Im a graphic artist and proposal developer looking to take a more active role in the gaming community. Im a huge fan and supporter of the indie gaming scene, and want to take the next step and learn how to contribute my own ides one day... Currently Im trying to learn Construct and Unity on my free time and would be very grateful for any opportunity to help out a team and learn new skills or make new friends. Thanks much, hope your day is a good one!

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2 comments by FlyingMonkey59 on Jan 20th, 2012

Hello to you and thank you so much for taking a few minutes of your time to pontificate with me here!
There's quite a bit on my mind right now and seeing as work is morbidly slow, I think im going to try and make some sense of some of what I've been chewing on.. There has been a wonderful discussion in the development forum ( about the best means of scaring the hell out of our kids conjuring a proper, intelligent horror environment, and whether modern graphics were an effective means to help set the stage or a hindrance that took away from our own imagination's ability to whip itself into a terrified primal frenzy. Using one of my all time favorites, Thief: The Dark Project by the eternally astounding Looking Glass Software (R.I.P.) as my primary example, I had said that I thought good graphics were not the main element to create horror, and could even possibly be a liability.

Fear feeds on sensory deprivation. Darkness, claustrophobia, isolation and a general fear of the unknown, be it the environment, the antagonist or both are key ingredients to instil horror. I could totally see where crude, lower poly count characters could potentially be more scary than a cutting edge, rendered to the last maggot in the forehead work of devilry that could be built with today's tools. Our minds know that the monster or whatnot shouldn't look exactly like the representation in the game. It knows this whether its a state of the art wonder or built using a dated engine. There will always be some detail that is left to our minds to create...

Thief zombie. Scarier than he looks, The zombie from Thief.  May not look it here, but these guys nearly made me turn the light back on.
Zombie from Thief: scarier than he looks. For serious.

My theory was that the less defined the model is, the more it leaves details that the mind paints itself. It's like when they make a movie out of your favorite book, and you look over the cast wondering What the hell were they thinking because the actors & actresses never look like how we imagined the characters would appear. How they should look. It's the same with horror. Our own minds know that it is supposed to be scary and also know how to best scare itself. Insider information ftw! But then I thought some more, prodded on by some well aimed responses by fellow contributors in that forum and realized I may have been wrong. Or at least not right. Yes, seeing too much detail of the monster demystifies it. The more we know of things, the less scary they become and the less our imaginations can run amok and cause chaos. I fully believe that. However, I think in that regard Thief sure was scary, but maybe not because it had crappy graphics that obscured the fine detail, but because they knew not to let you see too much detail anyways. The whole game was dark, and they generally avoided placing monsters right under a lamp post or torchlit hallway. Plus, the object was usually to stay the hell away from people and monsters in the first place even if they did. If you were close enough to kiss the zombie, (or marvel at its low poly count) you were doing it wrong. Coupled with the amazingly well implemented sound effects, they were very scary. In Amnesia: The Dark Descent this principle is expanded upon - the games stress/sanity system actively dissuades you from looking at the monsters. You feel the physical effects of your character's terror. the screen gets blurry, and the camera begins to sway in a dizzy fashion as your avatar begins to lose his marbles. You hear his booming heartbeat and can almost smell the poor guy's soiled chonies. Oh, and btw this time, the graphics were fully modernized. Hmmmm....

You step in something???

In terms of setting a scene, modern graphics have done some amazing things and have been responsible for incredible moments of immersion. One of the most vivid memories in recent gaming for me has been the intro sequence to Bioshock, where you survive the plane crash, then go clambering up the stairs like a half drowned rat to the entrance of Rapture. Just that elevator lift foyer alone with its flickering lights, faded Art Deco grandeur and the imposing bronze statue of Ryan with the tattered but still bold banner underneath it defiantly reading "No Gods or Kings, Only Man" as a welcome.. what atmosphere! The topper was that instrumental violin version of "Beyond the Sea" in the background sounding like it was played off a crackling old record over weary, fuzzy speakers. It's dark and feels hollow and lonely there, but it felt ALIVE like very few games have. I truly doubt that could have been done 10 years back.



The first sequence of Bioshock is a masterwork of storytelling, letting the setting itself do all the talking.

I know that Bioshock isn't a horror game per se, but it had atmosphere galore and illustrates how very powerful setting can be. So what now then? I've basically run full circle here chasing my tail over this whole minimalism thing... I guess that while I think that minimalist games, or games with older/less advanced graphics absolutely have the capacity to be terrifying, it really boils down to the skill of the storytellers, and in turn certainly leaves room for the modern, near photorealistic graphics we have now to do the same. But care must be taken not to tip your hand to the player - just because the creature could be drawn to the last wart/boil/butterfly tattoo doesn't mean that's something that the player needs to see. Maybe show a very well rendered hint here and there and then let their own spooked imagination take the reigns from there for a bit.. OK... NOW I think I can finally lay that damned horror mod discussion to rest. If you have gotten this far, thank you. I'll untie you from your chairs in just a second. No, really I totally will this time. Stop looking at me like that.


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+2 votes     reply to comment
CoS_Ethan Jan 11 2012, 8:19pm says:

Hi there, nice to meet you, thanks for the friend request! :)

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