Emergency Scare Services

Overview

You’re one of the Recently Deceased and have just started your job as a Level One Poltergeist at the Department of Afterlife Affairs, North American Division, Emergency Scare Services. Your boss, Dr Ghouligan D.Sc.S.F. (Doctor of Science in Scares and Frights) has just given you your very first assignment! You must scare the residents of a house away!

Emergency Scare Services was created over the course of a semester at the DigiPen Institute of Technology. It's a foray into the comedic genre using the Unity 3D Engine and far too much willpower.

The Idea

Emergency Scare Services started as a project focusing on the Fantasy aspect of Benjamin Ellinger's Theory of Engagement. At the time, it was called Haunt and its sole purpose was to deliver on the feeling of being a ghost haunting a home. 

Research

Initially, I looked at three different games for inspiration: House FlipperLittle Chef Story (DigiPen Singapore Game), and Surgeon Simulator. If you're interested in the documentation for the research, check here

My goals for this project were clear from the beginning:

  1. Create a compelling and engaging game that focuses on Fantasy.

    • Focus Category of Identity through a vocational role​.

  2. Create a short experience that people can play over and over.

  3. Create a clean UI setup that is minimal and easy to read.

Process

Writing up a planning document was the easy part. The execution of said plan was a little more difficult. Unity physics is a fickle thing and it proved to be no different during the creation of Haunt. One of the main aspects of the game was being able to throw objects into people, which worked for the most part (except for when it didn't). You were able to move through walls, something that helped sell the aspect of being a ghost but was a pain when you were blocked on the other side by furniture. 

Post-Mortem

Excerpts from the document:

"If I add something to the game and I don’t like it, I can always strip the game back to its core mechanic and rework from there."

"One of the nice things to come out of this project is that I learned a lot more about using Unity in 3D and how C# scripting works."

"I’d floundered around a bit trying to decide on an idea for my project and ended up settling on something that could be interesting, but was also kind of 'meh'."

"It feels very strange to dislike something that you’ve created with your own hands."

Round Two

In the Spring of 2019 I revisited Haunt after almost a year away from the project. I thought that, maybe this time around, I could finally get to the core of what I wanted to create. I started first with a redesign of the idea and took it into a more comedic direction. This semester I was focusing on bringing a narrative into the game and selling the idea of being part of a fantasy bureaucratic ghost business. You can check out my initial Release Roadmap here. This project was done using a weekly sprint system with reflections.

Redesign

My focus for the redesign of Haunt, now called Emergency Scare Services, was narrative and storytelling. Unfortunately, the previous system didn't support any narrative so it had to be redesigned entirely. This meant that more than half of the allotted project time was spent redesigning a new system of interaction within the game.

The final system focused on the player interacting with objects that were in the same room as occupants of the house. The ultimate goal was to scare all three occupants out of the house and you had a week to do so. Each day, the scare meter of the occupants would change depending on how much the other occupants of the house were scared. For example, if the child was 50% scared, but the father wasn't scared at all, then the child's scare meter would go down 20%. Therefore, it was imperative that you didn't just focus on one member of the household, but all of them equally so you could complete your job in the allotted time frame. 

Each room had one big scare, two medium scares, and three to five small scares that changed depending on who was in the room. While the objects themselves remained the same, each occupant of the household was more scared of different objects. For example, in the living room the mother's big scare is the piano, but it's only a medium scare for the child.

The narrative portion of the project was worked on towards the end and was built around a dialogue system. You could click on objects to learn more about them and you could talk to your boss, Dr. Ghouligan, D.Sc.S.F.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the project ended up in a state that is much closer to what I was initially envisioning at its conception. However, it remains a clunky game that needs more work to get to what I imagined it would be. Should I pick up Emergency Scare Services again, I'll definitely be taking my time focusing on polishing the system and integrating more dialogue.

Details

Platform: PC

Engine: Unity 3D

Ship Date: April 2019

Production Duration: July 2018 - Aug 2018, Jan 2019 - April 2019

© 2019 by Grace McClintock, Game Designer

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