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Post news RSS Dev Diary #6: Tension building and jumpscare systems

Tension building in a game is something I've wanted to focus on, I want you to feel that fear before anything happens like a jumpscare, if one happens at all.

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Welcome back!

It's been ten days since my last update on ManneKin: Hessler Storage but I've been doing as much as I can in the evenings of this hot and humid Summer we've been having in the UK. As a solo dev, I don't get the opportunity to work on my game all day but instead, have to do it when everyone has gone to bed.

So, what have I been working on? TENSION BUILDING. Something that's key to any horror game or movie. Tension is a building block though and useless on its own. It's the beginning of a scare, used to start the process, and make the player aware of what may or may not be coming.

Visually, darkness is great for tension building. Dark corridors, tight spaces, limited lights. Making a player feel safe at the beginning of a level is a good way to set a baseline. But leaving someone with too much tension for too long can leave them exhausted, and with no payoff such as a jumpscare, it can make them feel cheated.

Hessler Storage ground floor

Hessler Storage isn't a bright building. The lights have been failing, some don't work, and some aren't even fit yet. Bringing you into bright areas will help ease the tension of having to roam darker areas, but be aware that even in the light you may see the horrors of the ManneKin.

Leaving areas in darkness stirs something in your own mind about what could be in a room. Behind a door. Within a shadow.

Darkened rooms in Hessler Storage

With a jumpscare comes a payoff for the tension that has been built. A sense of relief when the thing you've been waiting to scare you finally does. But I like to subvert these expectations and I've been studying the best ways to do this from horror films and other horror games. You may not get the scare you were thinking of, which makes the subsequent scare more powerful.

I've been making some adjustments to how the scares trigger. Most of the time you'll think you do something that activates a scare, put something somewhere that makes something appear behind you. Those kinds of scares do exist in ManneKin, but they won't always be triggered. What I've been working on is having some scares that everyone will experience, and some scares that are triggered by other things. Hidden sequences within the demo. Events that only happen when you do things in a certain order, or when something hidden is discovered. You'll get a taste of this next month when the demo drops.

Limited light in Hessler Storage

If you're enjoying these updates, give me a follow here or head to Twitter to follow me there, and keep an eye out on itch.io/ManneKin for the demo!

In the meantime, you can join the Discord community!

See you soon!

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