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Games Entertainment

Making a Horror Game Scary 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the zombies-and-darkness dept.
GameSetWatch has put up an article about the characteristics that give games in the survival-horror genre the ability to unnerve, startle, and scare players in ways that most games don't. The genre has seen a resurgence lately, with titles like Dead Space, F.E.A.R. 2, and Left 4 Dead posting strong sales numbers. What triggers your fight-or-flight impulses in games like these? From the article: "Being visual creatures, humans are most comforted by sight because of our ability to discern objects, action and consequences based on a picture. As a result, cutting visual stimuli and sticking purely to audio or speech is one of the best ways to keep a player on their toes. Even with weapons, it's very hard to find what you cannot see, and what you do not know. Even if visual stimuli is used, limiting or obfuscating the player's view can enhance the horror in a game, especially if the player sees it for an incredible short time. This can hint both at the difficulty of an upcoming encounter, or even allude to matters earlier in the narrative that the player will soon have to face."
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Making a Horror Game Scary

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  • Don't make them shoot'em ups.

    It's amazing how many companies don't follow that advice.

    • by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @04:54AM (#27028347)

      Don't call FPSes shoot'em ups, it's amazing how many people don't know what a shmup is these days. I've seen a thread about "best shmup" where half the responses were "Halo".

      • by Chyeld (713439)

        While you have a point in terms of 'accepted terminology' the OP has a point regarding the actual question. Many FPS games are setup under the "if it moves, kill it" philosophy of game design. This doesn't work well when what "moves" is suppose to scare you. If you have the power to kill it, eventually regardless of all the other work put into making it scary, it becomes boring.

        How many people got bored of Doom3 once it became apparent how predicable the monster 'hiding' locations were, regardless of whethe

        • It can be done well. In HL2 you can kill anything that's a danger to you, but some parts of it are still seriously creepy. Like Ravenholm, for instance.

          The scary aspect doesn't come just from the danger. It's the whole setting, the headcrabs, the zombies and sounds they make, the screams when they burn... Also the scarcity of ammunition and large amount of enemies makes it difficult if not impossible to kill them all by simply shooting them.

          • Also the scarcity of ammunition and large amount of enemies makes it difficult if not impossible to kill them all by simply shooting them.

            I am sure some of you can kill everything in Ravenholm with the crowbar, I can not. :)

            This nails Ravenholm. Even though I have replayed that level several times, it still creeps me out becuase I am always making a decision about when to fight and when to run--and then what am I running into? I know what is coming, but I have to be ready. The constant decision makin
          • I don't know, the ready availability of things like saw blades made it possible to kill all of them.

            But it's true -- it was in the setting, and the sounds, and the Fast Zombie screech. The environment was also, in many ways, set up to feel claustrophobic -- even moreso than crawling around vents in the original Half-Life. Some of this was the actual, physical environment -- having to sit in a corner and wait for the zombies to walk into your trap.

            And some of it was the fact that even when you had a moderate

            • I usually had a ton of ammo, cause I would always save ammo "just in case" so I'd never end up using the fun guns all that much....

              Also, in some areas the zombies just kept coming, so you could keep killing them, but you could never "get them all"

              • I would always save ammo "just in case" so I'd never end up using the fun guns all that much....

                I had to make a point to -- pace myself, and then say "Ok, it's time for something to explode!" and toss a grenade. The situation didn't really call for it, but I'd know there would be another dozen grenades I wouldn't need somewhere...

            • by Chabo (880571)

              the Fast Zombie screech

              Personally, I found/find the Poison Zombie to be one of the most frightening monsters ever to ship with a game.

              It makes those low grunting sounds, the long howling moan, and it throws Poison Headcrabs, the second most frightening monsters ever to ship with a game, a huge distance.

              Poison Zombies send me into panic mode, and I almost always send an SMG-grenade to them immediately if I have one, and any other explosive if I don't.

              All this for a monster that cannot actually kill you.

              • I found the poison zombies and headcrabs to be more something that kept me on edge, gave me a shot of adrenaline... Scary, yes, but I could always dodge the headcrabs, whether thrown or not. I hear them screech, I move, they fly past me -- I can do that all day.

                Consider the first encounter -- that screech is like nothing you've heard so far, in a game full of weird sounds. You see them coming over the rooftops, then you see the pipes start moving... Finally they pop out and you have less than a second to fi

      • *cough* Maybe he meant this game [wikipedia.org]?
    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Actually, I think the horde in Left4Dead is a large part of the success of its formula... it's the first fps I've seen with a good crunchy shoot-'em-up factor, at least one that relative noobs can engage in.

      As for me, I've never been into any kind of horror game prior to Left4Dead. (Ostensibly, I'm still not, since more often than not I find myself pretending that the horde are just normal folk -- there's something about shooting into the crowd that satiates the anti-social tendencies in me.)

    • by pragma_x (644215)

      Fatal Frame followed that advice exceptionally well. Your "weapon" in that game is a camera that eats souls. So not only are you continually faced with the doubt that the silly thing will actually do the job, but you have to get really close and take photographs of malign spirits over and over again. It's very effective at creating fear in the player, beyond what the environment can do.

  • Gameplay mechanics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @04:51AM (#27028339)

    Low tolerance for failure (taking a lot of damage or even dying when messing up), uncertainity where enemies are (whether a facehugger jumping out of a corner or a ghost that can teleport around you) and generally a feeling of "ohshitohshitohshit" when an enemy engages you. FEAR wasn't scary, you've got a gun and you shoot people with it, neither was Doom 3 (though FEAR was more of a tactical shooter while Doom 3 was just "eat lead, motherfucker!"). The situation must be life or death, not life or slightly less life. You simply can't have a horror game when your main character is a supersoldier with bullettime, massive firepower and lots of health who murders an entire platoon before breakfast.

    • by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @04:58AM (#27028359)

      Oh and something I forgot to mention: That must apply to ACTUAL enemies, not scripted events or something. Only an actual enemy with dynamic behaviour is scary, a prescripted attack is pretty much an exercise in memorization and "foreboding" sounds in the distance aren't scary because you know they aren't associated with enemies, just part of the level script. Hearing something scream means the level designer told the level to scream, not that there's an enemy hiding nearby that just randomly decided to scream. The dead world is not scary (mostly because it doesn't behave erratrically and often doesn't even attack you), the living part is.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You obviously have not played Thief 3. There you learn that the scariest enemy is the one you make up in your mind. And you don't even expect some surprising attack out of a closet that instantly kills you. When you enter THAT level you just fear what kind of enemy the game designers could possibly have made up for THIS, given the enemies they already introduced to you in much more peaceful levels.

        • I remember playing Theif (the first one). Around halfway through the game, after completing a half dozen "maps", I found myself in a secret basement under a church. Dark, abandoned... and of course by this time, the "theif" persona of the main character had been driven into me. Nobody knows you exist or to look for you if you go missing. Combat is not the theif's forte, with a 50/50 chance of making it out alive.

          So here I am, in a secret unused basement corridor underneath an old church, at night, a
      • by Shin-LaC (1333529)
        Furthermore, books and films are not scary because everything that happens was put there by an author or director. Besides, fiction is not reality: whatever horrible things might happen to the character, the book, movie or game is not going to actually kill or harm you.

        I recommend looking up "willing suspension of disbelief".
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        People will always become used to what ever visual clues you apply. Random sudden deaths just become annoying not scary and boss monster where you have to go through some stupid repetitive rigmarole to kill them is lame.

        Scary is all about hardware not software. Hardware that creates a fully immersive environment, the controls everything you see, hear and for the ultimate shock factor feel. Really want scare people, then provide a usb electro shock adapter which you attach to various portions of your anat

      • by Yeef (978352)

        "foreboding" sounds in the distance aren't scary because you know they aren't associated with enemies, just part of the level script.

        I have to disagree with you on that one. Rarely, when it comes to any form of art, can you deal in absolutes. I'd say stage and audio design play a huge role in the scare factor of horror games. The prison section of Silent Hill 2 was one of the creepiest things I've ever played in a game, not because of the normal enemies, but because of the way the area is designed. In some of the cells there appears to be movement, but because the game uses cinematic camera angles you can't really make out exactly what

        • by Mozk (844858)

          Rarely, when it comes to any form of art, can you deal in absolutes.

          I have to agree with you on that one. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

      • by Osric250 (1388823)
        That is just plainly not true. I still remember my first time playing through Silent Hill. I was in the last 'dungeon' per say (Don't know what else to call it) and was trying to figure out how to do the puzzle to advance. Well I didn't want to waste all of my ammunition in just killing everything so there would be rooms I left the zombies in because I knew I could avoid them. I'd just gone through one such room and ducked into a 'safe' room that I'd cleared out already and had used a dozen or so times befo
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Doom3 did a pretty good job of achieving a lot of terrific affects that lead to various responses from the player. It affects my sons a LOT more than it affected me, but that is to be expected -- younger people are more vulnerable to fear inducing stimulation such as things popping up, sudden lighting changes. And I have to disagree with the "Doom 3 was just 'eat lead...'" comment since running out of ammo happened often enough that one definitely had to be careful which weapon to use and when to use it..

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by drik00 (526104)

        I'm totally being a dick here, but I have to reply to a guy named Erroneus about the difference between "effect" and "affect." Sorry man, dictionary.com is your friend.

        J

      • I have a really big problem with low ammo games: I never end up using the high-end weapons until I'm at the very last fight scene; I'm usually walking through the majority of the game with a pistol, or whatever the worst weapon happens to be.

        How does this contribute to the fun or value in games? I can see it fitting a title like Resident Evil quite well though, it's normal to not have to fire off your grenade launcher at an average zombie.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Well, if you had unlimited ammo of the most awesome weapon, then the game loses its challenge pretty quickly. You could just BFG the level and move on... look, a rabid rodent! BFG!!!! Now it's rabid rodent paste. It's good when they do interesting things with interesting weapons. And I also tend to hoard my best gear saving it for last. I have just come to accept that as normal gaming behavior.

        • by Osric250 (1388823)
          Which is why many people follow the way I do is horde ammo until you find more that you cannot hold, then it's time to have a little fun with that gun and kill the next few enemies with it. Once that is finished you double back and pick up the ammo left behind. No loss to your ammunition supplies and you get to have fun with your guns all the same.
      • Oddly, the things you list (things popping up, lighting changes and similar) are the exact antithesis of what I would like to see in a "horror" game.

        Big loud noises and beasts jumping out of walls can make you jump, sure - but that's really the lowest level of horror, surely games could aim a bit higher?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by erroneus (253617)

          Care to elaborate?

          Surely, these are the most elementary aspects of "scary" but really, I am unsure it should go much further than that. Another aspect of Doom3 that was pretty awesome was the flying attack babies! Those cute little pupae could swarm on you and disturbingly make quite a meal of you if you are not good with a shotgun and have a place to run away to. But "fear" comes from the desire to avoid unpleasantness or otherwise shocking, jarring stimuli. I'll agree that it is very elementary, but w

          • I think you hit on the key point here in your post:

            "fear" comes from the desire to avoid unpleasantness or otherwise shocking, jarring stimuli.

            The easy, day 1 of horror school approach is the jarring stimuli you mention, which are typically hard-wired into our fight-or-flight reaction. But consider the series of events in Doom 3 when the lights go out and a demon bellows from a just-revealed compartment: You almost immediately resolve into the "Fight" status, pull out your shotgun, and apply liberally to the demon's face till it stops moving. After a few instances like this, there isn't really a v

            • Clock Tower for the PSX did this... You had no idea when Scissorman would show up. And if he did, you had two options: Run, or fight him. You had maybe a 1 in 4 chance of beating him in a straight-up fight. And even if you did "win", you'd just knock him over so you can run past him, and he'd be back on his feet in a few seconds. This led to an unexplainable fear of him in me. Yes, he was the silliest looking murderer ever, but what he could do to you was genuinely terrifying.

              A short guy with a pair of h
      • I agree -- Doom 3 did a lot of things that people tend to forget (including me) when discussing how it wasn't scary. After all, while a little duct tape would've helped, the flashlight/weapon trick was very well done, the sound was brilliant...

        But, it did have that problem -- it became a little too predictable, to where it was almost cliche'd where stuff would pop out of. If you creep along slowly, it's not as scary as it could be, because you're expecting stuff to pop out everywhere. If you charge in like

        • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @12:32PM (#27030387) Homepage

          A core component of fear is "what you don't see" may get you. Darkness would seem to be requisite to that end. But I am sure other methods could work as well. There was this movie where this glass house was actually some sort of hell machine driven by a bunch of captured spirits. It was scary because not only were the spirits ghoulish, but you could only see them through special goggles! That could easily be exploited in a game... not the special goggles, but the simulation of them. The movie causes one to imagine there are lots of spirits around them that simply cannot be seen... "what you don't see..."

    • I disagree, Fear 2 did scare me despite not ever feeling like I was about dead. Some of that was due to the creepy cutscenes. I'm not alone either in thinking that cutscenes or scripted events, like "ohmigod, that shadow isn't MINE!" are frightening.

      Lesson: I guess some people aren't scared by scripted events, others can be.

      • by Chyeld (713439)

        Scariest level I ever played, to this day, was the first time I played the opening level of Unreal. 100% scripted, and I don't think you even get a gun till the next level.

        Scripting done well is scary, scripting done "well you've stepped on this obvious trigger, now something happens" isn't. The key issue is ensuring the player doesn't feel like they know what's going to happen next.

    • by ebuck (585470)

      Alone in the dark, anyone?

      It pretty much had everything you mentioned. Way too easy to die, creepy atmosphere, odd camera angles, spooky music, and a story line intended to creep you out.

      Too bad that the series stalled long ago. I wonder what it could do with a modern makeover. In horror games, perhaps borrowing FPS engines went a step too far, becoming a subset of the FPS genre. Horror isn't about killing, it's about waiting to be killed.

    • by Haoie (1277294)

      Very good thoughts.

      This is what makes, say, Clock Tower [especially the first] or Hellnight, incredibly frightening.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wiki on Blood [wikipedia.org]

    I think one of the most interesting things about this game which made it scary was it's sound effects. The designers went out of their way to make the zombies in the game either nearly silent or give off just a small amount of noise. You would turn around, and there would be one. I had the shit scared out of me so many times when I was younger. It was very Michael Myers [wikipedia.org] (the horror movie, not the comedian.)

  • Making a horror game is well and good, but when you recycle the same scare tactics over and over through an entire game, it's very easy for it to devolve into a simple action game with surprise moments. Ie, Doom 3 and Left4Dead. Both good action games that I've enjoyed an unhealthy amount of, but neither are very good horror games. Play them for a few days and they quickly stop evoking any fear because it's just more of the same.

    I have not played FEAR or Dead Space -- do you think they're better horror g

    • Dead Space is not really a horror game at all. At best a couple startling parts maybe. Swarm attacks in a couple spots. It's no Silent Hill 1 or even RE1. It sorta played like RE4, I guess, with the highlight being stomping off limbs and heads of dead bodies.

      Good game, don't get me wrong, but marketing it as survival horror is imo not correct.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @05:03AM (#27028371)

    The only game that has truly given me a scare was the undress Britney Spears game.

    She starts out fully clothed, and you have to perform a task requiring a reasonable amount of concentration. I think it's something like move the mouse through a maze without touching the sides.

    After the first round, she says something to you but you can't quite hear it so you turn the volume up. She does take off an item of clothing though.

    Same again after the second round, so you turn the volume up a bit more. Or maybe this bit wasn't in there... just the first and last round

    Half way through the last round a vaguely scary face appears in place of the game coupled with a loud scream - made even louder by the fact that you now have your volume cranked right up. That made me jump.

    Another good one was a video I saw on youtube - a car is shown in the distance driving along a winding road until it goes behind a building or something and never comes out the other side. While you are trying to figure out why it hasn't appeared on the other side a scary face appears coupled with a scream.

    While playing a horror game you expect scary things to happen, so it's not a big deal when they do. Not so much when you are undressing a pop star...

    So... I guess the answer to the question is to put naked pop stars in your games.

    • I had a similar thing happen. It was a compare game, where you had to stare at the screen and look at two pictures and try to compare one pic against another and see which was different.

      I looked and looked for about 15 seconds, but couldn't find _ANY_ differences. Then a picture of that damn exorcist chick flashed up and made a helluva loud noise. That startled me pretty good. But one girl in the office saw it and literally fell out of her chair.

      I think the compare thing is pretty good, because
      • I found the car commercial to be great; It can be watched here [youtube.com], though since the clue has already been given, it prolly won't be as good anymore.
    • Well the things you describe are really just startling. Something pops out, catches you by surprise, and you jump. Overuse of that technique is pretty much the definition or poorly made horror.

      Good horror, I think, is more about what you expect to see, what you think you might have seen but can't be sure, and what you don't see at all. It builds an idea in your mind, suggests the most awful things, and then leaves you to fill in the gaps with the worst thing you can imagine. Because really, once you've

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @05:17AM (#27028433)

    This: http://zarat.us/tra/offline-games/eversion.html [zarat.us]

    Don't let the screenshot fool you. It is anything but a Mario clone. If H.P Lovecraft and Stephen King got together, and decided to make a 2d sprite-based platformer, with the intent to CREEP YOU THE FUCK OUT, it would be that. Short game, you could beat it in under an hour if you wanted, though to get the 'good' ending needs a little more work.

    Seriously. If you want an example of a game that starts cutsey, but ends on the other side of screaming horror, play that. Preferably, at night, with the lights out. Just don't let a young child play it, or you'll be dealing with a kid having nightmares.

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      I'm not sure it's really all that scary. The first time I encountered the claws was a bit of a shock but then again I played some IWBTG before then so that was really nothing (you haven't seen paranoia until you've played IWBTG). Oh and the final stages of Eversion are annoying as hell, especially the random everting where you simply had to pray that the ground under you wouldn't suddently turn into thin air (or even worse, into a pile of ground that breaks under you with no way to get out or even die, forc

    • by Fumus (1258966)
      Now that's some disturbing game. Mario on a bad trip..
    • Slashdotted or something, at least for me. Anybody got a mirror?

  • I find stealth games much more scary, like Thief, System Shock 2, even Oblivion are scary when you are sneaking around and suddenly get caught unaware.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Velocivus (1376797)

      I would agree with that. The most intense "ohshitohshitohshit" moments I've ever had in PC gaming go to Splinter Cell vs. Mode

      Being one of two unarmed* spies trying to sneak through the shadows to get by a couple of trigger itchy mercs, searching for you with flashlights. It was a combination of both the sound and the visuals, but in that 0.5 second of time from when the flashlight hit you - to when the bullets started ripping past your face... well it was just the most intense thing I've ever experienced i

      • by jamesmcm (1354379)
        I loved playing Pandora Tomorrow over XBConnect. It was a bit too easy to learn the levels off by heart as the spy and sneak through to near the objective without triggering any cameras.

        Penumbra: Overture is a pretty good horror game for having to flee. Same with Call Of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth.
      • by hidannik (1085061)

        Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth does exactly this at one point (flee and try to lock doors behind you). Never had a game induce quite that level of panic.

        Haunting Ground tries it with a hide mechanic, but after the first couple of encounters it becomes more annoying than frightening.

        Hans

  • ...was the first (and prolly the only) game to scare the shit out of me.
    And it bears our all the points made in the article.

  • Left 4 Dead is a horror game now? Jeez, I thought it was a shoot-em-up or FPS or whatever you purists call it. Just because it has a zombie theme, it gets called a horror game. Sure, and "The Next Generation" and "Star Wars" were science fiction...instead of dramas in outer space.
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @07:19AM (#27028785)

    I think it is important to know that culturally specific items such religious items which are supposedly scary are not universal. Things like the Devil, angels, and demons are only scary in a particular setting. Very few people outside that world even understand WHY it would be scary.

    Why is a pentagram scary? I have no idea. They are nice to look at, but why they are used all over id Software games makes no sense to me.

    Skip the pentagrams for more universal items.

    • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @09:58AM (#27029321) Homepage

      It's not really supposed to be scary, I think, it's just decoration appropiate for the setting, which can increase the creepiness.

      People aren't supposed to go "Holy crap, a pentagram". It's supposed to create associations. Pentagrams are associated with satanism, which is associated with dark rituals and invocations of demons.

      A stain on the floor is not scary by itself. A blood stain is worse, especially if you find it in a dark alley. A blood stain, which makes it obvious a body was dragged into a hole in the wall, on the other hand, makes you wonder who died there, why, what came out of that hole, and whether it's still lurking somewhere. That is what is supposed to be scary.

      In the same way, a pentagram isn't scary by itself, but is supposed to invoke thoughts of just what the hell has been going on in this place, and what kind of horror could be lurking behind the corner.

  • Fatal Frame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Keyper7 (1160079) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @09:15AM (#27029167)

    To scare the hell out of me, I absolutely love the Fatal Frame series. Some people say its strong point is having a camera instead of some powerful gun and some people say its strong point is having to look at the ghosts face-to-face and very close to effectively defeat them.

    Though I kinda agree with those two theories, I think its "scare power" comes from something else: the fact that the ghosts are "innocent". In FF, like in some Japanese horror movies, the concept is that the spirits are not aware that they are dead, how scary they look and that they can hurt people: they just want to make contact.

    For the sake of comparison, consider F.E.A.R.: Alma surely is scary, but there's little doubt she's one fucked up girl trying to kill you. In FF3, however, you have to deal with the ghost of a 5-year-old girl who keeps screaming "daddy, where are you" and whose attack is pulling your arm to call your attention and look at you pleading. That attitude, plus the realisation she's dead, creeps the hell out of me.

  • by 4D6963 (933028)

    Left 4 Dead was scary? Seriously?? It just sounded like a fun "hey let's kill a hundred of NPCs a minute" type of game to me. You know what game was really scary to me? Duke Nukem 3D, for its Octabrain. If you wanna make it scary, you need a monster slightly taller than you, very ugly, that dwells in the dark or underwater, that screams in a scary way and that you can't get rid of easily.

    Zombies aren't scary, mostly when you're pointing a shotgun at them.

    By the way, are there any good modern 3D games that e

  • First X-Com (Score:2, Insightful)

    by johngault33 (1285878)
    Playing the first X-Com at night was scary to me. To have your troopers get off the transport, with no idea where the aliens were was always nerve racking. You'd then use up all your action points, and with the last step, you'd see a shadowy grey just around the corner, waiting to nail you. A very creepy game indeed.
  • The granddaddy of them all (well, really two) have a lot to teach us: Resident Evil on the consoles and Alone in the Dark on the PC. There are really only two things that matter: the camera and the resources.

    Camera: we can't be allowed to see everything. Horror movies exploit this by giving us a limited range of view, setting the movie at night, etc. RE and Alone in the Dark didn't always let us see everything; an enemy would be hiding off screen and we could only just hear them. That works. It taps in

  • by OSXCPA (805476) on Sunday March 01, 2009 @12:08PM (#27030149) Journal

    In the GameCube title 'Eternal Darkness' the devs. used all kinds of tricks, ranging from subtle control 'issues' to a full BSOD, unbeatable enemies, and flies crawling around the screen that looked like they were in your living room (versus artificial game constructs). The overall effect was to render the gamers perception of the game state in doubt during play - reinforcing the game rule that exposure to supernatural creatures would drive a character insane. There was an antidote to this as well, so this was no cheat. It was tempting, however, to forgo the 'sanity potion' just to see how bad the progressively creepier 'bugs' got.

    Oh - and it was actually very difficult to permanently die during these episodes, although during play, the character appeared to die, but immediately 'flashed back' to where she was right when the possession/demon encounter/bug began.

    Combined with the generally creepy atmosphere of the game, thanks to very good art and design, made the game scary and fun to play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sean0michael (923458)
      Mod Parent Up Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was a very scary game to play. It's standout feature was its Sanity Meter [wikipedia.org], and when that dipped low you'd get all kinds of effects in game as well as ones that broke the fourth wall like fake error messages from the GameCube. As your Sanity meter dipped lower, things would start to change, like fake enemies, blood dripping on the walls, the camera angle wobbling, the screen blurring, your body exploding while casting a spell, a roach on the TV screen -- very
  • If I'm creeping around corners, heart beating out of my chest, completely on edge, then putting up a big picture of Rosie O'Donnell would make the game truly frightening.

    See?! I get to skip to:
            4) profit...

  • The initial level is pretty much empty. You walk and there is the creepy atmosphere and you keep walking. You walk, expecting something to jump out at you any second, but it doesn't. You walk and... wait, I think I... HOLY FUCK! DIE DIE DIE!

    Then there was the one level where a large open room with a cat walk above. After nearly buying the farm about 6 times, I just stayed in there and waited. For 30 minutes. I sat, in a corner, twitching at every sound, doing nothing for 30 minutes. And I was not bo

    • by Ocker3 (1232550)
      I have to agree, AvP as a marine got my heart racing a Lot. Even with the heaviest weapons, the ability of face-huggers and aliens to come out of ducts and true-3D environments meant you had to Always be on your guard. Nervous twitching is a sure sign of a good game.
    • by krtek (300869)

      I second to this. The game is scariest of what I have tried - so scary I just couldn't finish is [as a Marine]. What's most fascinating is the very simple rules which caused such great effect:

      1. Low/poor visuals, like stated in original article.
      2. Again, extensive use of sound (also music, which enhances creepy atmosphere).
      3. Low firepower.
      4. Take away or limit The Most Powerful Spell Ever (Save&Reload, that is).

      In such environment you don't need many aliens to make you shit your pants.

      Oh, yes, and th

  • Scripted scenes can be scary for the player if they are done well like in Doom 3, but they are only scary the first or maybe the second time. Scary noises work better for people watching the game being played, Left 4 Dead has scary noises that MEAN something and it worked for them. L4D's random element is really cool because it does keep you on your toes but that's different from the jump up from your desk and throw your controller effect that you get the first time from scripts. Since most people seem to
  • One of the scariest moments in Doom 3 is near the portal when everything is bloody and there are noises and shuffling. Things fall apart at certain areas giving out a loud noise. But the best part? There's no bad guys. None, its just freaky, going more than 20 seconds without a bad guy ends up being scary, because you ANTICIPATE one.

    And if you dont think doom 3 is scary you didn't play on nightmare difficulty with 3d glasses. Fricken fly-babies...
  • ... the effect it has on one's imagination. On a subconscious, subliminal or primal level. It has to trigger basic instincts like the fight-or-flight mechanism. Do that, and your attempt at horror is a success.

    Speaking of horror and horror games I have published an original horror game involving zombies, mad scientists and Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. If you have any interest in those kinds of things, or Rogue-likes, check it out.

    Dead By Zombie:
    http://zodlogic.webfactional.com/deadbyzombie [webfactional.com]
    Ther

  • Little Sisters pushed back my chances of a serious relationship another 10 years.
  • Friday the 13th

    I know, I know, it was a game way back in the 80s that was for the commodore 64, but man, whenever that Jason would come out, because you spent too much time in one place trying to figure something out, it really got your heart pumping, maybe it was also because I was only 14 at the time......I don't know if today it would qualify, I would want to hear what others think though, if there is an emulator out there, and a copy of that game!

  • (first post from old lurker of /. here goes, pardon my language by the way. im not too articulate in english. i'll try to avoid the brainfarts though, heh.) i dont find anything scary on BOO!-tactics. Sure, they might give you a good jump or few, but in the long run they do nothing. Doom had a good start, but after you learned to empty a clip to the general direction behind you every time you heard a strange sound, the fright-aspect disappeared. That is exactly why i love Silent Hill -serie. To me, the

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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