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horrorgamewriter35

Places in a horror game

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Many horror games in the past as well as today have used everything from hospitals to motels to seedy amusement parks and so on. But if you were given the chance to have your say in what areas were to be used in a horror game, what places would you choose? Would it be a police station which has been done to death, or would you choose a casino or some where else? Basically I am asking what places do you think would be cool to have in a horror game. Yes I know I actually posted the same question twice, but I wanted to give an example of what I meant. In my opinion large places like Hotels, and other high buildings makes it more interesting to me. But that's just my opinion. Then again I also like buildings thats not so high such as Grocery stores, and or gyms. I am wanting to hear your opinions on this topic. And see what places would be used if you had the say. Because the places I will avoid in my game project is the Police Station, Hospital, Schools, mansions, and so on. If you really think about the above things, you know as well as I do, that they have been done to death. And I would like to break that cycle. As members here your view points are respected and needed.. So please let me know what you think about the above topic.Thanks for your time and patience with this post...

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Anything familiar. A home, apartment, school, office, park.
The more natural the feel to the place, the more at home with the setting the player will be, and thusly the more scared when you scare them.
Too many horror games go with the standard "junkyards are scary" "graveyards are scary", but when you see that in a game you EXPECT scary things. Run down places with lots of shadows and lurking figures are creepy, and hide your scary monsters well, but people tend to find that to be like doom 3, "oh look an alcove, i bet when i walk past it somethings going to slide away and a imp jump out!". What you really need is good setting to get the player first thinking "this isn't scary, how can this be scary" before there really is a monster in the children's closet.

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When I think of discomfort in frightening situations, I think of areas with multiple ways in and out, and cramped areas with lots of corners. I think of many doors that can't be locked, and countless windows that monsters are not afraid to break to navigate through.

A thick, dark forest would be pretty intimidating. Trees overlap each other to the point where you might not see something even as it's a few feet away, running directly at you. The player would have to use sound to detect approaching danger. On top of that, the player's movement would create its own unwanted sounds, attracting attention, and overpowering the player's own ability to detect. I would probably find myself taking a few steps at a time, then waiting and listening for trouble.

For some inspiration of this type of area, check out The Evil Dead series. With that, it's basically a cabin, deep in the woods, cut off from civilization. Someone there conducts experiments to toy with the dead, leading to the essential chaos. If you notice in the films, there are actually few instances of actual danger and enemy confrontation. Most of the time is spent trying to figure out what's going on, and trying to escape, all while anticipation builds in the background.

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It's a little harder to make a bright open place scary though.

Bright isn't too bad, because there's still plenty of places for creatures to hide.


Though I guess if you had a big open space, with thousands of zombies coming towards you.. well I guess I'd be a little scared.

Especially if you had fast movie enemies. Zombie's are often quite slow, which means it's a little harder for them to scare you from far off. But if the enemies were quick, it means they could 'jump out' at you from pretty far off.

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I think horror works best if the enemy is poorly understood (especially where the enemy is), and if the player feels vulnerable. Cramped spaces where there are multiple approaches to any location work well as the player cannot feel safe and has very limited time to see their enemy coming.

That gives you a lot of range of what you can use. Factories, caves, warehouses, standard surburban house, Russian submarine, hedge maze, they can all work.

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Getting more popular in films recently but not seen quite so much in (horror) games - train/tube stations.

Or maybe caves and tunnels - done well in films like The Descent... Any moment where you are physically unable to turn around and see behind you can be pretty goddamn scary, especially with the right soundtrack.

Underwater? The murkiness acts like fog, allowing a looming monster to spring into view. Maybe just a tiny bit harder to pull off though..

Old, isolated (non-mansion) houses, cornfields.. that sort of stuff. I imagine a setting similar to the film "Behind The Mask" (well worth a watch). Very cliché in cinema but not so much in games.. Hard to prolong the story and length of the game in this kind of environment?

The streets - imagine the famous alleyway from Nightmare on Elm Street. Not having any real idea where you are running to and being suddenly headed-off can be pretty scary. While familiarity can create more empathy and fear (and of course building some kind of empathy with a character makes for a much more scary film/game), unfamiliarity with the setting, I would argue, can also make for a scary game - old-timey/medieval style towns could be scary places at night. Also the feeling that whatever is after you has much more control over the environment than you do can make for a good scare.

Going further in a similar vein: Impossible or inconsistent locations (possibly suggesting the horror is inside the character's own twisted nightmares? Or maybe a demonic force is in control?)- Room 1408 in cinema, Silent Hill: The Room and the "Nowhere" level in other Silent Hill games. Maybe even a completely alien environment - possibly the lair or sphere of influence of an evil force.

A military ship/cruise ship. Seen a lot in action films and games, but the feeling of being confined and ultimately trapped in the middle of the sea can be terrifying. Plenty of scary games go the labyrinthian spaceship route, but this has many of the same fear-inducing factors and seems slightly less overdone.

I also thought offices and apartments (or hotels - makes me think of Silent Hill 2) were good ideas. Rooftops, sewers.. the list goes on. In the end, it's all in the execution... Learn from cinema greats - a lot of it is about what you choose show or hide from the player

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Horror games settings don't matter. You need to create an atmosphere.
You need to make people feel like something could happen at ANY time. No matter where they are.
Survival Horror like Resident Evil sometimes isn't true horror. Like some of the previous posters said, you can predict where monsters are going to be.

The best thing to do is to use camera angles and lighting to your advantage.

Good Horror movies are all about making it feel cinematic, good flow, good plot twists and gruesome ends.
But a good Horror game is unpredictable, edgy. You've got to have just enough ammo, just enough health, just enough monsters.

You've got to mix those elements.

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Quote:
Original post by Zenix
It's a little harder to make a bright open place scary though.

Bright isn't too bad, because there's still plenty of places for creatures to hide.


Though I guess if you had a big open space, with thousands of zombies coming towards you.. well I guess I'd be a little scared.

Especially if you had fast movie enemies. Zombie's are often quite slow, which means it's a little harder for them to scare you from far off. But if the enemies were quick, it means they could 'jump out' at you from pretty far off.


Well, just think of some kind of faint, misty looking monster that could slip out of a crack in the pavement with only a faint whisper. The goal of the game is to make it through solving the mysteries of the game world while not getting killed. Your only warning of an attack could be the sound of your character's teeth chattering from the odd chill in the air that comes with one of the demons forming up.

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What about a castle in a forest somewhere? Both are pretty scary to people when its dark outside. Ghosts live in castles and people are scared of slamming doors and creepy sounds. I personally like the Clive Barker's undying series because they scared the crap outta me.

Forests haven't really been done but darkness and wilderness sounds can definitely take the imagination for a run. Especially if you know there are threats like bears or cougars or something similar :P

Some added mechanics such as evolving levels might cause some clausterphobia because people wouldn't trust their senses anymore.

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personally for me sound and limited visibility are key in making just about any location scary. there is nothing like hearing a chainsaw start up and the player whipping the mouse around trying to find the source.

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i always thought system shock ii was one of the best horror game of all times because of the setting... the areas are opened, there are no horror music nor sounds made to make you scared, and you really don't expect much more out of the game than a mere crappy retro action game until you realise zombies will breathe in your ears once they are too close to you. In this case, a natural setting that avoids horror cliches is what makes you tremendously scared in the end.

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I've only spent a few seconds thinking about this, so my ideas aren't really well-formed, but I figured I'd throw in my two cents as well...

I liked the suggestion about underwater. While I don't particularily like the idea of playing underwater, what if it was something more along the lines of you have to cross a river, the water goes up to your waist (or hips, or something). Halfway across you are attacked by some monster hiding in the depths and you have to scramble to the other side while keeping it off of you.

Another thing you NEVER see in horror games, is a living world. It's always you against the zombies, or you against a crazy psycho in an isolated little world, where there are very few non-enemy characters. What about being someone trying to survive a monster attack with NPCs everywhere panicking and creating all sorts of confusion? Sure it's done in film all the time, but how many games are like this?

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Original post by dashurc
Another thing you NEVER see in horror games, is a living world. It's always you against the zombies, or you against a crazy psycho in an isolated little world, where there are very few non-enemy characters. What about being someone trying to survive a monster attack with NPCs everywhere panicking and creating all sorts of confusion? Sure it's done in film all the time, but how many games are like this?

Doom 3 started that way. There were quite a lot of people in the space station when it hit the fan.

Personally, I think it subtracts from my fear to have more people around. I end up trying to protect those around me, rather than worry about myself. It might work if I'm a character that's unable to fight back, though. Watching the other people get yanked into the shadows, one at a time, might be a little discomforting.

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Original post by Zenix
It's a little harder to make a bright open place scary though.


Hitchcock's The Birds
The Day of the Triffids
The War of the Worlds

Just a few examples where you're safer indoors than out - there are plenty more. It's not really that difficult to make someone scared in a bright open space - just play on the fact that in such a space, YOU have no where to hide either.

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I think that you should limit the chances of escape in a natural way. There's nothing more frustrating that when you can't go over "the 2 feet river" just because "the wooden plank" that crosses it is broken...

Also, there must be a strong reason why the character in the game stays inside the motel/hotel/mansion instead of just running away.

I believe the scariest places/occasions occurs when something is taken out of it's normal habitat - I.e a childrens tricycle standing by a tree on a grassy field in the middle of nowhere at night is spooky as hell. Play some squeeking of the tree and possible have the tricycle roll down as the player passes it.

Most of all....
The scariest games let the imagination of the player do the work. Most often "less is more" when it comes to scary movies. Build up anticipation and then.... nothing. :)

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I just had an interesting thought. It seems to me that the best time to be scared is the time when you just took a moment to get relaxed. Could we tie in the movement of the character into the timing of an enemy attack at all? It is obviously a gimick and should be used sparingly (lest the player discover it) but I think it could scare the pants off more than a few people.

I recall in FEAR that there was one long hallway which you had the scurrying of noises all around you and you wouldn't even see an enemy. After you finally get to the end and think you are safe it was then that the enemy sprung out. And it was a super fast enemy that you could pretty much only kill if you used slowmo to slow his movement down. It scared the socks off of me and my friends.

This sort of effect with an intelligent enemy could really enhance the mood. Better yet take that less is more concept and put the noises in every once in a while... but with no enemy that shows up. Do that a couple of times and then hit them again with the monster. I would think that it would raise up the anticipation because it is a huge unknown.

Perhaps make the timing of it random? One run through of a level you'll get 2 of them in a row and anther you'll have 5 spots where nothing shows up. Basically you add in the audio element to it.


Also what about a chameleon enemy? It would stand still until you were really close to it. At that point it would make a sound and once you look straight at it it would jump out at you. Perhaps when you look straight at it it'll reveal itself for just a second with an evil smirk on its face before it attacks. The point isn't to have something sneak up on you, rather it is to scare the socks off of you because it wasn't expected. FEAR had an element like this where they'd randomly throw a freaky little girl onto the screen for no apparent reason.

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(Some others have already made similar suggestions)...

Everyone talks about "You know the blah blah blah scene? That scared the crap out of me!". The problem is, the second playthrough, you know what's coming, and it doesn't startle you anymore.

It would be pretty scary if you're getting to the part that scared you in your first playthrough, the tension builds, scary noises, you prepare yourself, and then... nothing. You wonder what happens, walk around the next corner (for example) and then BAM!

Having five or six memorable moments that can happen at several different places/times in the game would help make any setting more scary, as you're dealing with the unknown pretty much constantly.

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Original post by dashurc
Everyone talks about "You know the blah blah blah scene? That scared the crap out of me!". The problem is, the second playthrough, you know what's coming, and it doesn't startle you anymore.


I'd say that being startled is the cheapest form of "horror". I hate horror films where you know for a fact that something is going to attempt to make you jump within the next couple of seconds, but because you don't know the exact moment it still startles you... Sometimes I would go so far as to say that this isn't scary - it's shocking or startling. This can be incredibly easy to do - take those endless flash games with the scream and face that pops up. The cinematic equivalent of somebody tapping you on the shoulder when you're engrossed in a computer screen... Does it "horrify" us? No. It makes us jump.

The thought process for the viewer is often: "Oooooh! Ooooh something's gonna happen... Ominous music... I bet that... When's it gonn.. ARGHH!"

Often it will just be the character's friend tapping on the window - the director consciously decided "Lets make the audience jump for the sake of it, because this is supposed to be a scary film".

The more psychological horror I believe is more legitimate (Blair Witch being an extreme example, as nothing ever actually jumps out at you or startles you - but it can still be scary). The game or film that gives you a very real desire for it to be over, purely by building unbearable ominous tension!

Basing a "horror" game purely on the mechanic of enemies unexpectedly or randomly jumping out at you is incredibly cheap (IMO) and, although it is often the case with so-called "horror" games and can be successful, I would suggest that such a game will never be recognised as a classic and talked about for years to come.

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Original post by WavyVirus
I'd say that being startled is the cheapest form of "horror". I hate horror films where you know for a fact that something is going to attempt to make you jump within the next couple of seconds, but because you don't know the exact moment it still startles you... Sometimes I would go so far as to say that this isn't scary - it's shocking or startling. This can be incredibly easy to do - take those endless flash games with the scream and face that pops up. The cinematic equivalent of somebody tapping you on the shoulder when you're engrossed in a computer screen... Does it "horrify" us? No. It makes us jump.

I see where you're coming from, but that's not what it's about for me. When a monster pops out, it might make me jump, and that is a pretty cheap thrill. But there's also those 15 minutes that lead up to the monster jumping out, where I'm being extremely cautious, and enticed into a nervous wreck.

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Original post by Zenix
It's a little harder to make a bright open place scary though.

As a thought on this: Thief was one of the better games I've played for building up player tension. In Thief, the bright open places were scary - because there was nowhere for you to hide.

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It's a little harder to make a bright open place scary though.


It depends on your approach, The Cube Trilogy (with exception to the 3rd) takes place in really bright well lit area's and still manages to be scary(ish).

I think any location can be rendered into a horror scene, you just need to rely on psychological horror more than horror cliche's.

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