Sunday, October 6, 2013

Useful Tips for Horror Game Designers

A while back Chris Pruett (creator of the exceptional Chris's Survival Horror Quest and presently at perform with some creepy stuff at Robot Invader) and I had some discussion about typical horror / puzzle tropes more than twitter. Now all of these small nuggets, and far more that came up throughout subsequent mail discussions, have been collected into a good weblog post by Chris. If you are ever going to make a survival horror please study this initial. Here comes:

No puzzles about equalizing pressure (or any other sort of dial) by adjusting switches or knobs. Do not include puzzles that involve reconnecting the power, specially to an elevator. No sliding bookshelves with scratch marks on the floor. Stay away from puzzles that involve pressing keys on a piano in a certain order. Do not need the player to collect paintings to reveal a secret image, or examine paintings to decode a right sequence of buttons. No locked doors with an engraved symbol that also appears on the crucial. No critical documents encrypted with stupid-basic substitution ciphers.

As you style, repeat this mantra to oneself: "I will have no keycard doors in my game." No feeding fertilizer or poison to giant plants. Verify your self ahead of adding puzzles about inserting crystals, gems, or figurines into some ornate locking mechanism. Reconsider any puzzle involving a 4-digit number sequence, discovered elsewhere, that opens a lock.

Do not employ sliding block puzzles. Ever. That consists of sliding statues! No!

Deny the urge to take inventory items away from the player with no a legitimate reason. When creating puzzles that demand combining more than two things, you need to allow mixture of arbitrary pairs of things even ahead of the whole set has been collected.

Do not turn terrifying monsters into puzzles unless your objective is to kill all tension.

It really is important to make objectives and mechanics clear, but if you just tell the player what to do and where to go, you've removed the puzzle completely. Let them feel for themselves occasionally. Be specifically vigilant when designing any cumbersome door opening apparatus. Bear in mind, your players will only believe so much!

This got old in 1997.

Not all stories have to be about the protagonist's individual demons. Do not blame every little thing on evil mega-corporations. You do not require a crazy Special Forces unit with an awkward acronym name. Do not contain a sequence in which a kid should crawl through a tiny opening to unlock a door for an adult. No much more helicopters escaping from mushroom-cloud explosions. Eschew underdeveloped sub-plots about drugs.

Keep away from zombies. But if you have to use zombies, for the really like of all that is holy, do not rely on a virus to explain them. Zombie dogs: no.

Not all vengeful ghosts need to have to be females. And curses do not all want to spread like a virus. And the virus doesn't have to kill its victims right after exactly seven days. Also, ghosts do not constantly have to be innocent individuals who died horrible deaths.

It really is not really believable that a higher-security military analysis complicated would have passwords written down on scraps of paper. If your plot twist entails the surprise reveal of a secret, sinister cult, you should possibly cease.

Try to believe of techniques to put your characters in vulnerable scenarios that are not restricted to producing all of your characters petite college girls. Males can be vulnerable as well. Plus, I know some school girls that could wipe the floor with your sorry designer ass.

Levels and Characters
There are other approaches to block a passage off than having the roof collapse. Make a distinction among locked doors that will at some point open and doors that can by no means be opened if you have any of the former, the latter need to be barred, or broken, or otherwise obviously forever inaccessible. Be warned, nonetheless, that "it really is jammed" gets old mighty rapid.

No arbitrarily non-interactive objects either you can interact with all doors or none of them. Make certain that you have a lot more doors that can be opened than can not. Do not block the player with short fences or other obstacles that need to be trivial to bypass.

If a place is supposed to carry emotional weight, do not litter it with ammo boxes and collectibles. Do you want the player to contemplate the horrible living circumstances of a young child or rummage by way of their factors seeking for loot?

Just say "No!" to items that are of fantastic use to the player's difficulties but can not be picked up. No obstacles that could be easily dispatched employing the protagonist's arsenal but rather require some puzzle sequence to overcome. Do not supply a stock of limited supplies unless you make the remaining quantity clear. Do not put hidden collectables in horror games with massive levels, or in games that do not enable you to backtrack. Perhaps just skip the complete hidden collectable thing completely.

We don't require any more tentacle monsters in horror games. Particularly not tentacle monsters with bright, bulbous weak spots. Stay away from close-quarter combat with ghosts that can pass by way of walls. Never throw the player against a source of infinite harm unless you also supply a source of infinite well being and ammo (e.g. infinite enemy spawner).

Tiny recognized truth: not all monsters have an irresistible urge to bare their teeth and scream at the player. Nor do they all hunch over with long, bent arms. Crazy, huh!?

Excepting particular types of zombie, it is almost never ever thrilling to see a monster charge the protagonist. Perhaps you can modify your AI to stalk the player and approach him slowly to seem far more menacing? Caveat: circling the player and sometimes revealing a weak spot is not a excellent alternative.

Ask your self: "how many occasions have I been to the fitness center this year?" You happen to be a game designer, so the answer is probably "none." Do you believe your game's cultists have it any far better? They're too busy summoning an obscure deity to believe about their diety. So why did you make them look like they're all bodybuilders and/or silicon implant models?

And while we're on the subject of appearances, does your monster genuinely need that awkward underwear? I imply, you just had him rip a dude's head off in the last scene I do not feel your audience is going to be phased by a tiny monster nudity. Or heck, just come up with anything else. Tiny bits of torn fabric around the midsection of an otherwise naked beast is a cop-out.

Took forever to discover pants in my size. And now they're torn.

Technical Stuff 
When you have a physique lying on the floor that is significantly a lot more detailed than all of the other bodies on the floor, we all know that it'll come to life and attack us sooner or later. Also, a surprise attack is not extremely surprising if the game all of a sudden begins loading like crazy moments ahead of.

Do not place scary encounters in cutscenes. I know, I know, you want to control the camera and the timing and the sound so every little thing is "just right." But listen, games never perform that way. Take a gamble. Let the player learn the monster by means of gameplay.

Navigating save slots, confirming file overwrites, and waiting for flashy menu animations is quite considerably the worst possible point you can topic a player to. Your sense of presence should extend to the game as a whole, even your UI.

If you have item descriptions, why not make them interesting or valuable? Everyone already knew it was a trashcan prior to they examined it.

It may sound a bit unintuitive, but horror games operate surprisingly well without rocket launchers. And you'd be shocked how fun mystery games can be when they do not have RPG mechanics shoved into them.

Fail in every single other category if you must, but do not fail in this: map and menu screens should not demand a loading pause to display. It is poor adequate that you have to bring these up in the very first spot. Oh, and checking the map each two steps is not enjoyable.

ten seconds of loading to tell us that flashlights are valuable in the dark. 

Stick to these ideas and you will be effectively on your way to generating a horror game that is fresh and original! Right after which you can make endless sequels!

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