A few notes on fangames.

Players play Yume Nikki-likes for a multitude of reasons.  The two big ones are atmosphere (how the game conveys a mood through sound, visuals, & gameplay) and exploration (the joy of finding things), but there are several other factors that determine whether or not a player will enjoy a game as well.  

Your fangame doesn’t have to have all of these in them, so don’t worry if your game isn’t the scariest or full of collectables.  As long as the focus is on exploring strange worlds & the game mechanics contribute to exploring the game, your fangame will appeal to someone out there.

Fangames that fail to capture the heart of players fail usually because of the following:


You don’t build a house without a blueprint, and you don’t make a game without a bit of a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a super detailed one, but it should be something, even if it’s a list of worlds & effects.  Here’s a few examples on how to plan out your game.

Here’s a big question to think about when starting your game: what is your game’s central theme(s)?  Even if your game has no plot, it can be easier to think up a world and vaguely tie it together with others by giving your game a theme.  Here are some from other dreams:

Not all fangames have a theme or have to have one (see: Yume 2kki), so don’t feel pressured if you can’t think of any.  There’s an audience for people who just enjoy exploring weird worlds with no connection, so it’s ok to wind it as well.

However, For those of you wanting to make a more plot heavy game, you need to lay out your plot before you put it down.  Whether it’s a timeline of events that happened in the real world then a list of events in the dreamworld, or writing an outline of how every time a player picks up an effect something in the real world happens, you need to write what the hell is going on down.  When you make a non-linear story, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on, even as the writer.  Writing an outline of everything down helps you keep track of what’s happening, and can help you assess if something is missing or doesn’t make sense when you read it over again.  

As with other types of outlines, you don’t have to stick with it all the way - you can always change things later.  Just have at least one to know where you’re going.


As stated before, Yume Nikki fangames are derivative by nature, so your fangame won’t be completely original no matter what.  Heck, no one piece of media is original, as all media builds on itself.  For example, the history of first person shooters is built upon copy-cating a base game (Doom, Half Life, Resident Evil 4, Call of Duty) then introducing elements from other games and media (RPG elements, platforming, cheesy action movies, military documentaries and fiction, horror game survival tropes), with a bit or a lot of experimenting with mechanics.  

If you’re younger or this is one of your first projects, originality is harder to do.  You may or may not have a large pool of ideas to draw from depending on how many life experiences you’ve had, how much media you’ve consumed, how much you’ve played around with making your own ideas & worlds (creativity can be practiced), and how many games (fangames or not) you’ve played.  Creativity is also driven by how you think, and that’s something that I can’t teach you, just encourage you to practice.  However, I can offer some suggestions on how to stand out a bit more.

Here’s a question: what does a desert look like?  Answer: like any of the deserts below.

From country to county and climate to climate, there are tons of different rocks, textures, types of sand, flora, fauna, and colors to choose from.  Referring to real life pictures for any location inspired by the real world helps, even if it’s looking at home decor stuff for your protagonist’s room.  From there, you can add more fantastical elements like odd desert creatures, weird shapes, out of place elements (giant cakes in a desert - a desert with desserts!), and so on.  Even looking up pictures of certain objects (say teacups and dolls for a tea party world) can help out a lot, as there’s tons of variety out there.

        What if you want to make a more fantastical world?  Easy: look up “surreal art”, “dream illustrations”, “fantasy concept art”, “sci-fi creatures”, etc..  Don’t copy the artwork in question, just look around and see if you can find a good jumping off point for your own worlds and creatures.

Combining locations can also conjure up some fun results: what would a desert puddle world look like?  A desert block world?  A desert school?  The possibilities are endless.

        Another good place to get inspiration from is, well, dreams.  Yume Nikki is about exploring dreams, right?  Whether it’s your dreams (try keeping a dream journal where you quickly jot down elements of your dreams next to your bed, physical or digital like your phone) or other people’s dreams (there’s a lot of blogs & sites where people catalog their dreams), dreams are basically some of the best places to get inspiration from.

What if your fangame isn’t about your dreams or is more story driven?  That’s alright: you can still take down elements of your dreams and apply them to your protagonist’s dreams.   Say you have a dream of being chased by someone - how could you interpret that into an event?  Maybe your protagonist is running away from their past, so they end up running away from strange, warped copies of themselves (I know it’s kinda cliche but this is a jumping off point, not a “do this exactly”)?  Or maybe the protagonist is scared of something like dogs, so they get chased by a bunch of hellhounds.  Heck, maybe it’s your protagonist chasing after someone else instead, whether it’s someone they want to get answers from or a lost love or what have you.


Variety is king.  Here are some things to think about when making your maps:

And now it’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite map type, looping maps with a parallax background.  Yes, it’s ok to have them.  No one should stop you from putting them in your game, especially if they work with your vision.   Conversely, it’s ok to have no looping maps at all if it doesn’t fit your vision either!  

        Looping maps are best used when they’re used for effect and not because they just have to be there to be a fangame.