What makes and breaks a Survival Horror game

    First Previous
  • Hurdu 29 Apr 2013 09:41:11 11 posts
    Seen 4 months ago
    Registered 5 years ago
    As part of a research project I was instructed to ask the lovely people of the gaming community what their opinions are on what the good and bad aspects of Survival Horror are, and so here I am, what are you thoughts on the matter lads?

    Story, Resources, Atmosphere, combat pacing, ETC

    Edited by Hurdu at 10:17:22 29-04-2013
  • Blerk Moderator 29 Apr 2013 09:44:31 48,227 posts
    Seen 1 week ago
    Registered 16 years ago
    Tension. Or a lack thereof.
  • Br0ken_Engli5h 29 Apr 2013 09:47:18 1,367 posts
    Seen 3 hours ago
    Registered 11 years ago
    Too much ammo, for starters. Part of the tension is in knowing that you're unsafe, exploring new places with only a few rounds left in your gun.
  • imamazed 29 Apr 2013 09:47:25 6,322 posts
    Seen 8 hours ago
    Registered 11 years ago
    Essential: Tank controls, Ominous music playing slightly before loading times have finished, Low levels of ammunition, Unexpected changes in enemy layout

    Preferable: Bad Voice Acting, Limited saves, Obscure door keys, Blocky Graphics, Outlandish Bosses

    Unfavourable: Plentiful ammunition, Coherent plotlines, Freedom of movement and/or exploration
  • Murbs 29 Apr 2013 09:57:17 23,869 posts
    Seen 10 hours ago
    Registered 13 years ago
    Loads of ammo definitely breaks it.
  • MrTomFTW Best Moderator, 2016 29 Apr 2013 09:57:33 47,491 posts
    Seen 7 hours ago
    Registered 15 years ago
    Controls: Tank controls worked well for Resident Evil, and were necessary due to hardware limitation but we've moved on since. There's no need to have such clunky movement. It doesn't raise tension, only frustration. Vulnerability can be expressed more effectively in other ways so drop that shit.
  • Hurdu 29 Apr 2013 10:00:00 11 posts
    Seen 4 months ago
    Registered 5 years ago
    Thanks for the feedback so far, I think I could manage the bad voice acting and keeping far away enough from a coherent story easily enough (;
  • Skeggers 29 Apr 2013 10:03:00 10 posts
    Seen 3 months ago
    Registered 6 years ago

    None of this. This isn't scary, it's just funny.

    EDIT: Pretty god-damn cool, though.
    ANOTHER EDIT: I've changed my mind. Put this in.

    Edited by Skeggers at 10:22:17 29-04-2013
  • DFawkes Friendliest Forumite, 2016 29 Apr 2013 10:26:40 31,895 posts
    Seen 6 hours ago
    Registered 12 years ago
    I was just thinking about this the other day, mostly in regards to why ZombiU might be regarded as a survival horror (I do, but it's open to your own interpretation).

    I think ammo (and other resource) scarcity is a big one for me. You're supposed to get enough to survive, not enough to kill an army of demonic/infected foes! If it's done right, even a weaker enemy becomes a threat if handled badly. At the same time, you still have to make it so you can handle it well, be it evasion or some other mechanism like those found in Clock Tower 3. Melee combat is usually acceptable as there's an element of risk/reward in getting that close to an enemy, but you can't make those attacks too effective.

    Just my opinions, of course :)
  • Deleted user 29 April 2013 10:28:01
    Poor camera controls and spawn positions. It's never fun to die from an attack you couldn't have seen coming unless you were Mystic Meg.

    Audible cues ar one thing, but if you're too busy going shooty-shooty-bang-bang, they're very hard to miss. Getting fucked over repetitively by poor design has no excuse.
  • Murbs 29 Apr 2013 10:29:01 23,869 posts
    Seen 10 hours ago
    Registered 13 years ago
    oops. Scary double post.

    Edited by Murbal at 10:29:14 29-04-2013
  • Murbs 29 Apr 2013 10:29:02 23,869 posts
    Seen 10 hours ago
    Registered 13 years ago
    Confined spaces.
    Dirty toilets.
  • Br0ken_Engli5h 29 Apr 2013 11:02:12 1,367 posts
    Seen 3 hours ago
    Registered 11 years ago
    Amnesia handled the feeling of helplessness well by simply cutting out the combat. You were completely vulnerable, having you either flee or die. The main problem with that game was a lack of diversity with the enemies. Once you'd figured out how they react in most situations it took a lot of terror out of the game. Thankfully that only happened for me near the end of it.

    Quick saves or too many autosaves can break it too. There's little tension knowing a section is easily reloaded and retried. There needs to be enough incentive to stay alive at all costs.
    Dead Island didn't punish the player nearly enough by dying and it wasn't tense because of it.

    I think perma-death is a decent addition if handled correctly. Day-z is by far one of the tensest games I've played because of it. I have my heart in my mouth every time I'm looting in that game and I hear nearby gunshots.

    Edited by Br0ken_Engli5h at 11:02:33 29-04-2013
  • quadfather 29 Apr 2013 11:32:49 30,831 posts
    Seen 16 hours ago
    Registered 8 years ago
    Blerk wrote:
    Tension. Or a lack thereof.
    Summed it up
  • warlockuk 29 Apr 2013 11:39:18 19,417 posts
    Seen 1 week ago
    Registered 14 years ago
    Too much survival, not enough horror. Also, no empathy.
  • Skeggers 29 Apr 2013 12:15:03 10 posts
    Seen 3 months ago
    Registered 6 years ago
    @Deckard1 Someone on this site called Skeggsy? No.
  • Skeggers 29 Apr 2013 12:21:53 10 posts
    Seen 3 months ago
    Registered 6 years ago
    @Deckard1 He must be the reason that I couldn't name my account Skeggsy, but beyond that, I don't know about him.
  • Skeggers 29 Apr 2013 14:14:11 10 posts
    Seen 3 months ago
    Registered 6 years ago
    @Deckard1 Nope. No. Nuh-uh.
  • Murbs 29 Apr 2013 14:39:23 23,869 posts
    Seen 10 hours ago
    Registered 13 years ago
    @Deckard1 is this some bizarre reference to something that no-one else is getting? ;-)
  • Hurdu 8 May 2013 11:38:43 11 posts
    Seen 4 months ago
    Registered 5 years ago
    Post deleted
  • SparkyMarky81 8 May 2013 12:39:43 601 posts
    Seen 1 day ago
    Registered 9 years ago
    I thought everyone knew Skeggsy. He is kind of a big deal...
  • Syrette 8 May 2013 17:53:49 49,785 posts
    Seen 8 hours ago
    Registered 15 years ago
    Skeggsy, you old dog. How you been pal?
  • twelveways 9 May 2013 13:19:39 7,131 posts
    Seen 1 month ago
    Registered 12 years ago
    A game where you play a 15 yr old girl in the crowd at Top of the Pops in the mid 70s. Terrifying.
  • JinTypeNoir 9 May 2013 13:48:25 4,392 posts
    Seen 3 years ago
    Registered 13 years ago
    I think a good survival horror game should strive to be unfair, disorientating and frustrating; those are emotions that go well with fear. Lately, crafting a game that seems as fair, balance, player-oriented and smooth enough to deflect all possible frustrations seems to be the fashionable thing to do, but even in an unfair, frustrating game a good balance of playability will always see the players who are receptive to the idea through to the end.

    In trying to bring some evolution to genre mechanics, I think a lot of survival horror games could look at Rogue and roguelikes for inspiration.
  • FogHeart 10 May 2013 22:17:05 1,249 posts
    Seen 6 hours ago
    Registered 10 years ago
    Three cornerstones of survival horror: stressful combat, continual feeling of threat and isolation, and a harrowing story.


    The scarcity of ammo and the need to sever limbs in Dead Space have the same thing in common - you need to handle the combat with high precision in a tense situation. If you don't shoot accurately you'll be wasting ammo, or your hits aren't effective enough. Most of the time the consequences of failure are a mauling at the hands of a mutilated creature, this invokes the primal fear of infection.

    That's the paradox of the combat, that the nature of the enemy induces fright and panic just as you need a clear head and a steady hand. You are fighting your own impulses, and it's very stressful to do that.

    But if you become over-familiar with the combat you are no longer frightened by the enemies and so become adept at the combat, so we kept seeing survival horror series that 'upped the ante' - more enemies versus bigger guns with more ammo.

    Threat and isolation:

    A great many of the most effective survival horror games ask that the player explore a large environment on their own. This is to invoke two more primal fears - of being lost, and of having no one around to help. The player must feel that they can come under attack at any time. Think of the rooms where there's a body that you haven't killed, or the warped world of Silent Hill, when you change over you know you'll come up against something.

    It's also important to have certain places in the game where the player can feel safe. In Dead Space it's the tram, and the elevators. In Resident Evil it's the save rooms with their melancholic music. You need a contrast, a place where the player can 'let go' of their tension, otherwise they get burned out and can't keep feeling 'on edge'.

    The harrowing story:

    It's not enough to have a story where the protagonist comes across a lot of people who have suffered violent death. Often their deaths mean they join the ranks of the creatures that assaulted them, twin nightmares of insanity and infection. You often read or hear the backstory of characters affected in gruelling detail. Remember the keeper's diary in Resident Evil? "Itchy. Tasty." Or the ghost in System Shock 2 who crosses himself with a pistol, applies it to his temple and fires. Or the audio log of Dallas in Dead Space who kneecaps himself - both legs - so when he is infected he won't be able to kill anyone. Their stores have to generate conflicting emotions of sympathy and disgust.

    It also helps if the protagonist is all that stands between some horrible fate and everyone - the spread of the T-Virus to the population, the infection of all the human race via the markers, Shodan recreating the entire universe according to her whim. So a lost, lone, powerless individual has to risk infection and insanity over and over in order to save an unknowing human race from its destruction. Now that's the pinnacle of survival horror.
  • First Previous
Log in or register to reply

Sometimes posts may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.