• Announcements

    • khawk

      Download the Game Design and Indie Game Marketing Freebook   07/19/17

      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
jbadams

Communicating "scariness" without openly showing the enemy

23 posts in this topic

In a survival horror game, how can we ensure the player fears their enemy without openly showing them how scary it is.

 

I'm thinking of a game where the player is pursued by a horrible monster; it's smart, deadly, and completely impossible for the player to defeat -- the only option is to escape.  I'd like to harness the player's imagination to ensure the player is genuinely scared of the pursuing monster, so actually showing the monster is out -- once it's been seen the mystery is gone and the player knows what they're really facing.

 

 

Killing off the player quickly if they're caught is a simple measure to prevent a good view of the monster if they get caught, but given that what techniques are available to show that it's getting close and keep the player on their toes?

 

 

So far I know I can use audio cues, and I know I can make use of shadows -- especially if they're exaggerated and suggest varying features.  Obviously the game's mechanics will also play a role, keeping the player under pressure, designing the environment to confuse, etc., but I'm trying to think of other ways to strengthen the suggestion.

 

 

Any other ideas or suggestions? 

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Audio, music and shadows were going to be my main suggestion, but you already mention them...

Have a second badass looking monster, that gets to see your monster, and is absolutely terrified of it?

Camera shakes associated with the monsters footsteps? Maybe dust shaken from the roof too.

Have lots of physics objects (barrels, crates) in the corridors you run through, that get smashed into by the unseen monster so that they fly in front of you?

Dolly zoom as the monster gets closer?

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You can make the monster 'notice' when it's being directly looked at, like a supernatural power, so that the player wants to know where the monster is but has to avoid looking at it.
For the player to know where the monster is located, there would need to be some form of display or information. This could be a radar that shows a 'blip', or maybe some sort of power that lets the player see through the walls a smudge or a coloured region of where the monster is.

Speaking more in theory, there's also a difference in the fear caused by the knowledge that we have of the monster.
In some games we know what the monster is like and we know where it is.
In some games we don't know what the monster is like and we don't know where it is.
Both these situations can cause fear, but may evoke a different set of reactions from the player. In either case, you can contribute a lot to the fear by making sure that you have a proper atmosphere (visuals, audio, general presentation etc.).

Even if the player does see the monster, this does not mean that the atmosphere is ruined. For instance, you can arrange the lighting to never reveal much of the monster, or you can design the monster in such a way that it slouches and has an indiscernible form, or it has a dark colouring.

I'm not sure if this helps, but there's a "Developer Session" from EGX Rezzed 2014 on fear and horror in games:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFOPIMyLtMM&index=7&list=PLTZXfIDHhP2uQ9t_52Q59RhbvlUhqfDdG
2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about showing the things that this monster has destroyed? Other humans, who, the player's character knew before, just massacred, torn apart, and scattered around, might help the horrifying setting, especially if the dead ones were stronger than the player.

 


but given that what techniques are available to show that it's getting close and keep the player on their toes?

 

Things such as only showing only limited view of the monster might help. You see a massive claw reaching out from the corner of the room for you but you can't see the whole monster? That would be scary if done right. You hear the monster walking around, stops, starts sniffing the air, and then you hear the monster suddenly start running towards you. You're at a dead end and you hear someone or something cry right next door and you have nowhere to run except towards the screaming.

 

That's all I can think of for now.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could make the game music-less and use the screams or sounds of gunshots to cue the distance.

 

I don't know what the theme is. If it has to do with ghosts or the super nature you could have the environment starts to bleed, mirrors start to shatter, or have words or zombies start to emerge from walls.

 

If it is a huge monster then maybe the ground would shake.

 

If it is a fast monster maybe it would shoot darts and the player would see the near-miss.

 

In some arcade game where the player is supposed to dodge bullets, the game shows the location where a bullet would hit so that the player could dodge it before it hits. That kind of gameplay dictates where the player needs to be to be safe. It keeps the player moving. You could implement something that shows the trajectory of the monster's attack. Maybe a flash of light passing through the player's torso. If the player does not dodge somehow, the player gets sliced in half.

Edited by Wai
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


How about showing the things that this monster has destroyed? Other humans, who, the player's character knew before, just massacred, torn apart, and scattered around, might help the horrifying setting, especially if the dead ones were stronger than the player.

 

This is my thought as well. Don't show the monster, but show what the monster has done (proving that it is, in fact, a monster in the process).

 

If you can have something/someone the character's valued be destroyed in the process (iconic example: Aeris), so much the better.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic, plenty of good ideas there, thanks for all the input so far -- any additional thoughts are still more than welcome! smile.png

 


Have a second badass looking monster, that gets to see your monster, and is absolutely terrified of it?

I don't really want to involve multiple monsters, but I'd completely forgotten the (quite obvious in retrospect) idea of having other characters interact with it; I don't want other monsters, but I can use other victims!

 


Maybe dust shaken from the roof too.
Have lots of physics objects (barrels, crates) in the corridors you run through, that get smashed into by the unseen monster so that they fly in front of you?

I guess these can be broadly categorised into "environmental effects" of the monster, again a good way to show what the monster can do without necessarily having to actually show it.

 


Camera shakes associated with the monsters footsteps?
Dolly zoom as the monster gets closer?

Interesting, I was thinking about a "blacking out" effect as the monster actually attacks to help maintain the mystery if the player dies, but I hadn't thought about other camera effects at all.  Definitely great ideas for a movie, but might they break suspense in a game where you're supposed to be the character rather than watching a camera?

 

 


Speaking more in theory, there's also a difference in the fear caused by the knowledge that we have of the monster.
In some games we know what the monster is like and we know where it is.
In some games we don't know what the monster is like and we don't know where it is.

Absolutely!  I'm thinking more of the second situation.  It will become abundantly clear to the player that encounters with the monster are deadly and that it cannot be defeated, but I want to keep the specifics of the monster a secret so the details are left to the player's imagination, and I'd like to keep them on edge having to second guess every turn of a corner or entry into a room not knowing if the monster might be there.

 


Even if the player does see the monster, this does not mean that the atmosphere is ruined. For instance, you can arrange the lighting to never reveal much of the monster, or you can design the monster in such a way that it slouches and has an indiscernible form, or it has a dark colouring.

Excellent ideas.  I've realised I can look to some older classic horror films for inspiration, as they often kept their monsters mostly hidden because they didn't have the realistic effects needed to make something they could show.

 


I'm not sure if this helps, but there's a "Developer Session" from EGX Rezzed 2014 on fear and horror in games:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFOPIMyLtMM&index=7&list=PLTZXfIDHhP2uQ9t_52Q59RhbvlUhqfDdG

I haven't watched it yet, but thanks so much for sharing this -- I'll let you know if I find it useful! smile.png

 

 

...and I've got to run for an hour or so, but I'll reply to the remaining posts shortly!  Thanks again! cool.png

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


How about showing the things that this monster has destroyed? Other humans, who, the player's character knew before, just massacred, torn apart, and scattered around, might help the horrifying setting, especially if the dead ones were stronger than the player.

Yep, seems like a good idea -- I don't have to stick to characters either, the same trick would work with props and parts of the environment the player is in.

 


Things such as only showing only limited view of the monster might help.

I like this idea, and as mentioned above it's one that was commonly used in older horror movies.  Along with the use of shadows, fog, etc. I can show some of the monster without having to reveal all of the details.

 


If it has to do with ghosts or the super nature you could have the environment starts to bleed, mirrors start to shatter, or have words or zombies start to emerge from walls.

Zombies wouldn't fit, but the rest are good ideas.  Reflections in broken mirrors might also be another way to give a scary view of the monster without having to reveal all of the details.

 


I don't know what the theme is.

I'm not sure on this myself yet.

 

 

Thanks again for all on the input! smile.png

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Another excuse for adding occluding effects and the like is that you're not controlling a human in the game, but rather a drone or a surveillance machine that has a video camera. You haven't entered the environment where the monster is located: you sent in a machine to verify.

The game would be over when the monster catches the drone and destroys it - at this moment you can play some footage that you prepared of flashes and video-freeze effects that only show select parts of the monster, like its sharp teeth, very close to the lens of the camera.

Something like the exploring of the Titanic comes to mind:
[media]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq5aT-Xz-7I[/media] Edited by Kryzon
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At heart all those things you've mentioned are tools, they miss what is actually going on. The survival horror game is all about being stalked, lead into a trap, and eventually being killed or tortured in some gruesome way. You have to play on the psyche of the player and make them feel watched, make them feel like they have less options, and give them ideas of what may happen to them if they're caught. You can also add in the progressively getting weaker aspect in there as well. Depending on your story you can make it so at the beginning you are your strongest or if as you progress and get more gear it is shown that even though that gear is "more powerful" it has equal or less power than previous gear.

 

As far as things you might be able to do is have things approach from behind the player, but then when they turn, nothing is there.

You can have it so that cameras appear to follow you when they are at the corner of the screen, but whenever you turn towards them they don't move any more and if you examine them it seems they are not functional.

You can have it so that when you go back over an area which is supposedly devoid of anyone it has changed or there is a victim or you can no longer go back that way

You can make it so that starting off you can go in several directions, but as you progress some of these areas get cut off.

You can have journal entries

You can show the victims in multiple ways

You can have messages to the player

 

I can name ton more, but really how and when you use something should be based on the monster and what they are ultimately doing and going to do to the player so really it just sorta takes getting into the mind of the monster and the player character and seeing how each would act and tweaking your idea till you get what you want.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Foreshadowing If the scenario where the stalking begins is not from the beginning of the game, use the PC's hero or character with god like insight or a team of more trained and more equipped characters telling the PC there's no hope.

2. Telepathic link or visions - overlay the monsters actions to the PC's screen in realtime on occasion - you never see the monster but you see it on a rampage or becoming aware of the PC's presence and evolve the stalking over time.

3. If your graphics team can do it dynamic and animated tonemapping/contrast/exposure/brightness for the monster.  In this way the monster can be in the PC's FOV and the PC sort of know it or think they know its there. Exactly how to incorporate into game depends on map lighting conditions - is the visual of the monster something akin to the predator in the movie or does this partial visibility only happen in the dark i.e. shadows, nighttime, or large dark areas.

4. Loss of control - if the PC's personality is from a certain set you could justify a loss of control (can't run as fast...) or change in control system such that the only real option for the player would be to run because an inability to defend one's self easily.

5. If the monster eats it's victims loud "eating" type sounds might be nice.

 

Thats all that I could think of off the top of my head.

 

edit - 4. Loss of control - if the PC's personality is from a certain set you could justify a loss of control (can't run as fast...) or change in control system such that the only real option for the player would be to run/hide because an inability to defend one's self easily.

 

3. If your graphics team can do it dynamic and animated tonemapping/contrast/exposure/brightness for the monster.  In this way the monster can be in the Players FOV and the Player sort of knows it or think they know its there. Exactly how to incorporate into game depends on map lighting conditions - is the visual of the monster something akin to the predator in the movie or does this partial visibility only happen in the dark i.e. shadows, nighttime, or large dark areas.

Edited by Infinisearch
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


At heart all those things you've mentioned are tools

Exactly what I'm looking for at the moment!  I'm trying to discover all of the tools available to me so I can properly craft an experience.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


3. If your graphics team can do it dynamic and animated tonemapping/contrast/exposure/brightness for the monster.  In this way the monster can be in the PC's FOV and the PC sort of know it or think they know its there. Exactly how to incorporate into game depends on map lighting conditions - is the visual of the monster something akin to the predator in the movie or does this partial visibility only happen in the dark i.e. shadows, nighttime, or large dark areas.

 

Oh and if this is to direct you can also add visual indirection by adding silhouette changing geometry (ala goku in super saiyan mode in DBZ).

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alfred Hitchcock was a pro at creating suspense without showing anything. He used camera angles and sound, as well as appropriate lighting to do it.

I'm sure there might be some Hitchcock tips on the internet somewhere.

Edit: found a link

http://www.borgus.com/hitch/index.htm

Watch this video series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg6velhQxGs

Edited by Tutorial Doctor
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does not look like anyone has mentioned this yet. For me, the key to being scared is being invested in the character. Proper character development and back story plays a key roll in whether I care enough about a character to be scared if anything should or could happen to them.

 

Also, does your game have other NPC's in it? If so, and you can communicate with them, they can easily create tension for the main character with their actions and behaviours. If everyone else is on edge, you will be to.

 

Hope that helps!

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • True bravery required, e.g. you must compromise your safety to achieve things.
That one is interesting, and you can expand it to something even more terrifying: having safe zones in the game, areas where it's guaranteed that the monster/evil is not able to enter.
Then just before leaving a safe zone to continue on to the dangerous parts a certain fear out of anticipation will strike, especially if the safe zone is a very small, open place - like you can watch the dangerous area from a few feet away and know that you're safe.
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


That one is interesting, and you can expand it to something even more terrifying: having safe zones in the game, areas where it's guaranteed that the monster/evil is not able to enter.
Then just before leaving a safe zone to continue on to the dangerous parts a certain fear out of anticipation will strike, especially if the safe zone is a very small place without doors - like you can watch the dangerous area from a few feet away and know that you're safe.

 

A simple example of what I was thinking of is a safe room that has a door with a squeaky hinge and a squeaky bolt. Opening and closing the door can attract attention. You can open/close it slowly and carefully, but you're out in the open longer. Or you can do it quickly and potentially attract a lot of attention. If you go the quick route and attract too much attention, they could bust down the door before you can finish locking it, and you're trapped in a tiny room. If you go too slowly, you could be crept up on by something while your camera can only see the door.

 

I do like the idea of a guaranteed safe zone, but mainly so you can occasionally subvert it. Nothing like being attacked in your guaranteed safe place to give a scare. ;)

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well I think making it the experience novel would give the sense of unpredictability and unknown. So for example, I'm not sure any games have made it where the monster is dangerously close to the character for long stretches of time, just teasing the character. For example, if it was 3rd person, you could make it so you could see part of the back of the monsters head as it stalked directly behind the character while the character ties to run away at full speed. If first person, you could make it so the monsters tentacle(if it has) or whatever, caresses the weapon you are holding from behind the character but if you turn to face it you'll die. If you want other ideas for scary monsters maybe watch the Bezerk anime movies, especially the third one. Pretty original which might inspire more originality. Also it might help to research different phobias people have and try and use them, like very narrow hallways, hieghts, clusters, audio hallucinations ect.
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

one of the scariest things I can imagine is being lulled into a false sense of security. the second you drop your guard you're dead, yet you cant help but think you're safe.

 

Accentuating on seongjun's comment of showing previously afflicted victims, perhaps you could use that as an opening. Employing what I'm saying as well, you start off in a neutral-friendly environment. This continues on for a short span until you happen upon the other victims etc. in some form or another. then you just have to stimulate the concept of a monster through visual and audio queues, their imagination will do the rest.

 

Which is another thing, never reveal the monster. A persons imagination will always be far more horrible then the reality. Playing on this strength, or weakness, of humans is a great way to instill fear without revealing identity.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also worth mentioning is that dying is not scary, but being afraid of dying is. Always try to keep the player on his toes but make sure there are no places where he has to actually repeatedly die to learn something. Dying takes away the fear of dying and also the mystery about the monster. Also, leads to repetition which is boring.

 

You'll probably need a certain rule set for the game that you convey the player. "It can't come here because it's well-lit area". "It can't jump so you're safe up here". Then, later in the game, take away that "safe spot" mechanic. "It ran into the fuse box outside the door and the lights went out". "It climbed on the boxes and broke the railing". "It shook the columns and the catwalk broke." "It went through the ventilation duct and now lunges at you from ceiling". Tell the player "that might have worked before but it doesn't mean it's going to work every time" but be rational about it of course. Make the player to be in lookout for places where it might ambush them.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If the monster is supernatural, you could do something to change the environment depending on how close the monster is. Think Harry Potter's dementors: a local area of effect freeze of the environment. It would be cool if you could use vertex shaders to cause plants to shrivel up and die.
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That would be another thing you could do: cause the environment to rot and decay in the area of the monster. Plants shrivel and die, wood rots, paint peels away, metal rusts, etc.
1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Along the way the player could run into some of the monsters "work" if you know what I mean. Mutilated corpses and things of that nature. Also you could make it that the closer the moster gets the faster the players heart will beat. When the heart starts to beat really fast you know you're screwed.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0