Gw Temp

Menu

Article - 'Guide to Fear' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 7, 2004

Blurb

Tips on how to make your game more scary.

Body

Introduction

This article is for all those people who like to make scary games or just want to have a specific scene that induces a bit of fear to the player.

It’s obvious that computer games are going to be as scary as anything that could happen in real life, because it isn’t real and whatever it is will never happen to you. As an added downfall, anyone making 2D games (Rm2k, Game Maker) have extra work cut out for them. 2D characters are less detailed and players have more trouble relating to these badly pixilated people, and get less of a feel of the environment being able to only see a few squares of 256 colours around their character. That’s why I’m here, to hopefully make it easier for you to scare or horrify your players.

The 2 Types of Fear

1 – The first type of fear is the deluded or unhealthy fear. It can also be called the fear of the inevitable. This is when you have a gut feeling or just simply know something or a certain event is going to happen, and you don’t want it to happen, due to there being a complete or highly probable chance of something awful happening.

2 – The second kind of fear is the non-deluded or healthy fear. It can also be called the fear of the evitable. It’s simply the fear of the possibility of something happening. It’s sort of the fear of the unknown, because it might not happen, or the outcome might not be bad.

Sometimes fear of the inevitable (like death) is worse because you know there’s no escape. However fear of the evitable can also be worse because you have no idea whether or not it will happen (getting struck by lightning).

Sub Categories of Fear

1 – One kind of sub category of fear is merely, survival. Being afraid for your own or another’s safety. All creatures fight to stay alive (apart from useless ones) and will if threatened, act irrationally. Bee’s, bears and wolves will all fight to defend their hive, pack or young. And it is the fear for their survival, they don’t want to see them get hurt. So basically, fear of death and pain. This kind of fear is almost completely impossible to stir up in a 2D game. Personally, I would recommend against this.

2 – Another kind of fear is the thoughtful kind. Things that are either beyond us or are disturbing. Movies like Dark Water and The Ring capture this very well. I know some people that after seeing a movie about ghosts or something horrible and spirit like, and at the end it doesn’t explain anything of the weird events that happened, they get very scared. Personally this sub category doesn’t do all that much for me but I can understand how it does for some.

This is probably one of the best types of fear to go for in your game. You’ll need a sick and disturbing plot that never gets explained, and attacks you on a mental level. That’s my best advice for getting some fear this way. A lot of eerie background music (but not tacky music) can help build momentum up for this fear.

3 – With the aid of the last kind of fear, you can use the unexpected kind of fear. This is possibly the quickest way to scare someone but it’s effects don’t always last for long and a game or movie full of this can get you so on edge that it stops working altogether. So I recommend that you use the mysterious eerie fear 2 throughout your game and then with that as a basis if you make a horrible beast jump straight at the screen with a horrible growl (show picture for Rm2k) I’m very confident that people would jump. If you then proceeded to make this creature chase your character, running up the walls etc, it could be pretty scary (but don’t make the game too hard).

Making The Enemies More Scary

The few horror games on Rm2k(3) that I’ve played usually just make the game really hard. I think this will make players go off the game pretty quickly if you’re not careful. So I suggest that you make enemies scary in the way that no movie or game ever does (because it’s all stupid). A giant beast or weird creature is usually most scary when, if it is unleashed people die. The Ring was scary because of this. If you saw it, she would kill you, no doubt about it! If you have something that actually kills your friends, tears through walls and is completely merciless, you’ll be most afraid and wanting to run away from it than if it were walking slowly towards you with a knife a letting you run away, then doing exactly the same to your friends. Sorry, but unless it actually kills things and is beyond the human mental and physical threshold (I can smash through walls and quickly climb up sky scrapers) it won’t be as scary as it could.

And with that I think I’ve pretty much wrapped up my thoughts. Some ideas of what to do and what not. Go! Make your game!