I'm currently developing an indie horror game and need some more good ideas how to improve it.
So I need your ideas and please not too complex ones, because I can it only develop with my engine!
If you have no idea what to do, you're doing the wrong thing. Games are more about setting than story, so choose a setting you would like your game to take place in and it should come naturally. What are you most afraid of? Use that. As a favor to me and the world, don't do post apocalyptic zombies.
the best thing for horror games is first person perspective, have things jumping out at the player and scare the shit out of him... sounds like a cool screen saver.
Of course I have a story-line for my game, but may some people have ideas how to make more scary moments in it.
There are two ways to expose fear. Passive and active tactics. An active tactic is like what rouncer said. Have something pop-up at the heat of the moment. A good example of this is from Resident Evil 2. In the interrogation room a licker jumps through a one-way mirror, surprising the heck out of you. This does work most of the times, but it's not the good kind of fear
The second technique is more passive. This is more like what fireside described, where the setting is usually enough to get a person to build up his or her own tension rather than expose it yourself. A great example of this is the Silent Hill series. BTW, if you haven't played these games or other horror type games, I strongly suggest you do so. In the Silent Hill series, rarely does anything actively happen. The scenery and ambience constantly keeps you on your toes. You keep thinking something is going to happen, maybe it will, maybe it won't. That's the best kind of fear. When a person is in this state, you can scare them with even the most simplest things. Psychology plays a big role here, so it helps to have some background in this field.
And then there's combining the two. Perhaps the best horror scene I can think of was from Silent Hill 2 (spoiler alert). There's a scene where you and another woman go down an elevator into a dark basement. You start to hear some scratchy, noisy ambient music (often meaning something is going to happen). Tension starts to build up. As you walk down a long and narrow corridor, you see the pyramid head (the boss) with it's large sword starting to chase you. You can't see him because the view is like Resident Evil (fixed cameras, another good horror tactic), so the only thing going through your mind is to run like hell. As this goes on, the ambient music gets louder and louder, building on your psyche that you're running to slow and the killer is catching up. At the end of the corridor lies another elevator, your salvation, but the doors are slowly closing, so tension continues to build up. You finally make it, but the woman doesn't. Her arm is stuck in the door and she's screaming for help. If you pause at this moment, you can see the authors did a pretty good job. On the one side, are you the heroic type person that will try to save this screaming woman, or are you to afraid of the killer that is chasing you. Resuming gameplay, this screaming goes on for quite a bit and the ambience music dies down. Either you completely forgot about being chased by the killer or you're wondering where the heck is he. Queue the active scare... And, well, I won't spoil the rest
So at the end of the day, the important thing to focus on is one's psyche. Not all scare tactics work for everybody. For instance, I'm not afraid of the dark, so games like Doom 3 were more about pumping demons full of lead then being scared of the bogeymen in the dark. Take an opposite game like System Shock 2 and all of a sudden mah bones are shivering.
It's interesting that games can induce a fear response, even in developers like TheNut, never have for me.
Then again very few movies have ever produced a fear response in me, the closest they ever get is a slight increase in heart rate.
Maybe I'm just old, jaded, and been in too many fights for anything to get the blood racing anymore.
I can recommend going through the blog of the developers of Amnesia and Penumbra; they give their ideas and opinions on a wide range of subjects.
I think we can agree they're experts on fear.
Maybe I'm just old, jaded, and been in too many fights for anything to get the blood racing anymore.
Well, fear is a controllable emotion. Either you let it embrace you or you just switch off that part of the brain and/or let a more stronger emotion overwhelm it. When it comes to horror games, I prefer to let it embrace me Well, that is of course if the game allows me to.
Also, System Shock 2 isn't much of a horror game per-say. It's a different story however when you play these types of games with stereo vision glasses. When you turn around and have a bio creature popping out of your monitor ready to smash open your skull with a lead pipe, it's pretty damn tense It's one of the first games I played with stereo vision and thus I distinctively remember my experiences.
I've always had two jobs, coding by day and running pubs by night. I've been cut, stabbed, shot, had just about every piece of bar furniture impacting my body, that's why I'm so pretty.
Over the 30 years I've been doing that I guess my tolerance levels for various basic emotions have risen to silly levels.
When I look at a horror style game, I'm thinking about the rendering engine, the way they have implemented tasks, the quality of the animation, .... etc.
This pretty well kills any chance of a fear response.
The same applies to other things like roller-coasters, rides etc. Just don't do anything for me. Can't go into any of the live action type rides like Alien experience Something jumps out at me, I tend to hit it and then work out what it was later. Even got banned from Laser Quest. Apparently disarming someone with a side kick and then shooting them isn't allowed.
Guess I should just shut up an leave this thread to people who can still immerse themselves in a game.
I think the only way someone could pull off a really scary game would be to eliminate models of people. Because they don't look real, the mind can't accept the game as real. This could be done in first person using things like spiders, things that move on their own, disembodied voices, and maybe clowns, which scare almost anyone for some reason. Clowns have so much makeup, you could get away with it. Zombies don't qualify either, since they just don't look real enough. They come off as corny to me. It's something movies can do that games really can't, but I think everyone plays along and pretends it's scary even though it's not, like a Halloween house. It's a little scary having something jump into the camera, but that's about it. Games can't really do the plot build up, or the music changes, or a lot of things that cause fear. The reason it works in movies is because we empathize with the character, so we transfer their fear onto ourselves by imagining what they are going through. The other problem with games is that they overdo gore so badly that we've become immune to it. I've watched 5 year olds play FPS without fear because they know it isn't real. Those same 5 year olds have nightmares after a scary movie, and it doesn't have to be very scary. The problems with first person are that we know we don't feel pain from the game, so if any kind of harm comes to us, we immediately know we have nothing to fear. You can get away with stats for another game, but not horror. That's the advantage of third person, but it's too hard to pull off believability because of the models. In the end, "horror" games turn into one more zombie turkey shoot with laughable gore.
The best horror games are the ones that mess with your mind. Fear of the unknown is far more powerful then any zombie or alien. Take a look at games like Eternal Darkness in which you have no idea what is real or not. The same with Fatal Frame, were you have no idea whats in front of you. For a horror game I would say to not focus so much on story or at least not a traditional one. Focus more on player psychology and how game play affects the mind.
As a favor to me and the world, don't do post apocalyptic zombies.
well as part of the world only make one if it's good (all the ones I've seen and in current production look like garbage, and not talking about graphics entirely but just no atmosphere, i may aswell be playing duck hunt). I love zombie games but to be honest RE nemisis was the last one i enjoyed. And I hate any zombie game where zombies can shoot. seriously. But if anyone makes a good one I'm in...still waiting though. Don't get me wrong I love action in a game but I also like the anticipation of what could be around the corner, sometime silence and isolation can be effective in immersion, at least I think so.
I personally havn't been scared in a game for a very long time, the most recent though was suprisingly gears of war, when the berserker is hunting you down inside on the first encounter with it. theres just something really creepy about that scene to me (especially with head phones on, the sounds are really important) just that feeling of nothing being able to stop this thing charging me until i can get that hammer of dawn working outside.
as others mentioned doom3, I was really excited, at the time, about doom3 but I enjoyed the demo more than the game. probably because the story just basically stopped at the same place as in the demo(or i stopped playing it before the story picked up again as I didn't finnish it). But that might just be what I personally look for, a good story, with action and something interesting or the feeling of progression to keep me playing not 12 hours of doing the same thing as you can just throw any immersion or connection to the character out the window IMHO.
So as for anything I can throw at this, have good interesting characters (riviting dialogue - bring me into the story, and actually have a story) put the player in situations that are really uncomfortable but where they can see daylight(metaphorically or an actual way out but knowing they are stuck for the present in a horrible situation, like that gears scene, but spaced out so the effect isn't lost). I suppose it doesn't add much to what everyone else has said but that's just my off the cuff thoughts.
I'm playing this new game, Outlast. Just started playing it for a while, still playing it and i found out it has a brilliant 1st person style (my opinion) compared to other hiding & running horror games because it gives me some kind of different horror feeling..which make the protagonist more 'lively'.
What I mean by lively is that you can see your lower body, feet and shadow when looking down, and for me this make the protagonist more of a human character. (If your game already have this than its wonderful!) Even when u open doors u can push it slowly like Amnesia (to give it sense of interaction in game) the difference is only that u can really see your hand opening it! For me this is really something new. And when someone/thing attack you, not just slashes on screen then disappear later, but remain to your body like the fingers being cut off in Outlast. Not saying Outlast is a perfect game, just agree with including the whole body to interact, and I haven't found yet other games in this genre (no shooting) like it! So my idea is that you can include something like this (details to the character himself) because it will add up the horror elements itself.
Because for me personally, playing a true 1st person horror game which involve hiding & running really depends on the player's interactions, feelings & senses throughout the game world. If its a shooting game I won't bother. Like us (you and me) in the real world we look at things in 1st person, and what do you see if u look down? Of course your whole body, even your shoulders! So to feel and create real horror I believe to include the body of the player and make it interact.
So my idea is: 1) If there's a chance, try to create the body from shoulder to feet. Just imagining the protagonist is yourself. The rectangular screen is just your face. You don't point your gun under your chin right? (example like creating a better horror version of Mirror's Edge) 2) Create 2 different protagonist. Doesn't really have to show their face or talking in-game just start the game either as a male or female, because the character reflects the player him/herself. Even if there are cutscenes, just show it in 1st person view and their voice are only their heartbeat, panting sound or groaning etc. (like Fallout or Skyrim only that he has a body!) 3) If a monster grabs you from below the floor or pop up from crates etc and scratch you, its leaves scar/wound to your body, arms or legs (not only slashes on screen which is obviously just your face) and u see your character walking haltingly (which affects the camera focus maybe its a bit shaky whatsoever) or unsteadily with dripping blood/severed injure or even limbs being cut off but still alive! Searching for bandages! 4) If your blood lost is very much indeed with scars and slashes, blood all over your body and still dripping wet maybe leaving a trail for the monster. 5) After the protagonist being chased by the monster, his insanity meter will totally fill up and at certain point he'll stop bending down holding his knees gasping some air, or holding his chest.. Wouldn't that be great? (kinda like I am Alive) 6) Or maybe when his waist or elbow is injured, u see his hand is pressing towards the injured area while walking. 7) If your'e hiding then you hear your breath and heart whimpering fast (Most game does this like Amnesia, Outlast) 8) Maybe the right click mouse controls the right hand weapon (if there are) and left click mouse controls the flashlight. 9) If u have something to store maybe u bring a backpack or your coats have pockets (like Alone in the Dark 2008 which i like its style) 10) Maybe when your'e walking or sneaking then suddenly your left leg stuck or been grabbed, could release it by shaking mouse while clicking left click (left leg) or kicking it (monster) with right click (right leg)
Actually maybe there are more thing that we can think about. I'm just sharing my ideas (if I had a chance of creating a game I would totally try and apply those). Im just thinking the horror elements as a part of a real human being interacting with the environment. Wouldn't this makes it even scarier? It's just that this Outlast gave me some ideas of what real horror feels, and just trying to develop it further. I'm just sharing maybe u get my general idea of horror. The monster itself has a horror feature (like Amnesia) and the environment bring real spooks or darkness (like Silent Hills or Fatal Frames) while the player struggling with himself. (like I Am Alive)
However not necessary to follow all the ideas. If u could just create the protagonist as lively as possible its enough I think you could create a new style of horror game! (Try combining Outlast and Amnesia) Sorry if its to long. And if your'e not interested then hope u can share with your other friends about this idea.
Thanks. Hope you success in creating that indie game and would love to play it someday.