Sanity Meters

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It was like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books where it proudly claims "21 DIFFERENT ENDINGS!" but 20 of them are just you getting killed three entries in.

Or worse, one of those ones that had you start with a certain number of "sanity" points, and certain actions made you lose them. So 2 ****ing pages from the end you were stuck in an "unwinnable" state. At least with CYOA books you could just say "**** it" and turn the page anyway...

The health bar in Alice was a sanity meter? Okaaaaaay. I must have glossed over that.

Brrrrrr, I was just replaying Max Payne, and no need for a sanity meter. The drug-nightmare sequences gave me the willies.

Jedi Sasquatch:

Sir John the Net Knight:
Yahtzee took a shot at "Alice"... Oh good lord, is nothing sacred to this guy?

(Short answer: No...)

Long answer: That joke is not funny, which is why I chose not to make it.

I have a love hate relationship with the sanity "meter". The thing I liked the most about Amnesia including one is that the protagonist was there. It wasn't like gordon freeman where it was just a camera floating around, "Daniel" was actually there in the game world, he reacted to everything that happened.

Though in Amnesia I only went "insane" once, usually when I got to the bottom my sanity got restored pretty quickly, but when I did go insane all sorts of strange things happened. First the room got distorted, then bugs started crawling on my face, then the paintings started changing, and finally I walked towards a door and as I was about to open it, it slammed open and I turned around and sprinted off and found the safest most well lit area and just hid, until daniel had a seizure or something and then realized that it was a hallucination. I went back to that same door and it was closed when I checked, so it does seem like the game fucks with you when you go insane, you just have to be in that state long enough I suppose.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth were both good games, and they're the most Lovecraftian out there. I also find the Silent Hill series very Lovecraftian in a way, because they tweak with the player's sanity and ancient elder gods using humans as playthings and driving them mad. Also the theme that Silent Hill reflects the inner demons of the witness, something I'm sure Lovecraft either has used or would have wanted to use.

GrinningManiac:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:
I didn't know about Eternal Darkness. That's a pretty neat idea, if only as cheesy as Mr."YOU SEEM TO LIKE MARIO SUNSHINE" in Metal Gear over there

Oi, it's called, "Metal Gear Solid." And that was a stroke of genius mind you!

Oi, it's called "Metal Gear Solid Snake." And that was a stroke of MADNESS mind you!

No, there has never been a canon MG game with," Snake in the title," apart from Snake Eater, (MGS3), and MG:2. Unless you're referring to the remake for the Gamecube, entitled, "The Twin Snakes."
And how was it not brilliant? A fourth wall breaking reference that is actually relevant to you. Not to mention the vibration feature of the controller. (And the later addition in MGS3, that if you waited long enough between a save, you could kill a boos that was old.) The MG series has always been very interesting to me, as it utilises very unique gameplay mechanics.

Batman Arkham SPOILER....................

Its been ages since i played it but that part of the game where you were strapped to the trolly that re enacted the scene at the beginning of the game. Did you wonder what was going on? I just can not remember if that was all in his head cos he got gassed or that he got caught. Am sure it was the fear gas making him see that.

GrinningManiac:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:
I didn't know about Eternal Darkness. That's a pretty neat idea, if only as cheesy as Mr."YOU SEEM TO LIKE MARIO SUNSHINE" in Metal Gear over there

Oi, it's called, "Metal Gear Solid." And that was a stroke of genius mind you!

Oi, it's called "Metal Gear Solid Snake." And that was a stroke of MADNESS mind you!

Either you're trolling(I'm guessing you are) or you don't really know. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was for the MSX2 console. Metal Gear Solid was for the Playstation, and featured Psycho Mantis. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a Gamecube remake of the Playstation version. And watch where you blaspheme, ALL Kojima productions are a stroke of genius!

my ed games design teacher worked on call of cuthulu, will have to show him this :p

The idea of a sanity meter hasn't always seemed fitting for a video game since it's apllying a point A to B bar on a complex state of mind.

Lovecraft themes and style, even a more direct adaptation in videos games however is always welcome because a game that has a neutral moral ground could be an excellent basis for a story since the original stories seemed to lack, or at least de-emphasize the human understanding of moral and ethics... instead things just "were".

I'm going to bring up two issues:

#1: One problem with horror is that humans are adaptable, nothing remains scary forever. If something doesn't kill us, it makes us stronger in a literal sense. No matter how horrible a situation most people are going to adapt to it after a while and about the fifith time a monster shows up, people are going to be thinking more in terms of "what are we going to do about that thing" more than an "argggh! a monster" panic response.

This applies to games as well, it's ridiculous to assume that a character is going to continue to be scared beyond reason by the same things again and again, and not adapt somewhat to their situation and the realities of survival.

This is also one of the reasons why typically you see horror in stand alone novels, or movies, as opposed to like 300 episode ongoing series, and why when someone does tend to draw it out it turns more into fantasy than horror because realistically the same variables are not going to generate absolute terror for the same people.

I think that most video games tend to get it right for the most part, with the protaganist becoming better adapted and more formidible and in control of the situation the longer he survives.

#2: When it comes to mechanics like "horror factor" or "sanity loss" in games, it's a throw back to paper and pencil RPGs. It's important to note that the role-playing is about taking control of a character with capabilities far differant from your own. Any kind of a game includes a degree of detachment from the protaganists, and when your playing a character far differant from yourself the detachment is even further. Nothing gets around the fact that we, the gamer, are sitting around a table playing a horror game with our nerd friends, or just made the desician to plop a horror title into our game machine.

A resistance to fear, and grip on sanity (in the short term) represet things that are going to apply the characters in the game which might have quite a differant threshold than the player. Someone who is a Marine, or career Navy (to use examples of people I've played with) might be quite able to deal with a lot of the situations in a horror game, like oh say finding a dead body, or losing a comrade. However if the character they are playing is a timid co-ed who acts as professor's research assistance with no combat training, or years of military experience the same logic might not apply. The mechanics represent the character's capabilities to deal with such things rather than the players. In the other direction a timid co-ed research assistant playing a Marine who has done multiple tours in Iraq, or a Naval veteran who has dealt with pirates on the African coast might respond to things in a very "meh" fashion despite how the player might react.

It's important to note that in the scope of computer games, the same basic logic applies. The character your controlling is not literally you, and is not detached from what is going on. For the person playing the game, the experience is no worse than a thrill ride or haunted house at the worst. On the other hand the protaganist in the actual game does not have that perspective. What's more the character your playing, especially in an adventure-style game, might be an even bigger nerd conceptually than the nerd liable to be playing the game.

Simply put a video game is never going to really scare a person playing it, except maybe some jump out shock, or being a bit creepy in a "WTF was the person programming this thinking" fashion, especially seeing as you knew ahead of time this was going to be horror. The nature of the medium, and choosing to expose oneself to horror invalidates that. Thus the need for RPG type mechanics taken right from tabletop play to give the experience integrity.

Perhaps with greater strides towards VR we will see a situation where games will become immersive enough to do better, by being able to literally involve the people playing as themselves. However the desician being made to experience a horror game is by it's nature ALWAYS going to dampen the experience.

Short of some kind of experiment, or hacker psycho who breaks into people's VR systems, traps them there, and runs horror game programs, I doubt we will ever see a genuine horror experience in gaming because there is ALWAYS going to be the seperation of the person knowing it's still a game, even then. As such, things like sanity meters and the like are probably going to remain a staple to anyone who wants to include such things.

#3: The original Cthulhu mythos stories by HP Lovecraft himself have not aged all that well, however some of the stories involving the mythos that he edited have fared a little better. He was so inspirational that as things stand now, people have simply done the same stuff so much better (even using his ideas) where his writing seems quaint in comparison.

I also do not think people are cynical enough to think of themselves as some kind of mould on a rock drifing through space to be honest, but given that space aliens have become common fodder for collective fantasies, ideas like that just aren't as shocking as they once were.

To put things into perspective the nerds of the 1920s didn't spend a lot of time drooling over the idea of lesbian sex with races like the Asari in "Mass Effect 2". The attitude was entirely differant.

Also "The Great Race Of Yith" was not malevolent or meant to be scary in of themselves. The point was that they were alien enough to not mind messing with the occasional lower life form (well from their perspective) in the pursuit of knowlege, but it's also noteworthy that at the same time that same group of beings arguably step up to the plate for humanity by providing crucial knowlege or pieces of a puzzle. After all they were the ones who fought the original war with Cthulhu and the gods he worshipped, and they who apparently placed things like the Elder Seals, before themselves being run off.

I think the attitude is sort of like how a guy might really like animals like alligators or something like that. He occasionally kills one to skin it and make stuff out of it, but he also does things like help propagate them, see to their protection, and defend their enviroment. It's not a perfect analogy, but Yithian intervention could be seen sort of like a guy killing an animal in your herd for his own benefit, but also chasing away your predators and arguably doing more good for you than bad, even if the end he doesn't view you as anything close to an equal.

Of course part of the problem with Lovecraft's work is that when he wrote that stuff he kind of felt humanity had peaked technologically. Right now we have weapons and things that go beyond what the Yithians ever had (albiet we do not have mental time travel). Writers from Chaosium used to make jokes like "what would happen if you nuked Cthulhu? He'd reform 15 minutes later... radioactive and mad" when by the actual concept Cthulhu himself wasn't all that (he isn't even actually a god, but a high priest and sorceror) a couple of nukes could probably solve the biggest problems in those stories. But the horror of the time was that by HP's logic nothing like a nuke could ever exist, he couldn't conceive of such a weapon, and he thought humanity would never progress much beyond the level of the weapons we had in his day. It's interesting when you consider that today we could easily massacre the most horrendously overpowering things that the minds 90 or so years ago could conceive to scare people. Says a lot about how far people can come when we become stronger than doomsday no-win scenarios we create for ourselves.

Sir John the Net Knight:

Jedi Sasquatch:

Sir John the Net Knight:
Yahtzee took a shot at "Alice"... Oh good lord, is nothing sacred to this guy?

(Short answer: No...)

Long answer: That joke is not funny, which is why I chose not to make it.

I figured it'd be fitting, since this is a comment in Yahtzee's column thing, but whatever, okay then.

I love eternal darkness and its use of sanity effects. I think if it didn't have a meter and just occurred as you progressed it might have been better.

Eternal Darkness one of the greatest games of the previous generation of games. I have not played silent hill 2 because of a lack of a ps2.

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:
I didn't know about Eternal Darkness. That's a pretty neat idea, if only as cheesy as Mr."YOU SEEM TO LIKE MARIO SUNSHINE" in Metal Gear over there

Oi, it's called, "Metal Gear Solid." And that was a stroke of genius mind you!

Oi, it's called "Metal Gear Solid Snake." And that was a stroke of MADNESS mind you!

No, there has never been a canon MG game with," Snake in the title," apart from Snake Eater, (MGS3), and MG:2. Unless you're referring to the remake for the Gamecube, entitled, "The Twin Snakes."
And how was it not brilliant? A fourth wall breaking reference that is actually relevant to you. Not to mention the vibration feature of the controller. (And the later addition in MGS3, that if you waited long enough between a save, you could kill a boos that was old.) The MG series has always been very interesting to me, as it utilises very unique gameplay mechanics.

[facepalm] This is why I keep petitioning Konami to get Kojima to remake the MSX2 titles "Metal Gear" and "Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake" for either the PSN or as full current-gen games. They were amazing, but Super Nintendo-esque graphics on a console no one has anymore doesn't translate to a modern gaming experience. Unless one lives in a basement. You want to play them though? Grab a copy of MGS 3: Subsistence, and play the bonus games on the second disc.

snowman6251:
I like the Eternal Darkness approach the most of the bunch but I think sanity meters should be invisible. Don't tell us how sane we are, that way when crazy shit happens I'll be like "Holy shit what the fuck" rather than "oh my sanity is low".

I feel this way too. The mechanic is fine, but I don't want a readout telling me that there's this mechanic. I wonder, playing devils advocate, if we'd be claiming the same thing if the roles were reversed; we've been underexposed to sanity meters, and people then may clamor for a day of readable sanity levels. Hmm.

I think the sanity effects in the Call of Cthulhu game worked pretty well. Like somebody else said, it was to preserve this Lovecraftian ideal of not getting a good look at the monsters for too long. I mean, a lot of his stories were all about a really long, slow build for a short final payoff. Often the big reveal is the last sentence or so of the short stories.

Also, screw anyone who says The Whisperer in Darkness hasn't aged well. I'll grant that Lovecraft's paper-thin racism and the overall age of his work has somewhat dulled the horror to be found therein, but some of his writing is really timeless and shows a quality I think is still to be matched in many ways.

My biggest problem with the whole sanity thing is that very few of Lovecraft's characters actually went insane. It was the guy from "the Rats in the Walls" and a few others, but most of them were simply unsettled. If you want a sanity meter in your game, that's one thing, but don't pretend it has anything to do with Lovecraft.

I also have to agree with the whole "break of immersion" thing as well. Scare me, don't point at a meter and TELL me I'm scared.

Traigus:
For decent Lovecraftian reading in the modern era, I recommend "The Laundry" series by Charles Stross. Though they are also pretty funny as well.

Seconded. And, btw Yahtzee

imagining the tentacles of Nyarlathotep draped lovingly around your shoulders,

Nyarlathotep usually doesn't appear in a "horrid" form. Most of the time he's just a black man with a horn.

Although, that's even more unsettling.

I'm sorry, let me state that my distaste with Yahtzee's comment is that "Alice" was one of the most imaginative FPS games I've ever played. 1000x better than any muddy brown military hack-shooter you can think of. And Yahtzee potshots it for a nitpick from the god damn manual? As I recall, the actual game never labels the meters. It's just flavor text from the manual. And even if you want to nitpick that, the whole game takes place in her mind anyway.* So the sanity label is far more appropriate than health, because she's not being physically shot at by card guards and boojums.

Seriously, I can't be the only person who thinks that comment was dumb.

*That's not a spoiler. The game, the manual and the Rutledge Analysis Diary(A box insert which adds some backstory.) all make that incredibly clear.

Nieroshai:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:
I didn't know about Eternal Darkness. That's a pretty neat idea, if only as cheesy as Mr."YOU SEEM TO LIKE MARIO SUNSHINE" in Metal Gear over there

Oi, it's called, "Metal Gear Solid." And that was a stroke of genius mind you!

Oi, it's called "Metal Gear Solid Snake." And that was a stroke of MADNESS mind you!

No, there has never been a canon MG game with," Snake in the title," apart from Snake Eater, (MGS3), and MG:2. Unless you're referring to the remake for the Gamecube, entitled, "The Twin Snakes."
And how was it not brilliant? A fourth wall breaking reference that is actually relevant to you. Not to mention the vibration feature of the controller. (And the later addition in MGS3, that if you waited long enough between a save, you could kill a boos that was old.) The MG series has always been very interesting to me, as it utilises very unique gameplay mechanics.

[facepalm] This is why I keep petitioning Konami to get Kojima to remake the MSX2 titles "Metal Gear" and "Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake" for either the PSN or as full current-gen games. They were amazing, but Super Nintendo-esque graphics on a console no one has anymore doesn't translate to a modern gaming experience. Unless one lives in a basement. You want to play them though? Grab a copy of MGS 3: Subsistence, and play the bonus games on the second disc.

I played the originals using Subsistance. I hated them; I'm ashamed to say it, but it's the truth. I'd love to see the first two made using MGS4's engine.

snowman6251:
I like the Eternal Darkness approach the most of the bunch but I think sanity meters should be invisible. Don't tell us how sane we are, that way when crazy shit happens I'll be like "Holy shit what the fuck" rather than "oh my sanity is low".

Also I think if your sanity gets too low the game should start conjuring things like fake enemies that disappear when you attack them or something like that. Get you to be unsure as to whether or not you want to use your ammo on the monster as it might be fake.

I approve and endorse this fleeting thought that will never be implemented.

Vinticore:
I have been thinking about maybe reading through some lovecraft someday, is the any book in perticular which would be the best to start with, or?

The story I like the most (which might be adapted to the silver Screen by Mr. Del Toro is "At the Mountains of Madness". But you have a lot of shorter stories which are also good, most of which I do not remember the names of. I have a lot of his stories in a collection book which is of course called "Necronomicon". I don't think it is insanely expensive, so I'd just get that.

What I like about Lovecraft is that most of his stories are at the very least unsettling. There is always something scary about them, often something you can't really put your finger on. And the fact that he only relies on scaring you psychologically with the settings and the "otherworldy" impossibilites makes it work more often than not. The idea of having the remains of an ancient advanced race buried deep beneath the oceans, or the desert, or the ice-covered Antarctica... it is a brilliant and unsettling idea. Especially when said race might not be gone... And for all we know, there might be something unexplainable deep beneath the oceans. It is not knowing which makes his stories scary, and I still find them scary.

This is hard to translate to games, which is why there are so few genuinely scary games. Note that I do not count jump-scares when talking about scary games. Jump-scares are as far from horror as you can come.

If we can accept that the biggest loss of sanity will occur when a person is subjected to something beyond the understood parameters of the natural laws of the universe, or under considerable emotional distress, then I don't mind sanity meters to represent this in games only if the players are likely to feel the same thing.

Problem is then that the loss of sanity would become a scripted event. Whilst a loss of sanity can only be truly applied *if* a person isn't expecting it to happen.

Sanity meters as a stand alone gauge (a replacement for your health and stamina meters) might work well in a game.

For example ... a game where you can only take so much damage, but every magical and exotic major sensation you find will take a random amount of sanity from you. Not only this but the more sanity you have the more able you are to detect enemy monsters from further away or the more able you are to effectively communicate with others.

I think a sanity meter in some games would make in interesting addition to a game, but only if the sanity meter represents something that will affect how you perceive the game as well as a player.

The less sane your character is, the narrower your vision gets ... the less threatening some monsters and sounds become ... the more attractive sources of evil power become in which you have to actively fight off the temptation to claim the power as your own (yes ... the 'One Ring' style of temptation), etc etc.

As that being said ... in an action-adventure game, sanity could make an awesome substitute for HP + Stamina. But it has to represent something tangible in how you perceive the world and how your character is both influenced and influencing in the environment he/she occupies.

So long as the protagonist cant properly defend himself, you will have scary. I honestly thought Silent Hill 1 and Resident Evil 1 were the scariest games i've played.

In either case, your arsenal just always seems woefully inadequate. (Kitchen knife, no ammo, not exactly the arsenal u want to have when there are monsters/zombies around.) Not knowing what will happen after turning the corner, and have that creepy as hell music in the background really puts the fear into you. (with RE it was the silence that freaked me out, just hearing your footsteps becomes very foreboding.)

Insanity measured as quantity just becomes another meter to worry about. Immersion breaker for me. No overlay UI ftw in Horror! :D

I love the idea of eternal darkness playing tricks like deleting your game files.

That is BRILLIANT!

Nieroshai:

GrinningManiac:

JaymesFogarty:

GrinningManiac:
I didn't know about Eternal Darkness. That's a pretty neat idea, if only as cheesy as Mr."YOU SEEM TO LIKE MARIO SUNSHINE" in Metal Gear over there

Oi, it's called, "Metal Gear Solid." And that was a stroke of genius mind you!

Oi, it's called "Metal Gear Solid Snake." And that was a stroke of MADNESS mind you!

Either you're trolling(I'm guessing you are) or you don't really know. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was for the MSX2 console. Metal Gear Solid was for the Playstation, and featured Psycho Mantis. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes is a Gamecube remake of the Playstation version. And watch where you blaspheme, ALL Kojima productions are a stroke of genius!

OK

Firstly, not trolling, that's hurtful. I was trying to turn your comment on its head for comedic effect. Whether or not you found it funny dosen't change that I was making a joke(just cutting that hydra off at the head before it gets nasty)

Secondly, I called it "MADNESS" because it was unsettling and there were creepy laughing pictures in the background that freak the hell outta me.

Finally, just so you know where I stand, I hate the Metal Gear (or whetever the franchise on the whole is called) series for its overblown nature and conveluted-ness. It feels stodgy to play and watch, and the cutscenes are just ugh. The fourth one was particularly bad. But that's my opinion, and yours is yours, so there's nothing to argue over here.

hawk533:
I think Eternal Darkness uses the sanity meter in the best way possible. Actually making the player think they're insane the first time they see an effect is awesome.
.

thats a great idea. i actually really enjoyed that game, but as yahtzee said, it got too easy to keeep your sanity up, so i actually kept my sanity low to see the effects. kinda sad that something so simple like a difficulty level would ruin a great mechanic.

I have to disagree, at least in regards to Pen and Paper RPGs. Sanity meters are a brilliant touch for a character for one simple reason, I am not insane. Some people argue that alignment in D&D is stupid, because your character should be based on your actions, not your alignment. I think that results in the problem that all of my characters end up being Neutral Good, because I am, as a whole, a good person, who recognizes that this is a game, so I try to do good but work things to my advantage. However, if you say "this character is evil," I then have to play him as evil, and the game becomes playing an evil character and I get a new experience.

Similarly, if you say "your character is losing his sanity," it forces me to roleplay as being insane. It's not a matter of game design, it's a simple matter that if the game were starting to really get to me, mentally, I'd put it down, get a beer, have a poo, and then maybe come back to it. I always know I'm not trapped in a game.

Think of Farscape. John Crichton was going insane by his experience. It was believable, despite the fact that I could watch it and not go insane. Why? Because I wasn't living it day to day, I was just watching an hour a week. I knew they were all muppets, in the show world, they're weird alien creatures.

At some point, the needs of portraying the character outweigh what a game can realistically portray, and that's where meters come in. My character takes physical damage, and that just ends up being a tick off the health meter, why is psychological damage different?

Sir John the Net Knight:
I'm sorry, let me state that my distaste with Yahtzee's comment is that "Alice" was one of the most imaginative FPS games I've ever played. 1000x better than any muddy brown military hack-shooter you can think of. And Yahtzee potshots it for a nitpick from the god damn manual? As I recall, the actual game never labels the meters. It's just flavor text from the manual. And even if you want to nitpick that, the whole game takes place in her mind anyway.* So the sanity label is far more appropriate than health, because she's not being physically shot at by card guards and boojums.

Seriously, I can't be the only person who thinks that comment was dumb.

*That's not a spoiler. The game, the manual and the Rutledge Analysis Diary(A box insert which adds some backstory.) all make that incredibly clear.

I think his comment was more aligned towards how the game possibly treats it, not just the labeling. I haven't played Alice, so I wouldn't know though. But if the game just had it simply as "oh, you are going to die, sanity is low", then effectively its just health. Yet if the game started to react in according with your lower "sanity", then it isn't just a bar, but also a condition. Taking some ideas from the thread so far, lower "health" bar causes multiples of enemies to start appearing, you think you see ammo or health but it isn't there, and fuzzy blocks start to "block" random areas of the game. That, would be more interesting than "sanity low, die in next hit".

I have an idea for sanity mechanics to share, inspired by this.
The game has an invisible "meter" of sorts. It regenerates on its own slowly, or when viewing things based solely in reality. When its near full, works of fiction, artwork, and the like is perfectly safe, but as it gets lower and lower, things might appear from it, and becomes dangerous to you. You can hide from these, or take a swing or two at it, but if it hits you, instead of health, it forces the meter to lower faster and faster. This also can make peaceful pieces of artwork dangerous, as your character starts to lose themselves in it as it begins filling the screen (or room), forcing you to find the exit.

As this occurs, your characters heart rate will start to beat faster and faster, the screen starts to darken, ending with him or her clutching their chest. You have time as long as you have health, to reduce this by using an adrenaline shot or something, but only after whatever illusion is gone, otherwise its a temporary fix and your health just gets restored seeing as the heart attack is not true physical damage, and after the illusion is gone and the shot used your health will restore itself over a short amount of time.
In the case of the peaceful artwork idea, you'd have to look around for something out of place, hurry to it, and start to focus on it and slowly it, which forces everything around it to grow even more vivid, and possibly horrific as it lashes back.

If monsters exist, must be dealt with, and can increase the meter, then incorporate the idea of adaptability, which also works with the above. A monster will start off more horrific, but as you deal with them (killing them, staring for too long and still recover from it, yadda yadda), you begin to see what they really look like, then as you get too used to it, they become a shape, indiscriminate, a blob with a shape just definitive enough for you to know what they are.
Problem is, the more you get used to these horrors, the more you become indifferent to them. You no longer register them as threats. Helpful allies could soon be mistaken as the monsters as they even lose a little of their definition, and you'll only really know who you're talking to or seeing once they talk to you, or you kill them (and in the case of attacking and killing them, they won't talk, they fight back, as your mind has blotted out all possible stimuli that would lead to you recognizing them).

Now why is this? Why would be killing the monsters be so horrible? Because... as you continue to kill them, you become one of them. You lose sight of humanity, of being able to differentiate, and in time others will see you as these horrific beings.
And as you become a monster, the story shifts to reflect. All of a sudden the people you helped before are the enemies. The only true way you know just how much damage you've done, is after you beat the game, and the ending plays out.

It would be interesting to see Mr. Croshaws idea on a good way of handling sanity, not just a game that did it well.

what about Shadow Hearts? yeah, i know it's a JRPG but it did the sanity thing too... uniquely enough that i think it should be mentioned as a different model from the other titles listed.

It's not "even" games like the CoC RPG. It's likely because of them. The "sanity" system in those predates most of these titles by a good margin. It works for an RPG, because it ticks down the essentials and in this case, Sanity is an essential. Especially for a gamer, since after slogging through a lair of dragons very little in Lovecraft is going to make for any pants soiling.

It's harder to represent in video games, though. I think RPG fans will accept more readily that their behaviour can be altered. It's not new. Fail a Will save. Boom, someone else's bidding. Not a good idea for video games, because it's a bad idea to take control out of the player's hands. So other methods are used. And Eternal Darkness did it well--minus the ease which is mentioned. It messed with you on a metagame level.

Actually, everybody saying the whole "Not giving a meter or anything to show you are insane". That's actually an amazing idea.

Imagine a multiplayer co-op game that implemented an invisible sanity meter, so if you went off and explored something, it would take a hit. If it got low enough, you could have sounds of combat or talking play for that one player alone, and spawn "fake" enemies to attack them. The other guys would see this one player constantly shooting at nothing, running from things that aren't there, and responding to stuff that wasn't said. I keep picturing this in Left 4 Dead, and it's AWESOME.

Tabletop-wise, I particularly like Trail of Cthulhu's Pillars of Sanity, which has the player specify two or three core beliefs at character creation. The loss of sanity thus represents the character's crumbling belief system. If a core belief was, say, love for a spouse, then the destruction of that belief represents the realization that love is not eternal and could even be an outright lie.

I don't see how that would translate well for a computer game. It's very much a characterization issue. In most games, your background is decided more or less for you and your mission path is ultimately determined in advance. There isn't the same scope for improv or accidental discovery, nor can the player really tailor the experience for their avatar.

Oh, and @ Vinticor: Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth is pretty interesting, and you can find it on the net. I think wikipedia has links to some of the best online versions. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society is also worth a look; they shoot movie adaptations, and their fake-silent Call of Cthulhu movie is well worth seeing. I understand they're doing a fake-1930s movie soon; hopefully it'll be as good. ;)

Sir John the Net Knight:
I'm sorry, let me state that my distaste with Yahtzee's comment is that "Alice" was one of the most imaginative FPS games I've ever played. 1000x better than any muddy brown military hack-shooter you can think of. And Yahtzee potshots it for a nitpick from the god damn manual? As I recall, the actual game never labels the meters. It's just flavor text from the manual. And even if you want to nitpick that, the whole game takes place in her mind anyway.* So the sanity label is far more appropriate than health, because she's not being physically shot at by card guards and boojums.

Seriously, I can't be the only person who thinks that comment was dumb.

*That's not a spoiler. The game, the manual and the Rutledge Analysis Diary(A box insert which adds some backstory.) all make that incredibly clear.

It was a throwaway joke about the fact that while he was talking about sanity meters in games, Alice had a "sanity meter" which was really a health meter and nothing more. You might not have been the only person to think it was a dumb joke, but you're probably one of the only ones who cared enough to post about it.

I'm hoping you're defensive enough to think that it was in any way a knock on the game.

As far as I go, I probably would've enjoyed Alice moreso if it didn't feel like Hot Topic: The Video Game.

I like the idea of an invisible sanity meter. You don't know how much you have taken until the game starts screwing with you, and the more you take, the more the game screws around with you. Seeing stuff that isn't there, shadows on the walls turn into writing with vague threats against you, or specific threats against you as the damage (so to speak) gets worse. Or you start to see eyes looking out at you from the corners of your vision. You turn and they are gone, and when you turn back, they slowly return..

And the sound effects... the whine of a mosquito, the sound of pigs being slaughtered (mixed into the soundtrack subliminally) could have the same effect on people like the Exorcist, a film in which such a thing was apparently used.

Ryokai:
We're all entitled to our opinions, and my reason and logic leads me to a different place then yours does, and that's fine

No, you aren't, and no, it isn't.

It is not OK to be wrong(be definition), and you don't deserve to live in a safe little bubble if someone tries to argue that you are.

Sir John the Net Knight:
I'm sorry, let me state that my distaste with Yahtzee's comment is that "Alice" was one of the most imaginative FPS games I've ever played.

Alice wasn't an FPS;it was third person. And it wasn't particularly good at that. That game was a triumph of atmosphere and nothing else....and I still think it was supposed to have been a secret that it was all a hallucination until you figure it out yourself rather than it just telling you this in the intro movie.

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