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All About Horror Games in Unity 3D

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Horror games come in many shapes and forms, from a post-apocalyptic virus outbreak 3D action shooter to a more simple 2D platformer with pixelated aesthetic.

Developers from around the world are eager to create a next big horror game that will captivate attention of gamers and leave its mark in the history, but as with any assigned goal, it is not without a challenge.

In this article I will be showing examples of good horror games and how to prototype one in Unity 3D.

Let's begin!

Resident Evil

First game from Resident Evil series (released back in 1996) had a truly big impact on the horror genre.

Resident Evil is an epitome of a horror genre in gaming.

Released back in 1996, the game follows the classic formula: put the player in enclosed area, face-to-face with the enemy (zombies in this case) with a limited amount of resources (ammo) with a choice to either fight or flee the enemy. In some cases fleeing the enemy is not an option, in which case the player has to fight, not only zombies but other mutated monsters aswell.

The games end with a player surviving and escaping the infected area, but the battle is far from over paving a way for a sequel.

The game accentuate on evasion rather than full-blown action.

Alien: Isolation

Alien Isolation Screenshot

The main protagonist arrives with a team to a space station, only to find it damaged with its communication offline.

Due to some circumstances, the main protagonist is separated from the rest of the crew and discovers that the ship is infested with a smart but very dangerous alien creatures, that hunt down the humans and use them as a hosts to produce more of their own kind (with the host inevitably dying when the incubation period is over).

But aliens are not the only enemies that protagonist has to face. It’s later discovered that due to malfunction in the system, the androids that supposed to help the crew are now instructed to slaughter the remaining survivors.

Alien Isolation Android Screenshot

The game accentuates on evasion rather than directly fighting the enemies, as the player is highly outnumbered and outpowered by the aliens and the androids.

The game ends with the main protagonist destroying the station then having one last battle against the remaining alien creature on the escape ship.

The Horror Formula

Many horror games follow the same formula: put the player in the tight enclosed space with the enemies that are greatly outnumber (or outpower) the player. Basically make the odds stacked against the player but still give the player tools needed to make it through the situation they’re in.

When it comes to game levels, the colors are mostly bleak and darkish. The player should already feel tense just by being in that environment.

The items that are available for self-defense must be not too overpowered, but at the same time provide enough protection to make it through the level.

Prototyping the Game in Unity 3D

Unity Game Engine

Unity 3D is quite versatile when it comes to what type of game can be made there.

Even if you're not very skilled with Unity, there are many online resources available to simplify the prototyping process.

One place where you can find a ready-to-use models and textures is Unity Asset Store. It contains thousands of 3D models, scripts, textures, templates and many more.

Define the main protagonist

Main protagonist can either be male or female, depending on your story-line (or have multiple protagonists if needed).

Since we are talking about prototyping, you don’t have to worry about the originality just yet, so you can use Asset Store to find the models you can use in your prototype.

Example for a protagonist: Post apocalyptic survival character

Post apocalyptic survival character

Define the enemy

Enemy (or enemies) are the entities that the main protagonist will have to battle or flee from. It could be anything for hordes of zombies to a one, but extremely smart creature.

Example for the enemy: Mutant2

Mutant Alien

Design game level

Depending on your protagonist and the enemy, the level could be anything from a tight enclosed space (ex. hospital) to a more open-world settings (ex. city streets or dark forest).

Make sure the player has enough space to be able to flee from the enemy or to have no choice but to fight.

Picking the right level style has a big impact on the player immersion.

Example for the game level: Hospital Horror Pack

Abandoned Hospital Pack

Get to work

As you can see, Unity's Asset Store has a lot of free resources to help you speed up the prototyping process.

Once you done prototyping and testing the idea, it’s time to get to work and start making a full game.

Depending on your skill-set, you might not be able to do all the work yourself (3D modeling, programming, level design, audio etc.). For this, you have various solutions: either ask for help from the like-minded developers or learn gamedev yourself.

Find like-minded developers

Unity has a platform called Unity Connect where you can find other developers looking for a job.

Link to Unity Connect: https://connect.unity.com/

Learn the game development yourself

Learning game development would probably take a lot longer, especially if you're a novice developer, but fortunately there are many online resources that will help you a lot when learning game development.

Unity themselves offers a complete course that will help you learn gamedev from A to Z.

The course is called Swords and Shovels and it teaches all the aspects of game development (art design, programming, audio).