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The Light Mechanic

The lighter is a pickupable item similar to the pistol that cannot be dropped and stored in the save state.

Once acquired, the player can interact with candles and create a light source in a globe around the player model.

Initially, I was reluctant to use it since I wanted to keep the controls and equipment as simple as possible, and its basic functionality did not justify its inclusion. However, I had a few design problems that I could not solve at the time.

The Problem

I was not sure how to communicate with the player on how to deal with certain enemies and what are their weak points. The Nurse did not have a visual indicator of their behaviour, and the player's first reaction was always to shoot them or try to move out of their sight. Initially, I added a note that described how to deal with the nurse, but it felt clunky so I wanted a more elegant solution.

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Hidden messages give hints about enemy behaviour

I also wanted to provide guidance to some of the puzzles that I felt were too difficult to solve, especially in the second half of the game. First, I added more hints to the item descriptions, but the texts felt out of place and forced.

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Hidden Message highlight the significance to the bodies in the room

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A clue to the picture frame puzzle

Additionally, certain sections of the games were really dark to build atmosphere however if the player dropped a physics object by accident, it was tough to find the item, which led to frustration and poor user experience. To solve the issue, I tried to modify the lighting but it took away from the creepy atmosphere.

The Solution

Exploration is one of the key pillars of Lucid Nightmares and I wanted to support it with additional mechanics. I started experimenting with a system similar to Alan Wake (Remedy, 2010) where objects can be revealed by a light source.

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The player can find clues and messages with the flashlight in Alan Wake

I created a blueprint that checks the distance between an object and the player character and if the lighter is active or not. If the player gets close to an item that is marked "discoverable" while holding the lighter the item became visible. Originally, the player would be able to discover additional items, such as ammo and health, hidden doors to secret areas or items to unlock the alternative ending, however, due to time constraints in the final version, the player can only reveal messages on the wall and the Lurker enemy type.

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The hidden object blueprint

I designed the texts in Photoshop and then imported them into Unreal Engine. I created material with an emissive colour using the text as a texture, then applied it to a decal.

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Hidden Message material

With the Light mechanic implemented I was able to design new puzzles and sequences that make use of the lighter. The sewer section was completely remade to support the new features and became my favourite part of the project.

Original sewer area, the player had to pick up a candle and move it close to the other candles to light it up. If it was dropped by accident, it was game over.

The redesigned sewer section using the light mechanic

In addition to hints and tips, I also added easter eggs, which add a sense of mystery and a lighter tone to the game.

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An alternative ending was planned at the neighbours place

Reference to the famous horror franchise

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