Removing enemies?

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Post by matt » Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:23 pm

So update! We got some feedback from the indiecade judges (we didn't get in), and some of the judges felt like the baby monsters weren't the best, so I finally bit the bullet and decided to cut a set up out. I removed the first one, then moved the set up with just on cabinet to the hallway where the second one was. People got stuck on that anyway, so probably cutting it is for the best.

So basically, I ended up taking RightClickSaveAs's advice, but I swapped around the hallways so there is a little more build up to the first enemy. I feel like the first one appeared too soon anyway since I'd like people to get a feel for the new location and wonder what might await them in the dilapidated mansion, so I think it will probably work out for the best.

Thanks everyone for the advice!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

Grabthehoopka
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Re: Removing enemies?

Post by Grabthehoopka » Mon Sep 15, 2014 4:42 pm

Might be a little late for suggestions, at this point, but screw it, here's my two cents:

I personally thought that the inmates were scarier than the baby monsters, primarily because the baby monsters have much simpler behavior and you're supposed to completely avoid them, so ideally, they walk one way and you walk the other and you don't have to share the screen with them (except for that one part).
The inmates, however, are trickier. You can't avoid crossing paths with them, and I think the stealthy nature of the inmate encounters just inherently makes them more tense. I'm not sure how similar an experience I had to other people, but the first time I played through it, they killed me twice and I didn't really know why. It wasn't frustrating, it actually did the exact opposite; it gave them an air of unpredictability. Even now, I can't seem to get through the asylum without dying at least once. They're a bit random, but not overwhelmingly or annoyingly so.

With that said. I think the babies were used just about right, while the inmates may have dragged on a bit too much. On my first playthrough of Lost Child, I got the impression that there was one singular baby monster, and it gave me a sort of cat-and-mouse vibe, where I didn't know if the baby monster would be around the corner or not. You had the introductory cabinet, the first simple encounter, then I think the empty hallway next (you bastard), the more complex one where you had to walk behind it, the chase, which was a scripted event entirely different from the other encounters, and then the "final exam", in which we apply what we've learned and you stand over us with a wrist-slapping implement to make sure we were paying attention before. Also, in that last encounter you explicitly reveal that there are at least two baby monsters, which I felt was a rather brutal reveal and made it more tense, cause now it gave everything we'd learned up to that point new context; how many of these things are there? What fresh hell awaits me now? These questions of course were ultimately fruitless, since that was the last one, but I think that's what made it so effective. There was a very deliberate pacing that was short and sweet, to the point where I can rattle each encounter off the top of my head like that, cause they were memorable.

The inmates, on the other hand...I can tell you I was scared of them, and I can tell you about the two "puzzle" encounters and their solutions, but I couldn't tell you exactly how many encounters there were. They weren't distinct and paced apart quite like the baby monsters' were, they all kind of blend together. There's the first one, where you encounter the inmate for the first time, which was incredibly memorable for me, but it gets a little fuzzy after that. I think there's two inmates in the first encounter, but there might be one in the first and two in the second; and I remember there was one moving in a wavering trapezoidal path that you changed to a diagonal line in one of the patches. There was glass in one that wasn't necessary to solve anything - the second one I think? With the weird diagonal line walker? Or maybe that's the third. Then, there's the one where you have to follow the inmate and hide in the recess when he patrols the other way, and then I think that's all, and there's the jumpscare death and cutscene with Gabby. Then, you get thrown back into the hallway, and then I thiiiiiiink you do the one where you step on glass to lure the inmate away, and I think that's the one with the corpse pile, and then after that is the step-on-glass crazy inmate footrace jamboree? Or maybe that was before, to reinforce the glass/noise thing?

Whatever. The point is, despite the amount of inmate encounters that I think there are, which is probably like 50% more than what is in the game, it drags on a little too long, and I think I mentioned before that having that cutscene in the middle and then throwing you back out into the bloody hallway for more gave the situation a bit of gallows humor (that made me laugh). I understand that from a mechanical standpoint, the inmates are considerably more complex than the baby monsters, and you wanted to really make sure that the concepts are reinforced and that we really understood them before making us solve puzzles with the mechanics, but I don't know if there were too many encounters too close together, or if the encounters themselves just felt longer because you had to tip-toe through them.

I remember reading a neuroscience article about how our brains compartmentalize memories based on locations and changes, which is why we sometimes go to another room to do something and then forget what we were going to do upon entering the room. Random, I know, but I think that might factor into why the baby encounters are more memorable than the inmate ones. The baby monster encounters benefitted from the simple nature of the babies. Each encounter is discrete and spaced apart, each one has a specific purpose, and each one is memorable in some way because of the "a-ha!" moment. The inmate encounters leave an impact, but they are not as individually memorable. I can distinctly recall features of them, like the first time there were two at once, and the crazy diagonal-walking one, the broken glass, the corpse pile, the puzzles and the chase; like I said, it's impactful, but it all kind of blends together.

In terms of how to fix it, I'm not sure. I think the best way would be to space them out somehow. If the intensity of it had peaks and troughs, and each one was bookended by a less intense part, maybe they would be individually more memorable, but I'm not sure how to intersperse them without killing the pacing of the level as a whole. You could try to sort of mush two of the encounters together, but that's a lot of work.

However, insanity already starts on a really high note, what with the banging and screaming and the whatnot, so maybe if you just transplanted that first introductory encounter and stick it in somewhere earlier in the level? It's certainly a shock the first time you see them, and the player is already expecting something to be close because of the intro, so maybe if they see them and figure out how they work, it would give you a nice peak, and then afterwords, go back to the trudge through the hallways, which would bring it down to a trough but still clearly express that shit got real, and prepare them for the more puzzley encounters later? Plus, removing one of the encounters from that series might help the pacing and keep it from dragging on.

I think this would also solve the problem of introducing the broken glass mechanic. You have the inmate cry out when you step on it, but until then, the player doesn't have anything to contextualize that noise, so the player might not properly put two and two together (I didn't). That awesome jumpscare you added from looking through the window might help with that, but I think if you have an encounter sandwiched between that jumpscare and introducing broken glass, that would be the missing bow tie that would pull everything together:

Player sees spooky scary jump scare. They see a thing, albeit really quick so probably indistinctly, and hear the noise it makes. Player encounters spooky scary monster, and if encountered jump scare, recognizes the enemy. If not, monster is spooky and/or scary regardless. If they die, they hear the noise they make and make the connection with the jumpscare. After, player moves onto next area, and steps on glass. This triggers spooky scary noise. If player saw jumpscare, was killed by monster, or both, they will reinforce the connection that monster A makes noise B, and making monster A make noise B is undesirable. If neither conditions are met, player has still encountered spooky scary monster and might assume that either they have alerted said monster, or that noise B is associated with monster A in some way.

Result: player is spooked and/or scared.

Anyways. This is the most elegant solution I can think of; I hope it helps.

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matt
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Re: Removing enemies?

Post by matt » Mon Sep 15, 2014 5:39 pm

Hmm..... Those do sound like good ideas, and I've gotten some feedback that Insanity runs on a little too long, but other people really like it. I think if I had to do it all over again, I probably would redo Insanity completely - although probably the same could be said about the entire game.

Since we are running out of time, I'm hesitant to make big changes though just because I don't have time to push a build, get feedback, and then make changes based on that. I'll give some thought to what can be done, but I might just keep it as is since we are running out of time.

I think the enemies (especially the early ones ie. baby monster/inmate) are a bit of a weak point in the game, and I want to rethink how I approach enemy design in future games, so I definitely am taking your feedback to heart.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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