Alternative scare for horror games

Oddball

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I was wondering. In a horror game, instead of a jumpscare, what if instead you were stuck for a bit. And there was a creature, moving its joints in unnatural ways. It then moved toward you making creepy noises, slowly at first, before quickly building up speed. Would that be scarier than a jumpscare? (If done right)
 

Soulrender

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In short building tension and suspense to its limits spiced with creepy sounds and music. Forge the atmosphere of fear and terror with small amount of dim lights and dark environment, show faint shadows on floor and walls of something that supposed not to be there.

I recommend to watch some of these clips and this might give you an idea.
And this is my personal favourite setting:

It's dark, not much light, something is lurking behind the corner, you don't know what, but when you attempt to find out it vanishes.

This is not a jumpscare but fits to my description.
 
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Iron_Brew

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I was wondering. In a horror game, instead of a jumpscare, what if instead you were stuck for a bit. And there was a creature, moving its joints in unnatural ways. It then moved toward you making creepy noises, slowly at first, before quickly building up speed. Would that be scarier than a jumpscare? (If done right)

Fun challenge: Make an RPG maker horror game without any cheap jumpscares :D
 

RCXGaming

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I was wondering. In a horror game, instead of a jumpscare, what if instead you were stuck for a bit. And there was a creature, moving its joints in unnatural ways. It then moved toward you making creepy noises, slowly at first, before quickly building up speed. Would that be scarier than a jumpscare? (If done right)

Ooh, I know a method for this. Lock your player in place with "Same as character" events and have the monster slowly approach you while you can't move/open the menu. The only thing you can do is fidget around while your doom inevitably approaches... but you get freed at the end, allowing you to actually escape.

Now you just have to make it so you don't actually get caught! Good tension. :kaohi:
 

Ratatattat

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Ooh, I know a method for this. Lock your player in place with "Same as character" events and have the monster slowly approach you while you can't move/open the menu. The only thing you can do is fidget around while your doom inevitably approaches... but you get freed at the end, allowing you to actually escape.

Now you just have to make it so you don't actually get caught! Good tension. :kaohi:
Yes! You can even make them think they can escape sooner, like they get caught in a trap or something and it's "press button X repeatedly to free yourself!", but it's actually rigged to keep them there as long as you need them to and always allow them to be freed at the last second. So it feels less scripted and instead feels not only like they're responsible for how soon they escape, but also like there's a genuine chance that they could fail.
 

gstv87

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the real scare in horror games comes from anticipation rather than delivery.
you'll move equally as slow if you knew the monster was there and about to jump you, than if you didn't know the monster was there but still expecting it to jump you.

you only move fast and confident when the monster is definitely not there, and in no position to jump you.
if it jumps you out of nowhere, that's delivery without anticipation... and you go "wtf was that? where did that come from?"

so, yeah, *relentless chase by an indefatigable pursuer* is one (if not THE one) of the fundamental tropes of horror.
 

Ratatattat

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the real scare in horror games comes from anticipation rather than delivery.
you'll move equally as slow if you knew the monster was there and about to jump you, than if you didn't know the monster was there but still expecting it to jump you.

you only move fast and confident when the monster is definitely not there, and in no position to jump you.
if it jumps you out of nowhere, that's delivery without anticipation... and you go "wtf was that? where did that come from?"

so, yeah, *relentless chase by an indefatigable pursuer* is one (if not THE one) of the fundamental tropes of horror.

Agreed. Something like what OP described shouldn't be overused IMO, but I do think it can be a really effective tool if done sparingly and well.

Some of the most skin-crawling moments I've seen in media have been I guess what you could call "half-reveals", where I'm seeing something totally creepy, usually some degree of uncanny, but still don't understand what I'm seeing. Usually it's most effective in glimpses, so I take it in but don't have long enough to really process it - like when you see a shadow on the wall but the headlights outside your window pass and it disappears before you can fully process whether it was actually just a shadow or a person standing in your room.

Do you know how many "Let's Players" have lost their absolute sh*t the moment they saw Slenderman around a corner? ;) Then proceeded to run away with pounding heart, never sure if they were successfully losing him, or if they'd stumble down a wrong turn and he'd just show up around the next corner? Sure, they play it up for the camera, but it still reflects how I've felt in similar game experiences.

What about Samara from The Ring crawling out of her well and toward the character? When you haven't seen it before and don't know whether or not the character is in danger, because you don't know yet that she's literally going to climb out of the frickin' screen?

As long as there's question as to one's safety status or likely outcome, there can still be tension/anticipation. If I think I have a chance, but don't know if I can escape, that contributes to my tension because I haven't given up as I still have an interest in running away. But there's no guarantee I'll succeed, so the tension doesn't dissolve the moment I turn to run (unlike when I hop on my raft in The Forest, and immediately feel safe enough turning around to point and laugh at the "creepy mutants" confusedly trying to figure out how to get to me from the shore).

It can also work when something is revealed for longer, but since fear of the unknown is quite literally the foundation of horror, some elements of it still needs to be woven in. For example, maybe you're not limited by time and you get to really soak in what you're seeing, but perhaps it's partially in shadow so you're desperately trying to scan it for better detail that the lighting just won't provide; or it's peeking from around a corner, with the impression that there's much more behind it that you can't see. In these cases I also personally feel that it's a must for it to be skin-crawlingly creepy. Presenting something long enough for the audience to soak in is most effective when, as I mentioned from my experience above, they can look at it all they want but still don't understand what they're looking at.

Uncanny valley stuff is great at having that effect on me personally, including the type of thing you might see in AI-generated "photos". Man, those are great inspiration IMO. Because the AI isn't human, it's only identifying patterns but doesn't actually know what it's making. The AI would never know that the "photos" it's generating, while extremely familiar-looking, don't actually make sense and are just so very off.

Side note:
Regarding the above, try flipping through this website for a while until you find an image the AI totally messes up. Sometimes it's mild, sometimes it's really bad, but it always gives me an uncomfortable feeling to look at and desperately try to understand what's supposed to be happening with that body - and I'm not even in a horror movie, haha.

Basically, a "reveal" doesn't have to be a true reveal (i.e. the audience is still confused and in the dark, literally and/or figuratively) nor a release of any sort, but rather just an extension of the confusion/anxiety we've already been building up. If done right, seeing a creature doesn't have to be any more of a release of tension than seeing any other creepy, visual cues leading up to it. Just because it's a creature doesn't mean it can't be just another visual cue enhancing the "creep factor".

Just for inspirational reference, here are some things from media that have succeeded in deeply unsettling me upon seeing it, further enhancing my tension rather than releasing it:

  • Yamishibai - (especially earlier "episodes", IMO) is a great reference. Gotta love Japanese horror :)Some of my favorite episodes include:
    • Zanbai - at the end at what's shown through the rear-view mirror. Something about the uncannily more fluid/realistic motion, in contrast with the rest of the animation, really instilled discomfort in me.
    • Tormentor - the glimpses we get of the strange movement through the binoculars. I think there really is something to unnatural movement in having a chilling effect.
    • The Umbrella Goddess - because, well, it's just... so... weird.
    • The Next Floor - after watching the progressive creepiness, the more climactic moment toward the end isn't just a rush of adrenaline, but also just super creepy in the darkness, even though it lasts for a few moments.

  • Uzumaki - yay for more Japanese horror! It's literally a manga, at whose pages you can stare for however long you want, but its "reveals" still manage to make my skin crawl no matter how long I look at them or try to make sense of them. Because they fundamentally don't make sense (plus, just body horror in general).

  • The Forest - the creepy mutants! However, they kind of lost their inherent freakiness after living with them on the island for a while and seeing them regularly, and like I mentioned earlier, the tension defuses as soon as I hop on my raft and know I'm safe. But their designs are incredibly freaky, especially when you aren't expecting it and see them for the first time as glimpses here and there while you're suddenly running for your life from something that can somehow destroy everything you've just built with like 3 swings of its weird, beefy, fleshy arms or legs.

  • Silent Hill - with those creepy twitching nurses? Pyramid head??

  • Pan's Labyrinth - the fleshy eyeball monster with the banquet. You see it clear as day, just sitting there... but there's still anticipation because it hasn't noticed her yet. And then, when she eats the grape... it starts waking up.

  • The Grudge - even when they show her, I've always felt the overwhelming urge to look away. Again, I think it's the uncanniness; she's just a person, but she looks... wrong.

  • Honestly, just some static images can give me the total heebie jeebies, and actively make me want to look away (knowing the context/creepypasta behind the images sometimes contributes, but usually I know nothing about it and for me it's just because they're so unsettling to look at - and sometimes I can't even explain why because it seems like it should be innocuous, like Exhibit A). Exhibit A - Exhibit B - Exhibit C - Exhibit D - Exhibit E (because had to include a still from The Grudge).
 

gstv87

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Silent Hill - with those creepy twitching nurses? Pyramid head??
first appearance of a nurse: "Hey!... HEY you! help?" (she's gone into the mist)
second appearance of a nurse, and full reveal: ".......whhhaaaaaaat the ffffffuuuuuu?"

it's only creepy if you know it's wrong.
 

Oddball

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@Ratatattat on the website you linked after several refreshes, i got a fully grown man's face, but the shoulders were the size of a babies
 

retrofiction

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If you play Resident Evil Village, there is a part later in the game where you have a similar encounter the way you describe it. It goes though all the works mentioned in this thread (build-up, tension, lighting, level design etc.) You should check it out. I won't spoil it here, just google House Beneviento.
 

Garryg

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I'd recommend watching a playthrough of Silent Hill 2. There is nothing much that I'd say is a jump scare, but the tension is always built up from scene to scene, and the structure isn't far from an RPG ether.
 

Kokoro Hane

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I definitely think horror games can be scary without jumpscares. I myself am not the biggest fan of jumpscares, I prefer more creepy atmosphere, the build up of tension, that nagging feeling something MIGHT jump out at you even if it never does! Also the scene you described original poster sounds absolutely horrific! Yes, something like that can definitely work. Especially if it invokes a feeling of helplessness.
 

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