(Main series and Spin-offs)
Branching paths are a gameplay mechanic in the main House of the Dead series and its spiritual successor, Vampire Night. The mechanic involves nonlinear level designs that are affected by player actions.
As the player(s) defeat enemies in rail shooter games, the camera traverses a predefined path. The main House of the Dead series and Vampire Night, however, have moments where player decisions can alter the route.
Events that influence paths have included:
- A civilian's survival or death.
- The destruction of objects in the environment (trapdoors, locks, statues, control panels, etc.).
- Manipulating elevator switches by shooting them (The House of the Dead only).
- Taking damage from a particular enemy (The House of the Dead only).
- Shooting a shining object, like a key (The House of the Dead 2 only).
- Amount of time taken to clear a section of enemies (Vampire Night only).
- Failing certain "controller shake" sequences in The House of the Dead 4.
- The player's number of lives (House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn only)
Upon game over (and game completion, in the case of House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn), a map of all branching paths is shown. The routes taken are highlighted, with the player characters traversing the map; upon reaching the spot where the game ended, they fall over and die.
The exceptions to this are Vampire Night and The House of the Dead III, the latter of which uses circular icons to mark the player's position; they shed their color when they reach the spot where the player died.
The House of the Dead developer Sega AM1 wanted the branching paths to add replay value and encourage players to discover their preferred routes. The mechanic was originally more complex and influential on the story, with the player able to choose routes when the game began. Ultimately, the mechanic was simplified due to time constraints and the Sega Model 2 arcade hardware's limited data space. Rough maps were designed to plan out the routes.
- On the top left-hand corner of The House of the Dead 2's route map texture, there is a hidden message: a red fingerprint accompanied by the text "Dream?"
- The House of the Dead 4's route map has several misspellings ("Constraction elevator", "Station attended room", etc).
- House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn is to-date the most linear game in the main series; unlike The House of the Dead III, the order in which the middle three levels are selected does not alter the paths taken, with only the Annex and the Elevator Lobby levels offering actual branching paths.
- "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 62.