Steam Can you add horror to a strategy game ? CAN YOU ?

ramos

Member
Hello,

Why ?
I am a simple man, I love playing RTS, tactical games, and survival games and I love horror stuff so my main objective is to create something that I want to play(yes a bit selfish of me and yes money is needed but not my main focus) in this case a tactical RTS mixed with horror.
Closes game to this kind of zone mixing tactics with horror was for me the classic Xcom ufo ( they are billions is a good RTS but far from horror).
So my quest begins

Help me doctor!
Currently, I need some help, any suggestions are highly appreciated.
More exactly I need any suggestions/ideas that combine tactical aspects/RTS elements with horror.
Don`t be shy

What do I got so far
SO this is some things I made regarding mixing these elements
- most monster spanners are hidden in dark areas and even before they come on screen they got speech bubbles with creepy lines
- mechanic wise: when killing a zombie there is a 50% chance of that zombie to turn into a zombie crawler so there is always the suspense. artwork wise: the crawler is pretty creepy moving a lot slower than normal zombies and leaving a track of blood
- environment wise: I added narrow corridors on some maps leaving room for some claustrophobic feel each time a squad member pass tough it
- lights that flicker hidden for little time what is underneath it including player characters
- barricading windows with engineers and trying to defend the position with soldiers not letting the monsters inside, also note that engineers and medic cannot defend themself alone so tactical management is needed
- creepy monsters design, for example, a monster that can turn hand in tentacles(inspired from the movie the thing) or a monster with eggs on his back from which worms come, worms that if not killed fast they evolve into bigger worms
- perma-death to increase the fear factor
- each character unique lines based on events so that people may empathize with them more
- maps also got additional optional text displayed like in comic style in order to support the horror aspect
And so on...

Mainly the RTS elements are almost complete but for the feel I need stuff that can boost these feels
- suspense
- horror
- fear
- uncertainty
- claustrophobic
- any possible phobias




Preview of how the game looks like so you can have a better estimation of what can be added/changed









I also tried to create an environment based on the movie "The Mist" more exactly the pharmacy encounter.




This been said, I thank you for reading and hope that you can help me with any suggestions regarding this personal creation
 

ramos

Member
also some gifs for a better understanding of how it plays





We want to add some more Lovecraftian inspired monsters such as walls made of flesh and these things, an eye which can make survivors stun with fear and eggs grown out of flesh wall from which worms grow, brrrrrr





Evacuation zone

Evacuation zone mechanic is implemented, during each building exploration map there will be exit points, to evacuate simply move the character on top of it, will take a few seconds for a character to evacuate during which other characters can cover him, if he got reflex skill the evacuation timmer will be lowered, in some situation is best not to be greedy with looting while monsters come closer last characters evacuation will be a problem, or you can set automated defenses with an engineer to cover evacuation if you have an engineer in the squad, many MANY possibilities, and gameplay approaches tactics.

The character may evac map at any time he desires but he must take in consideration that each evac will increase aggro(overall difficulty, awareness of monsters) every action got a consequence.

This mechanic is also aimed for adding the feel of pressure for the player
 

ramos

Member
Heavy inspiration from the movie Children of the corn and jeepercreeps environment


and the classic Xcom above mentioned (loved the thrill of sending the squad in an unknown encounter zone)




this map is heavily inspired from movie "ALIENS" were the colonial marines had the first encounter with the aliens


 

Yal

šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Phobia triggering (trypophobia, the fear of too many eyes/holes) has made me stop playing at least one game, and I've seen a lot of people stop playing Dark Souls II when they get to the level that's all about giant spiders, so be careful about using phobias for cheap horror effect - it won't have any effect on people without the phobia, and it might have too much effect on people with it.

  • The greatest horror is the fear of the unknown, so don't give the player too much information. (If every monster announces its presence with a scary one-liner, it might ruin the effect because you KNOW where it is).
  • Being able to shoot something instantly makes it less scary. Have hazards that you can't kill, like dangerous mist/rain, swarms of bugs (there's too many bugs for you to kill them all), infinite zombie hordes etc.
  • Adding time pressure so the player needs to move quickly and without properly scouting threats makes it more likely that they end up in situations they lose control over. XCOM2 was designed around this happening all the time since the designers knew players had a more engaging experience when things went wrong.
  • Having tension build up because you don't know what's gonna happen is important: don't always start the battle phase right away. You could even have missions completely without enemies occasionally so the player keeps being tense about an encounter that's never going to actually happen.
  • Gas-lighting the player (changing things when they aren't looking) is a common horror technique. Have random props change sprites every few seconds when they're offscreen or move around a bit. You could even add a positional audio sound effect when it happens to imply that there's someone or something that moves stuff when you aren't looking.
  • If the horror starts messing with your GUI, it can be really effective (since the game interface is supposed to be sacred and above that kind of stuff). NieR:Automata had a point where you're infected with a computer virus which broke down a lot of your interface because it's part of you in the game world, SuperHOT's ending has you be in the game and shoot your physical world form (in the game) to become a digital entity without a body, SOMA messes with your perspective of time (with the idea that you don't feel the passage of time when you're dead because you don't exist, even if you're revived through techology later), and Yahtzee's The Consuming Shadow has damage to your mental health start adding self-harm prompts in the menu so you can accidentally damage yourself if you're feeling too bad (if you lose all your mental health you will have no choice but to kill yourself because 100% of menu prompts are replaced with self-harm).
 

ramos

Member
Thank you so much for taking your time to help me write this nice suggestions list
I will try to answer all the bullet points

Phobia triggering (trypophobia, the fear of too many eyes/holes) has made me stop playing at least one game, and I've seen a lot of people stop playing Dark Souls II when they get to the level that's all about giant spiders, so be careful about using phobias for cheap horror effect - it won't have any effect on people without the phobia, and it might have too much effect on people with it.
Yes I see what you mean and I totally agree, since this is not 3D immersive I just hope some of the Phobias can be acceptable

The greatest horror is the fear of the unknown, so don't give the player too much information. (If every monster announces its presence with a scary one-liner, it might ruin the effect because you KNOW where it is).
Yes, I will not abuse the speech bubbles and I will take full advantage of shadows and fog of war
I am even thinking of hiding all character stats including player squad stats except for health, armor, and ammo. And for level up/upgrades just text descriptions no numbers

Being able to shoot something instantly makes it less scary. Have hazards that you can't kill, like dangerous mist/rain, swarms of bugs (there's too many bugs for you to kill them all), infinite zombie hordes etc.
I did not think of making invincible enemies but now that you mention I can think of some good ways to do it like an expanding fungus. I do have eggs that if not destroyed keep spamming worms forever

Adding time pressure so the player needs to move quickly and without properly scouting threats makes it more likely that they end up in situations they lose control over. XCOM2 was designed around this happening all the time since the designers knew players had a more engaging experience when things went wrong.
Yes, that is exactly what i was thinking when I designed the evacuation zones mechanics design


Having tension build up because you don't know what's gonna happen is important: don't always start the battle phase right away. You could even have missions completely without enemies occasionally so the player keeps being tense about an encounter that's never going to actually happen.
ahhh I did not think of this, yet another good suggestion that I will add. So a few map buildings with no enemies just for increasing the tension

Gas-lighting the player (changing things when they aren't looking) is a common horror technique. Have random props change sprites every few seconds when they're offscreen or move around a bit. You could even add a positional audio sound effect when it happens to imply that there's someone or something that moves stuff when you aren't looking.
Do you have any more suggestions regarding this visual vise(in a top-down perspective) that you can elaborate on?

If the horror starts messing with your GUI, it can be really effective (since the game interface is supposed to be sacred and above that kind of stuff). NieR:Automata had a point where you're infected with a computer virus which broke down a lot of your interface because it's part of you in the game world, SuperHOT's ending has you be in the game and shoot your physical world form (in the game) to become a digital entity without a body, SOMA messes with your perspective of time (with the idea that you don't feel the passage of time when you're dead because you don't exist, even if you're revived through techology later), and Yahtzee's The Consuming Shadow has damage to your mental health start adding self-harm prompts in the menu so you can accidentally damage yourself if you're feeling too bad (if you lose all your mental health you will have no choice but to kill yourself because 100% of menu prompts are replaced with self-harm).
This is the only one from your list that I am not sure of, meaning this can turn out to become frustrating for the player if not executed good and frustration is not one of my aims
Do you have any suggestions regarding how to apply this in a more light way?


Again
Thank you so much for the suggestions, let me know if you think of more
 

Rayek

Member
Phobia triggering (trypophobia, the fear of too many eyes/holes) has made me stop playing at least one game, and I've seen a lot of people stop playing Dark Souls II when they get to the level that's all about giant spiders, so be careful about using phobias for cheap horror effect - it won't have any effect on people without the phobia, and it might have too much effect on people with it.
Totally agree! When I was a teen I first watched Alien (the first movie), and it caused nightmares for weeks. When the first properly made 3d game was released, I tried playing it, only to get migraines and outbreaks in sweat while playing, and I couldn't even finish the first level! Never touched an Alien-universe game since.
 

ramos

Member
Totally agree! When I was a teen I first watched Alien (the first movie), and it caused nightmares for weeks. When the first properly made 3d game was released, I tried playing it, only to get migraines and outbreaks in sweat while playing, and I couldn't even finish the first level! Never touched an Alien-universe game since.
Thank you for this story share.
Would you say that in top-down 2D RTS you would also be scared to play? Taking in consideration that the feel from FPS is more personal and the feel from RTS is more general?
 

Rayek

Member
Nah, I had no trouble playing Shadowgrounds Survivor, which is pretty much a overhead shooter based on Aliens. And Shadowgrounds is actually one of my all-time fav shoot'm ups, with some "scary" moments.
 

ramos

Member
Oh man, it's been some time since I updated this, already 4 years in development, this project will be the end of me.

So here is the updated version.


"They are billions" - very good RTS game with a nice Zombie theme but very far from being a horror game.
"Classic Xcom/Ufo" - the best tactical game that got a nice horror vibe/feel to it but not in real-time
"Darkwood" - good thriller & horror but not an RTS

This been said I will now present my core pillars for this project and you can do a "nay"-"yay" vote if you want




- Empathy for characters: This is not an FPS so emphasizing with the situation will be a bit hard but I plan to achieve that through Example:1. Each character will be unique( equipment/stats and most important personality, personality is shown trough out randomly generated speech text in result with triggers and situations) 2. The game got Perma-death .3 Character customization

- Adrenaline of making a choice: I want to make players feel each choice matters and increase their adrenaline by not only having perma-death but also saving game cannot be done at any time and it also costs resources according to how many people you got in the squad.



- Phobias: I plan to use as many phobias as possible, for example, there will be a room full of bugs that player must cross (optionally) to get an extra reward



- The mystery of unknown: many random generated algorithms and difficult based on how you play the game

- Mechanics & visuals: for example, we have a monster that got eggs on his back, from those eggs worms come out and if not killed fast the worms keep growing larger and larger. Another example: a huge tentacle monster that only hides in the dark and snatches player characters. Anxiety can be very fast achieved with such gameplay especially if the player will have possibility to barricade himself inside buildings and try to survive the coming monsters



- Theme/plot: I am going for a Lovecraft-alien invasion - demon zombie plot



and some new screenshots









ahhhhhh


Also, I added Game Maker Logo from Discord in my interactive credit screen :D



And now the game got a new logo





Any suggestions regarding the game design of RTS + horror is appreciated!
Any suggestions on how to do marketing for such a project are also appreciated!

Also if any of you want to support me you can wishlist the game on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1035660/Chromosome_Evil/


Thank you lovely devs of GM
 

ramos

Member
One more update, a good month


I was thinking of a new way of boosting the horror element by adding prelude maps for scenarios, for example, this prelude map is for that huge boss fight a few pages earlier. Note that this prelude map has no enemies and the player will not know this. this map is supposed to:
- offer hints about how can you beat the monster(aka you need long-range weapons)
- offer information about the game lore
- some character development
- tension slowly increases by fear of the unknown and mystery.






And here is the next map where the player is in a house and outside is just 1 huge tentacle monster that snatches player soldiers one by one. The player can never see the entire creature so I boost the fear of unknown element and claustrophobia, I also tried to be fair so the player can win 2 ways, either by killing the monster or by escaping through the underground tunnel(both lead to different game paths)



hope you enjoy it, feedback is appreciated
 

ramos

Member
All assets for scenario 06 are done.

I aimed for simple gameplay here, also by this point the player will be familiar with all basic mechanics.

Mainly you must fix the vehicle(doing so you will unlock the workshop menu) by looting components from the map(or if you already have components from the previous exploration even better)and during this time you must also protect the perimeter against the undead. After the vehicle is fixed and you have the key, the exit grid will appear

And a small twist at the end, the player will have a choice. increase Action points permanent + 1 during travel map but get permanent x2 prices in the workshop or do not get the bonus AP and have normal prices in the workshop.

 

tkokotaj

Member
I think the main problem with a horror RTS game (and most strategy games) is the abstraction of the player and the game. it's a lot less horrifying because it's happening to 'not yourself' but to pieces you control.

Here are some suggestions to trend the game away from a 'super dark and gory RTS' and towards 'Stressful, Anxiety-creating, scary(?) RTS'

Well, I wrote this before looking at Yal's post, and now reading his, there's some overlap... hopefully it still can give you some more ideas!

-You've already been doing this, but I think it should be really stressed: Make players really attached to their units. Perhaps the scariest part of XCOM was how much I cared about each of my dudes; sending someone I spent a lot of time building up around a blind corner was so much scarier than in games without perma-death or where troops were more faceless. Perhaps implement a bit of 'rogue-like' elements, where characters can have super unique (and powerful!) combinations of traits that you'd only really see once EVER.

-Make mechanics that effect the player, not the player's forces. This can be as simple as stuff like Fog of War, but can be some really creative stuff.
'Don't Starve' has a great mechanic where if your sanity is low you start seeing hallucinations of monsters- perhaps you could have some monsters appear only on the edge of the screen, just to freak the player out, but don't really exist.

-Use time pressure in unexpected ways. Perhaps have a countdown timer start unexpectedly in the middle of a mission, or have an existing timer get cut in half by a monster. This hopefully creates a 'panic' situation.

- Fear of random events: if the game is less predictable, there's more for the players to worry about. Again, back to Xcom; I had a lot of fear when having a 90% chance to kill an alien, but knowing that if I fail, my best guy is totally dead next turn. Maybe also consider adding the opposite of 'loot boxes,' where sometimes, randomly, an enemy 'crate' type event can appear that can have anywhere from basically harmless monsters to something that'll totally screw the player over.

- Jump scare pacing: I don't think you're really going for traditional jump-scare horror, but depending on the pacing of the game, a transition from very very slow (methodically checking corners, closets, sweeping flashlights...) to extremely fast paced (zerg swarm of monsters appearing from everywhere within a couple of game frames, accompanied by complete change in sound track and many loud noises) might be a good way to have a pseudo-jump scare.

-ick factor; if something really gruesome happens (to your personal favorite guy...) adding gore to the player's screen might be a fun way to get them to lean away from their monitor in horror. Would have to be used very sparingly I think, or else it would just be an annoying game mechanic that players get used to.
 

ramos

Member
Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions and feedback.

-You've already been doing this, but I think it should be really stressed: Make players really attached to their units. Perhaps the scariest part of XCOM was how much I cared about each of my dudes; sending someone I spent a lot of time building up around a blind corner was so much scarier than in games without perma-death or where troops were more faceless. Perhaps implement a bit of 'rogue-like' elements, where characters can have super unique (and powerful!) combinations of traits that you'd only really see once EVER.
Yes, I try very hard to achieve this by:
- each character to have unique dialogues to different events/triggers/ unique personality
- each character to have a unique loadout of equipment
- perma-death

-Make mechanics that effect the player, not the player's forces. This can be as simple as stuff like Fog of War, but can be some really creative stuff.
'Don't Starve' has a great mechanic where if your sanity is low you start seeing hallucinations of monsters- perhaps you could have some monsters appear only on the edge of the screen, just to freak the player out, but don't really exist.
Good point, I was working on a creature with telepathic powers that if not destroyed all command interfaces will be unreadable aka player will not see hp bars and other interface information until he kills this creature. And yes I do have some fog of war that can be removed if the player fixes certain generators with engineers(if he got in team engineers) and ofc all dark map edges were-creature lurks without the player to be able to see them

-Use time pressure in unexpected ways. Perhaps have a countdown timer start unexpectedly in the middle of a mission, or have an existing timer get cut in half by a monster. This hopefully creates a 'panic' situation.
I got a few missions that are time-based but one of the core features is that the longer you stay in a location the more creatures get spanned so the longer you stay in a building the harder the game gets but on the bright side player can leave almost all locations at any time he wants on the extraction zone, this will come down to how greedy or brave the player is.

- Fear of random events: if the game is less predictable, there's more for the players to worry about. Again, back to Xcom; I had a lot of fear when having a 90% chance to kill an alien, but knowing that if I fail, my best guy is totally dead next turn. Maybe also consider adding the opposite of 'loot boxes,' where sometimes, randomly, an enemy 'crate' type event can appear that can have anywhere from basically harmless monsters to something that'll totally screw the player over.
Good point, I will think of such random events, currently there are some events but those get triggered outside the combat zone in a D&D style.

- Jump scare pacing: I don't think you're really going for traditional jump-scare horror, but depending on the pacing of the game, a transition from very very slow (methodically checking corners, closets, sweeping flashlights...) to extremely fast paced (zerg swarm of monsters appearing from everywhere within a couple of game frames, accompanied by complete change in sound track and many loud noises) might be a good way to have a pseudo-jump scare.
Yes, I try to achieve these jump scares too although I do not want to abuse this too much because the majority of horror games use this as cheap thrills and call it horror. Still, it is a bit hard to achieve in a top-down perspective but I will do my best.

-ick factor; if something really gruesome happens (to your personal favorite guy...) adding gore to the player's screen might be a fun way to get them to lean away from their monitor in horror. Would have to be used very sparingly I think, or else it would just be an annoying game mechanic that players get used to.
Yep, it is on the to-do list. An example of gore that we have so far:
- if you kill enemy with rifle, pistol or melee combat the body will be left behind but if you kill him with a shotgun or explosive, body parts will fly
 
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