2706 26 35

Soulmate Development 1: Overview

Posted by A Tobias 2 years ago
I want to develop this new project, Soulmate, transparently; that is, I'll post about every step of the process in order to seek opinions and ensure that I'm making something that people will actually enjoy. In this first post, I want to (once again) sketch out the gist of the game as a whole. In the past, I didn't do this because I didn't want to reveal spoilers... but I am going to be quite spoilery here because it seems wiser than working on something that'll only disappoint.

The purpose of the game is - like with Taming Dreams - to show that it's possible to make an RPG with 'battles' that represent something more constructive and positive than destructive violence. That you can have the same general mechanics but have them represent a different kind of abstraction. We become desensitised to and blithely accepting of the things we're familiar with, and fail to see any issues with them... but presenting those familiar things in novel ways can lead to a shift in perception.

When I played Pokemon after developing Taming Dreams for a while, for example, it was quite shocking that my Pokemon had to 'scratch' and 'bite' one another in order to cause 'fainting'. I'd always just taken for granted that that's what games played like, but it seemed barbaric once I had something to compare it to. The violence in our culture has bothered me for a long time... but rather than rebelling against that by making some heavy-handed "VIOLENCE IS WRONG!!" sort of thing (which would sway nobody at all), I'd much rather just present an alternative. This is in effect a demonstration of what I mean; to 'fight' the idea of violence in games would be to try to burn away fire, a destructive approach doomed to failure, while simply showing what could be instead is more constructive and less likely to be rejected in a knee-jerk fashion... Or at least that's the hope.

None of that really matters from the player's perspective, though, and it's not going to be ramming ideology down anyone's throat. It's just how I - as someone who wants to 'make a difference' - describe the project to myself in order to feel that it's worthwhile to work on!

I'd also like to explore the idea that our mind is ultimately what prevents us from being free and happy, and that by taming that mind, by dispelling our delusions, we can live a happier life. Psychology, basically, especially that related to things like loneliness and common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

I don't want it to be a dismal, 'educational' experience or anything, but I would like it if it was more than a mere distraction. If it could teach things that might allow some people to overcome some of their own issues. Teaching is a good way to learn, and I certainly need to better learn how to handle my own hindering mind...

The Story

Here's the beginning of the story as I imagine it.

It - like Taming Dreams - would begin with a conversation atop a black background, with the participants initially hidden. "I love you", would be the first line, followed by two partners expressing genuine appreciation and affection for one another. "You complete me", "you're my whole world", things like that. It's Oneira - the protagonist - talking to her partner, who's called (oh so subtly) Soulmate.

However, the flow of conversation is disrupted by a 'villain' coming along; let's call her Ego. She's dark-clad and masked - as villains often are - but she's essentially Oneira's inner critic; the version of herself that berates and belittles her and tells her all the things she can't do. She'd say that Oneira is undeserving of love, providing details why. This might lead to a 'battle' - or rather, agitation - though it's ultimately futile (perhaps this - and only this - encounter actually does involve violence, of a sort, which has no effect? Fighting such thoughts only fuels them and exhausts you, would be the point). People tend to want to dive into the 'battle system' of an RPG as soon as possible (or at least I always used to), so having a chance to do so very early on always seemed like a wise design choice to me.

This agitation would be interrupted by the sound of a notification on her phone; she's got a message. She'd wake up - alone in her small, untidy bedroom - to check it; the whole previous bit with Soulmate and Ego was a dream.

I mentioned a phone. The setting would be the modern world, rather than Alora Fane. I've made up all the lore for that world, though, and this site is named after it... so I'm wondering whether to include it in some form or another.

The message would lead to a text conversation (which you can see) that doesn't go well - perhaps it's a friend encouraging her to get up and do things, but she just replies with the sorts of negative rejections and "I can't do it" that those of us who suffer with depression tend to give - and it makes her all the more frustrated with how the world isn't magically delivering everything that she needs or wants without her having to actually do anything. She'd then retreat into dreams, or fantasies, hoping for relief from the world there... and the rest of the game would take place in her mind.

Once again in her dream, her own self-defeating objections might be repeated by Ego - it was her, after all, who was responsible for them anyway - and this might lead to Ego stealing away Soulmate and imprisoning him somewhere, out of reach until Oneira can prove herself worthy... or something. I've yet to sort out the details here. Ego would tell Oneira that unless she could prove that someone would actually like her, then Soulmate would be forever out of her reach. Perhaps this would mirror the words of the friend who'd texted her (if the person even was a friend)... Maybe Oneira had expressed distress about not having a partner, and this other person had said 'you need to find friends first'. Or something. As I said, I'm not sure.

Soulmate's prison (perhaps a tower or something) - with its gate guarded by Ego - would serve as a hub of sorts, and beyond this intro, the rest of the world would involve nonlinear exploration.

You'd be able to explore Oneira's mind, interacting with its inhabitants. Agitation might not occur randomly; rather, it happens when you interact with NPCs, similar to trainer battles in Pokemon games. Each NPC would represent a thought, perhaps... I'm unsure whether miasmon would be involved as they were in Taming Dreams.

Some NPCs would be able to join your party. This would involve doing quests for and then with them, with each successful quest revealing more of that character's story and them giving you more of their trust. There'd probably be six 'relationship stages' for each one, with them offering to join you starting at the third. Their quests would be increasingly personal, starting with basic local fetch quests and culminating in you helping them travel to a distant area to achieve their life's dream. You might face Ego towards the end of each quest chain; she'd question your connection with that particular NPC.

These quest chains could be completed in any order, and there might be six NPCs who you could befriend in this way. To finish the game, you'd need to fully befriend at least three NPCs - forming a party of four - at which point you could prove to Ego at the hub that people actually could like you and that you deserved Soulmate. It'd lead to a final taming of Ego and such; apparently the final battle.

However, when 'rescuing' Soulmate afterwards, Oneira would realise that from coming to love the NPCs - who represent fragments of herself - and taming Ego, she no longer has the need for some perfect partner who'll complete her; she's fine by herself. Soulmate would object though; she needs him, he says. This would lead to the true final agitation, and in taming Soulmate, she'd tame the biggest thought that held her back from engaging the world. Not self-loathing or a lack of confidence, but the need to be loved by another in some special, perfect way.

Some concerns...

I like this story because it resonates with me deeply. I long for some perfect partner, and feel that I can't face the world without one. By writing a story like this - where the protagonist ultimately overcomes that delusion that holds her back - I'd be challenging my own thoughts, revealing a path beyond them. It'd benefit myself.

However, I don't know how many other people struggle with this kind of desire for some 'soulmate'. I know it's typical of people with my personality type, but in the mostly-male world of gaming, I can imagine it being met with macho mockery and bafflement or something. People have certainly expressed such sentiments in response to my own blog posts in the past. I also imagine that many people are already settled into relationships, that they've found a point of comfortable acceptance, and that this might not speak to them either.

And yet it might appeal to a niche because so few other games aim for such a target. Maybe there are a lot of people out there who - like me - like games as a medium, but who are increasingly frustrated with the overwhelming masculinity of most of them and would appreciate something that attempts to be more tender. I just don't know.

I'm concerned about gender politics, however. The world of gaming is infamous for its rather disgusting sexism; it's one of the biggest reasons I want to get out of it. The idea that women are princesses who need rescuing has been a big part of it since the very beginning.

Attempts to remedy this tend to involve making 'strong' female characters who can 'kick ass' as well as the men... which bothers me, since it's like saying that only by shedding their femininity and becoming 'men with boobs' can women be worthwhile. Why not have males more readily embrace their femininity instead? Why must female characters harden their hearts to be worthy of admiration?

The main character of this game would be the same archetype I've been experimenting with in various stories. A shy, sensitive sort who I personally can relate to. While such a character is basically my own personality in female form, I'm concerned that others will see her as simply "weak"; me as a sexist developer portraying a woman as some submissive, insecure, neurotic lesser human who needs a man in order to have worth.

The love she'd long for wouldn't be the "save me, O hero!" sort, where she clings to the side of some statuesque soldier and looks longingly into his chiseled face while he stares stoically at the sky. It'd be more like a longing for a, well, a soulmate; someone who understands completely, who supports and listens and offers true romantic devoted love. I'd hope to portray that kind of bond from the very first conversation; a bond of equals, two 'other halves' who complete one another, rather than any kind of dominant-submissive thing.

And I'd hope that having the male love interest captured by the villain, to be rescued, might turn the tropes on their head...

The eventual conclusion would involve her shedding this need for a partner completely, of course, but who would get that far before forming judgements?

Either way, it feels like walking through a minefield, and while I'd make the game in the hope of engaging people's hearts in relatable ways, I'd be worried about just being hit by a barrage of flak from "social justice warriors" eager to see and slay demons where there are none. Hmm.

Maybe I could just make Soulmate female too. I don't see why not. Maybe I'd win points with such people instead of offending them, and be less off-putting to guys who don't really want to see a woman falling in love with a guy who's unlike them... but I'd lose the whole "girl saves a guy" bit if I did that. So I don't know.

Anyway, I feel I don't fit in with the world of games development... but I also want to make something that resonates with me. Perhaps whatever I make won't fit in either, though. But it would mean something to me, so I feel I must try.

(I was going to talk about mechanics, but I'll do that in another post.)
If you liked this, please click the Appreciate button there

on 11 Roots


19 United States INFP LII SoSp RLUAI AIE PhlegmaticSanguine
I... I really wish I hadn't been late! It's always when I slack on checking that things happen!

Everyone else has taken so many of the things I'd say and said them more eloquently than I probably could have, so I'll just summarize:

- I love the idea of the game, it's something I can definitely see myself enjoying. The nonviolent aspects are something I can appreciate; I really only play violent games when friends want me to, these days. Or when the story takes precedence and revolves around it.

- Androgynous seems like an excellent idea to me for Soulmate! Particularly since love/attraction has never been a major player in my liking of people.

- This sounds unique - I've rarely seen a game that focuses on inner subjects like this, and none for this aspect of longing.

I really believe this can be a great thing from you. As I'm sure many others do too! Best of luck, Tobias!
19 United States
I think the niche for games like this is larger than you think. People don't need to be frustrated with violence to appreciate games that are more deep and tender, and people don't need to personally struggle with a need for a soulmate to care about a protagonist who does. The people who say, "Your protagonist is not me, so your protagonist is absurd," are not likely to be your target audience, so don't worry about them. Likewise, don't worry about needing to include Alora Fane or Miasmon or Sex Jokes just because people liked them in the past; you are constantly evolving, your target audience is constantly evolving, and your games need to constantly evolve too.

You have enough skill to tell a good story, and to tell a fantastic story you need to make what you want to make, not what you think that other people want you to make. Most people aren't game designers, and they'll suggest that you duplicate what they've liked in games they've played in the past; what we actually want is a fantastic game, not the sum of our suggestions.

Good luck with further development!
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
Thank you for your sensible and motivating words!
24 United States
I wish you'd give us what we want and just finish the Mardek series. Those games were so incredible and were a big part of my childhood, and I'd love to be able to finish the series. I know I'd be willing to pay for those games, but none of your recent projects interest me at all.
17 United States INTJ LII RLUEI MelancholicPhlegmatic
Here's a possibility: You could just not specify the gender of the Soulmate, and as such avoid the metaphorical minefield resulting from it. Seeing as how said Soulmate is more an embodiment of a concept than anything, it could be rather fitting.

Of course, I don't know the intricacies of your proposed story, so the gender of the Soulmate could be important to the story itself in a way I don't realize. Either way, this is just a suggestion from a novice story-smith, so take it with a grain of salt!

I'm sure it'll be great either way. You've certainly demonstrated your abilities already.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I'm considering making Soulmate androgynous; it might be awkward avoiding gendered pronouns and trying to design someone visually androgynous, but I'll give it a go!
25 United States AIS
I think it's a really good thing you're doing something that hasn't been done much in games. There's no reason that games should only be about the things they're currently about; why does a medium need to be so tied to a certain kind of content?

Could it perhaps be set in Alora Fane at a much more advanced time? I sometimes wonder why secondary-world fiction is so thoroughly associated with pre-modern technology.

I've heard it called progressive and feminist when women talk romantically about men in the way men normally talk romantically about women. I recall for example a literature class where we were reading a poem in which a woman is calling out to a man on the street and commenting about how attractive his various features are. The professor remarked how the female poet was reclaiming for the sake of women a sort of thing in which the genders are usually the other way around. So I think what you're doing shouldn't be a problem. Though making them both girls would work as well.

Anyway, I think I would like this game. Other than that retreating unhealthily into worn-out fantasies is part of my own experience, I just think a story told this way would be enjoyable. Also I feel like the sense of needing to be loved to feel complete would be pretty widely relatable actually (and I still recommend reading Phantastes by George MacDonald, which is about that too). I was recently thinking about how questionable it is that a partner is sometimes called someone's 'other half' and such.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I was recently thinking about how games are a medium with such potential... There's the possibility to represent any kind of story or experience, in which you can immerse yourself as a character and explore through interaction rather than simply sitting and absorbing as you do with books or films. But it's being utilised for such a narrow range of possible experiences... I suppose it's because it requires certain technical skills to make games, which were designed by men and which appeal more to them than women? And so men mostly use the medium to appeal to their aggressive power lust or something? Annoying, though.

I thought about setting it in a future version of Alora Fane, but it seems unnecessary, really; the only part of the 'real world' that would be shown would be Oneira's bedroom, so adding Alora Fane elements would require explanations with no real benefits, I feel.

That's an interesting way of looking at the gender thing... I suppose I've been taking it for granted recently that women say things like that about men, but I'm reminded of how when I was younger, I felt baffled or uncomfortable when girls talked about how 'hot' guys were and such. I thought only guys did that kind of objectifying, and that girls were somehow better than that. So naive, looking back.

I still want to read Phantastes! It's on my long list of "things I want to do" which I never actually end up doing due to depression...
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
You know, you can't please everyone at the same time. On one hand you want to "engage people's hearts in a relatable way", on the other you want to "make something that resonates with you". And since most people are not like you, there is the dilemma.
Though how big is the intersection set between those two desires really? At this point there is no telling.
You have your assumptions about players, games and the world around them, and some of them might be accurate. But the truth is that most of them are probably over-exaggerations inside your head. You can't know what people are thinking. Unless you actually go out and ask them personally. Then you can actually find out about what's speaking to them the most. Whether or not it's going to be compatible with your ideas is a different thing, but at least you will have some leads. And it's most important to have a clear image of your target audience, because in product development there is one saying: "The only way to make an opening for everyone is to tear down every single wall."
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I don't really see what I'm doing as 'product development'. It's more like art; a form of personal expression rather than something carefully designed in order to appeal to an audience. I'd like it if it succeeded, of course, hence my concerns, but I doubt I'd be able to motivate myself to work on it if the target audience was too different to myself.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
As long you're actually trying to make anyone pay for it, it's a product. You didn't mention anything about monetarization explicitly in this blog post, but in several others before, and I didn't get the impression that this has changed.

If you're going the freeware route this time, sure, just fire away whatever you want! But then I can't really understand your concerns.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I definitely want to make money from it, but I'm not making it to make money, if that makes sense? That is, I'm not taking a path that'll 'maximise profits' or anything similar, but rather I'm going to express myself through it and any money I get will be a bonus.

I'll seek feedback along the way to ensure that it's not unenjoyable, as I said, but I wouldn't be able to stay motivated working on something that strayed from what I myself enjoy. I'd rather make something I definitely like than something I assume other people might like.
25 Germany ISTJ 5w6 SxSp PhlegmaticCholeric
Fenix Shakura
I'd say it only makes sense, when you're relying on donations solely. Otherwise, you're charging people for money, and that itself makes the difference, no matter the actual price. And if you want to make money from something, then it better be something that people are willing to pay for, or else you wasted your time and energy and didn't get anywhere - except for a few lessons learned.

That's what would've happened with the first version of Taming Dreams, if you didn't have your betas, right? But that's not bad, actually. It's another step forward.
If you just motivate yourself to create something you enjoy and actually get to finish it, it's a good idea to give it out for free. From the feedback and the experience you get, you can improve your own views and skills, until one day you can finally make something that you both enjoy and can sell to other people. (Or at least build up enough reputation that people are sufficiently engaged in you to go with whatever you're going for, or something.)
21 United States INTJ LII 359 SxSo IAE MelancholicPhlegmatic
I can't necessarily say I agree with everything (only because I do create ideas for games that do have violence, but that's the only point where we differ), but I do see where you're coming from on that. Even though I'm a guy, I'm still following your Soulmate game, and I'm still interested in the idea. I'm still going to play games like Pokemon and Chrono Trigger, but at the same time, I'll be enjoying Soulmate. I always thought we can live in a world where we can drive both your ideals and mine. It's just my nature now to be open-minded about anything.
24 Canada INTJ 513 SpSx PhlegmaticCholeric
Tama Yoshi
I feel your faith in this game, and hope to shoulder it. I have advices that may be useful to you in different areas.

In the area of research, I recommend that you look up Undertale, even if only through Let's Play (which is what I did). The game has already been brought up, but I think it could help you unshackle potential for your game for various reasons.
=> It's a simplistic game, which may help you unburden yourself from your tendancy for aiming very high (6 characters? 8 chapters? 32 episodes? Just keep it in check)
=> It's a successful emotion-based game, so you should at least consider it from a professional stand-point.
=> Since it was so successful from a mere kickstarter perspective, this game may also give you hope for your own tastes as an emotion-infused game maker.
I personally think Undertale is a good example of a game that is very clever about its Gameplay, using simple tweaks to the genre to express more (through symbolism).

In the area of story telling... I haven't played Taming Dreams, so my last experience from you is still MARDEK... I say: the strength of your story telling lies in your ability to build complex and believable worlds (immerse), throw in comedy (entertain), and finally tackle the darkness of human nature (reflect). I have an intuition that the efficiency of your story telling lies in the balance you strike with these three aspects. This perspective is optimistic for the following reasons:
=> You've likely improved at handling narrations over the years, so the success of MARDEK is a mark that you can only expect to surpass in terms of story.
=> Similarly, by making abstraction of the ingredients, you can veer away from MARDEK and into something different (sex jokes not your thing anymore? No worries; there's plenty of fun to be had)
=> If you pull off these three elements, then it doesn't even matter if your thematic inclination is unorthodox, because that's all the recipe is about.

I think you have secured a standing from you amassed artistic skills... I feel like it's less about convincing people that you're writing a story that's "decent" (anyway, haters are going to hate: I can't stress that enough; any reason there is to hate something, someone will call out. You just have to decide the direction you want to take, and accept it for what it is).
I think you should be the judge of whether your story is good enough. That is not to say that constructive criticism would be useless either. This is likely the best area to seek insight. Personally, I wonder if you're not making a story that's too abstract. Too much abstraction can obfuscate an otherwise visceral tale; in that sense it's not about being too "highfalutin", but about being too "out there".
I've read a short book on screen writing called "Save The Cat", which I found very interesting. It's pretty assertive in its advice, but quite inspiring nontheless.
It advocates visceral story elements over abstract and poetic ones, hence my advice.
Its title is based on its earliest advice, which is that a protagonist should always have a redeeming moment, quality, or scene, a moment where "he saves a cat" for instance. An efficient "Save the Cat" scene is key to making the audience root for the protagonist, which is way too important!
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
The only reason I've yet to play Undertale is because I'm intimidated; I know it's highly regarded, but I fear that if I play it, I'll just feel unable to make anything nearly as good and won't even try at all. It's common for artists to feel this way, it seems, and if you're working alone without a structured professional environment to keep you on track, it gets in the way quite a bit. I know I should look into it... I'm just trying to sort out my own thoughts enough first (exploring it in the depths of suicidal depression doesn't seem like the best idea in the world!).

It's a shame that you're judging my abilities based on MARDEK rather than Taming Dreams, since I feel the former is from a lifetime ago, a different person, while the latter is more in line with what I want to do these days.

As Soulmate isn't meant to be linear, I'm not sure how much normal narrative techniques apply. I am however going to be basing much of the experience on the sorts of thoughts, worries, regrets, longing, etc that I see other people actually expressing on various therapy/venting sites and apps and etc, so hopefully it'll be addressing relatable issues rather than something few people will understand. Starting the game with "I love you" seemed to me a good way of invoking an experience that has deep interest and relevance to almost everyone. Taming Dreams focused more on poetic and high-minded spiritual concepts, and that's one of the 'mistakes' I'm hoping to remedy with this attempt. Hopefully feedback along the way will help keep me from floating too far up into the clouds.
24 Canada INTJ 513 SpSx PhlegmaticCholeric
Tama Yoshi
I see. I don't think my comparing with MARDEK is all that divergent from what you'd like, though, as my favorite parts of MARDEK specifically concern Deugan and Emella's backstory, their internal darkness, with the looming darkness of Steele as the symbolism of everything that is wrong with people.
I hope I am not wrong when I assume that the part of you that made this is a part of you that you are still willing to identify with.

I didn't know you felt intimidated by Undertale. It must be a question of self-confidence... Heh, I mean... It might sound strange, but *I* feel confident about what *you* can do. Knowing how downthrodden you are just makes me want to transmit that confidence. I believe you can do better than Undertale.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I feel that what I did with MARDEK's characters like Deugan and Emela is very... puerile compared to what I've done more recently. Steele, for example, was born of genuine frustration with other people, meant as a criticism of sorts of those people, whereas these days I'd challenge the thoughts that criticism and frustration were born of, which I feel is a more mature and perhaps original way of looking at minds. They're not something to hate and indulge; they're something to tame and grow beyond.

Loads of artists are intimidated by the work of other artists! Even masters and experts look at the work of others and feel that they can't do nearly as well. I suppose it's because as a creator, you're aware of your flaws and limitations, but you don't scrutinise the work of others in the same way that you scrutinise your own. I've been under the impression that Undertale is as popular as it is for good reason... but perhaps if I play it, the reality will turn out to be less wonderful than my imagination...
24 Canada INTJ 513 SpSx PhlegmaticCholeric
Tama Yoshi
I can see why you would think of that as puerile, as well. Hmm. It probably felt great back then because we only got a very small glimpse of the emotional tropes that lay in the story. Or because I was younger. Or something.
That said, when you talked about red herrings used in Deugan's (new) story arc, I just thought "Yes, this is going to be great, this guy knows what he's doing!!!!!1" Playing with pre-established tropes is the most fun an artist can have!

I think part of the reason why it's easy to be intimidated by other's work is because humans are very bad at putting things into perspective. What is a 20 hour game if not, typically, thousands of hours of actual work. And then, perhaps, we find ourselves too elated to pause and become cynical, needy, or critical, thinking "how I could have made that better", or "how I could have made that my own".
Perhaps, humble us even avoid being critical because it doesn't seem fair to "thank" the artist like that.

Reading destructive reviews of things I like is in that sense quite illuminating (although partly infuriating, like being told how wrong you are about everything)
22 Canada
You mentioned mot wanting to ditch Alora Fane completely, since you've put so much energy into building it. Maybe Oneira's "dream world" where she encounters these aspects of her personality could, in fact be Alora Fane. The way you've divided the races and sentiments in there already lends itself to the idea that the whole world is part of someone's mind, I believe, and having this "fantasy-type" realm to explore could compliment the modern-day setting nicely and possibly appeal to a wider audience.

Maybe this isn't the direction you're intending to go, but a possible story arc could be that Oneira actually loses herself more and more consciously in this dream world, because she's coming ever closer to giving up on the real world. At this point her fantasy realm gets darker and darker, and the "bosses" (her Ego etc) get more and more difficult to beat.

In the real world, she'd meet some people, some guys, some girls, who are nice and friendly and all, but don't seem like "soulmate" material. They'd hang out a lot, but Oneira would always seem kind of distant, because she'd be preoccupied thinking of her fantasy realm and how to rescue her soulmate.

When she reaches her darkest point in her fantasy, the point at which all seems futile and the monsters become harder and harder to tame, the only thing that stops her from giving up on life completely is the group of friends she has made who she didn't think much of at first, but who have grown to care for her deeply.

She finally makes it into the soulmate's prison to rescue him/her, and finds out that the soulmate is, in fact, the final "boss" of the game and the hardest challenge yet. She realizes that all this time, she's been narrowing her vision by pinning her sights on this perfect ideal, not realizing that she does, in fact, have many people who care about her and love her in different kinds of ways.

She defeats the Soulmate and her dream realm lightens up, the monsters become easier to defeat, and Oneira is able to come and go from the real world to the dream one whenever she pleases.

I guess the message here would be something like "It's ok to have fantasies, as long as you don't let them consume you. Focus on what you do have and the rest will come in time".

I might be completely on the wrong track here, but I thought I'd throw the idea in anyways!
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
I did consider using Alora Fane as the dream world, and experimented with various ideas for how I could make that work, but none of them really worked out. It also clashed with the cosmology of Alora Fane, where worlds are dreams of gods; Alora Fane is a dream of the Aolmna, not Oneira. I could have come up with something like "she found her way into this other dream" or something, but it felt sloppy and strayed too far from the point I'm trying to make with the game.

Is this idea of yours closer to your own experiences? Meeting people and having to grow to like them, I mean. For me, dreams of ideals prevent me from going out and meeting people at all; it's not a matter of overcoming perfectionistic fantasies in order to appreciate what I have, but rather to burst the bubble I'm trapped in. I don't know how relatable it is, but it'd be easier for me in a 'write what you know' sense.

I did originally plan to have alternating sections between the real world and the dream world... But it seemed too difficult in terms of resources, etc. I'm going to be doing all the work myself, and each new character or area would add days to the production time. My plans so far are based around minimising required resources. I've had to reject a lot of ideas that seemed interesting for this reason.

The overall message of the game wouldn't so much be based around not being consumed by fantasies, but rather overcoming - taming - your own thoughts in a spiritual/psychological sort of way. Things ranging from self-doubt and self-loathing to the idealistic fantasies of a perfect soulmate.
24 United States
I can say that the idea of Soulmate interest me greatly.

On the concern about having Soulmate not be relatable to other males, maybe having an androgynous looking soulmate could solve the issue. Another idea is that every time Oneira interacts with Soulmate he has a different appearance to show that the ideal Soulmate is up to personal interpretation.

I feel like you are a pioneer in the world of Game development. Even if you don't fit with the other's in that world you are making foothold so others can follow and maybe you may find other developers like you.
29 United Kingdom INFJ EII 459 SxSo RLxaI AIS MelancholicPhlegmatic
Soulmate already looks quite androgynous in my head, so maybe I'll end up taking that approach!

A pioneer... Seeing my work in that way gives me a lot of motivation to continue with it, so thanks for putting it like that!