Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
What that leaves, then, are survival horror games and, to a lesser extent, adventure
games with horrific settings. Writing these games calls for specific techniques, both
because horror's genre conventions are so strong and because sustaining a tone of
tension and fear throughout a ten-hour plus play experience is not an easy task.
11.2 Limitations and Conventions
Because horror games have been around so long, they've developed a series of con-
ventions that serve as boundaries and guidelines. Understanding what these time-
honored—or perhaps hoary, nitre-encrusted, and ancient—rules are can help save
time that might otherwise be spent reinventing the suitably horrific wheel.
Tight or Locked Camera Work
One of the unspoken rules of horror games is that the player avatar does not control
the environment. They are constantly off-balance, reacting to the world with imper-
fect knowledge. One of the ways horror games emphasize this is through the use of
tight or locked cameras. Giving the player long camera ranges can, when combined
with firearms, allow them long firing sightlines, which gives the player better con-
trol of the space. Fixed cameras only permit the player certain angles of view, which
allows the game to get monsters up close and personal before they appear onscreen.
When those monsters appear, they do so in startling fashion, reinforcing the shock
and horror of the conflict. And since most monsters are the biting/tearing/rending
type, using the camera to allow them to get close renders them more effective and
thus more threatening.
Long Bits of Exposition
This is handled in more depth elsewhere in the chapter, but horror games generally
come with lots and lots of backstory. Some of this is genre convention, as the player
expects to spend gobs of time digging through the arcane secrets of the world. Some
of it is simply because there's generally a lot of information to transmit in horror
games and thus a variety of means of getting it across—conversations, cut scenes,
in-game artifacts, etc.—is necessary to keep the player from feeling like they have to
take notes.
Characters Wandering Off by Themselves to Get Eaten
In general, secondary characters in horror games tend to meet gruesome ends, often
abruptly. There's also a strong subset of secondary characters whose sole purpose is to
go mad and/or betray the main character at some point, possibly offering exposition
in the process. A good many of these end up monsterbait as well, but the overall
convention is that secondary and tertiary characters are sometimes used more as plot
devices than as actual developed characters. That's not to say this is entirely a bad
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