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4 Possible Game Ideas

Posted by A Tobias 2 years ago
I've been occupied recently with university exams, but now that they - and the first academic year - are over, I have several long, lonely months ahead of me which I can use to finally properly get back to games development. I'm unsure which direction to take it in, though; as ∞ before ∞, there are four ideas I could explore, though somewhat different ones this time!

Craving Meaning

Firstly, I want to make a comment about my mental health. Basically, that I'm not doing too well at the moment.

Happiness, you see, is based on two factors: the everyday 'hedonic' or 'affective' positive experiences or emotions (like hugs or ice cream or a day at the beach or a compliment from a friend), and an overall 'cognitive' or 'eudaemonic' assessment about the overall value, meaning or purpose of your life (that is, life satisfaction).

To experience regular happiness, not only do you have to have many little positive everyday experiences (which I don't), but you have to feel that what you do with your life matters in some way that means something to you personally, and that it's going in a direction that gives you hope and things to look forward to.

I don't feel this way about my life at all. Every day, I struggle with a deep sense of regret about wasting years of my life sitting alone in my bedroom trying to make games, wishing I'd done something else instead. It's not that I don't like games development; I wouldn't have poured so much time and effort into it if I didn't. It's just that I'm lonely, in the romantic sense, and this path doesn't exactly lead to meeting people I can enter into a relationship with. I'm terrified I've missed my chance, and deeply frustrated that it's been years since my one and only relationship. It's a deep hole in the heart, that... If the games industry wasn't so male-dominated, I'd be so much more excited about being a part of it.

Another thing though is the feeling that I want/need to help the world and the people in it in whatever way I can, and making games - which are at best a distraction - doesn't seem to be it. As I've said before, I know that this isn't a desire or need that everyone has, but it does seem to be par for the course for people with my personality type.

It's why I've been recently trying - with ideas like Taming Dreams - to incorporate psychology and spirituality into my games so then there's a chance they might introduce people to a perspective they hadn't considered before, so then there might be a lasting and positive impact in their lives. Art can do this, and I feel that games - being interactive as they are - have a lot of potential to encourage personal growth and change without necessarily being heavy-handed about it. Though I'd like to think this is a noble aim, it's mostly selfish; I just want to enjoy the feeling that what I'm doing is meaningful, even if I'm just deluding myself.

I write the following ideas with this in mind...

Also, ∞ I wrote forever ago ∞ about starting some kind of vlog or audio diary on YouTube where I talk about my thoughts, and how to overcome them. I lacked the confidence at the time, then university got in the way, but my enthusiasm for this has returned, as I feel it could be very valuable to me over these lonely months ahead of me. I wouldn't be producing entertainment, as such, or talking about games; rather, I'd be focusing on challenging my own thoughts, talking about how I and others could possibly handle the mental health issues that so many of us struggle with on a daily basis. That - rather than the distraction of gaming - seems to be where my focus and passion lies at the moment. People have expressed deep gratitude for my blog posts about similar themes, so I know there are some who'd appreciate it if I made such a thing.

And honestly, I'm unsure whether I'll make it through the holidays... Though my time at university has been better than the years that came before it (wow, I have a friend now!!), the years of crushing dissatisfaction with life have left me longing for death on a daily basis. Seems easier than facing the seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead. This is what depression does to you. However, I mean to challenge these thoughts; to explore how they might be overcome. I'd hope that by sharing my own journey, others in a similar dark place might be able to benefit from it too.

But anyway. For now, here are ideas about the games I might work on. I wouldn't be able to make them all, so I'll need to choose one.

Idea 1 - 'Soulmate'

This is essentially a revision of Taming Dreams, which ∞ I wrote about here ∞, in which I'd try to address many of the concerns I had with the version I've already released.

It'd be a standalone (rather than episodic) RPG with the same 'agitation' mechanics and such, where you play as a young woman called Oneira who explores her own mind and interacts with characters who are essentially manifestations of her own psyche. By helping and taming them, she learns how to overcome some of her own issues; to tame her mind. Unlike Taming Dreams, it'd be relatively free-roaming rather than linear.

I'd release it on Steam and mobiles, if possible.

* This is the most engrossing of these ideas, probably.
* Most of my other games have basically been building up to this.
* I can actually use my writing in this one.
* RPGs have a fairly devoted audience.

* It may take ages to make.
* May be too nichey and inaccessible.
* People might complain about it being heavy-handed or something?
* I can actually use my writing in this one.

Idea 2 - Cultivate

Formerly 'Yden'. I've already talked about this one a few times, like ∞ here ∞.

It's basically a sim where you look after a tribe of people whose appearances are generated by code, breeding them and stuff to see what their offspring look like. It's like a virtual pet, and I feel it could work well on mobiles.

* Theoretically, wouldn't take too long to make if I actually focus on it properly.
* May appeal to a wider audience, as it's more of an idle app than an immersive game.
* I was basically addicted to Yden, so it might do well on mobiles for that reason.

* Relatively primitive and not exactly revolutionary.
* May not be all that interesting.
* Better attempts at the same idea have probably already been done.
* Wouldn't make me feel as if I'd made something meaningful or helpful.

Idea 3 - BE-a-St

This one's new... sort of. Or rather, the idea's one I came up with at least a decade ago, though since then it's sort of absorbed other unrealised ideas I've had.

The original idea was to explore the idea of 'being', as in "what's it like to BE a bat?". The game would involve a small world inhabited by various species, and you'd start by playing as one of them... until you died, at which point you'd find yourself at the gates of Heaven, which you couldn't get through until you became a Saint. This could be achieved by incarnating as each of the species in the world in order to gain a fuller understanding of life and the universe and such. Each species would have its own abilities and senses; some might be blind, only 'seeing' scents and such, others might be able to fly or swim... So you'd BE beasts to be a saint (St). I thought it was quite clever!

Since then, I've merged it with another idea that I had, called Marooned (which I was going to incorporate into ∞ a Alora Fane: Creation remake ∞).

Essentially, there'd still be a small world that you'd explore (probably an island), and you'd have to hunt or forage for food and supplies and such. The inhabitants of this world that you'd play as would have a sort of toy-like or mechanical appearance (sort of like the art style of ∞ Scribblenauts ∞... which I've never actually played!), and their limbs would be interchangeable. So you could have a humanoid body, wolf head, one crab arm and a skeleton arm... You'd acquire limbs from corpses.

The biggest part of the game would be interacting with the other inhabitants of the island. You could be violent, hunting and attacking to get what you want, or you could befriend them, which would cause them to follow you, offer you gifts and help and things. You'd have a morality rating thing, but rather than being evil/good, it'd be beast/saint.

Perhaps at the end of each life, your accumulated morality points would be added up and you'd be able to unlock different afterlives or something.

I've planned out many more details than this, but there are still many more that I've yet to fully decide on.

* Could be interesting or even fun.
* Probably relatively accessible; I could show it to people I meet in the real world without them going 'huh?' too much, maybe.
* I've been wanting to make it for years.
* Includes customisation and morality, both of which have popular appeal.

* Still very foggy, concept-wise.
* Wouldn't feel especially meaningful.

Idea 4 - Virtual Friend

I struggle a whole lot with loneliness. It's difficult for me to make connections (people offer, but my mind gets in the way), and a lot of the time I wish I had someone to talk to but don't. There are therapy sites (like Blahtherapy) that attempt to fill this hole in people's hearts, but generally conversations there are unfulfilling and never lead to lasting connections.

For years now, I've hoped that if I never find a partner, then someone will invent some kind of virtual AI thing that might fill that need instead. Sad, I know, but the unsatisfiable idealist in me longs for something like that. But since I've always made things when I didn't have them, why not make a friend in this literal sense myself?

So I wondered whether to make an app which is essentially a virtual friend. It'd use the customisable person code from Cultivate so you could make this friend look like you wanted them to. You'd be able to talk to it, and form a lasting connection with it... but of course making an AI which is actually fulfilling to interact with is a huge challenge.

Other chatbots I've interacted with have been deeply disappointing... but I wondered whether that's because they're trying to parse full-text language. I wondered whether it might be easier if the language you used to interact with the bot would be more conceptual, hence the pictographic, metaphorical language I came up with and ∞ posted ∞ about ∞ recently ∞ (I'll post about the 'answers' to the second set soon).

Making something like this would be quite an undertaking... but I can see it being useful to a lot of lonely people. Or would it be? Would it just be like those 'Realdoll' things, filling a need in an unhealthy way and preventing the person from filling that need in a better way? Or would it serve as a stepping stone, giving someone confidence to find real friends? I wonder.

* Could be useful to people, myself included.
* Could be remarkable.
* Could be a more meaningful stepping stone to my future career; I'm thinking of doing something related to AI.
* Sort of a lifelong dream!

* Could be impossible to make an interactive intelligence like this; if great minds the world over have yet to make an AI that can pass the Turing Test, who am I to think I could make a virtual friend in a few weeks?
* Maybe odd and unnerving to people?
* May not be profitable.

I haven't included Taming Dreams in the list because of the reasons I've covered a few times already: I'd rather make something that isn't episodic first before returning to that.

I might write more detailed 'design brief' posts about each of these ideas individually, which I could link to and update in the future; it's bothering me that I keep having to say the same stuff!

But yes. I sort of wish I only had one idea, so then I wouldn't have to make a choice! All of these appeal to me though, so I'm going to have to spend a bit of time actually deciding on which one to devote my summer to...
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on 7 Roots


20 United States INFP PhlegmaticCholeric
Hey Tobias!

So I know you probably won't read this, and that's fine, I don't really have my hopes up, but I was wondering if we will ever have closure with MARDEK. I feel attached to those characters, and I'd love to see what they're up to right now. Now I know that you are done with MARDEK, but will we ever have closure with it? Will we ever see if Mardek and Lone Wolf meet, if Emela and Mardek come together again, if Mardek and Elwyen decide to get married... I would just love to see what happens!

Another idea would be that if you didn't want to make another MARDEK game, perhaps a short story or something? I don't know, just a thought, because I would love to find out what happened to such deep characters.

Thanks for reading! (If you did.)
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
Perhaps I'd consider doing this when I was in a better place in life, though I can't make any promises. I can understand the need for closure; I just feel that my life's such a mess at the moment that I couldn't focus on something like that.
22 United States
I like the idea of having a game that tries to connect with people. It reminds me of a blog post from another website- it talks about how every person is like a flower. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I'll try to describe it here. There were a series of photos showing people of different skin type, size, gender, etc, and a corresponding photo of a flower that looked similar to their body type.

I think a lot of people lose hope in the world around them, or even in themselves, because they forget that they are exactly who they are meant to be. Sometimes people make poor decisions, or have a poor outlook based on the perception of who they are, or the perception of their situation, without realizing how amazing they really are.

Tobias, I still support you on Patreon because your work has inspired me throughout my childhood and teenage years to create and work hard. The fact that you've built so much content on your own, (code, art, writing, music, etc) still amazes me to this day. I hope you'll find a way to connect with people on an even deeper dimension, now that you're more focused on it- whether it be through the gaming industry, college, or otherwise.
35 Switzerland INTJ LSI 5w6 RcoeI ICR MelancholicCholeric
I'm a bit afraid that if you try to focus on too many projects again, nothing will ever get even close to be finished, so I hope you'll decide for an option.

Now, my opinion about them

1) Sounds a bit like a middle-way between Mardek and Taming Dreams to me. The non-linear part makes this project sound pretty decent, I think this was also a reason why I never really could sympathize with Taming Dreams.

2) For me the idea with by far the most potential and probably even not THAT much work needed compared to the other projects. The idea here sounds sort of fresh and I could well imagine that it would succeed if you can add enough lovely details.

3) Well... here I have to say pretty much the opposite. There are quite a few 'surviving' games and such, and giving the people different heads or limbs and such, just sounds sort of ridiculous to me (sorry, but I have to be honest here). The choice of being rather good or evil is also something you find extremely often. I think the idea isn't new and therefore I don't think it has much potential.

4) That's probably something you should consider once you have found your life-balance, but at the moment I don't think it would be successful here. As you also have written, developping an AI is extremely complex, and even larger teams often fail at that. Plus, I think it's a project that shouldn't be done by 1 person only I think, as 1 person always only has a very limited sight of how things are and what others may like or not.
(Now just to mention something, I most likely have the 'Asperger-Syndrome' (I never was at a psychologist though, but I'm very sure about it) though I came to a point where people usually don't even notice that anymore... but it was very visible back when I was a child. But it's a fact that I still see many things very different than most other people. ) Now back to topic and why I mentioned it: It is clear that you also have thoughts that are far out of reach for many people (I don't mean this in a negative way). I just seriously doubt that you could reach enough people when doing such a big thing alone.
Somehow I think you actually hoped that people would tell they like the 4th idea the most, but I think it's the one that has the highest chance to fail.

So, little summary in short

If you want a project that most likely succeeds, you should focus on number 2, if you want to try to satisfy some people by making a step back to Mardek, you should probably focus on number 1. And if you mainly want to discover more of yourself and do something for yourself, you should probably indeed choose number 4.

One last thing: I think it has been proven that taking small steps and doing them one after each other often leads to much better results (and satisfaction) than having a zillion things planned where at the end nothing can be done as wanted.

(And sorry for my horrible English, I hope my post is understandable)
29 Finland
Why can't some of the girl-male followers of this blog come out with some stories about how they like geeky guys or are dating a game dev? I mean it's probably true that if you're a one-man team that relationship isn't likely to get started while coding... but it doesn't mean you can't be a coder and find true love somewhere else.

Tobias, haven't you tried classifieds/personal ads? I dunno anything about how those sites tend to be in the UK, but at least there's a few in my country where it's not all about sex or otherwise intolerably shallow. At least you're already writing all kinds of stuff about yourself on the internet so no new frontiers there right?
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I'm aware that there are geeky girls who like geeky guys; it's just that - in my experience, at least - such girls already have a bunch of guy friends and are always already taken. If your interests are mostly shared by the opposite sex, then you have a steady supply of interest, and I'd have a steady supply of competition. My best friend is a nerdy girl, and she's going out with a geeky guy.

I've tried dating sites before, but it always feels so artificial. I prefer the idea of forming a bond naturally, organically, rather than just 'shopping' for someone like that. Besides, I feel that I don't have what women would want; I have a tiny income, no proper job, a laundry list of fears, and I haven't even moved out of home yet. It's quite pathetic. I feel it'd be less of an obstacle when meeting someone naturally in the real world, but when I'm just one of many, many profiles that women can scroll through and pickily choose between, I'm not likely to stand out in a positive way. I mean, I wouldn't exactly focus on those details if writing a profile - I'm not that stupid! - but some (most?) such sites require you to specify things like income and profession.

I'm considering giving dating sites another go during the summer, maybe, just to see what happens... though I doubt it'll amount to much.
29 Finland
I get what you're saying about gamer girls. I guess the only thing to say is your love interest doesn't have to be particularly into games or such even if you are, if you have something else in common. "You will LEARN to love my work!" ;)

Just one more thought - where I'm from I've looked at some sites that had basically just a rough per-age group listing and that were aimed for both pen pals and - implicitly - whatever else you wanted, because it's just your free-form ad. I don't think I've ever landed a permanent friend that way, the best was maybe 5 months of correspondence with someone who was in a ward (read: bored and having time) so I'm not gonna lie - having real-life connections around shared activities might be best - BUT it doesn't cost you much to try and the people around less romantically oriented sites (I hope you can find some for the UK) are bound to be less shallow.

Good luck!
17 Belgium
You can also just go to a pub or a bar or stuff like that, and maybe some guy or girl will come and sit next to you telling him or her problems to you, you'll never know what will happen in those bars or pubs :)
17 United States
For the games you brought, I like the first three ideas. They sound like little fun games that I would probably enjoy playing. The fourth idea doesn't appeal to me probably because I'm a pretty introverted guy, but who knows? I might like it.

While reading the first part of your blog, it made me kind of sad, because I used to live in a neighborhood where I stayed in my house all day from the lack of neighbors my age. Doing nothing really feels crappy, especially when you can't talk to people, but I though of a great idea you could do!
Maybe, everyday you do an activity. It could be riding a bike, going to a duck pond, going to a museum, eating at an ice cream shop, etc. At that activity, you would interact with everybody you meet and engage in small talk. At first it'd be really awkward (I don't get how people so easily can "do" small talk), but after a while you'd get comfortable with it. At the end of the day, you could write a daily blog (maybe on another website) talking about what you did, who you talked to, etc. The daily blog thing would help with motivation, and you'd be able to go outside and talk to people!
I know that plan wasn't much, but it could be something for you to do over the summer :)
22 Netherlands ISTJ 513 PhlegmaticMelancholic
Evan Rye
It might be a better idea at first for him to ask people common questions such as "Where can I find this landmark?" or "What time is it?" This will be considered completely normal and the people he speaks to won't know he's not after information but after communication (i.e. they won't know he's communicating merely for the sake of communicating). I think this will help him get more comfortable with talking to strangers, and it might even segue into small talk once in a while.
17 Belgium
Ye that might be a good idea to be honest. Especially in the Summer Vacation when he has a lot of free time to spend.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
While I see where you're coming from, you may as well be suggesting an aquaphobe go scuba diving...

I've seen similar suggestions elsewhere, actually - "overcome your shyness by talking to everyone you see!" and such - but I've always thought them unreasonable because such behaviour would be so... abnormal. Just because you want to talk to everyone doesn't mean that they want you talking to them, unfortunately. I'm already able to ask strangers for bits of information I need to know, but when I've been approached by strangers who engaged me in small talk, it just made me incredibly unnerved... not (just) because I'm bad with people, but because it was as if some social rule had been broken. They came across as socially inept for choosing an inappropriate time to engage in conversation. Perhaps it's a cultural thing; some places are just more open and friendly than others.

Still, I may explore the world anyway and see what happens. I'm planning to the do vlog thing anyway, so I could talk about it in that.
23 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic
Well, okay, here's my opinion on what you've got so far:

For the first idea, I always liked that one.This time though, you should really focus more on forming a bond with the other characters in the game... in other words, you should be able to progress through the game in question by learning more about the characters than some plot direction or forced quest. This would allow players to get invested in the characters while also making them able to choose what they do at what time. By finding out what makes that person tick, more understanding is made and more passages open up. In this way, it would show that your main character is taming these emotions as the plot goes. You could even mix it up with some dialogues only opening up if you've talked to other characters and now know what the situation is.

I'm not meaning to force you to take that idea, but it'd be a great way to explore the subconcious and would allow you to focus on your characters and the parts most dear to them rather than focusing on a large over-arching story...

Second idea I have the same thoughts as before. Good for mobiles, and it might be fun to play as a 'pick up and put down'... but in order to entertain people you may need to come out with content every once in a while. Maybe adding a feature that allows your characters or other characters to go over to a different device for added benefits could be useful? In other words, community integration?

As for the third idea, I really like it, but I find the idea of getting limbs from stuff a little hard to conceptualize. Perhaps you could make it so that you're a machine and you just 'copy' data from the limbs in order to attain their traits, and these data aspects could be attained by befriending or taking down these creatures? Sort of the same, but less 'violent' that way... maybe that's just me. Personally, I'd love to try a game like this out, but I don't have too much information to go off how it will work.

As for the last idea... for once, I'm not a huge fan. Dating sim/simulation games are only all that great if you watch over them constantly, and they suck away your life. It would also likely have low success... your best bet would be to add in sections that would allow the character to move around and do things so they feel more real... as otherwise, you're just taking care of a virtual pet... HOWEVER, you could also include this aspect in another game idea you have quite easily as a 'side minigame' after you've gained enough of a friendship or bond with another character, and it'd be optional (as some people hate being forced to do simulation stuff during adventures, though I don't mind it, I know a lot of people who do...)

That's my thoughts, you can take it however you want to.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I described the details of the 'Soulmate' idea's gameplay in the other post I linked to, I think, but the general idea is that you can develop bonds with certain characters by completing quests for (and later with) them in order to deepen your attachment to them, each time learning more about them. You'd be able to choose which ones you got to know better and which ones you ignored.

The 'virtual friend' idea wasn't meant as a dating sim; I hadn't even thought about it like that. I suppose I can see how that connection could be made, since both are meant for lonely people, but this would be more about having AI-driven conversation rather than anything gameplay-like. If you've had a bad day and just want someone to talk to and nobody else is available, you could turn to it and have a chat, and it'd listen and give supportive feedback. In that sense, it'd integrate with and support your real life instead of just being a fantasy, as dating sims etc are.
17 Belgium
Hi man! I hope for you that your wishes may come true. But man I really love your MARDEK idea, it's so lovable, why don't u just continue with that? Btw i have to say I played Mardek for over a 100 times and I really know most of that game, and I can realy say that in that game, there is a lot of information about feelings, it's not just a game for me. U realy have a talent for that tho, u should do something with it!