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What makes a horror game scarey to you?

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I know lately I been doing alot of new threads and the reason is because I am trying to think of what I can put into my horror game. And alot of people have been giving me some great advice, great points of view and even somethings really to consider for this project of mine. The new question is this: What would make a horror game scarey to you? Would it be for example, somewhere really dark with tons of noises? Would it be a place where massive blood is all over the place? Would it be seeing things moving past you real quick without you getting a good view of what it was? Feel free to say anything you like with this question. I would like to hear your thougts and opinions on what makes a good horror game scarey or at least gives you some sort of fear. Like for example, hearing noises coming from behind you, then disappears, then appears to the right of you, then disappears, and then moves again so you can't locate where the sound is coming from. Then again something moving over broken glass shards behind you might be a little scarey or at least some what intense. Because you wouldn't know what was there until you turned around. Anyways I'd like to hear your view points and opinions on this thread...Thanks for your time and effort.

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don't really think it's what you mean, but the only time I can remember that a game really scared the shit out of me, was Alone in The Dark, I believe 3, where at some point, I was really in this mellow mood, just looking around for half an hour, for that one door I must have missed somewhere, when suddenly this monster came out of a bed in one of the bedrooms.

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Many say I have a knack for this stuff whenever I write it, though I hate the genre myself... so I'll tell you what i think. The best way to scare people is a combination of things that draw your attention, but when you look what you see is not what you expect. It's the atmosphere that makes someone scared. Any area can be made into a very scary situation.

One example from what I have done, that is now long gone unfortunately, was called, "The Playground" It was written in first person and what happens in it is the person walks through the city and hears the laughing of little children, somewhere off in the night. The person sees shadows of these children. They hear a bouncing ball. These sounds lead them to a playground where the person find in the sandbox 3 tombstones next to each other...and then it ends with the words "welcome to the playground"

All but the night setting and the tombstones are not scary, and even those with out the rest is also not scary. It's the fact that it is a relatively mundane experience that the reader is perfectly comfortable with in most conditions tied with the calling to the attention of the reader things that are there that don't seem to be in the minds eye that creates the atmosphere of believing that there is something there and expecting a specific thing to happen the situation and then have it not. To scare people you don't need to show them that surrounding them is a horde oz zombie children about to eat them. You don't need to even describe that they are children, or zombies, or their numbers.

Basically I guess what I'm saying is that there is a certain way to construct this...

#1. Grab the person's attention with the setting of out of placedness, but doesn't scare them off. They don't fear continuing but they are cautious.
#2. Create a moment where the person has the thought of "I better get out of here" pass through their mind
#3. Before that thought fully leaves there mind, the sooner the better put a moment in where the person realizes that their situation has gone from "I shouldn't be here" to "How do I survive this..."

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Creepy atmosphere, lore (e.g occult lore, voodoo), little or no actual "fighting" with "monsters." I think once you start having to kill stuff with shotguns and such, it's no longer a horror game.

So first, you need to be clear what you are making. Doom isnt a horror game just because there's demons, blood, pentagrams and such all over the place.

Good horror usually involves a mystery, puzzles, and surviving using your wits and not firepower. In the middle ages warriors would be afraid of ghosts and such because in the back of their minds they're thinking "How can you kill such a thing? They're already dead! They have supernatural abilities."

Unlike Hexen, Heretic or Doom, another defining feature of horror is there is some kind of revelation at the end when the mystery is solved and the truth is more horrible than they could have imagined... maybe they discover they are already dead, maybe they discover instead of reaching safety they fell right into the elaborate trap of the poltergeists and have now set them free, or who knows.

If you think you're going to make a good horror game by following some forumla of x amount of blood stains, y amount of jump out scares, z amount of whispers... it's probably gonna result in suckage.

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A subtle atmosphere with intense creepiness. The Shining is an example of this. It didn't need death, demons, monsters, and gore. It just needed one man with a quirky gaze and evil smile.

Creepiness in this sense is unexpected weirdness. Let's say you're investigating a murder, asking a clerk questions in a hotel. As you finish, you turn around, where the camera suddenly zooms in on some tall dude's face as he stands near the entrance, staring you down with huge round widened eyes and sweat beading off of his forehead. After a moment of silence, he simply turns and walks away. What the hell was that? Was that guy a suspect? It doesn't really matter, it was weird and creepy.

The more violence and chaos you have in your game, the harder it will be to pull this off. The weirdness needs some contrast with an otherwise decent situation. If everything is going crazy, then crazy becomes normal.

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I hate to say it, but I've never really been scared of any game out there.

One game, that I've used for examples in another thread, which I like a lot of the ideas of, but has never really been duplicated or bettered in any other game since, is Eternal Darkness, where it just messes with your mind.

Things that aren't really scary, but lend an otherworldly creepiness to the atmosphere, like the eyes on paintings following you around the room, or maybe if your game is in first person perspective, you could have a room with a big mirror, where when you turn by it you see something behind you and when you turn to look there's nothing there, or maybe you'll see shadows moving behind you instead. The more you wonder what's going on, the more messed up you get and the bigger the payoff will be when you finally get around to scaring the player.

Things I don't feel are scary are monsters of any kind (not to say they shouldn't be there, just that they aren't scary), or the fear of dying (it's a video game, not real life, I'm not scared of dying in it). In fact in my opinion (which probably isn't shared by too many people), challenge in a horror game has no impact on its effect on me (provided the atmosphere and/or story is effective), and that the controls are responsive (but responsive controls should be a given for any game).

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Lack of character and/or camera control?

I remember when I was younger and I played the very first Tomb Raider (I was really into it because of all the cool jumps and moves you could do, a first in any game in contrast to the other Doom-like FPS games with less movement freedom), I was pretty freaked out by the enemies in the game. But especially that bear in a pit of the 1st level. You had to jump over the pit, and the bear was below. You couldn't get a good view of the bear because of the lack of camera control. Falling into the pit meant immediate danger, and the lack of immediate, full control over the character (I guess I wasn't very skilled at the time, but it still takes time to turn around and stuff) made it even more scary.

Even when a few wolves would run in and attack from multiple directions, it was scary because you couldn't really run away from them (since they're faster, and you couldn't really dodge them that easily) as much as I wanted to.

Anyway, I guess my age at the time had the biggest contribution, but I still think that lack of control over the camera or your character can add to how much a game can scare you. That's why, IMO, a FPS-view will always be less scary than a 3rd-person-view with awkward camera angles (not allowing you to immediately see all of your surroundings, etc.).

I don't get as easily scared now, but I guess the mood/setting/environment/atmosphere/past experiences/knowledge are the most important. As well as the feeling that you're actually there, inside your characters shoes so to say, and you have something to lose (your HP?). If you turn on god mode and enable walking through walls (i.e. make it easy to get away), I doubt any game can remain as scary.

I think a few levels/sections of Half-Life 2 (and the 2 episodes) are a good example. There were a few times in the 'We don't go to Raven anymore' level that gave me a scare (those fast things suddenly attacking), sometimes even making me fall off a roof, heh.

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I think the player's real world atmosphere is the biggest factor. People who play games with their kids running around, their dog chewing on their shoe strings, or other similar distractions are not going to get the same horrific experience as a hardcore gamer who turns the lights off and puts on headphones with the volume cranked.

Unfortunately, we can't do anything to counter that in our games.

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Subtlety and variety, the biggest problem I have with horror games is the over uses of thing like jump outs and flickery lighting thats scary for about 10 minutes and then becomes just annoying.

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Hi there, interesting thread. Being a big fan of horror myself i agree with previous posters. Today's idea of horror is making you jump in a movie theater... Which isn't horror, it's not scary, it's just plain stupid.

You need to make the player feel immersed, make them feel like there is consequences and solutions. In my opinion the main reason people don't find games scary is because they know that they can just run about, shoot a gun, and if they die they can just reload the game.

You need to think past this, in the case of a horror first person shooter; try to forget having lots of music, have more ambient sounds, slow the walking speed, add footsteps etc. Sound is an excellent scare tactic, the majority of paranoia at night comes from not being able see very well which forces you to focus more on what you can hear and smell.

Some people will probably laugh at me for this, but back in the old days i used to play the original Alone in The Dark game for PC on DOS.

Now that game knew exactly what it was doing, it was scary. The opening scenes in it are perfect! The camera pans to an image of 'something' peering out of a window in an old house, you don't see what is watching but you know that something is watching. This immediately forces the player to think what it could be, why it is there etc.

The game then cuts into the first part where you start in a creepy cabin-like room not knowing exactly what to do so naturally you walk around and investigate, after you walk past the window you hear some old midi styled music, but it's creepy and makes you think something bad will happen. You then hear the sounds of a raging wolf, and before you know it you have a werewolf trying to smash into the window; after you slide a cupboard in front of the window to block it you think you're safe, but you're not, a ghoul comes up from the basement through a trap door and unless you move fast and push a big heavy chest over it you'll have your brains eaten.

I'm sure a lot of people have played this game, my family members used to be scared really bad from it, and it's one of them games i used to enjoy back in the DOS era.

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