150 - The Horror of Death

Developer diaries about creating Neverending Nightmares.
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matt
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150 - The Horror of Death

Post by matt »

Thomas Grip blogged about the problems with death in horror games. In this developer diary, I talk about alternatives to traditional death mechanics to prevent the tension release when you reach a fail state in the game.

-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

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The Dark Souls death penalty is really simple in execution yet kinda convoluted in the details at the same time. When you die, you are sent back to the last bonfire (checkpoint) you rested at, which also respawns any enemies you killed, and you drop any liquid souls (currency used for leveling and buying stuff) and liquid humanity (humanity gives you a minor item finding bonus and curse resist, and is used to turn yourself back into a human form, which allows you to do online coop and PvP stuff). These are all dropped at the spot you died. You have one chance to get back to this place and recover these two things, but if you die again before you pick them up, they're gone for good. So you have to walk a balance between pushing forward and exploring new areas (where you will inevitably die) and being cautious and spending your points as soon as you get enough. It's really diabolical and elegant; giving you the one chance at recovery keeps it from feeling cheap and puts the blame back on you if you get yourself killed again at the same spot.

Grabthehoopka
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

Post by Grabthehoopka »

Eeeeeeee! I got namedropped! And you pronounced it right!

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matt
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

Post by matt »

The Dark Souls system sound kind of like WiiU where your stuff gets dropped. I thought it was more complicated where you were like a ghost or something until you stole someone else's soul or something like that. I guess maybe that's what happens when you lose your liquid humanity? Or am I thinking of Demon's Souls? I get them all confused.

I'm glad I was able to get your name right. I always worry about that...
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

Post by RightClickSaveAs »

Hmm I haven't played Demon's Souls so I can't say for sure, but yeah Dark Souls is kind of a weird game. I just jumped into it without reading any guides or anything and the learning curve was pretty daunting. Some stuff is intuitive but others like the way souls and humanity work takes a lot of trial and error to figure out if you don't use guides.

You start off as "undead", where your character looks like a corpse, but you can do all the normal things you need to do in the game. You can reverse this and make yourself look like a fleshy human, getting you access to more of the online coop and PvP stuff, by using humanity. You revert when you're killed though so you have to use another humanity if you want to go back. Humanity can be gotten by going human and invading and killing other players online, but it's also found lying around on NPC corpses throughout the game and gained a few other ways.

I found it a lot easier to play the game as undead, because you don't get invaded by other players then. It's a sort of single player mode that's still perfectly playable but you'll miss out on some scripted NPC invasions and online stuff. It's a really weird system and unlike anything else I've seen in a game.

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gagaplex
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

Post by gagaplex »

If people find the times with enemies less scary than the atmospheric ones before and after, then obviously you should mess with our heads and combine the two sometimes... have us chased by a monster and have horrible things happen in front of us as the monster closes in behind? Dunno. :-D

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JPrice
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

Post by JPrice »

I would tend to agree with the blog post in that the aspect of death within a horror game is important to get right. Seeing as the more you spend within a certain section due to repeated deaths, the more it loses its impact in creating the horror it was initially designed to create. In terms of how to fix it though, that's a tricky thing to answer and it really depends on the mechanics and themes within each game separately. Like for Neverending Nightmares, the idea of waking up from a nightmare each time you die is a mechanic that works within that game. Because you know...nightmares are kind of a core part of the game so :lol:

It's a problem that is somewhat unique to horror games if you think about it and I think that each game has to try and work around it within their own unique way. By crafting a death mechanic that doesn't lose that sense of immersion and tension that the game has building up, the game is then able to remove one of the more "gamey" aspects of the experience which in turn makes it a more fulfilling horror experience. So I suppose that you can count yourself lucky that you've found a mechanic that works fairly well for your game hahaa :D
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matt
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Re: 150 - The Horror of Death

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I am pretty pleased with my mechanic, and I think it'd like to stick with it for several games - assuming this one is well received. I'm already thinking about the next game and knowing what I know now, I think I can make an even better game! However, I'm really excited about the stuff we are working on still for this game.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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