Image for post
Image for post

How to Design an Alpha Antagonist

Capcom’s Mr. X from Resident Evil 2 is a great case study

Josh Bycer
Feb 17, 2019 · 6 min read

Tiers of terror

When I think about traditional horror games, I believe it makes sense to categorize enemies into tiers. Common enemies — or, those belonging to tier 1 — tend to be found liberally throughout the game world. In the Dead Space series, for example, the player frequently found themselves in an arena-style fight where they were surrounded by such enemies.

Fight or flight

The first point that eliminates many contenders for the alpha antagonist title by default is that there has to be some form of combat involved; or, at least a way of directly interacting with the antagonist. Many indie games have gone down the route of including named or unique enemies that chase after the player (Outlast and Amnesia are two popular examples of this approach). But these cases don’t incorporate combat; the player must simply hide or die.

Ever present danger

Perhaps the biggest challenge for designers when it comes to creating alpha antagonist scenarios is that the encounters must feel dynamic — that is, the antagonist can show up at any time. In many horror games, major encounters with the scariest enemies are often locked to fixed points throughout the game. Once the player knows that a particular enemy only shows up at specific points, a great deal of their fear is likely to fade away.

Image for post
Image for post

Mr. X gon’ give it to ya

Resident Evil 2’s use of Mr. X, as well as Alien Isolation’s use of the xenomorph, are both great designs that other developers should take notes on. With rumors of a Resident Evil 3 remake in the works, I’d absolutely love to see Capcom design nemesis further along the lines of the xenomorph — creating that ever-present danger that will keep coming back to haunt the player.

Image for post
Original article courtesy of Game-Wisdom. Edited and re-published with permission.

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Josh Bycer

Written by

Josh Bycer is the owner of Game-Wisdom and specializes in examining the art and science of games. He has over seven years of experience discussing game design.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Josh Bycer

Written by

Josh Bycer is the owner of Game-Wisdom and specializes in examining the art and science of games. He has over seven years of experience discussing game design.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store