Genre: VR Horror

Engine: Unreal Engine

Platform: PC – Oculus Rift

Development time: Four Weeks

Team: Four Designers, Four 3D artists, Two 2D Artists

Role

  • Product Owner
  • Level Designer
  • Gameplay Designer

A shooter game in VR set in a shopping mall locked down for the night. You are on the first shift at a surprisingly well paid job as a security guard at Goose Hill Mall. Easy Money. However, when the mall locks down, the Mannequins attack. Your only hope is to lock the security gates to the shops. Use your trusty revolver and kinetic flashlight to get the mannequins before they can get you. Oh, and they never move if someone is looking. Make sure to look behind you.

Part of the level design was done by me. The challenge of the design was to create enough open space that the player could look around while still giving the monsters hiding places and making sure the player didn’t feel cheated when they died. After a lot of experimentation I am happy with the result. Part of my role was also the design of the mechanics, including the flashlight and gun designs. As product owner, my job was also to make sure that the team and the game was going in the right direction, and that everyone knew what to do to realize the vision that we had for the game.

In the end, I am happy with how the game turned out. Players screams speak for themselves.

Responsibilities

  • Designed enemies and mechanics including flashlight and gun
  • Did the sound design and implementation
  • Designed the level made scripts to make the level more ‘alive’ such as falling furniture and dynamically moving gates
  • Created a “web” of monster positions to make monsters scarier and more alive, and to fake movements

 

Trailer

 

Process

Unlit is a fairly straightforward game. Naturally, this means that the mechanics you do have should feel solid, and a fair bit of experimentation was needed. First of all we wanted the player to feel exposed, but not helpless to build up a sense of panic but still give them the ability to defend themselves. We wanted players to have to look away from the level in some way to give our enemies a chance to get closer and to reward players that kept their wits about them and focused on surviving and didn’t just shoot. To this end we experimented with a number of puzzles, including keycards that gave ammo or charged your flashlight.
In the end, most of these elements took a bit too much thought for players to handle in that panicked state, and didn’t really achieve what we wanted without being frustrating. The desks we tried also reduced the players sense of exposure to the monsters and hindered line of sight. What we settled for were a series of simple switches that the player need to move now and again to force them to turn around, and it did the trick without being too complicated.
The gun and flashlight also took a fair bit of experimentation to get right. Guns with too much ammunition made players feel safe and many testers would play the game without being scared at all. Some players liked it, but it was not what we were going for. Too little ammo made many players feel so helpless they just quit playing out of frustration, and so in the end we settled for a revolver. It felt powerful, but not enough to make players unafraid.
The flashlight went through a few iterations. At first it was part of the puzzle-desk mechanic with different parts of the map lighting up as players placed cards in slots. However players would just place them in each slot one after the other, and it wasn’t a lot of fun. we also tried a head light for a while but the point was a bit lost when whatever you were looking at would just light up anyway. The final product has a kinetic flashlight that you shake to make brighter. It rewards players for remembering all of the mechanics during their downtime and creates scary moments for those who don’t.
The greatest struggle at the start of this project was that we simply did not have an animator. This meant we had to figure out a way to scare somone with entirely unmoving objects. So instead of creating a terrifying monster we made a monster that cannot move when you look at it. Players still feel like something is after them, and are afraid to look away. It works well in conjunction with our switch board and was a smooth way around the problem. Monster ideas included statues or demons, but we settled for a shopping mall full of manikins. It also make the setting creepy that we could set it in a real-life locale that a player will probably have visited many times, with a ‘monster’ everyone knows.