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A horror game with low graphics

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by j4ke, Dec 12, 2018.

  1. j4ke

    j4ke

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    Can a horror game be scary without the best graphics? Only with non-colorful pixel art or simple low-poly graphics? Especially if the game is made 3D and having a first person point of view?
     
  2. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    the original doom scared the crap out of me.

    What do you think makes a horror game scary?
     
  3. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Five Nights at Freddy's doesn't look great if you look at the actual assets, but tone and tension make that game work. Hell, I've been playing Dusk and its use of sound and level design, in combination with its murky tones makes even it a little freaky at times.
     
  4. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    The Last Door is a low resolution 2D pixel art horror series with a limited color palette, and it's quite popular because of the writing. But you could also easily argue that the low-res pixel art was an artistic choice, and the graphics are no less good because of the choice of art style. The lack of definition in the graphics lets your imagination fill in the gaps -- and in a horror game that helps build a sense of dread.
     
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  5. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    I don't think low-poly stylized would work as horror FPS.
    Neither the pixel art. On the other hand, great side-scroller pixel horrors was made (like The Last Door or the low-res Clocktower from 1995). So I think that would work.
     
  6. BrandyStarbrite

    BrandyStarbrite

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    Low poly monsters in horror games, can sometimes be scary.
    Just the sight, of a zombie/creature with a squarish blocky head/body
    and horrible low poly textures, coming toward you, was frightening enough.:eek:
    Eg. Resident Evil 3 on playstation etc.

    And BIGTIMEMASTER is right, about the original Doom game. That game
    looked scary.

    Even up to this day, the graphics for the monsters, in the old Doom game,
    made the monsters look, more disturbingly creepy, than the high poly, shiny,
    plastic looking graphics, seen for the modern day Doom monsters.
    And the special effects, music and monster sounds, together, with the
    retro looking graphics, all added to the scare fest, that was the original Doom.

    I think that's why, even to this day, I still keep away, from that old Doom game.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
  7. SparrowsNest

    SparrowsNest

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    Minecraft can give you one heck of a jump scare when your new to it.

    Not so much of a shooter although it does have a bow.
     
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  8. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    Well, I guess it depends what we call horror. :D I don't categorize jump scares as horror. *holds his pinky away from the tea cup*
     
  9. SparrowsNest

    SparrowsNest

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    Yeah ofcourse it's not "horror" i was just making the point that a blocky-pixely game can still make you feel those emotions, you need to design it properly to make it actually scary
     
  10. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    *chugs a beer then belches while crushing the can against his forehead* Maybe I lack sophistication, but jump scares and horror are intertwined. My most memorable gaming jump scare is still those darn dogs jumping through the window in RE1. By itself, it's just a plain old vanilla jump scare, but the tension from all the horror elements -- the strange camera angles, the desperate lack of resources, the unfolding story -- magnified its effect. Horror is a prerequisite for effective jump scares.

    Also, getting back to the original post, those dogs were like 3 pixels big. :) It really doesn't take much detail if the writing and direction are strong.
     
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  11. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    The best horror is when you don't show the enemy, so does not matter how many vertices they made of. :)

    Unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough to play RE1. Ever. I only saw the footage.
     
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  12. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Graphics, I expect, have the smallest impact on scare-factor.

    What is scariest? Nigh time when it's dark and you can't see. But you can hear. And every tiny noise becomes something much greater. Once you can see, imagination goes away. No matter how badass the monster is, it suddenly becomes just a 3d monster. We've seen thousands of them. Lots of gore and teeth and hideous appendages makes no difference.

    So I think engaging players imagination is the best way to produce horror.
     
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  13. Habitablaba

    Habitablaba

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    I think it also depends on what *kind* of horror you're looking for. I wager a decent psychological horror could be made using cell shading and a color palatte ripped straight from Diablo 3's Whimseyshire.
    Body horror / gore probably doesn't require much in the way of sophisticated graphics.
    To echo above comments, sound is super important to horror. There's probably a horror game in the idea of playing a blind person who can only 'see' by listening and tapping their cane, which then only gives vague shapes and suggestions of whats around.
     
  14. SparrowsNest

    SparrowsNest

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    Exactly, it's all about immersion.
     
  15. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner

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    To me horror is about suspense. Graphics are not required. Hell, a dungeons and dragons campaign can be scary.

    Doom and Quake were scary and had primitive graphics. Super Metroid felt scary too. The common factor for these in my opinion is the atmosphere.
     
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  16. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner

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    I think a good way to understand horror is to practice by writing some short stories. I write horror, which is why I know that suspense and the unknown is what is the most scary. Jump scares are not and what a lot of “horror” tends to rely on.

    Real horror is a sense of dread that builds slowly over time. A jump scare is a quick release of adrenaline, totally different.

    Here is one of the scariest scenes in any movie I’ve ever seen. Analyze it and how it makes you feel while you watch it. Notice how you can’t really pinpoint when the scare occurs because it’s like a minute long sequence where the entire thing is just one long anxiety inducing segment. Also notice how you never actually see anything. The implication of something there is way scarier than seeing it because it taps into the fear of the unknown. Yeah, you know it’s there you can even see where the chain is pulling, but how long is the chain, how deep is the shark? How close is it to the fisherman?



    Score also makes a huge difference and this scene shows the brilliance of John Williams. The key change at 0:52 will forever cause a shutter in my spine.
     
  17. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I don't know the music terminology, but I think a track that has a simple heartbeat like rhythm is perfect for both suspense and action. That Jaw's scene has it, as do a lot of great movies and games. When it gets faster and louder, it's mimicking the same thing your heart will be doing in real life when your scared/anxious.
     
  18. BlankDeed

    BlankDeed

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    Scary is a feeling, not a level of fidelity.
     
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  19. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Bingo. Well said.

    I think prerequisite for fear is immersion. Immersion, for me, is easier to define by what fails to produce it, rather than what does. But to stay brief, let me just say that graphics have little or no impact on immersion for me personally.

    Case in point, Red Dead Redemption 2 has stunningly realistic landscapes. I get zero immersion from that game. It does nothing but impress me technically as a 3d artist.

    The Long Dark, a small scale indie Unity game, grabs me by the balls every time I fire it up and never lets go. When I play that game, I am a quiet canadian dude struggling to stay warm and stay alive in a barren, hellish taiga. It always delivers. But this games graphics are awful. I mean, they have a certain style that has some appeal, but objectively they are pretty awful.

    I think the key difference is RDR2 does not require any thought to play, while TLD will kill you fast if you aren't constantly thinking and moving forward with some plan. So the brain has no choice but to get fully iinvested in the experience.

    That's why my speculation about what would make a good horror game is one in which you actively have to develop plans to avoid and evade an enemy that seems sharp, fast, and absolutely deadly. Alien:Isolation was pretty good in that way, though being a long time fan of that universe I kind of already knew what to expect so some immersion was lost.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018
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  20. RichardKain

    RichardKain

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    Visual atmosphere is a tool for promoting horror, but only a tool. Pixel graphics and low-poly work can be used effectively to create and heighten tension just as easily as normal-mapped assets. The most effective horror experiences aren't about what you see, but about what you DON'T see. People will always scare themselves more than anything you can put on the screen. Use that. Hinting at what could be lurking in the dark is more effective than showing the player what is in the dark.

    One of the most prominent examples of horror game making is Silent Hill. One of the better aspects of that game that contributed significantly to its atmosphere was the constant fog that prevented the player from seeing very far in front of them. This was a necessity due to the technical limitations of the PS1. But they wisely kept it in place when the second game came out, because they realized how effective it had been in promoting the atmosphere of the first game. The fog made the game scarier, because the player was constantly worried about what was hiding in it. The fog was drastically reduced in the Silent Hill collection re-master, and the games suffered for it, drawing ire and criticism from fans. The games weren't as tense or atmospheric without the limiting fog.

    Visuals can easily be creepy or unsettling without being complex. Focus on the core aspects, and adjust your art style to focus on effectively providing better chills with less detail.
     
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  21. TenKHoursDev

    TenKHoursDev

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    Games being an interactive medium, you could probably turn this idea on its head. In movies there exists foreshadowing and suspense. I'm not sure you can consistently achieve that in any game, which is probably why some games rely oin jump scares.

    You could also play with the player's psychology. I haven't played minecraft in ages but I recall that creepy creature that only appeared at night and moved closer whenever you looked away. Another good way is to hide the details of the creatures. In Paranormal and other movies when you can't see the entire profile and details of the monsters, it is scary. That's fundamental. When they come in to the light, it immediately becomes nonthreatening (unless its a clown). There's also that race in Dr. Who, "the silence". I've never seen an episode of that show but when I watched a documentary about one season, that creeped me out.