Inspired by Ron Gilbert's post "Why adventure games suck" I decided to do my own list. To be fair I do not think that all horror games suck (in fact some are truly great!), but there are some common problems that pretty much all the games have. These troubles hold horror games back from using the medium's complete prospective and I am convinced that games can be a lot a lot more scary and engaging than what we have noticed so far.
I also want to point out that the Penumbra games all have their share of flaws from the stuff beneath and are by no means exceptions from the rule. Even so, it is always a start to notice what type of flaws that exist, so that one particular can operate upon fixing them. It is our objective that our upcoming game Amnesia will minimize on these sucky elements! Now that I have lined up the blunders, it would be fairly stupid to step into them.
Manage is taken away when issues get scary
"The protagonist enters a seemingly empty space, starts hunting around when all of a sudden a strange sound is heard from outdoors. Anything is about to enter and it is time to hide. At this point the game removes the player's handle and a cut-scene is began showing how the protagonist hides and just barely manages to stay unseen by the approaching monster."
This is a very frequent circumstance and I have noticed it in just about each horror game that I have played. Just about when factors are about to get really scary, the player's control is taken away. Why does this hold happening in games? It's been more than ten years because Half-Life skipped possessing cut-scenes and it seem rational that all horror games need to be making use of this strategy by now.
I consider the main reason for nonetheless using reduce-scenes like this is simply because a specific scenes needs "specific moves" (like hiding) from the protagonist and/or will lead to a strange situation if the player does play along (tries to kill the approaching monster or comparable). This does not mean that the reduce-scenes are needed though and scenes can be rewritten or game mechanics can be changed to make it function. It is also possible to permit players to do genuinely stupid choices as extended as they has been given a pretty excellent hint on what a good action would be. If some of the players insist on walking up to the man seen butchering his victims then just place them up against him in an unwinnable fight. Subsequent time they must be a lot a lot more careful...
Yet another reason for designers to add cut-scenes is since they do not want the player to miss something. In horror games this could imply a shadow briefly observed in the distance or related. Frequently this is really sloppy design and style and some easy adjustments can make the shadow virtually not possible to miss. Let's not forget that it is an interactive medium either and it is often trivial to add some line-of sight check and activate the shadow when the player is actually searching in that path. Confident, a modest percentage of the players may well miss it, but that is one thing a single has to live with when functioning in an interactive medium.
If one particular demands to have a reduce-scenes in a horror game, then make positive not to have it throughout the actual horror segments. Doing that is like obtaining Mario enter a reduce scene when he is about to jump from one particular platform to an additional.
Combat is developed to be enjoyable
Numerous horror games are pretty combat oriented and since of this a fantastic deal of design and style time is spent producing confident that combat is fun. If players will invest a lot of time killing stuff, is it not affordable to make the combat fun? Unless the objective is not to make a actually scary horror game then the answer to this is "NO".
If fighting the monster is the best part of the game, then this what players will want to do. In horror games, where enemies practically often are the primary mechanics for making the player scared, this strategy is counterproductive. Players are supposed to fear the monsters, but if killing them is what makes the game worth playing then enemies are bound to be a lot significantly less scary. If 1 gains constructive feedback whenever an enemy is encountered then approaching sounds may give a reactions like: "Oh, that might be an enemy! Goodie!". This is of course the totally opposite of what a horror games strives for.
But if combat is not "fun", then will it not be boring, which means that the game will be boring as well? I would like to answer this with a loud "NO" this time too. First of all, combat can be "unfun" for numerous diverse reasons and some motives are greater than other people. For example, the combat still needs to be quite fair, responsive and not really feel as well frustrating. A great way to make the combat feel unfun is by sources, an instance becoming Method Shock 2 where ammo is quite sparse and weapons will degrade (and ultimately break) anytime used. In Silent Hill (the older titles anyways) combat use responsive controls but aiming can be imprecise and a bit clumsy, making it really feel much more like a last resort than the basis of entertaining in the game.
These examples have their personal flaws, but point at least in the proper direction. Also, with all the troubles that combat give rise to, one particular may consider skipping it altogether. Even though it may well be challenging to believe, violence is not the only way to drive gameplay...
Overusing the same enemy
Normally a monster in a horror game has some type of spooky encounter at which they are quite frightening, but then an hour into gameplay, they have grow to be cannon fodder. For some purpose, designers appear to consider that all hope is lost after this encounter and that they may well as nicely scatter thousands of copies into the rest of the game. Or possibly they think that if it was scary once it will be scary every single other time too (embarrassingly, I am guilty of this myself in the previous). Horror is tightly connected to the unknown and if anything becomes as well familiar then the impact that it initial had will be lost. This signifies that for an enemy to remain scary, the way it is presented wants to differ and the player can not be exposed to it also much. Players will eventually find out patterns, what to count on and the moment this happen, fairly significantly all scariness connected to the enemy is lost.
I feel the primary explanation that this flaw is present in just about every horror game is due to the fact content is so expensive and time consuming to make. Players require to have some thing to do when playing and the easiest way to do this is to scatter enemies about the levels. This is far from excellent horror design although and just leads to repetitive and predictable gameplay instead a genuinely frightening and engaging expertise.
The monster is constantly shown
A effectively recognized reality in horror is that the audience's own imagination is the greatest asset. It allows the horror to be much more vague and men and women to project their own fears into the encounter. Simply because of this, numerous books and movies preserve the monster hidden in darkness, not revealing its correct form till the extremely end or not at all.
In games it is fairly various. Confident, prior to a monster is shown there can be shadows and strange sounds, but as soon as it comes into play it is there in full higher-poly detail (preferably with lots of slime and/or gore). It seems like horror games are way too anxious to show of the monsters and there are very couple of games that utilizes an unseen enemy as a gameplay device (and not just some foreboding ambient piece). I recommend that games ought to add suitable gameplay mechanics to an unseen monster and if possible even refrain from displaying it at all!
Some may well wonder how an enemy that is not observed can influence gameplay, if it can hurt the player, certainly it need to be visible? I do not think this is needed and in Penumbra: Black Plague we had an enemy that was completely sound primarily based and never ever shown in the game. It was far from excellent and had a plenty of flaws but it is at least a step in the appropriate path. If horror is to attain new levels in games, the worry of the unknown should be utilized to the fullest!
The horror is slapped on as a side thing
The final reason why horror games suck sort of tie in to all of the above. For some explanation it practically always appears like the horror is an afterthought in games. Very first the game primary gameplay style is produced (third individual shooting, Myst-like puzzle adventure, etc) and then some kind of horror theme is slapped on prime. Surely this is not the way horror games are created, but to design and style the gameplay mechanics with no taking into consideration the horror aspect appear relatively typical. Fear is the dictionary instance of this where the horror elements are clearly separated from the major gameplay in a quite clear way. The player goes by way of a section of John-Woo-like shootouts and then following that is a horror section exactly where a scary girl shows up or equivalent. It quickly clear that these scary sections by no means pose any threat to the player and the horror aspect is drastically decreased. The combat also does nothing to increase the horror, as an alternative it just lessen it by generating the player feel everything but vulnerable as wave after wave of enemies are mowed down.
This divide in style is present in pretty significantly all games though and a lot of the gameplay is designed in isolation from the horror components (as pointed out above, the most frequent point is the complete combat technique). I believe this dilemma is relatively widespread in other games genres also. Alternatively of trying to combine the gameplay with the story told and feeling that are to be evoked, they are made separately and then forced together. If games are to attain new heights in terms of telling stories and getting emotional than this requirements to be improved upon. One can not see the game as a story element and a gameplay element, but have to recognize that they both need to have to help each other.
Until this takes place in horror games (and other genres also) they will continue to suck*.
*or at least not be as good as they could :)