in-game horror elements

  • Last Post 04 November 2017
kompan posted this 14 July 2017

Someone on reddit has mentioned focus on horror elements in the game: including shadows moving in the fog of war.

Based on this idea, I'd like to suggest another concept from lovecraftian realm, namely disturbing visions, dreamlike sequences, glipses of future etc. merged into the gameplay.

Imagine the following:

  • it's alien horde turn,
  • shadows moving in the fog of war (or mist) outside vision range of your squad,
  • one of your soldiers is near death, out of willpoints, hallucinating, poisoned, near mist etc.
  • eerie sound cue, camera focuses on the soldier,
  • you see soldiers' point of view (like when aiming), with gray/sepia vision, grained, bloodied and distorted screen borders, heartbeat sound, alien echoes etc. know as "FPS near death effect",
  • now we see few very short 2-3 sec cuts (still distorted vision, like precognition or sixth sense) of alien activity in fog of war, including:
    • movement of undetected enemy on the map, and you squad is visible in a distance,
    • deployment of new type of mutant, but with only some body part or contour visible,
    • introduction of a boss monster lurking in the shadows and waiting for you,
    • some other clue that may not reveal much but provide a hint what player may expect.
  • then camera returns to normal view.

Basically it's the equivalent of horror movie sequence when camera follows protagonist from the distance indicating some threatening presence.

Of course this effect needs to be special and worth waiting for, instead of predictable and boring, so a few conditions should be met.

  • It should be random and rare, once or twice for every few hours spent on battlescape. 
  • It should be involutarily triggered by the physical or mental state of the soldier (perhaps Disciples of Anu may develop a way to control it?) or squad heavy losses. 
  • It should provide helpful informations: something is flanking me from the side, a new unknown mutant has been deployed, prepare for a difficult battle etc. to make it desirable, as the game throws some kind of "rescue wheel" to unfortunate player.

(I am however strongly opposed to use "blurred borders" effect all the time (like "concealment" in XCOM2) because it just obscures field of vision, breaks the clarity of UI and it simply feels like annoying obstacle in front of the screen)  

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SlipperyJim posted this 14 July 2017

I am not a dev but as player expecting Lovecraftian horror this sounds great!  



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Anjovi posted this 14 July 2017

Nice line of thinking there!

Gave me a different idea along similar lines.



1) Soldier's will is tested and fails miserably at start of turn (relatively rare)

2) Show an alien creature or threat that is in the soldier's line of site and Lock the control to that character, treat it as if it were a reaction shot, though your locked to that character.

3)Choose what you will do, though you are locked with that soldier.


4a) Action resolves as normal

4b) You fulfill your action, realizing that your character was hallucinating and the alien hallucination dissapears


The dynamic here is that if your soldier's will is low, there's a chance of them hallucinating, and you could have 2 layers of this loss of will power.

level 1: your character becomes locked occasionally, forcing you to move them first, which can get in the way of coordinating combos with other troops

level 2: your character begins hallucinating, which can produce hallucinations to appear that require other soldier's LOS to verify.

level 3: The character breaks down, causing you to lose complete control of them.



Otherwise, I think i'd like to see more subtle effects to draw out that horror, tension. What I mean by an example is: how in the original xcom, the simple vulnerability of soldiers could make every corner and darkened area uncertain. This simple gameplay dynamic is enough to keep you all tensed up!

NoWorries posted this 14 July 2017

 The viral mist allows the aliens to communicate with each other. Thematically, it would make sense that a character that is either susceptible to mutation or else has begun undergoing it might get opaque or even clear glimpses of what the aliens are doing. Additional tension might arise as when this occurs, this might preface a good chance that some adverse mutagenic event might occur in the next turn or two to one or more of your soldiers who are exposed to the mist.

If a soldier exposed to the mist has the capacity to allow the player to see the aliens as well as they see the soldiers for the turn leading up to a horrible mutation of the exposed soldier, then this could create some horrific choices about whether players might choose to expose a sacrificial soldier for a brief, tactical benefit...

So much opportunity for glorious tragedies! 



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Anjovi posted this 14 July 2017

A good example of horror elements coming through in a minimalist/subtle way.

Just how the game dynamics/design really immerse you without the need of special effects.

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Solomani posted this 10 October 2017

XCOM Enemy Unknown & Within had a feel to them that seemed completely absent in XCOM 2. I can't figure out what it is, but the prior two we're just more immersive to me. I don't know if it was the hand crafted maps vs. generated maps, or what. But, I definitely missed it. I never felt spooked crawling through a XCOM 2 map. Maybe because all of the aliens were the same size? No little aliens scampering in the shadows or whatever. 

Anyway, yes... please pay attention to the details in the setting and produce that creepy feeling you should get with aliens scampering about! Like:  why the hell am I going down this dark, foggy alley again?


UnstableVoltage posted this 11 October 2017

I think the problem for me with XCom 2 was too many human/humanish enemies. Even most of the new enemy types in WotC are humanish.

Also, the concept of an invasion is a lot more unnerving than trying to take back your planet.


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SpiteAndMalice posted this 12 October 2017

I always liked the plot of Xcom Apocalypse where initially it's the alien forces invading and you're not ready for them, but by the end, the player gets to face them on their own grounds, you feel ready, but you really don't know what will be thrown at you.

All horror tends to work in one of two directions. Either horror is coming into the protagonist(s) space, or the protagonist is entering horror's space. Both can be unnverving if done well, and either on its own can form part of a ful plot.

The problem I guess with just having a game based around humanity fighting back against an alien invasion which has already happened, is that you're missing the initial tension of horror arriving, and also missing the final horror of having to put an end to horror once and for all. Instead, you're just dabbling about in the middle bits. That doesn't mean the game and the story can't be done well, but it's not the part of a plot which carries the most dread or tension.

(Hopefully there'll be an Xcom 3.)

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Madxav posted this 02 November 2017

Sounds interesting, but I think it would get old really fast. It do would be interesting if they could make the sounds of alien moving really spooky. The XCOM EU had a very spooky element I loved, specially when you first played the game. You would just hear the tiny steps of the sectoids moving around while you move your rookies in a completely desolated place, and you have no idea of what to expect. Maps were very spooky too like the forest. IMO the main problem, though, was that after playing and getting more experience you would easily recognize the sound each alien made, and it would remove that surprise element away. 

I think Phonenix Point should be able to get the spooky factor, with things like sounds of steps while they move, opening doors, and breaking glass, without a gimmick that would burn too fast. Sometimes the most simple stuff is the most effective.

Tomastiler posted this 04 November 2017

It sounds like a horror movie, make people feel more fresh and reality. Good idea