"Reluctant" is a 2D RPG that focuses on teaching players about mental health. Players take control of Andrew, a sophomore in college with undiagnosed anxiety and depression. Players will not only learn about Andrew's mental health, but they'll learn about Andrew's friends as well. Botan has undiagnosed bipolar I disorder, and Sabrina has schizophrenia. The game educates players on the different symptoms of mental disorders and provides resources for where to seek help and learn more about mental health.
Players will be able to "fight" the symptoms using a variety of coping mechanisms. When players win a battle, they will learn a new, healthy coping mechanism.
"Reluctant" first started with a team of only two: myself and Julianna Shevchenko. I was the lead designer and in charge of the narrative and art. In eight weeks, we created a small prototype.
Due to the team's size, we faced a lot of difficulties. One of the biggest challenges was creating a prototype that implemented all the core mechanics of choice-based dialogue and fighting. The main focus was to create something that would introduce players to the world and characters.
Another challenge was the scope. The goal was to have seven days for players to go through as Andrew. However, due to the amount of time we had and our size, we didn't even finish the first day.
Pixel art was created in Aseprite and the 2D portraits were created in Clip Studio Paint. One of the biggest problems with the art was the confusing perspective. We wanted it to be a top down setting with some dimension, but the sprites and environment often conflicted.
The team began work on Reluctant after adding three new team members: Kevin Maeder (programmer), Czarisse Javier (character artist), and Avery Wesson (editor). With a bigger team, responsibilities were split evenly without being too overbearing. With this, my roles had changed slightly. I was still the lead narrative designer, but I only focused on pixel art with the addition of a 2D artist.
We decided to completely restart "Reluctant." We wanted to keep the original narrative structure, but redo the story's details and artwork. After three months, an updated prototype was completed with the following:
-More interactions with characters
-A redesigned combat system with moves that were based on coping mechanisms
-Updated art and animations