Gamasutra: Josh Bycer’s Blog-Roguelike Lessons That Horror Games Need to Learn

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Focusing on the horror genre, I began to think about how I would like to approach my fourth book on design. In October, I tried to find current and recent titles that I could really dig into and enjoy, but instead made me think about where the horror game dream concept and genre should go. Today I’ll talk about why horror needs to take notes from roguelikes.

Fear of the unknown

Horror is unknown in any way. The fact that you are walking into a situation where you do not know what will happen. Video game horror has so many iconic moments. The dog jumps out of the window. Resident Evil 1First appearance by Pyramid Head Silent Hill 2 And the moment you realize how many problems you have Outlast To give a few examples.

This is not the same as a game like amnesia A series or other example of using amnesia as a way to keep the player in the dark. The story is organized at some point, like a character’s memory, for a twist or conclusion of the game. The greatest fear is not to have that “Aha!” The moment when everything is understood. You can see some similar aspects of the most iconic horror films (at least in early entries).

The problem with unknowns is that “unknown” only works once. Those moments I mentioned above two paragraphs can only be experienced once by the audience. Then there’s another story beat that you can remember the next time you play.

This is where roguelike designs may appear to significantly improve horror, definite A kind of random.

Random definition

In the next third book, which focuses on roguelike design, we talked about the misconception that all kinds of random elements work in roguelikes. Good roguelike design is about (in some cases) the target format for randomization and procedural generation.

Many problems with jump scare-focused horror games are that randomization tries to scare the player, not play the game.In 5 nights at Freddie’s The entire series, MO, is about jump scare coming to get you. The problem with this kind of randomness is that it doesn’t change the way the game is played. In many cases, the actual playing method is very mechanical and repetitive. Randomization is often easy enough to understand repeatable patterns, even if you don’t have a 100% fixed way of playing.

The best roguelike designers and their games explicitly target certain aspects of the game where random or procedural generation is used for maximum value. It’s not about creating pure chaos, it’s about enough differences in the foundations that can lead to different experiences. There are horror games out there that use procedural generation, but that’s the most basic type. Simply shuffling where players need to go to a fixed or small game space is not the randomness we are looking for.

The concept of my dream is not only the position of the enemy is different for each playthrough, but also the game of what kind of enemy will appear. What’s more, the events that affect the game are randomly selected and players need to adapt to survive. As mentioned earlier, the best roguelike games give players a basic idea of ​​what to expect and then force them to adapt to the changes and circumstances of each run.

Perfect pace

Speaking of “runs”, this is another area where roguelike and horror designs need to be combined. Another problem with horror games besides keeping players in the dark is the length of experience. It is very difficult to maintain horror for a long period of time, and there is a limit to the amount that can be added to extend horror. Throwing more enemies and tasks to fill the time does not help players keep investing in the game. Also, repetitive situations and gameplay loops can be tedious and frightening.

Horror pacing requires a careful balance that is long enough to convey the point, but not too long to be repeated.

Similarly, the longer a horror game or series lasts, the less wonder it is. Before people get bored, they just try to repeat the plot “It’s a weird town where weird things happen” over and over, or explain why it’s all happening.

Pacing is the problem I’ve seen in the last three Resident Evil The title, and the concerns I have with RE 8. Seven felt it was too long for the content there, but 2 and 3 were too short for horror and filled most of the time with combat.

Therefore, roguelike design and pacing are horror-friendly (and there is one example described below). At the beginning of 2020, I talked about my love for the next game World of horror And how it distills the mystery that works in horror at the short pace of roguelikes. A typical game play is less than an hour, but like any roguelike game, what happens during that time is different each time you play. Implementing run focus also helps to add length to the horror game play time without affecting the pace of horror game play.

Micro horror

Another option I’ve seen recently is the idea of ​​a microgame that focuses on the horror element.The· Dread X collection The entire series is a compilation of horror titles by renowned indie developers in the field. Each collection features short-lived titles based on a particular theme, but the design doesn’t matter.

Quality and design are as diverse as possible between games, Dread X collection It represents another path of horror design. The unique game design focuses on bite-sized play. The game is long enough to convey points without exaggerating the welcome or losing the tension to play.

Having them as a compilation also avoids the challenge of selling just one microgame. By putting together the packs, consumers can get more value and are more likely to find one game they really enjoy from the set.

Understand fighting

Finally, let’s look at what I have discussed many times. Horror games need a way to “fight”. One of the main failures of my opinion about modern horror was to remove the mechanic without any support. Many developers, such as the Frictional with the Amnesia series, defend this by saying that combat removes the horror and tension of horror games.

In a way, they’re right, but it’s not that simple.Horror title issues such as Resident Evil, Dead Space, Alan Wake, Another AA / AAA example is that combat becomes a form of padding in the game. You can’t maintain a horror game just by increasing the number of battles. And why doesn’t the idea of ​​a horror game over 8 hours work? Similarly, horror games will not work if interactions are minimized.

If a player can only do one thing while playing (that is, run away), all situations are about it. Instead of thinking on the fly, the game becomes a case of repeating the same thing, another killer of horror. Combat in horror games should not be meaningless, But tactical.. Players should feel that there is a clear give and take in their engagement with the enemy. The important thing is not to make players always want to fight, but to add weight to each experience.

The Dread X Collection’s focus on micro-horror is another option for horror design.

As we discussed, we want horror to adopt a more “internal” combat style when combined with a shorter pace. It’s not about the dangers of fighting 100 enemies, it’s about fighting just one. That’s why we remember alpha antagonists like heterologous forms. Alien Isolation, X Resident Evil 2, And of course, the pyramid head encounters at Silent Hill 2..

An important caveat is that when talking about combat in horror games, that doesn’t necessarily mean “killing.” You can shoot Mr. X as many times as you like and temporarily stop him, but the player cannot kill him until the boss fights. Enemies are active participants and hunt enemies during play, rather than being set to be triggered by the player. Again, all these goals are to make the game run as interesting and different as possible. There should also be a way to interact with non-combat enemies.

There are countless horror games about evasion, but they never give players a way to distract their enemies.

The future of horror

One day recently, I have to sit down and rewrite a design document for a horror idea. I’m surprised that many developers haven’t taken this path yet. With the advent of the next generation of consoles, it’s time to rethink horror design and combine it with the versatility and tension of great roguelike games. You should stop treating horror games as an 8-20 hour experience built on the same jump scare pool and hidden in a locker.

There is a midpoint between passive horror in indie space and action horror in AAA titles. Now we need to build on it.

If you are interested in a book about my design Game Design Deep Dive Platformer,and 20 important games to study I’m out now. Game design deep die roguelike It will be released in early 2021

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