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Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism
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Quizerno Offline
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Post: #1
Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

Now I don't know if I have any authority to speak of such things considering that I have not made a custom story myself. But I figured it would be ok if I made a thread to talk about how the development of custom stories can be improved.

I simply to open up a general discussion on problems people have been having with custom stories. I think this thread is a good idea because aspiring developers can read up without having to look through every single Showcase thread.

I have played almost every custom story released (yes I very much love Amnesia), I have found some stories to be rather good and others to be terribly frustrating.


Things I believe to preferential in development
Spoiler below!

1. Too many jump scares. The original Amnesia story used these sparingly and thats why I loved it. I am sick of having the monster run up to me and dissolve into nothingness. It's a cheap way of generating fear that does not rely on the atmosphere. I play Amnesia because of it's immersion of fear, not because I want to be given a heart-attack.

2. Looping music when it's not necessary, more of a preference really I guess, but having to hear "07_amb" again and again drives me nuts.

3. Giving the lantern but no oil initially when the map is too dark. It's pointless to give the lantern if you can't use it (and you need it immediately). To be fair, Justine did this though it never relied on the lantern.

Things I believe to be important in development

Spoiler below!

1. BETA Testing. I cannot stress this enough. In many custom stories, I have fallen through the map geometry and have been forced to restart, I have missed details that were core to puzzles, or have tried to do tasks that should be simple but are only performable if if clicked on a particular point. Please Beta Test your custom stories, alongside another person if possible.

2. Proofreading. Especially if English is not your first language, ask someone to check your written work (letters, memos, etc) for improvement.

3. Hiding core items behind paintings, ontop of shelves, or in fires. If you are going to hide an item in a small place, try to give the player a hint before hand. No one wants want to run around a small room for more than fifteen minutes looking for something.



06-01-2011 02:24 AM
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willochill Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

I totally agree, I think that there definitely should be a thread to talk about just this very topic.
These are the things I try to improve in my custom story and that I always see people fail with in their custom stories.
1. For God's sake, LET THERE BE LIGHT! I have come across too many a custom story in which there's a level drenched in pitch black. Sure, it's creepy or whatever, but at least add a small ambient light or something, I hate having to stumble around without a lantern, not knowing where I am. It really destroys the atmosphere.
2. Many times people never add any kind of ambience or music to a map, and the map becomes almost lifeless to me. Without any kind of ambience in a map it is completely flat. There is almost nowhere in the world with complete silence. Add some creepy, low pitch, rumbling ambience to a level to give it more dark, vibrant atmosphere. It becomes extremely stale when a map is totally silent.
3. TEST YOUR MAPS FIRST!! So many glitches I have found in maps, that could have easily been avoided by doing some test runs yourself! And yes, BETA TESTING PLEASE. You already know where the key to some deep dark cellar is, how are you supposed to assume that I can find it very easily?
4. Details. A lot of times people don't spice up maps with decals and particle systems like creepy fog. It brings so much more to the level, it really does.
5. IF YOU ARE WRITING THE TITLE TO SOMETHING, OR A DESCRIPTION, DO NOT USE ALL LOWERCASE. This pisses me off so much. It looks so unprofessional, and I dunno how you could be that careless. I mean what are you, in kindergarten?
6. Please don't record your own voice. You can make your own music(I do), but when you put your voice in the map, while using a bad mic, it sounds kinda weird. I mean I guess if you really want to expand your creative boundaries, that's cool, I just kinda don't like it, I think it sounds unrefined.
7. Generally, I think that people should approach custom maps much more professionally and more refined, like make sure everything is as close as being as professional and refined as the game itself as it can be.
06-01-2011 04:03 AM
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Kyle Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

I'm going to have to agree with you mostly on all of them except the number 3 of the section that is important to development.

I think the build up of pressure of getting that feeling of not doing something right is mostly a good thing, but once it does go to an extreme extent, like, for example, the player has to get the item in a small, limited time before they die from some force. That could potentially kill all the fun in playing it. So I guess I can partially agree with you on this one. Once something is repeatedly used especially over a span of different custom stories, it becomes the usual non-scary things. Like the 'pull this lever and the shelf moves' scenario and how it was too obvious. I really hate it when they put an item behind a painting, it is just too cliche now.

06-01-2011 04:08 AM
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Anxt Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

Unfortunately, after playing, as you say, every custom story, well, things aren't going to be new any more. Sure, there can be some original stuff. But let's face it, there is just no way to make everything completely unique. And I understand where you are coming from on the jump scares bit, but again, someone like me who works with the engine and editors every day is just not affected by the atmosphere anymore. Really, I'm not. So the only way that people who have become numb to the atmosphere will be scared is to surprise them.

Everything is going to be cliche after playing the custom stories out there. Locked door, hidden key, moving bookcase, etc. There is only so much one can do to make things completely original, and even then, it won't be original in a few weeks once everyone else decides to do it.

So, again, I understand where you are coming from on the majority of your points, but the fact is, we aren't professional game developers here. Most of us are limited by what the game already has, like entities and items and their own little functions. Those who make their own models have the ability to do things never before seen.

There are, of course, the unforgivables such as flickering walls every 3 feet, things not making sense (like using a glass jar on a door to unlock it, or stabbing a bookcase with a knife to make a door open, random things like that), monsters spawning every 3 feet to the point of becoming an annoyance, etc. But don't hold the custom story makers to such a high standard. The majority of them are only doing it for fun in their free time, like myself. Not every map is a masterpiece. Not everyone really cares to take things to the level of detail that Frictional did.

But that's just my opinion on the subject. I realize you are trying to be constructive, but this is simply a hobby for most people, so they just do things the way they want. Nothing wrong with a thread like this, just try not to make others feel bad if they make their story with the elements you described above.

06-01-2011 04:38 AM
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Quizerno Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

I'm alittle confused Anxt. I don't think we're having problems with cliches or uniqueness relating to the story. I atleast have no problem with reused entities or reused music (only looping music).

My points are based on what I feel are merely problems that I feel anyone could get annoyed with.

I don't feel developers should feel the need to surprise their audience; and even if they do, jump scares are a poor way of doing it.
(This post was last modified: 06-01-2011 05:12 AM by Quizerno.)
06-01-2011 05:08 AM
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Anxt Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

The cliche part of my response was more directed at Kyle, who said that hiding things behind a painting is too cliche.

Looping music is something that strikes me as an odd thing to mention, as the majority of the music is meant to loop. TDD has looping music in just about every map, and the ones that don't have looping sounds.

Building tension is, as I know you are aware, an excellent way to set up a scare. TDD does this amazingly well in every map through ambient sounds, lighting, particles systems, etc. However, if nothing ever really HAPPENED, then the player would eventually let their guard down. Scare environments aren't everything. I think what I am trying to say is, define "jump scare". Loud noises? Monster appearing and running at you? Or just a book falling off a shelf? TDD uses these actually fairly frequently, looking back, such as the brute coming into the room after getting the blood in the morgue, the hallucination grunt in the archives, the rocks falling/roar in the storage area after obtaining the rods, the iron maiden, the list goes on.

I think it is really just a personal preference, but having a scary atmosphere with no real reason to be afraid makes for a poor experience overall. (I'm not trying to make it sound like you think all there is to making something scary is atmosphere, as I am sure you know better, so if this comes off that way I apologize.) Jump scares will lose their effectiveness if done too often, but if done at just the right intervals, they can be a very effective way to make the player feel extremely uneasy when compounded with the environment.

06-01-2011 05:30 AM
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Russ Money Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

Just some pet peeves I have when playing a custom story:
  • Over using 'monsters'
    This happens a lot and for most of the time it's really out of context. If you have a monster popping out in your first or second map that is intended on being a hallucination or killing the player, what can you do to out do yourself? There are only two monsters to choose from when making a custom story based of the original Amnesia entities, not a whole lot to choose from after that. It very much so desensitizes the player.
  • Placing the player in a locked room with the key inside said room
    I have seen this in a few custom stories and it feels pretty much useless to even do such a thing.
  • Flickering walls/textures
    There really is no reason for this to happen. Granted that when you're in the level editor and do not move to camera when looking at a finished wall, you won't see the flickering textures. So please do us all a favor and test your damn maps before releasing anything.

Tips and tricks when level editing/scripting:
  • Ctrl+D is your best friend.
    This makes a duplicate of the objects you have selected to move and have, well, a duplicate.
  • Q, W, E
    These shortcuts help you move, rotate and size objects in the level editor. (Hell, just learn all the short-cuts and become a mapping wizard! Tongue )
  • Think of every possible situation when making a map.
    People who play your custom story are your hugest variable. Some people like to rush through Amnesia, some people take it slow. Some folk will try their best to "think outside the box." A good example would be a post I saw on another forum where the person made a tower of boxes to get to one of the ceiling holes in Amnesia, to his dismay, it lead to nowhere obviously but, could have been a neat easter egg if Frictional Games were to think someone might look up there. Just assume that someone, somewhere is going to try to pour a bottle of acid on something. It gives your custom story a more immersive feel to get "If I do this, this would happen, I shouldn't do that." rather than "This item cannot be used this way!"
  • Use lights, lots of lights.
    From my experience in making my custom story, lights are not a bad thing, nor do they ruin the environment. The engine makes anything without light, just that, complete darkness that makes the player more annoyed than scared. Now, I'm not saying you should make everything well lit, but placing a point light with a dull color gives off a more creepy feeling than pitch-black-darkness.

I could probably go on, but I feel like I've 'ranted' enough.

Edit: Also, throwing this thread out here because it has a lot of great points: http://www.frictionalgames.com/forum/thr...l#pid48368

(This post was last modified: 06-01-2011 06:34 AM by Russ Money.)
06-01-2011 06:27 AM
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bobbo Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

I'm thankful for any additional content anyone releases here. The creators do this in their spare time so you just can't expect something super professional. If a loaded custom story then turns out to be very well made (I'm sure everyone can think of the few stories that really stand out in the showcase) then that's great - but I don't feel I should rant about all the others because someone has spent a lot of time to create something that entertains me a little while for free.

However, despite this there some things I don't really like of course.

(06-01-2011 05:30 AM)Anxt Wrote:  The cliche part of my response was more directed at Kyle, who said that hiding things behind a painting is too cliche.

To me the problem isn't the cliché but that it has just become very likely to find a missing item behind a painting. After the first stories that had hidden stuff behind paintings I simply started to move along every painting in a new room to see if the hand cursor comes up. It's just not a good hiding spot anymore. Instead, items could be hidden behind other objects that are movable anyways, for example behind a food sack, a bed or a barrel. Of course the player should be warned somehow that he'll have to search very accurately in this case.

Monsters spawning when picking up an item: This can be somehwat good when it's prepared well. For example if you are in a dungeon and you know that somewhere has to be an important item. On your way through the rooms towards the item you can hear the monster, maybe even see it wandering around in the distance - but it will only go after you when you finally found the item. Instead, some custom stories simply spawn a monster without "warning" when you picked up a key. So you hide in the nearby closet till it's gone and everythings calm again. When you find the next key there spawns another monster and you hide in another cabinet. In the worst case there's no monster situation in between these two events. To me this is very boring.

Monster hallucinations: Unfortunately, after playing a lot of custom stories I can often tell if a monster is a hallucination or not. Many custom stories let the hallucination spawn in such a way that the player has no chance to escape, e.g. in a narrow hallway between the exit door and the player. In such cases it's obvious that the beast is either a hallucination or that the player is meant to "die" in order to wake up in a prison.

Unlabled doors: These can get very annoying when the levels are large. Running around trying each new key on every single locked door you encountered before can be very frustrating.

No ending: I don't like it when custom stories end with a CTD because there is no map file to be loaded when I leave through the exit door. Even if it is a WIP, an ending screen telling the player that this is the end is much better. Else, the first thing the player will have to ask on the forum is wether this was the intended ending or just a bug with his installation.

This is it for now, maybe I can come up with more later.
06-01-2011 09:40 AM
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Acies Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

(06-01-2011 06:27 AM)Russ Money Wrote:  
  • Think of every possible situation when making a map.
    People who play your custom story are your hugest variable. Some people like to rush through Amnesia, some people take it slow. Some folk will try their best to "think outside the box." A good example would be a post I saw on another forum where the person made a tower of boxes to get to one of the ceiling holes in Amnesia, to his dismay, it lead to nowhere obviously but, could have been a neat easter egg if Frictional Games were to think someone might look up there. Just assume that someone, somewhere is going to try to pour a bottle of acid on something. It gives your custom story a more immersive feel to get "If I do this, this would happen, I shouldn't do that." rather than "This item cannot be used this way!"
This is something I am trying to pick up on. It requires some extra work (for the mapmaker as well) but rewards people for thinking outside of the box.

As for my own ideas of a good custom story:
Quality over content. It's easy as a mapmaker to create large areas quickly, feeling that it pulls the story forward. These areas however often become repetitive and un-inspired. They come without entities or details giving an empty feel too.

Custom content. It's good to give something new for the player to experience. Linked to the point made below.

Innovative scripting. Innovative scripting does a lot of things. More advanced puzzles, more advanced environments (look at palistov's lightning effects), but something more can also be accomplished (I hope that I manage to pull it off in my new story). A new experience of the game.

All of us have finished the game, played a couple (perhaps several) custom stories. I know that if I hide in the closet the monster can't get to me. If the "monster music" stops the monster have vanished. Insanity isn't that bad at all, since it automatically resets once it hits the bottom. By default there are things which are possible and there are things which are not. People know this. What I am really getting at is that with custom content and innovative scripting you will be able to make the player "re-learn" everything they have learned from amnesia. Creating new "mechanics" for a custom story.

[Image: mZiYnxe.png]


06-01-2011 07:32 PM
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Anxt Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Custom Story suggestions/comments/general constructive criticism

(06-01-2011 07:32 PM)Acies Wrote:  
(06-01-2011 06:27 AM)Russ Money Wrote:  
  • Think of every possible situation when making a map.
    People who play your custom story are your hugest variable. Some people like to rush through Amnesia, some people take it slow. Some folk will try their best to "think outside the box." A good example would be a post I saw on another forum where the person made a tower of boxes to get to one of the ceiling holes in Amnesia, to his dismay, it lead to nowhere obviously but, could have been a neat easter egg if Frictional Games were to think someone might look up there. Just assume that someone, somewhere is going to try to pour a bottle of acid on something. It gives your custom story a more immersive feel to get "If I do this, this would happen, I shouldn't do that." rather than "This item cannot be used this way!"
This is something I am trying to pick up on. It requires some extra work (for the mapmaker as well) but rewards people for thinking outside of the box.

As for my own ideas of a good custom story:
Quality over content. It's easy as a mapmaker to create large areas quickly, feeling that it pulls the story forward. These areas however often become repetitive and un-inspired. They come without entities or details giving an empty feel too.

Custom content. It's good to give something new for the player to experience. Linked to the point made below.

Innovative scripting. Innovative scripting does a lot of things. More advanced puzzles, more advanced environments (look at palistov's lightning effects), but something more can also be accomplished (I hope that I manage to pull it off in my new story). A new experience of the game.

All of us have finished the game, played a couple (perhaps several) custom stories. I know that if I hide in the closet the monster can't get to me. If the "monster music" stops the monster have vanished. Insanity isn't that bad at all, since it automatically resets once it hits the bottom. By default there are things which are possible and there are things which are not. People know this. What I am really getting at is that with custom content and innovative scripting you will be able to make the player "re-learn" everything they have learned from amnesia. Creating new "mechanics" for a custom story.

My next custom story will throw many of the accepted things about the game out the window to give players a new experience, but I just feel it is too late in Abduction to change the paradigm so strongly. Now that I have a much better understanding of both the level editor and script functions, I think I can make some truly unique things in my next story, and even in the end of Abduction, which those who play it will soon see Smile

06-01-2011 07:39 PM
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