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MIsao 2020 Results

THERAPIST: Mind Manager won first place in two categories on RMN's 2020 Misaos!

-The "How the Hell Did They Do That?" Award
-Excellence in Narrative Entries

It was also nominated for Best Game Title, "Everlasting Journey" Award and Game of the Year!

I'm particularly happy with the two categories it won. The game's narrative was definitely my focus. I took a bunch of online courses on writing, and the game mechanics were designed in a way that directly interact and give form to the narrative, instead of just complementing it. Looking back there are things I would change, but I'm proud of the final result.

Also, it's a game that looks nothing like RPG Maker and I did it with very few plugins and no scripting knowledge. So it's a completely custom system entirely event based which was nightmarish to make and full of bugs that needed fixing. I'm glad it got recognition from the "How the Hell Did They Do That?" Award!

Thank you very much to all who voted!


Version 1.0.1 update

I uploaded an updated version of the game with minor bug changes and tweaks:

-Starting mood ups to 70.
-Mood threshold to get "Life is too good to waste time sleeping" goes from 95 to 98.
-Mood threshold not to be able to leave the house goes from 5 to 3.
-Fixed bugs in which some pictures would not be erased after transitions.
-Highest tolerance to loneliness (you don't need to meet someone every day now).
-Fixed a bug where Ivan dialogs would reset if you skipped a date with him.
-Fixed minor spelling/text problems.

Please let me know if you find any additional problems. Saves from the old version should work fine on this update.


Russian translation

THERAPIST: Mind Manager has just got a Russian translation!

This very high-quality work was made by @bizDICK1.

The reception of my other games' russian translations in the past have been amazing, seeing russian people apparently are into hardcore strange games. So I have high hopes for this one!


Recruiting playtesters

So, this game is kinda finished.

Now, to testing.
This week, I'm doing a whole lot of testing myself. Next week, I would love to have some playtesters help me.

What I'm looking for right now is:

BUG REPORT: The game is full of custom systems, branching choices and gives the player a lot of freedom to do what he wants, when he wants. That means, a lot of room for bugs. Gamebreaking bugs, inconsistency problems, etc.

LANGUAGE PROBLEMS: I'm no native English speaker, so I need to know if what I write makes sense. Grammar problems, spelling mistakes, or just strange sentences.

Feedbacks about balance, flow and gameplay are also welcome, but I don't really plan on making significant changes at this point. I had a demo out for testing months ago, and I've already changed plenty since then.

I estimate the total gameplay time to be around 5 hours.

Honestly, the more testers the better. There are too many branching things, so one playtester couldn't possibly test everything.

I'll release the testing version this sunday (July 5hth), and I'm hoping testers could send me problems report within a week (July 12th). That enough? I can extend that if necessary. Hopefully not too long, because I can't wait to send my baby out in the world. ^_^

I appreciate in advance, and names of testers will be in the credits, of course. <3

Game Design

Soundtrack saga

I have a very peculiar relationship with the soundtracks of my games, and I decided to write a blog post about it.

I will start by my final conclusion, which is: one of the most exciting and satisfying moments of game making for me is listening to a song and thinking "that would sound amazing in my game".

Needless to say, most (if not all) of the tracks I use are commercial/without permission (judge me if you want). Not a huge problem because all my games are freeware. I know there are plenty of free for use tracks around. But finding a track that clicks for me is incredibly rare. If I limit my sources like that, I would probably have to give up on expecting the feeling of "that's it!”

I started THERAPIST: Mind Manager with the intention of making it commercial and I was going to hire composers. Until then, I decided to put some placeholder music. I went for Sim City 2000 OST which I love, and I somehow felt matched the vibe of the game. It sounded so perfect that it became of one (but not the only) the reasons I decided to make the game free. They set the perfect atmosphere for the game, and I'm really happy with it.

But there were only 3 tracks I used. They could get repetitive after a while. I needed more.

I spent a few weeks searching YouTube for something, until I finally found one that was ok. Not amazing, but at least compatible with the game.

But I still wanted one more. "Find another BGM track" has been in my Game To Do List for a couple of months now. And I've been searching actively. Doing a bunch of searches on YouTube, trying many different keywords. Thinking of commercial songs I like and what they would sound like in instrumental version. Trying to remember old videogames and their soundtracks. Paying attention to the tunes of those lo-fi long videos I listen to while working. My radar has been set to it for a long time. Yet, I haven't found anything that remotely resembles the mood I'm aiming for and matches the rest of the soundtrack. It's too specific, almost impossible.

Last week I started watching this anime called Parasyte: The Maxim. It's a good anime. Anime usually have good music, though I wasn't attentive to it at first. But then, there was this tune. It sounded kinda good. "Would it fit my game?” I started paying more attention to it. To a degree I couldn't pay attention to the dialogs when it was playing. Yes, it sounds perfect. I need it.

Being too good to be true, I couldn't find that track online. I searched the anime's soundtrack, and all my results showed the official OST with 19 tracks officially released on the album. It was not there. It seemed like all music from the anime was there, except the one I wanted. And it was one that played all the time. Why? Not fair.

But I'm Googler lv. 5, so I searched harder. After three days, I finally found it.
It does match the game perfectly. Finding it feels like such a victory that it made me pumped to work on the game harder and just happier overall. <3

So that's it. Just wanted to share a bit of unexpected quirks of game design. And this might be one of my favorites. If I told the story behind every track I chose for every game, I could write a book.

Game Design

Early drafts

One of my favorite parts in the process of making a game (or working on any project) is looking back at my early drafts and notes after I'm already ahead in development. I like comparing my original ideas to the final results. It's fun to see how they were materialized, and it's also fun to see how much they change.

Looking at my current screenshots, I can see I was pretty faithful to my original drafts. The only one that didn't make it to the game was the Mart map (rightmost one); I decided it was not worth it in terms of cost-benefit.


First game demo

My original intent was to not release a demo for THERAPIST: Mind Manager. I felt that it's the kind of game that either you get the full experience, or you don't quite get it. But with everything that's going on, thinking long term became something of an issue for me. Not knowing when and how I'm going to finish it, I decided to release a demo with what I have.


I think of this as not just a demo, but also a testing version of the game. The fact that all game systems are custom and event-based opens to a lot of bug possibilities. I have tested it myself extensively, but there is always one thing or another that escapes my screening. So I appreciate bug reports. Not being a native speaker, I’m also open to reports on issues with spelling, grammar and overall smoothness of the dialog. Feedbacks on everything game-experience related are also welcome.

Demo x Final version
This is a fairly robust demo, and it contains much of what you should expect from the final version. In addition to the demo version, the final version of the game will include:
  • More NPCs

  • More story events

  • Twice the duration (the demo is 15 days long, the final version will be 30).

  • A possibly different and more varied soundtrack.

  • An extra minigame.

  • 3 endings

I'll keep working on it. Hopefully fueled by some motivating feedback.
Estimated finish date is June 2020.


To be or not to be... commercial?

I want to talk about my current dilemma with this game.

Many times in the past I vowed to never make games for money. The reasons are many, but it comes down to focusing on the right motivation for making games to me. I make games to express myself. They are my artistic outlet, and that’s why I enjoy it. I could, of course express myself AND make money. But I believe it could corrupt my mindset. Another reason is free games don’t have to worry about using copyrighted stuff (and most of all, I love using commercial music). And the last reason is I want as many people as possible to have access to my game, and putting a price on it could be an obstacle.

But that exact last reason is making me rethink those vows. I recently had professional experiences that made me realize people are more likely to attend to an event to which they paid in comparison to a free event (and sadly I learned that out of frustration and disappointment). Thinking about it, it’s clear that people put more value and perceive more quality in something they have to pay for than in things that are free (and there is research to back that claim). So I wondered: is it the same for games? Wouldn’t people be more likely to play a game they find on Steam (because it looks more professional and it’s not free) than a game that’s free lying around some indie game website?

This idea made me want to make THERAPIST: Mind Manager a commercial game. Not to make money, but to reach more people. Make it look more “valuable” to the community. And that has been the plan all along. To release it on Steam once it’s finished for a very small price.

But two things made me rethink that.
First, I’m having a really hard time composing my own music. Not so much for the lack of musical talent, but for the inability to deal with music composing software.
Second, I heard someone on Discord saying this “Steam makes your game more visible” thing is a myth. And indeed it must be. From my experience, what gives visibility to a game is not really the platform, but the articles, reviews and LPs.
And all of that made me remember my vows.

But still, somehow, after deciding to make my game commercial, changing it back to free, giving up on making my own music and using commercial ones feel like I’m downgrading my game, or settling for less than I could aspire. It changed my perception of quality of my own game, and that's not a good feeling.

I'm mostly just rambling, but any thoughts to help me solve this conflict are welcome.

Game Design

Writing strategies

THERAPIST: Mind Manager is a story-oriented game. Even though I put a lot of thought and work on its mechanics, they exist only to bring out narrative elements. So I really wanted to get the writing right. I want to create impacting dialogs, compelling characters.

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of videos about writing, getting tips, seeing how the minds of great authors work. I subscribed to MasterClass courses, and watched to lessons of people like Neil Gaiman, Shonda Rhimes, James Patterson and David Lynch. It helps. But at the same time, it made me raise my expectations about the game too much. Made me paralyze a bit. Now I feel like I can't write anything unless it feels AMAZING.

So the strategy I was using to write characters and dialogs was to first create a basic outline of each character. What are his main features? What stands out about them? What motivates them? What makes them interesting? I thought knowing those things beforehand, I could write better dialogs. That's what my MasterClass teachers told me anyway.
But defining upfront what’s interesting about each character proved to be more difficult than I thought. I froze.

Today I wanted to write the dialogs for the protagonist’s girlfriend, but I wasn’t sure what she should be like, how she should talk like. But I did have a very fragmented idea of a few things she should say at one specific moment. So I decided to skip the character outline part, and just write the dialog. And to my surprise, not only I was very happy with that dialog, but I got to know more about the character AFTER writing it. It’s like she revealed herself to me, and now I feel ready to dive into her other scenes.

Might not sound like much, but this inversion of steps – writing first, describing the character after - made a HUGE difference for me. Made me unfreeze, write more fluently, feel more satisfied about my project, and to become actually curious about what my characters are gonna say.

Doesn't mean I unfroze completely. I still procrastinate. Thus this blog.
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