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TheKrust

Where's the horror at?

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TheKrust    104
So I'm taking a crack at my first 3D engine right? Well so far, I've got a mesh loader, simple environment, camera system, bloom filter (set for low levels), and a dynamic shadows system (shadow volumes). From how it's turning out (especially from the shadows) when I set the mood right, it actually makes a pretty decent horror style engine (think Doom3 style). Anyway, while unintentional, it got me to thinking. If I were to make a scary game, what would be scary about it? Some people may say the realistic graphics, others might say the suspense of things jumping at you in the dark, others may say music and stingers? So where does the real horror rest? Now, about graphics, belive it or not, I had someone say to me (in all seriousness) that they find Rougelikes scarrier than Doom ... uh huh. So yes, a big part does rely on graphics, but all that aside, where do you think the majority comes from? EDIT: someone mentioned that Rougelikes doesn't "seem to care" whether you live or die. How do you think you can pull off and maintain this effect in an FPS enviroment? [Edited by - TheKrust on October 9, 2007 11:04:40 AM]

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rHornbek    175
Sounds like fun!

Now anyone can make something scary with lots of dark rooms and monsters that jump out, but the real terror comes from inside the individual person playing. Point is, creatively get the players to get scared over things they come up with in there own mind. A perfect example of this is in a game where a creepy sound triggers just as a player approaches a door and maybe the door bumps a little. The player now has to choose to go through the door and he has no idea what he might find. In most cases what the player imagines behind the door is far scarier than what might actually be there, and maybe once the door is open there is nothing... for now.

So take some time, think about what scares people, try going into a really quiet place in your house or outside and make sure its really dark, you might not see anything but your mind will start to wonder whats lurking in the shadows.

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bzroom    647
Ever played bioshock?

Trailer
Another

From what I've gathered:

Story
Creepy voices
Dark Coridors/limited visibility
Story
Blood and Gore
Little Girls
Story
Fast moving AI
Sound effects
Story
and last but not least, Story and Sound

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TheKrust    104
Quote:
Original post by bzroom
Ever played bioshock?


Yes, as a matter of fact. I acutally loved the game, but didn't find it scary at all. The closest it ever was to scary was when the big daddies were charging at you (especially the bouncers).

For me, Bioshock was a very fun and very enticing game, but I didn't find it scary in the least.

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drakostar    224
Quote:
In most cases what the player imagines behind the door is far scarier than what might actually be there
Precisely. Though it certainly wasn't his only trick, this is one of the things that H.P. Lovecraft did so incredibly well. "At the Mountains of Madness" stands out in my mind; it ends with hints of some unimaginable horror.

"Horror games" that rely on poor lighting, ugly monsters, and surprise are completely uninteresting to me. To create any kind of real emotion in a game, you absolutely must tell some kind of story in an engaging way.

System Shock 2 did a fairly decent job of being genuinely scary. If it wasn't for the infinite respawns of monsters, I'd call it a definitive example. Vampire: Bloodlines has some moments, like the haunted hotel quest.

Quote:
Now, about graphics, belive it or not, I had someone say to me (in all seriousness) that they find Rougelikes scarrier than Doom ... uh huh.

Why not? Obviously books can be scary, so logically a text adventure could be scary too. If anything, filling in all the blanks the way a 3D game does, it had better be pretty damn scary on its own, because there's little room for your own imagination to do its work. As Das implies, there are all sorts of demons in your mind, evolutionary leftovers, ready to frighten you in primal ways, if you just turn down the lights and give it a nudge in the right direction...

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Karnot    182
Quote:
I had someone say to me (in all seriousness) that they find Rougelikes scarrier than Doom ... uh huh.

Someone ? I am sure, that any one who played roguelikes and Doom3 (like me, for example) will say the same thing. Doom3 was very cheap at the scaring department, and mostly it felt like a knock-off of System Shock 2, same tricks but on the lower level. Your own imagination is much scarier than whatever picture you may see, and yes, i will also mention Lovecraft. In ADoM there are unique and elaborate descriptions for each and every monster type, very artistic (especially considering it was written by a German), really adds a huge weight on the scales of atmosphere.

Also an amazing, simply amazing example of a scary game is the original Clock Tower, way back on the SNES. It used all the classic B-horror movie tricks like creepy music kicking in at just the right moments, helplessness of the PC, creative hiding spots, and so on. My heart was racing, i must have produced adrenaline by the gallons.

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ToohrVyk    1595
Well, think about it: what's scary about ghost movies, haunted mansions or pen-and-paper ghostly scenarios?

Disclaimer: I am currently listening to Grim, Grinning Ghosts, so this post will mostly be aimed at ghost-horror.

  • No explicit scare until well until the mid-movie. While you can get a jump factor when things burst through windows or sprint out of the dark, the actual fear comes from the foreboding of such things. As such, it's often much important to provide subtle hints (initially dismissed as coincidences) that something bad is coming:
    • Creaks on the floor above (with specks dust falling from the ceiling).
    • Statues or deer heads which, when you look at them, seem to "move back into place" as if they had been looking at you.
    • Seeing something run around a corner and disappear.
    • Furniture moving around when you turn your back.
    • You can see yourself in mirrors. However, your image slowly alters the more you look at yourself (see Evanescence, "Going Under").
    • Walls that bleed 'Hello' (the writing disappears as soon as the lamp overhead flickers).
    • Fog is scarier than darkness: light pierces darkness, but it doesn't allow you to see through fog.
    • Audible but unintelligible whispers. Moaning is so braaains cliché. Also, no sound in the entire game should ever come from a fixed spot: they should move around or appear to come from all directions.

  • Do not allow clear, understandable enemies. Blasting demon heads away with your trusty shotgun might get you jumpy, but not truly scared, because you tend to learn what those demons do and how you can kill them. On the other hand, if the entire mansion you are in is out to get you, you will have much more trouble predicting what it can or cannot do:
    • Breaking the laws of physics or sanity, such as walking on the ceiling or the walls, or suddenly wearing new clothes (the light goes out and on, and now you're wearing a bridal dress, for a female character).
    • Breaking elementary euclidean geometry laws, such as a door leading from a basement room to the attic without any stairs or, worse, a door leading from a room into itself (infinite hall of mirrors). See also infinite corridors, doors which lead to random locations, doors which are "bricked out" or disappear when you cross them, starwells from which the stairs disappear and become ten times deeper so you can't jump back down...
    • Quasi-intelligent environment: a room with a chair, a table and a bottle of brandy. When you turn your back to the table and chair, they might move to appear right behind you. Or perhaps a noose drops down from the ceiling right in front of your head. Or a fireplace lights up when you get close.
    • Invisible 'ghosts', which are only hinted at by their physicical interaction with the world: flying knives, bumps under the carpet, invisible skeletons which only materialize in the moonlight, an incredible force which smashes furniture and walls and seems to be coming at you...
    • Seemingly random appearances: no way to predict them (even when reloading save-games)

  • Allow pauses. This lets the player build a feeling of apprehension and mental rules associating 'coincidences' with dangers appearing. Sprinkle with coincidences that are not followed by dangers (normal coincidences) and let the player panic every time one of these occurs, looking for other hints of danger appearing. Let the danger appearance sometimes linger and slowly build up (you get coincidences, slow whispers, wait for a minute and then something appears), and sometimes burst (lights dim, voices increase from whispers to shouts telling you to run as knives and swords and lances start flying at you from outside your FOV) to be even more destabilizing.
  • Avoid clichés: clichés are well-known and thus will not scare people who are familiar with them. Decaying humanoids limping around and moaning? Zombies! Slow, stupid, easy to outrun. Semi-transparent human-shaped glowing silhouette? Ghosts! They move through matter, they fly, they fear holy water. Blood dripping from a silhouette on the ceiling (only lit by the lightning flashes outside)? No idea! Actually a quicksand effect when you step in the blood puddle (which reaches out at you, only you're too busy looking at the celing to notice it). Skittering masses just outside the areas lit by your candles? No idea! Actually just a cheap trick with no actual danger.
  • Inherent limitations of your human form. You have no shotgun. You have weak legs and breathing difficulties. You have to find a place to sleep.
  • Do not repeat yourself. If any of the effects you use becomes repetitive, immersion is broken. The same goes if the player figures out the rules for the game doing something. Have the game remember which effects were used and which weren't, and only use these effects when you actually need to scare the player. Ideally, you'd only use each effect once, perhaps two or three times for small and difficult to notice effects.

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Kest    547
Here's my personal top-3 scare list:

- Old-lady monsters/zombies
- Giant innocent fish (like a whale-size goldfish - *gulp*)
- Giant insects that kill and eat without conscious thought

Notice I seem to have a problem with things that are typically innocent, given the capacity to do great evil or harm.

That little-girl scene in the Shining freaked me out pretty good. But so did that other scene where the guy in the pig costume was ..interacting with some dude on the bed. The blood gushing from the elevator didn't do much at all for me.

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Kipple    122
I think this thread is a great example of how varied opinions on horror are. TheKrust mentioned he didn't find Bioshock scary. I think it should have been labeled as survival horror rather than Adventure FPS. I remember there was a room where I could see a shadow on the far wall, coming from someone around the corner. It looked like some dude eating a corpse. As I approached, there was a sudden click, and the room turned completely dark.

That was pretty freaky. The scene wasn't really anything special - the room just turned dark. However, there were two things that made it scary:

1. The tension that had build up to that point.
2. The click of the switch, which indicated an intentional action.

I think most of us have lost our sensitivity to horror, but with a little analysis simple circumstances like these reveal their potential. I would venture to agree with the opinion that's already been stated - it's much easier to scare the player if they buy into the world you're building.

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The F.E.A.R. type of game is scary for about the first three "events", and then it becomes mundane. Scenes with Alma become time wasters, moments where you know no enemies will spawn. Halo 3 does it with the Cortana/GraveMind "telepathy" bits, with the dilated lens and the slow-mo, it just made me wish I could skip it.

Scary is hard to do in a video game, because you know, absolutely, that the game was designed by a person who wants you to be able to finish it. Roguelikes are scary because that world doesn't care whether you live or die, and historically, it prefers to see you die. Should I go in there? What if there isn't ammo all over the floor? What if there's a monster that's not weak to the item I just picked up?

No matter what, players are metagaming ten minutes after they figure out the controls. If you want to scare them, threaten the gamer, not the character.

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TheKrust    104
About people saying that graphics are meaningless in the scare factor....

Quote:
Original post by jbadams
If you're able to immerse your player in the world in which the game is set you'll be able to scare them.


Exactly... While that might not be dictated by graphics, it is almost the dividing factor for the majority. And when (at least I) make a game, I DO want the majority to be able to enjoy it. Lets face it, these days, games with crap graphics are just not accepted by hardly anyone anymore (I'm excluding game developers here because they have far different interests than regular players).

Without good graphics, it's hard for most to even give the game a fair chance, none the less get immersed in it.

As for other responses, a lot of good ideas. I personally think that the majority lies in putting the player in a situation where his imagination drives him crazy. Looking around in the dark, just waiting fro something to pop out at him. Even the slow moving zombies in Doom scared me to the point where I was paranoid at every turn.


EDIT: I think I ust realized something about Rougelikes. I guess I might have a different definition of scary when it comes to that. As for the world being unpredictable, yes. Does it cause paranoia due to this fact? Yes. Does it make me jump out of my seat and give me nightmares.... no... XD

[Edited by - TheKrust on October 9, 2007 11:55:45 AM]

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drakostar    224
Just to get some perspective on where you're coming from, do you enjoy horror literature? Which authors?

If your game design ideas are shaped only by contemporary games, that's a Markovian process, which rarely produces anything interesting or new. Reach out to the past, to different media, and your idea of what a "horror game" is will surely broaden.

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kseh    3838
Quote:
Original post by TheKrust
Now, about graphics, belive it or not, I had someone say to me (in all seriousness) that they find Rougelikes scarrier than Doom ... uh huh. So yes, a big part does rely on graphics, but all that aside, where do you think the majority comes from?


The fear of loosing and the acceptance that you will loose.

Also, it doesn't hurt that the absence of detail allows your imagination to fill in extra details thus making it more scary for yourself. Accepting that your character will very likely die and that you'll have to start over again, that seems to be a very tricky thing to establish in players. It certainly gets discussed frequently with little consensus. Maybe it has something to do with the replayability of rougelikes.

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I'm not a psychologist, but since everything we experience is subject to the scrutiny of our consciousness it makes sense to consider a psychological approach to the problem of making a scary game.

Fear occurs as a result of being placed in a situation where there is a perceived threat to something a person cares about a great deal. For example, one's life, the personal safety of a loved one, the protagonist of a well written screenplay.

Fear also ranges from a slight doubt all the way up to mortal terror. For example, we can fear the next electricity bill because we are worried we can't afford it, or we can wake up in a burning house with no obvious escape route and the sound of our baby daughter screaming in the next room.

It follows that in order to be more afraid of a thing, we have to care a great deal about the impact that thing may have. In terms of a game, to make a player more afraid of things in the game, they have to care more about the consequences of the things in the game.

Thus it is important to make the player care a great deal about your game. You don't _have_ to of course, but as others have mentioned scary graphics and schlock horror can only take you so far. After a while it's just another pixel to click on unless you can keep the player emotionally involved.

Other people have used Doom 3 as an example. I actually played it. It was a whole lot of fun, but not in the least bit scary. It was more laughable because I didn't care about the events in the game, it was just a mad fun run of zombie killing with no real consequence. If you fail in Doom 3, so what? Theres no emotional attachment to the protagonist, so theres no real sense of fear.

Beyond getting the player emotionally involved in the game, the next step is to undermine their confidence in their senses. This is because we tend to fear the unknown, but out brains work overtime to analyze and make sense of a situation, and fear subsides as a result. To prevent this, mix things up a bit. Try to avoid letting players get used to something, make it unpredictable. And I think try not to take it too far, too much unpredictability seems chaotic, makes no sense, and people like things to make sense.

Anyway it has already been pointed out a game can be scary with crap graphics, a book can be scary with no graphics, as fear occurs in the mind. Having said that, good use of the audio / visual elements can really heighten the overall impact, but this should complement rather than replace the process of involving the player in the fantasy game world.

Anyway my usual disclaimer, this is all just my subjective opinion.

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drakostar    224
Thanks for the link, Way Walker..kudos for the 7th Guest reference. And for somehow working Chasing Amy into that discussion :-)

It also reminded me of Thief 3. How could I forget? I know a lot of people disliked it for the smaller levels and such, but holy crap it was scary at times. Definitely the best example I can think of. The slow reveal of The Hag was masterfully done, as I remember it.

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wodinoneeye    1689
Quote:
Original post by TheKrust
So I'm taking a crack at my first 3D engine right? Well so far, I've got a mesh loader, simple environment, camera system, bloom filter (set for low levels), and a dynamic shadows system (shadow volumes). From how it's turning out (especially from the shadows) when I set the mood right, it actually makes a pretty decent horror style engine (think Doom3 style).

Anyway, while unintentional, it got me to thinking. If I were to make a scary game, what would be scary about it? Some people may say the realistic graphics, others might say the suspense of things jumping at you in the dark, others may say music and stingers? So where does the real horror rest?

Now, about graphics, belive it or not, I had someone say to me (in all seriousness) that they find Rougelikes scarrier than Doom ... uh huh. So yes, a big part does rely on graphics, but all that aside, where do you think the majority comes from?


EDIT: someone mentioned that Rougelikes doesn't "seem to care" whether you live or die. How do you think you can pull off and maintain this effect in an FPS enviroment?



Return to Castle Wolfenstein got good effect by letting you hear something you knew was nasty coming towards you (and many doors to open that might bring you face to face with it).

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jbadams    25675
Quote:
Original post by TheKrust
someone mentioned that Rougelikes doesn't "seem to care" whether you live or die. How do you think you can pull off and maintain this effect in an FPS enviroment?
You would have to be willing to let the player get wiped out and for that to have pretty bad consequences (i.e. having to start over). This can be very unpopular with a lot of players. It's also not well suited to a game with a linear story or where the gameplay will be the same on subsequent playthroughs.

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instinKt    149
Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
Silent Hill


I was wondering if anyone was going to bring this series up. For me these (up until the 4th one, wtf was up with that?) are my all time favourite scary horror games. What I liked most about it was the intense emotion that the game brought out in its characters.

I really don't mind the "cheap" horror that uses gore, audio "stings" and things that jump out at you, they can be fun, but the real horror as I see it comes from emotions and psychological things. The kind of things that don't just give you a start, but leave you with a constant feeling of dread and that any moment your inner most thoughts and fears will leak out into the real world and drag you into your own personal hell. Call me weird, but I love when things do that to me. ;)

How to do it? Create an atmosphere. Not with things that go bump in the night, but maybe let the player expect that it will happen like that, but then don't do it. It will give them a sense of "it's not supposed to happen this way". Build up a tension that just toys with the player.

Also create some sort of emotional content. Love can be a very scary theme if used in the correct way. Give the player something to care about, give it to them, take it away. Play with the players emotions like a cat plays with a mouse before he finally devours it. ;)

Mmm all this talk of horror and fear makes me want to get out some of my fave movies. Anyone seen "Dark Water"?

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