Removing enemies?

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matt
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Removing enemies?

Postby matt » Sat Sep 06, 2014 3:42 pm

I had Chris Pruett and Thomas Grip (both horror experts) play the early levels of the game, and they both felt like I overused the baby monster in Lost Child (and Thomas played a bit further and felt maybe we did the same with the inmate).

I would agree neither level is our strongest. I approached the enemy design from a more mechanical perspective than a "scary" perspective, which was a mistake. However, given the small amount of time left, I'm not sure the best way to address it. If I remove enemies, I'm not sure the exploration sections of either level is interesting enough to make up for them missing.

Potentially, I'd have to remove exploratory sections of the game to keep the pace moving, but we are already a little lighter on content that I'd like, so I'm not sure cutting stuff is the right decision.

What do you guys think? Did the baby monsters and inmates lose their bite? The inmate is interesting because I think it is more of a game-y/puzzle-y enemy, so we can use it in a lot of interesting situations, but I'm not sure they are scary.

I think for the next game, I'm going to try to use enemies as almost one off interactive events rather than copy and paste the behavior. (That is really challenging from a content creation standpoint, which is why we didn't do that on this game. Hopefully, we'll have the time/budget to do it next time)

Thanks for your feedback!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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miumiaou
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby miumiaou » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:06 pm

hum difficult question... I think they has lost it but I played the game so many time I'm not objective anymore when I talk about that.
I think that instead of just removing them another interesting thing to do with the baby monsters will be to make their appearance be totally random (that is of course if you still have any time left to do that)

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby RightClickSaveAs » Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:41 am

Oh cool, did you get to talk to Thomas Grip and Chris Pruett at PAX?

I agree that you could lose at least one baby monster, maybe one of them before you fall down the hole into the worst part of the Lost Child nightmare, as that part before the fall seems to stretch on the longest. As for what to put there instead, what about audio cues to make you think there's a monster around? Leave everything else the same, and maybe do some of the positional audio like in The Coming Storm. I don't know if that would be overusing that effect though, since you've already seen the baby monsters at this point it might not be so effective.

I thought the inmates' behaviors were varied enough that I didn't have a big problem with it personally. I do think that in both levels, once you see the monster once or twice, the rest of the level becomes about just the mechanics of getting past them, and they're not necessarily that scary anymore. That's helped a lot by changing it up and having two baby monsters at the end of Lost Child, and making the inmates a little more randomized and having to figure out how to lure the one away with the glass.

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby matt » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:49 pm

Creating random encounters with the enemies would be a lot of work to get working really well, so I don't think it's feasible given the time we have left.

Neither Chris nor Thomas were at PAX, but I email them from time to time. The baby monster before you fall down is the chase sequence. I try not to reuse scares, so I don't think I'd want to do the positional audio trick again... Are you suggesting cutting the second one? There are only 5 baby monsters in the level, so none seem super obvious to cut. I think Chris was suggesting the set up at the end with the two baby monsters wasn't that great, but it sounds like that's your favorite. haha

I wonder if I've kind of designed myself into a corner since they are like standard action enemies, and once you understand them, they lose their scariness, but I don't really have anything to replace them with.

I think for the next game, I want to do enemies that are less mechanics focused, but that requires a lot more animation, which will require creating better animation tools, so we have a lot of work ahead of us assuming the first game is successful.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby ElTipejoLoco » Mon Sep 08, 2014 5:28 pm

I think that over the course of replaying games all monsters tend to lose their scariness, regardless of what their design was. It gets worse in games that actually let you fight back, which is (thankfully?) not the case for Neverending Nightmares. Heck, even Clock Tower's "panic mode" button-mashing gameplay let the unarmed main character survive pretty ridiculous things, provided the character was not fatigued and the player knew which button was the right button to mash.

I'm actually a little worried about something though: I have no idea up until which point Pruett and Grip stopped playing, but if the player isn't 'desensitized' to the monsters' frequency, a couple of things in-game lose their surprise. Mainly, the sections where a baby monster rushes through a long hall, or the mandatory inmate death. These would feel a lot less scary the first time if you didn't spend some time thinking "I get how to beat these now," because both events subvert that expectation (the former takes away the hiding places a player might have associated with the babies, the latter merely hits the brakes on what a player might believe to be a successful escape). If the expectation isn't built up in a player's mind these events would lose their impact once subverted, right? So there needs to be a sample size that's larger than 1 for an expectation to build up, which might lead people to feel that there's overused assets.

I'm wondering if maybe the baby monsters and inmates felt overused because they don't really have different appearances from one another. Maybe a little visual variety is all that they really need? Horror games have tended to be pretty inventive about how they get the same enemy type appear to be different to the end user- a palette swap here, a different behavior there, a suit or a dress where there used to be a shirt, and maybe some of them fall from the ceiling for no real good reason. But once taken apart, you see that they're the same enemies with very little mechanical difference, maybe one byte's a 1 instead of a 0 that tells it to make a different noise.

Maybe just make some inmates retain their ears or strings sticking out of their sewn facial features, and give some of the babies something to tell them apart from one another, like a bloody bib or a pacifier on a string? That might be just enough to fool the average player into feeling that there's sufficient variety despite there being no increase in enemy types.

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby matt » Mon Sep 08, 2014 6:37 pm

Chris played through "Lost Child" and Thomas was on "Insanity", so they didn't really get to what I consider the better parts of the game. I think the last level we did "Wayward Dreamer" is the best level in the game. (My second favorite it "Together at Last".)

I was hoping to do texture swaps on the inmate and the baby monster to create some variety, but I don't think we'll have time. :(

I think perhaps the enemies COULD be scarier, which is what they are saying, but in general, I think the atmosphere is what really makes Neverending Nightmares great, so it may not be the end of the world if the enemies aren't the greatest. At least I hope so! :-/
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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AironNeil
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby AironNeil » Mon Sep 08, 2014 8:16 pm

matt wrote:I think perhaps the enemies COULD be scarier, which is what they are saying, but in general, I think the atmosphere is what really makes Neverending Nightmares great, so it may not be the end of the world if the enemies aren't the greatest. At least I hope so! :-/


I think the point that the enemies are no longer scary makes them, more or less, part of the atmosphere. It kind of reminds me of how Silent Hill 2 handled it's enemies: after a while they weren't really scary, but the fact that they were there added to the dreadful atmosphere of the locations made the places feel more alive when they needed to be and more silent, no pun intended, on the parts that didn't have enemies.

Personally, the inmates were fine for me, but he baby monsters didn't exactly stay scary for very long, I feel like if their behavior were more varied it would have kept the suspense up a little; for example, one of the baby monsters could have a delayed reaction to seeing the player and not chase them immediately, this with a few other tweaks would keep the encounters fresh and unpredictable for the most part. I'm not sure how hard that would be to implement, but it's an idea if you didn't want to remove a section and have to replace it with something else.

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby matt » Mon Sep 08, 2014 10:52 pm

It's a tough balance to create understandable enemies without seeming too predictable. We don't have any help prompts, so how to avoid the enemies has to be intuitive. The two goals are kind of at odds, which is why I kind of feel like I designed myself into a corner. While everyone on the forum probably finds the baby monsters trivially simple at this point, more people than I'd like to admit got a bit stuck on the second baby monster set up at PAX. I made a change in 0.9 where if you backtrack it saves the most advanced checkpoint. I think it was easier to get lost in the demo because the setups are back to back, so you don't really feel like you are going backwards. Hopefully the checkpoint thing will help, and I lowered the threshold for spawning the 3rd cabinet.

Actually, the behavior of the baby monster was MORE unpredictable a long time ago, but I watched a lot of people get stuck at E3, so I simplified it. :-/ I'm going to try a different approach next game.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby RightClickSaveAs » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:34 am

matt wrote:Neither Chris nor Thomas were at PAX, but I email them from time to time. The baby monster before you fall down is the chase sequence. I try not to reuse scares, so I don't think I'd want to do the positional audio trick again... Are you suggesting cutting the second one? There are only 5 baby monsters in the level, so none seem super obvious to cut. I think Chris was suggesting the set up at the end with the two baby monsters wasn't that great, but it sounds like that's your favorite. haha

Yeah personally I like that part :) Chris' opinion is worth a lot more than mine though, hah! But I think the two at the end work because it's not expected, you haven't seen two of them together at that point.

I was thinking if you feel you need to remove one, the best candidate would be one of the hallway encounters where they're just patrolling, the second one would probably be the best. But again I don't know what would replace it, and just leaving the empty hallway there wouldn't be an improvement. Man that's gotta be tough to try to decide to cut something. I don't think leaving them all as is would be a game breaker for anyone either though, unless there's a really great idea for something else you could put there instead. My problem is I've played through this level so many times it's hard to think of in terms of effectiveness or challenge, I've gotten used to the placement and didn't really think of it as having any problems.

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Postby matt » Tue Sep 09, 2014 2:06 pm

I think I'm probably going to leave it as is. While I agree with what they are saying, I can't think of anything I can change in the time remaining that will feel "better".

It is good food for thought for the next game though!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games


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