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A complex and realistic simulation of the use of "sign" for tracking a quarry is a largely non-existent feature within even video games that aim at realism and would add a revolutionary new game mechanic to an open world survival game like Dead Matter. "Sign" has been defined as "any physical indication left on or in the environment by the passage of any animal or inanimate object [e.g. bullet, car]" [Bob Carss, The Complete Guide to Tracking]. The level of complexity in the types of sign implemented into the game could vary considerably depending upon what is possible and desirable with numerous options available. Two video games that make some use of sign are Hunt: Showdown and The Hunter: Call of the Wild which provide some good ideas. The aforementioned book The Complete Guide to Tracking has also inspired this suggestion. Dead Matter's seasons and dynamic weather would tie into a tracking mechanic by altering sign or concealing sign already left in the environment. Basic Sign Possibilities: Footprints (Animal/human/zombie/vehicle or tracks are left in the environment until worn away through weathering or time and vary in their characteristics: - Shape: e.g. shoe, foot, hoof, tyre. - Stride Length/Gait: e.g. walking human, running human, shuffling zombie herd. - Depth (More weight carried leaves deeper tracks which are more noticeable and more resilient to being worn away by the weather. This also gives the tracker an indication of the quarry: are they wearing body armour?, is there much to loot in their pack or vehicle?, are they going to be slow due to low stamina? etc.). - Ground Type: affects the visibility and longevity of tracks: e.g. wet mud, dry soil, sand, grass, snow, concrete. Transfer or "deposit carried forward over an area after the quarry has moved from one environment to another": - Mud, sand or river/rain water transferred onto grass, concrete or a newspaper on the floor. - Bloody footprints after killing a zombie or blood drops from a wounded player. Disturbed surroundings: - Flattening of grass or reeds and bent branches. - Colour change: e.g. leaves that have fallen a while ago are darker on the weathered side facing upwards and if kicked over they will show the lighter side. Dropped/discarded/altered objects: - Trash: When Consuming an item (e.g. energy drink) the packaging does not simply disappear but the player can choose to either throw it away saving inventory space and risk leaving a trail or hold onto it for now and dispose of it in a safer place later. - Recently used bullet casings. - Fire ashes, chopped down trees. - Torn clothing or zombie flesh (tentative idea): certain objects (barbed wire, fences, brambles etc.) could catch on a players clothing and leave a torn piece hanging there. Noise and environmental disturbance (an extremely sensitive precise surround/binaural sound mechanic in the game would make this excellent): - Too quiet: because wildlife has been disturbed and have left the area (maybe ambushers lay in wait here). - Seeing birds flying off, animals fleeing or hearing their warning cries may indicate a nearby player. - Listening for the sound of footsteps (their loudness, intensity) and on different surfaces; for foliage rustling, for water sloshing, for sand or rocks being crushed/kicked under-foot, for metal clanging, for wooden planks creaking. Looted locations: The absence of loot could indicate the recent presence of players. Possibly there could be other signs of disturbance like recently looted crates, boxes, cabinets are left open for a time until loot respaws? Animal-specific (in addition to those above): - Excrement which can be checked for age to predict how far away the animal will be. - Carcass/food remains e.g. from a wolf pack killing and eating a deer, or damaged foliage eaten by a herbivore. - Animal resting, nesting or feeding zones. Possible ways to Conceal Tracks: Using a branch to hide some tracks at a point making a blind spot for a pursuer. Walking down a to [largely] avoid leaving a track. Pick up bullet casings and don't leave trash or remains. Balance the loss of time with the risk being pursued. (Possibly animals, zombies, NPCs and players can all use tracks left to pursue someone). Using weather to avoid sign or to conceal the sound/sight of ones movements (rain, wind, fog, thunder, night). Weather affecting sign: Rain washes away tracks/sign. Fresh falling snow gradually covers sign. Wind blows leaves and debris over sign. Animals cross other sign and overwrite/destroy it. Sunlight decays sign; which in game can be equivelant to a maximum duration that sign can persist in the environment These ideas for tracking and sign tie into an ecology system that could bring the various animal species, zombies, NPCs and players into a dynamic interconnected system that populate the environment across the seasonal and weather changes. An interconnected ecology would provide an immersive environment for players to survive within and add to the meaningfulness of the world. It would also provide a backdrop onto which the sign used for tracking is continually being created, weathered and destroyed in differing patterns depending upon specific locations/times. A player has to get to know regional ecologies to understand the area of the map that they are in and what are normal patterns of sign in that particular area. For example, if a particular animal species that is low to the ground (maybe wild boar) causes a lot of flattened grass when it moves around but tends to live only in a certain area of the map then a player who sees some depressed grass will be less suspicious it is a player in that area than in an area where the animal population is predominantly deer and wolves which have a high torso or smaller frame and flatten less grass. This requires that each animal or NPC is simulated with some basic needs that they are motivated to seek out and meet which a player can learn about, observe, understand and predict to help them make their own decisions in the game world relative to the environment: The system of ecology could be simulated through: Habitats: Certain animals or types of NPCs favour certain environments that they are more adapted to survive within. Hunter and prey dynamics: e.g. wolves have to seek out prey (deer, humans etc.) to survive. Specialized Behaviour: dynamic species-specific behaviour that gives each animal its own characteristics. Lair's, resting places and need zones: grasslands, rivers, caves, trees etc. A dynamic and varied ecology across the map would add a great amount of realism to the environment and the process of surviving especially as hunting would be a critical way of gathering food in an apocalypse set in Canada. The ability to use animal trapping for hunting would be great also. By having complex animal behaviours the process of hunting would be much more thrilling and it would be amazing to a have something like that featured in The Hunter: Call of the Wild although better in Dead Matter! P.S. Another suggestion I would just like to add in relation to zombie behaviour is that it would be great if it is fairly dynamic (something somewhat lacking in DayZ for example): Breaking through doors or windows (barricaded or unbarricaded) over time and enter/climb into the building. Climbing over some obstacles (railings, fencnes, small walls etc.). Zombies crawling along the floor once injured. Zombies attacak animals as well as humans. Zombies feast on killed animals, NPCs or players and can get distracted from another quarry. Thanks for reading my suggestions, I really look forward to discussing them further!
What are you looking forward to doing most in Dead Matter? Killing people/zombies? Driving around and seeing the map, flying, boating, walking, etc. (If there is already a thread like this I'm sorry but I couldn't find a way to search for it)