I’ve been playing and watching Phasmophobia obsessively since I bought it two weeks ago. Literally every single day I’ve played at least a few games or watched something on a busy day. 50 hours and I still get chills, I still get scared and I haven’t completed an asylum run yet. That has to do with me usually playing with a single friend and being a coward but still.
I’ve already published a review, a starter guide and a tips compilation. Now, it’s time for my usual content: Brainstorming on the game and putting out ideas. Since the game is on Early Access, who knows, maybe some ideas will even make it to the game. I’ll start by listing the shortcomings of the game and start by addressing the first of my points: Predictability. Next article will address difficulty levels with some general points and the final one will talk about potential game modes.
Ready? I’ll grab my coffee, you grab yours, let’s meet in five!
Before we start, let me place a little disclaimer, especially considering how many new people seem to be reading. I write ideas for the sake of writing them in my blog, to work my creativity. Not all of the ideas might be feasible with the resources the dev has. Not all ideas might be attractive to everyone. These are simply my ideas on how the game could be moved to one direction. There are many more directions that would be at least as good. Alright? Let’s go!
So, here is what I think where the game falls short:
- A big part of the game is the initial exploration/learning period. This makes it a lot of fun if you just head into the game, but it also means that a chunk of the value is lost as you play more
- Very connected to it, the more you learn how the game works, the less scary it becomes since the game becomes predictable and predictability allows game mind-set to flourish and these relax your mind to prevent fear or allow you to act very planned to avoid fearful situations in the first place.
- No objectives are mandatory or really primary. There is no motive to complete any of it except money, which would be nice except:
- Money becomes irrelevant fast. You don’t lose anything as long as you are alive and you keep making money. Unless you constantly bring too much equipment and die, the loss of money is negligible.
- Higher difficulties are more or less the same with a sanity penalty that you likely take during the sweep. People say the ghosts are more active and that might be true but hard to discern how much of it is the difficulty and how much of it is lower sanity.
- Larger maps are basically smaller maps with longer walks and thus, likely larger sanity drains — very luck dependant and doesn’t feel good especially with roaming ghosts since the only thing you can do is checking with a couple of tools.
- After a while, it can turn into “Go in, apply 3–5 tools, go out”, maybe with an added “spam the name and try to take a pic” phase, which makes me want more things to do other than the objectives.
When you combine these, you get a specific picture. People whose mindset is more game-y and less immersive and the people with an immersive mindset that learn the game and read about the game eventually get to the point where the game’s novelty horror does not affect them or affect them to a lesser extent. In a psychological horror game, this is a big hit. In fact, even a “newbie” with a gaming mindset who reads about game mechanics can start hunting the worst ghosts just like that from level one.
To help fight this, I structured my ideas under three main aspects. The first one is changing the predictability of the entities and the second one is changing how difficulties work. Finally, I thought about potential game modes. Well, I will actually have some general thoughts that don’t necessarily fit in. As mentioned, I’ll address predictability in this article and the rest in the next articles.
Oh, by the way, I prefer the word entity to the word ghost. A demon isn’t a ghost, is it?
Predictability of the entities is incredibly important because knowing more or less exactly how they will act takes out a lot. The game has a built-in system for this already, which actually adds a lot of fun: Entity types. However, it is not enough.
There are a few angles I look at this.
Entities have more attacks and more events. Right now we have the running, the croaking appearance, the hissing, the heartbeat only, playing with stuff and of course, the hunt. This is good at the start, but what if we had more? There would be different attack types that manifest on different anger levels (I will also talk about anger levels and different attacks at the end of this part.)
Some new events/attacks could be:
- Ocular Attack: The attacked player sees things differently for a while. Could be a “negative filter”, blurry, upside down, suddenly very darker or brighter, red/bloody vision etc.
- Aural Attack: The player loses hearing or starts hearing distorted for a while.
- Player’s walkie-talkie stops working and they’re aware from the static
- Player’s walkie-talkie stops working but no static — they aren’t aware
- Player’s voice is cut off and they are aware (by some breathing-voice effect maybe?) (could potentially be heard by outside)
- Player’s voice is cut off and they aren’t aware
- Player’s V and B talk has a distorted filter
- The entity pushes the player down
- The entity pushes the player to a direction
- The entity turns the player to a direction suddenly
- The entity moves the player’s sight to a certain direction and they have to move away (similar to a Mesmer from Subnautica — without the sounds, of course, just mechanics-wise)
- The entity paralyzes a player for a while
- The entity appears on the ceiling, standing or on-fours, upside down
- The entity appears turned back and their head turns to the player
- A door is locked for a while, most popular candidates are the front door, a room with a single person inside it, the haunted room
- A key is stolen and appears somewhere in the house
- All doors in an area open or close at the same time
- Turn off connections of the van for a limited time
- Turn off the PC/power of the van (someone needs to restart the PC/the power via a button)
- Break equipment (maybe some equipment is repairable to prevent the players from getting stuck — )
- Disable equipment not being held (turn off the video camera, flip the book, de-calibrate equipment: this is a new suggestion you can find in difficulty section) These are fixable situations in-game but require interaction
Many of these can be applied to one person, multiple people or the whole team; and they could be combined, depending on the “anger level”. Especially the combinations could take place of hunts and break the monotony of the “ultimate anger.”
Speaking of attacks, let’s talk Crucifix. I think with a variety of attacks (some of which may not be lethal but still very dangerous), I think the Crucifix can be used more. Crucifix could be used to stop multiple attacks. For example, maybe placing one on a door prevents it from being locked or holding it might prevent an ocular attack. Of course, to an extent. I imagine the Crucifix would have a “hitpoint” of sorts in the backend and each attack would decrease it — possibly with visual clues and finally it would shatter.
So maybe a jinn gets angry at the first person that enters the room and makes them turn their back. Over the course of the game, it turns off the walkie-talkies of all players. Maybe in another house, the team keeps saying the name of a ghost and it’s so angry to the point that it turns off the breaker and locks the room the breaker’s in and hides the key (this would be more or less a hunt-equivalent activity). Another one could decide to lock the front door and hide the key. Of course, until they find the key, who knows what happens when no one can reach the van?
Entities can get angrier or calmer. There should be things other than the smudge stick to calm an entity down.
- The angrier the entity, the worse the sanity drain — so if you manage to play it really cool with a spirit, you can get away with better sanity levels. That said — there will always be a drain, just not as high.
- This allows preventing things like having no way out of a chain-low sanity attack and also encourages players to play smarter and think about what they do instead of just doing the same thing every time (this will make more sense as you keep reading)
- On average, there should be few actions that can calm the ghost and they should only work to an extent. The ghosts will get angry eventually.
Entities react differently to actions. The current entity types have different behaviour. Jinns get exceptionally angry when you are in their turf, demons can attack just like that, shades will wait for you to split etc. But there are also things we know exactly how they react. For instance, just talking doesn’t do much. Saying their name angers them. What if there were more things they react to and combined with getting angrier or calmer, what if different entities reacted differently to things?
The things entities can react to (differently):
- Hearing their name (ie some entities may not mind this, others may even calm down hearing the name)
- People talking around them
- People yelling around them
- People whispering around them
- People not talking around them
- People setting up tools around the haunted room
- Having tools dropped on a certain place (the ground, the bed etc)
- Smudge sticks
- Crucifix in hand or on the ground
- Its voice being captured by the (talking with the) Spirit Box
Characteristic pools. Now to tie all of this up… There are four ways to implement all this variety:
- If applicable, everything applies to every entity ie all of them can use all the attacks, every ghost reacts the same way to people yelling etc.
- A random entity is created every time. ie one game you can have a Spirit that has all the “basic attacks”, but can also do a voice attack, hates when people yell around it and doesn’t care when its name is said. Next game you can have the exact same features on a Jinn. In the third game, you get a Jinn that hates when its name is said, gets angrier with smudge sticks etc.
- Each entity type has its own characteristics. ie all jinns react the exact same way to hearing its name, people yelling around them and they have the exact ways of attacking.
- Groups of entities have common characteristics. For example: Demon, Yurei, Oni and Wraith are angered at the sight of a Crucifix and they don’t care at all if their names are said. Spirit, Phantom and Poltergeist don’t care much about the Crucifix and hate it when their names are said. The Banshee fears the crucifix, a unique behaviour and the rest dislike it slightly.
I’m not sure what the best way is — but probably a combination. If it’s completely random, then you can never learn the game. If it’s too well-defined, we run into the same predictability issue. I think something like this could work: The attacks can be randomly assigned every time while the behaviour has something to do with the entity types. This way you have an understanding of what type it could be from the behaviour, but the scares and attacks can still surprise you.
Keep in mind that my three articles will complement each other. There are some features I think that will spice things up, such as the local reports and not knowing the name of the entity right away.
The method of the implementation and the number of articles implemented may differ but overall I think these will add enough variety to the experience each game in terms of scares and in terms of discovering the entities outside the evidence.
If you liked the article, feel free to drop some claps (click and hold on the clap) and follow me! I’d love to hear your opinions on these and your thoughts on how the game could be improved. I already have the two other articles ready, so I’ll see you on the next ones in the following days!
Click here to check out the next article on Difficuly and General Gameplay!