Damian Doyle. Ceri Armes. A simple love story. Everlasting.
Best viewed with headphones at medium volume.
Controls: WASD -> Subconscious Body
Arrow Keys -> Conscious Mind
Enter -> Continue
Space -> Bodily Propulsion
Credits: Raconteur Extraordinaire: Ian Berridge
Venerable Codemaster: James Moore
Art Assets: Universal LPC Generator, surt, Betson, TheValar, Bluce
Sound Assets: Mike Koenig, Mark Diangelo, Simon Craggs, NeoPhyte, BlastWaveFX, Natalie
Stage 02 Imgur Link:
At the very bottom is a picture of the second "stage" of this game. This is for the judges since there's the potential to spend 20 minutes just on this one stage. That design decision is purposeful (as detailed below), but I'd rather just have you all complete the stage and continue the game.
As we trudged through development over the past month, the two of us here at Psycho Vision Gaming had several setbacks that ultimately resulted in a pared down version of our original vision. One of the main setbacks was the loss of a few different artists that led us to essentially use what might as well be programmer art for the final product. As such, I, being the game writer, feel compelled to lay out some of the more abstract concepts detailed within the game. There's a lot of very particular design decisions that were somewhat dependent upon a certain visual aesthetic, but as with all things you must carry on. So without further ado, a detailed breakdown. (Note: If you'd like to keep the mystery alive, as there is much we've left up to interpretation, please refrain from reading below.)
It is also worth mentioning that this game was made with the sole intention of weaving a narrative without saying any words or having any text. We made three concessions to that rule (one for the beginning and ending screens, just to indicate what they were, and one for completely thematic purposes), but this exposition dump below should, in theory, be able to be extrapolated from the game.
I'd like to think that this is somewhat comprehensible (given that this was submitted for a Game Jam based around narrative design), but I'll take a moment and layout the finer points. Damian Doyle (whose name means "dark messenger / to kill") is a man in love. Hopelessly, deeply, forever. His love transcends mortal comprehension. He loves: Ceri Armes (whose name means "to love / prophetess"). Ceri is a high ranking political figure and Damian is a lowly newshound; yet, it would appear fate was on Damian's side as the two would meet one afternoon at a press conference and subsequently fall in love.
They eventually wed and begin their life together, but misfortune escapes no one. Whilst building their new home, Damian missteps and plunges from the roof, fracturing several bones and, ultimately, is confined to a wheelchair. This new found limitation weighs heavily on Damian and he turns to the sweet embraces of prescription pain killers and alcohol, which causes much duress between him and Ceri. During his extended forced home stay, Damian stumbles upon a free-thinking, open-minded group on the Internet. Not a religion, per se, but they did ascribe to some supernatural tendencies. As days turned to weeks, and weeks, to days, Damian found himself more and more invested within this group. So much so that when he is able to walk again, he attributes this success solely to them.
This turns into a point of contention for him and Ceri, as she believes herself a more pragmatic soul and thinks Damian is being swindled. After much laborious effort on his part, Damian finally convinces Ceri to take part in one of their "services" and much to her initial chagrin; her life is forever changed. It would appear their marriage had taken a turn for the better as they were now better than they had been in what seemed like ages. But fate is the cruelest of mistresses and Ceri is taken full-on by the group and becomes so inundated in their beliefs that she asks Damian for something unspeakable. The Apollo asteroid Sisyphus was potentially on a collision course with Earth, and as such, Ceri would need to be in her ethereal form in order to ascend once Sisyphus had destroyed Earth. Damian is flabbergasted by this development. He cannot fathom how she can believe this to be true. Months go by and Sisyphus draws ever-nearer and with each passing day Damian's resolve falters little by little.
At last, Ceri breaks his will and he agrees to end her life, but even that isn't enough. Ceri wants it done publically so that everyone can witness her ascension and make preparations to do so themselves. It was decided. Damian would kill his most beloved at the World's Fair. Trembling, sobbing, despondent beyond repair, Damian pulls the trigger as his wife says one final time, "Please". The instant the bullet leaves the chamber what little remained of Damian's fragile psyche no longer exists. He has now developed anterograde amnesia and can only see the present until he remembers the past.
Each stage of the game is a dream that symbolizes various facets of what Damian blames for his wife's death. We start the game in a solid white room after hearing a man crying followed by a gunshot. This is meant to represent the last thing Damian remembers and how he currently views himself. The prologue, for lack of a better word, is Damian standing before a doorway which he cannot enter. He is frozen in place by fear. Fear of the judging eyes above him (the world's collective judgment that he can't bear), fear of the guttural laughter that can be heard all around him (or is that a cry for help?), eventually he is thrust off the edge of his stoop and falls downward into oblivion.
This first dream the player only has control of Damian and not the camera because this is a standard dream. You have some agency over your actions, but you're not entirely in control. This is the longest and most deadly of the dreams because it deals with his addiction to prescription medication. Each spike is the pain that tormented him so, each pill he must use to navigate the pitfall symbolizes his reliance upon drugs. At the end of the level, the player is met with a row of spikes they are unable to clear… except, there is Ceri laying atop the spikes, sacrificing herself so that you might continue. This sets the stage for the other dreams as Damian is forced to kill her each time as he cannot escape his guilt even in his dreams. Additionally, the level design of this stage is very frenetic and requires the most platforming ability out of all of them specifically because of how some prescription drugs effect most abusers. The stage concludes with the player back at a familiar sight; the stoop with the judging eyes, but yet, the door now seems to have a strange red glow as opposed to the green it originally did.
A short ways into this level, the player is given control of the camera to simulate what could be considered a "lucid" dream. The player now has full agency over the character and can explore freely without the fear of the camera overtaking them. However, if the character model goes outside the bounds of the camera, they still must restart the dream as they have "died". This level is by far the largest and is designed, if you look from above, as a giant labyrinthine maze. The symbolism here is getting lost in your drink of choice and meandering about your life, confused and disoriented. This is reinforced by the sound of rain as it drowns out your senses, much like alcohol does. The only way to successfully navigate the level is to take a few "leaps of faith" whereupon you must fall down onto an unseen ledge below and move the camera simultaneously so that you are not killed. At the very end of the level, Damian is once again met with Ceri forcing his hand into killing him. This time he must ride her body across a body of water, drowning her like he drowned himself in drink.
The beginning of the level is a short series of "hidden" fall points accented by red tiles. These lines are meant to represent lines of text in Damian's "peer-group's" holy text. The red tinted areas are passages spoke by their prophet (similar to how some Bible's highlight Jesus' words in red) and symbolize how Ceri "read between the lines" to discern that she must die in order to ascend. After descending through the text, the player finds themselves being chased by a wall. The wall isn't harmful in and of itself, but it can catch the player and force them to suicide-by-camera and restart the stage. However, at the end of the hallway stand Ceri, arms out-stretched. The wall slams into her and stops, revealing a way out above. As the player jumps through the passage, the wall crushes Ceri into tiny pieces, symbolizing how the "religion" claimed her.
This stage is probably the most ham-handed if you know the game, but might not be entirely apparent given the current state of things. Obviously, this stage is a play on the myth of Sisyphus, which ties into the Apollo asteroid that is set to impact Earth. Atop the hill waits Ceri who stops the boulder and lets Damian pass by. But, just like the myth, the boulder must always go back down, and this time, it takes Ceri with her. The player must keep the boulder and Damian's character on-screen in order to beat the stage, so it's probably the trickiest control-wise. After seeing his wife die, Damian loses it and takes off toward the right. This player still has control of the camera; however, as this is meant to symbolize lucid paralyzed sleep dreams. A rare, but interesting occurrence, of being unable to move your dream-body, but still being cognizant that you are in a dream.
The shortest, and easiest stage, all the player must do is keep Damian within the bounds of the camera and they will succeed. This level is merely a simple hallway, an acceptance of sorts that Damian is the only reason his wife is dead. It was his decision and he must live with it. At the end of the level, the player is unable to do anything but walk into Ceri and hear her heart-wrenching scream as Damian, and Damian alone, kills her and heads through the now-familiar door.
After each dream a different piece of Damian's current life puzzle is shown to the player as Damian begins to understand the "present". Most everything here has been discussed above, but of note is the keyhole emblem on the ripped up book. This is a not-so-subtle allusion to the Heaven's Gate group, which just so happened to also commit mass-suicide on the threat of an impending asteroid strike with Earth.
Dream 01-05 Redux:
Once the player has cleared all five dreams and the complete picture of Damian's life has been revealed, they will start anew at the first stage. The stage will be exactly the same except a strange yellow orb (called a memory pearl, since your mind is like an oyster) located somewhere within the level. The orb will always be placed before the Ceri kill screen (to symbolize him escaping that horrible moment) and upon touching it, the player will be instantly whisked away to a flashback of event detailed above in "Story". If the player does not collect the memory pearl and, thus, kills Ceri in the stage and reaches the ending sequencing, they will be transported back to the beginning of the stage as now Damian is stuck in an endless cycle. After shaking himself awake and back asleep, Damian looks around the room and the player will notice that one thing is now missing from his picture. This is Damian "remembering the past and forgetting the present" as many anterograde amnesia patients are wont to do.
With all five memory pearls collected the room will be set back to the stark white it was at the beginning, but now Damian is awake and Ceri has appeared in front of him! He chases her down a long hallway only to find himself once again in front of that ever-present doorway, but with two notable exceptions. First, the eyes of judgment are no longer there and the door has returned to its green state the player has never been able to enter. As Ceri walks through it, Damian follows her. The laughing/cry for help mutates into his own crying, a sound the player sound recognize. The end screen appears with a bang and the eyes return to haunt Damian evermore. (This of course resets his never ending cycle of dreams… or does it?)
This stuff didn't really fit anywhere else, but was cool enough for me to think about and mention so here you go.
Damian wears a red bandana because it symbolizes where he shot his wife.
He is a skeleton in his dreams because he doesn't feel like a whole person anymore, similarly, he wears a suit of armor for protection, but ultimately it does nothing to protect him.
Not being able to go outside of the bounds of the camera in any of the sequences symbolizes the inability for your mind's eye to ever not see yourself within dreams.
The levels decrease in difficult as the game progresses as an allegory for Damian's level of resistance to accepting his own guilt.
The transition from white to black in the stoop sequence and then black to white in the dream sequences was originally meant to be a horizontal gradient to symbolize Damian's ascent from the abyss he plunges into each night; however, due to the way Stencyl renders backgrounds this proved a Herculean task and was scrapped from more easily attainable palettes.
The only color in the dreams is Ceri's entire character, the red bandana, and the memory pearls. This was supposed to be entirely more evocative as the player reveals entire sections of Damian's room in full color and was supposed to be a stark contrast between what was "real" and what wasn't. (Concept entirely snagged from the Six Sense because using the color red in that movie to key viewers in on Bruce Willis's "condition" was masterful.)
Stage 02 Spoiler!