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Game Design: Dead Tree Run

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Hey all,

This post is a bit out of the ordinary for me, as I normally do not post my ideas for games. However, I thought this one was interesting and decided to share it with everyone. I call it, Dead Tree Run.

The Game in One Sentence

The player controls a young child investigating creepy environments and evades enemies using a combination of stealth mechanics and parkour moves.

The Inspiration

Last night I had a nightmare. A very, very, vivid nightmare. I was a young child and investigating a new house that had materialized on our block. I thought it was rather suspicious, and upon investigation, I discovered that the house belonged to a witch! With my cover blown, I had to run and hide from the witch. I threw books at her, but she chased me through her impossibly large house. I tried to hide, but she always found me. I climbed up ladders, dodged her spells, and did some amazing acrobatic feats in an effort to escape. Finally, I ended up on her roof and was being chased down. I jumped from rooftop to rooftop in a fit of hysteria and landed in a pond that was next to her house. That’s about the time when I woke up.

Uniqueness and Value

I think this game would fill a niche which not many other games fill; in fact, I don’t know of any games that match this exact template. While there are a number of horror games out there, they often take the form of a murder mystery adventure/puzzle game, or an action/combat game (such as Left 4 Dead). In terms of actual gameplay, the closest thing I can think of would be Assassin’s Creed, as that game mixes stealth and deception with amazing acrobatic moves, but has a much different feel. DTR would be incredibly dark and spooky.

One game that resembles some of the mood for DTR is Frictional Games’ Amnesia: The Dark Descent. While I haven’t played the game (yet), I watched the gameplay demonstration on the company’s website and my skin was crawling and my hand was over my mouth to stifle any potential startled screams. It looks terrifying! Props to my brother, Kigadoe, for pointing me toward this game. With DTR, I want to capture some of that same feeling of always being an inch away from being discovered by monsters, but also wanting to explore deeper into the dungeon as well.

Gameplay

The player’s goal would be to infiltrate an environment using stealth, capture as much evidence or loot as possible, and make it out alive. Each item carried increases the amount of burden on the player. When discovered by an enemy, the player has no choice but to run and try to find a hiding place. The player’s character has a certain amount of stamina, which is used to run, sprint, jump, climb, and other acrobatic acts. As the character becomes burdened they can’t perform as many moves without resting.

While the running and jumping sequences to escape enemies are an integral part of the game, most of the player’s time is spent exploring and investigating the creepy environments and avoiding enemies using stealth. The enemy AI would have to be superb; monsters would need to respond to sounds, lights, possibly even the “smell” of the player. Surfaces should resonate footfalls based upon the material that they are made from. Players can hide in a number of different objects, under beds, in closets, and in trunks. Bumping objects in the world can also cause a racket.

Between each adventure, the player returns to their stereotypical household, nestled in a bright and colorful neighborhood and tries to convince his/her parents that there is something odd going on in the town. No matter how incriminating the evidence, the parents do not take the child seriously, and write it off as fantasy. I want the color and brightness of this world to highly contrast the dim, dark world of the dungeon. The missions begin after the child has been sent to bed with the child sneaking out the window. This is done to add ambiguity as to whether the gameplay is real or the child’s nightmares.

Conclusion

I would give this game a try. I have loved stealth mechanics and I love the heart-pounding escape scenes in games like Modern Warfare. Merging the two might induce a heart attack for me, but it would be a fun ride.

That’s about it for this one. I don’t have any intention at the moment of actually making the game, but perhaps someday when I have more free time on my hands. I merely thought I’d throw it out there. So all, would you play Dead Tree Run?

Cheers,
S


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