Games can be scary without counter-intuitive controls and dodgy graphics, according to Tomm Hulett of Silent Hill: Downpour developer Vatra Games.
Hulett, who served as Downpour’s associate producer, told MCV Pacific that survival horror as a genre is in “an interesting spot”, having grown past the technological limitations of its progrenitors.
“I think the genre was lucky, to an extent, when it started out. A lot of horror elements ‘clicked’ such as clunky combat, confusing cameras, and so on,” he said.
“However, shoddy gameplay can’t be a feature forever, and so everyone fixed the combat – resulting in action games with creepier monsters. If horror games are going to be ‘scary’ in the future, it’s going to take careful game design to do it.”
The producer said Vatra tried to ignore general trends in other games to focus on core horror design.
“While many other games have gone the route of more action oriented game design, attempting to appeal to more mainstream audiences, we’ve taken a very careful approach to the pacing of Downpour to make sure it maintains that original ‘slow-burn’ and keeping the player off guard with less predictability,” he said.
Hulett noted that “scare design” is a difficult sell, as it’s hard to show progress to funding bodies until the finished product, which may be why many publishers have given it up. But the producer believes that with good design, there is room for psychological horror.
“If you have tense, frightening gameplay happening naturally, and then some carefully orchestrated designed-scares, you would have a very memorable horror game,” he said.
“Hopefully that’s the direction the genre is headed.”
Resident Evil producer Masachika Kawata said recently that the core series must pursue an action-line in order to survive.
Silent Hill: Downpour is out now in Europe and the US, and hits Australia this week, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.