Reptile Zoo and Making the Hunter Hunt-
Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation has continued to progress. This week we created some new marketing material, did some more work on the main creature model and came up with a more concise plan for how the video game's A.I. will be implemented.
A bit about the A.I.
A.I. will be a very important element in Reptile Zoo. This is one thing that will set it apart from many other examples of recent indie first-person survival horror video games (Slender: The Eight Pages probably being one of the most famous examples of these). In many of these types of games, the A.I. is very minimal or completely nonexistent. Often the monsters will either suddenly pop into the player's vicinity, and you'll be forced to run away from them or simply look away from them to avoid dying. In some of these games the enemy will actively chase you as well.
One thing that I would like to point out is that with many of these types of games, although they are clearly in the genre of survival horror, their basic gameplay style is very much like an adventure game; focusing on elements of exploration and simple item collecting, and with avoiding the monster as almost a secondary function of the main gameplay. Reptile Zoo is different in this way, as its main type of gameplay is stealth.
This is what makes the A.I. so important to the game. The creature has to be able to actively hunt you. But this also means that it can't just pop up and start instantly chasing you the way you might see the monster do in other horror titles. In order for it to be a stealth game, you have to be able to avoid it. You have to keep the monster from seeing you, rather than avoiding looking at him.
This means that the A.I. must be a bit more complex, so that it can actively stalk you while still giving you an opportunity to hide or otherwise evade it. To accomplish this, the A.I. has several elements that it uses to determine how the creature will act in any given situation. These include-
• Detection: The various methods that the creature will use to determine where the player is (sight, sound, and touch), or where it thinks the player is.
• Awareness: How alert or sensitive the creature is to the player's presence. The closer it gets to the player, the greater its Awareness level will be. This variable will change over the course of gameplay and will help to dictate the creature's behaviors (and of course the animations that correspond with those behaviors) which will allow it to simulate the actions of a predator in various stages of stalking its prey (including the final attack).
• Positioning: What the creature's pattern of movement will be as it is hunting around and stalking its victim; literally how it's moving around in the game. Part of this will be determined by what its Awareness level is.
There are several other major elements to the A.I. and numerous other details and factors that come into play in regards to implementing it.
Why stealth gameplay?
The reason that we chose stealth gameplay for Reptile Zoo is pretty simple. We wanted the gameplay to work very well with, and even enhance the emotional experience that we were going for. Of course this is a horror game, so that emotion is fear. In this way we hope that the gameplay helps to enhance the fear as opposed to distracting from it. It's designed to work with it.
By making you hide from the creature in order to survive, we hope to invoke the primal sensation of being hunted by a large predator. Often some of the most terrifying moments in horror movies are when the potential victim is hiding from the killer or monster, not sure whether they're about to be found or not. This is exactly the type of sensation that we want to tap into, but with an interactive experience. You don't hide inside anything in this game, only behind things, and therefore you're never truly safe. Even accidentally making a noise by rustling a branch or stepping on some loose gravel could give away your position and allow the creature to know where you are.
The A.I. is designed to allow the creature to slowly stalk you, like a shark circling its prey. You will know it's there, and you may catch glimpses of it through the trees or darkness or other obstacles as it begins zeroing in on you. By definition, survival horror games are designed to make the player feel vulnerable, in order to invoke fear. In this case all you will be able to do is either hide, or occasionally run. You will be helpless against the monster.
By having A.I. that simulates the actions of a real predator, balancing the combination of it hunting you, while still allowing for it to have blind spots that you might use to hide or escape, and in a more general sense designing the gameplay itself to enhance the kind of emotions that we're trying to invoke, this should be one of the scariest games that you have ever played.
- False Prophet