Since the inception of the project, I had only one goal in mind. That was to make the player feel something. Over the duration of the planning phase, I thought of targeting different emotions and one such emotion stuck out like a sore thumb for me. It was sadness and loss, as these emotions are regarded as a taboo and not generally shared or brought to light, these emotions are generally suffered alone and in isolation. So, with that in mind I started doing research and firstly drew from my personal feelings on the loss of a close family member and then moved on to research games which have tackled loss and recuperation. During my research I found that tackling loss was vented through a typical outlet – crying, screaming, rage or denial. But the process of recuperation had very unique vents which could shape or break a character. The process of recovery from loss could take the shape of Disbelief like Alan Wake, Revenge like the Last of Us 2, Depression like Heavy Rain or Desperation to find answers like Everybody’s gone to the Rapture. So, the process of recovery was what hooked me as I believe that I can mould the character as well as the player to recover (or not) from a loss that had happened in the past. After having played and watched a few more games which tackles recovery like Fragments of Him, Dear Esther, Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch I had a clear idea of the feelings I would be tackling and the medium I would be tackling them with.
My mind was set on making a walking simulator, the likes of which already exist everywhere. For some reason, I didn’t quite like the idea of calling my game a walking simulator, I would much rather call my game a feeling simulator or an experience. So, I moved forward with calling my game an interactive experience. My character was a parent with a partner and a child (who had lost both his partner and child) hence I wanted particular moments with the both of them individually. Moments that are typical, easily recognisable, memorable and relatable. I chose a walk in the park with my characters child. And walking down the marriage isle with my characters partner. There was another feeling that had caught my eye, that feeling being regret. After losing someone, one faces a lot of regret and reflects on how they could’ve done things differently. I wanted a moment like this in the game, where I could focus on the characters regrets with his/her family and how they could’ve done things differently. Pulling heavily from Robert Frosts, The Road not taken.
Finally, I focused on recovery or recuperation where the character can leave behind their family’s artefacts at the grave and let the partner and child move on. The artefacts signify the characters will to move on and keep on living. But while researching about the game, I came across this book called playing with feelings in Video Games by Aubrey Anable which had a chapter in the game which focused on failing with games. Just like dying and learning is a routine in games like Ori and Celeste. I wanted to have such a moment when the player could choose to not move on and join their family. Hence, the introduction of another ending wherein the player chooses to join the dead with their family and move on to the afterlife with the family by their side. I also wanted a certain wow factor to the game and adding paranormal moments which go hand in hand with beautiful visuals became my preferred medium for environmental storytelling. As you would also notice, I have refrained from mentioning gender as much as possible throughout the post. I have decided on giving the player multiple options of Gender and family variations to choose from. As Maddalena had pointed it out to me on one of her classes, Feelings aren’t monopolised by a particular Gender. Hence, to make it as inclusive as possible, I aim to put a few variations in.
Research on the games have given me a basic insight on the gameplay and how I should be going about tackling movement and interactions. As my game is more narrative focused, there are more scripted events rather than combat and climbing mechanics. It revolves around movement, interactions and pre-determined linear scripted moments.