The Common Mistakes of Horror Games

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The Common Mistakes of Horror Games

Alan Wake wasn't completely awful, but it did showcase some of the most common mistakes in horror games.

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Great article. I loved Alan Wake to bits, but everything you said here would've made it better.

Yes, our almighty Yahurer! Tell us the ways, and give us your wisdom! We are not worthy!

All hail Yahtapia!

Great Article Yahtzee. Agreed with everything you said.

God, how badly do I suck at games? I was playing Alan Wake on easy and I was still getting killed at least 3 times a chapter.

With regards to slow-motion headshots - it's silly, but a lot of people like it. There's a whole honkin' demographic of people that play games just to shoot stuff, and they get a thrill when said shooting gets highlighted. It's like a sticker on an A+ quiz. The sticker isn't good for anything, and might even be said to be a waste of perfectly good paper and adhesive. But we like it anyway.

Brainst0rm:
With regards to slow-motion headshots - it's silly, but a lot of people like it. There's a whole honkin' demographic of people that play games just to shoot stuff, and they get a thrill when said shooting gets highlighted. It's like a sticker on an A+ quiz. The sticker isn't good for anything, and might even be said to be a waste of perfectly good paper and adhesive. But we like it anyway.

But is such an attitude really appropriate in a horror or survival game?

Those are some interesting points, I don't agree with all of them, but that's a solid article.

I haven't played Alan Wake yet (on account of having no xbox), but I agree when it comes to music and horror games. Slow and "unnatural" music heightens the tension immeasurably. Picking up something fast paced for combat might be cool for a boss, or for the first enemy you fight, but it will remove a good chunk of the atmosphere. There is no longer dread, but adrenaline. I guess the Serious Sam analogy fits perfectly, because that is what I always picture with action music: me mowing down about 50000 abominations with a minigun.

You know, I think there is a pretty easy fix to make quick-time event suck less; use the actual command. Using Yahtzee's example of the cops shooting at you, a perfectly good quick-time event would have been you pressing L1 + Left, to dodge the bullets. Or in Resident Evil 5, when the zombies are on motorcycles in that arena. Instead of pressing square to shoot the chain, it could have you press the in-game fire button.

Cinematic games are generally always going to have these kinds of problems, but I don't see why QTEs use such flow-breaking button.

Agreed on the wrestling-the-camera-away-from-the-player issue, I find it really annoying (not just in horror games) when it's done often.

Not sure about keeping the scary music playing would be favourable though, I'd probably find that tiresome after a while, although I do agree that suddenly changing tracks can break immersion. Perhaps slowly fading back to normal music with a little delay after the last baddie has been taken care of would be a better choice. If memory serves right, I think it might have been Deus Ex that had this context-sensitive music feature and it worked well there. Then again, in that game it was supposed to be you that everyone was afraid of.

Honestly I think developers should consider hiring or contracting Yahtzee for stuff like this. He is 100% correct on all points and has proven it in his own work (especially Trilby's Notes which is beyond amazing) and I highly recomend any fan of his play through his John DeFoe series (even if you have to use walkthroughs) because the pacing and use of sound is brilliant (and brutaly efficient from a programing perspective, not that most of you would care about that).

I have no doubt Alan Wake would have been a much better game if they had done all this; Dead Space also. Still wish someone was making good horror games...

"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Didn't you once say in a review way back that you liked Spiderman 2: the Movie: the Game? And what about all the various Star Wars games that people seem to be crazy for? I'm not saying all movie-based games are great (in fact, I'm inclined to agree with the above statement that almost all of them suck). But to say 100% of them are awful is a bit much.

I think there are many other why reasons movies based on video games generally suck. And from what I hear of the Prince of Persia movie, it is no longer true that there are no good movies based on video games.

Yahtopia sounds just wonderful!

I've not played Alan Wake, but I agree with your criticism of Dead Space's music. In a horror game the music can ruin suspense rather than heighten it.

I have been impressed with the dynamic music in Red Dead Redemption and especially the Left 4 Dead games. L4D is definately survival, but not really horror. RDR telegraphs its action from quite a ways off in other ways besides musical crescendo too: distant gun shot sounds, and most-obviously its minimap dots.

It seems irrelevant to reference an action game when talking about Horror games to me.

He's also contracdicted himself a bit by saying that the idea of a headshot being slow-mo everytime is ridiculous, but then he praised the Fallout 3 VATs, where in you watch mutant brains fly everywhere in slow-mo.

So yeah, funny article, but once again it was just a bit of an incoherent rant that didn't really conclude to anything productive.

There's a simple reason why horror games are less prevalent.

Horror builds as the story ends. In a game we expect, nay demand, a building hero who defeats the bad guy - and the few horror games that have been done - Space Gun, Beast Busters, Darkseed all use either: the ticking clock to death, the big twist reveal or the "it was only the baby/scout, here's the mother"; and then end.

In a good horror, you need to be isolated, alone and scared - while sitting on Steam/PSN/Xbox live, in a bright room drinking beer. The two areas aren't really conducive.

And if you up the stakes, "This time your save file is on the line", people will go nuts because "THIS ISN'T WHAT I PAID FOR."

Either way, you'll lose trying to write a horror game.

So, don't write a horror game : Instead write I Wanna Be The Guy, Alien Versus Predator, MarioKart and all those other games that horrify rather than terrify. Because even John Carpenter can tell you stories of the "one hit kill that you ALWAYS know is coming".

Horror can't be scary unless it attacks the fundamentals of what you trust. A horror game has to be break one rule, but keep to all the rest - and that's pretty tough to do.

I hear Yahtopia has great weather around Christmas.

I still maintain that the slo-mo enemies popping up is moderately necessary. It solves the problem of enemies completely sneaking up on you, something that happens often and something that can easily lead to death (with even greater risk on the harder difficulties). I'd rather have slo-mo than a serious case of axe-to-head and subsequently a loading screen.

That isn't to say that there aren't other solutions to this problem, but nothing comes to mind at the moment.

I grow spoiled by Uncharted 2 when it comes to cutscenes. That game's cutscenes usually have some interactivity, and it didn't fall into the "press x not to die" syndrome. Then again, most of the game was like an interactive cutscene.

After that, everytime I see a game with long action cutscenes, I keep asking myself "this is cool, but why is it happening if the controller is on the floor"

And once again, I have to agree with everything you said. Boring! Stop being such a genius.

And once again Yahtzee is totally right. Damn you!

"Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!"

Heil Yahtzee! I want to live in Yahtopia...

SilverUchiha:
"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Didn't you once say in a review way back that you liked Spiderman 2: the Movie: the Game? And what about all the various Star Wars games that people seem to be crazy for? I'm not saying all movie-based games are great (in fact, I'm inclined to agree with the above statement that almost all of them suck). But to say 100% of them are awful is a bit much.

Switch that, he was talking about basing a movie on a game, like the Silent Hill film, Hitman, and various Uwe Boll abominations. Those have at best been not too terrible, but I can't think of a good one

I think that action in cutscenes are ok as long as they end at the scene's most awesome point, and from there on you can play it. It's ok to show a bunch of bad guys breaking in and the main character diving to cover in slow-mo, but after he's behind the kitchen counter holding an uzi in each hand, let me control what happens next.

You're talking about games adapted from films, whereas he said films adapted like games. Big difference.

SilverUchiha:
"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Didn't you once say in a review way back that you liked Spiderman 2: the Movie: the Game? And what about all the various Star Wars games that people seem to be crazy for? I'm not saying all movie-based games are great (in fact, I'm inclined to agree with the above statement that almost all of them suck). But to say 100% of them are awful is a bit much.

He enjoyed the Web Slinging in the Spiderman 2 Movie Game. >.>

As a scientific fact, you can't keep the same music on without the player becoming so used to it that he/she doesn't notice it at all. The scary music would become normal music.

"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Golden Eye was ace, Spiderman 2 was alot of fun, and alot of the star wars games have been good.

Yes.. just yes. The music thing is definitely annoying. Developers may as well be using a huge flashing pop-up on the screen saying "Danger here!" or "Okay, no more danger!" when they do this. I appreciate what they are trying to do but, as said in the article, it just doesn't really work in games. If you're going to do it, do it like it was done in the old RE games where the "safe rooms" had the "No Danger" music and that was it.

And triple yes to the comment about cutscenes. Unless there is absolutely no way for them developers to render a scene in gameplay terms (and I'd argue if they feel that then they just aren't trying hard enough), do not show me cool stuff I want to do in a cutscene. At the least make it sort of triggered cutscene like in God Of War where there is action I can't possibly do in game but it's wrapped up in standard gameplay.

SilverUchiha:
"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Didn't you once say in a review way back that you liked Spiderman 2: the Movie: the Game? And what about all the various Star Wars games that people seem to be crazy for? I'm not saying all movie-based games are great (in fact, I'm inclined to agree with the above statement that almost all of them suck). But to say 100% of them are awful is a bit much.

I think you got it the other way around. He's talking about videogames made in to movies and his point as far as I can see it is:
1. Videogames don't make good movies, they don't translate well.
2. Why then would it work to make games like movies, they are not the same medieum.
If you look at the licence games that haven't failed misserably, it's the ones that step away from trying to be "the movie but a game".

Edward123454321:
It seems irrelevant to reference an action game when talking about Horror games to me.

He's also contracdicted himself a bit by saying that the idea of a headshot being slow-mo everytime is ridiculous, but then he praised the Fallout 3 VATs, where in you watch mutant brains fly everywhere in slow-mo.

So yeah, funny article, but once again it was just a bit of an incoherent rant that didn't really conclude to anything productive.

It's not irrelevant, cause his point was that doing the same thing all the time is not a good idea, that is not limited to a single genre. Also, just because he did like it in one game doesn't mean he thinks it's a good idea for them all, and he did say he was surprised he didn't grew tired of it in Fallout3.

I agree mostly with his points, though cinematic games can be great fun if done in a good way. I think the way Allan Wake is made like a Twin Peaks TV-show is awesome, not because it lifts the game by being the best and most logical way to end a chapter, but because it's a tribute to shows like Twin Peaks. Just like how I loved how Max Payne was a Film Noir tribute and Sin City was basically a full length tribute to the comic

FEAR is a great example of how not to do a horror game. Every scary moment is telegraphed by your radio glitching out. The developers made it so that any player that isn't a retard could easily tell "oh, this is the scary section," "oh, this is the shooty section" which made it so that none of them ever had any tension.

The only thing i disagree with is the ending line, aka. quick time events and cutscenes. It can be done terribly of course (like in Wet), but looking back at Fahrenheit for a moment, not all of the Quick Time events in cutscenes there were bad (some where). Heavy Rain did a better job at it because you often were much more in control than in Fahrenheit.

What i prefer the most is Quick Time events that isn't a part of a cutscene per se, but more a part of the gameplay where part of the controls is taken partially (and suddenly) away from the player, inducing a state a panic if you will. Thinking back on the scene in Dead Space where you are grabbed by the legs by a giant tentacle and it starts pulling you, and you have to shoot it. Okay, shooting it isn't exactly a standard QTE, but:

1) It happens suddenly, and not just in the middle of a cutscene where we have been sitting staring bored at the screen for 1-2 minutes.

2) It takes away some control from you (in this case, you lose control of movement), and therefore shifts the focus more intensely to another kind of control (shooting).

3) The tension is there, because even with some of the control taken away you, you are still PLAYING (which QTE's in cutscenes can hardly be classified as).

Some very legitimate points, but I have to point out that constantly playing the scary music won't help at all. It would be better if they kept the whole ''scary music when enemies are around'' thing but make enemies hide more. So that they constantly stalk you or are waiting for you in the shadows.

Capt_Jack_Doicy:
"Whenever a film has been adapted from a game, it has, without exception, resulted in something so hideous that only rampant fun-haters from the planet Puritan could tolerate it to exist."

Golden Eye was ace, Spiderman 2 was alot of fun, and alot of the star wars games have been good.

I don't mean to troll, but you're not the first so I would just like everyone to maybe try some reading comprhension tests or something, and I mean that in the nicest please don't ban me for coming off mean way possible.

Good old Valve are masters at getting you to look at the cool thing they want you to look at, even if it's something as simple as putting a single enemy near that looky-loo spot. I'm amazed more developers don't pick up on it, really.

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