Horror Game Development – Characters

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Right, so we have the core concepts for our two games in the bag. Let’s go into our characters.

For the viral outbreak game I am seeing a female lead character. That’s not common in general, but especially not in horror games. Although that could be seen as being too much like Resident Evil, male characters have been done way more often, so female it is.
For the supernatural game I am thinking RPG style. Let them create a character.

This also gives us some more game play options. The viral game will be a large, open ended sandbox area, but will have a set story they can follow. With set characters and what not. Like the older GTA games. This gives another theme we can use, getting lost.
The RPG will have set environments and a story, but will be more quest based. 3 or so game length story arcs with 8 or so quests each, plus a couple dozen side quests. Try to make each quest take a half hour or more to complete and you have a game with some good length. Have a built in quest maker, and expansion packs and it’s an open ended project.

Now, you really should go back to the horror 101 series and read the section on characters if you haven’t.

I have chosen a female character for the viral outbreak game, which I think I will give the name Toxic Dawn, because women tend to be perceived as more vulnerable. In this case the lead character will be. She isn’t a trained fighter, she is just someone who is trying to survive this plague. It would be interesting to start her off as rather big, and out of shape. Over the course of the game she will lose weight, become malnourished and wain. Most games don’t have character’s change much, but in this one she will.
Psychologically it will make what happens more daunting. They will feel more helpless and weak until the character, along with them, becomes a more capable fighter. Which will be done through some form of natural feeling progression system.

The supernatural game, which I will call Hunter Haunted, will allow them to make the character. This will necessitate text based communication in the game, which isn’t as spiffy as voice acting, but lets it be more personal. We could include some voice acting by having their main contact use voice synthesis due to having lost their voice somehow. Then the game can speak whatever dialog is presented for that character. Or their character gets a random code name that is used all through the game, come up with a handful and the voice actors just repeat any lines that use the name once for each name. Costs more resources, but adds more dynamics.
Also, people tend to not say names unless they are speaking about someone, or trying to get their attention. So writing the dialog so that names just aren’t said is doable. Just have their character name show up in written form sometimes.
The overall idea is to try and make it more personal. A message at the start of the game to make a character that looks like them, to increase the personal feel of the game would be a good idea.

Your goal is to use a character, or characters, that both fits the story and enhances whatever you are working towards. So far all the run and hide games I have seen have adult, reasonably fit looking men as their lead characters. Wouldn’t it be even scarier (and make more sense) if you had a character that actually looked helpless? Like a weak looking woman, or better yet a child? Or a guy that’s a nerdy weakling?
Not trying to preach, and of course I know women aren’t all wilting flowers, just like all men aren’t all bad asses. But if you can put the player in control of a character that really looks vulnerable, it can make the scary stuff seem even worse. Which is why I don’t know why more horror games don’t do it.

Since Hunter Haunted starts with the premise of someone who goes out to fight supernatural threats, we lose a degree of vulnerability from the get go. So we can try to make that up by letting them make their character, so it’s more personal to them. If you have ever played an online MMO where you get to make your character and name them, then you know it feels more personal when you die, opposed to dying in a game like FF where it’s a set character. You feel more like a participant if the character has a name and look you created yourself.

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