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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Seeking Abject Terror

19 posts found
  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 12987

 
OP  4/18/13 6:30:41 PM#1

MMOs have embodied many of the world's favorite themes...except one: Terror. In today's Devil's Advocate, we take a look at how a terror/horror mechanic might, in the right circumstances, fit quite well within the MMO-space. See what we have to say on the subject before lending your thoughts to the comments.

Here’s the kicker about MMORPG. Terror is very hard to implement, because if you make a game too scary from a “spooky graphic” or “horrendous difficulty” standpoint, it will be more difficult to make it economically viable. To elicit terror or at least a reaction of strong fear, game designers use “people against people against terrible monstrosities” as a feature, creating stress in gamers by making the penalty for dying far greater than what is normally seen in a common MMO today. 

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Seeking Abject Terror.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Dreamo84

Defender of Worlds

Joined: 5/20/04
Posts: 2773

I actually still like MMORPGs

4/19/13 12:51:46 PM#2
the Secret World is a pretty damn spooky game! Definitely some genuinely freaky moments.

  WingedNazgul

Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/27/12
Posts: 7

4/19/13 1:41:36 PM#3
I'm guessing Victor has never played The Secret World?
  Battlerock

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/12/11
Posts: 731

4/19/13 1:41:45 PM#4
Gears of War 2 - one of the gears puts a shotgun under his chin and blows his brains out in front of the other gears - Dominic Santiago shoots his girlfriend in the head even though he doesnt want to she is beyond healing. They show snap shots of them away on vacation having a normal good life before the locust hit. Those episodes really played with my emotions, I just couldnt help but think how terrible it would be to be in those shoes.
  Yuui

Novice Member

Joined: 10/21/07
Posts: 722

4/19/13 1:59:57 PM#5

Secret World, hands down. The best implementation of horror in mmorpgs so far. 

 

The upcoming japanese Ghost at Midnight, sounds promising too.

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  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10420

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

4/19/13 2:34:26 PM#6

The only games that have inspired any sort of terror on my part were games where running from the monsters was a part of the game play. The game Amnesia definitely inspires a kind of terror as you run from the monsters and find a place to hide. I think running and hiding inspire a specific kind of response from the human brain.

This would be tricky in an MMO. In the article, I'm not sure if waiting in a walled city for the monsters to go away would inspire fear or boredom. On the other hand, if you spread people out in the world, so that the only real option is running away, it's not really an MMO, it's just a few players running away from monsters.

Now, you could allow a lot of players to group together, but not let them build anything to keep the monsters out of the player city. However, individual players could have small, fortified houses where they could run when the monsters come. If it's every player for themselves, then you have a bunch of players in the same place, but at the same time they have to run and hide from the monsters, invoking a fear response in the brain.

Maybe. I'm not entirely sure it would work in an MMO.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Sythion

Novice Member

Joined: 6/30/11
Posts: 425

4/19/13 3:08:40 PM#7

Horror in any real sense is tied directly to what we care about. Secret world is not scary, because you cannot lose anything.

 

No mmo will ever be frightening from a story perspective until all of the following issues sre solved:

  • An mmo has to make us actually care about something. Static quests inspired by nothing but backstory will never be able to accomplish this.
  • An mmo has to be able to make us actually lose something we care about.
  • An mmo has to provide choice with unpredictable consequences. We have to know that its possible to fail in some matter if we make the wrong choices or perform poorly. No take-backs allowed.
Basically today's mmos are safety sitcoms from the fifties, and they won't evolve until someone creates 'Lost' forty years from now.
 

  Senadina

Novice Member

Joined: 4/16/06
Posts: 882

4/19/13 3:16:59 PM#8
I'm afraid I don't find Victor's game fun or scary. Are the 364 days of preparation fun? Because THAT is the game, not the one day a year. And so what if it is all wiped out? Tales of the Desert (sp?) wipes and starts over routinely. Either the player starts over or moves on. Frankly, I rarely play a game for a year, so this scenario is supremely uncompelling to me.

  Fdzzaigl

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/22/09
Posts: 2002

4/19/13 3:41:12 PM#9

I think it's very hard for games in general to really terrify their audience in the first place. I can only sum up a select few that have managed to scare me (like Amnesia and Penumbra, or Call of Cthulhu).

It's usually the absence of ways to defend yourself that really makes the games that succeed scary imo.

Sadly, most "scary" games think you can still be scary if the protaganist is a big muscled "badass" with an even bigger gun. That's not the case.

I would love to see an MMO that succeeds in being really terrifying, but it would have to be a pretty unique game indeed.

  BigHatLogan

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 1/09/06
Posts: 695

4/19/13 3:51:44 PM#10

An MMORPG like Secret World isn't scary in the least because their is no danger.  If you die, nothing happens.  You are immortal so why should anything scare you.  Scary games are ones like EVE, Darkfall, or Dark Souls because they punish you if you die.  Your heart might be pounding if you are risking a lot at the time.  Some "scary" monster graphic might scare a little kid but not most adults. 

Victor's game is an interesting idea.  I was getting ready to shoot it down all to hell, but I think it might work.  Probably not on a 365 day scale as that is way too long, but maybe on a bi monthly or monthly scale it may work.  Victor's game would need to be designed around permadeath to work, since permadeath would happen if the ultimate enemy wins anyway.  Might as well have permadeath a regular part of game play.  The game could be designed as a survival horror game where life is fleeting.  Only those with the quickest wits and reflexes would surive the week, and things would get worse and worse leading up to the major confrontations. 

A game that had a lot of grind too it wouldnt work since people don't want to grind and grind only to get perma killed.  But a game designed around permadeath with very little grind and mostly scavenging as gameplay like DayZ would work like a charm.  I think that sort of game would be something worthy to inspire fear.

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  sketocafe

Hard Core Member

Joined: 7/19/11
Posts: 539

4/19/13 4:58:08 PM#11

I dunno. I don't get stressed at all from the thought of losing ships in EVE and don't think I would in your Onslaught Survival. I won't say people who stress about the idea of loss are doing it wrong, but it's far better for me to adopt a zen-like detachment toward assets. Accept that the stuff you have is impermanent and your 'ownership' of it is likely fleeting and the situtaions which may lead to their loss can be a lot more fun.

So I wouldn't be afraid of something which I know will happen every year, but I'd still totally play that.

  Raventree

Novice Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 457

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4/19/13 5:06:20 PM#12

As a fan of both survival horror and MMOs, I absolutely LOVE the idea of a horror MMO.   I really like the author's suggestion, but I would add the following:

  • The monster attacks would have to happen more like once a week or once a month or the game would be boring
  • There would have to be full PVP to give the feeling of constant danger, backstabbing, and.... reality
  • There would have to be significant death penalty.  Dying and running back from a spawn point for 30 seconds isn't terrifying
  • There would have to be a significant sandbox feel to the game so it didn't devolve into raiding with a once a week slightly bigger raid (i.e. the monster attacks)
  • The player population would have to be somewhat dispersed to prevent the feeling of horror from turning into just a feeling of war
Just my initial thoughts.

Currently playing:
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Played:
SWToR, Aion,EQ, Dark Age of Camelot
World of Warcraft, AoC

  Purutzil

Elite Member

Joined: 10/02/11
Posts: 2823

The Critical Hit Pretzel!

4/19/13 5:42:23 PM#13

The issue with horror in MMO is just that. It is a MASSIVE MULTIPLAYER ONLINE game. Its a lot harder to invoke fear when your playing with someone. It would need a very interesting balance to really fill the horror without making it feel redundant. Look at Day Z or its 'glory train' War Z which both have the same issue which horror is replaced more with just killing of other players.

I think the best way to pull it off would be to make death a big thing (maybe locking you out for a good deal of time in response? ) and a way to make players feel less dangerous, while not completely removing that competative need.

For sure the threat itself needs to invoke some fear, a sense of helplessness behind it. Its really difficult to pull off as typically, things are less scary with others and given the chance to be a dick, peopele WILL be massive dicks to others which goes from playing in suspence to just expecting to be griefed. 

Even if it was pulled off though, chances are that fear would eventually diminish and the game would lose its touch. Its a difficult thing to pull off and honestly, I kind of like the concept a lot if it can work. 

  AquaKira

Novice Member

Joined: 2/11/11
Posts: 37

4/19/13 5:49:09 PM#14
Lovely anime, waiting unpatiently for episode 3 :D Would love to see an mmorpg with moments where I'd scream while running away etc. Where mobs take the battle to the players, not the other way around.

  eric_w66

Novice Member

Joined: 1/12/06
Posts: 1008

4/19/13 6:09:34 PM#15
Originally posted by BigHatLogan

An MMORPG like Secret World isn't scary in the least because their is no danger.  If you die, nothing happens.  You are immortal so why should anything scare you.  Scary games are ones like EVE, Darkfall, or Dark Souls because they punish you if you die.  Your heart might be pounding if you are risking a lot at the time.  Some "scary" monster graphic might scare a little kid but not most adults. 

Victor's game is an interesting idea.  I was getting ready to shoot it down all to hell, but I think it might work.  Probably not on a 365 day scale as that is way too long, but maybe on a bi monthly or monthly scale it may work.  Victor's game would need to be designed around permadeath to work, since permadeath would happen if the ultimate enemy wins anyway.  Might as well have permadeath a regular part of game play.  The game could be designed as a survival horror game where life is fleeting.  Only those with the quickest wits and reflexes would surive the week, and things would get worse and worse leading up to the major confrontations. 

A game that had a lot of grind too it wouldnt work since people don't want to grind and grind only to get perma killed.  But a game designed around permadeath with very little grind and mostly scavenging as gameplay like DayZ would work like a charm.  I think that sort of game would be something worthy to inspire fear.

You can always take it upon yourself to delete your character every time you die in TSW, but you wouldn't because....

  Maelzrael

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/15/12
Posts: 308

I like games.

4/19/13 9:13:59 PM#16

If I could create a horror game it would be along the lines of Silent Hill and Dead Space. I wouldn't take the IPs because that always causes problems, however, it would contain the same incredibly creepy type of worlds. None of this silly Resident Evil 4-6 style action. Heres some examples..

  • Creepy hellish setting at night with horrible monstrosities.
  • Safer in the day, this would be when you prepare for nighttime, ie: Crafting, Building defenses, forming towns/parties etc.
  • It would have high death penalties, ones that would make some players want to quit when they to die, such as losing property, levels, items, or even permadeath depending on the amount of times you have died versus what you have to lose. This would give you a true feeling of fear when you find yourself close to death or in a sticky situation.
  • There would be NO infinite ammo, scavenging/crafting ammo during the day would be manditory if you want to survive.
  • You could/should run from certain fights if you're not properly equipped/grouped.
  • Music would be creepy and somber when not in combat, and chilling and violent when in combat.
  • I wouldnt not make it like a traditional mmo. This would be a world where you are trapped in a hellish nightmare that you cannot escape. No frolicking and picking daisies, (you can do that in Gw2 allready and it is quite fun :P) No levels, but a solid skill tree set up similar to either Skyrim or Path of Exile, with crafting included in the choices you make.
  • There would be an overarching story, a starter(tutorial) area, and the further you go from any given town, the harder/more frightening the creatures of the world would become; causeing you to either group up or run from everything to travel greater distances. As a result of this idea, towns could only be built far far away from each other... think 1-2 WoW sized zones away. There would also be pre-existing towns created by the developer which would be used as safe points and social areas, but these would greatly diminish in the elder game(Ergo higher/more skilled people would travel back to earlier areas to socialize/trade/craft etc, or build thier own towns in the harder areas with more defenses)
I'll add more here if i think of anything else.
 
Side note, I own secret world and I do not find it scary in the least. Just because there are creepy creatures does not make a game scary, its a start, but only a very small peice of the puzzle. If I could create a horror MMO, it would be very little like TSW, save the Mystery type quests/puzzles which I think fit perfectly in the type of world I described above.
 

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10420

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

4/19/13 9:42:01 PM#17


Originally posted by Sythion
Horror in any real sense is tied directly to what we care about. Secret world is not scary, because you cannot lose anything.

 

No mmo will ever be frightening from a story perspective until all of the following issues sre solved:

  • An mmo has to make us actually care about something. Static quests inspired by nothing but backstory will never be able to accomplish this.
  • An mmo has to be able to make us actually lose something we care about. An mmo has to provide choice with unpredictable consequences. We have to know that its possible to fail in some matter if we make the wrong choices or perform poorly. No take-backs allowed.
Basically today's mmos are safety sitcoms from the fifties, and they won't evolve until someone creates 'Lost' forty years from now.  



I disagree with the idea that terror or fear is tied to a sense of loss in video games. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is very scary, but if you die, you lose nothing. When playing, the monsters are what you avoid, not losing your stuff.

If the activities in general are not scary, just adding the element of loss won't make them terrifying. The activities need to be the kinds of things that are scary in the first place.

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  victorbjr

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/13/10
Posts: 156

4/20/13 1:12:57 AM#18
Originally posted by WingedNazgul
I'm guessing Victor has never played The Secret World?

Hey there!

Actually, I used to be the columnist for TSW on the site. :) That said, I do want to apologize, as horror and terror perhaps mean different things, and while TSW can be a horror RPG, it doesn't evoke much terror in my mind.

A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

  Konfess

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/10/07
Posts: 695

4/22/13 1:32:57 AM#19

BTW TSW didn’t scare me.  I like the experiment idea, but I don’t think the  time frame will go over.  Imaging waiting in line for 364 days to ride a 24 hour rollercoaster.  I think a one month return cycle is more doable.  If the community enjoys the attack then is come back every month to be enjoyed for a week and not 24 hours.

Pardon any spelling errors
Konfess your cyns and some maybe forgiven
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