Everything is Different! / by Charlie Francis Cassidy

This might be a slight exaggeration but a lot has changed with this game since my original concept and even last post. Hell, I thought I was ready to start prototyping it but nope, it had a lot of design to go and I'm still finishing that off. But I'm getting ahead of myself here, I should start with what's changed and maybe why this has been a dead space for so long.

In June I moved to Melbourne and got full time work at Mighty Games as a programmer, so for months I didn't dedicate any spare time to working on this game. But all that changed after GCAP and PAX where I realised I needed to start working on some of my own stuff again.

The first thing I realised was that I needed a game design document for it. When I sat down to write it, I really struggled. I thought I knew what this game was but really, I just had a couple of mechanics I wanted to use and a vague but cool idea. I needed  to know more about it before I could even think about MAKING it.

It has gone through quite a few iterations since I started this doc. At first I was very set on it being an endless run of days set in an apartment with mood cycles that just get harder and harder to control till the player hits a point where they just want to quit the game and that's how it ends. For a long time I was designing around that idea, and trying to work out why in the world anyone would feel compelled enough to play it to that point, to a point where quitting was a result of understanding how terrible bipolar can be rather than just how terrible the game is.

Eventually I worked out what this game really needed, it needed a story to go along with it. But, I'm not a writer, how do I write something that will make players interested in this. Wait. Hold on. This game is about living with bipolar. I have bipolar. And then it clicked. This game should be about my life. It always kind of was, but more abstract. No, this game needed to tell my story. I don't know what it's like for anyone else living with bipolar, sure I have a decent idea but those aren't my experiences so I can't tell them. I can tell people my life, what I've gone through with this illness. That is what will get people invested. 

At first I tried to work out how to tell this story in this game mold I already had. But that's too tacked on. I want this game to be about the story now. I'm still keeping a bunch of the mechanics I worked out for it, I'm just focusing on telling a story rather than trying to make my players quit.

So I started to look into ways games tell stories and settled on a few things. I want to tell the story in a few ways. Through the environment, the game will still bring you into living out various days of my life, the ones that are important, and each day that you are in the apartment things will be different and will reflect what has been going on in the time that has passed since the last day you have played. Gone Home helped inspire this, I want the player to explore the environment and get story from it.

Another way will be through interaction with friends and other people in the characters life. I can't always see what is going on with me fully when in an episode and other peoples reactions to things can be a big clue as to what has been going on. So things like concern and comments on things you have been doing but also other things where your available responses to them can be very telling of the state you're in. I'll go more into that in another post when I start breaking down specific things I want to do here.

I'm also going to have more than just the apartment as a location. I want to include the experience of being in hospital, which will be tricky but I think I know how to tackle that but I'll talk about that another time.

Now the story, I very handily started a blog around the time I was diagnosed with bipolar to document and talk about all my mental health stuff, in the hopes of helping others accept and talk about this stuff more. So for the story  I am basically going back through all of that and putting together a timeline of events that I'm going to put into the game. That's what I'm doing currently, in Trello of all places.

If you want to see what's in store for the game, feel free to have a read. It's cleverly named charliethebipolargoldfish

That's all for now, I plan on updating this as I go along now because this is all very new and exciting and I love talking about it!