I'm sitting at my partner's house right now, and her roomie is playing Left 4 Dead (or L4D2, I'm not sure). I really enjoyed the L4D games when they first came out, and spent a lot of time playing them a few years ago (has it really been four years? I think it has... ugh.).
The first few times I played L4D, they were downright spooky. The people I was playing with were relatively new to the game, as well, so we were caught off-guard by a lot of the little tricks the game pulls on you. The first time I stumbled upon a witch was downright creepy. It was a really cool experience.
The problem is, of course, that the more you play, the more you learn to anticipate and prepare for the climax moments. Hearing a witch in the distance stops being creepy, because you know exactly what it is, and how to handle it. You know exactly who has the materials you need, and you know the best way to either move around it or attack it.
This is inevitable, since the more you play, the more comfortable you get with the mechanics. Another big part of this is because the players have unlimited communication available through the mic. No matter how far apart you get, you can always hear each other just fine.
So, as I was listening to B play the game, I started to think about how little of his L4D experience is about the spooky, creepy, horror elements, and it got me thinking about how the game could be changed to reinforce the horror elements. What I came up with is something like this:
First: either the players should start in different parts of the map, or there should be some mechanic that encourages them to split up sometimes. The tensest parts of L4D are the parts where you realize that there's nobody around to watch your back or pick you up if you fall. Having the players have to search for each other or have to split up and do things in multiple areas simultaneously creates moments of tension.
Of course, if you're going to have people splitting up or starting in different areas, I think that you need to make it a "sound matters" sort of game. I'm not even sure how possible this sort of thing is to do, but I'm imagining two things: first, you don't have world mic capabilities. When you speak into your mic, your voice can only be heard near where you are. The farther you get from the person speaking, the harder they would be to hear. If they're in a building, and you're not, you may not hear them. Second, the zombies are attracted to noises. If you shout for your friend, the zombies in the area are going to react to that. Maybe you've got a key you can tap to make your voice a shout, but it attracts zombies from farther away or something?
Would this sort of game be interesting to people? I'm not sure. Obviously a lot of people could just bypass the whole "sound matters" thing by going onto third party chat services like skype or whatever, but I would find this kind of gameplay extremely interesting.
What do you think? Any kind of gameplay you'd be interested in that you don't think is likely to come out?