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Who doesn’t love a good scary game? A lot of people, I’m sure, but I don’t talk to them. Nothing beats connecting your wits to evil and narrowly escaping with your life. The art of horror is pretty well explored in movies and television, but gaming is a whole different beast.
“Well, in movies and TV, the camera is locked,” said Glen Schofield, CEO of Striking Distance Studios, in a fireside chat with GamesBeat’s Rachel Kaser at GamesBeat Summit 2022. “So the director always knows where the camera is looking. They can startle the viewer because they know where it is [the camera] will be. And they know where the fear will come from. In a video game, the character, or in most cases the camera, is in the hands of the player. And so you don’t know where they’re going to turn the camera at that point.”
Glen Schofield is no stranger to creating spooky games. As one of the minds behind the Dead Space series, he has plenty of practice making people uncomfortable. His new studio, Striking Distance Studios, is working on a new horror survival game called The Callisto Protocol.
So how do you plan a scare in a video game? If you take control of the player, he loses a lot of effect. That’s when designers turn to tech horrors.
“You have to try to instill fear,” Schofield continues. “That’s what we call it. You know that 80% to 90% of your players will look at this one area. Well, I don’t mind if players miss a few of these every now and then. A game is a lot longer than a movie, so we’re going to have a lot more scares.”
Horrors are in timing
Part of scare engineering that sounds like a great job is knowing when and how often to scare people. If something spooky happens to the point every five minutes, the player prepares for the next scare.
“Sometimes we scare you and then you’re like, okay, now I’ve got a few minutes to catch my breath, and we’ll turn around and scare you right away,” says Schofield. “Try to catch you off guard in a tough game. The timing is really different, isn’t it? Like I said, sometimes it’s a gut decision. Sometimes we won’t scare you for 20 minutes. And other times we’ll catch you with two scares in a minute because you have no idea what’s going to happen.”
Glen Schofield’s new game, The Callisto Protocol, is due out later this year. I, for one, am excited about being spooked by professionals. For more information on this topic, see the Handcrafting Scares with Horror Engineering talk at GamesBeat Summit 22.
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