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!
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...