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  • Employing Creative Suspense In Game Design

    [01.28.20]
    - Yilai Zhao

  • Similarly in adventure game "Dark seed 2", the protagonist claimed from the beginning that  "he's afraid of the closet since the childhood that monsters might come out from it", but the player can only access the closet almost at the end of the walkthrough. The question of whether there is something behind that door is hanging there all the time. It makes the protagonist's home - which should supposedly be the sanctuary in his world, the most suspicious place.

    The "Rainbow cake" world

    When is a toy the most desirable to a kid ? When it's at the shop's window display. "Visible but not completely accessible" is a powerful weapon when it comes to keeping the player's curiosity. In my opinion, the open world in the Legend of Zelda series is more interesting than other games, because of its special configuration. I'd like to compare it to a "Rainbow cake": you don't know what's inside until you cut it open.

    Let's take the Lost woods area in Ocarina of time for example, it's a location where the player has access at the early stage of the game. When I visited it for the first time, I saw it packed with all kinds of information and gameplay elements: the distinctive background music that alters its volume all the time, a confusing crossroad maze, a strange yard with some cut tree trunks, a passage leading to "Goron city" but blocked by some boulders, a water pond with a canal at the bottom which is too deep to reach, some out-of-place single rocks that seems to be hiding something... Every part is like a layer of the cake, with a unique color and taste, that makes me want to try out one after another !

    Although I knew I couldn't solve all of the mysteries at once, I came back from time to time to check what I could do more with the riddles. It has also become a hub area later as it enables shortcut to Goron city and Zora's river once I obtained more abilities, which promoted me to re-visit more often. Comparing to this, some other open world games (even Breath of the Wild from the franchise, for example) might have larger and more vivid worlds, I feel there's a lack of depth within them - it's large and looks delicious, but it's just an XXL sized "Flammkuchen". Once I've finished a certain objective at one area, I lost the urge to come back again.


    Above are some long time thoughts during my gaming experience. Although there are many factors that would define a good game, "suspense" is an element that could be either subtle or re-defines gameplay structure, but it for sure could influence the player experience from the psychological aspect.

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