Topic: Developing a horror game

Hey guys, i'm new to the forum. wanting to know what the wider public's views are on Horror whether it be games or films. Got a few questions, if any of you are kind enough to answer, discuss and debate that would be grand.

What key elements define an amazing horror?
What films are great horrors? and what is it that provides them with this success?
What not to do in a horror film/game? and any examples
What is too cliche about the horror genre that you are sick of seeing/hearing/playing?
What cliche's are good and always needed?
Finally is there anything that you've always wanted to see/hear/play in a horror that you've never come across?

Thank you and honest responses are much appreciated

Re: Developing a horror game

An interesting topic, I hope it's not just spam, and you stay around and chat with us here on the forum.

Elements of horror: I think a key thing is the unseen and the unkown, the shadow on the wall, the footsteps behind you, the dark. The other key elements are obvious death and insanity.

Great horror films? Come now, just explore the forum that's what it's for. What provides them with success? Originality, emotional connection, and great cinematography. Gore helps.

What not to do? Don`t plagiarize, not only for legal reasons, but originality is always the key to success. If you`re the only one on the market with an idea, you basically have a monopoly.

Cliche`s bad: Overly romantic vampires. The can be romantisized but they are still freakin evil.

Cliche`s good: It`s fun to have little tributes to the genre itself, references to old gods ala Lovecraft, or just tributes to other pillars of the horror genre, a great example of this is done in the Scream movies, or Cabin in the Woods. Though it needn`t be so obvious.

Last question: Hmmm tough one, this is the money maker. If you can produce something never before seen or heard it could make your game very interesting. I`m always a fan of witchcraft and the occult in horror movies, an in depth, well researched magic system, either based on actually grimoires and magickal rites, or fictionalized but popular mythos like the Cthulhu mythos would be cool. It`s been done before though.

Re: Developing a horror game

Great response, very grateful, as a team we hadn't thought about paying homage to the oldies so that is definitely something i will bring to the table tomorrow.
We are surely going down a psychological route rather than action and gore. Of course we are looking into mutants and blood but how much we are not sure yet. We are looking into conditioning the player alongside the shadows and the footsteps etc. basically luring the player into a false sense of security which we believe will go down a treat.
As for the cliche. A member of the team really likes a small girl with long hair similar to the grudge and the ring as the 'bad guy' i thought that would be too cliche and any fan of horror would throw our game down. What's your views on this?

Last edited by cheztaa (2012-10-17 15:56:22)

Re: Developing a horror game

Yeah I would say that`s not such a good idea. It`d be cool as an element in the game but the little girl as the main baddie has become a little too cliche nowadays, and would probably be met with a lot of rolled eyes.

Edit: Also I should have asked what kind of game you are developing. Board game, video game, card game, role playing?

Last edited by Theli (2012-10-16 15:55:07)

Re: Developing a horror game

cheztaa wrote:

Great response, very grateful, as a team we hadn't thought about paying homage to the oldies so that is definitely something i will bring to the table tomorrow.
We are surely going down a psychological route rather than action and gore. Of course we are looking into mutants and blood but how much we are not sure yet. We are looking into conditioning the player alongside the shadows and the footsteps etc. basically luring the player into a false sense of security which we believe will go down a treat.
As for the cliche. A member of the team really likes a small girl with long hair similar to the grudge and the ring as the 'bad guy' i thought that would be too cliche and any fan of horror would throw our game down. What's your views on this?


Sounds a bit like Silent Hill, you probably don't want to be compared to that game.  As for a really good bad guy....check out the Hellraiser movies smile

Re: Developing a horror game

Thank you for the feedback, these comments will help steer the course of the game. We are finding it very difficult not to be cliche and commit plagiarism as you can imagine.
We are developing a video game but we have certain limitations unfortunately. This is a University project and we have been given the genre horror as it is a difficult genre. our programmer has learnt Visual Basic and XNA thus our game is going to be a 2D side scroller, this does not mean we can't achieve a scary game but, we are limited. Also, we are not allowed to go too controversial as some of the ideas would have raised a lot of eyebrows.

Last edited by cheztaa (2012-10-17 14:13:36)

Re: Developing a horror game

What key elements define an amazing horror?
For me, it's the suspense.  I like games which tell a story, which move you through scenarios where it's not about waves and waves of enemies you have to blast your way through, but which keep you on your toes with surprises.  I like not knowing what's going to happen next.  Because of this, most of the games I enjoy are mystery based, where you have to find clues, solve puzzles, etc.  Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper comes to mind, as well as the first three Resident Evil games.

What films are great horrors? and what is it that provides them with this success?
Dawn of the Dead, The Exorcist, Halloween.  They start with the single most important factor: characters you give a damn about.  The more you can relate to a character, the less you want to see them die; the less you want to see them die, the more suspenseful it becomes when they're put in danger.

What not to do in a horror film/game? and any examples
As I said above, I'm tired of games where it's you versus an endless onslaught of enemies to blast your way through.  The Left 4 Dead games are the only exceptions I can think of.

What is too cliche about the horror genre that you are sick of seeing/hearing/playing?
Again, endless waves of bullet-fodder.

What cliche's are good and always needed?
Atmosphere, suspense, mood.  The Silent Hill games pull this off very well, as do the earlier Resident Evil Games.

Finally is there anything that you've always wanted to see/hear/play in a horror that you've never come across?

A Manhunt-like slasher game, where you're the killer (think Jason, Michael Myers) where you have to stalk your prey.  Or, on the flip-flop, a slasher game where you have to navigate terrain without drawing attention from a stalker/slasher.  There's a low-budget Canadian horror flick from the early 2000s called Slashers, which is a lot like The Running Man except with horror-movie killers as the opponents.  Something like that would be cool.

Re: Developing a horror game

We are staying wellll away from waves upon waves of enemies ha, i see that action and not horror, no matter how many mutated monsters come at you.

I am very interested in the point you make about making the player/watcher relate to the character... thats something that should have been at the forefront of our mind in my opinion.

Thank you for all the help

Re: Developing a horror game

Make sure to let us know if or when the game is complete!

Re: Developing a horror game

Of course i will... maybe some of you could be our testers smile

Re: Developing a horror game

One thing not to do: Jump scares.

They are so lame, and if you have many it makes out that the devs' couldn't find another way to get the player scared so grasped for straws and came out with jump scares.

Re: Developing a horror game

we are talking about the screen jittering or flickering or something happening to the screen when the 'big baddie' is near by. I don't think thats a scare jump but it may make people jump. We haven't discussed creatures jumping out at the character or a fake one but we did discuss about objects falling or moving on their own. Of course this would not be the focus of the game

Re: Developing a horror game

One thing about games is the fact that you are never safe. I mean in new games you have tons of ammo, people helping you etc....but games like Doom and the harder difficulties of Doom, you are alone and have no one to rely on and most importantly you have absolutely no ammo when you need it.

Creepy sounds, bring the environment alive. Doom does this extremely well, lights flickering, sound effects, monsters creeping all around you, and then suddenly something jumps out. I think the best thing to do is not have constant things jumping out and constant action. Instead once in a while, and half the time something scares you, it isn't something to shoot at. Maybe a smaller monster you should punch to conserve ammo.

Re: Developing a horror game

What key elements define an amazing horror?
Atmosphere and the unexpected.  I'm not talking about fog and jump scares, but an environment that suggests danger just by its nature.  Old haunted house films were good for this as there was nothing inherently scary about the house, but the way it was presented seemed creepy.  As for the unexpected, twist endings are good, but even basic events that bring unexpected results carry a big impact.  Linear plots are almost always a bad thing.

What films are great horrors? and what is it that provides them with this success?
Night of the Living Dead is, IMHO, the greatest horror movie of all time.  Everything you could ever want to see in a horror is in there.  Not only was the atmosphere great, but the level of tension remained high and the pacing was excellent.  Don't allow things to slow to a crawl, but don't fire it past us at 100 mph either.

What not to do in a horror film/game? and any examples
Waves of enemies are usually bad just because the player becomes numb after awhile.  You can only blast so many zombies/demons/monsters/etc., before you no longer care.  Enemies need to be used sparingly.  The threat of danger is worse than the presence of it (at least, in a game it is).  Also, don't strip a character of ammo/weapons just to try to increase the threat.  Giving me a revolver but only two bullets is considerably more annoying than it is fun, especially because I've played this scenario a million times before.

What is too cliche about the horror genre that you are sick of seeing/hearing/playing?
Zombies are a bit overexposed these days.  Ditto vampires.  Jump scares are always lame.  Anguished, conflicted villains aren't all that great, either.

What cliche's are good and always needed?
Gratuitous nudity.  wink
Seriously though, morality tales never get old.  Many horror films use morality tales as a cliche, but they never get worn out.  "The more you know..." and all that.

Finally is there anything that you've always wanted to see/hear/play in a horror that you've never come across?
I've never played a horror game where I was the straight-up villain.  I've played the villain in more action games than I have in horror games.  I wouldn't mind being the bad guy, although I don't know what that would do for sales in general.

Re: Developing a horror game

We have decided not to use projectiles but simple melee weapons to defend yourself against the creatures that lurk and stalk you. We thought this would bring the player up and personal to these creatures or scare them enough they want to run away. What are your thoughts on no projectiles?

Early concept ideas was to be the villain and the best game i could think of that was similar that scared me was Manhunt. However that was a bad guy hunting bad guys which was the scary part as they was just as, if not more dangerous than you. I think it would be very hard but very clever to make hunting helpless people scary.

Re: Developing a horror game

What are your thoughts on no projectiles?
That depends solely on the combat.  Is the combat based on player skill, or is it a stat-based, shoulder-punching form of combat where we try to slowly whittle down the person's/creature's/demon's/monster's health bar while they try to do the same to us?  Of course, even if you did have projectiles, I'd wonder the same thing.  Stat-based combat is more of a number-crunching thing than an immersive, horror experience.

We thought this would bring the player up and personal to these creatures or scare them enough they want to run away.
This is a difficult (albeit admirable) thing to pull off.  Let's say that my character opens a large trunk and a zombie crawls out of it.  If I run away, but the game demands that I deal with the zombie in some way in order to progress, not only will I go back to deal with the zombie, but I won't waste time running from anything else.  Why bother?  The game will just make me go back anyway.  Running away is no longer a viable strategy.  If I deal with the first zombie and another one appears, I'll just handle the second one the way I did the first.  I've dealt with one zombie, so now I just need to establish my pattern.  I'm not frightened, I'm just going through the motions.

I would suggest if you want to have any combat in the game, player skill is more effective than burning through health bars.  When I say "player skill", I'm thinking of games like Batman:  Arkham City or Assassin's Creed; games that are slower than "twitch" games, but not as slow as turn-based games.

Last edited by TeeSeeBee (2012-11-02 07:48:56)

Re: Developing a horror game

cheztaa wrote:

We have decided not to use projectiles but simple melee weapons to defend yourself against the creatures that lurk and stalk you. We thought this would bring the player up and personal to these creatures or scare them enough they want to run away. What are your thoughts on no projectiles?

Early concept ideas was to be the villain and the best game i could think of that was similar that scared me was Manhunt. However that was a bad guy hunting bad guys which was the scary part as they was just as, if not more dangerous than you. I think it would be very hard but very clever to make hunting helpless people scary.

Sounds cool too me!