Stealth Survival Horror Game – Make One

The other day Shamus complained about an odd tendency to inject military characters into Survival Horror video games as evidenced in the new Silent Hill title. I completely agree. Playing as a battle-hardened mercenary does not make a game of this kind scarier. Instead it shifts focus onto action sequences in which you blow up zombies, and clear them of your path using well placed explosives or grenades. It lends itself towards a completely different game play.

How about we make a game in which you can’t shoot zombies/monsters but instead you need to hide or run away from them. I’d envision it as a combination of your usual Survival Horror stuff with stealth based game play that we all know and love. But instead of hiding from guards, you would be hiding from monsters. And instead of being some sort of assassin, commando-ninja-special-forces type you would be an ordinary guy. Your equipment would be a zippo lighter (or a small flashlight) which would be your source of light in dark rooms, and a small swiss army knife which can be used to cut ropes, pry open ventilation panels, or act as a makeshift lock pick. You would be able to push and pull things, kick things over, and pick up small objects to be thrown (as a distraction). Sometimes you would find a wrench or a heavy pipe you could use as an effective melee weapon sort of like in Condemned. You could use it to bash the monster on the head, but it would likely only daze him giving you extra time to run away and find a hiding place. Of course, after few uses your makeshift weapon would break or bend, so that you don’t get a false sense of security by dragging it around the whole game.

I envision couple of interesting mechanics that could play into this sort of theme. For example, if you are running away from the monster you might throw chairs, or other objects behind you to block it’s way giving you extra time. I’d make the monsters chase you based on visual cues so you could shake them off by jumping into a dark corner, and then slowly sneaking away. Monster would loose sight of you, and go into roaming mode, sniffing around and perhaps making noises to spook you out of the cover. So normally you would want to skulk in the shadows, and stay out of well lit areas because you can be easily spotted this way. This could later be inverted by introducing Grue like monsters which lurk in the shadows but won’t step into the light.

The game could benefit from Half-Life 2 like physical puzzles which would let you push or pull things to gain access to different areas, or for example temporarily incapacitate a monster by luring it into a stairwell, and then pushing a refrigerator down on him Home Alone style. You could also lure monsters away from you by making noises. For example, turning a radio on in a room would pretty much cause every monster in range drop everything and run to investigate it. And while they are at it, you could access areas that were previously blocked off or inaccessible to you due to their presence.

The plot is of course the most difficult part here – but perhaps keeping it simple would make it beneficial. You find yourself in an abandoned building and discover that it is haunted/infested by monsters. Now you need to get out – and perhaps discover what happened there. I’m not entirely sure that talking NPC’s would be necessary – bits of information could be fed to the player via various other methods – such as documents he finds, notes, warnings painted or scratched on the walls, and etc. I’d keep it fairly vague at the beginning, and slowly unveil pieces of the puzzle to keep things mysterious, and keep the player guessing. I don’t have a specific explanation or theme in mind, but I guess it would either be a science experiment gone wrong (and in that case the player would be trapped in some sort of lab complex), or some occult ritual that backfired (in which case the game would probably take place in some mansion or a hotel).

I’d keep it a FPS for immersion sake, and make the character silent mute like Gordon Freeman. In fact, the whole thing could probably be done using just the HL2 engine and some clever scripting. What do you think? Would you play a game like that? What would you add/remove from the above to make it more interesting/creepy?

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34 Responses to Stealth Survival Horror Game – Make One

  1. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Sounds great, until you are running away and come across an ankle-high ledge that you can’t get over ;)

    I think overhead view has more potential for scariness than first person, but I like the idea of a lighter as the main source of light in certain areas. Done properly, the light could flicker and some monsters/zombies/whatever might have slightly reflective eyes, so you just catch a glimmer here and there in the dark.

    You could run with the cult idea pretty well. Everyone in some kind of big mansion and your stupid friend decided to bring you along. You and s/he share a room and go to bed. Your friend gets up to go get a drink or something in the night and you wait in the quiet… s/he doesn’t come back. Strange noises, scraping sound, faint scream, etc. and you decide to slink out of the room and look for your friend so you can get the hell out of there.

    What if the zombies biting you would give you an infection, which could also affect gameplay in other ways (too many bites or too long without getting some sort of medicine could mean that you start to get more sluggish, can’t jump to that high ledge, etc.).

    The sound track would definitely be key to making it scary as hell, but it sounds like an awesome game :D

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  2. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Sounds cool. The over-powered military character definitely ruins any attempt at creating tension or fear – if you know that you can blow the head off of anything that jumps out at you, the only type of fear you’ll feel is the “AHH, it just jumped out at me, killit killit killit!!” variety… which is really more shock than fear.

    I can kinda picture the type of thing you want to aim for – make the character a regular guy, unarmed to the point of being almost defenceless, creeping around in the dark praying to god that none of the unspeakable horrors waiting in the shadows notice him. That plus decent music and the occasional half-glimpse of something skulking around after you and the scare-factor shoots up a good few notches.

    Could be helped along by some kind of lead antagonist monster, maybe follows you for most of the game, rarely being seen and only actually encountered once or twice – once you’ve established that it’s out there, and that it’s to be feared (after the first encounter) you can mess with the player’s head by, for example, doing the same “lead up to an encounter” stuff from the first time, but then not have it pop out on them again, let the tension down a bit then spring it on ’em without warning…

    Someone needs to make this game :mrgreen:

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  3. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Now you’ve got me thinking how awesome this could be…

    Crawling should be used at least at one point. It could be either because you have to sneak by some monsters or because one tore into your ankle or something. The tension of not being able to move quickly can add a lot to the fear of the game.

    What if one zombie/monster was a security guard and you have to sneak up behind him to take a keycard out of his back pocket? Maybe using the card also requires some kind of button combo to be pushed. When you enter it into the keypad, the beeping gets the attention of the nearby monsters.

    Weapons could be controlled pretty well. For instance, you take a butcher knife out of the kitchen and suddenly feel pretty badass. When you encounter a zombie, you’re feeling pretty ballsy, so you stab it through the chest and… your knife becomes stuck! I can picture the closeup cut scene perfectly. There could be an instance where you have to stab an enemy in the leg and then lure it somewhere (since it would be a lot slower with a knife sticking out of its leg) toward one edge of the room so that you can get by on the other side.

    Hmm, so when are you going to make this game? :D

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  4. Heh. Why not let the player have access to guns time and again (and extremely little ammunition)… Revolver needs two or three shots to take out one monster. The loud sound calls a pack of monsters. You got two bullets left.

    Buy yes. This sounds like exactly the sort of game I would never play. It sounds good, but I’d probably quit it in fear :D

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  5. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Ian – wow, I like the idea of wounds slowing you down. Perhaps we could also factor in fatigue here – if you run for a prolonged amount of time you get tired, and your character starts breathing heavily and slows down. If you run up the stairs, you get twice as tired as running normally.

    I’m sort of thinking about not having a HUD in the game at all. Since you are not using any ammo, there is no need to track it. Your lighter and pocket knife would be assigned to hot keys and always there while other items would be carried Condemned style – you pick them up as you need them, and carry them in your hand. If you want another item, you need to drop the first one.

    Fatigue would be indicated by audio clues – the rapid breathing of your character for example. I liked the way they used breathing and grunting in Mirror’s Edge gameplay video for example.

    Getting bitten or damaged would cripple you and prevent you from running – you would be reduced to a slow shambling, stumbling gait with a permanent fatigue penalty. Climbing and jumping would be impossible, and walking up the stairs would be painfully slow. Visually you would leave a trail of blood behind you. Perhaps monsters could use it to track it.

    I don’t really want a health bar. Perhaps the game could use sort of a “degree of damage” system:

    1. “just a scratch” – you get hurt, and your fatigue goes up to maximum but if you rest a little you will get back to normal. You may splatter some blood on the floor which will draw monsters but you are not bleeding. If you step in blood you will leave bloody footprints for a few seconds helping monsters to track you.

    2. Hurt. You are bleeding drops of blood every few seconds – you can still loose a monster since the trail is not continuous, but the creature will be aggroed by each blood stain and may stumble onto you eventually. You will need bandages to stop the bleeding. Also your fatigue never recovers more than half way so you can do long jumps, climb ropes or run at full speed.

    3. Seriously Wounded. You leave a continuous trail of blood behind you, and you are reduced to minimum speed, and minimum functionality. Every once in a while your character will start coughing up blood which makes noise. If you don’t rest every couple of steps you may fall down making noise and becoming stunned for few seconds. Your vision would be a bit blurry. You would hear your heartbeat indicating serious trouble.

    4. Near Death – can’t walk – you basically crawl around on the floor at a very slow pace. Your vision is very blurry. You are defenseless, can’t use items and your only hope is to curl up in a corner and hope the monster can’t find you. Sound would be muffled with the exception of your rapid breathing and pounding heartbeat.

    Depending on how hard you hit you could end up in any one of these states. Bandages, medkits and other items like that could restore you to normal. Also, resting would improve your state – so you could go from #4 to #3 state by just sitting quietly in a corner for few seconds.

    Perhaps there could be self-control / adrenaline / courage button you could mash/hold wen you’re hurt to try to bump yourself into the next health level. Not sure how this would be represented in game. Perhaps the character could use some sort of an item as an “amulet” he would be focusing on to regain strength and focus – for example a religious symbol, a picture of his girlfriend or a rabit’s foot…

    @Matt` – I definitely like the idea of few scary antagonists rather than a horde. I’d use more than one (perhaps 3-5) different monsters just to switch up the pace and force the player to adopt new strategies.

    That said I’d put different monsters in different locations. So for example I’d have one location have 2-3 of slow and almost blind zombie like critters that would track you by sound – so you could sneak by them by being quiet even in full light. You could also run away from them by jumping over a barrier or climbing to a higher level since they would not be able to follow you.

    Then I’d have one fast, and agile monster which could go everywhere you go and track you by smell. It would be very good at following blood trails, and would automatically aggro if you come within his scent range. This is the creature you would need to slow down by tossing chairs and tables in it’s way since it would be faster than you.

    I’d have a monster or two which are medium speed, and hunt based on visual and audible clues. So you would have to hide in the shadows, avoid making noise, and using the lighter.

    Then you could have a monster that lurks in the dark and is afraid of the light forcing you to stick to well lit areas. This would be the one that you never really see. You’d see it’s eyes flickering in the dark, hear it moving furniture and etc. It would stalk you and then once you walk into the shadow pounce on you.

    In any given location you would only have to deal with a single type of the monster and you would have a clear indication when the monster type changes. Foe example you get out of the mansion, and you hide in the adjacent warehouse only to find out that there are different monsters here.

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  6. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    This keeps sounding better and better. I like the wounds ideas and I especially like the breathing. The more injured you are, the less it takes for you to start to breath hard. The harder you breath, the more sound you make (thus, the more monsters that you alert to your presence). If you’re really injured, you can’t help but grunt/groan/moan when doing anything physical.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Ian – I like the security guard idea. This fits into the third monster type – they could be fast-zombies or perhaps something like the critters’ from I am Legend movie.

    I’d also allow for more than one way to do this. For example, you could try to sneak up on the guy, grab the card and bolt but that would probably alert him, and his yelling would alert his buddies. Also, if you screw up he will jump you.

    You could try to knock him out with a pipe/ stab him temporarily stunning/confusing him, grab the card/key and then bolt. But it’s noisy.

    Or you could use scenery – the aforementioned stairs + fridge trick. Also very noisy.

    @Tormod – the thing about guns is that most regular guys have no clue how to use them effectively. I wouldn’t want it to be a huge element in the game – for example, I wouldn’t want the player think that getting the gun is his first priority.

    But then again it could be done nicely with a good effect. For example, you could at some point later in the game find single revolver with 3-4 bullets.

    Here is the catch – there are no cross hairs on the screen, and your hand is shaking and moving up and down as you breathe. First time you use it it doesn’t work, because you didn’t take of the safety so your character spends fee precious seconds checking the gun, trying to find the switch.

    When you finally shoot it, and the bullet either misses or goes through the monster, hits a mirror which goes into pieces, or a cupboard which then collapses spilling out plates, and cups on the floor making so much noise that every monster in the area will run to investigate.

    Furthermore your ears are now ringing meaning you can’t clearly hear the monsters for the next few moments.

    Finally, I’d be reluctant to actually make the gun kill the monster. If it does, then a clever player could figure out a way to preserve the ammo and clear certain monsters in each area making his trips much safer. I’d probably make the gun a deterrent just like chairs, pipes and knives. If you shoot a monster you will probably stun it or perhaps even knock it out (or maybe even make it run away). But it will it will eventually get itself together. If you waste the whole ammo clip on a single monster perhaps you can seriously cripple it, but I wouldn’t take it out of the game full time.

    Oh, and I want a Save Anywhere system. I just know that someone would probably get the crazy idea of using checkpoints in a game like that but it would totally ruin it for me. I want Auto-Saves at logical intervals, a manual save option, and a quick save/quick load buttons. We could provide an option to disable quick/manual saves for the hard-core DIAS enthusiasts.

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  8. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Sounds like you want Thief, where you creep around doing things and attempt not to be found. If you do get into a fight, you’re not very good and it’s hard to win.

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Yeah, but in Thief you are still sort of a bad ass – you can knock people out, shoot them with a bow and etc. You are not necessarily a normal guy.

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  10. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Heh…I’ve been writing a video game in which you start in a city that has been overrun with zombies. The game will have no “mood” music, you aren’t some ex-military, special forces soldier. There isn’t any “homo-erotic imagery of men with big pecs running around”. There won’t be conveniently place first aid kits, nor ammo/weapons lying about in the most ridiculous places. You are simply some average slob stuck in the city. In fact, my idea (which I have copyrighted, btw :) ) is a game in which you scan a pic of yourself and it tries to match the character to look like you (or something like that). You have no initial set goals other than survival. You have to listen to the radio etc. to get more info on what to do.

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  11. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    For the hardcore challenges, how about limited lighter fuel.

    Personally I’m not liking the monster idea at all. They’re design heavy, and with all sorts of variated limbs and such, very hard to do limb specific damage to or fight melee, I figure, and there’s always the danger of them looking like a joke (Serious Sam style). Headcrab zombies please

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  12. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Steve – neat idea but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it done before somewhere. I don’t think anyone ever used it in a survival horror game though.

    Would your game allow driving around in the city GTA style (think I Am Legend movie) or would you rather not have that and simply assume that most cars were damaged or blocked off in the chaos when the zombies first appeared.

    @Mack – limited fuel could be interesting, but it could also be frustrating. I’d either keep it as a hardcore option not turned on by default, or would drop plenty of lighter fluid refills in each location and allow player to hoard them.

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  13. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Luke

    The game would allow you to drive occassionally, when the roads/offroads were clear. Otherwise, as you say, there would be too many cars blocking the main thoroughfares. The zombies will be the old school…shambling, easily outrun, but relentless. I took this cue from The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. There would be no set goals, no mini-quests. You have to plan what to do based on comments from other survivors, emergency radio broadcasts…tv if you can find power…that sort of thing. You can join with other survivors, or stay by yourself. Still working out the game mechanics.

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  14. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Originally, I was thinking of the very typical all-indoors style, but Mack’s thoughts gave me some more ideas. You (and your buddy?) decide to go camping and some obscure company is offering its huge property for camping at really low rates. This allows the game to start out at a camp site, so the first scares can be real (sudden flock of birds flies off when you approach, scary animal sounds come from the shadows, etc.). Either you wake up and your friend is missing or (if s/he didn’t come along) you hear something, the air “feels weird” or whatever. This would scenario makes it much more likely that you would bring a flashlight and/or a lighter and a small backpack to control your inventory. I think you would want to use your flashlight as the primary source of light and save the lighter as much as possible (never know when you might need to actually light something). Scattered here and there would be other camp sites, so you could potentially pick up extra lighter fluid or batteries. I think you should be able to swing/attack with anything in your hand and it could have multiple uses. For instance, your flashlight sucks and your batteries are dying, swing/attack to shake the batteries and get slightly better light output, but also make some noise.

    Wandering through the campsites, you would come to the company’s huge building. This gives the opportunity to combine both a natural setting and an industrial setting. The building could even be a series of smaller buildings with some underground stuff as well. Farther in the game, the monsters might be loosed outside, making it dangerous to go from one building to the next (or to go back to the campsites to pick up X item that you had assumed would be useless).

    The buildings have suffered power loss, but you should be able to restore some power by getting a backup generator going. Obviously this is another noise source, but it could be integral to make things a little easier (OMG, you can turn the lights on! …though they would be dim from the limited power) and possibly power whatever strange equipment the company has in its labs. Maybe the generators could be adjusted based on how much power you want them to supply (more power = noisier and consumes more fuel but would make the lights brighter and more scientific equipment operable).

    You could do a lot more with lighting than most games do. I think it would be useful to acknowledge the difference in color temperature that they put out as well, plus it could make things even more ghastly :)

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  15. Alphast NETHERLANDS Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Should be feasible with the Far Cry Engine. Nature scenes are good and sneaking is the whole point of the game. Still indoors are very ok. And the second version has a hyper-realistic physics system (sound + light + elements). Of course, I want meteorological effect (random and scripted, like in Morrowind), I want to be able to pick pocket (Morrowind again, but please not the stupid way they did it in Oblivion) and I want to be able to tinker a bit (but not too much: the average guy/gal is NOT Mc Gyver).

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  16. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Mack – re: monster thing. I’m using the term monster as sort of a “catch-all” category which includes zombies. We could have slow zombies operating by hearing, fast zombies hunting visually, and perhaps dog zombies be the smell driven hunters. We could also have something even more sinister lurking in the dark. Since we would only see glimpses of it, the design could be something weird and intentionally vague in shape and form.

    @Ian – I like it! The outdoorsy wilderness thing, with an abandoned complex full of zombies/monsters could be an interesting setting indeed.

    There is one thing I don’t like about outdoors settings though – the invisible walls or waist high fences that close off the area. There would need to be a logical way to constrain the player without it looking totally stupid.

    There could be a sharp cliff on one side, perhaps some rock formation on the other, and the infected compound wall. Logically the way your character arrived to the camp site should not be blocked off by terrain though. So I’m thinking instead of a terrain blockade, we could use a zombie/creature screen. We would infest the parking lot with one type of monsters and have a script that would make them aggro and converge on the player as soon as he enters the area. The script should cheat and kill the player before reaching the end of the zone. There of course would be an in-game explanation for this – the parking lot would be well lit, and covered with gravel making your footsteps very noisy. There could be couple of fresh corpses in the process of being eaten, to explain why the creatures are in high-alert mode.

    The problem with this is of course that a stubborn player may keep trying to beat that section repeatedly leading to either frustration or discovering of an invisible wall.

    Perhaps a scripted event with an NPC running towards the player and yelling “Turn back! You can’t go this way! There’s too many of them! Go through the compound!” before he is mowed down by zombies would be enough to give the player the right idea.

    @Alphast – FarCry engine could be a candidate. I’m not sure which one is easier to work with. To me, Source Engine seems the more flexible one considering all kinds of different games that were built on top of it but whatever works. :)

    I think we mentioned picking pockets before. It would probably be something like: sneak up to a guy, and press a button like in Morrowind. But we are working with a limited inventory set here. I’m not sure if I actually want to have an inventory screen. The idea is that you don’t necessarily have a backpack to stuff things in so you can carry only a few things.

    You would normally be able to carry 1 bulky object (ie. makeshift meelee weapon) in your right hand, and another special object in your left. Your flashlight, lighter and pocket knife would be accessible via hot-keys and would not make you drop what you are carrying. Small items such as keys/key cards would be pocketed and used automatically if needed.

    I guess tinkering could be done via environment manipulation sort of like in HL2. Sort of like Condemned, but I don’t want to replicate their silly mechanic which says that specific type of door can only be busted open with only a hammer or only an axe. I sort of envision the pocket knife as a universal tool to be used to open, manipulate and break things. I wouldn’t want the player to hunt for a wrench he could use to unscrew something, or loosen some valve when a pipe, a crowbar or piece of wood would be just fine. I’d only want fetch quests that make sense. For example, to restore power in a building you may need to replace few circuit breakers.

    I’d put them in logical places though – not at the end of a monster filled maze but in every supply closet, and janitor room available.

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  17. Mack UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Personally I would like to see some Player given enough firepower to get himself out of a fix, otherwise the game would be over when attracting the attention of a Monstarr.. so that areas could be cleared in order to solve a puzzle to escape the maze.

    Similiar to the “Hit the lockers in the right order” mechanism in killer 7 or something

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  18. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Mack – actually, the way I envision it, the player would have ample chance to run away, and loose the zombie.

    For example, slow zombies would hunt by hearing. They would run towards any unexpected noise, and have a small zone around then in which they can detect and classify you as pray. Once you leave that zone, the zombie “looses sight” of you and simply runs in the direction you were the last time it saw you. You would be faster than this monster, and simply running away from it, and making distracting noises and changing direction would be enough to loose it. It would then go into random search mode for a short period, and then go into it’s normal roaming mode.

    Fast zombies would be mode difficult to outrun, and you would only shake them by loosing line of sight – so you duck into a room, and then hide in shadows. They would run after you, start searching and potentially leave. Also, you could slow them down by throwing chairs behind you, closing doors and etc.

    You could clear a room by creating diversions. For example, turn on a radio in one room attracting zombies from near by, and run around into the room they were to complete the puzzle. The radio should keep them occupied for couple of minutes and you get ample warning as to when they will be coming back – the radio gets smashed or eaten for example. :P

    As it was said before having enough firepower to kill immediate threats is a staple of the genre. We want to do something different. :)

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  19. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Safari Mac OS says:

    Yeah, you definitely don’t want the artificial walls, but there are a lot of ways to get around that like you were suggesting. What if the whole camping area was in a huge crater (1/4 mile diameter or so). The path that you took in actually passed through the buildings that you end up going to. The crater could be incorporated into the story too (maybe they were secretly using the campers as an experiment with electromagnetic energy, so they wanted to focus it into a crater?). Your idea of using the bunch of zombies guarding the easy exit would work well and you could make it so that if the players are cheating (God-mode or similar) and gets past, they get the “You’re a coward who fled and doomed everyone” ending ;) Of course, there’s always the easy answer of an electrified fence around the perimeter with automated turrets that the company set up to control any monsters. One of the goals of your exploration could be to figure out how to disable the main gate, so you can get out. Of course that all assumes the perimeter has a separate power source… Hmm, you could even have some kind of “wall” that is made by the high-powered electromagnetic energy. Anything going through it turns into a zombie :D

    Now you’re just teasing us with excitement about a good game that will never be :(

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  21. Ambience 327 UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    As far as keeping people in the area without overly-contrived walls – how about a raging river that runs along part of the border, with the bridge washed out? That could concievably cover two of the four cardinal directions (i.e. the river runs southward along the eastern border of the game area, then cuts gradually westward to cover the southern border, emptying into a waterfall over the cliff that effectively blocks off the western border – the river’s source is a steep mountainous area that covers the northern border quite well).

    If the player tries to ford the river, he ends up being washed downstream and is treated to a death scene where he plummets over the edge of the waterfall. The cliff would be an obvious death-fall, and the mountain would allow the player to wander upward for a while, but every trail would end in dead-ends – except maybe the one that contains hidden company labs that aren’t even on the compound’s map. :)

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  22. Tommi FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    How about an adrenalin counter: Have the character run, or fight, or do some other such activity and your character gets more excited and the field of vision of your character blurs at the edges. Keep on fighting or running and it will become worse and worse, to the point of not being able to see anything. Resting would help.

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  23. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Ambience 327 – wow, I like the river idea! I didn’t think about it!

    @Tommi – I think that’s what we talked about when we went over the fatigue system. My idea was to use heavy breathing and panting as an indicator of growing fatigue, but blurring of the screen could be used as an additional cue of extreme fatigue.

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  24. Big Tiki UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Outdoor survival horror sounds brilliant! It gives some nice atmospheric options, too – a pounding rainfall can lead to flash flooding for the swollen river, but it also hammers at the foliage making it difficult to hear, it puts out the lighter if your hands are shaking at all, and it makes puddles, which are great for losing your scent trail, but noisy if you hurry through them at all.

    Campers and outdoorsmen are also pretty resourceful, though they aren’t hard-asses like the now-typical combat vet. They can cut and chop, tie knots, lash poles, build fires, wedge doors, sharpen saplings, route water, read maps, climb trees, and use a few simple firearms.

    That’s *simple* firearms. Even at Boy Scout camp they used to have a skeet range. I’m thinking of a shotgun, specifically – a very straightforward hunting firearm that forgives *some* lack of aiming. Adrenaline and stress should make it more likely that the character loses control and keeps pulling the trigger, possibly forgetting to work the pump and chamber a new round. Stress and firearms lead to mistakes, that’s why the military train with them so frequently!

    You can add in the old staples like the dilapidated trapper’s shack, which might give you an option – launch a flare and then hide long enough for a (temporary) rescue to arrive. Not being able to do anything but move from inside to outside through a couple of broken windows, hide under a cot, then behind a woodpile, all while listening to what may be rescuers getting slowly closer in the woods would give me a pounding heart.

    Oh, and there are uses for “secret weapons”. Do these suggest anything to you?

    The Handyman’s Secret Weapon: Duct Tape
    The IT worker’s secret weapon: leatherman multitool

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  25. Patrick J McGraw UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    This game would be awesome.

    I’m a big fan of the first-person, no HUD or iventory idea. It would contribute greatly to a feeling of immersion and paranoia. Use just visual and sound cues, and perhaps wobbly controls) to give an idea of your condition. (Several games have vision become blurry when badly injured or exhausted, which would really ramp of the immersion and fear.)

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  26. PooNie CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Another thing that crossed my mind after reading about the outdoors survival idea is the actual survival part, shelter, food and water. If the game is going to take even only 5 hours, the character has to at least use the washroom, any longer, he’ll need food and eventually he’ll need real sleep instead of sitting down to rest fatigue. Finding a safe place to sleep (a lockable room?) within a certain time period, and the longer the character stay up past his bed time, the fatigue meter fills up until he either encounters a monster (adrenaline) or passes out (and gets eaten).

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  27. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Something came up in the comments over at Twenty Sided that I think is a good idea – we’re naturally scared by things that aren’t orderly or logical, if things don’t work the same way every time you try them then it makes it a lot less reliable. Guns jam, some zombies are randomly more robust and take more bullets/beating to take down, other things have a small chance of random failure.

    Done too much, it would be hellishly annoying, but as an occasional thing it’d up the tension and make you feel less safe.

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  28. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh, another idea I was toying with – cut up dead zombies to get something to distract the others with. If you manage to kill one and have the time to sit down and hack off a chunk of meat, then you can toss it into a corner to lure other zombies away.

    Would also have some penalty… maybe you get covered in gore and are yourself more attractive to zombies, or only the ones that hunt by smell… or something.

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  29. Ambience 327 UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Continuing with the HUD-less display, I suggest no ammo counters. The player would have to use a hotkey to manually check the ammo in whatever gun he is carrying (which would, of course, take time).

    Let’s say you are walking along and find a severed arm holding a revolver. You press a key to pick it up – and are treated to an animation of the character’s hands prying the gun from the cold, dead fingers, and flipping it open – revealing three bullets in the magazine, before closing it again. Now the player has to keep track of their ammo, or check it again as the progress. If they happen to come upon another bullet or two, they would have to take the time to load it – with shaky fingers caused by nerves – a random chance of dropping a bullet perhaps? (tink, tink – “aww crap”.) Then you’d have to pick it up and try again. A key press for each bullet on the ground would be a great mechanic – assuming the ammo is very limited. It would help increase the tension as ever precious second could bring that ugly zombie/moster you keep hearing into view.

    I am definately liking the camper idea – what with being competent with tools, knots, fires, basic firearms, etc., you’d give the player enough options on how to go about things without being the uber-solder that takes away the fear factor.

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  30. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Matt` – well, I figured that just throwing a random object into another room would make enough noise to send bunch of zombies there to investigate. Cutting them up would probably not be necessary.

    Perhaps one area could have a walk in freezer with fresh meet hanging from the ceiling from hooks. Player could possibly drag those out into the open to attract monsters who would then spend some time devouring it? Seems like a less gruesome way to set up a trap than cutting up a zombie.

    @Ambience 327 – Condemned had ammo management that worked like that. You could hit a button and you would see the character pop up the revolver cylinder to show how much ammo is left in it, or pull out the magazine from the automatic weapon so that you could count the bullets. It worked very nice, but the firearms were incredibly scarce in that game.

    The game did have really silly door puzzles though. For example, a padlock on a chain fence could only be smashed with a hammer, and an electronic lock could only be disabled with a shovel and etc.

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  31. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    No, no, no! :) Zombies don’t eat dead meat! They only eat living things, and then stop once their victim is dead…that’s why there are more zombies…otherwise the only ones who would be zombies are those that get scratched/bitten then escape :) Zombies won’t eat other zombies, even if they’ve been chopped up.

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  32. Big Tiki UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    You know, it strikes me that we always look at “survival horror” in light of the human need for safety and security. What if you turned the genre on its head and had to survive as the infectious agent? The player still needs to hide, but the time-biding aspects are now taken up with remaining hidden until your viral mutations are done, then needing to “vector out” to a new host in order to progress.

    I envision a system in which the player is “the disease”, but a disease along the lines of the aware recombinant cells from Greg Bear’s novel Blood Music. You must find some way to survive in a host long enough to alter your own characteristics so that you might move from host to host. Mutation characteristics might be beneficial to your spread in some situations (greatly reduced respiration needs, for example, make crossing water or staying submerged easier), and be detrimental in others (the massive bleeding sores all over you make it tough to come close to potential carriers). Each host is a temporary vessel, and the virus must protect it during mutation. A mutation timer indicates how much longer until the next change, then one selected trait or one random trait is added to the player’s “arsenal” of abilities. Perhaps they are some of the common zombie tropes:

    * resistance to impact
    * susceptability to fire
    * immunity to cold
    * echolocation
    * speed

    Whatever the change, you have to keep the host alive while the mutation takes place. When the mutation is done, the host (which was so useful before) is now hostile to your new form, being full of the old infectious agent. A new clock is ticking, and you must hunt, locate, and infect a new host. If you have the time, uninterrupted, to fully infect a new host, your ‘cellular memory’ moves to the new host, battles it internally for a few moments, and then takes control of most of the nervous system. Many memories remain out of reach, but body memory (climbing, working common devices, swimming) may all be available. At higher levels of functionality, access to memories such as facility routines (passwords, keycodes, repair or sabotage methods) might also be unlocked. If you lack the time to complete the infection, the cellular memory remains behind and the target host is just infected, and will not impede you in the future, but is not suitable as a host.

    Sitting in a host for too long after mutation would not necessarily lead right to the “game over” screen, of course. Better by far to take away beneficial abilities gradually. Maybe the virus’ ability to draw nourishment from spoiled food begins to slow, or perhaps the old resistance to fire and heat begin to provide less and less protection. When the super-speed begins to falter, is shambling mindlessly that far away?

    A virus with the right mutations could use the host’s body beyond its normal tolerances, eliminating the pain response, increasing metabolism or explosive muscle force, shutting down systems to ignore trauma. These actions would ‘burn up’ the host body, killing the host from within, but might allow the virus to survive a tough spot. Some security guard gets your infected electrician in a headlock? Use the host burn ability to gain greater strength, but now you have used up half an hour of the host’s effective survival clock. Better look for a new vector of infection!

    The player might start out in a secret laboratory, having mutated inside a rat test subject. The rat has a few abilities, but the infection means the virus knows it must jump to a human host or perish. The rat works to escape the lab by chewing, climbing, and sneaking, and ends up outside, above ground, in the wilderness. It bites a camper who has been suffering through the rainstorm and wondering how to get back across the flooded river…

    Where to next, virus? Your host is a hideous, mumbling shambles of a body with some survival skills that you have access to, but the best you can do for a weapon is a 4-D-cell flashlight.

    Oh, did I mention that the security apparatus of the lab knows you escaped? And have you heard the helicopters yet? How about the other virus that also got out, the one that’s trying to assimilate you?

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  34. Laraqua AUSTRALIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I totally agree with you there. I think survival horrors have to find another way around relying on combat. If it weren’t so terribly hard, I would say that Forbidden Siren is one of the best for this as you really have to pick your way around a location – avoiding attacks and finding the right bits of scenery to interact with. Amnesia does it wonderfully well where you pretty much never outright fight the big bads.

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