197 - Interaction Postmortem

Developer diaries about creating Neverending Nightmares.
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matt
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197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by matt »

In this developer diary, I talk about the interactions in Neverending Nightmares and what we could have done better.

-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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RightClickSaveAs
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by RightClickSaveAs »

I'm not the biggest fan of QTEs, although I agree about Walking Dead, that game did a lot to win me over on them.

One of the problems I have with them is they feel very gamey, even in Walking Dead they made it fit very well with the onscreen stuff that pops up anyway, but there's still the element of "HEY, in case you forgot, you're playing a video game!" popping up right in the middle of the story that's going on. I love how they did play around with the mechanic, especially at the end of the first season (you can kill the stranger if you keep mashing the button after the prompt goes away, which I totally didn't get because I was in "video game" mode and stopped as soon as it disappeared). Season two though didn't seem to do much interesting with QTEs, I feel they fell into a bit of a rut and when they came up it's just "OK I have to mash the button for a few seconds now".

I don't know, I don't hate them and can definitely see their use, but I'm not a big proponent either.

On the subject of other interaction, one interactive thing involving enemies that I like the idea of is being able to slow down or stop enemies chasing you. Amnesia touched on this in a few places but I don't think took it far enough. If you can move objects and block off the path to buy yourself more time, that can add a good dynamic to enemy interaction. If done right you're still helpless and it can even make it more tense. As long as it's not too heavily scripted; I love Outlast but every scene where you're moving something to block off a door has to be done in a certain time and in a certain way or you're dead.

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matt
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by matt »

Well, I think we'd only want to use the mash A to fight, and we wouldn't use any button prompts. I agree that it's not the most amazing game design thing in the world, but it solves the problem of 1 hit kill enemies, and hopefully ups the adrenaline a little if you feel like you have to mash fast (which I always do).

Moving objects to block the path of enemies is really cool, but the problem is that if you aren't first person, it can require a lot of animation support. I'll keep that in mind.

Alien: Isolation has some quick time events and while some are overly complicated, I kind of like others because it makes it feel like an ancient overcomplicated space station where you have to prime switches and all that. They also did the same thing I'm talking about where you have to mash A to fight off robots if they see you.

Also, I had no idea about the thing at the end of the first season of TWD. That's really interesting.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

Grabthehoopka
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by Grabthehoopka »

I think it's a good idea, and I think it can be done well. I know that I usually write like an essay-length wall of text any time I'm interested in the subject, but I actually already wrote this one for the Silent Hill: Shattered Memories dev diary last year. Laziness, hoooo~!
grabthehoopka wrote:I only played the PS2 version, so I didn't get the full experience of using the wiimote as a phone, but I tend to hate motion controls, so I think it balanced out. But one thing that I've never heard anyone bring up before was that, in the PS2 version and presumably the PSP version as well, they implemented button-mashing QTEs better than any game I've ever played.

I hate quick time events, and I especially hate how often developers use them to make us mash a button in order to do something really mundane like open a door or something, but during the chase sequences, when Harry is traversing an obstacle, like climbing over a wall or crawling under an opening, you can mash on the X button to make him go faster. Since the mannequin fetus monsters can outrun you quite handily, this is something you want to do quite often. This act taps into the compulsive human desire to push buttons repeatedly in a futile attempt to make the elevator or walk signal go faster, which translates perfectly into video games, as you'll know if you've ever seen anyone lean into a turn when playing a racing game or mash on the "next" button in those games with really slow, unskippable text crawl. It's usually just as futile in-game, but the fact that they included it as a mechanic makes it incredibly satisfying to do.

If you want to get really, really deep and psychoanalyze the shit out of this, you can turn to the two-factor theory of emotion that Chris' Survival Horror Quest likes to bring up every now and again. We can say that we're smart, logical, and reasonable people, but the fact of the matter is, we've all done this at one point or another, whether we want to admit it or not, and the act of doing this subconsciously brings up memories of doing the same action before. There can be any number of reasons why we can't be patient enough to just push the button once, but regardless of the situation, there is always some element of stress to it, whether it's the external source of an encroaching time limit, or the internal source of being frustrated at waiting. By doing it repeatedly enough, theoretically, your brain could generate the same stress it associates pushing a button repeatedly with, and generate panic where there is none. Yes, I did genuinely feel distress during the chase sequences, and I couldn't tell you if any of that was manufactured whole cloth by my brain because of pushing buttons quickly, but it probably didn't help.
matt wrote:I do like mashing buttons! :)

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matt
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by matt »

Cool. It seems like we are on the same page then. I imagine the Alien: Isolation complicated QTEs can be tense if an Alien is following you. I'm not sure how much I'm liking Alien: Isolation, but I'll probably post a developer diary or two about it next week.
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

ranger_lennier
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by ranger_lennier »

Perhaps a good question to ask is, "Why is Neverending Nightmares more effective as a game than as a movie?" I suppose a few critics might say it's not, but I don't think I'd have had the same experience just watching it. But at the same time, more interactivity might have enhanced that for me. Even a lot of what was there was along the lines of "hit A to look more closely at this object" or "decide which direction to explore (with no way to know what either way will lead to)". So maybe what I really want is more complex interaction, which is admittedly a pretty nonspecific request.

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matt
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by matt »

I think Neverending Nightmares would have been terrible as a movie. Games are not passive, you have to push your character into the abyss, which is a completely different experience.

Complex interaction is a difficult thing to add because as you said - it's not specific. I wonder if the interaction itself has to be complex or it just needs to have a little more depth. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Gone Home didn't have complex interactions, but I think the way they did it worked well. (Although I had... issues... with Ethan Carter) I think maybe the goal would be to make you feel like your interactions are IMPORTANT. In Neverending Nightmares, you are supposed to feel powerless, and I think maybe we went a little overboard with that because most people don't really feel like they are making any decisions or controlling any aspects of the game - even though we had the branching narratives. I think the branching narrative branches were perhaps too organic in that you had no idea you were making a choice... :-/ Whoops!
-Matt Gilgenbach
Lead Frightener at Infinitap Games

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SuchDogeMuchWow
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by SuchDogeMuchWow »

I skimmed through your video and I agree: QTEs can be a good tool of increasing tension and would be an improvement over the system you used in NN. I'm not a professional in game design, but I felt that a weakness of NN was that there were only two player states - dead and not dead. When an inmate spots you, death is guaranteed within a couple of seconds. If a baby is charging you with no door or dresser in sight, you similarly resign yourself to your fate. Giving more time for someone's fight or flight response to kick in can probably make this game scarier. Amnesia comes to mind, where if an enemy spots/hits you, it's not instant death but you KNOW you're in deep shit and you start to panic as you look for an avenue of escape. By creating a spectrum of states between life and death via health bar, different player statuses (caught, bleeding, scared, etc), you create consequences for being caught by an enemy instead of "oh if I get caught I'll just start this level over" which leads to frustration, not fear.

Basically I think that if you apply your philosophy of ramping tension slowly as you did with the environment and apply it to enemy encounters you can create much scarier situations than the 1 hit kill enemy.

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matt
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by matt »

Yeah, I think the one hit enemy thing is pretty hard to pull off and prevents us from doing interesting things. Someone mentioned in another thread that you are safe in the cabinets even though the baby shakes it. That's because I didn't want the baby to be unfair. However, if the baby could reach into the cabinet and you could fight him off by mashing a button, that would make being in the cabinets much more interesting without being too unfair.

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

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evilkinggumby
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Re: 197 - Interaction Postmortem

Post by evilkinggumby »

I am not averse to QTE's except where they seem unnecessary or laborious. Now I realize this is all after-the-fact but I think if you were going to do some type of QTE or interaction with the baby/cabinets it wouldn't be button spamming to free the baby's grip and run (the baby is 5 times the size, and if the main character is asthmatic, I don't see how he could struggle his way out of a crushing grip without going full blown asthma attack).

What would make more sense to me would be to have the baby see you enter the cabinet, shake it a bit and then have a button prompt when he tries to open it, which if successful has the main character partially pop out and go BOO or something in an attempt to startle the monster. Babies are startled easily, so if the monster fell backwards in shock and brief fright, you would then have a chance to sprint away with a mild head start, potentially hiding in another cabinet or ducking into a doorway. Adding a small chance for the baby to reach and grab your foot as you try to run could give you a button-spamming session to shake your leg free before running. Failing to pop out and scare the baby would be the crushing death you already implemented.

This would add to the idea of the baby-monster actually being infantile and when you pop out to scare it, you could have a brief flash of the main character looking monstrous too; like one of the psych patients or something else within the world of NeN, adding to the idea that some facets of the dream world are actually bits of him. It would give you some chance to get away and not insta-die.

Decisions like this seem to make more sense within the frame work of the game and not feel so much like "added mechanic for the sake of adding interaction". Heck if you got the button press timing right you could scare the baby monster enough to make it cry, which could be both satisfying, terrifying and heart wrenching. THAT seems like more of a win than just "spam button to break free and run".

I know it would be odd to have on screen prompts, I'd be ok with even having a red colored ! over the characters head when you need to hit the action button. Less "UI" more "cartoon". :)
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