Hello and welcome to my Do's and Don'ts of a Custom Story.
First off, you may notice that I haven't been on the forum long, nor have I been playing/making maps for very long. But from the time that I've been here I've played many user created maps and have learned many things that I (the player) like and don't like. I have created this thread to help map makers find out what players (such as I) like and appreciate in a custom story. I will cover the "Do's", or what I think makes a custom map really shine above others, and the "Don'ts", or what problems I've seen in maps that really ruin the immersion and overall experience of the player.
It is also important the note, that this guide is from a PLAYERS perspective, and not a coders, and suggest things that players like to see in a custom story.
1. Use sound!
Many custom maps have fallen short because they didn't use sound. I don't just mean music. Sure music really creates a real connection with the player, but players need more than just background music.
Use ambient sounds, such as flies around a corpse, or that creepy woman laughing. It doesn't even need it's own dedicated "scare point." Just use them. I can't tell you how many times I have had my soul enveloped in fear because of an ambient sound like that woman laughing as I was simply walking down a dungeon hallway. Or even felt relaxed because I heard birds outside of a window, making me let my guard down then being shaken to my very bones by a scare point. Ambient sounds also break the monotony of playing the custom story.
Use music that matches the mood. Music is used universally across all forms of media to attach an emotion to something that is otherwise emotionless. An example would be a simple Victorian Doll. Come on! It's just a doll right? Of course it is. But when you have the right music, you can turn a simple doll into the scariest, most demonic thing on earth.
Use appropriate sound effects. I can't tell you how great (and scared) I feel when a perfect sound is used at just the right time. Like a great BOOM! and the hushed breathing of the player afterwards right as I hear a door SLAM behind me. Or the sound of cockroaches in a dusty room. Using sound effects at the appropriate times really increases the immersion of the player and will lead to an overall better experience.
2. Re-Use Maps!
By RE-Using Maps, I mean making an area a "Hub" for a certain period of time.
How many times have you, as a person, walked passed a hallway and gave it a second glance as you walked away, or maybe came out of a room but went back in a little later because you forgot something, or just went back in for the hell of it? The answer is probably a lot. After we are all human! So it's only natural in a horror game such as Amnesia to go back to places already visited in order to give it a sense of normality and connect it to our real lives. What a better way to do that than to allow people to explore and be curious about what is going on around them. Because isn't the point of a horror game to make the player feel like they are in the game? Using a large map, used as a hub (such as the "Entrence Hall" in the vanilla game), can really make a person feel "at home" in the hub and even get a sense of dread when they leave it for the unknown. In the vanilla game, they even re-used the very first map at the end to give a sense of closure to the player.
3. Be Original!
Let's be honest, no one likes to see the same thing over and over again, it's just boring. So why should the same not apply for video games? Granted, scare points, locked doors, levers, traps, etc. are standards in an Amnesia custom map, if you are the one that stands out from the crowd and does something different, someone will notice and like it. Being original can be as simple as using custom skins/items/models, using items in creative ways, or even make the player do something they really don't want to, or that they don't expect.
Use custom skins, items or models. Sure, it's difficult and not everyone knows how. But if you have the skills, utilize them! It's not like someone's going to say that they disrespect your choice to be original. It will only ever get you praise for going that extra mile!
Use items in creative ways! Sure we all know that there are tinderboxes, lanterns, oil containers, hollow needles, keys, etc. But what if you were to use something weird. Like putting a book in front of a painting of a man holding a book to unlock a door behind the painting. People are creative. Letting go and just doing something creative like that will really put your map above the others.
Force the player to do something weird or unexpected. This is a horror game! Fuck with people's very thought process and mind rape them (Excuse my french)! If you make a player have to jump off of a tall building that would surely kill them (or so they think), then make them wake up safe and sound, that will knock their socks off! Chase them down a narrow hallway and force them into a room with 3 grunts (make them poofers for all I care), and put the door on the other side of the grunts. Hell! I'm the player, make me cry!
4. Challenge Us!
Let's be honest most people playing Amnesia: Descent aren't four years old. They don't need there hand held. Make your maps challenging. I don't mean make them difficult. But make the player use their brain and explore and they are sure to find the solution. Take the vanilla game for example. In order to remove the organic wall blocking the wine cellar in the entrance hall they simply say it's organic. Then, nonchalantly, later when talking about the acid say that it melts organic substances quite well. But they just kinda snuck (past tense of sneak) that line right in the note near the bottom and challenge you to figure out the rest. Letting the player figure that out for themselves really gives them a feeling of accomplishment, and even lowers their guard a little for the next scare point.
5. Stay on Topic!
Follow your story and try not to say. Like Alexander said, it's important not to stray. Try to keep your notes and diaries in line with the story. When I see a note that isn't relevant i.e. "Hi, I'm Bob (note ends)" or "today I had some strawberries", I think "umm what the f***? Staying on topic is a great tool for good story telling and really makes your custom story look professional. People like it when they are told a story, hence why we love movies, books, and video games in the first place, so tell them a story that doesn't go off and confuse the player and you have yourself an amazing custom story my friend.
1. Be Lazy!
This means both in the level design, and the story.
I can't stand when a map has holes into the abyss in the wall or floor. It's just shoddy work and really promotes a sense of being unprofessional. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a corner of a wall that I could see RIGHT through because the map maker failed to take the time to cover up the corner with a pillar or something similar. It's just repulsing and ruins any sense of immersion that there may have been in the story. And if you don't want a person to go to an area....DON'T LET THEM. I played a map recently that had an outside to it that I felt was really unique and awesome. But then I saw that the houses were really poorly placed and that some of them were just floating in mid air. That really let me down. I wouldn't have seen those flaws if I were forced to stay on the patch or was restricted in some ways.
Put some thought into your dang story people! Use full names, make a back story, I don't care just do something! Don't leave stupid plot holes or just make a random diary entry randomly saying to go somewhere. Like entering a room and adding a diary entry to check under the bed. How the hell did he know there was a bed in the pitch black room, and how did he know to look behind it? Is he psychic or something? Make the person care about what happened to people in the past and about characters in the present.
2. Release A Demo!
Now this is open to debate and different people have different opinions on it. It can be better explained in THIS
3. Just END Your Story!
This is a huge problem with me and probably the most important "don't" on this list.
Absolutely, posolutely, do not just END your story. When you have a story and it just...ends...abruptly with no explanation or without any closure it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Make sure you actually complete your story before you end it. Sure you may release it in chapters, but COMPLETE the chapter and end it at an appropriate point. Don't just start a sentence and not compl
I think you get the picture.
4. Be Rediculous!
By this, I mean don't make text on the screen with emotes or make stupid notes.
Don't use silly emotes, one of the top things that ruin the immersion in a serious horror custom story are emotes and silly phrases. By this, I mean don't put things like "Fooled you there, didn't I?
" appear on the screen. It just takes away any form of immersion and adds a sense of lightheartedness which really has no place in a horror game until maybe the end. Adding these will make people giggle maybe, but it will be hard to take your custom story seriously.
Don't make stupid, or illogical notes. It's completely stupid to see "ARRGGHH HELP ME! oh no, what's that? AH IT'S A MONSTER" in a diary, note, or journal entry. No one writes that. I would just take my pencil and stab the damn monster in the face, then write its eulogy in its own blood. It ruins immersion and makes it hard to take the map seriously.
So that has been my little guide/rant on the Do's and Don'ts of a custom story. If you managed to read through the entire post then I applaud you. If you decide to take some of the advice that I have posted and actually use it, then you get a heart-felt pat on the back and a hand shake. Of course if you have anything to add to this list post it below. But please put thought and try not to make it an "I hate when" post.
THANKS AGAIN FOR READING