You wake up alone, disoriented and enveloped in darkness. Your hands frantically paw at the ground until they find something cold and small—a lighter. You flip the lid and press down on the lever once, twice, three times. Each time, small sparks dance wildly and fizzle until a flame ignites and a hallway is illuminated. You start walking. The damp cement cinder blocks echo your footsteps, the only sound disturbing the silence until you hear a muffled cry and turn. All you see is a hallway that looks completely different from the one you just walked down. "Am I imagining things?" you wonder. You turn back and continue on, trying to figure out where you are, but more importantly, remember when you last took your Benzodiazepine.
Hektor uses dynamic techniques to enhance players' emotions in real time.
Welcome to Hektor, the psychological horror creation from indie developer, Rubycone: a five-person, virtual team that didn't let its size get in the way of creating an intensely atmospheric experience. Rubycone wanted to push players beyond feeling like they had been transported to HEKTOR, the military black site they are trying to escape. Rubycone wanted players to feel like they were there as the main character—experiencing his psychosis first hand. For this kind of immersion, Rubycone focused on dynamic techniques that work to enhance players' emotions in real time.
Levels that Change on the Fly
Paths just taken, look foreign moments later as corridors change in real time.
To transport players into the mind of a patient who underwent years of torture and confinement, Rubycone implemented JIGSAW, a system it developed for generating levels in real time. As players explore HEKTOR, JIGSAW rearranges the actual geometry of corridors when they're not looking. Paths just taken look foreign moments later, making players second guess themselves as they work to uncover terrifying mysteries and evade horrors. The effect is very disorienting and unsettling.
Dynamic Sound and Visual Effects
Dynamic sound effects and visual distortions heighten suspense.
To complement its procedurally generated levels, Rubycone implemented a dynamic sound and music system. Layers of static and procedural music and sounds work together in Hektor to help heighten emotions and tailor the audio experience to individual players' actions. This dynamic sound system alters the music depending on how much progress players have made in a level, as well as how far they have fallen into their psychosis. For example, thrilling music may suddenly erupt as players find themselves being chased by a terrifying monster. As players make their escape, the music morphs seamlessly to a more subdued state.
Hektor's dynamic sounds are reinforced with visual effects. From screen distortions to monsters that vanish into thin air, it's hard to tell what's real versus a product of psychosis, making gameplay that much more suspenseful.
Hektor's story unfolds differently for each player.
Part of what helps immerse players in any game is a rich narrative. Hektor is no exception, but presents its narrative in an exploratory way. As players work toward their escape from HEKTOR, the base's dark past is presented to them via a series of notes scattered throughout levels. Each note is written by one of HEKTOR's test subject and narrated by its own voice actor. This helps to not only distinguish one character from the next, but develop them to a point where players become emotionally invested in their well being.
Possibly more interesting than the way Hektor's story is told, is how it's told on a player-by-player basis. Because notes work hand-in-hand with JIGSAW, they are placed in real time. Meaning Hektor's story unfolds differently every time it's played.
How to Experience Hektor
Describing Hektor is one thing, but playing it is a whole different animal. To truly experience the atmosphere of this psychological horror in the way it was intended, it's best played alone...at night...with the lights off.