Those of you who have been following what I've been doing may remember that before I disappeared again I was working on Super Passion Heaven:
You may have noticed that I am now not working on Super Passion Heaven.
This game, mechanically, was an iteration on the mechanics of Be Drunk (first game I released hehe) which was made for Wine Jam, run by Nina Freeman and her discord/stream community in 2018 (Nina made a nice write up about it here) (also check out Toby Do's excellent entry listed and others). The general throughline here is mechanically exploring the interaction between mental health (specifically depression/OCD) and personal and technological interventions to it, with broader implications to technological and social ethics.
The narrative of SPH is based on this, and especially the broader implications to ethics part, although explaining exactly how is very difficult. In fact so much so that it became The Problem with that game. I know it sounds kind of insane and pretentious, but the plot of that game was based on a detailed understanding of a few hyper-specific topics in mathematics, science, and philosophy which I wouldn't expect most if any players to have going into it, and that I only have an understanding of because it's the culmination of my personal academic studies as a former bioinformatics researcher.
(not entirely gibberish)
The problem with this is not my lack of faith in players ability to understand these topics, just that properly communicating them expanded the scope of the game too much. And I wanted players to really get it. In fact, I ended up working into the plot and design of the game that the player has to take academic courses in these subjects as part of progression for which I was going to design in-game interactive educational material (this actually isn't that ad-hoc in context). Although I wanted to make this fun and like a hanging-out-with-your-friends-studying-in-uni-simulator and I kinda like that idea still in a perverse way, it's at that point which I decided the scope had gotten too large and complicated for it to work and I needed to rethink things.
The game I'm making now is a response to this problem. They do not on the surface appear related at all, but in terms of what I'm communicating they're the same game. Well, specifically it's only a part of the first game. The first part of this as a solution is that it's a reduction in scope and significantly more focused in terms of what I want to cover conceptually and its design goals. Although "visual novel"->"open world exploration game" may not seem like a reduction of scope on the surface it actually is lol trust me. The main difference is, with this project I have one well defined core thing that I want to do with the game, and I can reduce and adjust the scope as necessary to get that thing done in a reasonable timeframe. And I am extremely motivated to do so, I want to make this stupid game so badly and I dont want to spend forever doing it!!!
The second part of this as a solution is that it's just a much better way of expressing the slice of SPH that it represents. The design I've come to with this project is so much more elegant as a game and just really the kind of art that I want to make, and I'm honestly super hyped about it and just want to put it out so I'm reallly gonna try to do that no matter what.
All that said as I was writing this I remembered how much I still like the core Thought Loop mechanics of SPH and I'd like to do something with it. When I showed the game at MAGFest it really seemed to click with people, so apparently it's a good design and I shouldn't throw it away. Maybe I'll make an unrelated vignette game with it sometime, we'll see!