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A terrifying psychological horror game inspired by the developer's battle with mental illness. Explore nightmares! Branching narrative!
A terrifying psychological horror game inspired by the developer's battle with mental illness. Explore nightmares! Branching narrative!
3,608 backers pledged $106,722 to help bring this project to life.


Posted by Matt Gilgenbach (Creator)

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of my backers! We exceeded 30% on Saturday with 3 weeks to go. I think that’s a great sign! We still have a long way to go, and I still need your help spreading the word if we want to make our target.

I’d like to do an update today talking about ideas I had for a running in Neverending Nightmares. 

The way I see it, is we basically have 4 options:

1) Keep it as is with no run

2) Allow the player to run all the time

3) Implement an asthma/endurance meter

4) Do some sort of random monster encounters if you are too loud

I wouldn’t be heartbroken if we stuck with #1. I think adding in the environmental interactions like I discussed earlier will help with interactivity and might render the run button unnecessary. With Neverending Nightmares, I am trying to remove all unnecessary design elements to create a very clean and streamlined experience. We did the opposite on Retro/Grade, and the project was very difficult and the end product was a bit scattered. Fumito Ueda gave a talk at GDC 2004 about designing Ico and how he cut everything that wasn’t completely necessary. I think this philosophy really helped make Ico so awesome. (For more info on his talk and the idea of subtractive design, read this article.)

 Number 2 is something that I’m not happy with because I think it detracts from the vulnerability of the player and ruins the pacing. I am feeling really good about number 3. I’m not sure how many of you have asthma, but it is terrifying! One of the scariest things that has happened in my life (that wasn’t related to my psychological state) was when I was having an asthma attack. Breathing is essential to life, and not being able to is a terrible feeling. You really can feel your own mortality when you are struggling to get life sustaining air! That’s why drowning seems like a terrible way to go, and why I suspect waterboarding is such awful torture.

The worst part about having an asthma attack is when you get scared, you start breathing even more shallowly, and then you get even less oxygen. When I was in the ER with an asthma attack, I was hyperventilating because I was so scared. They made me breathe into a paper bag to slowdown my breathing. I felt so stupid because my fear of the situation was actually making it much worse.

Because I want to stick with no hud, the “endurance” meter would have to be conveyed in a different way to the player. I was thinking we would indicate it to the player with breathing noises. That ties really well into the asthma themed endurance. I was also thinking of designing the game such that if you run too much, you essentially have an asthma attack and have to stop and pant to catch your breath. This encourages sprint running when you are fleeing from an enemy rather than running all the time, which I think fits well with our gameplay goals.

However, it is still an endurance meter, and it still may be annoying like I mentioned in the video. If you want to cover a large section of the game quickly, it’s not going to be super helpful – just frustrating. As the designer, I don’t really want you to cover huge sections of the game quickly, so I am fine with this, but it might be difficult for players to accept.

With idea #4, I think it’s going to be difficult to pull off well, and I’m not sure it’s a good use of our effort.

What do YOU think? Leave a comment if you have any ideas. We’ll have to prototype the mechanics before we commit to anything, but I’d like to get a feeling for what you guys think before I go down one of these roads.

Also, just a reminder – I’d really like to do a backer meet up at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Night. I haven’t gotten any responses yet – probably because I imagine everyone is spread all over the globe, but if you are interested, check out my previous update and leave a comment.

In addition, we’ve gotten quite a bit more press! Yay!

On the CrowdCrowd podcast, the creators of “Indie Game: The Movie” chose Neverending Nightmares as their favorite crowdfunded project! (Skip to 54:50 for the good stuff) What an amazing honor! Watching "Indie Game: The Movie" really gave me a push to open up about game development. It showed me that people care about the struggle it takes to make a game.

We were featured on CityArts’s list of beautiful games of PAX ’13. I thought that was really great – especially with some gorgeous games like Tengami and That Dragon, Cancer. 

Twinfinite posted an interview with me, a preview, and a roundup of the drool award winners (which includes Neverending Nightmares). Awesome!

Adventure Gamers did a nice write up about the game.

 An interview with me was also featured on the BoneBat podcast. (Skip ahead to 127:57 for their thoughts on the game and 131:40 for my interview )

As always, thank you so much for your support!

-Matt Gilgenbach


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    1. Mike Lacasse on

      If there are wandering/random monsters, there should be a "run" option that comes into play at that point. A sort of "Oh dear, there's a nightmarish monstrosity trying to slay me. Perhaps it is time to pick up the pace slightly?" mode. Just calmly sauntering away from a slavering monstrosity composed of your deepest fears seems... kind of odd.

    2. Alessandro Saiko on

      I'll prefer 1) and 3) as well, but as others already stated it maybe would work well if include the middle of both of them. A "run" which has a somewhat slower pace?

    3. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      Dustin - Thanks for your feedback! If we do add run, it'll probably be the world's slowest for the reasons you outlined. :)

    4. Dustin Anglin on

      I think it's a smart move to avoid run, both from not introducing a distracting metagame (like manage the run meter) and from a thematic standpoint. My worst nightmares are the ones where I want to run but I feel like I can't move my body, and some how it feels appropriate that despite there being terrors coming after you, all you can do is move away like at what will feel like an agonizingly slow pace.

      I think you could even milk it by adding a "run" option that makes the player look like they are trying to run but just causes them to struggle and not move any faster at all. But, that might be too cruel. Or might be just the right amount of cruel. :)

    5. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      This give me a lot to think about! I think for the time being, I'm going to hold off on implementing any run mechanics. I think whether running is necessary or not really depends on how the enemy/stealth mechanics goes. I am worried it may be weird trying to evade enemies without any sort of running. However I'll never know until I try.

      I am worried about introducing too many non-essential mechanics, so I only want to add in running if it's necessary. If it seems like it is, then I have lots to think about! :)

    6. Heisenberg on


      I'm with the majority of implementing 1.) or 3.)

      Honestly, I think if you master your inner Hitchcock, the game can be plenty interesting without any running at all. Just be very meticulous with the placing of events, and master suspense and tension. However, this might become exhausting to try to keep fresh.

      I like the asthma idea as well, but I feel like this inherently will give you less control over the pacing of the game (which you may or may not prefer). Inherently, WHEN players began having their asthma attack is going to vary...thus people will have unique horrifying experiences. But this also leaves room for petty annoyances (ex: if I'm running down a largely empty hallway and have an asthma attack, with nothing really to fear...the asthma attack becomes more of a nuisance and less of a panic).

      It's really up to how you envision the game. Will this be a terrifying visual story with branching narrative, or will it be a quest for survival? I think no running works best for the visual story, I think asthma works best for survival.

      But I think all running would be obnoxious, and I agree that random monster encounters would be a pain to implement.

      But I trust your judgment that whatever you decide will be excellent :).

    7. Allen on

      Have a panic meter, like the insanity meter from Eternal Darkness, with similar effects for low sanity as well.

    8. Ryan Wilder on

      I'm all for either no running at all or the asthma idea. Both of them seem like viable, workable options in the case of the game's flow and idea. Running all the time would definitely detract from the horror element as you could outrun anything you may be afraid of, and random enemy encounters stemming from that free running would become predictable and lose their aspect of fear, anticipation, or anxiety.

    9. Jon Bash on

      Maybe a combination of all 3 of the most popular ideas? Often you can run, sometimes you can't (maybe even sometimes you are forced to walk extra slow?), sometimes running can be a detriment... though with the last one, pointing out that it's a bad idea to run at that moment would be difficult and have the potential to kind of break the tension and be hamfisted. So maybe just a combination of the asthma mechanic and sometimes not being able to run. More 'scripted' asthma-related events could be really powerful, too.

      This makes me remember the moment in the panel at PAX when you mentioned how this was the game that you would be the best at making... with the asthma and running thing, I think that applies here as well! It's obviously a design challenge you're conscious of, so I don't think a fear of not doing it well should necessarily be a detriment to going through with it.

    10. Dan Peterson on

      If you hold the run button down for too long, it could produce heavy breathing noises and character animation of chest grabbing and pain on the face. To stop the run from going on too long I like the idea of dimming the screen or blurring (whichever works better).
      You might also think about cutting off running by making the character stumble if they run over certain environmental collisions. If the levels had rough floors in areas, the player would learn to walk over those areas so they don't stumble. Proper placement of these areas could keep someone from using the run feature when you don't want them to because they would cause the character to constantly stumble.

    11. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      Also, I think the blurry/distorted screen idea is good and fits in well with the asthma idea. :)

    12. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      This is some really valuable feedback! I didn't think I'd get so much support for no running. I definitely agree that running would work pretty poorly in the demo we have. If there were a monster you were escaping from, it might be frustrating not to allow running. Once I start prototyping the enemy encounters, I'll have to see how it works.

      The inhaler mechanic is interesting. I was thinking about doing something like that, but I think it wouldn't really fit in with the time period of the game. Plus, we would most likely need some sort of hud to show how many inhalers you have, which is against the design goals of the game.

      If we do running, I think it's going to be not very much faster than walking overall. I think I would try to design it such that it would really only be beneficial for short bursts when evading a monster and nothing else. That way we don't ruin the pacing, the character is vulnerable, but you still have a little control over your evade speed.

      Either way, I think I'm going to prototype ideas for the enemy interactions before I figure out what to do with running.

    13. Sarah White on

      I would like to see something similar to Amnesia, where if you run for a while, your screen starts to maybe get blurry because you are so winded, to the point where you can't see. That would remove the need for a meter, and as you stop running your vision comes back over time.

    14. Josh Engle on

      Definitely NO RUNNING! I played the demo and I'm writing a review about this game and one of the greatest features that almost MAKES the game is the fact there is no running. This game doesn't seem to be action oriented. Instead, it builds from suspense and mystery. To add some type of running with action would ruin the fear that's stimulated. the only way running could work is if there only very specific moments where you prompted the player to run when it would be required to add suspense. otherwise, you'll ruin the feeling you've created.

    15. Dan Peterson on

      I would like the character to have an inhaler. If you run too long you have to catch your breath and take a puff of inhaler.
      Also, if you want to create a level with no run, you could loose the inhaler. Then bring it back.
      [A creature steals it while you were unconscious. Later, you find the creature's nest and it has a few items it stole in the nest. Have the nest contain another item that helps as well.]
      [If you want to create a level that you have to run a bunch, you could have a creature that breaths into you and you feel energized or something]

    16. Matthew "C4RB1N3" Toledo on

      I would say no running, and the asthma thing sounds like it would be more of an annoyance than anything else.

    17. Elizabeth Keyes on

      I like Mark L's suggestion below, where there are certain times where you can or can't run (combo of #1 and #3). This adds some tension to areas, but also allows for some variety in the game. As he suggested, there could be clues (maybe incorporating the noise element, or that the floor boards are damaged) as to why you can or cannot run. Incorporating noises like staggered breathing, panting, or wheezing could work too.

      I also like Alex W's suggestion that if you do go the asthma route, that it could happen not just from running. I do not have it myself, but the idea of having to keep a physical ailment in mind while worrying about mental shenanigans is interesting to me. It just adds to the nightmare-like atmosphere. Not sure what the programming work would take for all this though :)

    18. Mr Pendent on

      I say stick to your vision--no run. That's how you created it, that is what you want, so there is no question.

    19. Missing avatar

      za7az on

      I really like #3.

    20. Danny Kiregbaum Laursen on

      I like #1 as it's scary, but not because of monster that want to eat me.

    21. Missing avatar

      Angela Auer on

      I like #1 and #3 for different reasons.
      #1 - Everytime I have a nightmare, no matter the threat, I always feel like my legs are weighed down. Regardless of how badly I just want to run I can't. It's always horrifying. When I played the demo I wanted to be able to run and couldn't. It was like being in my own nightmares and that was scary.

      #3 - I love the idea of asthma and the way you described it. Just running out of breath would be to generic and nonthreatening. The thought of not being able to breath and possibly dying from that would add a whole new layer of horror.

    22. Missing avatar

      Angela Auer on

      I like #1 and #3 for different reasons.
      #1 - Everytime I have a nightmare, no matter the threat, I always feel like my legs are weighed down. Regardless of how badly I just want to run I can't. It's always horrifying. When I played the demo I wanted to be able to run and couldn't. It was like being in my own nightmares and that was scary.

      #3 - I love the idea of asthma and the way you described it. Just running out of breath would be to generic and nonthreatening. The thought of not being able to breath and possibly dying from that would add a whole new layer of horror.

    23. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      Thanks for your feedback! This gives me a lot of ideas for the game. There won't be much if any combat in the game, but there will be enemies. Since you won't be able to fight them, you'll have to evade/hide from them. Running definitely could be helpful in those situations and a bit more realistic because I imagine everyone would run from a monster. Still, there are other solutions like auto run.

      Anyway, it's a lot for me to think about! :)

    24. Mark L

      I personally would rather have the game mechanic like #3, where you can choose whether to run or not, but running has a consequence (tiring/becoming winded, and having to slow back down if done for too long). This is the most realistic of the options, and gives the choice back to the player.

      I personally have a problem with games that reduce or eliminate player choices. I feel like I should have choices to make, and the more choices, the better. But choices always come with consequences, so running should have the consequence of getting winded, etc.

      You could even 'up the ante' further, if you wished, and require a little time to recuperate after running, so that if you are running and encounter a monster, you can't fight as effectively due to blurred vision, weakened & shaking limbs, etc.

      I agree that a run button would also open up more decisions re: fleeing from horrible monsters (whereas, yeah, fleeing from a monster by casually walking seems really unrealistic bordering on farcical).

      I would also be OK with having certain areas where running doesn't work, as this could add to tension, and the reason/in-game explanation could be made reasonable in game-world terms. An area with waist-high water, icy floors, sticky mud or tar, etc. Or, in keeping with the nightmare theme, maybe an area where 'running' only lets you go at walking speed, and 'walking' is so slow it is untenable? I, for one, have had nightmares like that, where I run in 'slow-motion'. As you say, the rules are different from one nightmare to the next - I've had dream where I could fly and dreams where I could run as fast as a car, but also nightmares where I could only crawl because the grade was too steep to stand up, and others where 'running' only allowed really slow progress. The whole concept makes for many interesting possibilities.

    25. Missing avatar

      Brian Makas on

      My vote is against running.

      1) It doesn't seem to fit the personality of the character, the gait, pace and constant expression seem to show someone who's given in/resigned to the situation they find themselves in and the dark clouds closing in only heighten that feeling. From what little I've seen so far I think it's more likely that the character would turn around and accept whatever hand fate deals him than run from a monster.

      I still remember the wizard from the beginning of Kings Quest 3 vividly, you’re a slave at the beginning of the game if you try to overthrow the wizard but can't find all of the necessary items to stop him in the allotted amount of time he'll call you out and kill you on the spot . The same branching logic: a) take no action/receive no consequence b) try, fail and lose c) move on if you do everything right

      2) It’s an added game mechanic to worry about … please don’t make me “lose” in the game because I forgot what button did what. Making a poor decision is one thing but this isn’t Contra and timing/skill should not play a significant factor. Going back to the Kings Quest 3 example, part of the reason that I feel the impact was so significant is that it took a long time to make a mistake, it wasn’t just a mistake made because one’s reaction time wasn’t up to snuff. When I saw the wizard arrive and realized my mistakes up to that time, I was as resigned to my fate as the character was.

      3) It creates a lot of work (development) outside your core mission. Sure running itself is easy but knowing that there’s one more mode and having to pace every step and encounter to two different possibilities can add up fast.

      4) It means you have one less means of giving your character their own character. Why not let him speed up his pace when traversing areas again (more comfortable character & less time wasted by player), stumble when trying to get away from an encounter or slow down when “all hope seems lost”.

      I hear you when you feel the need for more interaction but frankly I still see this much more as a brilliant work of art whose experience is deepened by letting players make choices that pull one deeper and deeper into the puzzle, not a game with a single clear “win”. Just as you commented earlier that one of your goals with Retro/Grade was to “get to the fun, fast” I’d argue the goal here is to suck people in … running is just a distraction.

    26. Alex Wickersham on

      You do have the option of not allowing running, as these are supposed to be nightmares, so you could not be able to run and not know why, no problem. I have also had dreams where physical action is ineffective and slow and weird.

      I also have asthma, and the asthma option would make the game very creepy indeed for me (which is a good thing). Just hearing the sound of wheezing pushes a visceral panic button. But I'd like to hear from some folks who don't have it whether it would elicit the same reaction from them.

      Having monsters pop out begs the question: is there going to be combat in this game? How many people are going to just run around like crazy getting all the monsters out they can and playing survival mode with the axe? Could get goofy, although if folks are having fun, hey, who am I to judge?

      You could have running happen automatically... like something particularly scary comes out and suddenly you're moving in a run. I think that would emphasize how scared your character is, make more sense (some people will laugh if there are monsters and you just walk slowly away), while withholding control from the player, adding to the scariness.

      If you do an asthma "meter", I would make things darker instead of blurrier, just because that's how I feel I see things when I can't breathe... maybe have things darken and brighten up again at the rhythm of a quickly beating heart.

      As you noted, being frightened can cause an asthma attack, and maybe it should happen not just when you run, but when you encounter certain frightening things (maybe a little reaction to the bloody sink?)

      And if you have an established amount of time you can run before running out of breath, people will learn it subconsciously, and some people will time it and put it in walkthroughs and stuff. Here's how you can throw people for a loop: give it a random amount of time, say X number of seconds plus or minus 50%.

      Or you could make the asthma get worse as you go along... you run too much, you can't breathe, your breathing starts to get better, but not 100%. You keep running like that, after a while your breathing becomes more and more labored just as you're walking or standing. There's no way to alleviate it, except waking up into the next nightmare. And as you wake up, the worse your asthma attack was the last time, the longer you have to sit there coughing and gasping before you stand up and move on. That would scare the carp out of me, but it would be a mechanic that would risk taking over the game... people would call it the asthma game...

    27. Missing avatar

      Thomas J Adler on

      ....Ok, after reading your comment just after posting mine. I like the idea of running being something that you do as part of a specific encounter. Where running is your only option and you can then build an experience around the player moving quickly for that segment.

    28. Missing avatar

      Thomas J Adler on

      1) No running. As long as there is more to interact with and more variation in the environment, I don't think the long walks in the demo will be so bad.

    29. Matthew Buckley on

      I like idea #3. It adds that additional element of gameplay without feeling tacked on. I like the idea of no HUD indicator, it doesn't have to be asthma, but the character could just run out of breath (a la Alan Wake). This could come off pretty naturally if implemented right!

    30. Matt Gilgenbach 2-time creator on

      Thanks for your comments! If I went with #3, I'd definitely not add a meter or hud element or anything like that. We would convey how much stamina you have left with the audio of the breathing of the character, and I was definitely tossing around the idea of blurring the screen or doing some sort of jitter to the pencil sketch lines.

      I'm glad to hear there is support for #1 though because I spent a lot of time trying to define the walk speed and the world size for maximum tension.

      I think having a run button might open up some possibilities for fleeing from enemy encounters, which is another potential benefit. If the player can only walk slowly to evade some horrible monster, do you think that might seem unrealistic?

      What if sometimes you could run and sometimes you couldn't? Perhaps we do a combination of 1 and 3. That might be frustrating though if you want to run, and sometimes you can't. It might fit in well with the idea of a nightmare though. Nightmares are weird and the rules are always different.

      Anyway, I really appreciate all your feedback! :)

    31. Connor Greeley on

      Has anyone ever had a nightmare in which you couldn't run or you were really weak? An enemy is right in front of you, but you are too slow or not strong enough to do anything. That's terrifying.

    32. Tybot on

      I would prefer no running. The idea of not being able to move fast is super terrifying. I can't remember how many nightmares very slowly makes it even more terrifying.

    33. Ricardo Esteves on

      I would prefer 1) No run. If running is implemented, let it be only with option 3 and blurring od the screen as Matt Longmire described :)

    34. Gábor Novák on

      1) Keep it as is with no run

    35. Missing avatar

      Revisor on

      Allow the character to run, but make it costly. First he can tire (stamina meter), second, he can draw attention when running (if applicable). Maybe even trip?

      If you decide he can't run, make all active events concentrated enough that there are no long stretches of nothing but walking.

    36. Missing avatar

      Draven on

      What if, in addition to the run mechanic, you introduce the concept of "currently under stress"? This would basically be a slightly modified version of #3 wherein when not stressed the player can run as much as they want (I'm thinking a light jog with a decent but not huge speed boost) but when upset/scared/etc, you hear your heart beating and you are taking panic'd breaths so when you run under those circumstances maybe you run a little bit faster but you push towards having an asthma attack very quickly.

    37. Edward S on

      I can't recall the last time I was worried about asthma in a videogame so that sounds like a plus to me.

    38. Pogopuschel on

      #3 sounds good. As long as we do not die from the asthma attack :-) (would be wicked though :-D

    39. Zackary Collins

      I would say keep it with no run. The part of the demo where all the lights are going out and you hear chains and footsteps getting louder and louder was my favorite part of the demo, and the fact that you had to just continue creeping along at a walk while the darkness caught up to you was way more creepy then being able to flee. The fact that you move slowly makes it so you really have to just deal with the horrible imaginary in front of you in a way that is unlike most other horror games.

    40. Porcupine on

      Option 3 looks good - as stupid as that may sound coming from me, never more than a few feet away from my asthma inhaler. You're describing what it is like rather well, I'm sure it would be a good fit for the game's mood.

    41. Missing avatar

      Mark Hirschman

      Hi Matt,

      I think running is a good option but it does have to have consequences. Matt L's idea of louder heart/breathing sounds and blurring vision would work better than an endurance meter or bar. I know for myself having nightmares as a child that I would want to run and try as hard as I could but would barely move in my dream. Maybe a random 'unable to run' or 'run in slow motion' would really bring in the nightmare - not in control - aspect of it. Of course that just added to your programming 'nightmare' as well. I am sure that whatever you decide will work and the game will be what it is. My 2 1/2 cents :)

    42. Missing avatar

      TheChairLegOfTruth on

      NO RUN! At first not being able to run bothered me because it was so antithetical to other horror games I've played. However, after playing the demo some 15 times I came to realize that's what made it so damn scary. It takes me back to being a child, when walking through the house at night was a terrifying adventure. Every shadow could be the shifting body of some terrible bogeyman, and every corner turned could, in my very young brain, behold some new unspeakable horror. I didn't sprint through the hallway making a racket, I plodded along carefully making sure that the shadows didn't move, that each doorway wasn't playing home to some hidden child-devouring phantasm, and that I was within a step of the closest circle of light. Its ability to take me back, 25 years, I'm embarrassed to say, to a time when the dark represented a very real and present danger to my well-being is, in my humble opinion, what makes Neverending Nightmare so special and utterly brilliant.

    43. Missing avatar

      Jacques L on

      Idea number 3 is my favorite, but I'd prefer not to see the bar and I agree with Josh.

    44. Matt Longmire on

      Hi Matt,

      I agree the option to run would be useful and in some cases potentially add to the fear factor if there is a "chase" scene. However, no run does make you feel vulnerable.

      If you add a Run option, I'd say use the endurance concept (whether asthma or not) but the more you run, perhaps the louder your heartbeat/breathing and the blurrier the screen becomes as if your vision becomes difficult to the point that you can't see anything. Players would have to stop in order to know what's happening but you wouldn't need an actual meter.

      The simple option is an endurance level without a visual, it just runs out. People could accept only getting about 10 seconds of run. I didn't feel any need to be stealthy during the demo, just watching out for things jumping at me.

      Just my two cents.

    45. Missing avatar

      Josh Farkas on

      I dig the idea of being able to run normally, but when things get scary you're forced to walk. It adds tension, makes exploration fun, and allows you to show the debilitating aspects of Asthma.

      Personally, I think meters are weak, especially in horror games. When you have a bar or UI element you watch it more than the action. The game could quickly turn into bar management. By taking this out of players hands they feel on less sturdy ground, adding to the fear.

      Congrats on all of the write-ups! :)

    46. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      (4) Looks like a good choice if you had to go with those 4.

      Some ideas I'll throw out: make it so you're not always a single walking or running character in the same perspective. The problem with using the exact same perspective is that eventually it will get old.

      I understand it's more work but you might find some creative ways to change movement through the dreams, and perspective might be something to play with.