Outlasted

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JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

For me, the line is when it's artificial. In a racing game like that, it wouldn't make sense to sabotage people (Against the rules, sportsmanship, whatever). But in Outlast, where the completely invincible enemy you can't fight back against is just some shit with a bit of wood, it feels forced.

SupahGamuh:
Maybe it's my nostalgia glasses speaking, but at least consider that while I write this.

I've been re-playing Resident Evil 3 lately and it still makes me quite a bit nervous, you see, RE3 was one of the first horror games to introduce an all powerful and persistent enemy, called Nemesis, his only purpose is to see you dead and that's it. This being a Resident Evil game, means you have weapons at your disposal, even a puny knife, some would say that the tension is already gone the moment you're given a gun, well... I'd like to difer.

Nemesis is extremely powerful and it will take you a LOT of shots to put him down, notice I don't say "kill him", because you never truly kill him until the very end of the game, you can only put him down temporarily. What makes his encounters tense as fuck (at least on hard difficulty), is that, you get an extremely limited supply of ammo and healing herbs/sprays, if you don't know exactly where he's going to pop up, you're most likely worn out and with few ammo at your disposal, so your only alternative is run the hell away from him... BUT, he's still chasing you and he hardly gives up, of course he'll eventually give up the chase, but for that moment to come, it's gonna take a good while.

You forgot the scariest thing about Nemesis... His stalker theme. I fucking shit my trousers everytime I hear it.

What also did wonders was that due to the fixed camera angles you never saw him enter - You'd just hear the door slam and suddenly he'd storm into frame to get you. *shudder*

JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

That's a pretty poor example, since it has nothing to do with how you would naturally react in the moment. A better example would be that you play a racing game, but for no reason your character won't exceed past 40 miles an hour, or can't turn the steering wheel more than 20 degrees. Sure, it makes the game more challenging, but it makes zero sense.

In Outlast you have perfectly functioning arms and legs, yet not once are you able to shield off danger with your arms or kick it away with you legs. If an enemy attacks you, you just lie there and take it without putting up any kind of fight. A game's control options need to be varied enough to feel natural for the situations you get presented with, and if those options aren't given then you can't connect to the experience.

I guess I'm much more the survival horror type rather than the general horror type. The original Dino Crisis was an awesome example of making a game scary while still allowing you to fight back. The raptors and various other prehistoric miscellania were much tougher than you, and for the most part your options were to stun rather than kill.

The best example, though, is the first Silent Hill game. I f***ing loved that game. You were an author, a distinctly non-combatant character, and you felt like it. Yes you had firearms, but if you mashed the fire button at random your accuracy would drop to zero very quickly. Staying calm and lining up your shots was key, but there were usually enough enemies around you that wasn't too much of an option. Melee combat was the same way, as Harry would take broad swings with his weapons, and depending on your situation the enemies could slip inside your swing and hit you before you could connect. It was frustrating and glorious at the same time, because it worked.

Thunderous Cacophony:
If I was designing a horror game, I'd let the player try and hit the monster with something, only to fail and get messily devoured because it turns out that beating someone to death with a rotted 2x4 is actually really hard.

Outlast throws a reporter(?) into an insane asylum with a bunch of super-freaks that often have knives and definitely thirst for blood. I just don't see our intrepid hero coming out on top.

Spoilers (of a sort) Below:

Actually, only one of the freaks in Outlast is really "super", the rest are just crazy guys riled up by what's going on behind the scenes, and most of them are naked to boot.

The thing is that you'd be surprised how easy it is to beat someone to death with a weapon, especially when they are naked and unarmed. What's more while I'll agree a rotten 2 x 4 is not the best improvised weapon ever, a lot of horror games, like Outlast, have you walking past plenty of things that could be used as improvised weapons or situations where you could turn the tables on your pursuers with a bit of creativity, especially in some of the areas where your undetected.

It tends to be fairly immersion breaking when I'm say hiding from some lunatic with a knife, I've got a clear shot at his back, and the only reason why I'm not slashing his throat from behind is because the game design won't let me, heck it wouldn't let me pick up any of the perfectly serviceable knives or other weapons I might have seen in other areas and wanted to carry specifically for this kind of situation.

I get the whole idea of "the guy is a reporter, not Rambo" or the whole "everyman" thing present in a lot of other games, but the truth is most people can fight to some extent, especially in extreme circumstances, what's more in a lot of cases we're not exactly talking about the need for Conan-like heroics. To be frank there are plenty of examples through the years of what ordinary people can do when faced with extraordinary situations and forced to do it, ranging from survival stories, to taking on armed men. Indeed the essence of gueriella warfare is pretty much organizing relatively normal people into a force capable of harassing a superior enemy... but we're not even talking about that, it doesn't exactly take He-man to decide "wow, this is dangerous, you know I'm going to carry this huge knife I found in case I need it", and then to say grab a dude and hunting you and cut his throat, or otherwise stab him when he's 2' away and totally at your freaking mercy. I mean heck, even when under a bed (a token position for stealth horror games) and seeing the "tense" scene of some dude's feet going by, all I can think is "damn, this guy is just asking to get his hamstrings cut, or for me to grab his ankles, pull him down, and stab him a dozen times".

In short, I can agree with this critical miss.

As a general rule I agree with what this article is saying as I pointed out above. In a more general sense I've been saying for a while that I think the current trend towards combat-free horror games was BS, and felt incredibly immersion breaking to me. This is one of the big reasons I never really got into the "Amnesia" games which started this as I pointed out, because the whole thing felt kind of contrived and silly, as did the defenses for it. While some people argued the lack of combat raised the tension and increased the horror, in my mind it just made the games increasingly absurd, being pretty much forced stealth mechanics/sections tossed into a horror atmosphere.

I do tend to agree that some games pretending to be horror did wind up becoming brawlers or shooters by doing things wrong, but I felt that was simply a matter of bad design going in the other direction. I however do not personally think that the developers of a lot of the current crop of horror games chose to omit combat from the games simply to raise tension, and make them scarier, but more as a way of making it easier to design the games since they don't have to worry about a combat engine, and of course going wrong with the hardest part of the game.

This is not to say that monsters that can't be killed do not have a place in horror, because they do, however that needs to be done the right way. Basically if your dealing with a ghost, demon (as in the intangible field of evil kind), or the manifestation of a curse, it makes a degree of sense that your not going to be able to beat it to death with a club, shoot it with a gun, or whatever else and are going to have to run away. Building forced stealth/evasion sections around that kind of thing makes sense when your dealing with a relatively normal guy who otherwise doesn't have any special powers and is using ordinary stuff to survive. On the other hand when your enemies are just normal dudes (even if crazy), zombies, or otherwise have a physical form (even if large and hulking) some degree of physical resistance is expected. Sure going hand to hand with an 8' mutant with a survival knife or club is not something an ordinary person can do, but at the same time that same 8' mutant doesn't need to be fought head on, I mean if you get him in a position where he should logically be totally at your mercy, it's unrealistic and immersion breaking to not be able to do anything. I mean heck, if I'm hiding under something and slice thuggo's hamstrings, sure I might not kill him, but he sure as heck isn't going to be running around chasing me anymore either, and even if he is normally 8' tall while he's going "argggh my legs" that's the point where I might say bash his head in with a sledgehammer or something.

In short intangible monsters, like say a bunch of ghosts in an Asylum, works better for this kind of thing, than "a bunch of crazy dudes with their junk hanging out" or one big ugly dude that lumbers around in the dark periodically.

I personally consider the gold standards of "horror combat" to actually be games like "Manhunt" and "Condemned" which actually needed some polish. Condemned with it's melee mechanics was brutal, and did a pretty good job of convincing me of what it would be like to get into brawls with crazy dudes using improvised weapons (well at least as far as a video game could). The "Manhunt" games likewise did a nice horror stealth/kill combination and helped popularize it, albeit Manhunt played up how ruthless and brutal your character was, in a game where your supposed to be more normal the same basic thing would work, but it should be stylized a bit better. Both of those series died I believe because they decided to change what worked as opposed to refining the existing mechanics, both Manhunt and Condemned ended with sequels that were heavy on gunplay, especially towards the resolution.

I'll also say that guns are not entirely a deal breaker for horror games either, providing they are handled well, which means making it so they neither solve all problems, and also have a fairly realistic placement of ammo. Half of what ruined things like later "Silent Hill" games was that they began to pretty much walk the hero through mandatory action set pieces, and placed ammo and such around based on difficulty level and when the developers figured the player would need it. Sometimes the placement was creepy and unexpected and worked, but other times it was very immersion breaking and video-game like. Basically the game wasn't thinking about where ammo would likely be (or would be the most disturbing) but handing it out specifically to encourage me to blow monsters away, while frequently positioning re-spawning monsters in ways that made evasion unlikely specifically so I'd approach things as an action game, and meet most challenges through the sight of a gun, or by gleefully running up to fight things hand to hand that I'd agree the protagonist shouldn't be able to handle with a knife.. at least not in a straight fight. Okay fine, one of those creepy nurses with a syringe or a scalpel, I'll buy that (they move slow except for bursts of occasional speed, and their weapons are crappy) but say charging a metal spider-demon thing with a combat knife? (Silent Hill, Homecoming... I'm looking at you) no, just no... not even for an army vet. Maybe if your some kind of heroic fantasy character, but
that's the wrong genera.

The point of the rambling here is that for horror to really return, they need to work on balancing combat into these games and having it fit the conventions, not remove it entirely.

One odd thing I'd also point out, as silly as it might sound, is that I feel regenerating health bars actually work better in a horror setting than they do in an action one. I say this because it's an odd genera trope that the main characters in horror movies get horrendously mauled, and carry on between that. Oftentimes getting ravaged, taking a breather, and then getting ravaged again, as they run the gauntlet from bad to worse, until the final credits. Indeed the whole idea of stopping to use first aid and such struck me as being a bigger issue in terms of immersion. I've often felt that if your going to do a horror game a better way to handle it is to have the character die if they take too much damage at once, but more or less carry on with increasingly visible wear and injuries as they progress. Perhaps getting things like a limp, or a battered arm (slowing reactions) at times they come close to death, with those things taking a long time to recover, or being what takes the use of medical supplies. On some levels this might make things "easier" from a gameplay perspective, but it better fits the tropes (and fear can be conveyed through the increasingly disheveled appearance of the character and their injuries even if the behind the scenes numbers aren't much different) than say some dude stopping in the middle of Demonville to down a health drink to recover their hit points. Look at say Ash from "Evil Dead" (even if that had comedic elements, it was also billed as "Grueling Horror") the whole point was he kept coming despite being beat every which way from sunday, and in doing so was getting crazier than the monsters. He didn't sit there and go "hold on Demonites, I need to down some 5 hour energy to get my hit bar back". :)

Therumancer:
As a general rule I agree with what this article is saying as I pointed out above. In a more general sense I've been saying for a while that I think the current trend towards combat-free horror games was BS, and felt incredibly immersion breaking to me. This is one of the big reasons I never really got into the "Amnesia" games which started this as I pointed out, because the whole thing felt kind of contrived and silly, as did the defenses for it. While some people argued the lack of combat raised the tension and increased the horror, in my mind it just made the games increasingly absurd, being pretty much forced stealth mechanics/sections tossed into a horror atmosphere.

I do tend to agree that some games pretending to be horror did wind up becoming brawlers or shooters by doing things wrong, but I felt that was simply a matter of bad design going in the other direction. I however do not personally think that the developers of a lot of the current crop of horror games chose to omit combat from the games simply to raise tension, and make them scarier, but more as a way of making it easier to design the games since they don't have to worry about a combat engine, and of course going wrong with the hardest part of the game.

This is not to say that monsters that can't be killed do not have a place in horror, because they do, however that needs to be done the right way. Basically if your dealing with a ghost, demon (as in the intangible field of evil kind), or the manifestation of a curse, it makes a degree of sense that your not going to be able to beat it to death with a club, shoot it with a gun, or whatever else and are going to have to run away. Building forced stealth/evasion sections around that kind of thing makes sense when your dealing with a relatively normal guy who otherwise doesn't have any special powers and is using ordinary stuff to survive. On the other hand when your enemies are just normal dudes (even if crazy), zombies, or otherwise have a physical form (even if large and hulking) some degree of physical resistance is expected. Sure going hand to hand with an 8' mutant with a survival knife or club is not something an ordinary person can do, but at the same time that same 8' mutant doesn't need to be fought head on, I mean if you get him in a position where he should logically be totally at your mercy, it's unrealistic and immersion breaking to not be able to do anything. I mean heck, if I'm hiding under something and slice thuggo's hamstrings, sure I might not kill him, but he sure as heck isn't going to be running around chasing me anymore either, and even if he is normally 8' tall while he's going "argggh my legs" that's the point where I might say bash his head in with a sledgehammer or something.

In short intangible monsters, like say a bunch of ghosts in an Asylum, works better for this kind of thing, than "a bunch of crazy dudes with their junk hanging out" or one big ugly dude that lumbers around in the dark periodically.

I personally consider the gold standards of "horror combat" to actually be games like "Manhunt" and "Condemned" which actually needed some polish. Condemned with it's melee mechanics was brutal, and did a pretty good job of convincing me of what it would be like to get into brawls with crazy dudes using improvised weapons (well at least as far as a video game could). The "Manhunt" games likewise did a nice horror stealth/kill combination and helped popularize it, albeit Manhunt played up how ruthless and brutal your character was, in a game where your supposed to be more normal the same basic thing would work, but it should be stylized a bit better. Both of those series died I believe because they decided to change what worked as opposed to refining the existing mechanics, both Manhunt and Condemned ended with sequels that were heavy on gunplay, especially towards the resolution.

I'll also say that guns are not entirely a deal breaker for horror games either, providing they are handled well, which means making it so they neither solve all problems, and also have a fairly realistic placement of ammo. Half of what ruined things like later "Silent Hill" games was that they began to pretty much walk the hero through mandatory action set pieces, and placed ammo and such around based on difficulty level and when the developers figured the player would need it. Sometimes the placement was creepy and unexpected and worked, but other times it was very immersion breaking and video-game like. Basically the game wasn't thinking about where ammo would likely be (or would be the most disturbing) but handing it out specifically to encourage me to blow monsters away, while frequently positioning re-spawning monsters in ways that made evasion unlikely specifically so I'd approach things as an action game, and meet most challenges through the sight of a gun, or by gleefully running up to fight things hand to hand that I'd agree the protagonist shouldn't be able to handle with a knife.. at least not in a straight fight. Okay fine, one of those creepy nurses with a syringe or a scalpel, I'll buy that (they move slow except for bursts of occasional speed, and their weapons are crappy) but say charging a metal spider-demon thing with a combat knife? (Silent Hill, Homecoming... I'm looking at you) no, just no... not even for an army vet. Maybe if your some kind of heroic fantasy character, but
that's the wrong genera.

The point of the rambling here is that for horror to really return, they need to work on balancing combat into these games and having it fit the conventions, not remove it entirely.

One odd thing I'd also point out, as silly as it might sound, is that I feel regenerating health bars actually work better in a horror setting than they do in an action one. I say this because it's an odd genera trope that the main characters in horror movies get horrendously mauled, and carry on between that. Oftentimes getting ravaged, taking a breather, and then getting ravaged again, as they run the gauntlet from bad to worse, until the final credits. Indeed the whole idea of stopping to use first aid and such struck me as being a bigger issue in terms of immersion. I've often felt that if your going to do a horror game a better way to handle it is to have the character die if they take too much damage at once, but more or less carry on with increasingly visible wear and injuries as they progress. Perhaps getting things like a limp, or a battered arm (slowing reactions) at times they come close to death, with those things taking a long time to recover, or being what takes the use of medical supplies. On some levels this might make things "easier" from a gameplay perspective, but it better fits the tropes (and fear can be conveyed through the increasingly disheveled appearance of the character and their injuries even if the behind the scenes numbers aren't much different) than say some dude stopping in the middle of Demonville to down a health drink to recover their hit points. Look at say Ash from "Evil Dead" (even if that had comedic elements, it was also billed as "Grueling Horror") the whole point was he kept coming despite being beat every which way from sunday, and in doing so was getting crazier than the monsters. He didn't sit there and go "hold on Demonites, I need to down some 5 hour energy to get my hit bar back". :)

I think you've got a good point there about everything from combat balance to persistent injuries over magic recovery. The problem would be to have injuries that didn't hamper gameplay, but still makes the player feel threatened. I mean Ash takes some a lot of punishment, but he's still able to find new ways to fight back.

Oddly enough the first thing that comes to mind about not just sitting down to fill the hit bar would be the non-drug related healing from Farcry 3 - though holes in your arms can't magically disappear and it can't have you bandage the same scratch or push the same dislocated thumb back in place 4 times in a row.

But with contextual injuries and nasty[1] animations for dealing with them, coupled with resource management, I think such a system could add to a survival horror experience.

Having to deal with bites, dislocation, lacerations, cuts, splinters[2] and so on while pressed by threats that you can fight, but only delay through fighting (and spending precious resources in the process) could certainly make for a tense and immersive experience. Might even manage to make combat scary, with the right level of getting hurt in the process.

[1] And by "nasty" I mean stuff like "oh shit I'm plucking teeth out of my bleeding hand and cauterizing it with a lighter before wrapping it with strips of my t-shirt".
[2] Don't be like that, splinters can ruin your life - that's splinters, not Splinter... though come to think of it a human sized rat with a mastery of martial arts, and access to various weapons and gadgets, is probably more of an immediate threat than a small piece of material lodged in your flesh. No one wants a shuriken to the nads, even if it's thrown by a mutated ratman.

Doom972:
Being able to kill monsters ruins the horror element. You can't fear the monsters if you know you can kill them.

That's the difference between horror and horror-themed games.

JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

A race game is simulating an event with rules. The player wouldn't sabotage his opponents car because a: if he gets caught, he'll be disqualified, b: it'll violate his/her innate sense of fair play. A more apt description would be, "man, a racing game where the player can't use his brakes would be so scary."

Renegade-pizza:
Firstly, this seems appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olEbwhWDYwM

Secondly, while I am not a fan of games that ruin my underwear, pants and seat, I think it's to help create atmosphere. Extra-credits had an episode on horror games and mentioned that being unable to fight the monster makes you more frigthened, ala Ripley vs. Xenomorph(I like to call him Charles)

Ripley and her crew built a fucking flame thrower and chased that fucker into the Vents. They were proactive.

Tradjus:
One of the things I thought of was a system whereby a player character who is obviously not a combat specialist, like a reporter or whatever, can't possibly stand up to a big beefy insane guy in a straight up fight..
But instead, similarly too the comic, if you hide somewhere, sneak around, and get the drop on a mob, you can stun it temporarily by whacking it in the back of the head. You can't actually damage it and if you keep whacking away it'll shake it off and strangle you, but the stun time is substantial enough too feel rewarding.
See? This satisfies the need to feel like you can fight back, but doesn't make the character a combat powerhouse.
You're still just a scared, weak little bunny rabbit hopping away from rampaging lions, but if you plan it right you can give yourself a fighting chance.

Hence why I commented on "Manhunt" being one of the gold examples of horror-game combat done right, while they kind of ruined it with some gunplay, the protagonist in the second game in particular is kind of a dweeb. A big part of my annoyance is when you have something that is mortal (if scary) totally at your mercy in one of these games and you can't do anything about it when realistically even a normal person would probably deal with the issue right then and there.

My other example "Condemned" (the first one in particular) kind of captured what I feel hand to hand combat in a horror game should be like, being brutal, with both you and the enemy being fairly fragile (in most cases). You generally didn't just RPG-bash your way through everything, almost every fight was a serious brawl, and in general even fighting two guys at the same time could be really rough (as it should be).

Of course at the same time, part of it is also the selection of enemies we've seen so far. See, in some horror stories I can see why running away is the only option, if your say fighting ghosts, the manifestation of some kind of curse, or the "evil energy" type of demon (as opposed to the fantasy sort of demon) obviously it doesn't matter if your Rambo or not, you can't just gun down or beat up something that doesn't have some kind of continuous physical state. It mostly bugs me when your dealing with games with solid enemies, especially ones that are just guys, even if crazy ones, (like in Outlast). Even things like say the monsters in "Amnesia" that don't look like something a normal dude could handle in a straight fight, it kind of bugs me when you wind up in situations where you could take it out realistically but aren't allowed to "cuz the designer says so".

Also, I think half the problem is too many people seem to equate "normal" with "totally incapable and incompetent", most people know how to fight to some extent (instinctively) and people tend to learn quickly and as time has shown adapt to adverse situations. A "normal reporter" might not be Bruce Lee, I get that, but he's also not going to be a total dishrag either, especially if this is a dude who is confident enough to go breaking into an evil asylum totally alone... which kind of plays havoc with the whole "totally normal" part of things because you know, most normal people wouldn't do something like that, and probably would have say gotten the police as soon as they ran into the first dead body. If your game relies on characterization of the protagonist that he's going to get himself into trouble by acting abnormally, chances are he's going to have to be proportionatly capable to explain why he's taking those calculated risks. This is something that can be dealt with if the horror situation strikes totally by surprise, but in a case where the protagonist went looking for the situation to begin with (I think I'll go check out this haunted place to see if the rumors are true!... psycho asylum doing crazy experiments on people? I'll walk in the front door with no preparations in case they don't like me poking around, and then continue as I find the place wasted outside and dead bodies all over) the designer needs to be coorespondingly reasonable in why the character takes those risks by having the character at least somewhat able to deal with dangerous situations.

Benpasko:

JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

For me, the line is when it's artificial. In a racing game like that, it wouldn't make sense to sabotage people (Against the rules, sportsmanship, whatever). But in Outlast, where the completely invincible enemy you can't fight back against is just some shit with a bit of wood, it feels forced.

Well, I'd say the big difference is that a racing game is a competition, and happens in real life. Race Car drivers might be very driven to win, but they aren't sociopathic murderers. As a general rule you don't see these guys all sabotaging each other's cars and stuff, given that races happen in real life.

In a horror game the difference is people are trying to kill you as opposed to it just being a competition. While situations like horror games don't happen in real life (or so we hope) those that are similar to them where people have been in high threat situations do demonstrate that even ordinary people can rise to extraordinary circumstances. Not to mention in context we're not even talking about things that are all that extraordinary since it pretty much comes down to beating up some naked, half-starved, lunatic. Furthermore for the most part at least I'm talking about situations where say the guy doesn't see you, and yet your in an ideal position to take the guy down without needing any kind of spectacular combat training. Situations like say hamstringing someone when he walks by a cot your under and he doesn't know your there, or coming out from behind some boxes while the dude is facing the other way and hitting him over the head with a blunt object until he doesn't move anymore.

In short I'd agree, and that's how I'd put it.

Though I will mention (Spoilers Below)

In Outlast there is one specific recurring maniac that had a reasonable justification for the forced stealth/flight sections given that they did all kinds of experiments on him to enhance his strength, pain tolerance, durability, etc... as I believe was mentioned in the memos. I could see how knowing this (early on you find the info I believe) you might not want to risk bush whacking this guy since he might just shrug off or heal whatever you did to him. On the other hand this does not apply to any of the other freaks down there (such as the naked cannibal dudes who like to taunt you, they are just crazy guys with kitchen knives).

Also the final enemy/driving force isn't "normal" so I can see how that went down and why you had to turn off the machines and had problems with it's manifestations.

(spoilers conclude)

Overall I think the whole "no combat" thing is a design cop out since it takes more work, and a lot of it. Claiming it's scarier or better that way is a cool way of talking around things, especially when people were so desperate for horror games. I honestly don't think there was much more than that behind it, so really argueing why combat would be better is beside the point, in the end I'd imagine everyone including the game designers would agree, but when your dealing with indie developers on a budget it might not be practical, and it sounds better to tout something as a
feature than as a failure of your abilities, or saying you can't do it due to a lack of budget.

For all my criticisms, Outlast is a pretty good game given what it is, and it's price point. Of course it could have been a lot better, but that would have taken more money, and probably better developers than they had since the guys doing this were probably just learning/refining their craft.

The Wooster:

Doom972:
Being able to kill monsters ruins the horror element. You can't fear the monsters if you know you can kill them.

That's the difference between horror and horror-themed games.

JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

A race game is simulating an event with rules. The player wouldn't sabotage his opponents car because a: if he gets caught, he'll be disqualified, b: it'll violate his/her innate sense of fair play. A more apt description would be, "man, a racing game where the player can't use his brakes would be so scary."

Renegade-pizza:
Firstly, this seems appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olEbwhWDYwM

Secondly, while I am not a fan of games that ruin my underwear, pants and seat, I think it's to help create atmosphere. Extra-credits had an episode on horror games and mentioned that being unable to fight the monster makes you more frigthened, ala Ripley vs. Xenomorph(I like to call him Charles)

Ripley and her crew built a fucking flame thrower and chased that fucker into the Vents. They were proactive.

Well, as I said in some of my posts, a lot of it comes down to what your fighting. Yes, an opponent that can't be fought is scarier, but there needs to be a reason why it's that way. If your running from ghosts or the physical manifestation of a curse or something, it makes sense that your not going to be able to beat it to death with a heavy object. On the other hand we're talking about a lot of combat-free horror games (Outlast being the best of the bunch) where the enemies are conceptually not something that shouldn't be unbeatable, your dealing with regular 'ol crazy humans for the most part, and get plenty of chances to pretty much end some of these dudes stalking you. When it comes to most corporeal opponents this same logic applies and thus can be applied to things like say "Amnesia" (both games) as well for the most part.

I'll also say my opinion of extra credits is mixed, I liked some of their stuff, but when they were on The Escapist I was fairly critical of a lot of things they had to say, and my opinion continues to be mixed. To be honest dropping their name is a bad idea in most serious discussions, for exactly the reason pointed out here, they will use "Alien"
as an example for an enemy that couldn't be fought and was scarier for it, when in reality the whole point of "Alien" is despite being set in space the threat was scarier for being fairly believable, and the crew was pro-active. The Alien wasn't even all that tough, plenty of things they tried might have worked on it, it's just they failed. The flame thrower is a good example (and the Alien did indeed run from the fire, as opposed to just running through it and chowing down). "Alien" was basically a science fiction version of a scenario where a ship transporting a tiger had an accident and the hungry and POed tiger got loose with only half a dozen crew members on board. Sure a couple of bullets would do the trick, but first you have to find the damn thing and tigers are sneaky and ambush their prey. Knowing it's something you can deal with, but you keep failing, as people drop one by one, can be freakier than some ghost. It's just that "Alien" made the tiger an alien predator, and the crew unaware of the "cargo" and thus unprepared for it getting loose. The sequel made it pretty clear that individually these things are hardly invincible. Furthermore if the Alien had been invincible, it wouldn't have been much a movie, it wouldn't have needed to hide, sneak around, and build tension, it would have just walked in and started munching on people without worrying about things like concealing itself in the vents, or being cunning in dealing with it's prey. The lack of preparation is also a big part of the story as it's abundantly clear that if the corperation had trusted the transporters and seen to it that they knew what they had and were prepared it never would have went down this way, which makes their paranoia and betrayal sting.

Of course then again I'm not entirely sure "Alien" truly counts as a horror movie, I've always seen it as more of a suspense/thriller movie. Of course it's labeled as horror, so my opinion doesn't matter much.

The Wooster:

Doom972:
Being able to kill monsters ruins the horror element. You can't fear the monsters if you know you can kill them.

That's the difference between horror and horror-themed games.

JimB:
I wonder how far this complaint against genre contrivances extends. Like, take racing games. Surely your character, if he wanted to win, would be willing to get out before the race and sabotage his opponents' cars, so are racing games being annoyingly restrictive by not including that in the gameplay?

I know that sounded like a pretty smart-ass example, given that winning a car race isn't really all that similar to not being eaten by a monster with a vagina-like banana peel for a face, but no contempt for the complaint against player agency is intended. I just wonder where the line is.

A race game is simulating an event with rules. The player wouldn't sabotage his opponents car because a: if he gets caught, he'll be disqualified, b: it'll violate his/her innate sense of fair play. A more apt description would be, "man, a racing game where the player can't use his brakes would be so scary."

Renegade-pizza:
Firstly, this seems appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olEbwhWDYwM

Secondly, while I am not a fan of games that ruin my underwear, pants and seat, I think it's to help create atmosphere. Extra-credits had an episode on horror games and mentioned that being unable to fight the monster makes you more frigthened, ala Ripley vs. Xenomorph(I like to call him Charles)

Ripley and her crew built a fucking flame thrower and chased that fucker into the Vents. They were proactive.

And a true horror game simulates a situation in which most normal people would freak out at the sight of the monsters and not be able to fight them. That's why it wouldn't make sense for the player to be able to hit the monsters.

It takes a really good game designer (and other people involved) to make a genuinely scary game with weapons. Taking away weapons is a choice for those who are either talentless or (in most cases) just too lazy to work this out.

Keep in mind your weapon doesn't have to actually work on the target.

How much of this applies to non-game horror? I generally dislike horror books and movies, because I usually find horror villains boring and tedious--they often seem to be powerful not because their natures are powerful, but because the author has imbued them with narrative force, such that characters who should be able to defeat them inexplicably become defenseless against them. I have a bit more patience for horror as a game, because you're generally allowed SOME degree of agency in monster avoidance, even if it's as simple as running rather than standing around like an idiot. Even so, I'm really more a fan of horror elements than of real, pure horror--my favorite game is The Suffering, which lets you kill monsters with a freaking flamethrower!

I hate horror games for the reason that i'm very prone to jump scares and even super crafted scary environments/atmospheres end in a jump scare for me. So basically i 100% die the first time in every new situation because i nearly throw my mouse through the whole room and then have to start over again - but the second time i'm hardly scared at all.

A more recent prime example would be Slenderman, where i was geniunily frightened and the first time i met the well-dressed baldie i nearly wet my pants. The second and third try? Not at all. Tried to outrun him and abuse the trees so i look at him and he doesn't teleport into my face etc. etc.

And giving me a gun doesn't help it at all. The jump scares will still startle me like crazy. Every Doom, Quake and what not did it and it didn't matter that i could blast them into tiny bits 0.5sec after they gave me the next adrenline rush.

:<

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