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tronado711

What would you say is required for a good survival horror game?

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Recently, I've been playing and working on a lot of survival horror games, mainly Resident Evil. It's not easy to pull off a survival horror game. It's much easier to scare a player by giving them an enemy they can't fight, but giving them an enemy they can fight along with a weapon requires a bit of extra work to keep that horror feel. This got me thinking, what would you guys say are some key aspects to an excellent survival horror game?

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A requirement for a good survival horror game? 

 

I think a good spot to start if you want an actual scary horror thing going on would be a taser strapped somewhere sensitive on the devs that goes off anytime a player hits something resembling a jump scare. 

 

Will make for a strong encouragement to keep quality levels high in the game. 

 

Please remember that jump scares are NOT scary, they are startling. 

 

 

A sense of dread, helplessness and the unknown are key, but balanced with some manner of hope. 

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An emphasis on resource scarcity and player helplessness in the face of threats. Resident Evil used to be famous for bullet starvation such that the player would hoard ammo almost to a fault - it made for wonderfully panicked moments as you wondered whether or not it was worth it to gun down those zombie dogs or if something worse might be around the next corner. 

 

I should clarify what I mean by player helplessness, as you've already touched on it: not that the player has no recourse against threats, but that their recourse is often escape rather than combat. Combat makes a player feel powerful, and if you're going for horror you want them to feel vulnerable in general and powerful only in punctuated, fleeting moments.

 

And finally: mystery. There is no fear like the fear of the unknown. Good sound and lighting design is practically a must-have for any kind of scary game. Human beings rely on our vision to a fault, and things picked up by our other senses (or out of the corner of our eye, or in the shadows, etc) will tend to feel spookier until we can get a clear look at it.

 

 

A requirement for a good survival horror game? 

 

I think a good spot to start if you want an actual scary horror thing going on would be a taser strapped somewhere sensitive on the devs that goes off anytime a player hits something resembling a jump scare. 

 

Will make for a strong encouragement to keep quality levels high in the game. 

 

Please remember that jump scares are NOT scary, they are startling. 

 

 

A sense of dread, helplessness and the unknown are key, but balanced with some manner of hope. 

 

Both excellent points! And yes, good level design and lighting is an absolute must!

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While allowing for the point Luckless made about jump scares being startling, not scary, I do think they can have their place even in hardcore horror games if used sparingly. Nothing like that kick of adrenaline when the monster drops on ya out of nowhere. Be careful where you put them (it might not be wise OR effective to puncture a carefully-crafted suspenseful atmosphere with a jump scare, for instance) but don't disregard them.

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While allowing for the point Luckless made about jump scares being startling, not scary, I do think they can have their place even in hardcore horror games if used sparingly. Nothing like that kick of adrenaline when the monster drops on ya out of nowhere. Be careful where you put them (it might not be wise OR effective to puncture a carefully-crafted suspenseful atmosphere with a jump scare, for instance) but don't disregard them.

Resident evil 1 had a good example of jumpscares. I remember in one part, I was one of the dorm rooms in the mansion, I read one of the collectible articles about one of the scientists and his slow progression into becoming a zombie. Then after reading it, his body burst from the closet as a zombie! Now that was a well done jump scare!

Edited by tronado711

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Actual horror would be nice, the Stephen King books are a good example of basic popular culture horror with a deeper fear underlining.

 

The best kind of horror games for me are the ones where you are unknowingly experimented on, the idea of being a unwilling and unknowing test subject is both horrifying and even possible. It's just to bad that it is a very difficult theme to work with.

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I think it is best to study the current market leaders.

Find what players really love about them and what they hate.

See how these things fit within your games design.

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non hard-coded spawn points.

 

if, like your typical shooter, nothing happens until the player triggers the next spawn point, then there is no real danger in just standing around, only when you move further into the level. Thus there is not real threat, and thus no real fear.

 

If a badguy can spawn anytime anywhere, then nowhere in the game world is safe, and you always have that threat hanging over you. then things like low health or low ammo start to make you nervous - all the time - no matter where you are.

 

While working on Caveman 3.0, i've discovered the scariest thing is you know something is out there, but you don't know what - perhaps until its too late.  Emergent jump scare AI here works great - tension, startle, frantic combat or escape. 

 

A high difficulty is necessary, so threats are real, not a joke. probably less than 50% of combats should be winnable.

 

the best way to evoke fear is place a weak PC in a tough game world.  Never kill them in one blow, but have no qualms about killing them in 3 or 4.

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