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High concept document for 'The Nightmare'


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High concept document for a first person platformer game with horror elements called 'The Nightmare' made by a team of 20 students (including myself) in the HAN University, The Netherlands from April - June 2014.

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High concept document for 'The Nightmare'

  1. 1. HIGH CONCEPT DOCUMENT “THE NIGHTMARE” [NOTE: Any text in bold is a revision or an addition to the 1st version] Core Concept: This game is intended to be a first person platformer and RPG with overtones of survival horror. It will involve no direct combat. All enemies have to either be avoided, fled from, dealt with through a platforming challenge or in the case of some enemies also given the option to convince them to not fight through dialogue. The enemies will come at infrequent intervals, and most of the game time will be spent exploring, platforming and garnering information from friendly Non - Player Characters(here onwards referred to as ‘NPCs’) and otherwise engaging in quests given to you. The Player Character (PC) is traversing a 3D landscape with a semi – open gameworld style with ‘dungeons’ to explore, the dungeons being the areas through which the main storyline progresses and optional sidequests which can lead to rewards for the PC in various forms, which encourages exploration of a game world filled with bizarre, frightening and nonsensical geometry, with occasional soothing interludes in areas of refuge. The game is designed around the concept of the experience that comes with being robbed of power and understanding entirely when thrust into a situation beyond rational conception, the fear that would come with it, and the journey to try to make sense of a world that has no laws binding it to reality.
  2. 2. FEATURES/GAMEPLAY: 1) Progression System: There is a progression dynamic that is implemented by the medium of an ability reward for collecting the penultimate objectives of the game: pieces of a greater whole that need to be reassembled. The abilities gained with each piece obtained unlock access to new areas of the game and allow the PC to tackle new kinds of enemies/platforming or even new branches in dialogue. (Collecting these was Link’s ultimate objective) Influences I’m drawing on here are The Legend of Zelda games for the adventuring and exploration of dungeons (which contain the “spiritual stones”) and a semi – sandbox style gameworld.
  3. 3. 2) Dialogue System: There should be a huge emphasis on dialogue as an actual gameplay element as simply opposed to window dressing for NPCs. The writing must convey a sense of depth and not be so shallow in scope as to just force the player to choose a Good, Bad or Neutral answer from the dialogue wheel. (This really doesn’t feel like a meaningful choice at all) I also want to implement a feel of actual choices being made that affect the plot and can have a role to play in the ultimate outcome. Based on choices made in dialogue along with decisions and actions in quests the game can result in multiple endings. This is present to both add replay value and impart a sense of consequence to players for the path they chose.
  4. 4. Other prominent influences for the dialogue system include the original Deus Ex and the indie game Lone Survivor, both of which kept track of the answers in dialogue and choices made by players to result in multiple endings or changed the course of the storyline.
  5. 5. Planescape: Torment also really impressed me with the weight given to its’ dialogue and the changes that could effect on the story as a result of it. For example, at any point of time in the game, a conversation with a significant NPC could lead you to find an interesting sidequest, give you experience and gold rewards, lead to finding secrets that were still discoverable otherwise but hard to do, unlock access to new areas, grant you new weapons, armour, tattoos (which served as accessories to boost your stats or damage) or even the chance to add the NPC – in – question to the Players party as a companion in some select cases. I’m looking to implement some of the same reactiveness and depth to the dialogue in this game as well. The player should be capable of finding secret areas and shortcuts as well as rewards such as extra lives or powerups through dialogue, in order to feel rewarded for seriously pursuing the dialogue options.
  6. 6. 3) A non – combat confrontational system: Enemies that present a more major threat (essentially very powerful enemies) can be dealt with in two ways: convincing them through dialogue that they shouldn’t be drawn into a fight with the PC or escape sequences that would involve a series of frantic platforming challenges and hiding from sight of the chaser, reminiscent of the Dahaka chases from Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within. One of the more important aspects of this game is that it involves no combat, hence to provide the player with an experience having the same gratifying sense of action, platforming(when being chased by an enemy at least) needs to feel very intense and quick, with swift penalties for failure and a medium to high learning curve. (Admit it, you were scared. And no wonder.)
  7. 7. 4) Journal System: Another idea I’d like to implement is a system of the player writing entries in his/her own words into a journal the PC acquires in the prologue which continues on with him into the main body of the game. In the game world’s setting, it is hard to keep track of what is real and what isn’t. And reality can only be reinforced by reaffirming the events as they happened. The player has to make regular entries in the journal as time passes, otherwise they are more prone to attacks by the more stock variety of enemy entities that are a part of the game world. The flipside is that if they choose to not make journal entries they can take their chances with the enemies they find for the rewards of extra lives and/or powerups that last for a short time adding to the players movement speed or ability to take damage. The journal would also serve as the hub for all the interfaces like maps and character progression. (An idea for the journal interface)
  8. 8. 5) Collectable Lives, Death and Wraith Mode: The player is given a limited number of lives at the beginning of the game. They are then given the chance to collect more lives that are scattered around the game world and must be found through exploration and information obtained from NPC interaction. This is done both to present an obvious difficulty curve and to present an incentive to the player for exploring and maybe as a few quest rewards presented by NPCs. Also to place some pressure on the player to learn the essentials of platforming quickly and ably enough to survive for the initial stages of the game (knowing that they only have so many tries), keeping the pace a little frantic now and then when new types of platforming challenges are introduced and must be learnt how to be dealt with, especially in a fast paced situation like dealing with an enemy.
  9. 9. Death only occurs to the PC after sustaining 7 or 8 instances of damage in a short period of time. (An arbitrary value that will need to be adjusted with balancing and playtesting). Health regenerates if the PC does not receive an instance of damage for a short period. Death can also occur in contexts where appropriate, such as failing a platforming challenge and falling into a spiked pit or a bottomless hole or being caught by a boss in a chase sequence. If the PC receives an instance of damage, feedback of the same would be given to the player which would give them choices depending on the situation, such as finding a place to hide, outrunning the threat at hand or avoiding a damaging environmental obstacle. To illustrate how the Collectible Lives and Health mechanic would actually work consider the following situation: The player is attempting to clear a dungeon with 3 lives in hand. For whatever reason, the player dies multiple times and is now left with 0 lives, this causes the PC to be ejected from the dungeon, and is now roaming the game world in a special character mode known as – “Wraith Mode”. The character is effectively a ghost in this mode as they no longer have any lives. There are no changes to the traversal abilities of the PC, but the PC is no longer capable of taking multiple instances of damage. A single hit, and it is Game Over, which causes the reload from the last save point. To counter this disadvantage though the PC moves faster and no longer has to traverse platforming challenges, instead moving straight through them. The PC is also no longer capable of entering dungeons or talking with NPCS which leaves them with only one possible course of action in order to be able to continue with the game, which is to find more lives. These are scattered in some frequency throughout the game world, so it wouldn’t be too punishing a consequence to
  10. 10. the player, but it does provide a motive for the player to not mess up and learn the game mechanics to the best of their ability. This “Wraith Mode” would be applicable every time the player runs out of lives and provides an alternative path to simply displaying a Game Over screen when the player runs out of lives due to failing too often, which could lead to frustration and Rage Quitting. It also adds some depth to the story of the game, fitting in with the context that the game world is the PCs’ mind and hence he can’t really die in it. VISUAL FEEDBACK: To also really drive home the point that the player is severely weakened in the “Wraith Mode” and to provide more motivation to find lives and get back to normal status, the colour tone and focus of the world could change, becoming black and white and filled with fog and mist or becoming blurred around the edges, this would act as a negative stimulus as it would be harder to notice details such as approaching enemies or traps which would lead the player to play in a manner that is cautious considering their obvious weakness, with the caveat of pushing the player to find lives as quickly as possible to remove the disadvantages they are facing. (Like when the player dies in World of Warcraft)
  11. 11. 6) Silent Hill Inspired Repeated ‘Boss’ Encounters: A very effective feature of Silent Hill as a series was to implement the idea of certain more ‘unnerving than normal’ variety of creature or monster that would chase the player throughout the entire game, thus giving the player a feeling of being hunted and inspiring fear. I’d like to implement the same mechanic more or less. Because you don’t mess with a good thing!
  12. 12. 7) Platforming System: The game world is littered with platforming challenges, traps and puzzles. The nature of the platforming I am trying to implement is of a confusing, seemingly illogical, completely bizarre (to match with the setting and theme) set of challenges that will at first simply escape the understanding of the player. This is influenced by the types of puzzles in the indie game Antichamber, which continue to baffle me even now.
  13. 13. GAME WORLD For the structure of the game world in the main there are two categories: 1) The Semi – Sandbox Open World: The sandbox space will be filled with platforming challenges along the way in the form of timing related puzzles, traps that must be carefully avoided, shifting platforms and hostile NPCs both in the form of rooted obstacles that cannot shift their position and mobile enemies that roam the gameworld searching for the PC. The game world itself would be very chaotic and not conforming to the normal laws of physics. Pockets of land floating around to provide moving platformer challenges in traversal, disappearing and reappearing patches of land that need to be timed when attempting to be crossed, confusing and bizarre geometry that leads the player in circles and puzzles of a logical or reasoning nature that need to be solved to bypass obstacles in the players path. (A sketch for the game world’s outdoor environment)
  14. 14. 2) The Dungeons: The Dungeons will be for the most part, adjoining rooms that connect to each other, that need to be traversed in a non-linear fashion to complete the dungeon in its entirety. The rooms are scattered with platforming challenges, puzzles and patrolling enemies (as opposed to the outside world where they roamed freely) all of which are to provide obstacles to the players’ progress. The ultimate objective of every dungeon is to collect the item that the boss and minions are protecting, which is impossible without solving the multiple puzzles that are spread in separate parts of the dungeon. The doors that connect each room can be locked in some cases, creating a need for the player to backtrack and find the key. (A sketch for the interior of a dungeon)
  15. 15. The dungeons in particular need to pose a very high level of difficulty to the player, to reinforce a storyline element of how the ultimate reward for beating the dungeon is indeed a very valuable item and that this item is fiercely protected by the inhabitants of the dungeon. With this in mind, the apparent value of the reward rises in the perception of the player, making it all the more important they complete the dungeon and providing motivation to stick to the main storyline of the game when side-questing and exploring has become dull. (Some examples of obstacles and platforming challenges in a dungeon)
  16. 16. THEME VISION: The game world is set within a dreamlike state. I think this provides a very versatile setting for a video game because virtually anything is possible in a dream like experience. Think of Inception and how reality is completely defined by the viewer’s perception within the dreamworld. With an idea like this in mind, it would allow for quite a degree of suspension of belief within the players. Hence keeping them firmly in the magic circle. It wouldn’t require much of a stretch to introduce impossible landscapes, paradoxical puzzles and situations that seem completely bizarre and frightening. This is the mood that I want to capture because the PC is stuck in a nightmare that will go on to no end until the final objective is completed. To that end the art style of the game must also be vague, and not clearly defined. The look I’m searching for would have more in common with the foreboding foggy vistas of Silent Hill and the survival horror games of yore, rather than the more realistic feel of modern horror games like Outlast and Dead Space. This would allow players to fill in the blanks with their own conjured fears, which are perhaps much scarier than anything a designer could implement in a game. As to the extent of the actual implementation of the horror aesthetic in – game, I’d like to keep it oriented more towards a psychological style of horror as opposed to repeated jump scares.
  17. 17. MORE OF THIS (Silent Hill 1) (Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s’ Requiem)
  18. 18. LESS OF THIS (Dead Space 1) (Outlast)
  19. 19. MOODBOARD
  20. 20. ROLE AND MOTIVATION OF THE PLAYER: Role: The player is attempting to try and make sense of an experience that robs the character of all power and leaves them stranded alone and defenceless in an unfamiliar place, where all the rules are arbitrary and there is no order. The player must face unimaginable horrors and hostile beings and persevere to find the way back home. They should hopefully also be willing to explore the mysterious gameworld and the secrets it holds. Motivation: 1) Progression Dynamic: The PC acquires abilities with the completion of every dungeon. These abilities are to be used in the new platforming challenges as well as to access the next areas of the map. These abilities are also shown in a flashy character progression interface, all of which motivates the player to try to acquire the necessary abilities to “complete” their character. 2) Status Dynamic: The player receives a grading on their performance whenever they complete a dungeon based on the time taken, number of hits received and other factors. These grades are compared on a leaderboard, which motivates the players to outperform their competition and gain status amongst their peers. 3) Story Dynamic: This isn’t mentioned as part of the 4 traditional dynamics, but I think it deserves a mention. The player would be interested in the game just to find out where and how the story is going and what the ultimate fate of the character is.
  21. 21. UNIQUE SELLING POINTS 1) A throwback to the older style of survival horror games, before action and guns became the staple, and simultaneously a new take on survival horror. 2) A reactive and intriguing dialogue system. 3) Multiple endings for replay value. 4) Innovative Death mechanic. 5) Dungeons with complex and interesting puzzling/platforming. 6) Game world with a non – Euclidean and surreal aesthetic.