Nebulous Thoughts

Creator: YaBoiMarcAntony

Average Rating
9.1 / 10
Average Difficulty
80.7 / 100
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Tags:

Needle (4) Gimmick (3) Masterpiece (1) Sideways_Gravity (1) Concept (1)

Screenshots

  • by chrisg
  • by chrisg

Creator's Comments:

YaBoiMarcAntony [Creator]
https://www.mediafire.com/file/y1vi9hm1eknxl8b/Nebulous+Thoughts+v+1.2.zip/file (current version as the dl link has still not updated)

Light version (if you get lag in a certain stage in the latter-half and it also removes an effect some may find irritating): https://www.mediafire.com/file/e6hpt6qct8z1gz1/Nebulous+Thoughts+v+1.2+Light+Version.zip/file

Hi! This is more or less a form of indulgence for me, to just talk about my game and the purpose/meaning behind everything I did. I recognize the whole idea of "show, don't tell," but personally, I've always loved hearing from makers about what their intentions were for the things they made, such as that series of CN3 videos that Kale recently released. While his was more about the design process and didn't cover too much about the emotional meaning for the most part (he generally left it all to imagination, which is quite alright by me), I'll entirely express what each stage means to me and why it is in the game. I do not want you, the reader, to go through this and then suddenly realize your opinion on the game is moot because oh no, it's a deeply personal game and it's mean to thing negatively a game that means so much to the maker! No, you may think as negatively of the game as you like because though it is a deeply personal expression of emotions and feelings to me, that does not therefore make it infallible and worthy of everyone's admiration and praise. Of course, as this is a community that is not fond of keeping negative thoughts silent, for better or for worse, I do not think that is something that really bears saying. All the same, I've said it! Furthermore, I do not want you to go into the game or come out of it (depending on when you read this) with preconceived notions, you should absolutely come to your own conclusions and beliefs about the game. You may interpret it however you like and you may believe I succeeded or failed in whatever I tried to do. I have my own interpretations and my own beliefs about the quality of my attempts at various different things.

In any case, let's get started.

For one, the title screen is not one that is supremely meaningful to me, but I am all the same attached to it. It features the song Enigma of the Absolute by Dead Can Dance, one of my favorites by them as well. This is a song that's always held a lot of mysticism and power for me, though what exactly it means to me is sort of hazy. I nonetheless thought it was a great title song because of how airy and powerful it is, as well as these opening lyrics:

"Saloman hung down her head
Laid bare her heart for the world to see.
She craved for intimacy.
Through darkened doors her aspect veiled with indecision, gazed out sea."

As for the intro, which was made entirely by Razzor, it more or less happened by chance that it came to be within this game. I had the idea for it halfway through production and immediately had to make it happen because of how attached I was to the idea. With that said, I was not personally able to make the thing myself, so I had to turn to a far more able friend, Razzor. I told him that I wanted the player to simply walk right while Keeblin' by Dinosaur Jr. played and that it would more or less be a simple lyrics video, and he totally delivered on that, bringing more personality and charm to it than I ever could have done. The way the lyrics come in is just brilliant to me, a touch brought by Razzor alone. Now, this is where the overall meaning of the game becomes sort of two-sided. In short, I originally meant for this game to be more a meditation on my father and his inevitable death, something which can be still found fresh throughout the game. On the other hand, most of the game is more a recreation of my reaction to my own mother's death. In any case, it deals strongly with grief, both of the theoretical and otherwise. At any rate, the song Keeblin' is one that is strongly connected to my father as it is one of his favorites by Dinosaur Jr., a song he discovered completely by happenstance not that long ago. As such, it's place in the game is much more about its connection to my life rather than its actual meaning, though I like what it brings to the game all the same and am myself in love with the song thanks entirely to its connection to my father.

The first stage was, as you might expect, the first stage made for the game. What I knew going in was I wanted to use the main gimmick and that I wanted to use the song So Long by Abhi the Nomad. This is a song discovered by a close friend of mine, the sister to an even closer friend of me, that she shared with me and said closer friend one day, and I happened to find myself really liking it. Regardless, it came to represent more the extremely happy time in my life when a decent chunk of my life revolved around them, though in the grand scheme of the game itself, it is a sort of calm before the storm. This is, in essence, a stage somewhat removed from the grand catastrophe and instead focuses more on my life before said catastrophe. Insofar as gameplay is concerned, I am extremely proud of what I made for the stage. It is short, but I feel I eked out a ton of high quality gameplay from a gimmick that I immediately fell in love with upon getting it to work. Visually, it is also one of my preferred stages as it has a simple and clean aesthetic somewhat in the Wonderful style (though not so similar as to be derivative, I feel) that works very well for the gameplay.

As for the second stage, it acts more as the part two rather than being wholly a second stage. In short, this is just me trying to recreate the feeling of a panic/anxiety attack, something I don't suffer from often, though I nonetheless wanted this to represent the moments in a day when I would feel a hell of a lot worse than I did before. In any case, I knew going into the stage that I wanted it to be a very sudden shift from the previous, another stylistic choice that I lifted from Wonderful's games (think of the sudden move into the water tower, for example), but otherwise I was flying blind. The song I originally chose for the area was Long Road, No Turns by Daughters, a band I am not partial to but a song I rather like. With that song in mind, I decided to use moving spikes for the area as I felt the frenetic nature of the song necessitated a lot of movement on screen, this birthing the idea for the background as well. Rather late into production, I decided to change the song to Mr. Self Destruct by Nine Inch Nails as it is a far more personal song to me, not necessarily lyrically but certainly in a musical sense. I've always adored the way the song builds up at the very end, getting so damn overwhelming and powerful that I can sometimes feel my chest getting tighter alongside it listening to the song. This represented extremely well the feeling I was trying to evoke with the stage in the first place, so it worked out especially well. I also decided to change the background a tad according to the song change, which ended up really improving the stage in my eyes as I found it sort of middle of the road, not as memorable as I originally wanted it to be. Now, however, it sticks out quite positively for me.

With the third stage, I didn't have any sort of personal meaning I wanted to express in gameplay. Instead, I just wanted to make a really fun stage to a really fun song, As Good as New by ABBA. In that way, I accidentally followed in ABBA's footsteps of foregoing personal meaning and instead focusing on the most important thing, the music (or in this case, the gameplay). All the same, this stage still represents well the sort of free, easy-going mood that I can find myself in listening to music. This stage represents me lost in music, totally distracted from all that is going on in my life. Gameplay wise, I find this to be a somewhat messy but nonetheless rather great stage with an excellent sense of verticality that I am still proud of achieving. Visually, it is one of the greatest disappointments, but I find the rather bleh nature of the visuals to be charming enough that I don't truly mind it. I asked someone to make visuals for the stage close to the end of development, but I decided against it as I wanted that sort of thing to be only done by me.

Now then, for one of the big highlights of the game for me! What I knew with this stage was that I wanted desperately to use Feather by Devin Townsend, one of my ABSOLUTE favorite songs ever (in fact, it may as well be my favorite song), and so in doing that, I knew that the gameplay was going to need to be floaty and far-reaching. As such, the idea for using low-grav and jump refreshers came to mind. The symmetry and signs, however, came in later by chance, which is to say I designed some saves and then the stage sort of grew from there. The symmetry has no overt meaning, but the signs are the most obvious things in the world, I think. While I originally intended these signs to be my father speaking to me, they now represent both my father and mother, really, both major guiding forces in my life. Because of that, I wanted the signs to guide you much like a parent would guide their own son. This was a stage I knew I wanted to make from the start, hence why I also knew I wanted to use Feather, a song heavily focused on parenthood. Eventually, I had the cheeky idea to force the player into not being able to rely on the signs and having to make their own choices, seeing as that inevitably comes in a parent's relationship with their own children. When the end comes, however, that is the grand catastrophe of the game, the death of my own mother, as well as the ever-present reality of my own father's eventual death. Overall, this is likely my favorite stage in the game as I think it came together on all fronts wondrously, whether in gameplay or in meaning or visually, it all works so well that I almost find it hard to believe I was able to make it.

Immediately after comes a stage that I lifted from an older game, one that will never see the light of day because it essentially turned into Nebulous Thoughts. It was called Memories Inmazes, a name which combines a general concept, Memories, and the name of a beloved song by a band called VOLA which very much represented what I wanted to try and do with that game. In short, I wanted to create a game that represented a haze of memories, and overall I wanted the game to be this sort of maze of emotions and feelings that the player created themselves and can't get out of. As such, the maze stage was created, that game died, and then it was brought here to Nebulous Thoughts. Now, it is a stage of deep grief, the immediate reaction to my mother's death. The song is plodding and brooding, totally overwhelming and hazy like the rest of the stage. Visually, you suck the color out of your surroundings, surroundings which aren't even that colorful in the first place, and it all blends together in a vomitous haze. This stage is about feeling lost, in short, and the end sees you falling into nothingness and becoming so totally overwhelmed that everything turns to static.

How funny that one of the biggest successes in the game would be followed up by what is probably the most filler-esque stage in the game. Truthfully, this whole game came together merely a few weeks before it released, if that. The production cycle of the game was 90% me just making stages without too much knowledge of how they were all going to come together in the end. This stage was one of the later ones made and it was originally made with the intention of using Moja Si by Idoli, a song from one of my favorite albums ever, Odbrana i Poslednji Dana (so much a favorite that I have that mess of letters memorized). Because I felt the end visuals did not support the song well/I did not think I would be capable of making gameplay that fit the song, I switched it to Sve Ove Godine made by a prog rock band called Indexi. In the end, what I tried to get with this stage emotionally was a sense of "pretty static," a stage that sounded far more pleasant than the previous, but was just a mess of sound and colors that ultimately meant nothing and just filled the brain with nonsense. Of course, the song is not ACTUALLY nonsense, it's just in a language I do not speak nor understand, and the gameplay itself is something I do to a much better degree in a later stage. As such, I find this stage has little purpose in the game other than to pad out content and help the flow of the overall game. Thanks to the difficulty of the stage in its original form, however, it ended up actually HURTING the flow. All the same, I let it stay in the game because I enjoyed the stage in its own right and didn't feel comfortable cutting out an entire stage something like a week before I would actually release the game, a game that I already worried was a bit too short. The ending was created some time after the stage was finished and is a result of a comment made by very cool in the IWC as he commented on the moving bars in the background and I felt that I would need to meet the expectation brought up by him of the bars being apart of a gimmick. I could not change the entire stage, but I could at least make a screen which delivers on those expectations. This screen I wanted to be a departure from the sort of positive and happy-go-lucky nature of the screens before, being silent except for an industrial hum and a somewhat confusing visual mess of spikes and triggers. I like the screen, but it does not completely redeem the stage for me.

California, as I've taken to calling it, is another stage that is more a part one than anything else. This and the next stage, Night Life, come from Memories Inmazes also, but they are fairly different from what they were in that game. In any case, what the stage is in this context is somewhat like the third stage with As Good As New, being more a stage focused on enjoyable gameplay. Whereas that stage was the positive end of my focusing on music, however, this is the negative end, being a representation of me sort of throwing myself into music to ignore all my issues. In the end, it does not work out for me as at the end you fall into a massive body of water and eventually drown away into the next stage. Otherwise, I find the stage to be great fun with a lot of reasonably clever design. I enjoy the gimmick utilized and I find it is one that can be used to a far greater degree than it has been. As you can see, I don't have too much to say about this stage, but I don't think of it as filler like I do the previous stage. What I do really enjoy about this stage is that while it does have that sense of running away, you end up falling right into the problems you're avoiding, or rather I do, I suppose.

Night Life, on the other hand, is another wild success for me. With that said, it is fundamentally removed from the overall meaning of the game, or at the very least its emotional meaning is focused much more on a supremely negative experience of mine from my High School years, and it is an experience shared by many high schoolers that was just like me, lovesick over someone that didn't feel the same way. In short, I was (and am) desperately in love with that closer friend of mine that I spoke of way back in the first stage, but she simply did not reciprocate those feelings, at least not in a way that was anything more than platonic. This lead to a lot of pain for me in high school that sort of came to a head with my 11th grade prom experience in which I spent the entire night feeling shitty watching her dance with someone else. That night ended up positively, but the experience was nonetheless permanently ingrained in my head as one of the most embarrassing, shameful, overall awful moments of my entire life, bar none. Thus, I created Night Life to try and recapture those feelings to some degree. This is why the design is somewhat abrasive and mean compared to the rest of the game, why I decided to use the more generic and precise jumps in tandem with longer saves as well as scummy transition deaths because while I did want an overall positive game experience, I wanted the stage to exude negativity despite featuring those colorful tiles set beautifully on the black background with that hazy fog, all set to the wondrous Run Away With Me, one of the best pop songs released in the past two decades. Whether you think I succeeded with this stage or not, what needs to be made known is that I did NOT design with the intent to create unfun saves, nor did I want to just piss the player off by putting in precise jumps for the sake of it. While I did want a reaction from the player, I made absolutely certain that the save was immensely fun to play and that it would not just end up irritating. At the end of the day, I could only make sure that was true for myself, but I could not do so for others. The stage ends with a pitched down scream from me, somewhat mimicking the static of the maze stage and more accurately being a release for me.

Fly Away, so the stage is called in-game, originally came from a now-defunct collab. All the same, I find it fits quite well into the game in basically every way it can. On the one hand, it acts as a very nice palate cleanser after what is a rather dark and tough stage, and it also adds gimmick variety as it utilizes the ever-wonderful sideways gravity! I absolutely adore my design for this stage, if I am allowed to be so bold about myself, but I have to admit the stage is emotionally redundant to some degree as it sort of rehashes the same ideas that California does, though this one more obviously captures the idea of running away seeing as the chorus is literally about flying like an eagle. Nonetheless, I am not dissatisfied with the stage being in the game because I find it helps the overall flow and is just great in the first place. ABBA is also a band my mother loved, and so being able to bring that into this game also is very nice.

Kyrie Eleison is the title of this stage, named for a moment in the song wherein that phrase is said four times over. It translates to "Lord, have mercy," though if I am being honest, I originally thought it translated to "Lord, forgive me." In either case, it fits the stage well. This is my other favorite stage alongside the Feather stage, which works out seeing as the both use two of my favorite songs ever, for similar reasons. The gameplay, visuals, meaning, EVERYTHING is just perfect for me. As for the actual meaning of the stage, it is one that can only really be evident to me as I really only give one suggestion as to what it is that I am inevitably asking God to have mercy on me for, that being with the title of the outro stage, "Murderer." Truthfully, I imagine this is a feeling that most feel after someone passes away, but for my own part I felt and do still feel to some degree strong guilt over my mother's death. Whether it's because I didn't try to make her live more healthily or because I didn't get her to go to the hospital the night before she passed, I felt as if her death was on me and that is not a feeling I would wish on ANYONE. To have lost someone you love dearly is beyond any real comprehension, but to feel responsible for that loss is like Hell. Of course, I am not actually responsible for her death, but I imagine even if her death had nothing to do with her state of health and instead occurred entirely by chance thanks to nothing at all, such as in a car crash or something, I imagine I'd feel guilt all the same because I sort of get the feeling that guilt over the loss of someone you know is a common feeling. All that is to say, this stage represents that guilt and acts sort of as a prayer to God to relieve me of it. The climb at the end can be seen sort of as a reference to the Tower of Babel, though in this case the reasons I climb to God would not be for the same reasons. In the end, I do not reach Him.

Instead, I arrive at the final stage, a stage which more or less represents an endgame headspace, one where I am all but fragmented and drifting in nothingness. The song was chosen for its personal meaning, obviously, and the gameplay itself was meant to be entirely stripped of everything but raw needle. This is meant to be a no frills journey through a mess of a stage, one that is totally nonsensical, hence the non-Euclidean design combined with the invisible blocks. The game overall utilized invisible blocks as a sort of guiding hand, hence why their largest use is in the stage with the song Feather, but here whether the blocks are a guiding hand or a twisted representation of that hand is itself not really meant to be confirmed or denied by me, mostly because I am not even entirely sure of it and I like it that way. In any case, the stage itself asks this one simple question: do you recognize me? Something I've felt about myself for a long time now since my mom died is that I've lost parts of myself become someone new, someone ravaged by grief and sadness and overall lesser, so much so that I would wonder if my mom would even really recognize me in this stage. The stage itself is rather simple, having a basic meaning and basic design, but I am also quite proud of it, as this is the best pure needle I have ever designed by far. I made it halfway through development, I'd say, and it came out of nowhere for me, being designed mostly within the span of a day or two. The final save was an addendum later down the line after I felt that what originally was the last save was a bit disappointing, so I added in what is now the last save, one that is hopefully memorable for positive and not negative reasons.

The outro used to be the intro, actually, and it was the first thing I made for Nebulous Thoughts. Overall, there is nothing different about it from then to now, but I find its recontextualization to be particularly moving. While I wrote the dialogue at the end, I actually came up with the title of the game, actually. As for its overall meaning, it essentially comments on the depressive episode I feel like I've been in for so long now. I've had moments like this before, and I've always forced myself to view them as temporary, so this is no different. All the same, I can't help but worry that this moment in time is not something that will go away easily, that it is simply a nightmare from which I am trying to awake and yet can never do so. The outro ends with a drop into the credits, a drop I originally intended as a way to force the player to take a plunge that they won't know they'll survive, but now it is a much darker ending.

The credits is simply the intro remade, though I did so not out of laziness and instead to suggest a sort of cyclical feeling to the game. The overall struggle of the game is one that I have gone through time and time again, and will do so again and again even after the game's release. What is by far the most important part of the credits, however, and also the most important part of the game for me, is its ending. This is, as I explain somewhat in the readme, a voicemail left to me by my mother, one I didn't hear until a week or two after her death. She called me on the first day of college back in August of 2019, but I never answered the call as I was busy and thanks to my phone's idiocy, I didn't even know she had left a voicemail until after she had passed in the beginning of January 2020. As for what I'm actually apologizing for, while I'm sure you can guess what, I think this is one thing I can leave private.

Overall, I am immensely proud of Nebulous Thoughts. For all its faults and missteps, it is an artistic expression the likes of which I have never accomplished before and that alone makes it infinitely important to me. Not every stage is a complete success, the overall flow of the game is messy, the meaning muddled by four different strands, but it all comes together to represent something more than the sum of its parts. As such, I think the title of the game fits perfectly even though I didn't design the game with the intention of that being the case. Every stage feels nebulous in nature, like it is a moment in time that will flitter away only to be replaced by the next. Every moment is a thought which passes through my head, some far more tortuous than others, and as such I can't see this game as anything less than an extension of myself. Whether or not this game touches you in any meaningful way, it is nonetheless a game that will forever mean the world to me.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for playing.

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[1] Like
Rating: N/A       Difficulty: N/A
Jan 6, 2022

13 Reviews:

bummerman222
I think this is the first fangame that made me feel emotions that didn't come from anger, or from spending 254 hours on one boss. This impresses me because I rarely feel emotions at all, thank you Marc.

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[5] Likes
Rating: 10.0 100       Difficulty: 80 80
Feb 16, 2022
Bob
Pretty difficult game that's a little like Morning Dew but without the wacky gimmicks. I thought the majority of the gameplay was pretty fun and well designed despite being slightly too hard for me to fully enjoy. It was pure luck that I got past the last save - it's something like four screens of pretty rough needle in a row.

There weren't really any original gimmicks in the game, the most innovative thing is the disappearing water in the first stage. The sideways gravity stage was certainly interesting but I didn't enjoy it much. The jump refresher/low gravity stage was fun, and the several stages that use water were also pretty fun, although it gets a bit too hard for my tastes near the end. Overall, though, it's still a very solidly designed platforming experience.

I'll also list a few of my negatives. First, I wasn't really a fan of the soundtrack. When the music started screaming at me in the second stage I had to mute it. There were some decent picks, but I'd rather just play through the game with my own music. The production value is also lacking in a few spots. Some stages have backgrounds that clash with the spikes, and there isn't really much to say for the "wow" factor of the game. Even morning dew, which wasn't technically impressive, had some great artistic originality in its stages. The aesthetics in this one don't really feel as original. Anyway, that's just my opinion. Some more minor annoyances include the invisible blocks (which I don't understand why they exist at all...) and some screen transitions which are pretty much guaranteed to kill you and force you to play the save again.

Overall: It's worth it for the needle if you're into that sort of thing. Some saves are quite long but it doesn't get unreasonably hard until the very end (if you're around my skill level.)

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Tagged as: Needle
[5] Likes
Rating: 7.6 76       Difficulty: 80 80
Jan 8, 2022
Cutiefruity
Nebulous Thoughts is a needle masterpiece by YaBoiMarcAntony, and, in my opinion, the greatest fangame- nay, game, I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Usually when someone says this they are referring to how they find a game they played especially fun and rewarding to get through, varied in gameplay, and occasionally thought provoking, and while that's true of this game and those are some of it's greatest qualities- and would, in my eyes, be worth a 10 alone- this game has a great variety of needle that really astounded me, not just in gameplay and feel, but in emotional caliber.

I have never played a game- and this comes from a through and through morning dew enjoyer- that made me feel quite the way the last save did, and as it stands, that save is my current favorite save of all time, despite there being no gimmick, wacky idea (mostly), or anything of the sort. It must be noted that you need to be skilled to enjoy this game fully, but when you can play the needle, its sheer design and consistency is unrivaled in style and execution to me, when it comes to fangames I've personally played. Marc is exceptional at making you feel like a god, and like what you're playing is a thought, put directly into the screen, with extremely minimal blemishes, if any.

I could write a lot more, go into detail about which stages I loved and which held me captive but I overcame through effort- besides the last one- but I, quite honestly, think if you're reading this, and feel even moderately confident in your ability to get through some great needle, and have the hustle to keep at a grind occasionally, you should play this game. It's a 1 of a kind experience that I can't allow myself to spoil you, not even through a spoiler tag you would mindlessly click.

To me this game means a lot, as I'm sure it means to the creator, and to me this game is about feeling, and while I'm being unsure what it is I'm exactly feeling- I just know it's strong, meaningful, and genuine. I'm not sure how wrong or correct the interpretation is, but I'm sure Marc wouldn't slaughter me for it since it's in the readme to give the game my own meaning as a player, and he is right- it's vague, but greatly appreciable nonetheless.

I hope sincerely that you continue making games and projects, keep the motivation to push forward, and that you know your mother smiles warmly upon you from heaven for the passion you have in what you make. <3

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Tagged as: Needle Gimmick Masterpiece
[2] Likes
Rating: 10.0 100       Difficulty: 83 83
May 10, 2022
EzTheBoss
This game does things, and like, they're good things, but it certainly does them.

P.S. To anyone complaining about save balancing, I agree that it is inconsistent but don't agree that it is a bad thing. The way the saves differ in difficulty feels natural and gives a good pacing to the game.

Play this game, or don't, but know that it will always be hear, waiting.

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Tagged as: Needle Gimmick
[1] Like
Rating: 9.0 90       Difficulty: 80 80
Jan 9, 2022
chrisg
A great gimmick needle game blemished by a poor late game stage and save balancing that is all over the place.

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[1] Like
Rating: 7.8 78       Difficulty: 80 80
Jan 7, 2022