't necessarily mean you have to be the one to finish it.

What my suggestion is would be to open up MARDEK 4's development as a community project, so that other people can pitch in and do the art, coding, writing etc. That way you could have as much or as little control as you wanted over its development, which would leave you free to work the projects you're really passionate about.

I'd be interested to know your thoughts on this, and anyone else's, as to whether this would be feasible or even a good idea in general.
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
Someone else asked a very similar question to this a while ago, and from what I've heard, Tobias has no problem with people continuing the MARDEK series as long as they give him credit... he made the characters and still feels connection to some of them, and I also imagine he wouldn't like people messing with his characters without giving him some credit or asking permission.

It seems like it'd be quite cool, but I'd suggest if people would want to get it right, they should get details on what would happen once MARDEK had been completed. Tobias has said numerous times he has 'basically told the same story for a very long time' in most of his old games, so I'd imagine he'd have a good idea on what to do... and he might be offended if the series he'd brained up would flop or something like that... which is kind of scary. I'm not saying I'm against the idea, it's just something to consider.

(Ugh, I seem to be responding to every post like usual... why do I do that?)
22 Canada
Of course nothing in this project would be done without Tobias's consent. What I'm imagining is that all he'd really have to do would be to answer general questions about the plot or the characters, or approve things as they come up. As it's likely the only way to actually make the game would be to use Tobias's existing engine with his permission, most of the credit would indeed go to him. And if it were released in the same way as the old ones, it would probably be released under his name, with any profits going to him.
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
That's... exactly what I was trying to say in the second/third? paragraph in my post, but again with my rushed sentence structure and typing when trying to explain something and not focus on coherency (or maybe I didn't type it in, not sure...), it seems I didn't quite get what I wanted across in the post, which was to put up a PM or post about it (in which he has spoken of numerous times in his blogs before of planning to do, but never got around to) ... oh well, my fault. Either way, as I said it would be cool, but it's a bit of a stretch considering you'd need quite a bit of guidance on the project, which he may or may not be okay with... but he's got a life and he's not exactly great on keeping up with stuff like this on the internet. I like the idea... and it's been offered a couple of times before on Kong and other places... but it's never caught on enough, as most people interested I know have no coding/programming/script writing/art skill... In no way did I completely mean to focus my point around permissions and all that.

Still, there has been 'fan hacks' of MARDEK before, so I don't see why a requested one couldn't work.... though those hacks can't be accessed unless you'd have been around at that time.... yeah.

*EDIT* Apparently I did leave that out... dammit, I'm so lazy when I type posts sometimes...
22 Canada
Well, I only really brought this up because if such a thing were to happen, I'd definitely be interested in contributing to it myself. I've followed and contributed to similar projects, such as Skywind, for example. I know things like this can succeed, provided they're organized and moderated effectively. Gathering volunteers might be tricky, especially recruiting people with the skills in coding and animation. But there's no sense in not at least giving it a shot.
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
I didn't mean to suggest you shouldn't go for it! I think it'd be great if you found the right people, yes! I'm just a very... wary person. I always second check nearly everything, particularly when spending a lot of time on a story, I'll focus on each individual sentence, how it connects, does it work, is it correct, is there anything not right in it or does it go too far, does it have grammatical and other errors, or does it change tenses? That kind of thing... stuff that most people seem to typically ignore and just do it one shot because it's far quicker and easier... Anyway, again, I didn't mean to discourage the idea either... I rather like it, but you'll need to find people who not only know the material, but are good at it, and KNOW how the universe works among other things... but you already know that.

By all means, go ahead! I just have those deep down concerns that even if it turns out good, it won't be the same kind of thing or something like that...
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
No Offense but please try to be more optimistic, i dinn't mean anything mean or negative by that
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
I never directed any of that statement towards you, and I'm generally a little too optimistic about things... I never meant to imply I don't like the idea or that it's not going to work, it's just that making a good or stable MARDEK isn't easy... there's a lot of work and effort into it, and not many fan projects are generally successful.

I would almost certainly like it to follow the story it had planned myself before doing anything, and taking liberties is often costly... generally to make a decent story, you should stick to a formula (Tobias said I used to do old games like this: Event-Story-Dungeon-Boss-Event... or something along those lines) and have a WELL established plot beforehand. MARDEK has a lot of foreshadowing and other hints towards futures for characters and so on, so I don't see how it'd be easy to get it all just right without asking permission.

I was simply voicing a possible concern or something to note, not trying to tear down or make the post look bad.
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
you are a little too optimistic? sorry then i dont know you
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
Great idea.i think too that Mardek Series/Chapters should be finished, like you i played it too again, done evreything possible: Earn all medals,Finish all tournaments,Done all missions,all encycopledia completed,Defeated all Superbosses Ex. Animus and Karnos...etc. Even used a sol file Editor to Mess around with MARDEK not much to do really, I Thought myself that MARDEK was very good at his time and by 1 person, I Wonder how we can do MARDEK, your idea of making it a community Project is decent, i just hope MARDEK gets enough Support and Tobias agrees, But...If WE, the community make MARDEK then will the story change? if so how much? will it stay the way we knew it or Change it to appeal more to us? #SAVEMARDEK
22 Canada
The story would undoubtedly change, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Tobias said himself that he'd stuck to pretty much the same formula for a long time, which means it shouldn't be too difficult to guess where he intended the series to go. I've had several ideas on the topic myself, like I'm sure any Mardek fan has. I'd find it fascinating to get a discussion going about where people saw the story going from where Mardek 3 left off.
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
I Didnn't mean it is a bad thing ,just how much it would change,but that is irrelevant what matters is us the community to bring back to life mardek, If evreyone here want to ,by the way People allready knew that tobias would abandon Mardek 4 and I've seen some speculations/discussions about mardek 4 on Kongregate They had a Wonderful idead, Tobias should look it up,if he can't find it i can post a link to the Discussion ,search it up yourself if you wish ...write just mardek 4 i guess
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
Depression is something I feel that everyone struggles with, but it is to various degrees and many people have different ways of handling. I externalize big problems by crying and pouring out my heart to others, but someone else might internalize all of it, circulating all those thoughts that were negative onto paper or in their drawings... or maybe even fists on some occasions, ugh. Kettling it all up isn't exactly healthy, but sometimes neither is externalizing your problems onto others, so it's really hard for anyone to draw a line. We're all in the same boat, and there are a lot of ways to get rid of our demons. For everybody it's a bit different, as we're all fundamentally different...

Anyway, your game idea... I think it's GREAT!! In fact, I think it's your best idea so far, capitalizing on many things I'd like in a game, while also addressing things that you hope to solve I found a bit iffy. I like the idea of someone going through a dream-like state of solving their problems, meeting various people and places. It would allow for a LOT of creativity, and you could show all kinds of emotions 'save the character' games can't really display with the same impact (being 'real focus' and 'inner struggle'). I also like that it could be set in a real 'dream world' rather than some alternate earth or another super bland 'post apocalyptic' thingy... never liked that stuff.

The NPC idea of allowing them would be very fun! It would allow people to choose who they want to go along with them while also learning more about that character and forming a connection while ALSO allowing for additional playthroughs. In Taming Dreams, my favorite aspect of the game was the dialogue between characters in the chat option, and it's interesting how your idea of 'gaining trust' with another character is really interesting!

A cool idea, I think, would be to have you be able to switch between characters in your party to have different dialogue for objects and random NPCs... one person may react angrily to a thorny bush, while another may be very happy about it. This may be harder to do, but it'd be very cool in interaction and giving us a better glimpse of the character shown. I also think this game could work well as a platformer/RPG and would be a lot more... diverse? Platformers tend to have substandard plots that focus more on gameplay than dialogue... so having a menu chat option, different interactive dialogue for stuff, and a trust option, this could be really unique, almost 'subverting' what platformers focus on. This could be equally interesting if the towns had 'RPG exploration' mechanics, but the gameplay and other things consisted of the platforming... sort of a hybrid, like Shining Force.

The idea for characters representing her thoughts and emotions sounds a bit like Inside Out, but it could really work and would be a very different take on it, I'm sure! Maybe the 'enemies' (the NPCs) could be handled in different ways depending on their state of mood, and would have a 'mood meter' you'd need to balance to be the most successful instead of just a random HP bar, with too far to the right being too 'negative' while too far to the right too 'positive'? Just a weird idea...

I don't know, those are just my usual ideas thrown out the window for you to think about or take with a grain of salt...

Also, it's good you've made at least a bit of progress on Cultivate.. I don't really care HOW long any developer takes to make things, as long as they turn out alright. You could take another five years to make a game and I probably wouldn't care, as really, your posts always have things going on in your life and topics that are interesting... it makes you feel human. That's what I like about you so much... you aren't afraid to show who YOU are, but you also listen to other people.

Best of luck in whatever ends up happening!
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
I Personally consider Depression a stupid thing that we [humans] created,I Don't have any problems with depression cause i don't want to be hopeless, Evreyday brings the Wind of Change to the better or Worste you don't have to Lose your cool or panick or Even hang yourself just move on or find a way to deal with it positively instead of crying or Doing something that you will eventualy regrett And Remember that You make your own luck you Choose your fate/future if you sit and cry you are not doing anything good for you, unless if you deal with depression by crying,I Don't recommend that as a depression relief, you have to find Hope and Continue your life knowing there are plenty of Time in your life to Recover from What reason you became depressed [ex. Money,Relationship.etc.] Live Goes on and So should you ,when you are depressed you close your eyes to the problem and Give up hope, But Change in good won't come by itself you Have to do it ,Change starts in yourself, So Go on live your life When you feel hopeless ,Don't give up hope and things will eventualy be right, Hope is not the best defence against Obstacules/issues/problems in your life It is Your Only Defense and Faith too, Good luck if you are dealing with Depression
22 Netherlands ISTJ 513 PhlegmaticMelancholic
Evan Rye
Depression is a disease. Telling depressed people not to be depressed is like telling cancer patients not to have cancer. That's not how it works.
24 United States
It seems to me you are still uneducated on what Depression is. Every thing you have been saying is what people with Depression have been told all their lives, It may seem easy to you because you don't have the feedback loop in your brain that hard wires you to be depressed.

There are brain scans of people who have chronic Depression which shows that on a fundamental level there is something different about their brain than people who don't have Depression.

Even though you are trying to be helpful in trying to help Tobias with his Depression, the advice you are giving is what you give to someone who is only emotionally distraught not for someone who is chronically depressed.
17 Romania
Jordan Hale
Ok you are right about my advice to be helpful to emotinally distraught whici are the most depressed people or there are more chronically depressed than emotinally distraught?....I Admit i never heard of chronically depressed before so i searched it online, it is Terrible,that is truly a bad disease though i doubt psychotherapy can save them all, they feel worthless and hopeless, psychotherapy is not that efficient, people still suicide, might i ask is tobias Depressed or Chronically Depressed? that might explain alot, And yes i was uneducated about Chronically Depression.
24 United States
It is difficult to tell which one Tobias has, because there is much overlap between the two.
21 Canada
Does this mean there will be no continuation of the Taming Dreams series? I've already had to let go of the possibility of a conclusion to one of your story arcs.
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
No, Tobias has said multiple times he intends to continue Taming Dreams (even in this blog post saying he still has interest, I believe), though progress on it will likely be slower than it had been when he was invested in it. He still likes the idea and the game itself, but he sees a lot of problems in the game which he can't completely fix now as they've been established. If he wanted to fix many of these problems, he'd have to make very forced changes unless he somehow decides another reboot would work out... Again, that doesn't mean he dislikes the game, he just wants to fix the problems he sees.

There's also the fact the game wasn't advertised much and got some strong critique, both positive and negative, which seems to be where the start of newer depression wave was, though now it seems far more focused on what he's going to do with his life and how he's going to juggle all the stresses at once.

I personally love Taming Dreams, despite what some people have said, but at this time we'll have to wait a bit longer for it to come out. I still doubt he's giving it up regardless.
59 United States
Hey, don't let life get you down! I'm sure whatever you decide on will be great! Even if we can't see what you have in store, we're still rooting for you. Don't be afraid to take a break if you need to though, it wouldn't do you much good if making games becomes a source of stress rather than an outlet of creativity. It's not much from a stranger, but I believe in you! Fight on!
21 United States INTJ LII 359 SxSo IAE MelancholicPhlegmatic
Trust me when I say it really does get better. I know what it's like to consider it: I've considered it many times. But there are people who do care for you and would love to meet you. You inspire us all. Your work has been a huge influence on my way of thinking. You are part of the reason why I do what I do. Us creative people need to stick together. Don't worry about making games that have you fight the villains to save the world: Leave that to me! Do what you want, and never let it get to you. For every negative comment with empty thoughts that just wants to ruin your day, there is a positive one with genuine thoughts that just want you to know they are glad you exist.
17 United States
Tobias, please DO NOT think about suicide. I know right now that you feel like your in a void, unwanted and unneeded both socially and physically, but there are people on the internet and in real life that care about you. It's wierd, how no one on Alora Fane has ever seen you or spoken to you on real life, but on this blog, you've pored your heart out to us. You've shared your inspirations, your dreams, your fears, your life troubles, and many other feelings from your mind. We want you to know that you are a perfect human being. You fight depression, you inspire people, and while you sometimes feel alone, know that a real hero struggles. Know that we're here for you.