Design Journal Update

From my contextual review, I focused on games such as Super Hot, Stifled, and Face Your Fears to help in designing Sonophobia.  From the game Super Hot I learned a lot about player immersion in the sense that the player fully invests their body when playing the game often contorting it in response to projectiles launched at the player. The player very early on realizes to be hyper-aware of their environment as small projectiles could lead to a game over. Players adapt to this by changing stances, posture, and become more reactive to slight changes in the environment as the more they move the more the game progresses. From what I have seen this leads to 2 different types of players as the first type will instinctively react and be in-sync with the action but in turn, the games are faster and it’s very hard to succeed. The second type of player will be a statue moving slightly and strategically and thus able to go for longer as they can plan accordingly. So from this, I learned that a player’s immersion is based on the very first seconds of gameplay as well as a game should be approachable from different perspectives as not everyone will play the game the way you intended. Sure the rules and objectives are the same but the gameplay will differ.

These concepts were applied to Sonophobia by us adding a tutorial stage that allows the player to adapt to the environment and controls without worrying about gameplay. The player is provided narration and a cutscene and can choose to remain within the safe area until they are ready to start. Based on our playtesting we are hoping to build immersion immediately through the mechanics and environment and not overwhelm the player with tasks immediately. To provide for multiple gameplay experiences we streamlined our game to have basic objectives. We got rid of our riddle-solving mechanic to focus more on escaping and avoiding the monster. The level design so far also allows the player to navigate the space on their own and are not placed on rails that guide them. This allows the player to choose how if they will wait and hide, or if choose to run and dodge. This approach developed over time based on both gameplay testing our builds with feedback as well as creating game structure and flow charts charting the progression of the game. Based on feedback we heard the mechanics took some time to adjust to and was overwhelming at first. This was a sign that if they might not try it again if they lost as they weren’t comfortable with it. With the integration of providing a variety of approaches to gameplay, it was based on discussions that we are asking players to keep track of multiple objectives at the same time, carrying objects within the game that weren’t useful until later within the game. This lead to streamlining and simplicity which made the game smaller in regard to rules and objectives that can lead to varied gameplay.

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In regard to the game Stifled, our game borrows heavily from the mechanic and aesthetics as the player has to use sound to view the black environment highlighted in white line drawings. The enemy within the game is also represented in a shade of red. From this game, we learned a lot about building an environment around our dark aesthetic as well as what we did not want. Unlike Stifled, Sonophobia is completely pitch black with no outlines in white of the objects and environment of the game. The vision of the player is momentary which benefits our gameplay and horror theme. We first sought after Stifled because it had a similar radar sight mechanic we had come up with for our game. We wanted to see how it was implemented within the game and how this mechanic works. In Stifled the radar once applied to an area remains so that you can have a clear understanding of your environment and once you leave from it, the effect disappears. For our implementation of the mechanic, the effect will only last as it is being activated. So unlike flashlight where a section is illuminated, ours is more strobe light where we get glimpses of the environment. We also learned about enemy pathways and how to make a monster scary within a horror game. We learned sound and visuals play a key role and came up with a monster design suited for our story and game aesthetic and found a voice that was eerie to listen to in-game. We experienced Stifled on the vibe and did not have the best of experience with the controls so from this we decided we wanted to avoid using analog controls for movement and allow the player to explore the space in person using their body in real-time using the oculus quest which is wireless.

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From the VR experience Face Your Fears I learned about how horror can be adopted within a VR setting especially with the use of binaural sound. Face Your Fears is not interactive much like a game but is more of like a haunted house on rails as things jump up at you for jump scares or the environment builds up for the upcoming scare. Based on what we learned our team was focused on the varying different levels of sound we would need for our game from background music to set the tone, environment sounds for immersion and small details like breathing sounds to induce panic and fear, the voice of the monster as it pertains to his location. We have even changed our story to be scarier by altering the ending to not be happy but be suspenseful. This was implemented overtime over many builds layering sound so one particular thing doesn’t become overbearing.

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