Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
something, instead of just reacting to the player presence, they become characters
instead of furniture.
And the most memorable monsters in books, games, and movies have always
been characters who've communicated their maleficent desires clearly, even if they've
never spoken a word.
How does it communicate? Speaking of which, that brings up the question of
how the monster communicates. Good old-fashioned speech is a reliable standby,
but it doesn't necessarily work for a creature that doesn't have a face. On the plus
side, establishing how a creature communicates and integrating it with the beast's
motivation can go a long way toward providing a unified experience for the player
that's that much stronger and scarier. In other words, the monster's means of getting
its points across should reinforce what those points are and what the monster is, not
reduce it to a mundane threat to be identified in terms of how many bullets it can
So, an Elder Thing from beyond space and time may work better if its means of
communication isn't simple dialogue but is instead something like blasting its unholy
thoughts directly in the player avatar's mind, or causing letters of blood to appear on
the wall (or in the character's flesh), or speaking through an obviously possessed,
tormented mortal victim. The method of the message should match the monster.
Hand in hand (in tentacle, pseudopod, or other appendage) with that should
be monster voice. Just because a monster isn't the hero doesn't mean it can't or
shouldn't have a unique voice, one that helps define and characterize it. This may
seem like common sense, but it bears repeating—a resurrected sorcerer from the four-
teenth century is unlikely to refer to something as “straight bangin',” while putting
compound-complex sentences into the mouths of cannibalistic sewer mutants is
probably going to come across as jarring. Writing monster dialogue also needs to take
into account anatomy—something speaking through a mouthful of jagged fangs is
going to sound different than a suburban kid with expensive orthodontia—and the
critter's mental capacity as well. Making sure that the dialogue fits the monster—its
form, function, and construction—supports the monster's role and effectiveness in
conveying horror.
What makes it scary? All of this leads to the big question about a monster: What
makes it scary? A monster that's not scary might as well not be a monster. There has
to be something about each monster that makes it memorable and frightening, or
else it's just a placeholder.
The best monsters are the ones based around exaggerated characteristics. That's a
fancy way of saying that they have a human or animal characteristic that's taken way
too far, or a couple that are combined in a way that Ought Not To Be. For example,
take the werewolf, which combines animal ferocity with human intelligence—a mix
that shouldn't be. There's also the classic B-movie zombie, which just keeps coming
in defiance of how the human body is supposed to operate. Bear in mind that these
characteristics don't just have to be physical—the hyperintelligent serial killer who
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