Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and the Art of Making Scary Games

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“Atmosphere is not just some vague essence. It’s not like a perfume…even though it might feel like that for a player, they like to soak in the atmosphere,” Grip says. “It’s more about the scenario that you’re building up with a player.”

In Amnesia, that scenario includes the presence of a sanity system. If the player spends too much time in the shadows hiding from enemies or is forced to witness horrific events, the sanity of their character may drop. This can cause their character to suffer blurry vision, see enemies that really aren’t’ there, and even pass out. It’s a terrific way to “gamify” Lovecraftian themes of sanity and horror.

However, sanity is more than a just game mechanic in Amnesia. Grip and his team also attempted to account for the general sanity of the player when designing Amnesia’s key sequences. Grip elaborates on that idea by highlighting his favorite scene from Amnesia, a revolutionary horror experience that helped kick off a new era of pure horror gaming.

“[You’re] looking for certain items and suddenly you hear [a monster],” Grip says. “You go into the closet…the monster is going to go inspect the closet…you’re thinking, ‘Should I make a run for it? What’s my best course of action?’ … We made what was basically a [cutscene] but we managed to do it in gameplay.”

Said gameplay includes the use of a first-person perspective. While Amnesia wasn’t the first first-person horror game, its use of that viewpoint was seen as a revolutionary moment in the history of horror design. Few other games up until that point had used the first-person perspective in this overt way that took information away from the player. While Grip says that the use of first-person gameplay was partially based on design preferences, it was also implemented because it made things easier.

“[With first-person] you can mimic movements that people do in horror movies. So, for example, just looking behind a corner, peeking through doors, those moments are way harder to do in a third person mode…from my end I think the controls are tighter in a first-person game,” says Grip. “Also doing it from first-person meant that you didn’t have to render any character models so you’re like, okay, you can skip the hardest part in the making of a game. That was nice.”

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