Daily Design: Day 329

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Thing, Vocal and Foul.

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Frightful Facsimile

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So I’m not going to lie – Frightful Facsimile is basically just The Thing, only somehow with an even worse name.

It’s a cooperative multiplayer horror game set in an arctic research base. The players are a squad of elite military personnel who are dispatched to see exactly what’s going on, I guess because a quick email to check in won’t cut it.

When they arrive, it’s immediately clear that everything is super horrible. Everybody has been violently murdered, and the players have to get to the bottom of what happened. The team is beset by zombie-like creatures (so, zombies) that have to be fended off while the team repairs the base.

During all this, a scary-ass monster is hunting the players through the base, with the unfortunate ability to imitate them once they’ve been horribly murdered (in voice, actions and appearance). This monster is entirely AI controlled, which makes this entire game just one big violent Turing test. If you think that sounds ridiculous, remember that video game AI has done a pretty fantastic job in the past.

Players can only communicate via a set series of commands – “Need backup”, “Monster spotted”, “Affirmative” and so on. This is because the monster can use them (or opt not to, like a human) whenever they want. Similarly, players have no idea when a team mate has been killed, regardless of how they died.

The game will also force players to split up at times. One team may need to keep a generator active while another hits a switch, for example, and the teams may need to fracture into smaller numbers for other objectives. The monster can be fought off if it’s spotted (think of it as a kind of flesh spider, or if you’ve actually seen The Thing, try to un-repress your memories) but it can immediately kill a player if it gets them from behind.

The monster AI would ideally be very complex – it could goof off with players if they all started jumping around like idiots, randomly shoot at walls like they do, or decide not to do any of those things. At the outset of each game the monster would spawn with a kind of “personality”, which is a randomised set of traits that would decide exactly how it acts throughout a given match.

If players recognise a member of the team as a monster, they can accuse it, which will highlight that character as red and turn on friendly fire against them (though friendly fire can be turned on by default anyway). Of course, the monster can accuse other players too, so it’s not so easy. Moreover, the monster can shoot, so accusing the wrong person may lead to the monster getting away with a free kill.

The monster also can’t die permanently. If it’s “killed”, it’s simply down for an unspecified (and slightly random) amount of time. Players also don’t know if they successfully killed the monster or not when they shoot a team mate.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the game can be almost entirely undermined by third party voice chat, but that’s not much of a worry to me. As an entirely cooperative game, I think it’s fine if players want to play in that way, even if the game hasn’t been balanced around it. For example, a player could simply say “Hey, I’m dead” so that if the other players see that person walking around, they’d know it was the monster.

Communication is important for such a coordination-heavy game, so maybe an in-game voice chat would be best after all, especially if it only worked in proximity. Plus there could be a system whereby a players radio could break, which would give them a reason to not be able to speak.

Finally, a quick neat addition – players can find the corpses of their friends, which aren’t consumed or hidden when the monster kills them (which possibly happens in the movie, I can’t remember). However, the “zombies” will eat corpses, so after a while bodies will likely disappear.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept. 

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