I've been a bit distracted with studying and my fractured ankle to properly update on what I've been doing with this game, but I am still making progress!
I've finally decided on an art direction and what engine to use. I've been picturing this game as first-person for awhile so 3d really makes sense. I really like the idea and possible immersion of the player walking around their apartment doing simple things to get by.
I'm imagining the HUD to look a little like this -
Thoughts will float down on the right side of the screen, the speed of them will depend on your mood state. When manic the thoughts may even go to fast to actually catch all of them, which is an actual thing that happens to me. While depressed the thoughts might linger around for longer and feel less positive, more defeatist. Thoughts also revolve around whatever objective it is you have, so if you're thinking about food a lot that's a good indication that you should eat.
The energy meter is the other important part. When depressed you have very little energy and everything seems to take extra effort to do. If you don't have the energy to do something, then you either won't be able to or you won't be able to do it well. For example - say the player needs to go out to get some food but they have very low energy. As long as they have enough to go out they still can but they might come back missing food items, or get there and have to come home immediately without anything and far less energy. This is again, things that happen with me.
While manic however, the energy bar may seem endless. While this sounds great it also impacts what it is the player wants to be doing. That will change a lot while manic as it's hard to stay focused. So in the space of 5 minutes the thoughts could indicate wanting to eat, play a game, do some cleaning and maybe 5 other things. While manic it's really hard for the player to focus on doing something that they've lost interest in. I haven't entirely worked out how to do that yet, but it's important.
After a good brainstorming session with the lovely Snow (who does some really cool stuff, have a look here) we worked out some other cool things that could help get across different mood states. For starters - playing around with the colour and saturation. While depressed everything could be more dull/subdued but while manic everything would be bright/intense. Something I definitely plan on testing out. Other thoughts are on actual mouse movement/panning - so when depressed movement is much slower because again everything takes extra effort but while manic the mouse could be really sensitive. I also want to really push the lack of focus thing with possibly adding a camera drift, so the player might be looking one way but the camera just starts to drift in a different direction so it takes the player physical effort to stay focused on what they are doing.
Now I am really set on not making this an easy game to play. Probably because being bipolar isn't exactly easy. I have some worries that maybe how frustrating I want it to be will cause people to give up far earlier than I'd like but at the same time I want the game to drive you to a point where you just can't do it anymore. Then have some sort of witty thing point out that you don't get to quit life. Well, something like that, it's still kind of not fully decided. I'll see how testing out this stuff goes first.
Now how am I working out the mood states. The plan is behind the scenes there will be a scale of how depressed/manic the player is. I don't ever want to show this directly though, I am hoping I can represent it through other things like the energy meter and playing around with colour and mouse movement. The meter though will serve to calculate how the thought system and energy bar act. But what will determine the mood on the scale? This is going to take a lot of mucking around to get right but my idea on it so far is a combination of random (random will be a pretty large factor), the environment (a messy house lowers mood, or something), the players health (have they been showering and eating properly) and then a weighting system to allow for long streaks of a certain mood but still allows some rapid cycling. Because mood states can generally last days/weeks but a person can also be rapid cycling and have them last only a couple of days, hours or less depending. I want all of these things to come up through the game.
I still haven't decided exactly how long a game day might be, that will be something to probably test. But I think not too long, that way I can get across how much this affects a person across a large amount of time.
Now the art, I mentioned that in the beginning and got side tracked. I plan on doing all the 3d work and putting it all together in Unity. The game will be set entirely in an apartment where your aim is to basically take care of yourself. There will be moments where you can leave to say go buy food and possibly go to work (that is still undecided) and in those moments I'll use a nice 2d painting of the scene that is happening eg a picture of a store while the player is at the store.
I think that is about where I am now. It feels like I have a lot of ideas but no real idea of how well they're going to work. So I think it's time to start throwing together some things and test stuff out. I love nothing more than some prototyping. I already have a partially modelled apartment that I plan on using for this, so I might touch that up, throw it in Unity and start messing around.