Frictional Games has been making horror games for many moons but really proved its chiller-chops with Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Co-founder Thomas Grip is a little disappointed in how slowly the genre's developed over the past decade, though, so he's laid out a list of his hopes for future horror games.
The first few points in Grip's blog post will be familiar to any fans of horror in other mediums. Rather than drop us into alien situations, he says, we should be eased in from familiar situations so we relate to the spooky shenanigans. A slow build-up is important so scares have greater impact, but he's also thinking about games lasting three hours or less, "so that all focus can be on establishing a single (or just few) peaks of terror."
That old video game staple, combat, also needs a shake-up. Grip says that it makes players "focus on all the wrong things, and makes them miss many of the subtle cues that are so important to an effective atmosphere." He'd like games to treat enemies as something other than straight 'enemies'--things to destroy or avoid--as rounded inhabitants of virtual worlds, with their own beliefs and agendas, have more horror potential.
Players should have more freedom, both in where they can go, and how much control they have, not ripping it away for cutscenes. By heightening their connection, Grip posits, it'll make it even more gut-wrenching when they're confronted with consequences to their actions, reflecting on some uncomfortable home truths.
Lastly, and most difficult, he wishes for more human drama. "Most horror in other media does not have the phenomena/situation per se as its focus, but instead its effect on people," he writes. "However, in video-games the main actions still revolve around inanimate objects or brainless foes. By having the player's actions being directly tied to other people, the horror gets so much more personal and intense."
Do check out the full post as it's awfully interesting, and could apply to many other genres too. While many games do hit some of these notes, let's not quibble and lose sight of the point.
Frictional's next game is a spooky collaboration with Dear Esther developer thechineseroom, bearing the horrific name Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Fingers crossed that a few of these wishes come true in that.