Writing About a Game that Doesn’t Exist

Part 1: Goals, Rules, Obstacles

Hello!

So through this blog series I’m going to be describing my thought process while creating a new video game.

I want to make this blog quick, so today we’ll just go over a few simple things:

Goals

What do I want in this game? Well here are a few things I want to accomplish:

Make a scary game.

No, I don’t want it to be a game that involves cheap jump scares, or there’s something chasing after you like in most games. Games that come to mind are Slenderman and Five Nights at Freddy’s. While they’re both widely known and popular games, the emotion I’m trying to capture is something more sinister. When playing my game, I want players to feel uneasiness, like going down into the dark basement, or the feeling of being followed. While jump scares have a quick moment of fear, I want to create something that ebbs and flows in intensity throughout. The feelings one experiences while watching the movie Hereditary is something I want to capture in the game. Hereditary uses the sly tactic of letting the viewer find the horror for themselves. Instead of having a jump scare that involves a quick flash of disturbing images and a musical sting, people are seen hiding in the shadows, waiting for the viewer to notice them. I find this kind of fear more gripping as it gives uncertainty to what’s about to happen.

Make an interesting game.

Sadly enough, there are not a lot of scary games out there that are interesting. Well, hold on a second, what do I define interesting as? What interests you may not interest me, so I guess this goal is a little more subjective. By interesting, I mean keeping the player engaged the entire time. There are a lot of games that become too repetitive, whether it’s the same kind of action that a player must do, or the game doesn’t move past the one core scare tactic. There are some games like the ones that I mentioned earlier that thrive on this, but to me, once something is repeated, the player is less afraid the second time. This lack of fear ultimately comes from expecting what will happen, almost like the player is becomes numb to the fear. With this game I hope to make it compelling at every turn and only use repetition as a way to make a player feel calm.

Rules

By rules, I don’t mean the rules of the game itself, but the limitations that I want the game to have. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Igor Stravinsky when he says: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.” I want a game that is focused on achieving the goals I have stated, with a fully fleshed-out and realized story. With that in mind, let me list some rules I want the game to have.

Be first person.

Simple and puts the player in the hot seat.

Be black and white.

In trying to keep this game as simple as possible, I think having it black and white (and maybe an accent color) will help in the visual clarity. There’s also another reason for making it black and white, but I’ll explain in the next point.

Be pixelated.

Ok, why pixelated? Well besides the point that I’m not a great artist (though I might hire someone outside to help), I think pixelated art is probably the best way to go. Another thing to add is that in pixel art games, our mind fills in the details that are missing. A great little indie game called Faith (in two parts) was a very effective horror game, besides being a simple 2D pixelated game. Because it was all pixel art, the player was left in fear by not knowing exactly what kind of creature they were looking at.

Be 3D.

The real kind of perspective and look that I want in this game is something like Doom 64, where items in the world look 2D while the player moves in a 3D space. I think having both the black and white color scheme and the pixelated art style will benefit from this kind of perspective.

Be a multi-branching story.

Having recently been playing the Outer Worlds and working on a different narrative story, I think for this game I’d like to have multiple endings and choices that can be made. The kinds of choices that a player can make, however, will be a mix of both on-screen prompts (press X to speak, etc.), and in-game choices that the player may not realize has multiple options. A reason to have this branching story is for one; replay-ability is present, but also two: they may get a different ending than someone else. Due to the abundance of streamers showing off games, having a game with multiple endings can help bring in players to play the game, rather than them stay as viewers because the watched the whole run through.

The #1 rule: Nothing repeats.

This goes off of the goal of wanting to keep the game interesting. I don’t want a scary monster to come at the player, kill them, then they have to restart the level over again. To keep the game interesting, I’m thinking of adding certain kinds of puzzles, or even mini games within the game. Since I always want to keep the game at a certain pace, the game may continue even if the player doesn’t complete a puzzle. This design choice may leave the player feeling like whatever they do doesn’t matter, but by having negative repercussions the player can be encouraged to try their best.

Obstacles

At the end of the day, this project is merely a side project, floating in the sea of other side projects that I have.  My main job, being a full-time musician, comes first. Then school work. Then finishing the card game I’m working on. Then finishing a point-and-click puzzle game I’m almost done with. Then finishing-okay you get the point. Lots of projects, lots of ideas, lots of things to do. Of course, I always follow my one rule, even though it’s terrible, There’s always time for everything. Of course, this may not be true, but it keeps me from making excuses as to why I can’t do something. It also keeps me productive and on track with all the things I have to do. Besides being a total workaholic, there’s specific things that I have to figure out to make the game.

Story and Setting

Who is the player playing as? Where are they? What are they suppose to be doing? These questions and more need to be answered to develop a story. Good thing I have my friend Kerik helping me flesh it all out.

Unity3D

I’ve worked with Unity many times, and I am currently working on two other games that use the engine, but I’ve never made a 3D game, so I’m going to have to peruse YouTube and StackExchange for some how-to’s and helpful tips.

Art

If there’s one thing I’m bad at (trust me, there’s more) it’s art. I’m pretty bad at it. Just assume that most art you see from me, I probably traced it off of something in Photoshop (except for my logo, that’s all me). With that being said, I’ll either have to hone my skills in the sprite editor Aseprite, or ask a possible friend to help me out.

Conclusion

Well thanks for reading my first blog! Don’t worry, I’ll start getting into the game’s juicy details in the future, but for now, have a great day!

Author: Jordan

Hello! I'm a developer, designer, composer, and musician. I also love popcorn and peanut butter M&M's. While I'm always busy working on some kind of project, never hesitate to reach out and say hi! I'll see you on the inter-webs!