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Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - xiao - 09-23-2010


Frictional, brilliant game.

I have some suggestions on what makes Amnesia work so well at what it does, what doesn't, and what Frictional could do next to benefit themselves financially without selling out.

Amnesia is obviously a game about fear. Part of what makes it so effective is its psychological re-examination of what is scary - feelings that are not necessarily conducive to gaming. For example, the lack of combat or weapons; something most players would scoff at. However, the exclusion of combat heightened the fear massively as it created a real sense of helplessness - and that's scary. It seems like Frictional sat down and thought, "screw all other horror games. Let's think about what really scares people and go from there." The results are brilliant, what with the feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, claustrophobia, uncertainty, and at times, flight-over-fight instincts. Sadly, a lot of horror game buffs who like to play games like Resident Evil and feel tough about themselves because they can play horror games without fear would probably not like something like Amnesia. They want the illusion of horror wrapped up in a candy coating of action and cheese, not an actual horror game designed solely to terrify. And terrify, Amnesia does.

Amnesia is at its best when it combines these elements of fear and uncertainty with player control and immersion. The encounter with the water monster, the storage, the prison, and other scary areas in the game are excellent examples of this. The sanity factor also contributes to the horrifying atmosphere, but I believe it could have been done in a little more interesting way (but more on that later.) Also, the fact your character has Amnesia and is traversing a castle filled with unimaginable horrors that are both present and already in the past is an excellent idea - there's something really scary about being able to imagine all the horrific things that happened just from the abandoned, empty rooms of the castle and the tools inside them (along with diaries and the like.)

Something hugely underestimated in the world of horror is a feeling of foreignness. Basically, when you stepped into the water and that creature started chasing you, what made it terrifying was not only the perfect pacing leading up to that moment, but the fact that you have absolutely no idea what is chasing you, what it will do, if you can escape it, or how to defeat it. You just know you have to escape it at all costs. This is terrifying. However, it is a nightmare for developers - creating many different kinds of unique creatures just for single encounters is a tremendous amount of work - imagine if the water creature appeared once, but there were many other such scenes that played on different aspects of fear and uncertainty that were also lone encounters? You would feel that urgent, something-could-kill-me-and-i-have-no-idea-what-it-is-or-how-it-works feeling over and over again, making every door terrifying to open, even if there are only three or so such encounters in the game (too many would ruin it)

So, more unique encounters. That's one way to improve a game like Amnesia. Another idea is to integrate the sanity level more. For example, when I start loosing sanity, I should be seeing things. I should see glimpses of monsters and quick glimpses of drastic environmental changes that instantly revert upon a second glance. I should feel like I'm going crazy, not like my character is going crazy. There's a lot of screen distortion and that's good, but it should be more subtle. The insanity should be more focused on horror and less on crippling the gameplay, inducing thoughts like "let me stare at this candle so the annoying sounds and scrunchy effects dont pop up." That reduces immersion. Wouldn't it be more terrifying if when your sanity was low, you started to doubt your environment, the creatures in it, and most importantly yourself?

Also, the story of the game, while interesting, was a little bit underwhelming once revealed. Agrippa seemed like too direct of a character after the distant, lonely nature of the rest of the game. It seemed like the game was saying "okay but now we need a cohesive narrative, so here's this guy." Lots of characters during the whole game and communication with your character certainly reduces that scary lonely feeling and that would be bad, but Agrippa was too much and too fast. Also, the idea of a shadow chasing you from the orb was interesting, but not as scary as us filling in the blanks ourselves, which brings me to my next point -

The imagination is the scariest of all. This is something I'm sure Frictional understands and they've used it quite well with the water monster and not allowing us to look at the monsters for too long. However, deep jungle expeditions leading to the discoveries of mysterious magical orbs that haunt our character is a very intriguing idea, but not a particularly scary or cliche-ridden one and certainly not something most can relate to (relating to things would make the fear much more primal and less artificial.) Also, it's just a bit too definite. Before finishing the game, I felt like I was in a horrifying and unthinkably cruel and evil place that I knew nothing about. By the end of the game, I felt like I was in Alexander's old castle running from some of his servants and red stuff because I stole some orb that I never even saw in-game. Not particularly scary.

A HUGE thumbs up for many aspects of the game, such as hiding from the monsters in closets, reading old diaries to get a more historical and haunted past-ish fear factor, and countless more. Just trying to help with the next one.

Now, I do have some advice that may help Frictional sell their next game a bit better. That is, assuming that the next game isn't an expansion pack for Amnesia (which it probably will be, and bring it on! Perhaps add some of the stuff I've mentioned!)

Check this out, if you haven't already:

This concept lends itself tremendously to both more of the goodness that is the "foreign fear" aspect of Amnesia and marketability. Perhaps add some more adventure elements, tweak the story and gameplay to your liking - but Frictional, I think a lot of people would LOVE to play a game where you are trapped underwater fighting off giant and terrifying creatures, especially if they seem foreign and unknown and different often. The combat will certainly draw more people in without losing that sense of helplessness, in fact it may increase it when you realize a harpoon just bounces off a creature's hard skin or the like, destroying the false sense of security such weapons lulled you into. This concept combined with more Amnesia-esque elements such as the feeling of an otherworldly ancient terror, loneliness, diary entries, a feeling of a haunted past - this could really be something great and certainly much more marketable.

So, what do you think?

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - Jashin - 09-23-2010

Don't have time to read the wall-o-test right now, sorry.

My suggestion for the future would be to give the doors some heft. They open and close like drawers, when they shouldn't. Doors are heavy. They should feel heavy when opening.

And if FG could add a mechanism where the doors creak/not creak depending on how the it's opened (the speed of opening/whether you 'left' up the door), I think that'd make it better. It'd create a fair amount of screw-ups and alert the monsters nearby.

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - mansarde - 09-23-2010

Next Game Suggestion - Nothing revolutionary, just what I'd personally like:

Spoiler below!
Since Alexander seems to have lived for at least 200 years, if not longer, there is plenty of opportunity for interesting stuff having happened before the time with Daniel.
So maybe a prequel could be made, where we play the role of... Johann Weyer perhaps?
Maybe we would start when he is under Agrippas wings, accompanying him on his journey to find an orb.
And as things unfold, we get to the part Agrippa told Daniel about, how Weyer got a hold of many orbs.
I.e. playing as Weyer we would venture to different locations, trying to acquire orbs. And while doing that we'd go through living nightmares, etc.
And at the end we would be able to use the powers of the collected orbs to open a portal and go through, like we already know from Agrippa in Amnesia.

So basically it'd be like taking a character from Amnesia and creating a spin-off prequel of sorts, which would tell the events from Amnesia from that persons' perspective.
Or maybe even from a much earlier time. If we'd play Alexander, we could find out why he was banished, and what he had to do in the beginning, or explore some earlier adventures he had during the first 100 years, etc.

Whatever it would be, it'd be nice to have another game playing in the Amnesia universe. Smile

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - xiao - 09-24-2010

Some nice suggestions, guys.

I think most are a little too lazy to read this post.

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - xiao - 11-27-2010

Bump anyone?

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - Nothinglikesleep - 11-27-2010

I wonder how far a long they are on their next project. Silent Hill 8 (working title) is in post development according to Wikipedia, so we should expect quite a few horror titles to keep us busy in the early to mid parts of next year. I think frictional games should maintain the theme of isolation. However I think we can have more interaction with actual NPC's, and not just through a radio or telepathy. One thing I liked about Amesnia was the intersecting story lines, but I don't think the main story was as tight as the plot in Penumbra, or maybe just not as interesting. I did not like the fact that Daniel was afraid of the dark. I felt like I had to Rush in a lot of places so as to keep my sanity. Which meant less immersion for me. I think for the next game frictional should utilize more silence. I became immune to the gusts of winds, random growls, and screaming women pretty early on. I loved the castle and I think the transitions into its different sections was pretty smooth (route from south prison to north prison was brilliant) with help from the dead. I hope the next game does not deal with a guilty conscience and loss of memory. Discovery and exploration I think would be best, it works well with the HPL Engine and the environments frictional can produce. The physics puzzles are a must have for the next game. The sanity aspect of the game was cool, but I would't want to see it again, unless the next game took place in an Asylum.

In Overture we explored a cavern, in black plague a facility, in Amnesia a castle. In the next game I think frictional should build the game in a small town like setting (I don't mean open world) it can still be done in a linear fashion. So we can wander streets and look for clues in old buildings, schools, factories, hotels, etc. More variety I think would be a good change.

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - BSTFRusZ13 - 02-07-2011

more monster hunting and chasing me, i scare when monster roaming and walking so clear but i dont have idea where is it (so i must find it and finaly avoid it), zooming effect to creepy thing make me scream lots, sanity is good part of this game, keep it.

sorry for my english, still learning...

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - GraphicsKid - 02-07-2011

I literally just picked a paragraph in your post, and read THAT.

But I liked what I read, and I'll expand on it a little bit here.

I like the idea of having the environment being a bit more... "alive". Have things that are there one second, then disappear when they leave the screen, and you look back at where they were.

Another thing that works EXTREMELY well is if you get the player to walk into a trap... and let them realize it before the trap springs. A bunch of good examples of this is in Doctor Who... the ones written by Steven Moffat. He's really good at setting up a situation where suddenly the doctor will point out something fundamentally WRONG with it, and the viewer has an "oh shit" moment. For instance, there is an episode where there's these robotic monsters who sound like ticking clocks. Well he's in some room, and we keep hearing this ticking sound, nothing out of the ordinary until we realize that the only clock in the room is broken (and we were shown this in the beginning!) So what's making that noise???? AAAHHH. Another example, there was an episode with these creatures that imitated shadows. After a few wide shots we realize that somebody has an extra shadow... 4 main light sources... but 5 shadows... OOOHHHHH... lol Of course we don't realize it until after it's been that way for a while

Anyways, If that's TLDNR, then it boils down to this: you know what's scarier than seeing a monster turn around and start to chase you? What's scarier is when you realize that a monster HAS BEEN coming after you... for instance maybe you have some sort of monster radar, it isn't making any noise, then suddenly you realize it's turned off, so you turn it on, and WHOA, CLOSE PROXIMITY ALERT! Queue high-pitched scary music.

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - Vivec - 02-07-2011

I didn't think the OP was too long, I read it all and agree wholeheartedly. Smile

I think you hit the nail on the head about the people who like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, etc. They're good games, but they're not able to give the player (well, me, at least) the pure terror that Amnesia can.

The fun point of scary games and action games is in the adrenalin rush. The people who play the zombie shooter type "horror" games prefer the "fight" part of the fight-or-flight rush you get with adrenalin. Amnesia gives you pure flight, since you know you can't fight back. It's far more realistic.

What is implied but not seen can definitely be a crucial part of the terror. The
Spoiler below!
Animal torture scene was particularly terrible for me - the implied squeals of the animals was just horrific.

I also agree about insanity. It didn't really feel like there was much punishment for going insane (besides the creepy portraits, monster-spotting-you-more-easily etc.) I know it's been addressed a lot, but it would definitely be more terrifying if insanity made you doubt what was real and what was hallucinatory.

RE: Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - T_Neumann - 02-07-2011

(02-07-2011, 04:49 PM)Vivec Wrote: I know it's been addressed a lot, but it would definitely be more terrifying if insanity made you doubt what was real and what was hallucinatory.

Indeed. Eternal Darkness: Sanities Requiem on the Gamecube did this to perfection.