(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 alter said path.
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).
- Shooting a shining object, like a key (The House of the Dead 2 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.
When developing the 1996 rail shooter The House of the Dead, Sega AM1 wanted the branching paths to enhance replay value and encourage players to discover their preferred routes.
Rough maps were designed to plan out the routes. Throughout The House of the Dead's development, the system evolved: it was originally more maze-like and could influence the story, but was simplified for time and system data reasons. Sega AM1 also intended for players to choose paths at the start of the game.