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Why do you like horror style missions?


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First of all I just want to clarify this is no disrespect to the fantastic horror style FM's we have, even though personally I prefer the classic break into a mansion / explore a city style missions I still play the horror ones but I always felt horror was such an odd fit to the world of a thief.

 

Because there are obviously plenty of fans of that style I wanted to ask you why do you like it / what draws you towards horror style FM's?

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the classic break into a mansion / explore a city style missions
TDP had like 50% of missions take place in 'horror' setting, at least partially, so if anything, the word "classic" is not the right one to use. I wouldn't describe them as horror either, they're more like scenarios a thief-class character could find himself in (in rpg terms). As for the reasons they weren't as popular as burglary-style missions, it's probably just that the gameplay mechanics have a different focus overall (although without the character being fragile no horror would work, so at least there's that).
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TDP had like 50% of missions take place in 'horror' setting, at least partially, so if anything, the word "classic" is not the right one to use. I wouldn't describe them as horror either, they're more like scenarios a thief-class character could find himself in (in rpg terms). As for the reasons they weren't as popular as burglary-style missions, it's probably just that the gameplay mechanics have a different focus overall (although without the character being fragile no horror would work, so at least there's that).

 

That's true and also for me TDP is my least favorite Thief game out of the three (four is a different ball of wax) but my all time favorite is Thief 2 which came shortly after TDP and I consider that a classic which is what I was referring to.

 

I think if memory serves me correct they actually reduced the horror style element in Thief 2 because it was unpopular in TDP.

 

I guess also sometimes I forget this is set in a purely fantasy world and you're right that in a RPG world a Thief would face situations like this such as break into the haunted tomb and steal this valuable piece of loot etc

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I've heard it said that the Doom 3 engine itself attracts horror fans because the lighting has a "creepy feel".

If you look at the regulars at Doom3world or Moddb's Doom 3 page, it seems to line-up. For whatever reason, the survival

horror aspect of Doom 3 has leaked out into other mod projects and it seems TDM also has this aspect.

 

Perhaps I'm even partly at fault. I help promote the mod and I've made no secret about my admiration for Halloween contests

and horror themed missions.

 

Melan is a HUGE TDP fan so that also factors into the direction and influence of the project.

 

Sotha, one of our best and most prolific authors, is also a fan of including horror elements.

 

Until we have someone like Sotha or Melan but who is not a fan of horror elements, our mission catalog bias will tend

to be stacked that way.

 

That said, I would love to see some more non-horror themed missions too.

 

Why do I like horror missions?

 

The stakes for failing stealth are just that much higher. The opportunities for creative objective design are often greater.

The emotional involvement is often heightened (though good dialog in a non-horror mission can trump this).

The look of the mod gels well with these mission types.

Edited by nbohr1more

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the survival horror aspect of Doom 3

 

Not to nitpick, but where is the survival horror part of killing everything that looks at you funny? Now, if we were talking about Amnesia...

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I'm personally not a big fan of the 'pure' horror missions. Prefer the mansions and cities more. But what I do like are the occasional unexpected horror elements (as in Mandrasola, the sewer in Breaking out the Fence, In the North etc.). Such missions are also the ones that tend to get to me. Many others are just a zombie overkill :P

But in missions like the ones I mentioned, it's just the change in pace that I like. Having an adrenaline rush after strolling through a mansion or city ;) Probably also the reason why missions cramped with horror doesn't excite me as much.

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Not to nitpick, but where is the survival horror part of killing everything that looks at you funny? Now, if we were talking about Amnesia...

 

True. Though Doom 3 punishes you for grabbing gear and being out in the open to attack the hoard of zombies. There was an article

some time ago about it being a game for masochists because it becomes a less enjoyable game the more your try to follow the standard

grab-ammo destroy everything modus operandi. Internally, the game was designed to be a true survival horror experience but that

was toned down when the some of the big-wigs saw how far the result was from the traditional Doom player expectations.

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Recently replaying Doom 1 and 2 with the Brutal Doom mod, I can say with some authority the old games punished the hell out of you for going for gear as well, just without all the spooky modern lighting and stuff. It probably doesn't help I'm playing on Black Metal (+50% monster move speed, +50% monster attack speed). Angry Cyberdemons are terrifying.

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Hmm I think it is because I like the atmosphere... I like the spooky sounds, the creepy feeling that nobody (friendly) is around, the way I have to wonder what is going to jump out at me or surprise me, etc.

 

I really like missions that have a dark secret. For example, you break into a mansion and find a hidden haunted crypt underneath.... or you complete an objective and everything goes to hell. If you do not understand what I mean here, play Wicked Relics for T2. If you're too lazy/too busy to do that:

 

There's a part where upon completing an objective, all nearby human NPCs are exterminated. The lights go out and it seems as though you are all alone. Then you go to leave the area and hear this monster moving around that is almost invisible! If it spots you, it can run faster than you can, so getting away is a challenge.

 

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Horror? Me? I like the atmosphere.

 

Bleak. Desolate. Oppressive. "Hope is a naive delusion." "There are fates worse than death." "Following the steps of logic brings in madness."

 

I love those themes. There is something finnish in all of that, although I admit I've picked up most of my influences from H.P Lovecraft.

 

Now that I think about it, in my missions, those themes always touch other people. The player is sort of a camera, looking at the crap that has befallen on other people. And in the end the player wins.

 

Now in a real horror story, I think, the player should at maximum be able to break even. At a horrible cost.

 

But writing such a good story is beyond my capabilities. And also the video game convention that the player must be able to win in the end is a burden. Difficult stuff.

 

I am content to touch the horror theme with the NPC-suffers-the-player-is-the-camera approach. With that you can compromise and get sort-of everything: the themes mentioned above, the NPC pain, the atmosphere, and the much required player victory.

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I think most of the missions are non-horror themed. However, I personally like them because they play in old rotten areas, and if well done they are very scary to play. I feel much more vulnerable with some undeads around which I know I cannot kill that easely as if there are just guards which I can kill or blackjack quite easely.

 

However, personally I consider Doom3 much more scary then most of the current horror missions. The main reason is that they are not difficult enough. As said, the permanent presence of death, both in terms of your enemies and the destiny awaiting you if you make a mistake, is what makes those missions pretty attractive to play.

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Some horror missions actually mold really well together in the middle of regular missions to give a good contrast of different experience. For example when I first played the Crystal Grave mission, I got pretty paranoid when placing the Holy Hammer item on the statue, I half expected there to be a stalking ghost running around following you, that kind of experience is quite intense and really puts you on edge.

 

I wouldn't really say that having a majority of FMs centered around horror would be a good thing, just that the well designed ones we do have are a nice change of atmosphere.

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I like a mixture of both. To me the Haunts in TDP scared the crap out of me. The creepy sound they made with the clanging chain, makes my skin crawl. That was the scariest sound I can remember. Using your last holy water arrow, and missing your shot makes you crap your pants as well. Then here come the zombie's... :blink:

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I think if memory serves me correct they actually reduced the horror style element in Thief 2 because it was unpopular in TDP.

 

I wish they would've expanded on it instead of reduce it. TMA still a creepy game.

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I also think it's a matter of authors. If we had more authors like Kfort, we'd see a little more of the opposite end of the spectrum -- bright lights, pastels, clouds, flowers, burricks on carousels, and the like. :P

Although looking at her FM list, it seems even she isn't immune to a few horror elements on occasion.

 

I put horror elements in my FM because I like it when FMs evoke a mood or feeling, so it's not just cold gameplay and a story of factoids, and horror is a definable mood that can be evoked... It's not the only one though. I like when FMs evoke other visceral feelings too, like wonder or desolation or bemusement. I was thinking about doing a fairy-tale like FM to explore some of them.

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Airship Ballet's discussion on horror mechanics should be wikified in some kind of mission making tips section. The only thing I would disagree slightly is that the game should always be about looting. That is not necessary for a TDM mission to be successful. The fact is TDM is a great plataform for different kinds of adventures. It would be interesting to see this potential being realised in more missions that are not about collecting loot at all, like Winter Harvest or The Creeps.

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Horror is a genre, but tension and a feeling of powerlessness are important, often overlooked parts of making a mission. I know I am guilty of this; in most of my missions (Penny Dreadful being a possible exception), even when the plot says otherwise, the player is in control and can relatively easily master the environment to his or her advantage. There are challenges, but there are few things which feel like threats. You are a hero.

 

However, one of the central ideas of being a thief, which is really explored to its fullest in The Dark Project (before Garrett was turned into a franchise character, and thus a low-key hero), is the idea that as a thief, you are weak and vulnerable, and you have to use every little opportunity to survive and get the better of the world you live and work in. That is the "something" missing from Thief 2 on, and most fan missions. In TDP, some missions are punishingly hard, and put you into precarious situations again and again where you are in over your head. You are an interloper with low resources, low information and formidable opposition. You are forced to go into places where you absolutely don't belong, and where only a desperate person would go. Because, as Garrett, you are not a hero, but a desperate person hanging on the edge of a cliff with nothing to lose. That is the feeling of being a thief.

Edited by Melan
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Good horror themed missions have a strong focus on mood, story and exploration in an environment that feel very tense, everlasting unconfortable, isolated and dangerous to the protaginist. The fear & love of the unknown. The fear moving forward deeper and nearer into creepy environments and to the expected horrors. Met by the curiosity seeing and exploring just those at the same time. I like horror based missions that succeed in those elements because they do combine most of my favorite game ingredients.

 

Horror in a first person sneaker game is less about the AI. A zombie isn't horrifying by itself. For itself it just a monster to avoid or kill. It is the game environment, setting and story it is thown in that makes an undead spooky or horrifying.

 

To have horror levels work it need a tense atmosphere (in ambients, sounds, visuals, story), a setting of feeling lonely in the environement to explore bare of any AI that give the comfort being predictable or vulnerable. An uncertainty what is around the next corner. What might lie next door or happen with very next step. With a feeling slowly being setup that bad things happened at this place and the following perpetual impression that very, very horrifying things might be discovered anywhere next. All that with the appeal to find the pieces and secrets in game that might fill the mosaic that reveal some causes of the dark things what happened to the place or people. And the origin to the horrors. Creepy felt missions are very immersive because of those reasons.

An excellent example in Thief is the 'The Cradle'. In literature 'The Shining'.

 

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Good summery AB.

 

That's why Doom 3, Bioshock and other horror shooters did fail to work as horror game to me. They reveal all it's horror elements to the player right in the first game level. After that the player is used to that effects and AI the game throws at the player. Added to that the player do not feel vulnerable anymore having obtrained the big guns ...

Edited by fllood
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The fact is TDM is a great plataform for different kinds of adventures. It would be interesting to see this potential being realised in more missions that are not about collecting loot at all, like Winter Harvest or The Creeps.

 

I agree with you for as long as they exist, but if they hadn't been made yet I'd dissuade people from doing it with a focus solely on narrative. While they're novel and fairly atmospheric, a lot more could have been done with regards to sneaking with the same map. When you give the player a need to explore every room beyond the superficial they can start getting meta video game fear. By that I mean something that works in the same way you see a boss fountain (room full of health and ammo) and realise you're about to fight a boss. When you see something you know is your primary objective in a horror game, you know that picking it up will trigger something. That said, you have to pick it up. It's great, and you could get that fear with every single piece of loot if you built up a successful atmosphere.

 

Feel free to put it on the wiki, though it was only really intended as a spiel.

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This game is a close relative to the Doom3 Engine so it does have that kind of creepy feel as it is. This plus the fact that in terms of art direction it has some similarities to amnesia is very easy for a map maker to jump into the horror genre quite easily. I personally dislike this as it kind of takes the essence of this game and focus the attention in horror. But I sure know horror can attract hordes of fans into the game pretty easily. For me the perfect point is to keep it between the fine line of being creepy in terms of atmosphere but never crossing the line to get into the horror genre. A bit like silent hill but without monsters. to me, making a creepy and nerve wracking atmosphere is way better than placing spiders or zombies.

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An excellent example in Thief is the 'The Cradle'. In literature 'The Shining'.

 

Another good example is the Ocean House in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. The background is a little bit similar to The Shining, and many people perceive it as very creepy, although there are no NPCs around and you can only die if you are very inattentive. Still the atmosphere does it all! It even won a prize for "2004's Best Level Design (Any Game)".

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I like supernatural and adventure missions because firstly, they offer more AI variety. You can't just knock out zombies. Secondly, they are not as much limited to sensible, functional and intact architecture. So the level design has more freedom as well. I never felt like the zombie missions in the Dark Project were there to scare anyone, even though the hammer haunts are the creepiest taffers in history. I just felt like they were an excuse for the developers to give different strengths and weaknesses to the enemies, and to force players to develop new strategies. Adventure missions taking place in underground caverns and abandoned ruins force players to look for new ways to navigate, because they can't rely on always finding a staircase or a doorway.

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I think stealth games are tailor-made for horror-themed missions. Hiding from powerful enemies is already scary without deliberate horror elements. If done right, stealth games make the scariest horror games.

 

I also think stealth is the only genre that does horror justice. Horror needs sophisticated AI, which can do more than just chase you and kill you. Horror needs AI that can search for you and not necessarily find you. Horror needs AI that can become suspicious, and decide to go look for you in some hiding place, as you hold your breath and watch from another, nearby hiding place. Unfortunately, most of the recent renaissance of indie horror games have AI that only chase you and kill you, at best - many have scares that jump out at you and that's all.

 

For me personally, the most important part of engagement in a game is emotional involvement. For me, horror games have always been the best at creating that kind of involvement. As Lovecraft says, "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Needless to say, my favorite Thief game is The Dark Project / Gold, although The Cradle from Thief 3 gave it a run for its money.

 

However, I do think "found horror" is the best horror (in the sense of "found footage" and "found food".) This is because we must build up a sense of the expected and the known before we appreciate the unexpected and the unknown. Another problem with many recent horror games is they drop you into a "scary situation" right at the start, without ever establishing a feeling of normalcy. That's one reason Thief is such a great fit for horror: occasional horror elements are mixed into general thievery - you have a job to do and you know how to do it, there is a known, an expected, and then you stumble upon something unknown and unexplained. The Rocksbourg Thief 2 fan-mission series by DrK is a fantastic case study.

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