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So I recently saw an idea on r/gameideas. It was for a game which starts off as a horror game, with monsters hunting you with no way to defend yourself, while in the climax, you get an insanely strong weapon to hunt them.

It seemed like a neat idea at first, but now I think that there are major problems with it. Since it switches from Outlast to DOOM so unexpectedly, I think it may lead to alienating a large group of players as those who want to play a horror game, as well as those who want to play an action game, would both avoid playing it.

What are the possible solutions to this issue?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, note that if the weapon truly is insanely strong, the run-and-gun portion of the game will be actually super easy, and horror game players who don't have the skills to play an action game won't be locked out of the ending for skill reasons. \$\endgroup\$
    – Foxwarrior
    Jun 25 at 0:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ But would players who want to play an action game really want to hunt with a weapon so powerful that the skill ceiling meets the skill floor? Important questions. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25 at 2:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, they wouldn't. But if the game is a horror game until the climax, then the players who wanted to play an action game will have already left. \$\endgroup\$
    – Foxwarrior
    Jun 25 at 6:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. I suspect that, in practice, the best way to solve this design issue would actually be to eliminate the "genre-switch" constraint, but I'll wait/chew on this longer myself before challenging the question's premise. Someone with more insight than I have could probably think of something... \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25 at 6:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ But it could be really cool. Imagine playing a game where you are insanely terrified of these monsters, and then you suddenly get a weapon which can totally destroy them easily. That could be extremely satisfying for the player. \$\endgroup\$
    – Millard
    Jun 25 at 18:13
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I disagree with the general sentiment in the comments that the only solution is to stick to one genre - you just have to know what you're doing.

The biggest problems with an abrupt, late-game genre switch are with execution and expectations. In terms of execution, making a good game is hard, and making two good games stitched back-to-back is harder. That's where games like Spore fall apart. And in terms of expectations, entirely changing the rules of the game can break the "contract" between the player and the designer that the player agrees on when starting the game. If you can confidently execute on both a horror game and a DOOM-like shooter, and make it clear to the player that the rules of the game are subject to change, you can absolutely get away with making a game like this.

"How to make a good horror game" and "how to make a good shooter game" are both massive questions, too big to address here. But we can look to other games that switch genres (for certain definitions of genre) for clues on how to manage the "expectations" half of the issue:

  • The entire contracts of minigame-based games like Mario Party are built around genre switches - you know from the beginning that that's what you're getting into. Those games solve the execution problem by breaking each style of gameplay into manageable 1-3 minute chunks.

  • In the horror space, the Dread X collections do something similar, but with larger and more linear sub-games. Like Mario Party, the different genres are unified by a grander logic - if you can couple the horror and shooter portions of your game using some deeper intricacies of your game design, the switch will feel much more natural.

  • Undertale is a great example of a game that doesn't advertise its genre switches - instead, it's able to get away with them by constantly poking at and playing with the tropes of (J)RPGs. Like its spiritual predecessors, it makes that kind of postmodern rule-breaking part of the player contract.

Something that all three examples do well is maintain a sort of emotional logic through their genre switches - chaotic fun in Mario Party, mysterious horror in Dread X, subversive sentimentality in Undertale. In your case, that might be the (a)symmetry between the powerlessness of the horror segment and the power fantasy of the DOOM-shooter segment. That has to be handled with care to avoid tonal whiplash, but I'd argue it's the most interesting part of the game idea.

So, say you make a terrifying and tense horror game and end it with the euphoria of absolutely sticking it to the monster in a storm of guts and glory, and telegraph it well-enough that it feels earned. You still won't get people to play both parts of your game if they only enjoy shooting and hate horror, or vice versa. That's ok - not every game can be or should be for everyone. You're better off making a game that's a smash hit with your core audience than a game that everyone thinks is just OK at best, especially at indie scale where word of mouth can make or break you. (But you might be able to get away with meh if you have the marketing budget of a triple-A company.)

That said, the intersection of players in the genres you're working with may or may not be big enough for you to be able to hit your financial goals with the game. That's a calculation you'll have to make.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great, thanks! One question, though. Supposing one deals with the challenge of making two genres in a game, how does one even make a prediction of whether a mix of genres will be enjoyed by players? It all seems to depend on personal taste, and thus pretty much seems like a shot in the dark. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25 at 20:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a whole nother can of worms, basically the big question for market research in general. If it was a solved problem, we wouldn't see big companies release games that flop. Probably the easiest solution is just to be a part of that audience yourself. Would you play a horror game that ended as a shooter? If so, you have an informed opinion on whether or not other people would like your game. If not, you'll have to find people who would play it, and find ways to see the game from their perspective. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting insights. I wouldn't have previously considered Mario Party to switching genre with its minigames, for example, but rather just being a "party game." But now that you mention it, that's exactly what's happening. All about perspective. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 at 1:39

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