Discern is a horror game that we created in 2 weeks time. We made use of existing assets and spend 3 days on building the game. The remaining time was spend in research about "horror" and what makes an experience truly scary.
For the best experience it is recommended to go in completely vanilla. If you have played games before then the controls are straight forward, otherwise it is WASD with the mouse to look.
CONCEPT AND GOAL
We, a team of 3, wanted to create a horror game that would give the users a feeling of being scared without the use of cheap tricks such as jump scares. The entire experience would be 2-3 minutes, but with meaning behind everything that we did.
In order to make a successful experience we did research on various phobias and patterns in which people experience fear. We also wanted to find the border between scary and uncanny.
Eventually we realized that playing with the senses of the player is what causes fear, because you can not trust your senses. By making them extra good or by taking them completely away we were able to measure emotions of the play testers that were what we expected.
This and plenty of research resulted in us creating Discern.
Discern is a very simple game. You just walk.
Throughout your journey you will notice that slowly but steadily multiple senses are being triggered, from hearing to seeing. The game holds your hands as it guides you through visual and audio cues.
You will notice that the environments are changing as you enter each area. For example doors disappearing and walls changing.
There are various triggers in the game that will trigger events such as a fire truck driving around.
Every time you look back you will notice darkness. This is to give the feeling of the unknown and as you keep moving away from it you will gradually develop the feeling of being chased while running away.
The paintings will give you the feeling that something odd is going on. Eventually you will be confronted with eyes, which gives the feeling of you being "watched".
Near one of the final rooms you will be confronted with sensory overload which builds up in audio as you walk through the exit. This is the climax, but a preparation for the next part.
The final part is where you suddenly are in a cabin in the forest. The audio is calm and relaxing with the nature sounds. You can walk around freely. Despite being in a calm environment everyone was on edge. This was our main goal. Making someone feel scared or on edge despite everything in the current situation being the complete opposite of it.
Due to high demand on the feedback we decided to add an ending to it. The player eventually hits invisible walls outside and will get boxed in by more of them. The house will disappear and slowly but steadily the player will hear the whispers again as the game fades to black and closes itself. This ending gave the players the feeling of it truly being done. It gave them the "reward" for being on edge.
The overload hallway
THE CONTROL VERSION
In order to properly measure and test the user experience we also had a control version in which we disabled all effects and cues. We noticed that players were getting lost due to them not being guided. We also noticed that there were no spikes when we were monitoring their heartbeats.
This project was made by a team of 3 in 2 weeks:
Ravi Bechoe (Game Developer)
Sabe Kraan (Game Designer)
Dara van Vliet (Game Artist)