I have already asked a question about the difficulty progression in my endless runner game: How to make difficulty progression in my endless-runner game?

Now I have to decided that it is a good approach to make the following:

  1. Camera is always drifting up, slowly, but preventing the player from idling.

  2. If squirrels jump, the camera follows them and the spiders also update their position to be slightly below visible area. Their speed is a little bit faster than the camera's drifting speed, so the player will panic out of the fear of the spiders catching them.

  3. Something else?

I want to make feel of constant chase by spiders and force player to run, make quick decisions and make mistakes. Player need to know exactly how close the spiders to squirrels are.

P.S: You can see earlier version of this game here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-34/?action=preview&uid=66055

EDIT: The problem is that spiders are always relatively close to player and distance between them and the spiders matters. Once spiders have left the visible area, player feels safe. Firstly, spiders run with constant speed and if the player runs a little bit faster, he is always in the safe area and doesn't see any spiders.

The idea is to have player under pressure all time. The difficulty is that the visible area between the spiders and squirrels is small

FINAL DECISION: The final decision was made because of majority votes, and I suppose this answer suits for many games. But there is more than one good answer, and most of the answers are worth reading and implementing. That is what I am going to do.

Thanks everyone for your great answers!

FINAL NOTE: you can check final implementation finding released game on market - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=by.Ludum.Vaverki

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    \$\begingroup\$ Google for chase scenes in Amnesia, I think that it is a good example. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 11:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't mark this question as "opinion-based" as this one have many answers with ready-to-implement solutions, which I'm going to implement in my game and hope others also do \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question itself is good as a game-design question and can help a lot of people. Taking into account all the additions we made (AKA Edits) to our answer and the question itself, there is a lot of valuable information here and I think there is no reason to close it, in fact, this is the best question I have seen in the gamedev stackexchange yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mayuso
    Jan 20, 2016 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think introducing the player to the ability of the spiders will help a bit as well. Ie. if the player knows he'll get hurt if he gets too near, he'll figure out himself that he won't make it if he stays and/or attacks the spiders. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caramiriel
    Jan 21, 2016 at 9:49

10 Answers 10

  1. Music.

Music is probably the most effective way to express feelings.

If you manage to use the appropiate song that tells "Danger, run!", that is better than any camera movement (If you combine music with those kind of effects, it gets even better, of course).

Imagine playing Silent Hill with david guetta music, that would make Silent Hill a joke, you would laugh at every monster you see.

Edit: As some other users have mentioned, a lot of people play mobile games without sound, music is still my favourite option, but the second one would be:

  1. Color

Color is easy to understand and easy to implement as visual feedback, you can make the environment get different color tones depending on the distance from the spiders to the player. Usually, Red/Orange toned colors symbolize "Danger" and Blue/Green toned colors symbolize "Peace/Calm".

(Color blind people might have problems with this if not implemented correctly (It is not easy though, be careful)).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point, but in my case spiders change their state (close/far) every couple of seconds \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2016 at 7:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then change music, I wouldn´t recommend changing volume(Bad user experience), but you can make music go faster if they come closer. Try it, you won´t regret it. Music is more important than people think. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mayuso
    Jan 19, 2016 at 7:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hm, will experiment with it, it could be interesting ) Squirrels also change their animation when spiders is close, they started to worry \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2016 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I certainly agree, this does leave hearing impaired users at a disadvantage. And if it's a mobile device they're probably playing the game on the toilet and maybe they forgot earphones. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2016 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I want to play that silent hill game running with david guetta music. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kzqai
    Jan 20, 2016 at 20:31

In order to keep player engaged, my advises are:

1) moving camera up: slowly is good, but you can choose to change camera's speed in more challenging levels,

2) camera position: you have a lot of options here, I suggest you to read carefully this great article about scrolling techniques and camera positioning

3) music (see Mayuso answer): a dynamic music system that change music from relaxing to more rhythm with some sort of "sine" or "cosine" with higher frequency for more advanced levels

4) background: engage player and force action using background animations. I don't remember right now the game of an endless runner that show alien ships on background and following attack on the city. The point is that player could be engaged and forced to play just to see "how story in background" continues.

5) bonus: players loves bonuses and make clear that collect bonuses is a good thing (with indicators, levels, challenges, etc..) can help. I think a good example of bonuses are those change also player graphical representations, so player can "feel" more advancements. For example think about a warrior in Diablo series with basic armor and then with plate armor

6) combos: if players know that make more and more in game resolve into combos and more points (I assume you have some sort of list of best points)

7) gamification: sounds funny, but a lot of game can be "gamificated" in order to force player to play more. For and example of such concepts see here

8) precision: many games today have simple rules but force player to plan moves and make it perfectly. "Simple to rule, hard to master", few ideas:

  1. Spelunky, in this game there is also a ghost enemy that chase player after some times. So if you stay still as player, you simply lose after some minutes
  2. Super Meat boy

9) challenge player verbally: make clear with audio or text that game itself challenge player. For example "You can do better, right?" "Only first level?" "NOOB!" and create a "fake enemy" behind the game itself

10) difficulty: more you play, more becomes difficult. Like in Risk of rain where with a nice mix of different enemies behaviors and increasing difficulty keep player engaged

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, thanks for your mini-guide, and article about cameras is "must-read" for all gamedevs \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2016 at 19:36

You mention that the user feels "safe" if the spiders are all offscreen. This is probably the most important thing to address. Fortunately, you want the right kind of thing: a gut feeling that the user has that nothing is ever safe.

The "gut feeling" people get is an amalgamation of many small cues that the brain processes together to try to guestimate an unknown (in this case, the position of the spiders). Your goal should be to provide many small clues in many different ways, visual and auditory, rather than trying to come up with one big clue which tells you where the spider is.

Many have mentioned music. Sound is always good for gut feeling effects because we humans use it for wide awareness of our surroundings. It's the thing which tells us to stop focusing on trying to fix our radio because there's a zombie behind us. However, visual effects can also be used. You just need to make the spiders have a presence. A few ideas:

  • Have lots of small animals in the background which start to flee as the spiders get closer.
  • Play games with color saturation when the spiders are near. Maybe when they are far away, everything is fully saturated, but when they are getting near, the non-essential parts of the background start to lose saturation, like the color draining from someone's cheeks.
  • Cues from the squirrel. The player controls their movement, but they don't control any animated twitches the squirrel has. Perhaps the squirrel could show panic as the spiders get close.
  • Music cues, obviously
  • Sounds associated with the spider, getting louder.

How you present these effects as the spiders close in is more important than anything else. The gut feeling parts of the brain work almost entirely on logarithmic scales. Thus we get the same amount of relief from the spider moving from 1 to 2 units away as we get from the spider moving from 2 to 4 or from 10 to 20. Cues which work to this scale will be more well received than anything else.

Take the spider sounds, for instance. Instead of just having one spider sound which gets louder as they get closer, consider having multiple, which all come in at different rates. Perhaps have the music start to change when the spiders are 8 feet away. Around 4 feet away, you start fading in the sound of their scratching legs against the trees. When you get to 2 feet away (which may be right off screen), you could start hearing the noises from them mashing their mouth parts hungrily (why not... they're evil spiders!).

You don't always have to use powers of 2, though they are obviously natural for game developers. Maybe the small animals flee when the spider is at 30 feet away, and the squirrel starts looking visibly nervous when they get 10 feet away. Then, at 3.3 feet, color drains from the background.

Of course, for all of these, its best to fade the effects in gradually. That way, for any spider distance, the player's gut has many smoothly varying signals with which to develop its gut feeling for where the spiders are. The more small signals the player is paying attention to, the more they will be drawn into the moment. This is the real key. A small number of obvious cues will have less effect than a large multitude of small cues which all operate on different scales, and ideally you want to let the user construct a reasonably logarithmic worldview using those cues.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll explained my decision in original question text. Thanks for your answer, will do implementation based on your advice \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 13:21

A solid case study would be the game "Prince of Persia : Warrior Within"

It has many chase scenes and it is by far the best chase sequence of any game till date unless you go into the horror genera where chases are generic and sort of name of the game.

The game combines two of the most influential senses of humans which react to fear.

  • Sight : When the character "Dhahaka" (which acts as the Antagonist and chases the prince) appears on the screen , the closer he is to you the colour starts to fade and the screen becomes a grey tone.This creates a sense of urgency.
  • Sound : as mentioned by many already, a good soundtrack especially for the chase sequence would be monumentally critical. the game in our study uses a popular metal song and uses it exclusively when the Dahaka starts the chase sequence and not anywhere in the game.

So as you hear the music and screen goes black & white you basically shit your pants.

To add additional obstacles to the path which will slow down the linearity of the run.

You can add , one hit kill to create even more urgency.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for answer, it is useful. But in my case it will broke game-play as I either need to have danger music on or switch danger/safe mode each 2 seconds. Player in my game is balancing on edge between safe and danger \$\endgroup\$ Jan 19, 2016 at 15:48
  1. Create something that the player wouldn't want to happen.
  2. Show it happening in a harmless setting (cutscene is allowed, can happen to other characters).
  3. Create a situation where it is obvious that the player will experience the undesirable outcome unless he acts soon.

Everything else (action music and funky camera effects) is just superficial fluff that will fade away rather soon. Player's knowledge is everything.

(Source: developer commentary of some HL2 game, independent design research).


The spiders are coming after you, but cooperatively.

One gets ahead, then it sends silk back to the other ones. Which are pulled up.

They advance exponentially.

How close the horde is then becomes a measure of how many spiders are close, instead of how close the front-edge of the spiders are.

The handful of spiders that get close also send webs at the player. At below the critical threshold, these just annoy the player in some way. Above the threshold, they are fatal.

If there is one lone spider pulling a buddy up, they are far behind.

If there are 7 spiders all pulling buddies, they are closer.

If there are 20 spiders, they are almost ready to overtake you.

If there are 50 spiders, they catch you in their web.

These spiders also advance in leaps and bounds. So even if you outrun the spiders, one will sometimes "catch up". But then you'll outrun that one for a short bit. The length of the "gap" grows (logarithmicly), and the chance that a second spider "pulled" by first one before it leaves the screen also shows up goes down.

Now, even when the spiders are far away, sometimes a huge clump will catch up and attempt to attack with webs. The frequency of this also goes down as you get further and further ahead (again, logarithmicly; so it never never happens).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great approach, will be defenetily on my shortlist of solutions! Thank you \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 6:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll explained my decision in original question text. Thanks for your answer, will do implementation based on your advice \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 13:21

Since you seem to want a precise visual representation of just how close the spiders are...

These are all valid visual representations of timers/progress bars/distance

  • Numbers. Such as a timer in seconds or the specific value the spiders are at such as [7/10] (where 10 means player is dead), or the distance between spiders and squirrel.

  • Fancier numbers. The timer or progress bar gains a more visual representation, while the numbers themselves may still be visible (but probably not). This could be a progress bar filling with spiders with a squirrel at the top, an image of a spider reaching towards a squirrel in the corner representing distance, a big spider at the top of the screen whose eyes start to glow red and mouth starts to ooze green... Whatever little thing you want to represent the player getting caught by the spiders you want. The image should catch the squirrel when the player dies or it may seem a little anti-climatic.

  • Not too obtrusive visual hinting. Like another answer mentions, this could be a transition into gray-scale colors, or spiders slowly closing in from the edges of the screen. The progress bar in this case is the degree of gray-scale or the amount of screen space the spiders are taking over. By blocking the screen you may also be causing even further mistakes. (But hopefully not in a cheap way)

  • Lunging spiders lurking below the screen. This is similar to your idea for spiders to slowly catch up to the squirrel. The idea is that, instead of getting (extremely slowly and uneventfully) closer and closer, the spiders occasionally lunge for the squirrel. How often they lunge and how close they get depends on how close to getting the squirrel they are. This should create a moment of panic while the spider is going for the squirrel.

Note that a more solid visual representation such as the first two can be used in conjunction with the more subtle hints like the second two. Also, keep in mind that when you are trying to test for the overall experience, you should include every part of the experience when you test - which is why other answers mention music.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll explained my decision in original question text. Thanks for your answer, will do implementation based on your advice \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 13:22
  • Ambience music. As Mayuso stated, the worst and scariest thing in every Silent Hill game was music.

  • Since mobile games are mostly played without sound, you should add any visual indicator of how close the spiders "can" be. Maybe web cobs flying randomly, flying leafs, dust,.. etc,. some kind of environment destruction, but not sctrictly attached to the spiders speed. That makes the player to know something wrong its going to happen soon, but not exactly when.

  • Add some leaping spiders, with random jump length. If the player knows exactly where is the point when the spiders kill you,that makes some kind of safety feeling. But if the spiders can kill you sooner by leaping randomly, that makes it harder to know when are you going to die if you're not fast enough. Also, that brings you another choice to increase difficulty.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll explained my decision in original question text. Thanks for your answer, will do implementation based on your advice \$\endgroup\$ Jan 20, 2016 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would disagree with the random jump length. It needs to be consistent; you need to strike a balance between the game being scary and the game being fair. You will make the user feel like the game is unfair if you add random jump lengths. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Jan 21, 2016 at 8:03

As some have already pointed out, you can cause the feeling of rush based on sound, color and graphics .

To make things clear, I'll leave the following examples:

  • Resident Evil 3:Nemesis: During the game theres tension caused by a quiet sound that hints that nemesis is around somewhere, sudently it appears and the music changes to a stressful tone.

  • Sonic: Any sonic water levels, you have to catch bubbles to bread, if you stay too long under water a theme with increasing tempo will play and a visual indicator of the time left to catch a bubble will blink on screen. Example:https://youtu.be/vdRBVdOAnf0

After playing your game I think that you do an approach similar to Sonic:
Flash the screen or bottom part of the screen the following way:

  • Yellow: Spiders are barely visible.
  • Orange: Spiders are half way to get you.
  • Red: You're almost dead.

Playing a fast paced theme with increasing tempo would also help, or at least a theme that warns the user to the incoming danger.


sound of enemy(ies) approaching fused with music that hints danger to give the player a "rush" and visual effects that can dusturb the player into making a mistake.


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