Designing Anguish

A personal journey on developing games about mental states

I’m tired and I don’t want to talk about it. Laying down on the sofa and scrolling around Netflix seems to be all I can do. Nonetheless, I can’t pick anything. All possible options look dull. Any physical movement seems like a waste of energy. I resign to watching the color white on the wall instead.

Designing the feels

I’ve played plenty of interactive narratives up to that point and something that I missed in most of them is the lack of, well, interactivity. Most of them are great stories but quite linear in structure, with large walls of text before each option that then in turn lead to another large wall of text. Maybe it’s because I’m impatient or maybe it’s because English is my second language so reading large chunks of text often feels like a chore. I also understand why people use this structure; the narrative feels more like a fleshed out story and the linearity is essential to maintain a pace. With a linear story you can pace out the beginning, the climax and the ending as you wish, nothing strays too far from your original plan.

Setting up an environment

Since this is a digital narrative and not on printed media, I could use anything HTML could provide me. I decided I really needed a way to express how the protagonist was feeling, how anxious they were. I could use a traditional health or something direct like that but that didn’t make any sense in this game. Most of the time, when feeling this way, not even you can tell for sure how bad you are until something more dramatic happens. I decided the most elegant approach was a subtle one: changing the color of the background. It starts as a very comfortable shade of green and as you get anxious it slowly morphs into a less pleasant shade or yellow and then to a very disturbing reddish tone.

The weight of each choice

Some people asked me after playing: “What was I supposed to achieve”? Well, I don’t know, what are you supposed to achieve in your life? Rainy Day didn’t start as a game, I didn’t plan it to have a goal. Instead, it was supposed to feel more like a simulator. You are supposed to replicate your own life expectations and make choices while Rainy Day shows you what would have happened if you were in this apathitic state. You think the most important thing a person has is their job? So go there. You believe having a little fun in important? You have a cellphone and a 3DS. Are you an Agent Cooper type of person that gives yourself a small present everyday? There are a lot of coffee situations in Rainy Day.

Getting out there

In February or something we almost finished Rainy day. Almost. The thing is I started to feel better and looking back to the game made me remember of all that not very nice period. I can’t say development was paused, but before that I worked on Rainy Day almost every weekend and after that I worked one or two hours per week. If I opened the game in that week at all.

Reception

Two months now after release, Rainy Day has around 170 thousand accesses. This is crazy. But besides the surprise on how the game got popular, two other interesting things happened when I released Rainy Day.

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