Daily Design: Day 38
Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on three randomly generated words. Today, they are;
Brave, Upstairs and Time.
As such, the game I’ve designed today is…
Borrowed Time is a first-person horror game with some time manipulation mechanics.
Because I’ll never forgive how relatively obscure Shadow of Memories was, Borrowed Time starts with a similar premise. In the opening sequence the protagonist is murdered by an unknown assailant while exploring a spooky mansion, for some reason. Afterwards, they wake up in a different room, totally alive. Strangely, though, the mansion seems to be in much better shape than before.
The game takes place in first person, with an emphasis on stealth and puzzle solving over combat. After some preliminary exploration, it seems as though the mansion is from the 19th century and hasn’t been touched since. After exploring a while longer, players will discover a device that they can activate. Doing so transports them forward in time to modern day, though they’re still trapped in the mansion – the modern day variant is older, as well as being decrepit and much more dangerous.
From here, the player can switch between the two times at will, though monsters also persist between the two periods – this can actually be used to defeat them. For example, switching back to the modern mansion may open a hole in the floor; if a monster is standing on that spot when the switch is made, they’ll fall in.
It’s a fairly simple concept in a tired setting, but I think it could still stand as an interesting game. One of my most memorable gaming experiences was in Metro 2033 – I remember thinking that the tunnels were pretty spooky and off-putting, and then somebody told me to go to the surface. Great! I thought. Fresh air, open areas, sunlight – this’ll be a breeze. Twenty minutes later my character was huddled in the corner of a building while I was busy trying not to shit myself.
The point here is that the contrast between the two zones – in Metro’s case, the metro and the surface – provides an interesting experience all on it’s own. Metro had the oxygen mask, which helped, but after spending all that time in a linear environment having something so open felt almost oppressive. You never had to worry about more than two or three directions until that point, and now threats were coming from every single angle, including the sky.
Hopefully, Borrowed Time would provide that same experience. Another obvious comparison is the three “phases” in many of the Silent Hill games. For the uninitiated, Silent Hill often had three states at any given time, with increasing levels of scares and danger. There was “Day”, which was foggy as hell and infested with monsters, but relatively tame. Then there was “Night”, which was (obviously) darker, but also had more creatures. It’s worth noting that these weren’t like a regular “day and night cycle”, and would switch at certain moments in the game, with (seemingly) nothing to do with the amount of in-game time that had passed.
Finally, there was “Hell”, which is something even the most casual of fans would know about. Usually foreshadowed with a creepy symbol, when you entered hell the walls would peel away to reveal rust and decay, and the most dangerous monsters would appear.
I know I’m rambling and kind of labouring the point, but one massive issue some horror games face (such as Alien: Isolation) is that after a while, the scary atmosphere kind of becomes normal. Silent Hill covered this well with the different states, as did Metro: 2033 (and possibly Last Light, though I haven’t played it) – I’d like to see it become a central game mechanic, rather than a relatively minor one.
That’s it! I realise it was more of a ramble on games than it was a design of one, but thanks for reading! I’ll be back tomorrow with another one. Uh, game, not a ramble.