Making the Perfect Horror Game

Creating the Best Horror Game Ever

What makes a good horror game? Developers have been asking this question for over a decade. The result of this quest for the holy grail of horror gaming has been arduous, delivering monumental fright fests as well as colossal disappointments along the way. Through the years, there has been an undeniable evolution in the formula, yet the genre is still far from perfection. If developers were to look to the past and pull elements from the best of the best in survival horror, could we finally get to see what the ultimate horror game looks like?

Perhaps. Here's a simple recipe for guaranteed survival horror success.

Atmosphere: Silent Hill series
Whether it's a disorienting fog or an all-too-familiar school or office building, Silent hill has this fascinating ability to take the most ordinary settings and distort them ever-so-slightly to make them absurdly haunting. The feeling of unease perpetrated by the game is one you won't shrug off easily, and this is something no other series has yet managed to duplicate. Every corner of the world of Silent Hill feels dangerous in a demented sort of way, and that is the key to creating great atmosphere in a horror game.

Sound Design: Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2 was a great horror game for many reasons, but one of the most important elements in making this game so memorable was its excellent sound design. The use of white noise, minimalistic music, and dead silence gave players a sense of impending dread that heightened our senses and made the experience that much more chilling. The game even used sound to cue locations of necromorphs, but in a sinister twist, used several "false positives" to lure players into vulnerable areas. Dead Space 2 proved that good sound design can turn what's otherwise slightly creepy into something completely terrifying.

Creating the Best Horror Game Ever

Visuals: Modern Resident Evil
Resident Evil 5 undeniably raised the bar visually for horror games in the first part of this console generation. From the excruciatingly detailed villages and tombs to the disturbingly tattered and rotting victims of Las Plagas, the visual design of Resident Evil 5 made it one of the best-looking games of its time. Any great horror game will need to be on the cutting edge of current-gen technology and use it to create images that manage to simultaneously be both technically beautiful and disturbing.

That Feeling of Helplessness: Old School Resident Evil
One thing the original Resident Evil games proved was that a room full of zombies is a hell of a lot scarier when you have a pistol with five shells than it is when you have a shotgun, a flamethrower, an SMG, five grenades, and a backpack full of ammo. So many modern games try to make us feel powerful, our avatars practically becoming virtual superheroes. But for real scares, it's essential to take away that feeling of empowerment. Resident Evil 1 and 2 kept ammo in short supply, so on top of navigating mansions and police departments full of zombies, we had to constantly keep tabs on the ammo situation. Should we shoot or run? This question provided an additional layer of psychological tension on top of an already creepy game concept.

Puzzle-Solving: Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Condemned 2: Bloodshot forced players to confront their fear by requiring them to actively seek out the game's more horrifying elements in order to progress. One particularly memorable puzzle had us repeatedly exit and re-enter a room where faceless mannequins kept moving whenever the camera wasn't on them. We couldn't just ignore them, because we had to solve the room's puzzle in order to finally escape that horrifying place. Including puzzles in a survival horror game is a great way to force players to confront and interact with the scary elements, instead of letting them just run away or open fire. The perfect horror game will use puzzles to both build tension and force players to face their fears in the most uncomfortable ways possible

Plot: BioShock
You simply can't deny that Jack's saga through the underwater world of Rapture was chilling. Though creepy splicers and hulking Big Daddies gave players a sense of dread, it was the story of this Utopia-gone-wrong that made BioShock one of the most psychologically compelling games to date. The plot twist in the later portion of the game was legendary, and it permanently stapled BioShock onto the shortlist of the most memorable games of this generation. A plot that is full of twists and turns is essential for a survival horror game, and can often keep gamers talking for years to come.

Creating the Best Horror Game Ever

Gameplay Mechanics: Fatal Frame series
Fatal Frame's major gameplay mechanic doesn't revolve around shooting up zombies or uncovering an evil plot, but instead has us exploring old houses that were filled with ghosts. Though sneaking around with an enchanted camera and trying to capture evil spirits doesn't sound like a winning formula on paper, as a gameplay mechanic, it works incredibly well. Not having a gun or a special power makes the player feel helpless, which, as mentioned before, is a perfect way to use gameplay to heighten feelings of unease. When you're forced to confront something evil with a camera instead of a gun, it's hard to remain fearless. The perfect horror game has to have a central mechanic that takes power away from the player to make the experience extra terrifying.

Imagination: Amnesia: The Dark Decent
Your imagination can be a scary thing. In fact, your imagination can often outdo anything you'll see in a movie or video game in terms of bone-chilling creepiness. Amnesia: The Dark Decent was such a thrill ride because we spent so much of the game not seeing anything, only knowing something was there. This kept us looking over our shoulders, hesitating before opening any door, and proceeding down long corridors with extreme caution. Not being sure of what was hunting us, or where it was at any given time, our imaginations had to fill in the gaps. And they did so with images more twisted and disturbing than anything we've ever actually encountered in a video game. While the game provided the eerie setting, it was our own imaginations that caused us to have nightmares for weeks after playing it.

Though there will never be a perfect horror game, this recipe could provide the closest thing. If some developer somewhere can eventually blend all these elements in a way that doesn't feel forced, we could wind up with an unforgettable gaming experience that leaves us with cold sweat and chills.

The Fall and Rise of Lara Croft

The Fall and Rise of Lara Croft

The Tomb Raider series isn't what it used to be. There's not a lot of agreement on what it is these days, but it's hard to deny that recent entries haven't come close to capturing the impact of the seminal 1996 original.

As much as Lara became the butt (or boobs) of a million jokes around the turn of the century, the sheer impact of the first Tomb Raider game can't be overstated. The idea of the action-platformer wasn't exactly new, but Tomb Raider got the formula right in 3D just as 3D gaming was taking off on consoles. It was definitely the first game to present the genre with a look that appealed directly to teens and young adults. Prior to Tomb Raider, the gold standard for the 3D platformer was Super Mario 64, an excellent game, but one that was typically whimsical and kid-friendly.

So what dragged the Tomb Raider series down? Some people think it was the hyper-sexualized look of its heroine, Lara Croft, but that has always seemed a bit unlikely to me. Lara Croft's look made her a breakout star, one of gaming's first action heroines and by far its first sex symbol. When Princess Peach was still baking cakes for Mario, Lara Croft was appearing as a pin-up model and gracing the cover of magazines like Time and Newsweek.

The Fall and Rise of Lara Croft

People forget that in the first, best-regarded Tomb Raider, Lara was no pin-up queen. She was just the character you happened to play who happened to be female. Otherwise, the game treated her no less seriously than, say, the Uncharted series treats Nathan Drake. The gameplay rarely let up long enough for the player to ogle her. Her sex appeal was played up in the marketing, but once you picked up Tomb Raider, chances were you'd just focus on playing the game. Overall, Lara Croft's look was always far less important to her success or failure than what her games let you do.

Gamers can be surprisingly practical, and fans only deserted Tomb Raider because the annual sequels rapidly began to suck. The original Tomb Raider spent three years in development, so it frankly made no sense that the developers could rush out games just as good in one-third of the time. Following the Metacritic averages of the first four Tomb Raider games tells the story of the series' degeneration: 91, 85, 76, 49. It's like seeing Tomb Raider's original developer, Core Design, burning out in real time.

After a good long rest, Eidos shifted Lara to new developer Crystal Dynamics, who gave both her look and the Tomb Raider gameplay much-needed makeovers. While the Crystal Dynamics entries in the Tomb Raider series were very solid games, they lacked the impact of the first Tomb Raider title. By 2006, action-platforming was not the red-hot genre it was in the 90s. Most gamers were gravitating to games that emphasized action, shooting, and persistent character progression. The Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games featured a little action, but put most of the emphasis was still on puzzle-solving, platforming, and big set-piece QTE scenes.

The 2006 Lara was a step in the right direction, but it didn't elevate her back to the superstar status she enjoyed in the 90s. Right now we're on the verge of a second Crystal Dynamics reboot of the Tomb Raider series, billed as a darker, grittier take on the heroine. This reboot envisions Lara as a young woman trapped on a desert island, surviving by her wits alone. We're promised gameplay that incorporates a lot of the popular elements missing from the prior games, like a bigger emphasis on gunplay, a skill system, and the need to gather resources like food and water for survival. Tomb Raider staples like puzzle-solving and the big QTE moments are returning, but there's little emphasis on platforming in favor of heightened realism.

The Fall and Rise of Lara Croft

What made the original Tomb Raider a hit was the way it combined a mature look with a red-hot genre right as it emerged into popularity. For the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot to restore the series to its former glory, it needs to similarly have its finger on the pulse of gaming. Right now, everything about the reboot sounds promising, but all of the elements it's emphasizing have already been featured in popular games over the past couple years. It's hard to look at anything in the Tomb Raider reboot that really looks different or seems to say, "Look, this is the next big thing!"

Fans' attachment to an IP can take a game series a long way, but at the end of the day, it's all about the gameplay. And it's not just about creating well-polished gameplay, either. A game has to offer players a style of gameplay that's familiar, but challenging and at least a little different from what was popular last year or the year before. Likewise, a game's look has to be at the bleeding edge of what's cool. The last Crystal Dynamics reboot felt like it was too little, too late, offering up the sort of gameplay that would've wowed audiences a few years ealier. If this reboot wants to work, then it needs to make sure it's ahead of the curve this time. After all, there's no point in raiding a tomb when somebody else got there first.

Source: The Fall and Rise of Lara Croft, Alicia Ashby, Cheat Code Central

Diamond Planet

Diamond Planet of the Day

Astronomers say they’ve discovered a planet with a pressure so high that its carbon has crystallized, turning it into an actual diamond.

The diamond planet is the companion to a neutron star that was discovered in 2009. The system is over 4,000 light-years away, part of the Serpens constellation. Its brightly-flashing star is what’s known as a millisecond pulsar, formed by a supernova.

Because 70% of millisecond pulsars have companions, scientists knew they could expect to find one orbiting this star. They didn’t know it would be a planet, though. The companion is usually another star, a white dwarf, and this is only the second system known with a planet instead.

Astronomers believe the planet may have been a white dwarf at one time, but it crashed into the pulsar, and now only its dead core remains. The 30% of pulsars without companions may have lost their white dwarfs in similar crashes.

Black Hole Devouring A Star

Star-Swallowing Black Hole of the Day

Scientists believe they’ve observed a supermassive black hole devouring a star for the first time ever. Two papers published this week in Nature describe radiation patterns consistent with a black hole tearing apart a sun-sized star in the Draco constellation, 4.5 billion light-years away.

The initial blast of radiation was detected on March 28th by the Swift observatory’s X-ray telescope, which sent an automated text message to alert astronomers to the event. They observed three more bursts, too bright to have come from a common supernova.

According to the researchers, the star got close enough to the black hole to be stretched and eventually shredded by its gravity, causing the jet of high-energy radiation that they observed via the Swift telescope. They estimate that the black hole may have swallowed as much as 1/5th of the star’s mass.


Endless Origami

UHPinions - Domino's Pizza Saved My Life

This is a story of why dating bipolar girls is not a good idea and how the Domino’s Pizza tracker saved my life
I have always been on the fence when it comes to Pizza Hut Vs. Dominos. I don’t eat enough pizza from either to really have a concrete answer of which one makes a better pie. I can tell you one solid truth… As my last relationship ended and the lies, scandals and deceptions came out, after all was said and done, my psycho ex girlfriend did teach me one VERY important thing:

ALWAYS choose Domino’s over pizza hut.

I had been having trouble with my now EX-girlfriend for quite awhile, I won’t go into details, but let’s just say she went crazy. I thought, simple: I’ll just break it off.


One Friday night, around 8:00pm, after a long week of work and incessant phone calls/psychotic voicemails from the unbalanced EX, I decided I was going to stay in, which one any weekend night is abnormal for me. Usually on weekend nights that I am in, I usually am cool with a movie, a 6 pack and a pizza. I had been ordering from Pizza Hut the last few times, but after a constant bombardment with Domino’s “WE’VE CHANGED OUR SHIT, I SWEAR WE’RE AWESOME NOW” ad campaign, I decided to give it a shot.

Around 8pm, I went online to order my pizza. I built a modest 2 topping medium pizza, and placed my order.

You have to love how far we have come in the delivery pizza world.

Immediately afterwards, I was introduced to the piece of a software that would save my neck.

The Pizza Tracker.

Pizza tracker? Fuck yeah, the pizza tracker. If you don’t know what the pizza tracker is, then get your ass online right now and order a pizza from Domino’s. It’s the equivalent of a loading bar on a web browser, except at the end of the loading you get a delicious pizza.

This is where the night got interesting.

I am on my couch, one eye on “Parks and Rec” the other on the pizza tracker displayed on my lap top that joined me on the couch.

We had just entered stage 2: Prep.


For a split second I thought, “woh that was fast,” I put my order in 10 minutes ago and pizza tracker says it’s still in stage 2.

By the end of my thought, the door swung open.

Guess who.

Yep, it was my psychotic EX. Knife in hand, she starts threatening to do some pretty awful things. I try to stand up, she freaks. I stay on the couch and attempt to calm her down. She goes into a hysterical rant about us getting back together, ya right, and I glance at the pizza tracker.

Stage 3. Bake (Juan is putting your order in the oven)

She goes on while all I can think is GO JUAN GO!!!! GET THAT SHIT IN THE OVEN!

I try to calm her down, I stand up and she freaks out and tells me “SIT THE FUCK DOWN!!”

She continues on her violet outburst and I tell her we can work things out hoping to get her to calm down. It’s no use.

I decide I need to try and get to my phone. I inconspicuously try to look for my cell phone. Dammit! I left it my room. I am screwed. I am dead. The pizza man will get blamed for this! Oh, the poor pizza boy will be wrongfully blamed and get life in prison for what this unstable bitch is going to do to me.


FUCK YEAH! They are boxing up my pizza. Get your ass over here!

She continues on for another 5 minutes. Trying to make eye contact, glancing at the pizza tracker every second she looks away.

Stage 5! DELIVERY: Alejandro is delivering your pizza.


Knowing that the Alejandro is on the way, I try and just keep her talking, but the more she talks the more enraged she gets. I try to interupt, but that just makes things worse.

It’s been 10 minutes, Alejandro should be here any time.

She continues, she is yelling at the top of her lungs about the things we could have been. I am still banking that Alejandro will be here any second and save the day.

10 more minutes go by.


SHE IS OFFICIALLY FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. She puts the knife up to her wrist and then takes it away. I am panicking. Where the fuck is Alejandro! Pizza tracker tells me we’re still in stage 5. FUCK YOU PIZZA TRACKER , YOU’VE BEEN IN STAGE 5 FOR 25 MINUTES!!!! I will never order from Domino’s again!!! After this thought I immediately think to myself, I will be dead, so I will probably never order another pizza again.

Right then, the cops come in. At gunpoint they calm her down and obtain the knife. Alejandro had shown up to the door wide open and saw psycho with the knife and went back to his ’98 Honda Accord and called the cops. Domino’s pizza literally saved my life. They should change the name from the pizza tracker to the savior tracker.

Alejandro is the true definition of a hero. In a way, Alejandro is the 5th ninja turtle. He showed up, accessed the situation, didn’t panic, and saved my ass from the bad guys. Oh yeah, and he brought a fucking excellent pizza too.

Review by UHpinionist Mark H.

Super Mario Sisters

Super Mario Sisters of the Day

Where's Wall-E?

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

The Optimist

Cape Buffalo Are Remorseless Machines of Vengeance


The Cape buffalo is a large herbivore that roams the African grasslands. Its most distinctive feature is its fused horns, which form a solid bone shield across the forehead and look not unlike a Wild West bartender's haircut. Cape buffalo spend most of their day lying around, eating grass and drinking water. You know, normal cow stuff. That cows do. Because they're cows.
"Moo, I suppose."

They also fucking murder everything that even thinks of messing with them.

Wait, What?

The Cape buffalo has many names. Names such as "Black Death" and "Widowmaker." It is, in fact, the most dangerous member of the "Big Five" of Africa. The other four members? Lion, leopard, rhino and elephant. This means Cape buffalo are officially deadlier than two big cat predators, a notoriously grumpy horned monster and the largest goddamn land mammal on Earth. Hell, even lions usually dare only attack old or sick ones, far from the herd.

Holy crap, it has murder in its FUCKING EYES!

A Cape buffalo weighs up to 2,000 lbs., and its stupid-looking horn helmet is actually a handy combination battering ram/impaler. The Cape buffalo is also, apparently, capable of recognizing the concept of vengeance, and definitely the only animal in existence to downright cherish it.

"Alright. On the count of three, let's wreck their shit."

Cape buffalo can -- and do -- seek revenge against their main enemies, lions -- especially those that kill a calf. Should a lion make that mistake, they come for it with a mob that can contain up to a thousand pissed-off Cape buffalo. In fact, because some lion has surely killed a cape buffalo at some point, they make a point of actively attacking lion prides, either as pre-emptive strikes or, more likely, just to show them who's the boss.


And if a calf is in distress, every member of the herd immediately comes. A bit like this:

If you didn't watch the video, let us recap: a young Cape buffalo is attacked by lions. Then, by a crocodile. Then, the lions and the crocodile play tug-of-war with it for a bit. At which point an entire Cape buffalo herd shows up and gives the predators the beating of a lifetime, sending actual goddamn lions flying through the air, cartoon-style. And the young buffalo, the one two species of vicious predators were doing their very best to kill? It survives.

That's the cat doing wicked involuntary flips.

Attempts to domesticate these murder-cows have been made. They have, unsurprisingly, failed spectacularly. So, as the next most misguided move, we hunt them. As a direct result, more big game hunters are downed by Cape buffalo per year than by any other African animal.

This is largely because the Cape buffalo is a huge believer in offense as the best defense, and in complicated revenge schemes as the best offense. If you shoot one but fail to deliver a kill shot, it will receive an adrenaline boost that makes it oblivious to pain. After that, it will make its mission in life to straight up murder you no matter what. Even if you manage to escape the initial attack, the wounded animal will stalk you, circling around, just waiting for a chance to strike. Shit. Maybe you can try shooting it again? Feel free -- that silly-looking fused-together mass of bone on their foreheads is effectively bulletproof. And the bulk behind it is currently coming at you fast from those nearby bushes like an unholy, steaming, screeching lovechild of Predator and the Hulk.

You'd better hope he thinks those cats shot him.

All in all, we're pretty sure that the only reason aliens haven't attacked Earth yet is because they know they would eventually have to deal with the Cape buffalo.

Putting Male Superheroes in Wonder Woman's Outfit

Male Superheroes Posing Like Wonder Woman

This piece puts male superheroes into skimpy costumes and poses them like Wonder Woman on David Finch’s variant cover for Justice League #1.

The artist’s point was that “people are getting tired of seeing all of the female leads drawn with body language and uniforms that make them appear less heroic, powerful, legitimate, and all-around able to be taken seriously than their male counterparts.”

But this is the Internet, so it’s probably just going to reignite the debate about whether or not Wonder Woman should have pants.

Literal Likes

Sign Of The Times of the Day

Internet Filtration System

Internet Filtration System of the Day

A modest proposal from Matthew Baldwin (AKA defective yeti): Internet Access Captchas to keep certain less-desirable types off the Information Superhighway.

Here’s what happens when you’re your grammar skills aren’t up to snuff:

Problem solved?

Afterlife All-Stars

Afterlife All-Stars