In this research I look into creatures in tv/movies and videogames in order to try and get an idea of what the hostile alien creatures could look like in my game, and then potentially use these ideas for the games narrative.
Alien: Isolation – The Alien
Ah, this old chestnut. I find myself coming back to this game over and over again when researching for mine, and the reason is because it’s a damn good game, and also because it shares many similarities with the concept for my game making it a useful springboard to take some leaps off research-wise.
Lets take a look at the main antagonist of Alien: Isolation. It is a massive towering Alien that hunts the player constantly over the course of the game, and is completely unkillable. The player can scare it off temporarily with fire, but it will always come back. The Alien is terrifying. It can go anywhere you can, and if you can’t see it it could be literally anywhere around you in the game. For example, you could be running down a corridor and hear rattling or foosteps around you, so you duck into a nearby ventilation shaft to hide. You peer out of the small hatch, waiting for the Alien to go past. But it doesn’t. Then, you hear a hiss from behind you. You turn slowly, and there it is.
That is just an example of the many terrifying encounters with this horrific creature you can have in Alien: Isolation. It is honestly one the scariest games I have ever played, and this makes the Alien in the game of particular interest as I could use elements of it to influence the aliens of my game; such as the way it hunts the player for example. The hiding mechanic in this game is also interesting, as the player cannot kill the Alien so hiding is the only method of evasion. This could also be an interesting idea for my game.
Don’t Starve – The Insanity Monsters
The monsters used in this game are very interesting. In Don’t Starve, the player has a sanity level. The more time they spend alone on the island they are trapped on, the more their sanity level drops. If it drops below a certain point, then the Insanity Monsters come. They are not actually real (or are they?) as supposedly they are just figments of the players insanity. They roam around the player becoming more and more apparent as their sanity level continues to drop. Eventually, they attack the player and can kill them, which would tend to suggest they are real, but that’s another discussion.
Like my game, Don’t Starve is in 2D. The Insanity Monsters are also 2D (obviously) which makes them useful for research as the creatures in my game will need to be of two dimensions also. The Monsters behavioral pattern (patrolling around the player and then attacking) is also of interest. One thing that has not been decided yet for the creatures in my game is their behavioral patterns. In the prototypes they have a simple AI system just to show off what they could be like, but in the full game they would be much more complex. The monsters from Don’t Starve could be very useful in both design and programming aspects.
Doctor Who – The Vashta Nerada
Now for something a little bit different. Moving away from videogames, I started to look at monsters in TV and movies. I came across these after a while: the Vashta Nerada from Doctor Who. They are monsters that live in and control certain shadows. If the shadows touch you, then this happens:
You die, essentially.
These shadow monsters are very interesting, as they operate in a unique way to other monsters (hiding in plain sight) and also use shadows.
The player can barely see as it is as the planet in my game is in near darkness most of the time (and the player must use a torch to see), and the times that it isn’t in near darkness, it’s in pitch blackness (due to the Sun the alien planet in the game has). The player will need to rely on the sounds the alien creatures make in order to evade them. Perhaps making the creatures semi-visible or even invisible would add to their threat level, as well as making them a bit scarier and more difficult to combat.
The Vashta Nerada are very interesting creatures and I could definitely take inspiration from certain elements of them when designing the characteristics of the aliens in my game. The elements I could take from them are the actual shadows (design-wise) that they use and maybe their behavioural patterns too.
Lost – The Smoke Monster
The smoke monster in the tv show Lost was apparently a great mystery. Not much was known about it; it was hardly seen and even when it was it didn’t stick around for long. The basic plot of the show was that a group of people become stranded on a jungle island. In the first episode, a loud noise can be heard from deep inside the jungle. The people (on the beach) look across the jungle and see trees being knocked over, as well as a deafening roar sounding. The mystery of this creature along with its very interesting yet largely unknown characteristics (not being seen, knocking over trees etc.) could be very useful for designing the behaviours of the creatures in my game.
The Aliens In My Game
The main purpose of this research was to get an idea of what they will be like, so that they can be written effectively into the main narrative of the game. Since narrative is my minor in this project, it is important to write an interesting story and to incorporate the main antagonists of the game into it well.
Here are two very rough sketch ideas for what the aliens could now look like, based off this research. The first draws heavily from Alien, whereas the second is a combination of ideas from Don’t Starve and some of the shadows from Doctor Whos Vashta Nerada. I will use these sketches as a basis for what they could be like when I write the narrative. They do not need to be massively detailed at this time, as it is not neccessary for the story, I just need to have a rough idea of what they could be like.
The Smoke Monster from Lost is also very interesting, and I think elements of it are too good to go unused in my narrative. I particularly liked the idea of an unknown monster knocking trees down and being largely unseen by the player, so I may incorporate that in some way as a good mystery in a game is always interesting. It will also add to the lore of the planet and may even be a part of the main story.
From what I have gathered from this and previous research, the aliens should be shadowy-dark creatures that hunt the player. They are difficult to spot, and so the player must rely on sound to evade them. They will not patrol particularly fast, however if they spot the player then they will move very quickly to get to them. In the game, their footsteps will be heard loudly so the player will know they are coming if they are paying attention. They should be able to scale certain parts of the jungle, but are not able to fly or climb vertical areas. They cannot be all powerful as it would make the game too difficult; they need to be evadable either by hiding or by getting far enough away. The creatures cannot be killed, so evasion is the only option.