I Cannot Drown
I Cannot Drown is a surrealist horror puzzle game with a focus on exploration. Players control a woman named Ume as they explore the world beyond a hole she just so happens to be stuck in. This world seems to be a bizarre combination of memories, nightmares, and possibly premonitions.
Platforms: Mac and PC
Production Duration: 2019 - 2020
Most Recent Demo Release Date: July 25th, 2020
Production Role: Solo Project
My intent for I Cannot Drown was to create a horror game in the style of the cult classic horror title, Yume Nikki. To keep with this, I wanted to push the challenge of having absolutely no spoken character dialogue. I additionally wanted to create the limit of only having three main colors to work with in the game, being black, white, and red.
I Cannot Drown was originally created for Dream Diary Jam 3 back in 2019 on Itch.io. The goal of this jam was to create a game inspired by the horror game, Yume Nikki.
As that game was based on the idea of exploring one's dreams, I originally intended I Cannot Drown to serve as a catalog of my own. This was actually where the title originally came from, as a common reoccurance in my dreams is the fact I can never seem to drown in them.
I later switched the idea to a narrative story where players can infer things about the main character's life through the things in the strange world she finds herself in.
After I submitted the demo in 2019, I ended up making some quality of life changes afterward. However, I also ended up making a large update for I Cannot Drown for Dream Diary Jam 4.
I used this opportunity to create more puzzles, such as a room where players can use a paint brush found in another area to physically paint a path in another room. I also used this opportunity to add far more frightful things.
I've always enjoyed gore and the horrors that the human body is capable of when mangled, so there was certainly more disturbing content to be found in this update.
Some players of course solved a special puzzle I had in the original demo which rewards players with the ability to graphically eat the guts of a mermaid with the added sounds of me snapping chicken bones into a microphone. Many who I watched solve this either in testing or in let's play videos were incredibly disturbed by this, so I knew I had to raise the bar.
For the 2020 update, I added a new collectible where players can pick of body parts. These parts are all found in places that require a lot of thinking to figure out, so I wanted to reward players who get creative with the things they already found in the world I've created.
I plan on updating I Cannot Drown every year with a major update every time the Dream Diary Jam comes around. One year it'll reach a state where I'll be happy with it, but I don't know when that will be since I Cannot Drown is more of an easy going passion project.
One of my biggest struggles with I Cannot Drown is the fact that I am by no means a professional game artist. With one of my goals for I Cannot Drown being that I wanted a horror game that is both terrifying and beautiful, I was afraid of making it look ugly and rough instead.
While also being part of my own personal challenges I place upon myself, the choice to only have black, white, and red really helped me with creating the art. This made it so I didn't have to focus on high detailing in certain areas as well as being able to use edited photos to create a unique look to certain areas.
Another challenge was finding the balance between beauty and horror. After all, too much horror will numb the player. I ended up finding a better balance by devoting specific days to a specific feel I was going for and of course getting tester opinions.