January 28

FNAF: Security Breach: What we can learn from TERRIBLE game design

I won’t say that Five Nights at Freddy’s fundamentally changed the genre, but its foothold in the industry is undeniable. Anyone who is a part of the gaming community has heard of it, and for good reason.

The first Five Nights at Freddy’s, created by Scott Cawthorn, released back in 2014, became an overnight sensation- and justifiably so. Until it was released, the horror genre of video games was mostly dominated either by AAA action-horror titles or Slender-Man copycats. Five Nights at Freddy’s shook up the indie scene by being… unique.

Much like an online casino South Africa. It combined a new and original gameplay loop with a distinctive art style with a hidden story. This combination of features made FNAF immensely successful on YouTube. Typical gaming channels would play it for the easy clicks from the jump scares, and once hooked, more methodical channels and fans would pick the game apart for the story hidden within.

FNAF: Security Breach is the latest installation of the franchise. And… it’s not good. Like, not in a just I-personally-don’t-like-this-thing kind of bad. It’s full-on, how-the-hell-did-this-ever-get-to-market kind of bad. There’s a lot to be learned, however, and perhaps, lessons are far better learned from mistakes and failures than successes.

The Story So Far

If you haven’t kept up with all the dEeP LoRrrrE of this game, I don’t blame you. Five Nights at Freddy’s, despite its humble origins, has become a bloated, convoluted mess of a story that I can only provide the most brief of summaries on.

Basically, everything started when William Afton decided that murderin’ kids sounded like a fun hobby. He would dress in animal suits, lure kids into back rooms, and kill them. He would then stuff their bodies into animatronic suits, which became haunted by their souls. After the events of the first six games, William and the rest of his family are all picked off one by one and haunt various pizzerias until all the animatronics are gathered together by William Afton’s son and his ex-business partner Henry to be burned and the souls released.

This climactic moment, paired with one of the most badass lines that I’ve ever heard delivered in a video game, was the end of the main cast of characters. Everyone’s dead, the souls of the original murdered children are released. Everyone dies happily ever after.

But franchises don’t die so easily, unfortunately.

So, the gang is back with a new installation! Somehow, Fazbear Entertainment, despite the exceptionally high number of child murders that have happened on their property, is still kicking strong. In Security Breach, they’re back, bigger than ever! Now they run a mall-sized entertainment complex, complete with indoor golf, mazes, multiple arcades, fitness centers, bowling alleys, go-cart tracks, and, of course, pizza! On top of that, the main show is our cast of murderous animatronics, with some old cast appearing once again (Like Freddy and Chica) and with some new characters (Monty Gater and Roxanne Wolf) to spice things up.

Oh yeah, and there’s also about a gazillion identical security robots that can only see two feet in front of them patrolling the place. Also, one security guard named Vanessa. Also, one magical rabbit lady named Vanny.

You play as Gregory, a little boy who somehow ended up inside of Freddy, and with the very friendly Freddy’s help, you must survive until six AM so that you can escape once the security gates rise in the morning.

Gameplay

That’s all well and good, but part of what makes a video game a video game is that it’s interactive. While some interactive media has been around for ages, like choose-your-own-adventure books, video games can blend narrative and gameplay in ways that just blow other kinds of narratives out of the water. Movies, books, and music all have their place, but Video Games deserve their own category among them.

This is why I’ll be spending the rest of this article dunking on THIS game’s gameplay.

Part of what made the original FNAF and its various sequels stand out from the crowd was its unique core gameplay loop. In the first game, for instance, you played as a security guard, stuck in an office with doors that require power to stay closed, and managing your use of the cameras and the doors to keep murderous animatronic robots away felt almost dreamlike in its terror.

Security Breach takes that gameplay loop and completely chucks it out the window. Security Breach is now a fully 3D game, where you wander this massive environment, hunting for items with your little flashlight while avoiding enemies. In other words, Security Breach took all the gameplay that made FNAF unique and made itself infinitely more generic.

That, coupled with some pretty bad level design that was clearly not helped by overambitious goals that the team clearly had to cut to push out this game, makes for a mediocre experience with the FNAF label slapped on the cover.

Take navigation. A game about exploring should be designed to make that experience fun, but everyone I’ve seen play this game get lost and confused. There are several reasons for this that are the result of just… not following good level design principles. When you want to catch someone’s eyes, there are several tricks most games (and movies do this too!) can do.

The first is lighting. Make the thing you want the player to look at brighter than everything else. If you want players to head through a certain door, a light above the doorframe is an incredibly subtle but incredibly efficient way to draw the eye (just about every major video game title does this). Color contrast works great for this too. For an extreme example, watch Sin City. In Security Breach, however, EVERYTHING is evenly illuminated in bright neon colors.

Another is movement. Make the things you want to stand out move around. There’s a reason classic video games like Doom had guns and ammo floating and revolving in the air. You’d have to be blind to miss those.

While I’d be exaggerating to say that Security Breach never does this, its level design leaves much to be desired. With massive empty spaces between the important locations, in a complex filled with identical security robots, a map that’s unlabeled, and popups and goals that are pretty vague, most players get lost and frustrated pretty quickly.

Deliberate, Bad Gameplay Decisions

It’s one thing to not live up to industry standards, especially for an indie dev team that was clearly stretching their budget. It’s another to pad gameplay with genuinely awful game design.

For instance, the endless patrolling identical security bots are more annoying than scary, and when they “catch” you, they set off an alarm that teleports one of the actually dangerous animatronics nearby. This animatronics can spawn really close behind you, and the player is given almost no warning before they are instantly killed. Players are understandably frustrated, especially since the player successfully evaded said animatronic just minutes early, three floors down, and elevator ride ago. So to have them teleport directly to the player is frustrating, illogical, and lazy.

It doesn’t help that the game is padded with “filler” content to get an arbitrary array of random items that will have the player running back and forth in order to get the next item so that they can get the next, next item so that they can move on to the next area.

Glitches and Bugs

I hate to harp on about things like bugs and glitches. Bethesda titles like Skyrim and beloved by millions and riddled with horrendous bugs, glitches, and physics errors. However, in a game that’s expected to be taken seriously, especially in one in which saving is limited to save stations, glitches that cause player death can set the player back hours.

The Endings and Lore (Spoilers)

So… as I’ve pointed out numerous times so far, FNAF: Security Breach was far too ambitious for what the developers could pull off. Despite multiple delays and readjusting the release schedule, it still feels like this game needed more time in the cooker.

The endings are where this is the most obvious. The fully 3D rendered and animated cutscenes are thrown out in favor of cutting to a series of comic panels and still images that tie up the story. The end. That’s it. You get nothing. Good day sir!

The writers also don’t seem to realize that the entire main cast died in the last game- I mean, they do, if you’ve seen the ending… but the writers pull out old characters anyway instead of letting their stories be over already. What I, and many others, were expecting was a new beginning with a new cast of characters to expand upon the world and lore that the first six games set up and closed. So to bring them back… feels cheap.

Having watched all the endings and having done some digging, I still have no clue what actually happened in this game. Who is Gregory? How does he tie into things? Why is Freddy nice this time around? Who is Vanessa? How is Fazbear Entertainment still open? Why do all the animatronics want to murder you, even though THESE ones don’t have the souls of dead children inside them?

While I’m all laying out the clues and putting the story together yourself, this feels like a Sherlock Holmes story without Sherlock, and the crime isn’t resolved, and Watson isn’t there to have the mystery explained to, and Mrs. Hudson is a rabbit for some reason.


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Game Gavel