To be Decided
A small, open world similar to the size of ‘State of Decay’ (Figure 1). The game will be a first person, sci-fi, survival horror.
The player must progress through a linear story with only the aid of the player character’s voice and thoughts. The player does not have an understanding of the environmental location, so must explore in order to become more familiar with it and eventualy escape. There are two semi open world areas. The residential area, where the all the residents sleep and the town, where people spend the day.
There are multiple ways to achieve the same objective. For example if the player wishes to find a map they may find it in locations such as a hunting store, train station, or newsagent shop. This is not garanteed, so it is up to the player to keep exploring until they find what they need.
The player takes the role of 45 year old Murdoch and has early early altzehimers. You have awoken in a place you don’t recognize without memory of arriving. The story revolves around Murdoch who has been abducted by aliens and put in an enclosure made by the beings- along with other humans like himself. The aliens are attempting to create a slave race which is apparent from many hints dropped that the player can observe throughout the game such as groups of people moving in unisom or coordinating tasks at the same time without communicating. For reference, the hint dropping with Inside’s husks (Figure 2 and 3) is a good example.
The player character is at a physical disadvantage being older, so they cannot fight back and therefore the game levels should revolve around patience, strategy and escape to avoid danger and make it hard to rush through the game. Having the player stay helplessly trapped and focused on opening opportunities as well as during their uncomfortable scenario helps with the horror aspect.
Murdoch must find a way to surive so he can get back home to his wife, Harriet.
The mechanics consist of those similar to ‘Outlast’, which include the waiting and hiding stealth constraints due to lack of equipment to fight back. The player will be able to stay undetected and inconspicuous by not raising awarness of themselves. The player can leave, hide or blend in by perfoming actions similar to those of NPCs.
Mainly, the foci of the game is to provide interesting scenarios centred around this alien habitat with emphasis on invasive cognitive control without being blatantly obvious by having UFOs or aliens- it’s just heavily implied e.g. whirring sounds or silhouettes of figures in the rain (Figure 4). It should also promote exploration of the disturbing and chilling atmosphere of a small, secluded environment,
along with its irrational community unknowingly experimented on by the aliens as the game is about providing an experience of the game world. There should also be an emphasis on subtleties that only the player can pick up on such as the understanding that the place they are in is inconsistent with the region in the world they are in- done through having bits in the environment derived from Warminster and Roswell. And most importantly, the gameplay situations should emphasis on producing anxiety and powerlessness to be contextual with the horror theme, otherwise there is a risk of cognitive dissonance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMi1xluha1U : 22:40 – 24:45
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMi1xluha1U : 19:53 – 20:10
The game starts with Murdoch waking up without memory of the place he is in, no phone signal and blood having ran from his facial orifaces, coating the bed. You try to leave to return to your wife. Survival to get back home motivates the character throughout the game.
The player character starts off confused at the strangeness of everything, but over time the player gathers information and begins to learn about and understand the place they are in, its dangers and purpose of control.
You find this place isn’t safe after witnessing a mob apprehend another conscious person with blood running out their facial orifices and talking to an unseen presence. You have the urge to hold him down too… The person is lifted into the sky.
You begin planning to survive the journey to leave and find help. You eventually find that this place becomes more uninhabitable the further travelled from it, preventing you from leaving.
Realising that the people are valuable you theorise the habitat would cease to be uninhabitable if people needed to be collected from beyond where they were mean to be if they were experiments at risk. You test this by restraining and kidnapping subjects. It works and you take the opportunity as people get recollected when it’s safe to investigate.
You find the end and there is nothing, you’re out in space. The game ends with you losing all hope and falling into dispair having found out the entire place is an encolsure for humans to be forced into residance. There is no way out for anyone because you are no longer on Earth and therefore decide on mercy killing eveyone so that the aliens can no longer experiment on them. You write a letter to your wife on your phone telling her you
love her, goodbye and send it. The last thing the player does is wait and the aliens eventually turn up for them and the game ends.
Set in a reconstructed world replicated by the aliens to disjointedly mimic Roswell, New Mexico in the United States and Warminster, Wiltshire in the United Kingdom overlapping in the same location. This is where all environmental ideas should be derived from.
The world looks accommodating and normal, but paying closer attention when considering frequent small details at the same time, such as there being distinct area differentiations should raise intrigue, lack of trust and suspicion.
Someone from either of the countries, or areas will be able to tell the more subtle differences such as the architecture of the homes as irregular, the layout of the street as inconsistent or inaccurate, or how certain street signs look uncommon, the mail being different, traffic lights, magazines, fire hydrants. Etc.
There are also more obvious characteristics made to be understood by a general player with a little bit of world knowledge that is not familiar with these locations. There are references to the Royal Mail’s delivery service (Not its subsidiary groups, Parcel Force Worldwide, or General Logistics Systems) which is used only in the UK and can be found on vehicles, and by also having United States Postal Service vans it causes confusion. A hospital can also be found with the NHS’s graphic, again a service only available to the UK to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (Called Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland). The dollar and pound currencies can be picked up on and contradictory information like welcome signs to two different places will help give a better idea for those who don’t know a lot about these places. There can also be political information such as a Brexit poster, but also Republican, Democrat and Liberal election voting signs for the US and other helpful items such as badges from both places would help to create the misunderstanding.
It’s important to take note that when designing the environment to use region flags very sparingly, if at all. The player is supposed to figure it out for themselves and should only be shown enough for the idea to take form and develop in their thoughts. Having obvious flags as the first thing the player sees, or recognizable landmarks spoils the mystery.
As a horror experience a further few abnormalities will be scattered around telling an environmental story to make what we know of the world more uncertain about. The story never explicitly says that it’s aliens doing this, it is only ever implied so the player has to figure it out themselves and not be able to say for sure what it is. The idea of the unknown and that something can or is about to happen will make it more uncomfortable.
It is important not to deviate further from Roswell and Warminster than is necessary for the sake of authenticity because these are sights with alleged alien activity. But mainly and more importantly the UK location has been purposefully picked, this is where the people who will be developing this game over the next few months will have been living. A place with which they are familiar, this is relevant because research shows that places people are familiar with personally such as a home or hallway are far more likely to be frightening than setting a narrative in space, underground, or an isolated research facility regardless of how trapped. They are all good locations for horror as they are remote and removed from society, but they aren’t useful here as they’re not embodying of the uncanny like home. Creating the feeling that something is off by making it uncanny makes people feel unsafe as they know what belongs where and how. This should not stretch so far as to become fantasy, it is only meant to only be wrong to the extent of not quite right. A person will not be as scared if by leaving the game they know the danger is left behind with it being so far from anything that can exist, but if the world created is similar or the same as their own that’s what makes it scary- the idea that the
game could and might extend into their world and make them feel uncertain and question it – This is according to an Extra Credits video titled ‘Horror That Lingers – How the Uncanny Instils Fear – Extra Credits’.
The environment is only seemingly well-kept in the beginning so it isn’t immediately clear that the player should be uneasy within it, this is so that the player’s trust can be broken later and so not want to be in it. Therefore, it needs a history- something to make it apparent so the player knows it isn’t safe. The game should already have a story written into the environment from the beginning, it shouldn’t feel like it just formed when the player starts, and this is to create the idea that the place has been around for an unknown amount of time to make it uncertain how long experiments have been happening to people and how long you will remain there. For example, this could be things such as a Warminster neighbourhood watch sign with a strange (alien) figure etched into the background behind the characters to suggest there is something more and unclear someone has tried to leave a warning message behind. Additional scratches and carvings may be found of disk shapes to clearly imply aliens. A pedestrian sign with a speed bump sign placed above it in an unusual location to look as if a person is being taken by a UFO. Grounds spattered and stained with blood from where animal carcasses are dropped out of the sky providing feeding grounds for humans. Crop circles can be found. Strange whirring and hums can be heard. Lights changing, flickering and going out. Blood coated fridges and freezers – where animal carcasses are kept.
Everything is an impersonating of what it looks to be, it’s all made from the same material and provides no functionality. The unchanging light in the sky, a seemingly filtered air, the way lights can suddenly change is deliberate and alarming. Any essentials for living that do work aren’t clearly being powered by anything. The oven, stove, microwaves, radiators, lights, showers- they just stay on.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (Figure 1) is likely what the game will look similar to in the end, enviromentally speaking.
The player character, Murdoch has early Alzheimer’s which is why he can’t be taken over by the aliens for very long as recent memories and changes are easily forgotten. Murdoch is non-descript because the player is meant to experience the environment, so Murdoch doesn’t do and shouldn’t do too much talking to make it easier for the player to find this to be a more personal experience. The player character acknowledges and comments on what happens, but he shouldn’t care for trying to figure out the mystery. They only want to get back to their wife.
Harriet, the wife exists only as the thought to further the narrative for Murdoch and get the player to have more of a purpose than just senselessly surviving. She gives surviving, escaping and doing everything between the beginning and end of the game context (and maybe meaning) for the player.
The character’s name is Murdoch because it means ‘sea protector’ and everyone’s trapped in a dessert. Because of this I had intended on him living up to live up to this meaning and save those who don’t belong there by mercy killing everyone who is too far from the sea- that being the Earth at the end of the game.
Human NPCs are people who all act in inexplicably ways due to the alien’s experiments to force them into obedience. Their odd behaviour is attributed to Alzheimer’s disease as the aliens write over important memories, replacing them and causing them to disappear. For references to these behaviours the NHS and my sketchbook will include them. They don’t perceive anything until called upon by the aliens, or the player catches their attention. The resident’s purpose is to show the player the consequences of being taken over.
The aliens are the beings that created this environment to keep people alive, study, experiment to further of plan to create a slave race.
The game’s 3D modeling is high in detail and the textures are realistic to go with the uncanny valley theme to help disturb the player by looking even more like the place they could recognise. Similar to Metro: Exodus (Figure 1) or The Order: 1886 (Figure 2).
The visual style should have a slight fish eye effect (Figure 1) from the character’s perspective. This is so the game’s atmosphere is better captured by making the visuals seem more unnatural. It is also to disorientate the player to make it feel strange to play- it’s a sort of way to have the player also affected by the alien experiments.
The map requires the player to come to understand the abstracted information and the language it displays. No more different than the standard tags: Main Objective, Lives, Inventory, etc. The UI information is shown in symbols based off of crop circle formations that are learnt over time as they continue to come up during similar scenarios.
The map’s bottom half is obscured off screen (in the player character’s peripheral) on the bottom right so that if the player wants to know if there are aliens behind them they are forced to make themselves vulnerable from the back and turn around. This will make gameplay and general feelings of anxiety better with the increased tension from the map that the player is dependent on to navigate safely not be completely efficient and easily relied up on.
In the playing area there are two areas that can be moved between, the residential area and town. These are enclosed and restrict the player inside their boundaries. Both are small open world environments. Outside of this is just dessert as far as the eye can see. Even though it’s an open world it’s impotent like Resident Evil 7 or
Outlast that the player is still claustrophobic, has restricting playing area to put them at a difficult disadvantage and make them feel disempowered.
NPCs humans have set routines. This is so the player can coordinate their own paths and take advantage of opportunities in changes.
NPCs humans have a field of view of 160 degrees.
The alien’s routine is to randomly search everything continuously within a certain area.
To keep up the idea that this is a living world predefined events are triggered every so often through exploration. Light can fly overhead, the sky can suddenly change time, the materials on a house could malfunction causing sections of it to explode, parts of the environment can be tractor beamed away, a new environment piece can form in plain view, materialisation could happen at the wrong coordinates causing houses to fall from the sky crushing other homes and people- same with people when dropped from great heights, people could be misplaced in the environment and be fazed through solid objects, or have objects fazed into them, another older person could be seen in the distance running to suggest you aren’t the only one, or someone could suddenly become conscious and start screaming for help for example.
During the game there will be notable clusters of people being experimented on in passing. These groups are different from the NPC humans with routines, they will be performing certain actions that the player may or may not be able to able to replicate. If the player can mimic the tasks of the cluster they maybe be able to use the opportunity to go in the same direction. If they cannot mimic them then the play could make use of the bodies to hide behind.
To avoid the player becoming desensitised to being caught, failing, and just being reset to where they came from, instead failure is to be contextual, influential on gameplay, and has negative impacts. Specifically, the player has five chances to make mistakes. Each mistake has more significant repercussions than the last.
Failure works as follows:
1st failure – When there is a command that happens in the world, the player momentarily loses control of their keyboard and mouse, or controller and follows the command.
2nd failure – The first failure’s effects still apply. Additionally the player will start randomly blacking out and have lapses in their memory causing them to wake up in a different place.
3rd failure – The first and second failure’s effects still apply. The fish eye effect worsens when in danger. The player loses memory of important objectives, leaving only what is most significant to provide them with a purpose.
4th failure – The first, second and third failure’s effects still apply. The ability to look at the HUD now can only be sustained for a short amount of time before failing and needing to be reactivated.
5th failure – The first, second, third and fourth failure’s effects still apply. The player loses all important memories and has no purpose for surviving other than to live. The player character’s brain can no longer take further probing at this point- another failure will result in death and the player loses all their progress.
All failure causes higher chances of further failure to occur. This should make it so the player has a reason not to take failure lightly. Due to the severity of this system it would be too aggravating for the player to potentially lose hours of play time and have to start over. This means the game has to be short so the player doesn’t mind starting over if they do lose.
NPCs have set routines and are aware of what path is going to be taken by each other. Being within the field of view of an NPC and either deviating from what they’re doing themselves, taking a direction no NPCs are taking a path to, or no other NPC is, will attract their attention. If this behaviour continues from the player some NPCs will break routine, follow and watch for further deviant activity. When NPCs are finally convinced they will attempt to take the player to the nearest alien.
Losing the attention of NPCs is done by the player quickly taking a path another NPC had been taking or is taking. This means in some circumstances the player will have to remember what the paths NPCs were taking to be able to copy them. If the player takes too long to do this NPCs will be after them.
If NPCs are attempting to apprehend the player the player may attempt to escape. If apprehension is underway an alien is automatically sent and will be permanently added to the world in that location. If the player wanders into an alien they are reprogrammed and the failure system is furthered. The additional alien will also become aware of you if you’ve got everyone’s attention and will slowly move towards you.
The player has a very limited running duration due to the age of the player character. The player must take short breaks in order to keep using this ability. This mechanic should not become a tool to rush past obstacles and outpace NPCs for long periods of time, it is a strategic tool and the level design should take into account that this mechanic can be abused if not catered around.
Certain floors absorb more sound than others and so can be made more noise on changing how fast you player can move on them.
Noises greater than those produced by the character make theirs go unnoticed, as long as the player’s noise happens at the same time. The player can use these opportunities to quickly traverse.
The player can break out of NPC hold by mashing buttons/keys. The more NPCs holding the player, the longer it takes to struggle out of their grasp. Three NPCs or less is the limit before the player can no longer free themselves and is taken to the nearest alien – this ties into the failure features. Due to the way NPCs can be moved from where they are by getting their attention there should not be a set amount of mashing that needs to be done to escape, it should be random so that the player cannot manipulate and relocate NPCs.
Notoriety can be avoided by leaving and returning later, or finding enough activities in the environment when under suspicion such as picking up and reading a magazine, taking a seat, waiting at a reception desk (Intuitive behaviour for the place the player is in). Capturing can be avoided by escaping, then going back later.
The environment can also be used to stay hidden within. Under a bed, in a locker, cupboards, etc.
Some select environmental pieces like furniture can be interacted with and moved. At some points the level interactables or level design should be used to organize, navigate the area. Environmental pieces can also be moved in front of doors to block them.
NPCs remember the way the environment was last, so if something has moved, or a door has been left open it will get investigated if seen. This can cause the player to get followed, but can also be used to change NPC movement, making them face away and go the wrong way.
The HUD is embedded into the player character’s vision as part of the experimentation to help humans locate specific areas and to give them commands. The map and rest of the HUD elements take effort for the player character to concentrate on them. This information can only be seen when holding down commands and takes a few seconds to get in focus. When in focus the player cannot move and the rest of the environmental visuals become blurred. The HUD elements malfunction making it harder to understand them. The HUD shows how
many resets opportunities the player has gone through, layouts, tags on the map for places of interest, the player’s current inconspicuous to notoriety level and displays all NPC movement – This including the alien’s location and movement.
The player can keep on them one item to carry around. Alien movement is audible, but not visible in the environment without specific requirements. Aliens can be seen by spreading water on the floor with a water bottle item to see footsteps, or placing a bag with fine grain over a door, spreading it or throwing if found to land on one whatever walks through to coat it. Circumstances where this is an option are rare because items are extremely few. At times this needs to be used to know where the aliens are when there are too many for the HUD’s speed to be reliable. This also offers some relief if the failure feature has become too advanced. These items can also be thrown to make noise and lure NPCs elsewhere.
There’s a button to interact with the player character’s important memories and re-watch them. This is the contextual reason for the escape objective.
There is a button dedicated to hearing the thought of the player character’s ‘Current Objective’ as there is no man made text.