Core Gameloops in “Nachtmahr”

As a demonstration of my ability to design a system which creates a certain type of gameplay and experience I would like to explain a little bit about my 3rd semester project “Nachtmahr”: The game is an asymmetrical multiplayer survival game. One player controls the Hunter while three others control their own Survivor. Both roles have their own respective gameloop which interacts with the other.

Hunter Gameplay

The player controlling the hunter has the main objective to stop the survivors from escaping from the mansion. There are two ways he can interact with the survivors: First the hunter needs to build rooms, thereby expanding the pre-generated dungeon. Each placed room awards the hunter a certain amount of points (also called “Power”) which he can later use to activate abilities. After the hunter placed a sufficient amount of rooms and connected two of the three exits he is allowed to materialise on the map he built in his demon form and hunt the survivors.

On the map the hunter has a few abilities and a variety of curses he can use to track down and hunt the survivors. These abilities and curses (more info here) have a certain power cost and together with a passive power drain over time deplete the hunters power reserves. So the hunter uses curses and abilities to catch and injure the survivors but is forced back to his ethereal form, building the dungeon, to regenerate new power so he can go on the hunt again. This creates a cyclical pattern in the tension curve for both survivors and hunters, inducing a flow state.

Nachtmahr Tension over Time

Survivor Gameplay

As the hunter expands the mansion and spawns in new rooms so do new items and clues appear which the survivors need to find. The survivors goal is to find enough clues to solve a code which opens one of the three exits and allows the survivors to escape the mansion and win the game. So the hunter directly affects the survivors search for clues and items. The longer the game lasts the more clues and items spawn which the survivors can use to their advantage and hiding in a bigger mansion becomes easier. On the other hand the hunter gets more powerful and can make orientation more challenging for the survivors. The items the survivors find either help them further with their exploration (lockpicks, batteries, xray spell), help them combat the hunter (flashbang spell) or at least avoid him (invisibility spell, stamina boost spell). This way certain hunter abilities can be countered by certain survivor items and vice versa which creates an interesting opportunity for counter play on both sides.

Emotional Design

Artwork: Lea Zobel – 2019

This way almost all elements in the core gameloop’s affect a certain element in the other role’s gameloop, creating a very dynamic experience. It also creates a cycle of tension and release for both roles since the hunter has to regenerate power regularly (and quicker the more he uses his abilities). This results in a nice pace, almost dividing the game into phases in which the hunter goes after the survivors, where survivors get brief windows of time to explore mansion undisturbed but with the knowledge that the longer the game stays calm the more power the hunter will have at his disposal next time he shows up.

This creates a feeling of a looming threat, which is constantly present with the survivors as they scramble through the mansion searching for clues and items. If a player runs out of batteries he needs to rely on the lamps scattered throughout the mansion which the hunter can curse. Since the curses remain on objects until they are used doors and lamps that suddenly slam shut or burn out the survivors are constantly reminded of the hunters presence. And so hiding can turn into a very suspense moment when the player hears the hunter coming closer. That is why the rooms were built in such a way that provide some opportunities to hide but also cover the survivors vision, leaving them to rely on their hearing to determine where hunter went. Especially the large closets survivors can hide in and corners behind doors provide opportunities for adrenaline inducing “close calls”.