For Under The Rain, I want to implement some familiar game mechanics, and also bring back some old ones from survival horror classics.
I would like to go through most of them in more detail, so that you, the reader, may give some input and/or tell me what you think.
One of the first game mechanics that I wanted to implement was a stealth mechanic. I really want the player to have a way of going around the problems and not head on, guns blazing towards the enemy. The enemies are going to be tough, fast and relentless. As so, the player must try to sneak his way out the best he can, similar to “Siren”.
As so, the enemies can hear your footsteps and see you within a certain range and lighting condition. As an indication, and since I didn’t want any UI elements on-screen or a visible HUD, the image saturation reflects the player’s visibility as perceived by the enemies (full color = completely visible, gray scale = completely dark), and the enemies will give a warning sign depending of how far the player is and/or how visible he is (as in mildly suspicious, very suspicious, or close enough to engage the player). Depending on the situation, the enemies might call for help and a group will follow and attack the player.
You will also have the option to pick up certain throwable objects to create a distraction, making the enemy move in the direction of the noise source.
The other obvious mechanic for a survival horror is the combat mechanic. Now, as in Silent Hill 1 to 4, I want the player to feel powerless, playing as an ordinary man, not fitted for combat. As so, the melee attacks are slow and sluggish, and the firearms are not very accurate. There is also no crosshair to aid in the shooting, you will have to use the flashlight’s inner reticule to aim. The idea is to make the combat a little more realistic, because if it would be one of us, I doubt that many would have any combat experience… Also, I want to give more emphasis to the melee combat and stealth, so I am pondering the option of locking out the firearms behind puzzles.
The camera is in third person like Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, The Evil Within, etc., but in certain areas it shifts to a prefixed angle, reminiscent of older survival horror games. Once the player enters combat mode, however, the camera goes back to third person view. It also has the option to shift sides from left to right, to help peeking around corners.
Next, there is also a climbing and vaulting mechanic, giving a little bit more of freedom to the player, and adding some verticality to the game, also opening new solutions to solve the levels. Alongside these are other adventure-style mechanics like edge climbing, edge walking and balancing, etc. I decided to include them, since a part of the game is played in exterior zones (forests, woods, cliffs, etc.) and ruins, among others.
There is also the flashlight, which you will need a lot, both as a light source (the game is going to be very dark) and to aid with your aim (the inner reticule of the flashlight will be your crosshair), and it consumes batteries, so the player will have to explore the game world in order to find as much as he can.
Another mechanic of the game will be related to the psychological component of the story (more on that in another post…). This will be a bit similar to the world transition in Silent Hill games, but in this case it is a reference to the protagonist entering his mind. This transformation will always begin with a descent, symbolizing that the protagonist is entering the depths of his mind. In these areas, the world is more degraded, wet and moysty, and assumes a maze-like architecture. The player has then to reach the end of the maze and try to find fragments of his memories, like pages of a diary. In these sequences, the protagonist is also pursued by his dark side, who he can fight back to slow down, but never defeat. This is a bit similar to the Slender games, where the player must find pages avoiding an evil entity, while trying to reach the exit.
Then there is the save mechanic, which is borrowed from old school survival horror. In this case, in order to save the game, the player must find matches to light candles at certain points of the game. The matches, however, serve other purposes, in order to force some player choices. As an example, imagine there is a long, dark, maze-like corridor with some traps that you must cross. The flashlight dies and you have no batteries. There is one match, one save point and one oil lamp. If you chose to save the game using your match, you can’t take the lamp, having to risk it in the dark. If you take the light, however, you have to find another match and save point to save your game. With this mechanic, I believe that the player will feel a higher level of tension, because in this case, dying has a bigger weight.
As for the game world, I want it to be the most open possible, but keep the player on a linear path. Although the player is free to explore the majority of the city of Arkham, the main areas should be hinted at explicitly and in order so that the player wont stray too much away from the path.
And I believe that that’s it, at least for now, about Under The Rain’s game mechanics.