The Sandman: Story Behind the Game

A post Uri wrote analyzing everything in The Sandman and talking about development. Huge spoilers!


I've never tried writing a full thing about my thoughts and decisions during development before, so I thought I'd say a few things.

I tried to make TSM in such a way that it left few mysteries unresolved, so I also feel like I shouldn't need to explicitly write something, but it's my first time making something with this kind of mood, so it's also a reflection.

It's sloppily-written and long. Just a lot of rambling on about things I remember.

If you have time, then give it a read.

- Genre

If I had to classify this game's story, it's an otherworldly adventure tale.

If I had to compare it to a movie, it might be something close to Pan's Labyrinth. It's nothing too unique as a story, but realize that it was my first time making a story about a mysterious world.

In otherworldly adventure tales, there's often a focus on whether the protagonist returns from the other world to the real world or not. The heroine of the aforementioned Pan's Labyrinth runs from the sad reality of war into a world of dreams, and ends up not leaving.

Following such examples, I did make one of the ending branches be the decision to return to reality or not.

Staying in the other world means not being human, thus Invisible Sweet Heart and Queen of the Night. Returning to reality, that leads to Sleep With One Eye Open and Don't Stay Up Late At Night.

I'll discuss each ending later, but I just wanted to point out that one of the ending splits was the choice between otherworld and reality.

- Why the Sandman?

Sandman isn't very popular in Japan. Maybe the Sandman who uses In A Silent Way is famous, though. Incidentally, he's my favorite character in Steel Ball Run. So cool during the fight with Johnny!

But I digress. For whatever reason, I've known about the Sandman since I was young, though just knowing about him didn't make me consider making a game about him.

So why did I make a game about the Sandman? A certain song.

I like a certain metal band, and listening to that band's songs, I suddenly decided I'd want to make a game with a mood like this song. So many scenes resembling lines from the song came up in the game.

I'm sure some of you have figured it out. And that's also the reason why I chose the music to be generally metal and hard rock.

...I suppose there's no need to skirt around it. The song is Metallica's Enter Sandman. I really love that song, and listened to it plenty while making the game.

You should really listen if you've never heard of it! Not only the one from the album "Metallica," but the "S&M" version is awesomely impressive too.

- About the Story

I had already thought up almost all of the story for this game while making TCM, so there were few concerns about the story during production. My only concern was whether I should release it as a successor to TCM.

The story and mood are completely different, and it was inevitable that those who played TCM would see where it went and go "What the heck is this?"

I worried about that even as I worked on TCM. But when I starting thinking about the third game TBM, I resigned myself to giving up on making the mood and story the same just because they were in the same series.

I'm fickle by nature, and I make games by sort of a "Let's keep making games before I get bored of the idea and neglect it!" notion, but I think that making a series of games requires the author to "not get bored."

So to keep myself from getting bored of the Whatever-Man series, I wanted to introduce a variety of characters and write a variety of stories and moods. And thus TCM ended up being quiet and serious, and TSM ended up being bizarre with a strange story where strange things happen.

If possible, I want future games to be not too similar in content or mood as well. TCM's... movingness? Seems to have been well-received, but I really don't know myself if I'll make a game with a similar story in the future. But I'm thinking not... *whisper*

Now, TSM is a story about an girl with insomnia, but why I'd like to discuss why insomnia.

I mentioned that I wanted the game to have a mood like Enter Sandman, and what do you suppose is the time that makes you want to listen to intense songs like metal?

Personally, it's when I'm irritated. During the train rush in the morning, when I'm so sleepy and yet the crowd pushes me around and I'm thinking DAMMIT GAH YOU ASSHOLE!! That's when. Though I'm timid, so I don't actually say that nor let anyone hear my music.

TSM is just that. Irritated about being sleepless when she's sleepy, unhappy about those around her, Sophie acts (usually physically) to clear those things away. There's also the emaciation and determination of the sleepy but sleepless Sandman who has to keep working for humans. That was the concept for the game.

Well, it was all well and good deciding upon a concept, but the problem was, how would I make it horror? I resolved to make it a game with horror that would scare little kids, as the enemy is a fairy, after all.

As I started production for real, I realized it really wasn't scary at all, so had to take the escape of declaring this one "horror-styled."

Personally, I don't think TCM is scary at all either, but some people have told me it is, so it's entirely possible people will find TSM scary as well. But strictly speaking, I would be happy for people to just think of TSM as a somewhat eerie fairy tale.

- About Sophie

Sophie has no mother. Her mother was shot by a bank robber when she was very young. Her husband, after losing his wife, immersed himself in his work hoping to somehow make his daughter happy. As a result, Sophie was alone at home for a long time, never experiencing much in the way of familial love.

As seen in the flashbacks, Sophie was very energetic when she was little, so her father fawned over her. When he collapsed from overwork, she believed her aunt telling her "If you be a good kid, your father will get better," and young Sophie decided to be a "good kid." She wouldn't be selfish, she'd eat the food she didn't like, and she'd sleep alone at night; she'd be a good kid who didn't bother her father.

Not expressing her dissatisfactions or thoughts for so long, Sophie crushed herself the same way even in high school. She put up with being bullied and teased, pardoned her best friend for just watching it happen, and strove to be a "model student" such that Sister Mary would recognize her. Meanwhile, Sophie's irritation and dissatisfaction grow, and it results in insomnia.

Squashing your dissatisfaction and keeping up appearances is what adults do. It seems normal that a pure child would do nothing of the sort. In a way, the "good kid" Sophie aims to be is an adult. In fact, her friend Anne tells her she's very mature. But Sophie is still a child who's not fully mentally matured, so as the story begins, the path she decides to take changes the ending.

Like I said before, the ending branches incorporated the decision of staying in the other world or returning to reality. But the other branch is whether Sophie continues to be a fake adult, or if she takes back her lost childhood (who she really is).

The way this branch is expressed in the game is through the Sandman living or dying.

When Sophie says fairies don't exist, the Tooth Fairy tells her that a fairy dies every time she says such a thing, which is a somewhat famous notion. When children become adults, they begin to deny things like fairies, and the fairies within them die.

It's the same way in the Sandman. When fake-adult Sophie kills the Sandman, she can't go back to being a child. So the Queen of the Night and Sleep With One Eye Open endings are results of becoming a fake adult. I'll go into detail about the difference between those two of staying or going back to reality.

- About the Fairies

The fairies that appear in the game have something in common.

Nixie, Tooth Fairy, Dwarf, and Sandman all take great pride in their work, but they're devoted to a fault. This isn't something that's true in actual descriptions of the fairies, but rather something completely made up for the game. In the visuals especially, I just drew what I wanted, so there are major differences, Dwarf especially being something totally different. Dwarves are supposed to have long beards, after all. And the Tooth Fairy doesn't really have that gross a face, I think. Actually, at first, I planned to make all the fairies very ugly, but it really didn't seem to suit Nixie and Unicorn. Dwarf is the only one who gets called ugly, but Tooth Fairy is also pretty, uhhh, not pretty.

I got off topic. The fairies have their own jobs, and worries related to those jobs. Even the Sandman's actions which start off the story are rooted in his own troubles.

The reason for the inclusion of jobs and their consequences is because I wanted to portray the fairies as pseudo-adults. They have this big-hearted maturity of "work is hard, but I'll enjoy every day," and they represent entities that watch over children (Sophie).

They're not surprised when Sophie tells them the reasons for her insomnia, and they somehow know she had business with Sandman. By throwing herself into a world of fairies, who have that kind of concern for her which she hasn't experienced in so long, she has the objective of returning to be the child she still is, and that ties into the good ending.

- About Lullaby

Lullaby, a creation of the Sandman, exists to get rid of people's worries and give them a sense of security to put them to sleep.

In Sophie's case, she wants to call her friend a liar, she wants her bully to be executed, she wants her father's company to get messed up - and these feelings are manifested before her eyes.

But still, why did they take these bizarre forms of black shadows (we'll call them Liars), soldiers, and a dragon? There's a hint in the game.

In the theater on the top floor of Blumberg Mall, there are four movie ads: Hide and See, Kenny Got His Gun, Dragon Hunter, and Your Girl. By the way, these are of course parodies of Hide and Seek, Johnny Got His Gun, Monster Hunter, and My Girl.

As you see from checking each sign, Sophie knows all of them. Either she saw the preview, or watched the old movie, or played the game. So these things had some root in Sophie. Incidentally, Sophie considers them scary. And if you consider what Lullaby shows her, well, you may have already guessed.

It was Sophie's "lullaby" that the people who torment her be thrown into situations that she considers scary. What Lullaby didn't plan for is that since she kept her own self so bottled up, she didn't even notice how she was thinking "Serves you right!!" If she did, perhaps Lullaby would have been able to get Sophie snoozing.

Lullaby takes the form of David because they act like Sophie's ally, and because Sophie simply wants David at her side. Lullaby talks slightly more loosely than the real David, and their insistence on going with Sophie is because that's how Sophie wants David to be. They're simply embodying Sophie's desires.

By the way, Lullaby changes form with the decision of the pink jewel, and that also causes an ending split.

As you can learn from the Sandman's note, those jewels are extracted and "borrowed" from humans to research their souls. You can probably imagine from the color, but the pink jewel is the form "love" takes.

Unicorn is actually a very ferocious creature. But he gets much nicer with pure maidens. While he's portrayed as "loving girls in love," in short, he loves virgins.

Think back on Unicorn's first conversation with Sophie. His impolite questions of "Do you have a boyfriend?" and "Anyone you like?" make Sophie mad. Dwarf says that fairies know everything about humans, so Unicorn actually knows from the start Sophie is a girl without experience. He asks anyway because he wants to test if Sophie will answer honestly. He's checking if she's a "pure girl." So if Sophie brings him a fake pink jewel, he gets incredibly angry. You tried to trick me, you bitch!!, he says. That's what Unicorn is really like.

So, since the pink jewel is "love," when Sophie gives it to Unicorn, her love for David disappears. And Lullaby took David's form because of her love for David and desire for him to be near her. So after extracting the pink jewel, Lullaby loses David's form.

Why that causes an ending branch? Sophie's love for David is unhealthy to begin with, a misunderstanding of a dependence. To keep that with her is an impediment in Sophie going back to being a child.

- About David

David, protagonist of TCM, was the target of Sophie's first love. Because he was the only one who would be kind when she was troubled and listen to her.

But that wasn't pure love, just dependency, and she came to see David as a replacement for her father. Though he does feel a little bit like one, somehow...

Now, some players may be thinking "Did this have to specifically be David?" And you're right; I think I could have made an incredibly normal kind older guy who wasn't David. In truth, when I started thinking about TSM's story, I wondered if it would be okay not to have David appear at all. I wanted the Whatever-Man series to have a variety of characters and scenes, so there was no need to bring out David.

But I should mention, a lot of people's opinions on The Crooked Man seemed to contain something along the lines of "David is such a hottie!!" Though as the author, I don't think of David as being hot, just a plain old babyface. But if lots of people say it, perhaps it must be true, David must be a hottie, and you've swayed my opinion after TCM's release.

So if people on the outside of the screen praise David for his hotness, what would happen if he was kind to a high school girl who was struggling with loneliness and irritation? She'd fall in love, of course.

So in essence, li'l David was extraordinarily easy to portray as a target of girls' affections. (laughs) And he's thick-headed, so he doesn't particularly notice the people swooning over him.

Thus, David came to reappear in TSM as someone to make Sophie cry without him realizing it. In the character bios after getting the good ending, it says "no ulterior motives, but still"; that's an ironic reflection on my own work, as he has an inherent kindness and honesty, but from an outsider's perspective it may not look so good.

I was able to consult many of the impressions you sent me in this regard... *wicked grin*

...Ahem, but maybe I shouldn't say that. David's appearance in this game helped me to decide the flow of the series after TSM, so as an author I think it was a very good thing.

- Bad End 1: Queen of the Night

The ending where you give the pink jewel to Unicorn, then kill Sandman.

In terms of the ending splits I mentioned above, it's the result of Sophie staying in the other world and remaining a fake adult.

Sophie can't be a child anymore after killing the Sandman, and refuses to go back to the world of humans who torture her. She realizes it was "their" fault the Sandman ended up dead, and the hatred within her then becomes clear. And since there's no pink jewel, Sophie's not the kind of girl to fall in love anymore. She has no reason to return to the human world, so Sophie decided to stay in the fairy world.

Embracing her hate for humans and having lost her love, Sophie becomes the so-called Queen of the Night and reigns over the fairy world. She's not a child who needs Lullaby anymore, and not a little girl who wishes for the person she likes at her side.

There's a book on the ground if you search the bookstore in town. It's "The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart," known as the Queen of the Night's Aria, from a certain opera called The Magic Flute.

I know this is sudden, but the "mothers" in the game's story have two sides, "rage" and "soothing." In the Queen of the Night bad ending, child Sophie is tormented by harsh reality, and we see the "rage" of a "mother," the one who should protect her from it. Though you see a different kind of mother in the good ending.

So why "Queen of the Night"? I said in the Lullaby section that everything Lullaby shows is based in Sophie's knowledge and imagination. That applies here as well. To live without sleeping in a world without the Sandman, Sophie must conquer the night. Sophie becoming one who rules the night is likely because she unconsciously remembers the "Queen of the Night" from The Magic Flute which she once read. Sophie's desire that she has to be like that is granted by Lullaby. And a "mother" who hates her childish self and humans becomes "Queen of the Night." As you know from the good ending, Queen of the Night Sophie looks just like her mother. Sandman wrote under his portrait of child Sophie that "you'll be a wonderful woman like your mother," and in a sense it comes to pass. As the exact opposite of a "sun goddess," albeit.

Pleased seeing the humans' "idiotic faces," she can live never sleeping as the ruler of a world of night. That's the Queen of the Night end.

- Bad End 2: Sleep With One Eye Open

That sounds rather forceful if you read it literally. Keep that eye open, dammit! (laughs) It's a lyric from Enter Sandman, by the way.

The ending for taking the pink jewel and killing Sandman. It's incidentally the worst of the three.

Compared to bad end 1, Sophie doesn't have much of a strong feeling about killing Sandman. When asked if she killed him, she doesn't even say "yeah," just pragmatically says she has to go back to the human world. The odd calmness here is somewhat scary. Sophie's a fake adult, so even if a fairy dies, she thinks, so what? Even in Queen of the Night she was shaken by killing Sandman, so maybe there was a glimmer of hope.

Sophie's a fake adult after killing the Sandman. And having the pink jewel, she still has a dependence on David. So it's the worst situation to be in. Sophie returns to her world and tries to wake David, though normally one would think she'd go look for her father. But she doesn't, because she has the pink jewel.

And the biggest problem, of course, is that since she killed the Sandman, she can't wake up the humans, and time is still stopped at midnight. So nothing is resolved.

Since time is stopped, Sophie won't age. Since Sandman is dead, the humans won't wake up, and Sophie herself can't sleep. She just trembles with fear forever in a sleepless world of eternal darkness.

In the good ending, Sophie says she was scared to sleep alone. Because in the darkness, she'd imagine there was something in the closet or whatnot.

"Sleeping with one eye open" means she can't sleep. Feeling something is moving in the dark in the corner of her vision, she can't close both eyes.

As recompense for killing Sandman, Sophie can never sleep again, and she has to face her childhood fears once again, forever. So she has to sleep with one eye open... That's that ending. It's really the most horrifying one, isn't it.

- Bad End 3: Invisible Sweet Heart

The ending for having the pink jewel and putting Sandman to sleep.

Since Sandman's alive, Sophie can return from being a fake adult to being a child. But unfortunately, she still has the pink jewel. As stated, Sophie's "love" is a dependency not directed at her father, but at kind older man David.

In this ending, Sophie is somewhat of a spoilt child. "I don't wanna go back there!" "I don't wanna be human!", she cries, and when told she won't remain human, she only asks "But you'll be with me, right?", desiring to remain in the fairy world.

In reality, her father doesn't care about her, her school life is hard, and the guy she likes has a girlfriend - so she wishes to remain here instead. Very childish thinking. The conversation with Tooth Fairy and Nixie in the tea room absolutely foreshadows this. You can't remain human if you live in the fairy world. So Sophie becomes a Glimmer, and is allows to stay in the fairy world as she wished.

And the Glimmers (or just "light fairies," but I called them Glimmers to distinguish them from other fairies) can't live in the dark of night. When night falls in the fairy world they die, and when morning comes they're reborn. Dwarf says that humans are similar, so Glimmers are like pseudo-humans in the fairy world. Note that Tooth Fairy and Dwarf and the like are the kind to say that eternity is "just a little long." They were born from human imagination, so when humans thought the world was flat, their night and day would alternate with the human world. At that time, Sandman worked in the humans' night, and slept in their day. But humans found the world was round, and that from a global perspective night never ends, so he could no longer sleep. The fairies don't have the same notion of "time that restrains us" that humans do. Humans have human time, but fairies don't. Though the fairy world has morning, noon, and night, it can't necessarily be applied in the same way to the human world.

So the Glimmers, compared to Tooth Fairy and Dwarf who have lived so long, live and die with each morning and night, restrained by time. The fairies see humans as being just as fleeting.

Though Sophie gave up on being human, she goes on to live as a pseudo-human in the fairy world. But as Lullaby said, Sophie will die soon, and she can't sleep. Depending on your perspective, it may or may not be a "bad" ending, but I wouldn't say throwing everything away and running is a good conclusion, would you?

- Good End 1: Don't Stay Up Late At Night

The ending for no pink jewel, and putting Sandman to sleep.

I've said again and again that whether or not Sophie goes back to being a child is a pivotal point, but this is the ending where it comes true.

Where does Sophie's adventure really begin? When she says the prayer. If she were a child, saying a prayer before bed would be normal. But like Lullaby in her mother's form says in the good ending, Sophie hasn't said the important final part of the prayer. Of course, that's "good night."

Sophie has long been a fake adult, so she didn't say "good night." By leaving her warped dependence to be the fairies' problem, and saying "good night" to her mother again, Sophie takes back her true self, her lost childhood, and sleeps praying that she'll be able to wake up a tomorrow "with so much she wants to do." She finally escaped the situation of fearing waking up to a morning that's full of bad things. In the conversation with Sister Mary after she returns, she says it's more important to be human than a "saint"-like fake adult. And that as a human, it's important to do what she can day to day and be able to "sleep" at night. Perhaps that's the true kind of human which Sandman and the other fairies love.

As a child again, Sophie does a variety of things. She gets mad and asks why her dad didn't stay with her, gets back at Regan, calls Anne a liar. Sister Mary says she's acting like such a child!, but Sophie thinks it's much preferable to putting up with her hardship like she had been. The Bible quote she provides, "The kingdom of heaven belongs to those such as these," has many interpretations, but I take it to mean that one should live honestly and not falsify their feelings. Sophie's not a devout Christian, but maybe she'll come to be one admitted by God, eventually.

And with David, Sophie left the pink jewel with Sandman, so she no longer has any romantic feelings for him. Instead, before she goes to sleep, she realizes she wants to be friends with David. She can't keep going with her lost love. David in TCM chose not to give up, but Sophie must make the opposite choice.

I've said a lot of nonsense, but this story was ultimately a story for Sophie to finally say "good night." That most important thing can't happen in the other endings. Going back to being a child, wanting her mother there (so Lullaby takes her mother's form), and saying "good night" so she can sleep was the requirement for the good ending.

What follows are the bonus endings. There's honestly not much to think about, so it's just as-is.

- Bad End 4: See You In Bad Dream

Though it seems like a great victory for Sandman, this ending makes him see a human he loves sink into a nightmare before his eyes, so it makes him go "waaaah..." (´;ω;`)

I made this ending because I wanted to show the other side of the "game over" in the battle. You can see what you wouldn't have been able to while controlling Sophie. Yes, this is what happened when you lost!

Huh...? I put the humans to sleep, and I can sleep myself, and everyone should be happy, but... But Sophie seems to be having a nightmare, and it's not like I can just wake her up... So he worries.

So ultimately, he still can't sleep in this ending. Instead, out of guilt for sending beloved human Sophie into a nightmare, he just sobs in his bed.

- Good Ending 2: Welcome Back, Insomnia!

The ending I wanted to make most, honestly. (laughs) What the heck!!, indeed.

Since I was having fairies appear, I wanted to make it sort of a goofy story. I had a lot of fun drawing the illustrations for the fairies. Since before I started game-making, I drew all these deformed characters, so I'm actually better at those. And the picture of Sandman writing a letter to Sophie is actually the picture I wanted to draw most. A fairy desperately studying a study book for a language different from his own to write a letter... It's a scene embodying what I wanted to express in this game.

And Sandman still possesses Sophie's "love," so until he gives it back to her, she won't be able to fall in love. Who knows when he'll give it back! But once Sophie properly matures, surely even Sandman would give it back... Wouldn't you think?

- About the Bonuses

I can't make videos, aaah...

I relied so heavily on resources for the videos... I did draw art for both, and some maps appeared, but I also didn't want to spoil much content, so I just settled for trying to convey the mood.

I had the help of voice acting for the TBM preview, so it feels very... official, you could say! Thank you very much, Max and Daveosity! And vgperson, thank you so much for your English translations!

- Nobody-Cares Development Stories

* Sophie was actually going to be German when I started. Or maybe it was just Sophie's dad. His name is Richard, but it was to be said in the German way originally. The Magic Flute is also a German opera. But I nixed it for various reasons.

* Please tell me if anyone got the reference of the Littlogrow. [Translator's Note: Apparently it's from the Masaru-san manga...? Though there's also the Gulliver Tunnel from Doraemon, and I'm sure there's many more similar things.]

- Mood Songs

Whenever I make a game, I do it while listening to songs that fit my image of the game, so here they are. For a game inspired by a metal song, there's almost no metal! (laughs)

* Enter Sandman (Metallica)
* Going Under (Evanescence)
* Black Horse and The Cherry Tree (KT Tunstall)
* Sick (Lillix)
* I'm gonna SCREAM+ (Tommy heavenly6)
* 2Bfree (Tommy heavenly6)
* Nenaiko Dare da [Don't Wanna Go To Bed?] (Cocco)
* Raining (Cocco)

- Summary

I have but one thought on TSM development. It was really exhausting. Very exhausting.

For one, I'm really bad at having a girl as the lead, and it's set in a strange world which I'm not used to... I was also rather busy with private matters throughout. So the beta version was a paradise of bugs. I'm really sorry for all the trouble to my poor test players.

What I've decided with this game is to never make a game that takes place in a strange world again. An "anything goes" world may produce some great things for those with the imagination for it, but it's really not for me. You can see that through my escape into punnery. (laughs)

But I'm really glad I made TSM! I learned a lot, and I feel I got a bit better at making events. I'll use what I learned to keep going forward.

And for this game, I had the help of vgperson, who always translates my games to English, to do a same-day release of the English version. Foreign fans told me on Twitter they wanted to play my new game ASAP, and I wondered if I couldn't do something about that and contacted her, and she gladly accepted!

I also had others providing a different kind of assistance. I feel they helped to add some spice to TSM. Thank you very much, Choco.lait and Daveosity!

The end felt more like a private message, but those were my thoughts and developmental stories on TSM. It was indeed really long and weirdly written.

Thank you very much for reading it all!

Posted March 2nd, 2014

#the sandman (Source)

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