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THE SHORT VERSION:
This is like classic Resident Evil set in Victorian Ireland, following an æsthetic of German expressionism in silent films and telling a simple story in a complex way with attention to characterisation. Our engine is Unreal Engine 4. Here are videos:
THE LONG VERSION:
Instead of explaining the plot, which is rather tired by now, we'll explain the ideology. We wanted to make the game we were hoping we would get in 2005 when Resident Evil 4 came out. We love RE4, but we wanted survival horror, which we didn't get. We love fixed cameras and tank controls as well, which we didn't get (well, we got tank controls, but not fixed cameras).
In order to make this rather different from our inspiration and do it all legal, we've adopted a new setting for the game: Ireland in 1898. This setting introduces fears that would be artificial in a world of electricity and mobile phones and automatic weapons. In Road Fever, for example, most weapons take too long to reload in combat and as such the player is not given this option (reloading for these weapons is done when the player is in a safe location).
The game is named after a combination of diseases that ran rampant during the Great Famine in mid-19th-century Ireland. The symptoms were similar to the famous Black Plague. These diseases were carried by lice and victims would be veritable skeletons for their hunger, staggering along the roads in search of food, in tattered clothes and nigh decaying as they walked. The majority failed to reach any destination and would drop dead in heaps on these roads, sometimes half-alive but too weak to move. No-one knew lice were the carriers, and people came to associate going anywhere near the road with contracting the diseases. Hence, 'road fever'. In this game, our protagonist Ned Lyons has survived the Famine and when he sees the roads littered with corpses, some of them stumbling about with only vague senses of direction, this is what it reminds him of.
The æsthetic we're using is inspired mostly by silent films. We intend to use subtle spotlights to help players see important items, not unlike the techniques used in the classic film industry. Though not a silent film, Citizen Kane is visually a huge influence on the design of the mansion. Aiding in this, all sounds are put through a 1930s vinyl simulator. In some cases we'll hold back on the bass to add some power, but to the average ear it will sound very old, and this is what we want.
Another interesting thing is that in using limited saves and no continue options, the style of horror shifts dramatically. More akin to the horrors of real life, this style of horror is about *nearly* dying, not actually dying. In real life, the fear of death and the desperation to survive are very strong, and following the onset of death, one is no longer capable of fear. In a computer game, this is true as well, and after a few attempts at a particular section, the fear becomes an appreciation for hardship at best or a nuisance at worst. But in any case, the fear dissipates as a player becomes accustomed to dying. Not good for horror. The threat of this virtual death must be strong. The player must be immersed enough to forget for that moment, that death is simply reloading your game. The goal of this horror is to build a game that overcomes those that do not push themselves, but rewards true struggle with a tension cycle which culminates in a series of near-death experiences.
The plan is to have something of a minimalist but moving story. There is a great focus on characterisation, as the plot outline itself is honestly quite simple. In this way a balance can be attained such that cutscenes are not so long that they bore the player, nor are they so brief or otherwise lacking as to be ineffective. Plot developments can be established in seconds, and the rest of any cutscene can be devoted to the effects of these plot developments on the characters in question.
We have the opening cutscene scripted. There will be about five major cutscenes in the game. There will be several smaller ones as well, but these will mostly be short voiceovers, as a monologue style is the idea we have, and the game's events are treated as Ned's memories.
The game opens in 1898 in rural Kerry, Ireland, with Ned in his cottage listening to a music box from his first wife. He reminisces for a moment. A few scenes later and Ned is walking in the middle of the night to an abandoned manor where he suspects his son's sneaked off to with his friends. Ned's son and friends believe it's haunted and think this would be fun. Ned explains in a voiceover he's far more worried about the revolutionaries using it as meeting/fomenting/squatting grounds (this is how we account for finding random stashes of ammunition and firearms, obviously). Then Ned sees some zombies and runs the other way, back to his wife (second wife, who in the story is revealed to be more like a friend, as he still misses his first wife and she still misses her first husband, both of whom have died), who's now missing. Ned picks up a Webley six-shooter and a knife, looks about, and leaves through the exit least populated by zombies. Play begins here.
First few minutes, you've six bullets and a knife and you're trying to survive long enough to make it to the manor. When you succeed there's the cutscene that gives the game its name, as explained in the ·TITLE· section of this description. 'Skibbereen' is played on a lone violin during this scene, which ends with Ned running into the manor to escape from an undead throng.
It becomes apparent that when it comes time to go, Ned will need to leave a different way. So your time in the manor is spent looking for your son and an exit. The manor section will consist of finding keys, solving puzzles, and dealing with enemies (see the ·ENEMIES· section below), and it will probably be half of the game or so.
Ned escapes through an underground passage to a railway station, and he goes by train to Dublin, where his older son (from his previous marriage) lives. The journey reveals that the whole country are zombies, from what Ned can see looking out the window of the train.
Now in Dublin you encounter a new enemy. There's a brief bit of gameplay outside, moving through Temple Bar and such, and we find ourselves in an old factory. We've a few story-related ideas for what causes Ned to go there, but as of now we have not decided on one.
The remainder of the game is spent in this factory. A lot of interesting stuff happens that we've glossed over so's to avoid spoiling the story.
There's an ending of course, and this is followed by an epilogue, which is presented as a recording by Ned's grandson in the 1940s, explaining some of the game's story that science in 1898 would not have facilitated.
The game plays very like old Resident Evil titles. Fixed cameras and tank controls are both present, as will be the auto-aim function as it was used in these games. Zombies will be slow and numerous, whilst ammo will be in short supply. Avoiding enemies is thus encouraged. Body-burning as in the Remake will be used in this game, though the specifics are not finalised.
Many of the new features we're including involve realistic treatment of Victorian firearms. Reloading is allowed only when away from enemies, with certain weapons. Speedloaders will be found for the handguns in the game as well. The shotgun is a weapon that reloads one shell at a time, which is fast enough to do in combat, but to refill it completely from an empty gun, you must engage the reload function five times. In combat, if you reload in the middle of your clip/magazine with other weapons, you will drop that clip on the ground to be picked up afterwards. One consideration is later in the game to have a dump pouch.
Another feature is a bleeding status. Certain enemies can smell blood. So, you'd rather not be bleeding in that case, or they may find you.
Health will be managed via a somewhat complex chemical-mixing system which is in this story a new discovery in the medical field. In the story you find that Ned survives owing to being clever and good with firearms, but more important, having a somewhat rare resistance to the virus (need to research but it could be something like a rare blood type). Things like the bleeding status are responses to physical damage, but Ned's health metre is more indicative of his resistance to the virus, though as in the real world, lower resistance will contribute to greater susceptibility to physical damage. These things will be handled by a number of different chemicals, some of which can only be got by mixing others, and the player will use a syringe to administer the medicine.
After receiving complaints about the old RE games' puzzles, it seems it would be ideal to include a puzzle difficulty level option. At the higher end it would be something like The Room or the Sherlock Holmes games. The lower difficulty would be, you know, less difficult.
Another plan is for the harder difficulty (overall difficulty, not just puzzles) to be unlockable. On this difficulty, which is by definition a second playthrough, certain things will be different in order to play on your expectations, and a hunger system will be unlocked as well. That will probably be a separate mode that can be turned on, and now we're considering making it a 'thirst' metre instead. Makes a bit more sense than finding large amounts of food in a supposedly abandoned manor, although perhaps the squatters had some brought. Things to think about.
Like Resident Evil, there will be fixed cameras, tank controls, rudimentary auto-aim, limited inventory space, limited save items that must be used in save rooms, and body-burning (as in the Remake).
Some features we've considered are oil management between body-burning and lighting dark rooms, a bit where you need to travel through a pitch-black cellar or something (no, the game will not be dark in general; we find that breaks immersion and annoys both us and Jim Sterling) infested with deadly bugs and you can only tell how close you are to them by the intensity of the music, checking bodies for information about who they were and how that can help you to survive, and having the game saves be written notes you can read in your inventory. Probably other things we're forgetting just now.
Kitchen knife. You start with this weapon. Weak but it has 'infinite ammo', so it may be useful for that. There will be an opportunity to use a grindstone somewhere in the manor, and this will slightly increase the damage it does.
Combat knife. Later in the game the player can find a combat knife, which is slightly stronger than the kitchen knife after the kitchen knife's been sharpened. The combat knife is probably able to be sharpened as well but we haven't decided.
Webley revolver. Six-shooter you start with. This gun can be reloaded in combat with a speedloader. Otherwise the chamber must be filled one bullet at a time, which probably means it'll be done only when not in combat, but as it's the starting handgun we may need to work on that.
Mauser C96. Semi-auto, holds ten-round clip/magazine (not sure which yet), may be reloaded in combat. This gun is slightly weaker than the Webley but much easier to use.
1887 Winchester shotgun. Holds five individually loaded rounds. Can be reloaded in combat, but each time the player initiates the reload function, only one bullet is placed in the gun.
Lee-Metford rifle. Ten rounds, can't be reloaded in combat. You find only the one magazine, and any other bullets you find must be combined with it outside of combat, though bullets will be very rare. This rifle is like your magnum in later games, in that it is extremely high-powered and will kill low-level enemies with one bullet.
Grenades. There is a plan to include grenades made from items the player must find. These are bottles, nails and other sharp metal bits, powder, and a makeshift fuse. They need to be lighted as well of course.
Hand mortar. Highly experimental, archaïc grenade launcher. Very powerful, with rare ammunition. Can-not be reloaded in combat. Considering adding a chance to cause the player damage (this danger is the reason grenade launchers were not adopted until the 20th century), but this may be more of a nuisance than any thing, with ammunition so rare.
Madsen light machine gun. This is a tentative consideration that may not appear in the game. It holds 25 or 40 rounds. If you have the magazines it can be reloaded in combat (3-5 second reload in real life). But we could limit the number of magazines. Though, one thought is to make it the weapon needed for the final boss, in which case we'd want to think about it a bit differently.
Zombies. These are traditional, walking zombies. Their strength is more in numbers and tight spaces than any thing else. They do moderate damage to the player and can take a fair pounding before they die, but they're overall less of a threat than some things you'll encounter. When they do die, you'll want them either beheaded or burned, because otherwise they'll lie there for a decent amount of time and then come back stronger. Similar to the idea of the crimsons in the RE Remake but not precisely the same.
Bleeders/bleeding bats. These are based on the flying foxes in Australia. They're already bats the size of people in actual real life. But in Road Fever they'll be slightly more humanoid in their lower bodies especially, giving the appearance of a man-bat. The virus decays their flesh, similar to the zombies. They're dubbed 'bleeding' bats because they drool constantly, and in many cases when a person sees them the blood of their previous meal is not totally dispersed, which causes the saliva to be coloured red. In-game there will be trails of this burgundy saliva left behind them as they roam the halls like skulking mad hunchbacked drunkard beasts.
Dobhar-chú. Mythical Irish beasts bear the same name, and it is for that particular creäture that the enemy in Road Fever is named. It is not precisely the same, but similar enough that Ned sees fit to call this monster after the one in the old stories. The design in the stories ranges from a monstrous dog-otter to a more crocodile-like form. It can bear resemblance to the Loch Ness Monster in some depictions as well. It tends to have dog-like or otter-like features, as the word 'dobhar-chú' means 'water-dog' in Irish and is a term sometimes used in the Irish language to refer to an otter. The design (and especially size) we'll use is dependent on many, many things, but one of the things we like about the legends is they say that if a dobhar-chú should be killed, it lets out an eerie whistling sound and its spouse will come to seek its killer. This gives the player the choice of attempting to evade the monster, or killing it to leave the room briefly clear to traverse. But if you're bleeding, the spouse may just follow after you by your scent...
Bunyip. The bunyip is another cryptid, and it was once presumed native to Australia. Its depicted forms are far more variable than our other cryptid, the dobhar-chú. In our game we have yet to settle on a design, but its existence in the game is a certainty.
Licker-inspired enemy. The lickers in Resident Evil 2 are among the best designed enemies in any game regarding their ability to terrify a player. Their visual design is simply a man with no flesh and no eyes, with claws and a long spear-like tongue. What's creepy is just about everything else. It breathes hoarsely as it waits for something to kill. It drools and the spit drips. It makes sounds that seem to walk a line between man and dæmon. It climbs upside down on ceilings and walls and perches there. It's blind. This makes you want to walk past it instead of running, and this draws out the fear, because if you walk too close to it or touch it it will indeed hear you. You could shoot it but they're not easy to kill, moreover without taking a hit or two yourself, or once there's more than one there, and you mayn't be able to spare all that ammo and health. It always crawls and never stands. But when it *thinks* it's heard something worth killing, it will squat, lift its head at attention, and sway like a right mental thing. If you move at-all when it's in this state, it will immediately be aware of your position and do its best to kill you, something it is very much equipped to do. In Road Fever, we can't be sure just what this enemy will look like, or what we'll do in order to design an enemy that constitutes an homage instead of a shameless and unoriginal copy, but the danger is something we are aware of and will overcome. There's been consideration of designing the bunyip to fulfil this need.
The very last thing to consider is bosses. We will certainly have them, but we have none concretely planned at the moment. We're considering the ideas of either many different bosses, or most boss fights being against a single enemy that mutates over the course of the game and follows the player. Perhaps a combination were best.
The immediate short-term goal is to produce something worthy of crowdfunding. Ideally this would be done within the next couple of months. The trouble there is some necessary roles are not filled, and to fill them we may need to rely on crowdfunding, but as I've just said, we're missing some members we need for this, and this cycle goes on. Perhaps some interest will be got here.
The first very major goal following this is to have the game complete for the PC. When to expect this done is too contingent on team-mates we haven't even met as yet. It would be logical at that time to pursue selling this on Steam.
This sort of game works best on a console, and many of our most vocal supporters are not PC gamers so far. As such, it would be fantastic to work towards getting this onto consoles as well, but PC is necessarily the priority.
Thanks for reading. We hope this has you as intrigued and excited as we are. You may not be interested or able to work on this game with us, but even leaving a link to this page anywhere it would be appreciated, would be an immense help. Cheers.
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