Outlast Will Scare You With Science

Outlast Will Scare You With Science

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The makers of the indie horror game Outlast have enlisted the aid of scientists to make the game even scarier.

Being startled and being scared are not the same thing. In gamer terms, it's the difference between some hellspawned jerk jumping out of a monster closet in Quake 4 and being hunkered down in the corner of Alexander's pitch-black basement in Amnesia, trying not to look at the mutilated thing shuffling around just feet away and staying very, very still. And quiet. Don't let him hear you. Don't move. Don't breathe.

I don't have the expertise to explain how fear works, but Dr. Maral Tajerian does, and she's loaning that expertise to Outlast developer Red Barrels. Tajerian, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University's Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, is also a member of Thwacke! Consulting, "a multidisciplinary think-tank of academics that aims to bridge the gap between videogames and science in order to make their fiction creative, relevant, and immersive." The group's goal is to bring science literacy to the world of entertainment and "nurture intelligence in the gaming audience around the world," and apparently one way to do that is to help game developers scare people stupid.

Thwacke is providing Red Barrels with insights and research on real-world criminally insane asylum patients, and also on historical asylum layouts and techniques, including the "often-questionable research" carried out on patients. By keeping the game as grounded in reality as possible, the team hopes to make it believable, and thus even more frightening.

"The survival horror genre has seen many changes over the years, but the core is always a cerebral experience that capitalizes on anxiety and startles the player," Tajerian explained. "Due to the background of certain patients in the Outlast asylum, there are a lot of interesting behaviors that could be unsettling to a player. We believe there is tremendous space to help Red Barrels get creative beyond portraying asylum patients as thugs."

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as "good" in the strictest sense, but I suppose that if horror is what you want, then a properly horrific horror game is what you should get. Red Barrels also announced that we're finally about to get our first real look at the game, as the studio will be showing it off later this month at PAX East. In the meantime, you can find out more about the PC-exclusive Outlast at Red Barrels Games.

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So she's blinding helping them scare me with science?

I'm totally okay with that as long as it's genuinely terrifying, makes me run to turn the lights on, and play the game during the day.

Still pretty cool though and it should make a really good horror game.

Just be wary...

What has happened in the madhouses of the world are the stuff of nightmares.

Things you can never forget, things you want to forget.

I only know the barest bones of what has gone down, and I don't envy anyone who knows more.

It should make the game horrifying if done right.

In the screen shot: Is that a blood stain or a shadow?

Oh boy, I'm looking forward to this then. First I've heard of it but hopefully they can really frighten me. I say this all the time, broken record and all, but I really love what the indie scene has done for horror games in recent years. Amnesia was nice but just wasn't quite scary enough for my tastes. Hopefully between Slender, Asylum and this I can get at least one terrible night's sleep out of it.

DVS BSTrD:
In the screen shot: Is that a blood stain or a shadow?

What if it's both? WOooOOooOOOOOoOoOooOoOO~!

Heard about those Thwacke! guys via an Ars article on how they're consulting on some post apocalypse world.
Hope they'll be really succesful for many years with their expertise consulting on games!!!

It seems the true horror genre has been left to the indie developers. And to them I tip my hat. If you ask me, the innovation towards true fear is the greatest thing to happen to the gaming industry in a long long time. Truly a nothing can scare you like an interactive experience. Books and movies leave you detached, out of control of what the protagonist is doing... However when you ARE the protagonist...

I've laughed my way through the darkest horror films, but my own personal experience with Amnesia was truly terrifying.

Sigh. I had seen the teaser trailer before, now I've watched the full trailer on their website.
I had high hopes for this project, but they're much more limited now. Screams, opera stings, copious amounts of blood and severed limbs, "the reveal"- and other typical shock effects...
It's going to be one of those "Boo!"-titles, isn't it...?
Maybe I'm overly pessimistic, but considering what they chose to advertise with, I don't think they're on the right track. Maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe I'm right, but these scientists can help put them on the right track. We'll see.

and soon we will get a LP from PewDiePie where we laugh at his misery.

seriously, I see no other point of horror games other than laughing at other people playing them.

schadenfreude perhaps?

Not G. Ivingname:
Just be wary...

What has happened in the madhouses of the world are the stuff of nightmares.

Things you can never forget, things you want to forget.

I only know the barest bones of what has gone down, and I don't envy anyone who knows more.

It should make the game horrifying if done right.

Meh, my basic attitude to this entire thing is "been here, done that". The whole "haunted asylum" thing and using the "realities" of old school treatment of the mentally ill for horror is a truely old trope that's been handled in novels, books, video games, movies, and exposes for decades. Takes on it from making it even worse for the sake of fiction, to being painstakingly authentic, have all been done. I suppose it's creepy if you were actually seeing it,
but as far as more products with the detachment inherant in the media goes... it's something that will mostly work on those who aren't already jaded horror fans. Some guys like Michael Slade (I think I have the first name right) have even made a career out of it "Slade" is actually a pen name for a group of lawyers from Canada who specialize in the prosecution of the mentally ill, they wrote a number of thrillers about Canadian law enforcement based loosely on the stuff they learned in the course of doing their jobs for example, who the writers are being part of the "selling point" of their books.

At any rate, to my way of thinking the problem with horror in video games is that they simply aren't willing to push the enevelope to the point of things that will actually get a rise out of jaded horror fans, for fear of offending too many people who aren't horror fans. Interestingly this is a problem with doing horror or thrillers in general.

One of the problems I've also had with a lot of horror games is that they increasingly seem to "not get it" especially when it comes to horror fans. The current trend towards stealth based horror is in my opinion as bad as the action-based horror. To be honest in the scope of the original article trying to hide from a monster in the shadows and exploit it's AI that way while not facing it due to arbitrary fear penelties is just as bad as the whole "oh hey, it's another Zombie, let's see how fast I can headshot it...".

I agree old Asylums are freaky, but I'll be very surprised if we see anything that anyone else who has done some research and made a work of horror out of it hasn't already done.

Also to be entirely fair, while we look back at this stuff and go "wow, that's F@cked up" the guys doing it were at least well intentioned, and to be honest other more humane treatments that we have now by way of compairson largely came to be because of things that were learned during this period. It sounds odd, but I've always though that the whole "sociopathic doctor who dies during a patient revolt" thing got kind of passe. Not sure if I ever remember a case where the ghosts in the Asylum (who were you know, criminally insane before they ever got there) were being kept in line by the spirit of the doctor/staff who were actually well intentioned even if wrong due the time they practiced during. Though I'm sure someone probably did do that kind of a variation on it at some point.... but I'm rambling and getting well off the basic subject. The point being that it personally strikes me as being an almost painful stereotype nowadays.

Fiz_The_Toaster:
So she's blinding helping them scare me with science?

I'm totally okay with that as long as it's genuinely terrifying, makes me run to turn the lights on, and play the game during the day.

Still pretty cool though and it should make a really good horror game.

You avatar. I love it.

OT: This could be a wonderful (can I use that word in this case?) project. I hope the best for it. Chances are good that if it is all it's cracked up to be, I'll buy it and never touch it out of fear of the horrors that lurk inside.

This... this is starting to look REAL good. I need to keep a closer eye on this game, I think.

From the trailer, I'm not really digging the art style. Everything is too 'bright' if you ask me.

Well I for one am looking forward to see how this turns out. It's always interesting to see how theory translates into practice.

When I read the title and first sentence or so, I had different expectations. I was hoping that scientists were providing data on what scares people the most, what the most common phobias are and the most efficient ways to induce anxiety and unsettling feelings. Information about the horrors that occur in some asylums is cool and all, and this has promise, but now I'd love to see a horror game that is "scientifically proven" to scare the fuck out of you.

One thing I do like is how there's no flashlight, but only an infrared camcorder to see in the dark. When you can't see more than a few feet in front of you in the dark, heh. That seems effective.
I wish they could make it half as immersive as they make it seem. But we all know the way he puts his hands against walls and such when sneaking is completely scripted for that particular trailer. They NEED to give you a full 3D body and free-look ala ArmA 2.

The problem I have with most horror games are how scripted they are. I know they're trying to scare me with their noises and grotesque pictures. But there's no reason to be scared then, I know the game won't kill me. Amnesia is the best horror game I've played yet, but it's still a little too linear for me.
I want to see a game where they give you a complex abandoned building to explore, with lots and lots of enviromental hazards/traps just waiting to fall down on you. Noises and spooky happenings aren't just random, they can be used to determine where the unknown is, how close it is to you. The closer it is to you, the bigger the chances are of the non-obvious hazards activating when you pass them, the building is hostile and out to kill you. Or worse, encounters with the unknown. You have to avoid getting close to him, if he gets close it's time to run and hide. But making noise will only draw him towards you faster.
The goal of the game? Survive till dawn. The unknown is constantly looking for you. You die you start over. You have to learn what to avoid.

That's the horror game I'd try to make if I had the know-how.

Ugh; a scary game set in an insane-asylum? That's breaking new grounds, for sure.

I'm far more interested in the bizarrely named "Montas", especially with its clever subliminal messages and stuff happening just out of the corner of your eyes. There is a really neat bit where you enter a subway; pay attention to the billboard on the way through the turnstile.

 

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