Moikle's Scary4Digits 2014 Brainstorming

Posted by Moikle on Sept. 17, 2014, 1:49 p.m.

So I got the themes: Possession, Illusion and Macabre.

I have decided to try and avoid making a pretentious story using these themes, because that seems to be a common result of game competition entries. This means I will be using the mechanics and art of the game to convey the themes.

The themes I got didn't really mesh very well with my pre-theme-reveal brainstorm ideas so I needed to get thinking. (which in my case usually means getting a large coffee, grabbing my notebook, putting a pencil in my mouth and rapidly pacing up and down my kitchen while mumbling to myself and gesturing wildly.)

So the themes of Possession and illusion strongly suggest to me that my game must be based around some ghost/entity creating illusions and possessing people and objects. this is open to a few different paths:

The player could BE that entity, possessing people and objects to achieve some goal.

The player could be HUNTING that entity, trying to purge an area of it by tracking it down while the entity tries to evade/kill the player through possessions and illusions.

The player could be helplessly running AWAY from the entity as it hunts him/her down (think amnesia/containment breach/slender/outlast etc.)

I prefer the first two options, as running away seems overused at the moment, and is pretty hard to get the gameplay to be actually fun.

The theme of macabre seems more tied to the art style/mood of the game rather than any mechanics, although I should probably consider it when creating the mechanics in order to make it feel correct. Macabre has connotations of death/darkness/general creepiness, rather than outright scariness. Further suggesting against the running-away-from-the-monster idea.

Now as for the format of the game itself:

I originally wanted to create some kind of arena hack and slash game where you fight off waves of ghosts that have interesting abilities, but the themes I got lend themselves much better to some kind of exploration/puzzle adventure. Which to me suggests a top down, isometric or side scrolling platformer game. Isometric strikes my fancy the most out of those but it may be more difficult to program well, and require more art. I do love the look of isometric games.

Illusion could be an interesting mechanic. Ideas I have come up with involve using objects which aren't actually there, or are invisible. enemies or objects that cast shadows but cannot be seen when not in direct light (I could use that lantern character I sketched in preparation for the contest as the main character with a small light source centred on the player that can be upgraded to show enemies who get too close, and placeable light sources to reveal enemies at a distance.) The player might be able to create illusions to achieve some goal, such as scaring away invaders or luring them into traps, perhaps leading into some dungeon keeper-esque game where you must protect your mansion from heroes/adventurers as a ghost. mind control could also be a good idea for this, making enemies attack each other for example. this would also work well with possession.

the other idea I have come up with is to make the player into a ghost hunter, trying to exorcise a mansion/dungeon, which contains invisible ghosts. it would consist of multiple rooms, which could possibly be procedurally generated from templates if time allows. I see a lot of promise for this idea as an isometric game, but haven't actually sussed any gameplay mechanics for it yet. the player could even GET possessed and wake up somewhere else.

it seems I have a lot more thinking to do before I am actually ready to make this game, but at least I am having some decent spots of optimism amongst the usual "ugh this will never work, just give up" that I usually get with competitions and projects. if you look at my post history on this competition's blogs, you will see that my enthusiasm about this project keeps alternating between "OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO MAKE THE BEST THING EVER AND I AM GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN MAKING IT" and "ugh, what's the point, its going to suck and I am never going to finish anything worthwhile".

Anyway, I'll see you in the competition.


Yaru 9 years, 8 months ago

Macabre is pretty easy, though.

Fun idea: you've heard about the "Festiva della muertes" (I think that's what it's called) in Mexico? Basically, their Halloween is expanded to a festival of the dead. Think the Rio carneval except everything are skeletons. A carneval sounds like a good way to convey "illusion".

You could do a game where you can possess various things (people, corpses, inanimate objects) in order to get past illusions, in a macabre setting.

Also, a fun thing if you can pull it off would be a Lens Of Truth effect that reveals illusions. My way to create the effect in Game Maker would be:

- Create a surface

- Draw all illusion sprites to this. (Do not draw them normally in the room while this effect is on)

- Draw a circle using subtractive blend mode in the middle of the surface

- Draw the surface

So basically the nega-blend mode erases paint, but only from the illusion sprites. Which means the illusions will be erased when in the lens of truth AoE. Nice, huh?

To limit the use of the LoT you might want to include a rare MP resource (or maybe even never be able to restore your MP, so you might run out *forever* if you use it all the time) or make it something like a match (like in Alone In The Dark, which gave you 3 matches instead of a flashlight. Now that was a lot scarier than most games of the time - limited uses, limited time, limited range), you only get 3 magic matches for your entire quest so you'd better only use them when absolutely stuck.

Moikle 9 years, 8 months ago

yeah, I have used surfaces quite a bit in the past, they were one of my first thoughts when I read "Illusions" as my theme