Horror games and shinny graphics?

•June 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been playing Silent Hill 1, and as I play I keep wondering one thing. Is it mandatory for horror games to have current-gen, cutting-edge shinny graphics, or can horror games get away with not-so-great graphics?

I don’t really play all horror games out there, because I only play the ones I find interesting, or the ones people gift me. For example, I play Fatal Frame and Silent Hill because I absolutely love the series, and I recently got the HD remake of the first Resident Evil game to get a good idea of another horror classic. I loved Haunting Ground, and I’ve also played and liked Amnesia (albeit not as much as I like any of the others I’ve mentioned). Someone got me a copy of Slender:  The Arrival but I completely hated it, then a copy of Outlast and I liked like the first third of it… so on and so forth, the list goes on.

Outlast is one of the better looking games I’ve played, but hasn’t caused me nearly as much horror as, say, Haunting Ground. In part because I found Outlast to be more of a “shock horror” than “real” horror (not “psychological horror,” btw, since that’s a completely different thing).

In other words: Outlast felt like the game version of “The House of 1000 Corpses” while Haunting Ground felt like the game version of “The Shinning” (crappy ending and all, heh).

And here comes Silent Hill…


It’s a rare thing when a horror game makes me say “ok, this is enough, I can’t go on” because of the feeling of uneasiness (this only happens to me in the “Otherworld” sections of the game, BTW). To be honest, I got the same feeling when I was playing the first minutes of Outlast. More specifically this part:


When I got into this room I was like “crap… I don’t want to be here, that dude is weird, that other dude is weird… and that dude is just sitting there watching the static? what the… crap… this place is horrible. I want to leave.”

If you’ve played the game, you know this was a pretty average room, meaning that it didn’t have any sort of eye-opening symbolism, weird creatures or a massive amount of corpses (I keep wondering where all those 1000’s of corpses in Outlast came from, because there were 100 times more corpses than dorms in the entire game). However, there is something about that room that made me wanna stop the game right there, and I kept thinking how cool the game was going to be.

It turns out that was the only part of the game where I felt that.

Silent Hill gives me this constant sense of dread and uneasiness that makes me not want to keep on playing. It’s definitely nothing to do with graphic fidelity and how well things in the game look, because the graphics are really bad for today’s standards; I think it’s more about the environment and the place you’re in.

Getting the obvious out of the way: it’s a combination of graphics, music, and sound. Yes. Music and Sound in Silent Hill is completely unnerving. The “music” is a constant banging on the head that adds to the whole experience.

But good music and sound usually wouldn’t help if the game looks horrible.

After thinking about this for some time, I figured maybe it had something to do with what the environment is, and what I expected it to be. It’s like two completely contrasting ideas in my head, fighting to figure out which one is right and which one is wrong.

You can always set your game in an abandoned something something, and the town of Silent Hill feels like an abandoned something something, so there’s nothing special. Until you arrive to the Otherworld (as I said above).

What I mean is this: In the Otherworld, you’re in pretty much the same place (the same town, same school, and all), however, it looks like a completely different thing. For example, you go to the school, and you’re in the school, but then something happens and it looks like you’re in hell, but you’re still at the school, and you know it because the layout is the same, the rooms are the same, but what was originally a school has turned into something completely twisted, unreal, and even hellish. At least to me, the game was playing with my expectations of what a school looks like and what that specific school looked like.

That doesn’t mean I’m advocating against cool graphics. Of course I like cool graphics as much as the next guy, and I’d completely love to see Silent Hill with modern graphics.

It just made me think that maybe horror games don’t really need those shinny graphics if they can find ways to present their ideas in a creative way. In other words, “if you can’t compete with visual fidelity, compete with style.”


Somehow, I always end up writing “weird stories”

•May 30, 2016 • 2 Comments


Well hello!

I’ve been refining some details for the story of our current project (more about that “soon”), and I’ve noticed that it’s gravitating towards the “somewhat brutal and weird” kind of story.


If you’ve played Enola, you either liked it or hated it. But if you liked it, then you know the story is extremely cruel in many aspects. When I began working on Enola, the story was going to be very different (originally, it was supposed to be this sort of Red Dragon and Hannibal kind of thing), but it became this story about sexual abuse and all that.

Sometimes I mention that Enola gave me nightmares, and some people might even find this ironic, but to be honest, I spent quite some time dealing with the “mental exhaustion” after I wrote it. The thing is, there’s roughly a 30% of story that never made it to the game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, so I personally have a lot of information that I considered too much to be included in the game.

And there’s also the fact that I know exactly what happened to Angelica, and what they did to her.

Here’s the thing, you learn all these different versions of the attack. For example, Angelica’s monster says a few things, and Astrid says other things, but half of the things the monster says are a lie, but to know those things are a lie, I must know which ones are the truth.

Nightmare is inspired by two tales from H. P. Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The key word here is “inspired.” The game is not an adaptation, nor it is a direct copy. It just takes some of the basic concepts of those stories (and other elements from the Lovecraftian lore) to make a story that is “somewhat similar” but not quite.

Originally, Nightmare was supposed to be a horror game with a “simpler” story, but recently it became a very dark and twisted story. Ironically it has quite a few similarities with Enola, even if the plot is different.


However, it’s not like I didn’t learn anything from Enola. Yes, there are going to be a few “extremely brutal” parts in Nightmare, but not really as brutal as those in Enola. Also, I am looking for different ways to deliver the story (no more long “dialogues-with-myself” or extremely long walls of text). This means a lot of things are left to the imagination, and that should make things more interesting.

And last but not least,  there are no “women in razor-wire bondage” in Nightmare. If you’ve played Enola, you know what I mean.

As a side project, I’m using my spare time to write a different story (the kind of story you can even tell your kids, BTW). Writing is the reason why I got into games, but Enola and Nightmare are reason enough for me to explore different things.

After all, I’m still going to work on another game inspired by The Modern Prometheus after Nightmare is finished…

Now that I think about it, I went to GDC earlier this year, but I never told you people about it…

Too many subplots: Religious themes in Enola

•May 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

One of the problems in Enola is that there are too many subplots. When I began to write the story, I added a lot of different things that made sense because they tell you more about the characters. The problem is that, sometimes, that information is just left there.

One of those cases is religion.

When the game starts, you hear the sound of some keys and something else, and she says “I’m back!” When you look around, you see some keys and a bible, so you can get the idea that she came back from church. You also see a crucifix in her “art room,” and sometimes you hear her talk about a priest.

Meanwhile, in Angelica’s world, there’s a cemetery where you find her parents’ graves, and a “sorta-church.” That basilica was based on a famous basilica from my country. However, there’s a catch, the building has no cross. Also, when you enter the place, there are no religious objects anywhere. No crosses, no statues, nothing. The truth is that the building “feels” like church because of the architecture and the way things are placed inside (benches facing in one direction, the big space at the front). As soon as you go through the same door, the place is completely different, though. Also, Angelica shows Enola how much she dislikes the idea of Enola spending time in church.

The idea was to present very different ideas, but I never got the chance to really dig deep into those. You get the idea that Angelica hates God and religion, and that Enola “sorta-likes” them, but that’s it.

I think the story needed to be more focused on what the story was actually about: Enola trying to help Angelica overcome her traumatic past. Had I used the themes as a way to drive the main storyline forward, things would have been different.

Looking at the bright side, that’s something I learned about my first really-story-driven game, though. Maybe in movies you can have different subplots, but in a game like this, it didn’t work.

Sex, death, and Haunting Ground

•March 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

There’s this young girl inside a cage, covered with a blanket, sleeping. Then, we see a weird looking man who tries to touch her leg, but is scared away by a lightning. The girl wakes up and exits the cage. She leaves the room and reaches a garden. As she walks, she holds on to the blanket so she can cover herself. Finally, she gets into a room, where she meets this mysterious woman who was doing the bed. The woman hands her a short dress, so she can put it on, and leaves the room.

When she was alone, the young girl puts on the dress. However, she was not alone. Someone was looking at her from behind a painting.

Very recently, I (finally) had the chance to play a game titled Demento (or Haunting Ground). Truth be told, this was the first game to really get me since I played Silent Hill 3. I’d even dare say Demento is on my “to-play” horror games just below Silent Hill (the first 3 Silent Hill games take the top spot, in case you’re wondering). I am a big horror fan, so I hate to see the horror genre reduced to jump-scare fests like Slender or FNAF (you’re free to like those games, but personally I like my horror games to have some substance).

I’ll just say it: “jump-scares” are not scary. They are just an unexpected event that takes you by surprise. This means that there isn’t really a difference between a jump-scare in FNAF and someone blowing up a balloon behind you. But, for some reason, the modern “formula to create a perfect horror game” is to simply throw jump-scares every now and then.

I found Demento very disturbing from the start, and it just got weirder and weirder by the minute. Take the intro to this blog, for example. We’re controlling a half-naked girl wandering in an unknown location. She then is given some clothes but nearly half of the time her butt is showing because the skirt is really short. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that she was forced to wear that outfit (“you either wear this, or walk around half naked” – BTW the outfit change is mandatory). We’re also hinted that someone is always looking at her, or rather, stalking her. 5 minutes into the game and I was already thinking to myself “I’m so getting raped…” which is an interesting choice of words, because “she’s going to get raped” was actually a thought that came in second. The only explanation I can think of is that the game did such a good job with immersion, that I didn’t feel like the “big brother trying to protect little Fiona” but rather that I was Fiona (somehow).

Then, you run into the first of the “stalkers”: the man from the beginning, Debilitas, who sees Fiona and wants to make her “his doll” (yeah… that…). Debilitas chases Fiona everywhere, and after you “die” you get one of the most disturbing game over screens ever. It’s not visual at all, and it doesn’t need to be, because the sound itself hints what Debilitas is doing to Fiona. The rest of the stalkers are not better at all. Daniella, the second one, at some point and tells Fiona that she wants her “azoth” (the Demento wikia comes up with a very extensive definition for “azoth” but if we want to keep it simple, the “azoth” is the uterus… yeah…). Before that, she had already groped her, and performed a “heart-pull-à-la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” although it wasn’t exactly the heart that she was trying to pull out…

Demento has all these weird disturbing sexual themes everywhere, so it’s not about a monster trying to cut you in half. It’s about a group of sexually-perverse people and a would-be victim trying to escape them. This reminds me of what Sato Takayoshi says about Silent Hill 2 (minute 25:59):


And Demento does what Sato Takayoshi says pretty well:


(Minute 28)



Did I mention Daniella wants your uterus?


However, in modern games… Well, I could make a comparison to modern horror games that use “sexual themes” but in fact they just flat-out throw disgusting sexual imagery to the screen and call it “psychological horror,” but, out of respect, I won’t.

(To be fair, if you visit the Enola screenshots area, there’s a chance you’ll find many screenshots of a woman in razor-wire bondage. It’s a shocking image, but those actually paying attention can know who she is and why she’s in bondage. She’s not “Female NPC number 42” or something like that. She’s also the only one in the entire game).

Another element I found really interesting is this: Fiona can fight back.

Yes, Fiona is this somewhat-helpless young girl, but there is one very specific aspect I liked about her: every time one of the stallkers were very close, I could shove them or kick them (I kicked Debilitas in the nuts more than once). I specially liked it because it was realistic. I don’t know about you, but girls I know would try to hit their attacker if they get the chance. This was a brutal reminder on how modern horror games turn your protagonist into some sort of punching bag, taking away any mean of defense (for some reason, an 18 years old is perfectly capable of kicking her attacker in the nuts, but a 30-something years old man is only able to stand there taking it).

On a side note, If you’re working on a horror game, please stay away from this and at least give your protagonist the ability to punch or kick the bad guy, even if it proves to be useless. The helpless protagonist is an idea that sucks, and I don’t care what games you cite, it still  sucks and needs to stop.



So, yeah, Demento is cool and all, but that was 11 years ago… About that…

While I was playing this game, I couldn’t stop wondering why they don’t make games like this one anymore (besides the fact that many horror games nowadays are aimed to youtubers who’ll flail their arms and scream when something pops-up with a loud noise, so people can say “ZOMG this game is so terrifying! XD XD XD LOL”). At the same time I remembered a rejection email I got from a gaming event because our game, Enola, supposedly used sexual violence against women just for shock value, a subject that deserves a blog post of its own (which is ironic, considering sexual-violence victims have sent me messages to tell me how they could identify with the protagonist, having gone through similar situations themselves).

Maybe the reason why we don’t get more games like Demento is because we’d get a bunch of people ranting about Fiona and objectification of women, and how the stalkers and their disturbing sexual themes were used just for shock value, which would be utter crap, considering the game has extremely good character development, so you know exactly what Debilitas wants, and how it’s completely different to what Daniella or Riccardo want from Fiona.

According to what I’ve ready, Demento was somewhat of a “risky” move (and maybe even an afterthought since it seems like it was some sort of Clock Tower spin-off), but it was worth the risk IMO. Not because it sold millions of copies, but because it dared to do something different and memorable (it even has a cult-following, just like the old Silent Hill games). I finished the game around 2 months ago, but it still lingers, something that “modern” horror games haven’t managed to do.


As a developer, I find Demento to be an inspiring game, because it made me think outside the box and see other things that can be done with horror games. We have enough horror games about “killer monsters from hell.” We need horror games that go that extra mile and try other ideas, even if those ideas sound too “risky” or if those ideas mean that someone from a certain gaming event will reject your game because “it uses this and that for shock value.”

I’d like to see horror games like Demento or Silent Hill come back, because it would be a welcome change to the current trend of jump-scare fests and haunted-house simulators that we’re getting, and not because “Oh, I’m so smart, I’m the Roger Hebert of videogames,” but because we need more modern horror videogames that become classics in a way that, 10 years from now, people will still be talking about how you should play X horror game that was released in 2016.

The next game on my list is Rule of Rose. I’ve heard a lot of things (good and bad) about that game, so playing it is going to be interesting…


Violence is OK, but sorta-sexual content isn’t?

•February 15, 2016 • 3 Comments

Well, it is time again for me to come up with those stupid questions more people should be asking. This is something I had been thinking about some time ago, and it was reminded to me after I watched this video where the guy pretty much asks why is it that people don’t really have a problem with ultra-violent videogames, but cry censorship every time a boob appears on the screen.

To be honest this is more of a rant than anything else, because I don’t expect to get a good/definitive answer.

I am not going to discuss anything about the video itself, since I believe the guy does a pretty good job explaining the whole thing, and I don’t have anything to add. I does remind me that violent and sorta-sexual content in videogames are seen completely different.

Note that I’m not even speaking about sexual content as in “a sex scene,” “a dude going all sexy in his underwear” or “sexual violence.” I’m talking about something as simple as a girl with a somewhat revealing cleavage or yoga pants that show the shape of her butt (a topic that was important last month, for some reason). Just as an example, please someone explain to me why this happens: In “certain videogames online store” there’s this monochromatic game, and on its product page you can see screenshots of the protagonist shooting people in close range, but that same store contacted me asking to remove a screenshot of a half-naked MANNEQUIN.

Also, I focus on the female protagonist for two reasons:
First, because 2 of my 3 past projects featured female protagonists, 2 of our 3 current projects feature female protagonists (the third one features a full cast of men and women), and all of the “4 future projects I want to make some day” feature female protagonists. Yeah, that’s a lot of women…
Second, because, being honest, nobody will care about that dude going all sexy in his underwear, because “sexual” or “sexy” are only worth discussing if the character is a woman.

Violent and gruesome deaths are not uncommon in videogames, at all. Sometimes you can even find death montages so you can see the “cool ways” enemies or protagonists are killed.

However, if a game features a girl showing too much skin, things will be a little different.

Well, of course violence in videogames is not nearly as important as Cammy or that other girl (can’t remember her name) showing too much butt in Street Fighter V.

There’s this “game” I want to make (it’s some sort of exploring-simulator, really), about a really pretty social network-addicted girl who’s thinking about her life while wandering around. To be honest, part of me wants to make the game because it will be fun, but part of me doesn’t want to make the game because there’s a chance I’ll get complains about how the main character is not realistic, because pretty girls in real life don’t post their lives online.

That is a good question, though. Why is it that I don’t really need to explain myself if I make the most violent videogame ever, but will surely get a lot of questions if my main character happens to be a way-too-attractive girl showing too much skin?

Or maybe I should try to keep a low profile and go for the violent game with gruesome deaths instead?

Rant is over. Thanks.

Maybe an update before anything else?

•February 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Hello all!

Well, there were a couple of things I wanted to write about, but I figured it was better to give you all a quick update on what I’ve been up to.

In January we began to work on The Nightmare. If you remember the 3d platformer we were working on, it’s “somewhat” the same thing, but we decided to reset the entire project a few months ago, for various reasons. I think it was for the best, since this new iteration has a better concept and direction… and also a better story.


I will make some “official news” soon. It’s going to be interesting.

There’s a small sideproject I’m doing just for fun, and for testing the 3d platforming gameplay. It’s going to be a very small project, so it should be ready in a few months.



The thing is that, after Enola, I’m trying to move away from “big” games and make smaller things instead. Smaller games are easier and faster to finish. That’s not to say I plan to go the “crappy games assembly line” route. I still want the games to be cool and all. I just don’t want to spend 2 years making a “big” game while I could spend one year making two “smaller” games.

There are a couple of things I wanted to talk about, but first, I just wanted to share an update.

See you soon.

Supergirl and how not being so ‘super’ is cool, part 2

•November 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hello again.

I couldn’t write this blog post before, but maybe it was for the best because I watched “Livewire” before writing this. That episode was interesting because it showed yet another part of the character: the family. In some ways, this show reminds me of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because it was not just about stabbing vampires left and right, but about the Scooby gang, their lives, relationships and all that. TBH, as a writer, that makes the entire thing more interesting because you get to know who the characters are.

So, what about that game I was talking about last time?

I’ve been thinking about a game about a would-be super-heroine for some time, but rather than making it a Batman Arkham kind of game, I was thinking about making it about an origin story, and how that heroine gives her first “baby steps” into heroism.

Know that I love the Batman Arkham games that I’ve played, and I’d certainly like to make a Batman Arkham kind of game with a heroine, but there’s a small problem: there’s no chance our team could do something like that.

So, origin story and everyday life…


Maybe we have our heroine, and at some point she’s told about her true nature. She needs to learn how to fight, how to defend herself, but at the same time she has to deal with everything related to her “day to day” life, like going to school (or being home schooled, because her parents are actually trying to “protect” her, keeping her in a “safe” environment), meeting friends and at some point maybe having a boyfriend.

I keep going back to Buffy episode structure, where you have the antagonist’s introduction, and all the fights, but you have all the inbetweens when Buffy is doing “regular girl stuff” and then the whole “prepare for battle” stuff. It’s not about kicking ass all the time, since you do have enough time for character development.

Supergirl does pretty much the same. Granted that a lot of people know who Supergirl is, but there’s a lot of people watching the show who have never read a comicbook (like me). We can get into the whole debate about the Supergirl from the TV show being “faithful” to the comicbook version, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is letting the audience know the character in that specific world.

Also, what if the game was actually episodic? I don’t mean “episodic” in a gamey way, but rather in a TV format way, with around 20 – 30 minute episodes that are self-contained but also share a larger theme that holds the entire “season” together. Since you’d start from the origin story, you could see her changing from this “not so super” heroine into a stronger and more capable one at the end of the season. This could also help introduce new gameplay mechanics. She’d be getting more resourceful and skilled, but also she’d learn new secrets or “powers” and you could gradually put those into the game.

However, this could be somewhat difficult to pull off. The biggest problem I see is that maybe players wouldn’t like to wait 4 or 5 months for the next 20 minute episode to show up. Also, branching storylines could be a problem, because they add to development time and could be really problematic when managing a 10 episode season. On the other hand, this origin story could be treated as a slightly larger stand-alone game.

Personally, I’d like to see something like this being made.

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