Nytophobia was a game I made during module 5 (New Media) of my bachelor Creative Technology. I made this together with Daniela van Meggelen. This is a project I'm very proud of and it greatly influenced my development as a Creative Technologist. First things first: New Media. New Media is an optional choice for module 5. Creators get to choose between this and Smart Systems. I won't get into much detail as to why, but I choose New Media and I'm very happy that I did. I'd go as far as to say it was my favorite module of the entire Bachelor. New Media revolved around the main project, which was to create a video game. Almost all the other courses (Besides a literature research) supported this goal.
We had a course on game design where we discussed questions like "What makes a game fun?", "How do we balance games to make them fair?", "How do challenge / reward mechanics work?" etc. We had another course on 3D modelling in Maya. These 3D modelling skills were also useful for the project since we could (and must) model our own characters and other assets for our game. We had a course on audio design which was very interesting. Especially for our game where audio played a huge role. In this course we discussed audio-related topics for games such as "How do we keep repetitive sounds like footsteps interesting?", "How can we adapt music based on the distance to enemies to simulate suspense?" etc. And lastly of course the project itself, which was to build a game. All of these courses together allowed us to design a game from beginning to end. We would think of a story ourselves, think of the style of the game, design the characters and mechanics, 3D model and rig them, animate them, design our own audio samples, program the game logic, balance the game, and play the game of course.
So, let's get into our game. Nyctophobia is a survival-horror game that starts you out right in the middle of a creepy maze. It's dark and can barely see or hear anything. In front of you is a cold steel elevator door but it's closed. The environment makes eerie noises and you feel vulnerable in the open space you're in. After some looking around you see that the place isn't just creepy, it's dangerous. Blood stains all over the walls, traps with sharp spikes and lava pits you can burn to your death in. But before you can pull back you hear something. An unsettling scratching / hissing sound. You look behind you and see a giant spider coming your way. Now, you must run, across the small bridge over the lava pit that the spider is too big to cross. The spider retreats but you're sure to see more of his kind…
Play the video above to see some gameplay footage. Note that there were more adjustments made to the game after this footage was made.
The goal of Nyctophobia is to earn your own senses back. This means you have to make your way through the maze that you started in the middle of. You can collect pickups that improve your eyesight and hearing. But beware, they might also make it worse. Small details on the pickups hint at the effect beforehand. For example, if you pick up an eyeball, your eyesight gets better. You can see further, in a wider angle and your sight recovers quicker after you've ran through a giant spiderweb. But this effect only happens if you pick up the correct eyeball: Eyeballs with a green iris are good for you, but those with a red one actually damage your vision.
The hearing mechanic works similar. You can hear a very distinct sound that the spiders make. Improving your hearing increases the range in which you can hear the spiders hissing. If you use overhead headphones for the sound, you can even hear the direction from which the sound is coming. This also becomes increasingly clear as your hearing stat increases.
Throughout your journey through this maze, you encounter all sorts of creepy stuff. There are mannequins with glowing red eyes. They whisper something you don’t understand, but the whispering sounds loud and ominous, and very much aimed at you. The mannequins continuously look at you while you're close to them, but other than that, you never see them move. Although the signs of their presence are obvious.
At one point, there is a rusted metal cabinet, not unlike other cabinets you can find scattered all around, or so it seems. Walk too close past this cabinet and a mannequin will storm out screaming and swinging a machete at you. This only happens at one distinct point in the map and isn’t even that likely to happen. But seemingly random jump scares like this keep a player on the edge of their seat.
The entire design of the maze was especially made to make the player feel uneasy. Everything is dark, there is no ambient light. The only sources of light are your flashlight (or eyesight) or natural sources such as fires or lava. The concrete walls are moldy and covered in peeled off paint remains. There are wooden beams, oil drums, spider webs, spike traps, blood stains, old paintings and mirrors all around. The maze is filled with dead ends too, forcing you to backtrack into the spiders that are chasing you.
The fact that you cannot fight back or damage the spiders in any way adds to this feeling of being hunted. All you can do is walk over the narrow bridges over the lava pits, which aren't abundant, so there isn't a lot of room for mistakes. You must keep moving or the spiders will get you.
At the end of the game, after you've recollected all your senses and made your way back to the elevator in the center, you're awarded with a cutscene that explains who you are and why you were in this situation in the first place. You're a little kid, and you're afraid of the dark. But since you survived the night, things aren’t as scary as they seemed in the dark anymore. The spiders return to their regular size. The murderous mannequins turn out to be Barbie dolls. Other creepy environmental assets turn out to be toys or stacks of clothes. This conclusion was hinted at before already. The title of the game is Nyctophobia, which is a solid hint in and of itself already. But in the game, there are also mirrors. Although some of them are partly covered in bloodstains, they do show you your own reflection. These mirrors are also very useful in scaring the player by showing them that there are spiders behind him, but they also reveal that you are, in fact, a little kid in a diaper. I think I've described the game enough by now. I'd like to end by saying that I really like how this project went for me. I really discovered my passion for game design during this module and this game kind of became "my baby". I put way more hours into it that was required, and we also received credit for it. We ended up receiving the highest grade of all groups and I was even asked to present this project for the next year students during the New Media / Smart Systems information lecture. What's also very noticeable and nice is that even if you look into parts of our game in greater detail than we did, the mechanics are still good. We did a lot of stuff extremely well without even thinking about it. If you want to learn more about this project, download the report by clicking on the button below.
Despite the abundance of pictures on this webpage, I still cannot show everything. However, I still have the report from this project. For more screenshots, as well as in-depth descriptions of our thought process and the development of the game as a whole. View or download the report by clicking on the button below.Open report