Design and Planning – Ghost Holic

  1. Design and Planning – Ghost Holic
  2. Ghost Holic – Day 2 Dev Diary
  3. Ghost Holic – Day 3 Dev Diary
  4. Conceptualization: Houses in Ghost Holic
  5. Ghost Holic – Day 4 Dev Diary
  6. Ghost Holic – Day 5
  7. Ghost Holic – A few days later.
  8. Ghost Holic – Building the Goal Map
  9. Project: Ghost Holic

As my Golf Demo is nearly finished (Now finished, wasn’t when I began writing) I’ve been having obsessive thoughts about the project I’ve really wanted to undertake- A Ghost Hunting Game. One similar to Phasmophobia, a highly successful indie game about discovering ghosts. Firstly, because I love Phasmophobia, and Secondly I want more variety in what I can play related to Phasmophobia, specifically I think the map options are quite limited. Recently I’ve been writing down all my planning all over the place, whether its on paper, post it notes, word documents or in a private blog that I keep as a diary. So instead of fixing this I’ve decided I should instead share all my design thoughts here- on a public facing blog where maybe it can impress or inspire someone, maybe they’ll even make it if I somehow end up not.

What isn’t broke

I’ve freely admitted already that my inspiration is an existing (albeit early access) game. And so I won’t hide the fact that I wish to lift some features of it. And so this is what isn’t broke with the inspiration, or rather what I like about the game I’m copying inspired by.
I’ll start with something especially general and then close in on specifics. Starting with the truck- the player’s set up area. Every game starts in the truck, it’s where you grab your equipment and get ready to go into the house or otherwise haunted area. I like the truck- it’s a sensical in universe starting area, and effective loading area to prevent slow loading in. And similarly important is that it’s consistent, it’s a place that’s always recognizable to the player, and this will be important to remember when I get to my own additions.
What is annoying however is that there’s a long walk between the truck and front door on multiple maps, which are unnecessary and only wastes the player’s time. I hope to alleviate this admittedly minor detail.
Ghosts are overall fine in Phasmophobia. But there’s a clear distinction between certain ghosts. If Players were to make a tier list of Ghosts there’d be a solid consensus on many of the highest tier and lowest tier choices. The middle would be somewhat debatable, but there being consensus that there’s wide gap between enjoyable and unenjoyable designs is a mistake. There should be a better consistency amongst designs of Ghosts, which there currently isn’t.
It’s all well and good to make general statements about this topic but it’s not constructive to do so. And so to make a more proper constructive critique from which I will explain what I wish to change, I’ll now reference what I believe are good and bad designs for Ghosts. In order to do so I’ll provide some background information. In Phasmophobia the most basic way Ghosts are individualized is the evidence they give off. Each ghost has three different evidences, and no Ghost shares the same three. Wonderful! Except there’s game mode where you aren’t able to find all three evidence. So when there are two evidence only, there’s the inevitability with 24 ghosts that there’s going to be some overlapping choices. And so in this case you must rely on abilities of the Ghost to distinguish them. These abilities are what make the difference between Ghosts.
Demon for instance is a very aggressive Ghost. It’s the only one that can hunt regardless of sanity, additionally it can start doing standard hunt checks at 65% average sanity compared to the standard 50%. Then it has a weakness: that crucifixes have a wider area of effect on the ghost. This makes it actually a little safer if you play properly. Overall Demons are A-Tier ghosts. An S Tier ghost would be something like Wraiths. Wraiths are easily identifiable because they have multiple unique elements to them. They can teleport to players, dont leave salt footprints, and more. An F tier ghost would be like Yurei. Yurei have an ability to attack a player’s sanity. This sounds fun! Except the only way to tell if it used it’s ability is that it moves doors slightly weird when it does so… except sometimes the doors don’t even get effected by the ability so its just silent. The only reliable way to tell if the Ghost is a Yurei without all the evidences is to get lucky or rule everything else out. This sucks. You’re never going to be 100% if you just didn’t miss something or not. It’s unreliable, which makes it less fun to experience.
So in essence: what makes a good Ghost? There’s a few elements to it. I think there should be multiple unique abilities for each ghost. There should be at least one ability that can be identified. And then these abilities should be themed, sometimes around an evidence it may have. This is what makes an identifiable ghost.

What is broke

So what do I think I should drop to make something of my own?
Well firstly I think progression through experience and money is somewhat nonsensical. Especially in a game where every level will be procedurally generated it would be unfair to lock features behind a progression system. And while the other ghost hunting games aren’t procedurally generated, I do think limiting items and maps behind XP is a poor choice as I believe player choice should triumph over any kind of grind. Especially in games where the skill is gained through knowledge you’d unnecessarily Furthermore Money doesn’t make sense as every investigation will be highly unique. Locking items behind money would be like handicapping a player for getting unlucky in some situations, and preventing them from getting back ahead.

Anyways before I go too crazy trying to explain my thoughts- I wont be including a progression system except for maybe the purpose of multiplayer comparison between players. But multiplayer is a want and not a need for the game. All players will start with all items at their disposal until I otherwise believe that adding money or anything else would enhance and not hurt the experience and the options players have to feel free to play as they desire.
Beyond that what equipment and evidence will my game have? Well for evidence I’ll be bringing over EMF, Writing, Temps, and Fingerprints over from Phasmophobia, and add a new one for my game: the Ghost Candle. The Ghost Candle will be a way to consistently find the ghost room which I believe is a necessity for the game since the maps being Procedurally Generated means that player will be forced to adapt to a new environment every game. This makes the load on the player’s mind heavy enough, finding the ghost in strange potentially illogical house is just added. Furthermore the Ghost Candle will help track where the Ghost actually is, since roaming out of the room is an option for it. I believe this will help players not get confused over incorrect evidence and lead to a more consistent experience. As for the evidence aspect of the Candle, the Candle will normally turn blue when in the Ghost room, and the flame intensity will be linked to the proximity of the Ghost. When the Ghost has Candle as an evidence however, it’ll turn a different color in the Ghost room like Green. This should be fairly easy to implement, and obvious to the player.
Further equipment will be familiar. There’ll be crucifixes, Thermometers, U.V. Light, etc.

Development Roadmap, Goals, etc.

I’ve grown tired of writing and explaining decision making, especially in text I feel that it is difficult to fully express my desires, furthermore it’s somewhat pointless as things will inevitably change as I develop the game for real (As happens in any coding project). So instead of explaining things I’m going to write out some goals, what I’ll hopefully do in order, and then show what I’ve done already.

General goals: I will have five different evidence types, Six different ghosts, One fully functional non generated map, multiple testing/demo maps, a procedural map generator, seven to nine different equipment, complex ghosts, etc.

As for a roadmap I guess this is what I’ll be developing in order.
First I’ll be focusing on basic features. The basic Ghost AI, interactable parts of the house, player movement.
The goal of the first milestone will be having a ghost that can scare a player passively. The house will have functional lights, doors, breaker, and maybe some other furniture objects that can be interacted with. There will also be stuff that can be thrown. I’m actually in the middle of working on some of this stuff so here’s a screenshot of some things I’ve already done.

I’ll write more about what’s done when I feel like I’ve met my first goal, but currently I’ve make it so the ghost can throw marked objects (Even added a button in the Editor to force it to do so! my second time working with editor scripting), Light can be toggled one and off, and there’s a breaker that determines if lights can work at all. Additionally the ghost will roam towards a targeted position. The current “Ghost Controller” Script is probably going to be the “Muscle” of the Ghost whilst I have a separate script controlling probabilities and movement objectives, etc. Mainly because I think separating these two things makes sense but secondarily so I can break down both aspects for testing a little bit easier. Again I’ll write more about it as the development continues.

Then my second goal will be to make the ghost hunting AI, player death, hiding, hunt prevention, and maybe some proper evidence. With that the essentials of gameplay will be in place and I’ll be able to work on the next part.
Now what I want to say that I’d do immediately after making the essentials of gameplay is to make my procedural map generator which is the ultimate goal, but first I’ll instead make a fully functional map that’ll be my goal point as far as design is concerned. Ultimately I do want to make the most detailed generator that I can reasonably make, but the starting point wont be that. I’ll make a map with textures and objects that might just be placeholders. After all, I haven’t set my heart after any single style or design that I want for props and the like (but imitating other games with a realistic style might be what I go for). But for the initial test map and goals for the procedural generator, I’ll have decorated rooms that’ll probably be some what unnatural but hopefully make for good gameplay.

And then from that third part, I could go many places. The goal isn’t to have a best selling game, nor maybe even the most complete game. The goal is to make a working showcase of my idea that adding procedural generation to a game like Phasmophobia is an enhancement that makes serious sense. Having a fresh map every time the play button is hit itself isn’t a new concept in gaming, I just think that the recent sub genre of ghost hunting games would benefit from it. But to make the best version of this possible would probably take more time than I have. I am still a college student, hopefully graduating soon, and so my goal in life right now isn’t to take some risky adventure into indie development- I had time for that years ago maybe but now I have to get serious with my life and focus on getting a job regardless of how appealing working for myself may be.

But if there were features to add, number one would be multiplayer. Games like this just aren’t the same without it. Maybe even with procedural generation the potential to have crazy eight player games on insanely huge maps will be addicting to some. But on the same hand, depending on how things work it may be difficult to pull off. I should write later about my research into making a properly multiplayer version of the game but for now it seems somewhat grim, as it’d cost me a little cash to do so.

Other ideas may include a level editor- which would probably be rudimentary and just an SDK built into Unity or something as making all the from scratch as one person is a bit too much.

Anyhow- writings exhausted my creative side for now. So whilst I begin to recharge and refocus for the days of game development I have ahead from me, so for now thanks for reading this far and I hope I get to write up a decent follow up soon.