Game Research – Looking at Atmosphere + Mechanics

In this post I look at several different games that have similar elements to my game idea and how I can take these into account when building my prototypes. Having just massively changed my pitch (see previous Environmental Research), I now need to dive into more research so I can get a good idea of how I want my game to be.


Assassin’s Creed: Origins



This is the first game I looked at when deciding on the main mechanics of the new pitch. Assassin’s Creed: Origins is an action/stealth game set in Ancient Egypt, and there is a small part of the gameplay that takes place inside the Pyramids. Players must navigate through said Pyramids and complete puzzles to get to the treasure, but certain traps and events in there can kill them. I noticed the similarity between my main mechanic and this, and also took into account several elements from the Pyramids; namely the darkness and how the player had to use a torch in order to see. I liked this and thought it would add a lot to the atmosphere and gameplay of my game, which is why torchlight was added to the pitch.

I then came back to this game for later research, and discovered other ideas that I thought were interesting. One was the Phylakes; a very tough, almost unkillable enemy. In Origins they relentlessly pursue the player and will kill them on sight, and it isn’t until the very end of the game that the player can kill them, and even then they are still very tough. I found it quite unnerving and scary when I was doing a mission or clearing out an enemy camp and a message pops up: “The Phylake is near! Run!” and I knew I had to run, because I could not kill them. I didn’t even see a Phylake until a good few hours into the game as I was always long gone by the time they showed up thanks to the warning message. I didn’t want to mess with them.

I think this idea also could be incorporated into the game. I know I want enemies that can harm the player in the game, but I really like the idea that they are tough/unkillable and that stealth should be emphasized much more than the idea of fighting the enemies. This would add to the mysteriousness of the planet and would make the game much more interesting, I think.


Alien: Isolation



This is the second game I researched. This is Alien Isolation, a horror game set aboard a space station where the player must avoid an unkillable Alien and escape.

For this research I focused mainly on the atmosphere of the game. I liked how dark the environment was and how the player had to rely on hearing and other means in order to avoid detection. It is a very scary game, and the atmosphere for it is incredible. The darkness combined with a deadly unkillable threat makes for a very interesting and replayable game also, which is always good.



One of the main mechanics for the game is in avoiding the Alien. The player can run away, try to scare the creature off with fire (which doesn’t always work!) or can hide. The hiding mechanics I’d say are arguably the best part of the game.

The most interesting place for this is in the ventilation system. Players can crawl in here to hide from the Alien, but the vents are a dark place. They must use a torch to see, and even then the maze that is the ventilation system presents it’s own threat. You may come out far from where you were before, and could be completely lost.
And that’s not all. The vents have their own set of scary; there could be anything in them. Small facehugger aliens roam these dark corridors, as well as the Alien itself sometimes. The player is never truly safe.

The hiding mechanics are the thing I find most interesting about Alien: Isolation. If the monsters in my game are going to be unkillable, then there needs to be a way to get away from/hide from them. Hiding could be a very interesting secondary mechanic to my game. It could actually be incorporated into the main mechanic too; perhaps the player can use the interactive environment around them to deter/hide from the monsters that pursue them. There are endless possibilities that could be explored.





This is the third game I researched. It has one very different aspect to the other games; it’s 2D. I’m fairly certain I want my prototypes to also be in 2D, as I am more familiar with 2D coding and this would allow me to better show off my mechanics, rather than having to learn 3D code and hoping I could do the mechanics as well. Therefore I felt it was best to research a 2D game too, and Starbound was one that sprang to mind.

Starbound is a 2D survival exploration game where the player explores star systems using their spacecraft and gathers resources to build armour and weapons.

There are several aspects of Starbound that I found interesting. I really liked the exploration side of it; flying around in your spacecraft exploring many different types of planet. In my game there will only be one planet, but it would be fully explorable and exploration is one of the main elements of the game.

There are also certain areas in Starbound that are in complete darkness. Caving is an important aspect of the game (and caves are dark) and some planets have no Sun. In these circumstances the player uses a torch and other light sources in order to see.



Torchlight will be an important aspect of my game; so I felt it was a relevant part of Starbound to research. The lighting mechanics of it are interesting, and I like the cone-torch mechanic. This style of torchlight may be a similar one to what I incorporate into my game. The game also has a weapons system, where players can find items and use them to fight various aliens throughout the game, which is an interesting mechanic, and an inventory system isn’t something that has been considered yet for my game.

Overall I’d say the exploration and lighting mechanics will be the main ideas I will take forward from this game, as well as perhaps looking into some kind of inventory system. I really like the exploration aspect of it and it is encouraging to see that a 2D space exploration game is not only possible, but highly enjoyable.


Ori And The Blind Forest



This is the final game of this research post. I wanted to look at this one particularly as it contains elements that are similar to some of the ideas I had for my game, for example the open world.

Ori’s world is not procedurally generated; it is a massive open area that the player is free to explore and is massively detailed. The player can find upgrades for their character by exploring and also easter eggs and map pieces. The exploration side of Ori is a lot of fun and a key part of the gameplay.



The game is also set in a massive forest, which not only looks amazing but also plays well into the mechanics of the game; using the main character’s special abilities to navigate around. Similarly to Starbound it also has an inventory system, except this one is much simpler; it has a couple different ways of attacking the enemy and manouvring around the environment, and that is it.

There are a fair few elements of this game that are similar to mine (namely the forest setting) so looking into this closely for inspiration is probably a good idea. This game is also a good showcase for why the alien planet in my game should not be procedurally generated; it is very clean and well designed, as well as being linear enough so that the storyline is easy to follow but not so linear that the world is not open enough for exploration. The simple inventory system may also be worth looking into, as it adds more gameplay to the game as well as giving the player something else to do. The open world of Ori And The Blind Forest also has exactly the style of world that I think my game should have. When designing mine, this game will be very useful for potential ideas and inspiration.


So what I have gathered from this research is a decent amount of ideas and mechanics for my game; I know it will be 2D now as I am more skilled in 2D Unity and it will be easier for me to code more complex mechanics into that rather than having to learn 3D Unity and trying to code my game mechanics into that. I have also seen in games like Starbound and Ori And The Blind Forest that it is possible to have a highly enjoyable and interesting 2D exploration game and so I will take that forward too.
The atmosphere that Alien: Isolation and some parts of Assassin’s Creed: Origins have will also help me create my own mysterious-but-not-horror atmosphere, as there are elements from each game that have inspired parts of my own (for example I know now that I want the main antagonists of my game to be unkillable) so I will take this forward also. Several of the games researched also have an inventory system, which adds to the gameplay by encouraging the player to build weapons or devices, and is an interesting element for these games to have. It is definitely worth looking into in order to “fill out” my game a little more. Overall I now have a good idea for several mechanics as well as an atmosphere and antagonists, so it is just a case of creating some logic to the game world and then starting prototypes.