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Play Nice (Victor Romero)

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Play Nice is a 3D action-horror game in which the player takes control of a living dummy. Driven by ragdoll animation and wobbly physics, the dummy uses environmental traps, sneak attacks, and strategic stealth to scare off a group of uninvited and unruly humans. Some will flee in terror, but others will go mad and viciously hunt for the dummy until only man or puppet is left standing.

Vote for this to be one of the prototypes we make over on Humble.com

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Hey everyone! That's my weird pitch up there.

I'd get pretty scared when my family rented horror films like Child's Play and Puppet Master in the late 80s. I could watch portions but I inevitably bailed for the back of the couch to wait out the parts where the dolls caused murder and mayhem. Beyond that, I was at the right age to read the Night of the Living Dummy books in the early 90s, and horror television shows from my youth such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Tales from the Crypt included episodes featuring living dolls with unique twists. I actually have a big reference list of horror movies and TV episodes that I can share if anyone wants to have doll nightmares forever!

So with those influences in mind, I thought I'd flip the script: what if the player in a horror game is the living dummy? They don't have bones! So it's gotta be a wobbly experience to move around in the world as a dummy. And then how does the player character interact with NPCs (non-player characters)? The human characters in those horror stories I mentioned understandably freak the %#$@&! out when the doll starts moving around. So the player's natural defense is to go ragdoll and avoid drawing unwanted attention, then isolate the NPCs using household traps like those in Home Alone and maybe some jump scares until they finally run away from the house. And while some NPCs run away in terror (man, you should always run when a doll starts walking around), other NPCs might be driven mad with fear and hunt down the player. Then it's time for some real horror!

That's all for now! I'm happy to answer questions or share more about what I think this creepy prototype can become.

Edited by Vic Romero

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Cool! Did you play the Home Alone PC game where you were runing around, trying to score (five?) hits on each of the two burglars? In my head, this game sounds like a mix of that and Octodad. Or am I completely off?

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Sounds fun. Do you already have any specific traps in mind?

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@fargetvThat's completely on! Octodad and I Am Bread were my initial influences for gameplay. However as I developed the pitch I decided not to require the same limb-by-limb control, since it could get quite fast-paced when NPCs are on the prowl. A game with procedurally animated characters like Grow Home may be closer to what I have in mind. It's 3rd-person control with some wobbly physics to capture the feel of being a dummy but still move around relatively smoothly.

I never did play the Home Alone PC game, but YouTube has allowed me to check it out! In fact I checked out all the Home Alone games, and the PC and NES version feel like they similarly focus on being trapped in a house with hostile people.

What do you think about those time limits? I'm still uncertain if I'd want that kind of restraint, but maybe something like "chase the humans out before dawn!" makes sense.

Edited by Vic Romero

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@Henke

I haven't delved too deeply into trap mechanics, but there are a few classic examples I picked up from some of my references. The skateboard at the top of the stairs is one I can't shake off because I just imagine a NPC slipping and tumbling down the stairs in goofy-horrific ragdoll fashion. (See the Twilight Zone episode "The Living Doll.") Or maybe the player can set up string across hallways to trip up characters.

I feel like this game's mechanics will have a heavy emphasis on physics-driven movement, so the traps may just be a matter of setting up environmental objects in locations where NPCs might walk, or we could construct more elaborate traps from combining objects. I'm open to exploring this during development.

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In addition to physics-based puzzles, (like maneuvering a bowling ball down a shaft onto a character, or going limp on the stairs to trip someone) you might be able do stuff with creating a creepy atmosphere, as sort of a "stealth" mechanic (cutting the lights, following someone with your eyes, suddenly turning your head, hiding in a cabinet to freak them out when they open it). Other physical mechanics could be how you move differently if you're wielding knitting needle vs. a hammer, if you can pick stuff up. Or use ventriloquism to create a distraction or get others to do your bidding. Maybe I'm straying too far from the mark here, but I'm just throwing out a few thoughts. I like this idea!

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10 minutes ago, Klatuu said:

Other physical mechanics could be how you move differently if you're wielding knitting needle vs. a hammer, if you can pick stuff up. Or use ventriloquism to create a distraction or get others to do your bidding. 

The idea of possessing different dolls with different abilities crossed my mind as well. Although that might take away the aspect of danger when the victims tries to kill you or diminish the players attachment to its avatar.

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Great brainstorming, @Klatuu! That's the kind of stuff I have in mind as well, particularly the creaky head turn and hiding in unexpected places to surprise people. I imagine NPCs have fear levels and would react differently based on just how afraid they are at a given time.

As far as ventriloquism, that was a tough call. Should it be a player as a "spirit" that possesses multiple objects/dolls, or is the dummy the main character? I realized that what excited me the most about this pitch was the limitation of being the dummy, with no option but to live in the body they inhabit. Like Henke pointed out, the risk is much greater when the player only has one "life."

Thanks for your interest! I'm happy to see these kinds of notes. It helps work through design details.

Edited by Vic Romero

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Definitely evokes the sequence in Monsters University where they cultivate the perfect scary atmosphere to terrify the humans. Thrilled to see this in action!

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I read through all the comments before making this one and it definitely made me appreciate the concepts of what this could be.  

I'm curious could this even be possibly described as a first person version of Vian Brother's/SFB Games' Haunt the House?

Unsure what that is for some reason:

http://armorgames.com/play/7195/haunt-the-house

I could see this being twisted even darker being awesome with a psychotic instead of fun loving.

 

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@maxbz Welp, time for me to finally watch Monsters University. I've seen the first one though and I can't believe I didn't think of those movies.

@Reid_Harris_Cooper Whoa I never heard of Haunt the House! I played it for a while last night and that's totally the vibe of this game I did play called Ghost Master, which is a bit more strategic but has the same mechanic of possessing different objects to scare away humans.

For Play Nice, I imagine a 3rd-person camera to allow the player to see the dummy in action and have more precise control over the arms and movement. I think that and procedural animation would really help sell the challenge of navigating the world as a dummy.

Edited by Vic Romero

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@Vic Romero 3rd person is even better!  Survival Horror but you're the bad guy!  Sort of how Friday the 13th: The Game was announced, then turned into multi-player till they realized most of the hype can from "Be Jason" so they went back to putting in the single player... but...who knows now)

Don't take my comparisons as any knock... playing an Evil Charlie doll is a dream come true if it happens.

Edited by Reid_Harris_Cooper

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Hadn't heard of it before but Haunt the House was a fun game. Anybody played any of the Deception games? They really let your imagination run free regarding traps.

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I am not exactly sure how I feel about this one. Freaky living dolls and jump scares seriously spook me. However, wobbly physics and potential pushing some unwanted guests down a flight of stairs makes me laugh.

I am not exactly sure how I feel, but I'd really, really like to find out.

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^^^ Yup! And remember you'll play as the freaky living doll.

1 hour ago, Henke said:

Hadn't heard of it before but Haunt the House was a fun game. Anybody played any of the Deception games? They really let your imagination run free regarding traps.

That's gotta be the most traps that were ever trapsed.

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5 hours ago, Henke said:

Hadn't heard of it before but Haunt the House was a fun game. Anybody played any of the Deception games? They really let your imagination run free regarding traps.

 

 

Deception was one of the first games I bought when I picked up my PS4! These games are so bizarre, and the tutorializing is a bit of a slog to get through, but they sure are interesting!

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BTW, Ghost Master looks a lot like the absolute MESS of a game that was Neil Gaiman's Wayward Manor.

If this pitch gets chosen or even before it might check that game out so you know everything NOT TO do even in a possibly gltichy prototype.  I've never seen a truly professionally made game with great story, graphics, etc. get every single gameplay mechanic wrong.

I have higher faith in the folks at Double Fine (but then again... The Odd Gentleman helped develop this and no longer acknowledge it).

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I checked out Wayward Manor and it's definitely in the same vein Ghost Master, which I realized is in the same vein as Haunting Starring Polterguy!

While the gameplay would be different, we'd certainly look at how those games approached the similar goal of trying to scare a bunch of poor NPCs out of their wits.

Edited by Vic Romero

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