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  Making 2D games creepy?  (Read 11965 times)
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Offline SkyAphid

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« Posted 2012-04-15 01:49:44 »

So, I'm trying to think of events and creatures to add to my dungeon generator that will creep the player out, but the game is a 2D Orthographical game. So, what would I be able to do that'd really bother the player mentally? Any ideas?

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Offline SkyAphid

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« Reply #1 - Posted 2012-04-15 02:43:18 »

Well sounds are going to be a big part of it (especially if the sounds have unknown sources), having the screen flash red during certain events, and some blood writing scattered across the place : D. These are just some ideas on the top of my head, if I think of anything particularly good I'll edit this post.

I did a google search but just to fortify what I read, how would you define "Orthographical"?

A game with an orthographic view. Like the Pokemanz(lol) games and original Final Fantasy's.

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Offline actual

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« Reply #2 - Posted 2012-04-15 03:01:54 »

That's a difficult task. The orthographic view typically distances the player from the action and also gives them a sort of God's eye view, both of which work against creeping a player out. You could try sounds. You could worry a player by making the consequences of dying or injury severe.
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Offline SkyAphid

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« Reply #3 - Posted 2012-04-15 05:31:17 »

That's a difficult task. The orthographic view typically distances the player from the action and also gives them a sort of God's eye view, both of which work against creeping a player out. You could try sounds. You could worry a player by making the consequences of dying or injury severe.
Like having a boss that's way too strong follow you through each level of the dungeon right? The thought of losing your progress would always be there.

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Offline UprightPath
« Reply #4 - Posted 2012-04-15 06:47:13 »

The loss of progress is more likely to cause frustration than fear, at least in my view.

Options for creepiness:
If you have any sort of 'search' mechanism, make use of it by providing descriptions of things found on the walls/floors. Like "You find the body of a person, or at least you assume it was a person, however identifying who it was, or even what gender, is impossible due to the missing pieces." Not my best attempt, but it gets the idea across.

If you have the control, subtly change the symmetry/balance of stuff. Like, if you're descending into a dungeon, every few screens make certain things that were centered lopsided. Like some walls thicker, if you can see door-ways, make it so they're no longer square. There's not a lot you can do there, but you can probably come up with some things.

Offline SkyAphid

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« Reply #5 - Posted 2012-04-15 07:52:21 »

The loss of progress is more likely to cause frustration than fear, at least in my view.

Options for creepiness:
If you have any sort of 'search' mechanism, make use of it by providing descriptions of things found on the walls/floors. Like "You find the body of a person, or at least you assume it was a person, however identifying who it was, or even what gender, is impossible due to the missing pieces." Not my best attempt, but it gets the idea across.

If you have the control, subtly change the symmetry/balance of stuff. Like, if you're descending into a dungeon, every few screens make certain things that were centered lopsided. Like some walls thicker, if you can see door-ways, make it so they're no longer square. There's not a lot you can do there, but you can probably come up with some things.

It'd be creepy to have to get keys off bodies like that, and sometimes they can roll over scream/and or attack you.
2D or 3D, that'd creep the crap out of me at 12AM at night in a completely dark, creepy sounding dungeon.

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
Offline R.D.

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« Reply #6 - Posted 2012-04-15 10:35:31 »

Line of Sight and some radial blur is also creppy. Play Terranigma. There is a part of a game where you play against zombies which will fire their head at you, together with a nice overlay picture (no shader) and this creppy piece of music: jump to 1:31 the music start there!. it was really creppy and I still can't listen to that when walking thorugh a park at night Cheesy
Offline atombrot

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« Reply #7 - Posted 2012-04-15 12:42:24 »

Maybe you should find some games, that do exactly that and then analyze how the game achieves the creepiness.
I think "Lone Survivor" did a really great job in creating a creepy atmosphere. There are multiple things that help to build up the creepy feeling. An important part (as already pointed out by others) is using the right sounds. Another thing that really does a good job are the backflashes in the game. Often you don't really know what happened and land in a situation where you have to react quick, which makes the feeling more intense. A gameplay mechanic, that also enforces this is the flashlight. You can only light up in one direction, so you don't know whats happening behind you. Most importantly, its the whole presentation, that gives a great atmosphere. Give it a shot (I think there's also an online demo of it, if you want to take just a peek).

I think that if you want to have a place or environment that's creepy, you also need one that is safe. Constantly being presented with a creepy environment somehow loses its intensity as you become used to the situation. You have to establish safe places and scenes, so the creepy ones really can dish out.

One thing that really scared the shit out of me was in resident evil 1 or 2 (can't remember, its so long ago Wink) in the police station. You come by a corridor, that has a hole in the wall, that is blocked by some planks. The first time you walk by this planks you are (at least I was XD) very cautious, as the setup looks like something has to jump out of the wall... But nothing happened. Later in the game you have to walk past that hole again. I had memorized that nothing has happend here and so I walked past the planks, just to be grabbed by some ugly tentacles, that came out of the wall. I screamed, because I really wasn't expecting it XD Because of this little event, I was always somewhat alerted because I never knew, if I am really safe. I know, its not from a 2d game, but you could apply the concept in your game too.

A last thought about the consequences. Knowing that an encounter with a specific creature means your certain death surely is an issue to the player. But not knowing the consequences at all can also build up some tension.
Offline Damocles
« Reply #8 - Posted 2012-04-15 13:35:02 »

creepy are situations where you expect something, but dont know if it will happen.

The actual attack is replacing the creepy feeling with fear/panic/adrinaline.
Creepy is the moment before you know what or if something will happen.

So you can have creepy situations even without something happening (Blair Witch Project)

Its the old evolutionary principle:
Creepy was running around in high grass or in the Jungle, not knowing what is watching you.
Fear was when you already see that there is a Lion sitting in the distance.
Panic is when he is running towards you.

Offline Chromanoid

Junior Member


Medals: 3



« Reply #9 - Posted 2012-04-15 13:50:19 »

Maybe stuff that changes the perspective and attacks the player behind the screen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuDYhczbqEQ (at the end there is a creepy crow attack).

Stuff that breaks through the floor (big stuff) and suprise attacks the player.

Let the player figure break through the floor into another level (this makes it creepy to move). In general show the player that he is sometimes not able to control the flow of game.

Shake the view/camera. Maybe some subtle movement of the perspective when danger is near can add some tension too. Condition the player that subtle movement of the camera is dangerous and then play with this belief.

If you really want to create a gruesome experience, exploit signs of sexual violence and other cruelties. Place tortured sacrifices in the dungeon that cry and beg for death.

Let the player fight against other adventurers to make him feel remorseful. Highlight relationships between these npc adventurers and show the player he took a loved one away. He should not be able to avoid this...

A creepy rpg maker game: http://rpgmaker.net/games/2068/

Play Diablo it has some creepy moments, I think sound is really important here.
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Offline aazimon
« Reply #10 - Posted 2012-04-15 18:35:05 »

A simple technique you can try, is to make the walls to over shadow the player. They talked about that with Diablo II. The taller walls, elements that cover above the player will add tenseness to the game world. This will heighten other elements in the world. Use line of sight, not letting the player see around corners, maybe even not letting them see what is behind them. The unknown adds scariness.
     Another technique to use, is the player's own imagination. Give the player enough information, but leaving out certain parts that they must fill in with their own imagination. Players can thing of some pretty scary stuff given the right information. They just need a little prodding. (Think of that on your own Smiley ).

Aazimon Smiley
Offline UprightPath
« Reply #11 - Posted 2012-04-16 07:09:54 »

One thing that really scared the shit out of me was in resident evil 1 or 2 (can't remember, its so long ago Wink) in the police station. You come by a corridor, that has a hole in the wall, that is blocked by some planks. The first time you walk by this planks you are (at least I was XD) very cautious, as the setup looks like something has to jump out of the wall... But nothing happened. Later in the game you have to walk past that hole again. I had memorized that nothing has happend here and so I walked past the planks, just to be grabbed by some ugly tentacles, that came out of the wall. I screamed, because I really wasn't expecting it XD Because of this little event, I was always somewhat alerted because I never knew, if I am really safe. I know, its not from a 2d game, but you could apply the concept in your game too.

Those situations still haunt me. I'm still having nightmares that were caused by that (And hallucinations while/after watching that.)

But yeah, details that the player can fill in are important. Which is why I suggested the bit of text. A picture is worth a thousand words, but just ten words can make the mind paint thousands of pictures. I know that's one reason why I tend to prefer books to movies. What I end up picturing in my head tends to be hundreds of times more gruesome or frightening than what ends up being in the movie itself.

On the 'safe place/dangerous place' idea, that's sort of what I was going with when I was talking about skewed perspectives/symmetry/balance. A lot depends on the sort of artistic style you end up going with, but make sure you keep the style the basically the same for a given type of area.

Safe: Safe places all tend to look the same, and if you come to a place with these sorts of things, then you should be fairly sure that you're safe there. Try not to make an unsafe place look like a safe place unless there is a specific reason for it (Like a 'This place is going to hell' sort of situation, where prior areas are becoming dangerous). All of the dimensions are basically alike, there are few, or less, places where the dimensions are skewed/perspectives are off.

Creepy: Creepy places should be somewhat alike, but almost never like a safe place. Coloring, perspective/balance/symmetry should be off some how from the safe places, so that you know that there's something off about it. This can help to establish a theme, and to cause feelings of unease in other places. If you've already had something happen in a prior area to make that area creepy, you can use visual cues to link the prior area to another, to help carry over the creepiness (Oh man, this place looks like the one with the ooze monster, oh he was hard, oh man am I going to have to fight another?).

Building on the 'prior area' thing, make sure you use foreshadowing in your levels. Like, make sure that the player's trying to figure out just what it is they're going to be facing in the end and make sure that the enemies/bosses are thematic. Do not do a Giant Space Flea, unless like Lavos, it makes sense. Like, if you're going to have a giant acid monster, make sure that the level leading up to it sort of hints at it. (One I came up with, which is probably something that's been done before, is walking through a dungeon with blood and gore everywhere. Not a Inside a Creature sort of level, just one with lots of dead things in it. Then, later on the blood pulls together to be the final boss. Perhaps a little surprising, if that hasn't happened, but it does lead to the creepy thoughts about 'walking through' the boss, and any time you run into situations with lots of gore like that, it leads to thoughts of 'Again?')

As Chromanoid said make sure that if your characters have to kill real people (Non-random NPCs), that they feel it. Especially if they have a choice whether they do or not. And if the NPCs didn't have a choice, or the players could have prevented it, make sure they feel it. If they didn't have a choice, make sure the player understands why, especially if there was something Mindcontrolling them, etc, because that bit can lead to creepiness.

Offline theagentd
« Reply #12 - Posted 2012-04-16 11:40:40 »

Lighting! Need I say more? XD

Myomyomyo.
Offline UprightPath
« Reply #13 - Posted 2012-04-16 11:48:00 »

Narp! It's already been said. Cheesy

Lighting can be good.

But lighting effects only really have a meaning when it affects the game play. If it's a 'random battle' RPG style, where the map is used only for navigation, then while it can add to a flavour that's already there, it just becomes a PITA otherwise. Ugh, like forgetting your torches in Dragon Quest/Warrior 1. It lead to a bit of anxiety, but it was less a 'creepy' feeling and more of a 'oh shit, I'm lost and going to lose my progress'. Different emotions. >.>

Offline ReBirth
« Reply #14 - Posted 2012-04-16 12:47:52 »

@atombrot
that's RE2. On RE1 we never came to police station. Same event happened on RE3, where you have to pass same way again with different surprise. Remember the time when I passed a window on second time and that big boss jumped out.

Actually I want to say it's hard on 2D because the leak of enviroment feel. On 2.5D it becomes better - only if you have super scary image as your monster. Alternatively, you can go to story (text) and sound to support.

In my experience, 2D never scared me out.

Offline theagentd
« Reply #15 - Posted 2012-04-16 15:05:16 »

Heh, has anyone played Alien Swarm? I always used the flashlight attachment. That game had a nice atmosphere, and it wasn't first-person.

Myomyomyo.
Offline gimbal

JGO Coder


Medals: 25



« Reply #16 - Posted 2012-04-16 15:50:38 »

In my experience, 2D never scared me out.

Not many games, but Alien Breed and Dark Seed really did go very far to creep me out. An atmospheric game like Wrath of the Demon gave me a sense of unease too while playing.

In my experience creepiness can be obtained in several ways. One way is to provide a truly "otherworldly" experience (like the Shalebridge Cradle level of Thief 3 does really well), but another can be to create a sense of helplessness or that continuous sense of unease I mentioned. But those things are large achieved through a very striking combination of sound, music and graphics I have to admit.

If I take Silent Hill 2 as an example, one thing that freaked me out to no end is when you run down a hallway and you see Pyramid Head just standing there on the other side of some bars. It can't get to you, it won't touch you or even make any attempt to get you. Its just observing you. But in the meantime your radio is squealing like a crazy because there is danger nearby. Freaky - as - hell. You just can't do that with most types of 2D game, unless its an adventure like Dark Seed maybe.
Offline pitbuller
« Reply #17 - Posted 2012-04-16 16:01:02 »

This is truly masterpiece from Bach. One of the best ludum dare entry that I have played.
http://thegreystudios.com/blog/?page_id=299
Edit: please turn volume on before trying it.

Creepy atmosphere can be achieved in 2d games just as any other media. You just need to tell the story using the assets that you have.
Offline gimbal

JGO Coder


Medals: 25



« Reply #18 - Posted 2012-04-16 16:09:38 »

This is truly masterpiece from Bach. One of the best ludum dare entry that I have played.
http://thegreystudios.com/blog/?page_id=299
Edit: please turn volume on before trying it.

Creepy atmosphere can be achieved in 2d games just as any other media. You just need to tell the story using the assets that you have.

That reminds me of Limbo - another creepy 2D game that does it really well.
Offline philfrei
« Reply #19 - Posted 2012-04-16 22:34:52 »

I've been enjoying checking out the links and references on this thread! The tentacles-when-you-thought-it-was-safe would have probably made me shout out, too.

Another favorite source of ideas--check out "Addams Family" reruns, or even better, the original cartoons by Chas. Addams.  Smiley

Any disembodied head is going to have some creep value, animals as well as humans. Impaled things, too, especially if they are vestigially alive and struggling.

I think that eyes that follow you are also a classic. The cliche is the painting on the wall that is watching you, but the sense of being watched by something unknown--that is scary.

In "Penumbra" there are these really scary guard dogs (wolves?) that have a great sound effect. If you look directly at them, the screen start shaking. So you have to hide and not peek and just listen for the growling to pass into the distance, and hope they don't see you. Brrr.

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Offline _Al3x

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« Reply #20 - Posted 2012-04-16 23:30:29 »

This is truly masterpiece from Bach. One of the best ludum dare entry that I have played.
http://thegreystudios.com/blog/?page_id=299
Edit: please turn volume on before trying it.

Creepy atmosphere can be achieved in 2d games just as any other media. You just need to tell the story using the assets that you have.

I've just tried it and all I see is a black screen, any idea why? Sad

Offline pitbuller
« Reply #21 - Posted 2012-04-17 15:28:52 »

This is truly masterpiece from Bach. One of the best ludum dare entry that I have played.
http://thegreystudios.com/blog/?page_id=299
Edit: please turn volume on before trying it.

Creepy atmosphere can be achieved in 2d games just as any other media. You just need to tell the story using the assets that you have.

I've just tried it and all I see is a black screen, any idea why? Sad
Thats a creepy. Prolly old driver/card.
Offline _Al3x

JGO Coder


Medals: 7
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Indie Games FTW!


« Reply #22 - Posted 2012-04-17 15:50:53 »

I don't think my VGA or its driver are the problem, at least not for being old :/

Offline Oskuro

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« Reply #23 - Posted 2012-07-26 17:24:59 »

A simple idea: Silence.

If you have music or ambient sounds just fade them all out when the player approaches the creepy area. The player's own footsteps can be very unnerving (Unless they sound like an army of crabs is following you around: See Diablo 1  Roll Eyes)

And a bonus about going silent is that jump scares work better then  Grin


Rythmic sounds, like heartbeats or breathing, can be very unnerving too, as well as low barely audible sounds, like soft moans or whispering. Track down Quake 1's soundtrack and give a listen.

Visually you can tint the screen a different color, reduce the ambient light levels, or add subtle flickers.


It really is the subtle stuff that creeps people out.


Offline ReBirth
« Reply #24 - Posted 2012-07-26 17:26:23 »

For example, take Slender Grin

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« Reply #25 - Posted 2012-07-28 07:15:06 »

Simple:

1) Create suspense.
2) Keep the player paranoid.
3) Let them relax.
4) BOOM! In their face.
5) Get a new email address to stop getting spam about people falling off their chairs

Mainly what you need to do is create a situation that the player wants to avoid, but trying to avoid it is almost futile.

Add in torch effects as I'm sure has been said above, create a monster that is invisible when in direct torchlight (and therefore only visible in the edge of you vision) and you can keep your players paranoid

Offline UprightPath
« Reply #26 - Posted 2012-07-28 07:19:27 »

Oh lord.

Bright: Most of the game takes place in a bright, well lit area. High contrast between any shadow and the sources of light. No, or few methods by which the player can attain a light source to help in those dark areas. However, make it so that the darkness is actually your friend.

Perhaps whatever is the monster, the enemy of the game, does not function well in the darkness. Or cannot enter it. Make them have to embrace the darkness, but still leave an inkling that things could go seriously, totally and irredeemably wrong for them for skulking in the darkness.

Ambient effects are good for this. While the player is on a dark tile, have a different type of sound play, perhaps have the background music die down, and make little, odd, low sounds. When in light, have 'brighter' music. Make it so that the player, who has read the instructions and the premise, still has trouble feeling "comfortable" standing in the darkness despite the safety.

Offline sproingie
« Reply #27 - Posted 2012-07-28 07:33:14 »

A world of vibrant, full color people and places.  And a black-and-white outline character who is quite literally "sketchy".  And they're the only one telling you the truth.
Offline OpenGLShaders

Senior Newbie


Exp: 2 years



« Reply #28 - Posted 2012-07-28 17:37:04 »

Here is an article from valve: https://developer.valvesoftware.com/wiki/Intermediate_Lighting
About halfway down the page there is a section called "Lighting Psychology".
It was written for 3D games, but you might find something useful.
Offline cheatsguy

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« Reply #29 - Posted 2012-12-03 19:56:00 »

I say making the actual area viewed by the player somewhat small. This way, not only is it hard to see (a similar effect to shadows) but gives you a lack of knowledge about what might be around the corner.

Busy between school, work, life, games, programming and general screwing around.
If you'd like some pixel art for your game, send me a PM, i'll see what I can do.
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