Outlasted

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Outlasted

Flight or flight.

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If I was designing a horror game, I'd let the player try and hit the monster with something, only to fail and get messily devoured because it turns out that beating someone to death with a rotted 2x4 is actually really hard.

Outlast throws a reporter(?) into an insane asylum with a bunch of super-freaks that often have knives and definitely thirst for blood. I just don't see our intrepid hero coming out on top.

Actually, I prefer not being able to kill shit.

Once I'm given a weapon, no matter how weak, I'm going to find a way to kill everything in my path. Then the game goes from horror to a hunt. And hunting, while potentially challenging, isn't scary.

Penumbra, the predecessor to Amnesia, was a prime example. They give you a hammer, and later a pickaxe, but made the controls awkward as fuck. Didn't stop me from knocking over every enemy I met with a thrown object before awkwardly beating their heads in.

Similar scenario with the original Condemned. "Oh no! A crazed homeless guy with an axe has ambushed you and is about to... oh, you blew him away with a shotgun. Uh, good shot, I guess."

Dead Space was the extreme example. (Yes, all of the Dead Space games.) Turned "horror" into a dismemberment production line. A monster jumps out! Zap, off goes his right leg and he falls flat on his face. Zap, off goes his right arm, and he's dead. Another monster jumped out! Zap, off goes his right leg, and he falls... etc etc.

A thing that you can kill and perform an improvised Punch and Judy puppet routine with its corpse cannot be scary.

Firstly, this seems appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olEbwhWDYwM

Secondly, while I am not a fan of games that ruin my underwear, pants and seat, I think it's to help create atmosphere. Extra-credits had an episode on horror games and mentioned that being unable to fight the monster makes you more frigthened, ala Ripley vs. Xenomorph(I like to call him Charles)

Eh, that sort of thing does happen in horror movies a lot.

Only, after she'd hit the monster, she throws away the advantage, runs off, falls over and hurts herself, and lies there until the monster recovers and catches up to her again.

Once you've started hitting the monster, don't stop until it's smeared all over the floor.

You...you dare suggest going against the status quo of horror games! FILTHY CASUAL!

But nah that is basically the reason I stopped playing any horror game.
"Egads a monster...better hide under a bed...again"

It went from scary to downright ANNOYING to have to deal with this over and over.
To bad I could not mod in the BFG from doom or something, because that would be funny.

Not being able to fight back in horror games does raise the tension pretty high, but that doesn't mean it needs to be taken to the extreme. I think you can still make encounters with bad guys pretty nerve racking if you make the player still feel underpowered by comparison.

Zhukov:
Actually, I prefer not being able to kill shit.

In Outlast you literally can't do anything though, except run and hide.

You can't fend off enemies, you can't throw shit to distract them while in stealth. You have arms, but apparently they barely have any function. Give me crappy weapon controls if you wish for me to feel helpless, but don't make me literally helpless. Especially if you have the worst fucking stealth mechanic.

Yeah, I don't much like this game.

I'm not a big fan of the trend myself, because in many ways it just makes the game less scary for me. After a while, I stop thinking "Oh my gawds, a monster! Bu-bu-bu-but I can't kill it!" and more "Oh fuck, more of you? Ugh, let's get this over with. Yeah, yeah, BOO and all that, I'll run this way and you'll follow." I get that giving too many items takes away from the horror, but having no items doesn't actually make the game scarier. In many ways, a game with no items isn't actually as scary as a game with FEW items.

Picture the following scenarios if you will: there are three enemies in the room, and you have 300 bullets because the game just throws ammo at you. Not very scary, since you have more than enough to deal with each enemy. Now imagine the same scenario, but you have no bullets because the game doesn't have a weapons system. Sure, it may initially frighten you, but now it's no longer about overcoming tough situations so much as it's now overcoming puzzles, in this case the puzzle always being "How do I run away from these three dudes." You stop viewing it in your mind as something that must be feared and rather as something that must simply be dealt with like anything else. Now imagine the same scenario, but now you only have two bullets because the game does have weapons, but weapons are scarce and you need to properly use them. To me, this is the ideal scenario, because now each encounter forces you to consider which battles are worth it and which ones aren't. There's also that element of knowing that even if two enemies die, there's still the one, and then the feeling of failure springs to mind because you realize that as much as you dying is a result of the game's obstacles, your use or misuse of resources is also a cause for death. In other words, you are as much a monster to yourself as the actual monsters in the game (which tends to be the "point" as it were i a good number of games)

TLDR: Too much power isn't scary because it's almost impossible to lose, no power isn't scary because there is nothing to lose, and some power is scary because while you can survive, you always have something to lose with each encounter

Thunderous Cacophony:
If I was designing a horror game, I'd let the player try and hit the monster with something, only to fail and get messily devoured because it turns out that beating someone to death with a rotted 2x4 is actually really hard.

Outlast throws a reporter(?) into an insane asylum with a bunch of super-freaks that often have knives and definitely thirst for blood. I just don't see our intrepid hero coming out on top.

That's the difference between you and me. I'd actually give the player a weapon so that they could stand a chance against the creature. Not a machine gun, no, I mean like a pipe or crowbar. Because guess what? Some of us would rather go down fighting or at the very least struggling, before the beast kills and/or eats us. We're humans, remember? we're GOOD at finding new and innovative ways to kill things, especially each other.

Yeah, Outlast had the silliest contrivance not allowing you to even try to kill those guys.

The game got really repetitive when all you could do is run and hide.

It got to the point where it wasn't scary as just annoying.

I hate horror games where you can't fight back in anyway. Yes, the creature MAY be scary, but I'd rather have a way to fight back (I'm not saying it should be a LMG, but a weapon like a pipe, or a baseball bat.), because otherwise, I'll look at this, see the trailer, think it looks interesting, then go back to playing The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile or Charlie Murder. Or Mark Of The Ninja.

Now, I would still prefer the ability to fight back. Not kill the aggressor and it's a risky tactic but a viable tactic you can use if you're good enough and lucky enough.

I'm more a fan of the Silent Hill approach. The horror is as much in the environment as in the monsters and though you are armed, you still feel helpless against the twisted reality you're stuck inhabiting. The single most dreadful thing I've ever experienced in a game is hearing those sires going off and feeling totally helpless to stop the coming horror. My guns meant nothing.

GamerMage:

Thunderous Cacophony:
If I was designing a horror game, I'd let the player try and hit the monster with something, only to fail and get messily devoured because it turns out that beating someone to death with a rotted 2x4 is actually really hard.

Outlast throws a reporter(?) into an insane asylum with a bunch of super-freaks that often have knives and definitely thirst for blood. I just don't see our intrepid hero coming out on top.

That's the difference between you and me. I'd actually give the player a weapon so that they could stand a chance against the creature. Not a machine gun, no, I mean like a pipe or crowbar. Because guess what? Some of us would rather go down fighting or at the very least struggling, before the beast kills and/or eats us. We're humans, remember? we're GOOD at finding new and innovative ways to kill things, especially each other.

We may be good, but they're better.

The old Silent Hills did what I mean very well. Sure, you had a gun, but trying to shoot Pyramid Head was a damnfool thing to do, and you knew it. I'm not saying that you can't go down fighting, just that you will go down because you're not good at fighting, and what you're fighting against is a lot better than you.

I think the problem is less an issue with being completely defenseless and more an issue with games making the player defenseless and then proceeding to use their monsters too often. I mean, I get that they want to keep things tense and that they follow the same typical game design strategy of difficulty ramping up as you approach the end of the game, but in a horror game I think expectations need to be broken and those shackles of "normal" game design need to be cast aside.

Atmosphere is king in horror games, in my opinion, so it doesn't really matter if there's a monster chasing me or not, as long as I know that there's the possibility of the monster chasing me at any given time. In fact, the lulls and quiet sections often serve as fantastic ways to punctuate just how strange and off the situation you're in may be, and build up more tension than the adrenaline pumping chase-or-hide sequences. At least, in my mind. Feeling unnerved and anxious is much "scarier" in my mind than a string quartet suddenly leaping out in my face and running after me. Sure, I'll jump at it, but it's a cheap thrill.

I'm not really sure that giving the player a stick would really help keep a horror game from devolving into Dead Space. Being able to fight back fundamentally reduces the "scary" factor of an enemy, because even with relatively clumsy controls, there's still always the fact that you can fight back and by the convenience of the necessity of video game design, you'll always be able to overcome the obstacle in your path. Therefore the only answer is to make the enemy or enemies unkillable but still stunnable or slow enough for the player to run away in time, but then you get a Nemesis situation and you're likely going to divide the opinions of the people who play your game and get a new group of people who are frustrated that they can fight your creature but it's essentially invincible.

Video game design doesn't really lend itself to other options, either. If you can kill an enemy, it eventually loses its fearsomeness. If you can't and you see it far too often, it becomes frustrating that it keeps impeding your progress. And the middle ground of being able to knock them out so you can run away again is... not an elegant solution. But maybe someone should try it to see what we get out of it?

I support the pipe or piece of wood thing... but it'd probably be a bit vestigial. You can smack that big brute of a psycho but he'll just kill you anyway. Because he's crazy-go-nuts and you're not. Plus that might set up for a fantastic scene where you actually do kill the brute because you've been forced to go insane.

I think the problem isn't the ability to kill said monster but to put up even the most basic fight. I understand an indie title going down that route as it's easier but it seems most games these days seem to be jumping on the wagon, then when anyone speaks up they're told they simply don't get horror and should go back to Gears of War if they wanna kill shit.

*shrug*

Whatevs, peeps should make what they want, just don't call me a prick if I say I don't like it.

Zhukov:
Penumbra, the predecessor to Amnesia, was a prime example. They give you a hammer, and later a pickaxe, but made the controls awkward as fuck. Didn't stop me from knocking over every enemy I met with a thrown object before awkwardly beating their heads in.

I didn't think you could actually kill something in Penumbra. I thought they got back up after a while.

Anyway, I prefer a balance. Like, you can get weapons and can kill monsters, but they make it really hard. Ammo for guns is really hard to find, so you have to preserve it for when you absolutely need it (like you need time to search a room without having your butt bitten off). 2x4s and pipes do very little damage and are mostly just for a quick stun, but are difficult to time, so you're probably going to get hurt if you use them anyway. Sort of gameplay that makes running away the best option, but doesn't leave you completely hanging if you get backed into a corner and have no other option.

Thunderous Cacophony:

GamerMage:

Thunderous Cacophony:
If I was designing a horror game, I'd let the player try and hit the monster with something, only to fail and get messily devoured because it turns out that beating someone to death with a rotted 2x4 is actually really hard.

Outlast throws a reporter(?) into an insane asylum with a bunch of super-freaks that often have knives and definitely thirst for blood. I just don't see our intrepid hero coming out on top.

That's the difference between you and me. I'd actually give the player a weapon so that they could stand a chance against the creature. Not a machine gun, no, I mean like a pipe or crowbar. Because guess what? Some of us would rather go down fighting or at the very least struggling, before the beast kills and/or eats us. We're humans, remember? we're GOOD at finding new and innovative ways to kill things, especially each other.

We may be good, but they're better.

The old Silent Hills did what I mean very well. Sure, you had a gun, but trying to shoot Pyramid Head was a damnfool thing to do, and you knew it. I'm not saying that you can't go down fighting, just that you will go down because you're not good at fighting, and what you're fighting against is a lot better than you.

I KNOW that, alright? I'm saying those games are bad, I've heard of Silent Hill 2, it's story, and I find it interesting. But games in other genres can create a sense of horror as well. Take the Broodmother segment in Dragon Age:Origins. That's one of the parts of the game I remember the most; mostly because of how God dang terrifying and unsettling it was. Seeing the disturbing imagery combined with the Dwarven lady explaining what happened, the tone in which she tells it, all leading up to the abomination that was the Brood Mother. It was effed up with those dwarves DID to each other. And I remember just feeling so gratified after finishing it off. And maybe that's why I prefer my horror or macabre elements to be in a Sho-nen manga, or a different genre of gaming. Ever hear of The Dishwasher games? Those were beat-em-up games with RPG elements sure, but here me out. The art style is like a 90's Rock album cover. Here, take a look. >https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQWp5IXQCfg

Disagree. The moment you give the player the ability to fight back, everything that you can't fight back against becomes frustrating. So you then have the game sectioned off into

A) monsters I can take care of
B) everything else that I can't take care of

So the rest just becomes tedious, and tedium you do not want in a horror game. The string quartet thing? Well, there's nothing really to say about that. Cliched, but so is everything. I agree with what Jim Sterling said about Outlast on the Co-optional podcast. If something is done well, it's done well. I think Outlast got right what it set out to do.

The Call of Cthulhu game (Dark Corners one) had the right idea; sure, you can have a gun and we'll even give you a few bullets. Yes, enough bullets will kill that monster over there... but not the other two just behind him.

It gave you the ability to fight your way out if you were truly cornered but encouraged the player to stay stealthy for the most part.

It's a "No Win" situation. If they put in "Classic, Silent Hill Style "I'm helpless" combat"... then people would complain about the controls not being tight enough, or that the game doesn't have polish, etc.

I don't see the point of this complaint. Taking away all ability to fight in a HORROR GAME is no different than designing the ultimate macho bad-ass with an arsenal that he can pull out of his ass crack in Gears of War. It's part of the design of the game. And it works to scare the crap out of you.

Cory Rydell and Grey Carter prefer not to be frozen with fear.

Fasckira:
The Call of Cthulhu game (Dark Corners one) had the right idea; sure, you can have a gun and we'll even give you a few bullets. Yes, enough bullets will kill that monster over there... but not the other two just behind him.

It gave you the ability to fight your way out if you were truly cornered but encouraged the player to stay stealthy for the most part.

Yeah, and it also had that awesome part where you had no weapons and the whole town was trying to kill you. You just had to run and lock doors behind you and such. But it worked well precisely because it was just a part. If the whole game had been like that, it would have got old pretty soon.

I guess I don't see the appeal in horror games at all. Why purposefully make yourself feel helpless in something like that? I would prefer a means of defending myself and controls that help instead of hinder (i.e. ones that won't make me yell "HOP OVER THAT COFFEE TABLE, YOU GIMP! IT'S JUST 1 FOOT TALL!"). It's been a problem since the first Resident Evil.

Penumbra showed me that as long as a player has a SMALL chance of victory, they WILL take it and they WILL bust the head of ANY monster to a bloodied mess. No matter the cost. NO matter how hard it is. They will try to kill ALL monsters.

STALKER is not a horror game per say but it did have a good idea. AI was smart and monsters were tough and scary. The player is the variable. It is either an action slugfest or a slow crawl... or just running like a little squirrel from the enemies :P

The abundance of "no weapons" horror games is the reason I'm looking forward Evil Within. It would be nice to go back to the last gen 3rd person horror games with traditional combat and horror enemies

Zhukov:
Dead Space was the extreme example. (Yes, all of the Dead Space games.) Turned "horror" into a dismemberment production line. A monster jumps out! Zap, off goes his right leg and he falls flat on his face. Zap, off goes his right arm, and he's dead. Another monster jumped out! Zap, off goes his right leg, and he falls... etc etc.

I always felt the opposite. The idea that you can sit there cut an enemies arms and legs off and they're still coming after you and are still capable of killing you is scary. I'm not against games like Outlast but I just don't see how they're inherently scarier than games with weapons. Sure, you can find a way to kill any enemy, but in games like Outlast and Amnesia you're always fast enough to run away from any enemies. Oh shit, crazy guy, good thing I can run like a track star and hide under a bed. They become just as repetitive. I don't see what's wrong with games like Dead Space or RE4 where you're well armed but the enemies are just as strong. Then again, I'm not like most people who quickly stop being afraid the moment the atmosphere is broken

A somewhat off topic question, but due to certain interests of mine, I was curious to know this. How is he speaking, seemingly intelligibly, whilst being the victim of a medical mouth spreader?

As for the horror games, I tend to find them boring. Though, in fairness, I don't like being afraid. I'm very much a FIGHT response type, not a flight. When I start to get anxiety or true fear, my first instinct is I have to fight forward to survive, or I will simply die. So, by and large, horror games just don't do it for me. A game I found truly unnverving whilst also being a true joy to play, is Bioshock, even disregarding the plot elements, the game sucked me in and had me jumping and giving my body the needed elements to create adrenaline meaning I was left a jellified mess after each play session. Amnesia on the other hand, well, it was interesting until the 1-hit-KO fish stage and I just got bored by that point. The tension was real sure, not wanting to use up all my limited supplies made for a hectic experience, but it wasn't all that engrossing for me, my gf who is generally my audience for games, also wasn't overly fond of it and didn't complain when I called it quits.

Maybe it's my nostalgia glasses speaking, but at least consider that while I write this.

I've been re-playing Resident Evil 3 lately and it still makes me quite a bit nervous, you see, RE3 was one of the first horror games to introduce an all powerful and persistent enemy, called Nemesis, his only purpose is to see you dead and that's it. This being a Resident Evil game, means you have weapons at your disposal, even a puny knife, some would say that the tension is already gone the moment you're given a gun, well... I'd like to difer.

Nemesis is extremely powerful and it will take you a LOT of shots to put him down, notice I don't say "kill him", because you never truly kill him until the very end of the game, you can only put him down temporarily. What makes his encounters tense as fuck (at least on hard difficulty), is that, you get an extremely limited supply of ammo and healing herbs/sprays, if you don't know exactly where he's going to pop up, you're most likely worn out and with few ammo at your disposal, so your only alternative is run the hell away from him... BUT, he's still chasing you and he hardly gives up, of course he'll eventually give up the chase, but for that moment to come, it's gonna take a good while.

The only thing that comes close to it was the regenerator on the Dead Space series and notice how they limit him to just a few sections and how his parts are generally the most difficult and tense. Imagine a freaking regenerator chasing you for the entire game, that's what Nemesis is in a nutshell.

I insist, maybe it's my nostalgia glasses speaking, but I still think it's possible to make a horror game where you can defend yourself being truly horrifying, or at the very least, very tense.

Being able to kill monsters ruins the horror element. You can't fear the monsters if you know you can kill them.

That's the difference between horror and horror-themed games.

I can't but agree with this comic. Being defenseless is not fun, it's frustrating, as it goes against my thinking as a human and as a gamer. The enemy is a problem I solve by fighting or outsmarting it in some way, not something I run away from.

But striking the balance between giving the player the power to fight (making it an action game) and forcing the player to evade the monster (typical horror game) is not something I've seen yet.

It's either that I'm forced to flee from everything or that I find a way to commit some level of genocide - be it on man or beast.

I'll use a twist on Dead Space as the basis of how horror could be done, while still letting you fight, but not making fighting the monsters the solution. Mostly because it's a series that I enjoy, but also one that loses it's horror (outside a few jump-scares here and there) once you learn how to kill the necromorphs effectively.

So let's say they did things like this instead:
When you kill necromorphs they eventually reform into new, tougher, versions. And all killing them really does is randomize what creeps up on you next. The only way to really make sure they'd stay dead for good (or at least be unable to reach you) would be to trap them somewhere they can't escape from (like say by getting them sucked into space, permanently frozen or locked in stasis) or to completely incinerate the remains.

That way, if you'd just keep killing them over and over, you would find yourself fighting tougher and tougher necromorphs, of ever increasing numbers, until you'd be out of resources, horribly outnumbered and generally screwed.

Because of this you might not want to fight them all the time, preferring to run from weaker ones over killing them, to prevent them from reforming into tougher ones. And the only way to beat these monsters would be by being smarter than them - not better armed (though being better armed would still help).

The player would be able to fight, but would have to be smart about it, and evading the enemy would still be a viable option. And in the end what would defeat the enemy would be players using their smarts to block the enemy's ability to pursue - preferably at great risk. That's how I think you'd still be able to have action in a horror game, and not lose the horror element to the action.

So make violence an option, but respond in kind. If the player fights, the enemy fights back harder and harder, until the player is screwed unless they can find another way. Just make violence part of the solution, but not the whole solution. Let me fight back, but brutally murder me if that's all I try to do.

I haven't played much of Outlast (though the beginning was incredible) but I'm not putting any money on Generic Man/Woman of unspecified height, weight or general backstory against the super freaks that you do fight and who want to gnarl your bones.

Granted, in Amnesia, you can actually kill the monsters. You've just got to be fast. From various things, like the lack of a death animation, though the monster pausing for a while (maybe indicating a placeher) and it actually being possible, maybe suggest it was going to be a feature, but got cut.

One of the things I thought of was a system whereby a player character who is obviously not a combat specialist, like a reporter or whatever, can't possibly stand up to a big beefy insane guy in a straight up fight..
But instead, similarly too the comic, if you hide somewhere, sneak around, and get the drop on a mob, you can stun it temporarily by whacking it in the back of the head. You can't actually damage it and if you keep whacking away it'll shake it off and strangle you, but the stun time is substantial enough too feel rewarding.
See? This satisfies the need to feel like you can fight back, but doesn't make the character a combat powerhouse.
You're still just a scared, weak little bunny rabbit hopping away from rampaging lions, but if you plan it right you can give yourself a fighting chance.

I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

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