Capturing Fear is a short horror game made from start to finish in the span of three weeks for a small workshop class at Columbia College Chicago during the summer of 2019. The gameplay and story we developed centers around one main mechanic: ghostly footprints that show up when you use your camera's flash to guide you through an abandoned H.H. Holmes-esque hotel. I worked as a designer with five others (two artists, one programmer, and one other designer) to workshop ideas, develop our concept, and execute our vision, all within the very short timeframe. My tasks on this project included concept development, design implementation, and gameplay trigger scripting.
While workshopping, we developed a gameplay plan in order to map out the order of events, see how our game would feel, and figure out which elements were absolutely necessary for a shippable game. We quickly decided that in order for us to focus on keeping our footprint mechanic interesting, we would have to restrict gameplay to a single floor of the hotel. We created an L-shaped hall to add some variety and to ensure that the second hall segment would maintain a bit of mystery for the player.
We also knew we wanted to make sure that the player would have a reason to use the camera flash/footprint mechanics, so we developed a few methods to motivate them: blocking the path forward and revealing secret paths with the footprints, and turning off the hotel lights so that the player would have to navigate using their flash. These two design decisions fed into each other, since the player using the flash to navigate would be much more likely to see the footprints.
Having to use the flash as the only controllable source of light also added to the game's horror aspects, which I further heightened with the idea of having the player "wind" the film between each shot using their mouse wheel. Winding the camera between each shot adds to the sense of dread, since the player has no idea what could be moving towards them in the dark as they're winding.
In addition to developing the camera wind/flash concept, I also created Capturing Fear's final puzzle. We knew that we wanted to have the player enter a secret code into a phone in order to reveal a hidden exit, but we were struggling with how we were going to have them discover that code in a clever way. The secret passage would have been built by the killer who had run the hotel, but it would have been too convenient for them to have just left the code lying around somewhere for the player to find. We also knew that we wanted our ghost to be more of a friendly and helpful spirit who was trying to help the player escape, so it made sense for the ghost to be the one guiding you to the code.
So, I developed and implemented the idea of having the ghost lead you with footsteps to three separate rooms where furniture has been moved aside to reveal scrawled notes left behind by the killer. These notes included the name of the victim who was killed in that room along with the date of their death and a few other details. I used the numbers in the notes as a method of communication for the ghost. We created handprints that appeared and dissolved with the camera's flash just like the footprints. I then placed these hand prints in sets of three on each of the killer's notes, with one handprint in each set landing on top of a number in the note. The location of each number in the code was indicated by which handprint in the set it appeared in, i.e., the second number in the sequence appeared in the second handprint in that particular set.
I also programmed the scripts for the various triggers that the player walks through during the game. This included triggers that made lights flicker, activated the handprint puzzle, slammed doors to cut off sections of the environment, made objects appear, and created the flickering TV effect.