Game Development Reference
Evil 4 is a perfect example of this sort of hero. He's there to rescue the President's
daughter, when otherwise he'd probably be calling in an air strike on the spooky
Spanish village infested with parasitic monsters.
Finally, there's the horror protagonist who's doing it for himself. This can be
either a positive or a negative motivation. In some cases, the protagonist can be
after power, an ancient artifact, or his own salvation. The latter works well with a
“ticking clock” scenario, whereby the hero has been infected or otherwise tainted by
the horror and only has a limited time to save himself before suffering a hideous
fate. Conversely, the protagonist may be drawn in because of fate, family history,
or destiny, in which case what he is drives the character's action. Eternal Darkness:
Sanity's Requiem provides a good example of this style of character motivation. No
matter which character the player is currently controlling, they're all tied into the
same accursed bloodline that ties them to the action.
The key to almost any horror game is the monster. Without a monster, you've got
something else entirely. That doesn't mean that the definition of “monster” needs to
be a narrow one; there's a lot more out there that's monstrous than just Frankenstein,
Dracula, and Boo Berry. The term “monster” is a loose one, meaning “the super-
natural or unnatural antagonist(s) the hero faces.” In practical terms, that covers
everything from mindless zombie hordes to tentacled horrors to berserker robots to
unfeeling serial killers.
With that in mind, defining the monster is one of the most important tasks a
horror game writer faces. Because it's a game, it's highly unlikely that there will be
only one monster. After all, if there were only one critter to face, fight, and defeat,
odds are that it's going to be a pretty short game. Instead, that leaves the writer
helping to craft an entire hierarchy of beasties, figuring out what they're doing in the
game world, and establishing why it's scary.
Whatdoesitwant? Monsters have needs, too. A key ingredient in making a mon-
ster believable and interesting is giving it objectives that make sense. In some cases,
this is simple—zombies like tasty brains. In others, it's a little more difficult, and
establishing what a monster might want to do can be the difference between a suc-
cessful, memorable creature and yet another tentacled target.
The obvious answer to “what does the monster want” is “to eat the hero charac-
ter,” but that's too glib a response to be meaningful. Besides, pretty much all game
monsters want to eat the player, so setting a particular creature apart is going to re-
quire more than that. One successful approach involves turning the game narrative
around and looking at it from the monster's perspective. In other words, if the boss
monster were the player avatar, what would its objectives be? Working that down the
line for each of the lesser creatures—even if it eventually ends up as “reproduce and
feed” or “obey the Master's will”—helps tremendously in making sure the monsters
act and speak in a way that is believable and consistent. If they're working toward