Horror and Shmups?

Discuss shoot-em-ups, and games in general.
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Horror and Shmups?

Postby Zero-2 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:51 pm

Does anyone think it's possible to make a horror shmup?

I don't mean a shmup with a horror-themed art design like Deathsmiles, but a shmup with actual horror elements.
Is it possible to make a shmup that can create strong foreboding feelings and a deep sense of dread?

As far as I've seen, I don't think something like that has been done before.
It would be pretty interesting to see if the two could mesh together well!

Any thoughts?
(Also, if there is such a game like this, please tell me!)

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Re: Horror and Shmups?

Postby spookgoblin » Wed May 14, 2014 3:56 pm

Arguably what renders a horror game effective or otherwise is its ability to immerse the player. Shmups, which are traditionally action oriented, are therefore not the ripest of candidates since they tend to focus on the skill required to maneuver and gun your way through hordes of enemies. I'm not saying it's impossible, but there would definitely be a number of elements at work which could undermine the sort of engagement one would need to create a truly "effective" horror title. I'm thinking mostly of run and gun or scrolling shmups, of course, in which a third person perspective is deliberately adopted. Even something as basic as having a third person view can distance the player from empathizing--although there are plenty of examples in which this potential setback has been overcome such as in Clock Tower (1995).

If someone manages to accomplish the task, I would be overjoyed to see the results!

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Re: Horror and Shmups?

Postby RedCoatVernac » Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:19 am

Looking at making a horror shmup I think one of the best places to start is the emotions that are generally elicited in players of these games, and cross reference them with emotions that shmups can elicit. From that standpoint, three emotions immediately come to mind where horror is concerned:

  • Unease: The feeling that "Something isn't right"
  • Fear: The sense of impending doom
  • Desperation: Recklessness born of a feeling of impending doom

Of these emotions, desperation is the one that I can most associate with shmups. Any player from the coin op era knows the feeling when they're on that last coin, the screen is full of bullets, and they don't know how much longer they'll last. This particular emotion gets diluted over multiple plays, however, as the player becomes more and more familiar with the goings on of the particular shmup they are playing.
In recent years, shmups have become more associated with precision play than outright desperate struggle.

That said, I believe focusing on this emotion is a direction to take when attempting to make a "horror shmup". So how does one do this?

First off, the player would need to be powered down a great deal from the standard shmup character. Your average shmup character can destroy armies and flotillas at the drop of a hat. The average horror character has trouble dealing with two or more enemies of the same ilk. Finding a medium that leans more towards the horror power level requires some finesse.

Some ideas on that regard:

Weaken the player offensively.
Make it so that the player has to make decisions about how to attack and when to attack. Things like low ammo counts, and non-constant fire rates (overheat gauges or cool downs between shots fired) can go a long ways toward this.

Make enemies more dangerous.
Enemies need to have a presence if they are to strike fear into the player. Giving them more health and behaviors that interact with and key off of the player can help in this. Enemies that move when the player moves, Enemies that slow the player, Enemies that temporarily disable the player's ability to shoot and enemies that doggedly chase after the player in near reckless fashion can all help to keep the player panicked and off their laurels. Taking these enemies and (tactfully) combining them in encounters could make for some very desperate struggles.

Make basic actions more complex.
By this I mean, make simple actions have more breadth of variance, and make the player choose when and how to use those actions more effectively. This can be something as simple as movement normally being slow, but being able to be sped up if the player mashes a button. Perhaps reloading a weapon takes time unless the player does something to "do it well". Even firing a weapon can be made complex if the player has to watch how often they do it, with implementations of things like heat gauges, or perhaps having a system where your wounds feed into your ability to fire. The important thing is to make sure that the player has decisions they need to make, and actions they need to perform well to survive.

Another thing of note would be the addition of player health. There's a certain kind of tension that can come from knowing that one can only screw up so many times. By giving the player a small bit of health (3 to 5 hits, 10 if hits vary in damage level), the tension level ratchets up with each player mistake This also gives the developer license to be more mean to their player, making more difficult situations more tenable in scope. With
varied damage levels, enemies gain new spectrums on which they can threaten, with some taking the player down one hit, while others do enough to leave the player with only one hit left. This allows for certain enemies to have more propensity to cause desperation in the player. And of course, the enemies that can destroy the player in one strike (used sparingly for effect. Probably telegraphed in their first encounter)

Finally, the use of invincible enemies is something that could have a very powerful effect. Consider, if you will, a shmup where the reason you are constantly scrolling is because there is a nameless thing chasing after you. Something you can't kill. Something you can't even damage. All you can do is slow it down, and do what ever you can to speed yourself up. Of course, enemies, obstacles and perhaps even bosses will get in your way
attempting to kill you, either by direct damage, or slowing you down enough that the nameless thing gets you. With the right sound design and art direction, this could be game that really elicits the "desperate struggle" as the player does whatever they can to escape the thing that runs
Last edited by monoRAIL on Sat Sep 27, 2014 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Edited for formatting.

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Re: Horror and Shmups?

Postby lzardo » Fri Sep 04, 2015 1:52 am

Philosoma was a great Horror themed shmup and one of my all times favorite shooters.

But, as mentioned, no horror gameplay elements, just the plot and setting.


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