Project: Black Tears Research Notes

Hi guys!

Just thought I’d share with you a few research notes I made a while ago! Seeing as how the characters are now built and finished (got a few technical components to do yet such as rigging and stuff) but it was now time to seriously start finalizing proposed game mechanics.

Although heavily inspired by classic survival-horror games such as KONAMI’s Silent Hill 2 and CAPCOM’s classic Resident Evil titles, I felt it simply wouldn’t do to just re-create this style of survival-horror with fancy graphics, it needed something more and to be honest, although most gamers demand a return to classic survival-horror, subconsciously; they expect a degree of modernism to be added / retained too.

The degree of modernism varies from player to player and is very difficult to place – someone’s going to end up being unhappy about it! Such an expectation can be seen in the very successful reception of CAPCOM’s Resident Evil 4 title. Fans of the classic titles rave over the installment still today, but the game itself changes the experience greatly through some core features.

For example, the fixed camera placements that were present in the classic titles were swapped for a more modern over-the-shoulder third-person-shooter viewing angle, the inventory of the player character was greatly expanded, an option to upgrade firearms and equipment was introduced, and the change from the classic zombies to possessed villagers were all (to a degree) greatly accepted and the title sold extremely well. Just today, Resident Evil 4 has seen an anniversary release / update because of it’s popularity!

In order to add the same degree of modernism but largely retain that feel of classic-survival horror, I had to carefully choose my inspirations. It would be a very fair comment to say that Ambiance / Black Tears sits somewhere between the presentation of Remedy Entertainment’s Alan WakeCAPCOM’s Resident Evil 6 mechanics and KONAMI’s Silent Hill 2‘s deep thematic narrative. This even for me, was a tough combination to place. A few of you having already read this far would’ve seen Resident Evil 6 listed there and have gone: “Oh god no, not ANOTHER ONE!” – but please, your fears are misled, I shall explain :D…

DISCLAIMER: IF YOU HAVEN’T GUESSED ALREADY, THIS POST IS ALL ABOUT MY NOTES AND RESEARCH, = EXTREMELY BORING AND TECHNICAL, WHEN I GET GOING AND TALKING ABOUT THIS KIND OF STUFF – PEOPLE GRAB A NICE LITTLE NAP! – YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 😛

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First off, the camera angle from Resident Evil 6 in my opinion; is totally ideal and suited to Black Tears. It provides the player with a good look at their character’s position in the environment, conceals whatever may be creeping up from behind the player, and allow for a good degree of the screen to be clear and un-obstructed as to reduce the feeling of cluttered-ness when exploring the environment / map.

Another consideration I’ve been strongly leaning towards is the lack of a HUD / UI on the screen. I would prefer to push the player to physically examine Amy by rotating the camera around her – examine her wounds and damage and judge accordingly based upon her visual look, altered “hurt” animations and other elements such as the rapidness / heaviness of her heart beat and any vignetting that may be present on the screen as a filter. Taking away the HUD / UI I believe; helps generate tension in the player by not clearly and explicitly displaying the character’s status at all times, thus forcing players to check up on Amy and face the consequences should they not!

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Resident Evil 6 provides a great degree of movement for a franchise that evolved from classic-survival horror. Although now technically classed as “Action survival-horror” and Black Tears still classed as “Classic survival-horror,” it was always my intention to give players a great degree of movement and flexibility in their physical actions / abilities. Although there won’t be things like rolling to the side or jumping back and firing, there will be the opportunity to switch between sneaking, crouching, walking, jogging and sprinting with a context-sensitive opportunity to be able to dodge / evade incoming attacks and dangers.

The last sentence there probably got a lot of you skeptical but don’t worry! I intend to keep a close eye on what you can and cannot evade and when you’re able to do that, but the inclusion of such a mechanic in itself; prevents Amy from feeling like a robot or tank. Amy is after all, a highly-trained law enforcer, her movements and abilities have to reflect this to a degree without looking too much like Parkour or free-running. I personally find it frustrating when a player character can’t perform simple movements that would otherwise evade the oncoming danger, for example; being stuck in place when aiming with a weapon, in reality this really wouldn’t be a constraint and I therefore feel the game should reflect such.

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Another long-time consideration from Resident Evil 6 was the grappling mechanic they had implemented since Resident Evil 4. I felt this was simply essential to include should enemies get close to the player character and engage in melee. I felt it was only right to give the player a chance to fight back as often, these close-encounters would occur by surprise and would largely be unavoidable.

The mechanic would work almost identical to how it is shown here, the dynamic camera angle also helps to convey a sense of panic in the player, diffusing all the built up-tension into a high-stress situation which induces an element of panic as the player fights for their life. The enemy would be simply dispatched or released (based on enemy archetypes) by a quick counter / break-free animation by mashing an on-screen button prompt, if successful; gameplay would return to normal, if unsuccessful, the player would take damage or in some cases an instant game over would ensue.

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It was also worth digressing into Alan Wake to see how Remedy chose to present their survival-thriller. Here, you can see the camera is pulled a lot further back, allowing for a huge volume of un-obstructed screen-space for environmental exploration needs. Like Alan Wake, Amy will be constantly carrying a source of light and will most likely be reflected very similarly to how it is here.

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Another interesting consideration and something that is found natively inside CryEngine’s SDK, is the ability jump over waist-high obstacles. Almost contradicting myself here, but I’ve decided to not include a mechanic to jump over obstacles etc. Why you may ask? The simple answer being that I feel it breaks the immersion, much how you would often spot player-characters in World of Warcraft hopping and jumping ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE over Azeroth, I just wanted to remove the temptation to do something like that in Black Tears.

Instead, there will be times when Amy will be allowed to vault / climb up & over certain context-sensitive obstacles via an on-screen button prompt. In this screenshot, we also see the dodge mechanic in Alan Wake, invisibly activated when the player presses the sprint button at the right time, Wake will successfully dodge incoming attacks with high accuracy, consideration was given to implementing the mechanic invisibly or via an on-screen button prompt. (This is still being decided! xD)

——————-YOU STILL WITH ME? WELL HECK SON, THAT’S SOME DEDICATION AND I GREATLY APPRECIATE YOU MAKING IT THIS FAR! BUT PLEASE TAKE A BREAK NOW AS THERE’S STILL MORE!!————-

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This still from Resident Evil 6 demonstrates the visual quality of the cinematics I wish to try and aim for. There’s a quality in Resident Evil 6’s cutscenes that seem quite unmatched by other games. One could argue that Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is highly cinematic in it’s presentation, however Resident Evil 6 tends to portray a more classic movie-esque style during it’s cutscenes. It is often reflected with dynamic, sweeping and close-up camera angles for dramatic effect.

The shaders rendered in CAPCOM’s MT Framework engine here really shine through and add that element of a “true-black” to it’s shadows and dark areas that I think; would really suit a survival-horror game. Alan Wake does something very similar to Resident Evil 6 by employing the heavy usage of screen effects and filters. These are the games I will be referencing when it comes to directing the cutscenes found in Black Tears.

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Another core component I was keen on introducing from the very beginning, was the inclusion of damage / sweat / wear & tear / wet textures based upon specific contexts (you saw an example of this on Amy in the last post). So, for example, should Amy be close to death and be on her last legs, her clothes would show signs of fresh wounds and bleeding, her skin would be scratched and caked in dirt and her animations would reflect appropriately.

In the image here you can see Leon go through a clear transition of “Brand-new” to “Haggard and worn”, CAPCOM chose to reflect this over-time as the players progressed through the game rather than through certain contexts. However, I also plan to include a general but subtle increase in wear & tear as the player progresses, but largely focus on context-sensitive effects such as being drenched when stood in the game’s many rain sequences.

Another consideration was for Amy to be very dynamic and reactive to her surrounding environment, in the first two frames, we see a very calm and collected Leon “idle” animation, but the third shows an “alert” Leon animation as he looks frantically around at his surroundings. I feel it’s subtleties like this that immerse the player and help convince them that the character is indeed human. It’s extremely important that players relate / connect to Amy on this level as players must constantly want to and ensure Amy’s health and survival. Although deep mechanics such as finding food to survive etc won’t be included, there will be a need to watch her transitions both physically and mentally in order to make correct judgments when choosing to engage / disengage from certain events and enemies.

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THE LAST IMAGE! REJOICE HAHA!

Something I really enjoyed in Resident evil 6, were the dynamic in-game camera angles that would often show an event happening outside of the player’s usual field of vision. It’s quite often that the action goes beyond just what’s happening around the player in Resident evil 6 and CAPCOM quite rightly chooses to point the player’s attention to this by moving the camera angle accordingly. Now, some of you may recall how annoying it was during gameplay in Resident Evil 6, to suddenly have your camera forcefully whisked away against your will as you were being nommed alive by zombies! Trust me, I found it annoying too… So therefore, in Black Tears, it’s planned so that events like this would only occur when either and/or:

  • The player character was still in view.
  • The player character was frozen / invulnerable whilst the event played out.
  • The player is given the option to view the event instead and is not forced to.
  • The player character is “on-rails” and their regular mechanics are restricted relevant to the event’s context (i.e. Leon climbing up the Elevator shaft).

So that’s it guys, these are the compiled notes and considerations to the actual mechanics to be found in Black Tears.

Thanks so much for anyone who’s actually made it this far down the post, it’s very rare that anyone gives me the opportunity to just talk / discuss things like this without them losing interest, so I sincerely thank you for giving my post your time! 🙂

I hope this has maybe help shed some light on this mysterious project; to which you have only seen the characters, I promise that I will update my blog as more and more details surface 🙂

Thanks again everyone and take cares!

– Mike

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