Posted 10 June 2007 - 03:45 AM
That got me thinking. I've played games that made me feel exactly the same way in the past. Marathon 1 (Blasted vent Spht!), Super Metroid (GHOST SHIP!), Stalker (Is it just me, or did it get sepia out here?), and now System Shock 2. Thinking about those games, I realized they all had some interesting elements in common.
Probably the most obvious thing would be the sense of isolation. In these sorts games you spend either the entire time completely separated from other people, or only interacting with them for fairly brief periods or in tangential ways. I suppose this makes the most sense. When other people are around, you get the sense that if things get over your head, you can rely on others to deal with the situation. Being alone suddenly makes every situation far more dangerous. (Besides, having a meat shield can be useful at times )
By nature of being alone, these games also tend to pit you against enemies at two extremes. Usually the most threatening type to deal with are swarming enemies. There are lots of them, and they are usually very insect like. I think part of the fear here is that as the player you are a unique actor in this world. You represent individuality, and the monsters you fight are seeking to snuff you out for that (Did someone say Borg?). The other extreme is the big/powerful monster. These are generally pulled out few and far between, but their existence gets hinted at an awful lot. It's not the fight against these sorts of enemies that seems scary, it's the time waiting to fight them that is stressful (Dentist drill anyone?).
Of course, just throwing a player into a big empty box with some monsters wouldn't really create a scary game (It would however create Robotron). A lot of the fear comes from the presentation and flow of the game. Now a good "monster jumps out of a vent/door/ceiling panel/closet/box" will certainly get me to jump, it won't work forever (I'm looking at you Doom!). Good scares come when you don't expect them. And not every scare needs to be something lethal. Many of the games I mentioned use phantoms, or ghosts that don't really hurt you. Now despite the fact that they can't do damage, they are still quite unnerving. Who wants to walk into a nondescript room that seems to be completely safe, only to be confronted by things that simply shouldn't be there? Besides, after a few situations like this, I tend to get a bit cocky. I walk around and assume that things are just there to give me a start and aren't really going to hurt me... then something tries to claw my face off. It seems that an unpredictable pacing can often be more frightening than the actual situations themselves.
Finally, sound plays a huge role in getting me to turn back on the lights and go to sleep. Probably the simplest example of this would be music of a certain mood. Low key slow moving music can often fade into the background ensuring that the game is always making you just a bit nervous with little explanation for why. Of course, it really does seem to be environmental sounds that do the most. I think I can safely say that the sound of a distant door opening can be one of the most terrifying sounds conceivable. Talking is another good way to freak me out. This plays nicely with the sense of isolation in these games. If I absolutely know that I'm alone, I do not want to start hearing people talking in the distance.
I find it interesting that despite making me feel so uncomfortable, I truly enjoy these games. I guess there is just something about working up the courage to run into a dark room with a near worthless weapon and half a magazine of ammo intent on destroying whatever hideous monstrosity is hidden in the darkness... only to discover that I was shooting at a potted plant.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:28 AM
I have Silent Hill 4 sitting near my Xbox... I'm too scared to play it.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:45 AM
when i get my MBP, one of the first games ill be trying is FEAR... spectres, clever baddies etc. etc. then ill get STALKER a while down the line, when its bargain bin, cos im poor.
Macbook Pro - C2D 2.4Ghz / 4GB RAM / Samsung 830 256GB SSD / Geforce 8600M GT 256Mb / 15.4"
Cube - G4 1.7Ghz 7448 / 1.5GB RAM / Samsung Spinpoint 250GB / Geforce 6200 256Mb
Self-built PC - C2Q Q8300 2.5Ghz / 4GB RAM / Samsung 830 256GB SSD / Radeon 7850 OC 1GB / W7 x64
and a beautiful HP LP2475w 24" H-IPS monitor
Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:16 AM
Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:30 AM
What were your reactions when you first saw the fast zombies?! I was like "Oh...f..." and then "OMG they're $^*&# quick!"
Posted 10 June 2007 - 10:35 AM
F.E.A.R. has some truly awesome moments in it. Very tense.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 11:27 AM
But to the topic: before it degenerates to a pure closet shocker later on, Doom 3 does a very good job to create a very creepy atmosphere. F.E.A.R. is also quite good on that behalf, but - to be honest - I think the rather standard shooting (good AI or not) distracts too much from the horror atmosphere. The good old "The Lurking Horror" was pretty creepy, but I guess you cannot scare the kids today with a text adventure - it requires something like imagination.
"We do what we must, because we can."
"Gaming on a Mac is like women on the internet." — "Highly common and totally awesome?"
Posted 10 June 2007 - 11:41 AM
Eternal Darkness back on the GameCube was great as well. Some really original stuff there.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 01:14 PM
Posted 10 June 2007 - 01:56 PM
the Battle Cat
Posted 10 June 2007 - 03:17 PM
I think sound plays a huge part in it. Comparing Doom 3 against Prey & Quake 4 I find Doom 3 much more 'thrilling' due to the way the sound can get me nearly jumping even before anything's happened.
When I was younger it was Alone in the Dark ^_^
Also I agree about Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth - that game had some seriously excellently crafted scene's and it's a pity it wasn't successful enough that a port to Mac was viable. Same could be said of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 05:30 PM
The scary games I remember are all old-school. Uninvited was pretty creepy. Shadowgate (not the one you are thinking of; the graphic adventure) wasn't particularly scary but at one point you open some sarcophagi, and a banshee suddenly leaps out of one with a loud SCREECH! Made me jump a mile.
I know I'm forgetting some...
Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
Posted 10 June 2007 - 09:19 PM
As much as a I poke Doom3, that bathroom mirror scene has to be amongst the scariest things I've ever seen in a game. "Oh! Hey look at the mirror... wow, they really did a good job with this game engine. Nice reflective... huh? GAHHHHHH!!! TURN THE LIGHTS ON! TURN THEM ON NOW!"
Posted 11 June 2007 - 07:24 AM
Posted 11 June 2007 - 09:05 AM
Posted 11 June 2007 - 01:16 PM
Posted 11 June 2007 - 05:18 PM