Hypnagogia 催眠術 By Sodaraptor and a Q&A with the Developer

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Hypnagogia is a first person, platformer/adventure game made for the LSDJAM 2020 Game Jam on itcho.io, hosted by user and developer Figglewatts. Each level (or world as its called) is based on real dreams and nightmares by the developer that he recorded in a dream journal.

The guidelines for this challenge to the community was to make a game that was and quoting from the webpage, “The game should be in some way based around dreams or dreaming”. The host using the cult classic PlayStation 1 game, LSD: Dream Emulator as a baseline example to the community. This was a game which came out in 1998 by company called Asmik Ace Entertainment, Inc. It basically was first person exploration game where the players travels through dreams and bizarre landscapes. Despite not being a big seller in its first couple of years the game soon gained a massive cult following and is highly regarded among critics and gamers.

The project took a 26 day period to make working 8 hours a day from October 30th to November 25th in 2020. The game also has been updated since its first submission on the game jam page, I’m playing the latest version that was made available on December 24th. The game took me around an hour to complete and has no difficulty level from what I saw. However, the visuals of the worlds ranged from calming like one of my favorite levels which was the Sky world that talking windchimes to more menacing ones like the school level which gave me the creeps. I have memories of my old school at night and its just so unsettling even in a video game.

I don’t want to give away all the little details and what I learned as played to not spoil too much but as I continued, I found more little secrets and things regarding how the developer came up with these worlds and eyes.

My Overall Thoughts on the Game

When I first started the game, I was in a space called the dream hub and introduced to my first world to explore by a friendly rabbit-like creature named Gogi. The objective was pretty clear from the beginning, traverse all the level to get the pink floating diamond to continue to each world. Also understanding the controls was very straight forward as it was mapped in a typical way I see most games are (WASD, Shift for Run, and Space bar for Jump). Its a mix of a walking-sim with first person platforming that in the beginning I had to get my bearings as its not always obvious when you should do a running start or just jump to the next platform but you catch on quickly. There are some very light puzzles that mostly require talking to all the people and beings you see as well as being generally aware of your surrounds but were not really that difficult.

Technically speaking I didn’t run into any bugs when I played through the entire game and the controls were very smooth throughout. My only complaint regarding functionality right now is you can’t save the game which is not a big deal as the game is only around an hour but for the sake of taking in-game pictures for this article or going back, it was a bit of a hinderance.

I do want to avoid most of the spoilers because I feel like as a player you should just go in and just see it for yourself since its a short game but I do want to talk about my favorite level, the Sky World.

In the second world you’re on these crystal glass looking platforms with Ancient Greek style statues and talking windchimes. You can hear the wind blowing through the thin columns and the clattering of the chimes with the sky all around me was bright and surreal. It really gave me the sense I was in another world aka a dream. I learned in the game about how the developer came up with this level and he said when he woke up after having this dream occur he felt cold like he was outside during a windy day. That feeling despite being a PS1 style game with no photo-realistic graphics made me get that same sensation as I went through this short but interesting level.

I will never cease to be enchanted by these surreal and experimental types of games. I’m always amazed by the creativity and this was one of the first PS1 graphically inspired games I’ve tried so far and I totally understand the appeal. When used correctly they can create a nostalgic but fun experience for a modern audience who may never have experienced gaming on the original PlayStation or even consoles like the Nintendo 64. There is a charm and nostalgic factor to it as I’ve seen these games in my youth in stores, commercials or at my friends house who had a console where I could watch or take a turn playing. Which is why I think these types of games are enjoying immense popularity as they can create fun experiences for gamers and opens the door for a revisit to the past when games were far less graphically impressive but still immersive. Its not the graphics its how you present the world, the characters and the gameplay. Hypnagogia accomplishes this by being a fun and well put together experimental video game. Its also impressive how the game really didn’t have any problems overall with bugs for a game made in only a month.

I totally recommend this game to anyone who loves weird video games or is a fan LSD: Dream Emulator. Its certainly not for everyone but I ask you at least try if especially if your a bit of a nostalgia geek. If anything my eyes have been opened more to the possibilities of using this graphical style and I want to try more of them.

Q&A with the Developer, Sodaraptor

1.) Let’s start with your background. How did you get involved in game development and programming? Have you always wanted to develop games or was it something that happened over time?

Sodaraptor: I was made aware of game development and the processes that went with it after going through design school about 9 years ago. Since then, I’ve had an interest in wanting to create worlds and stories. Playing RPGs and Nintendo games growing up had a lot to do with my choice to get into game design as well. I’ve always been more of an artist than a programmer, so most of my experience comes from doodling characters and such, and then finding ways to implement them into a game form.

2.) Your style is very inspired by the original PlayStation and 1990s/early 2000s graphics. What made you decide to make games in this art style and your entire aesthetic being in this format?

Sodaraptor: As with a lot of notable indie developers and their projects, the PSX era from the mid to late 90s has always been one of the biggest influences to me. It helps that creating games in this style is quicker, as there are a lot of ready-made tools available that speed the process up, but I enjoy the style in and of itself solely because of my nostalgic attachment to it. I want to design throwbacks to what I remember games of that era looking like, and also to give them a certain “charm” that younger players who may not have been around to maybe grow fond of.

3.) I want to pick your brain a bit more about the art style. In the last two-three years there has been a noticeable rise in popularity of PS1 style games with horror as the one I see most often. A few I can think of being Siren Head and Night of the Consumers which are extremely popular. If you had to give a reason why you think there was this shift to this graphical style, what would it be?

Sodaraptor: Like I mentioned previously, I think some of the reason is because there are a lot of easy, out-of-the-box tools that can accomplish this visual style without much thought. I’ve seen some negative views from more diehard developers on using these tools, but I’m happy they exist. I believe in addition to it being a quick solution to giving your game a “style”, shooting for retro visuals simply also gives immediate appeal to players who grew up seeing games look like that. As a developer, your demographic is more or less set firmly within that niche audience as soon as word of the game gets out, so you’re guaranteed that those types of players will see, play, and maybe even back your project.

4.) You said there has been some negative comments regarding this art style, what kind of negative feedback have you been getting.

Sodaraptor: Mostly just comments I’ve seen here and there from who I assume are more diehard developers of the genre. I think it’s that some less experienced creators’ projects sometimes try to utilize the style, but don’t pay any regard or put any effort into emulating games from that era more accurately. Kind of just slap a pixel filter on the game and say it’s PSX, without minding the polycount or texture work. That’s my guess anyways.

5.)Your last three games all are from Game Jams which generally are pretty time constrained contests/challenges within the community. Do you find that you work well under this kind of deadline or is just the challenge that you enjoy? Also, what made you decide to be a part of these game jams?

Sodaraptor: I think of myself as the type of person that works much better under pressure and with some type of goal or deadline, especially if the thing I’m working on will be put in front of even just a few people. I think, “total strangers may see this and play it, I want to make sure it’s as good as it can be” so I set aside a lot of freetime to work on it. To me, game jams are the “holy grail” of getting that sense of urgency and feeling accomplished knowing your work will have some sort of validation in the end. It’s like receiving a school project to do, but it’s something you’re really passionate about and will give you the opportunity to show others what you’re capable of.

6.)Besides the games under your developer name, sodaraptor, what other games have you worked on?

Sodaraptor: I’ve done a few games before getting more serious about development that aren’t particularly great, but I’m still fond of. One of which was a sidescrolling adventure game I made as a college graduation project about 7 years ago called “Castle Panic”, and another one titled “Hypervirus” that had you shooting and dodging attacking aliens. Both of which you can see gameplay of on my YouTube channel. They were very janky since I was the only one working on them and didn’t know much of what I was doing! I should also mention I worked on Fortnite for a few years as a QA tester. One of the most stressful times of my life, but that’s another story.

7.)So Hypangogia is a first-person platformer/adventure game set in a dream world style type of universe, how did you come up with this idea? What was your process in designing and putting this game together?

Sodaraptor: I’ve been keeping a dream journal for awhile now, and seeing a something called “LSD Jam” pop up on http://itch.io, gave me a ton of inspiration to realize some of my dream entries in game form. I think using dreams as a resource for game worlds is highly underrated, and I felt like basing various different worlds that could be fully explored would create a lot of intrigue to players. I wanted them to feel a spectrum of both emotion and nostalgia as they went through the game.

7.) I am curious, how did you decide on the name of the game?

Sodaraptor: Originally I wanted to name the game “Dreamworlds” but it felt very generic. Researching things like sleep paralysis and hallucinations lead me to the definition of hypnagogia, in which many different things can occur including vivid/lucid dreams. It just felt right for what the game tries to convey.

8.)A lot of people really seem to enjoy this game, myself included. What are your thoughts about it as the game is gaining traction online and on itch.io?

Sodaraptor: I wanted to do a lot more with it, like simply adding more content and secrets, but I wanted it out before Thanksgiving and Christmas just so it didn’t immediately fade into obscurity. But I like the way it turned out. I never would’ve guessed that my simple concept would’ve gained as much attention as it did, even if the amount doesn’t appear to be as much as some people would agree. It brings me more joy than anything that it’s been enjoyable to all who’ve played it!

9.)What was some of the challenges you faced when developing Hypangogia?

Sodaraptor: Finding solutions to small programming needs, such as fading transitions between levels or preventing the player from falling off platforms. Endless trial-and-error for how levels should flow, writing/dialogue tips, playtesting over and over to make sure nothing broke during levels, things like that.

10.)Looking at the game as its now, what are your thoughts about it? Anything you would change if you knew now what it would turn into?

Sodaraptor: I don’t think given the development timeframe I set for myself I would have been able to include or change much more before submitting it to the game jam, but if I gave myself another chance in the future, I would definitely add more. Things like saving so the player could continue after closing the game, a way to toggle developer commentary mode, and of course tons more secrets and hidden worlds.

11.)Do you have future plans or updates for the game?

Sodaraptor: I definitely plan on a sequel sometime this year. I also want to look into selling physical copies of the game at some point.

12.)Are there any other games you are working on right now?

Sodaraptor: Yes! I am developing a Resident Evil-style horror game currently with one other person. The demo for it should be available by the end of January.

Final Remarks

Thank you so much Sodsraptor for answering my questions and good luck on your next project.

If you wish to try Hypnagogia for yourself, you can find it using the link below to the webpage on itch.io:

Link to Game

You can also follow sodaratpor on twitter if you are interested:

Link to Twitter Profile

If you have tried the game for yourself, please feel free to comment on my blog or twitter post about your experience and thoughts on Hypnagogia.

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