While there is no shortage of games inspired by playstation era horror titles like Silent Hill or Resident evil, there is a shortage of games that know how to do it well. It goes far beyond simple graphical pastiches, or emulating the quirky flaws of the technical limitations of the time, one has to dive deeply within to the production values instilled in a generation of game developers long past in our rear view mirrors. We can easily recognize as an audience that films done in 16mm require a vastly different technical implementation than contemporary digital cameras used today.
The 3rd Night takes a different approach than most of its contemporaries, instead diving more deeply into the nuanced production values that put those classic titles on the map in the first place.
The 3rd Night employs familiar signature techniques from the survival horror trailblazers, Door animation transitions, picturesque close-ups of interactive puzzle elements, it’s all handled here in a way that goes beyond the simple romance of nostalgia.
There’s a dreadful malaise that hangs in the air that resultant from the simple touches: an ominous dark staircase to the second floor, a television that when turned off causes your eyes to re-adjust to night vision, and the unsettling creaking of the floor boards with some of the best sound design recently seen in a small horror game jam release. The setting of the game is self-contained within a format similar to the bottle film genre, and in such a small environment, finite details help convey the claustrophobic intimacy that makes that genre so successful in cinema.
The amount of artistic mileage The 3rd Night manages to get out of the Construct Engine with some careful implementation of polish within a development window of 15 days speaks volumes to what should be possible in these short experimental titles. By stepping into the mindset of our development predecessors, we can come to a greater understanding of our tools and just how far we can push them. Indie developers now benefit from an era of expansive technical tools that put endless possibilities at their fingertips, they would benefit greatly from further examination production pipelines employed in cinema.
For a game that in many ways evokes set pieces found in Secret Window, or Evil Dead, it is oddly appropriate that we should write about the ways in which games as a medium finds itself trapped in the arrested development of perpetual adolescence.
Do yourself a favor, and give The 3rd Night a chance, more than an exercise in creativity, it is a case study of exemplary technical achievement in a now saturated space.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice