Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

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Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby The Philosopher » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:27 pm

Hi, i dont know if this is the right place for asking these questions but i always wanted to make a Survival Horror Mod inspired by Doom 3 and The Thing but i never knew how to make the ambient and the monsters scary or disturbing or how to make the player feel weak or helpless.
do you have any tips or recommendations?
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby SamVision » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:10 pm

There are a few things that I've picked up from existing horror games that do a good job.

1. Discourage direct encounters by allowing the player to run away and/or hide from a monster as their main option.

2. Give the player limited resources so they have to make tough decisions and make every shot count.

3. Good Enemy AI. This is important! Bad AI is what made Outlast lose all of its tension very early on.

4. Open level design, linearity makes things predictable no matter how you stretch it. The best scares are the ones that occur off-script.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Matt » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:12 pm

Establish a sense of what's normal and expected ingame first, and assume that the only scary stuff is what deviates from that.

A constant, normalized fear only stays scary if one is in danger of losing something in real life.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby kodi » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:33 pm

Don't make it impossible to fight enemies. In fact, provide many ways to do so (especially using the environment). But make it really hard or draining on healing resources or whatever so it's usually a better idea to run.
Above all, avoid making it formulaic! Designated and highlighted hiding closets are extremely lame. If you allow players multiple paths and multiple ways to survive they'll be a lot more immersed and thus more easily scared.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby R4L » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:57 pm

The Thing uses isolation very well, so I would create a rather large environment, but keep the player there. Similar to Total Chaos and Fort Oasis. Also, just personal taste, but I enjoy more surreal experiences:

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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby NeuralStunner » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:38 pm

Matt wrote:Establish a sense of what's normal and expected ingame first, and assume that the only scary stuff is what deviates from that.

A constant, normalized fear only stays scary if one is in danger of losing something in real life.
To add to this: Avoid a constant barrage of "scary stuff", build up to it. Start with glimpses of "something's not right". Don't be afraid to be subtle.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby wildweasel » Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:51 am

Signal the player of "safe zones," too, as they can sometimes also have the opposite effect, leading to feelings of dread when one comes up unexpectedly.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby NeuralStunner » Sat Nov 10, 2018 4:00 pm

wildweasel wrote:Signal the player of "safe zones," too, as they can sometimes also have the opposite effect, leading to feelings of dread when one comes up unexpectedly.
Not a video game example, but I can relate: I had a D&D group that were too paranoid to go in a safe room in the middle of a dungeon - They got into two more fights and were beat to crap before they decided to come back to it.

So they camped against the outside door. :bang:
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Matt » Sun Nov 11, 2018 2:50 am

A fake safe zone is totally the sort of thing I'd pull on a player, so I get that.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Ghost Prototype » Thu Nov 15, 2018 4:37 pm

If it helps adds to the discussion, I'm currently stuck in-between resource management and realism.
For example, the handgun in my mod can either have the traditional exchange in reloading with the total bullets. Or a more unrealistic one to add "tension" or "make every shot counts" by using clips instead to trade ammo. The latter does make ammo seem more scarce. But in a real life scenario, who wouldn't just save the magazine to load bullets back into it? Instead of tossing a magazine with rounds still left inside. Seems wasteful.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby SamVision » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:48 am

Are you focusing on story and characters? Depending on the kind of person your protagonist is, they might not have the knowledge to fully operate a gun. To compromise I'd have traditional reloading mechanics but make the time to reload a gun take longer.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Ghost Prototype » Thu Nov 22, 2018 1:41 am

I went for the traditional reloading path. The protagonist is well rounded in firearm-knowledge, so to compromise I just made ammo more scarce. But that felt lazy, therefore I gave the ammo more utility (armor penetration and an altfire incendiary effect, like the flaregun from blood). But then again, it's only for the handgun so far. Since you know, that's usually the weapon you use to handle fodder enemies. Although now it has more of a purpose.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby SamVision » Tue Nov 27, 2018 6:25 pm

If you are implementing melee I recommend something similar to Dark Souls or Chivalry. The swings and strikes take a while and you need to commit to them because missing will be punished by a long recovery, but if you get a hit you can wreck enemies.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Maleficus » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:08 pm

One thing to consider is also sound design. The best survival horror games have always had stellar sound design and the right atmospheric music to set the tone.

There’s really a lot that goes into making a good survival horror game. Art style, audio, atmosphere, controls, enemies, everything is vital. I’d recommend replaying one of your favorites and just analyze how the game was designed overall. Take note of what it did right and how it was effective, and use that knowledge when designing your own scenarios.
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Re: Tips for making a Survival Horror Mod?

Postby Ichor » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:04 am

Maleficus wrote:One thing to consider is also sound design. The best survival horror games have always had stellar sound design and the right atmospheric music to set the tone.

There’s really a lot that goes into making a good survival horror game. Art style, audio, atmosphere, controls, enemies, everything is vital. I’d recommend replaying one of your favorites and just analyze how the game was designed overall. Take note of what it did right and how it was effective, and use that knowledge when designing your own scenarios.

Sometimes it's better to not have any music. It shouldn't be dead quiet either (for the most part). Many times, just some background sounds (creeks, wind blowing, faint droning or humming noise, etc.) could be enough of an atmosphere without needing a looping song. And there may be some occasions where no noise whatsoever is good for building tension, especially if the player starts getting used to the background noise.
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