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Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well
xiao Offline
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Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well


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?
09-23-2010, 04:18 AM

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Some suggestions for Frictional's next game, and what makes Amnesia work so well - by xiao - 09-23-2010, 04:18 AM

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