It occurred to me as a professional designer that at some point Iíll need to start my own blog. This was followed by the thought that I know nothing about blogging. Then I had a brainwave, since I am a gamer I'll have a go at posting a few of my thoughts here and if people can tolerate my inane babble I'm onto a winner!
So my guinea pigs, let me introduce you to my first rant. More than Noise: The sounds of suffering
Those who recognise the name Torque will know where I'm going with this, I have decided for my argument to base it on what I believe to be one of the most under-appreciated horror games out there - The Suffering (and the Ties that Blind sequel) for PS2.
For those unlucky people who've never heard of The Suffering here is a quick overview. You play as Torque, an inmate on death row facing execution for murdering his family. As soon as he arrives at Carnate Island where the prison is based an earthquake hits and the whole place gets plunged into hell. You spend your time trying to figure out what really happened with the 'help' of Carnateís past figureheads while coping with Carnate's more...interesting wildlife.
The best way to describe the horror element is that itís very similar to 'The Shining' - it is a violent game to be sure but the biggest scares are thanks to the atmosphere of Carnate, from the flashbacks Torque has about himself and Carnate's horrific past (seriously, Amnesty International would bomb the place).
But of course we could talk about the freaky characters and frankly f**ked up monsters all day, we are here to talk about the noise - which does play a vital role.
First up is the background music. Now this game doesn't have constant background tunes, most of the time it prefers silence with atmospheric clanks or scrapes to keep you on your toes. However when things heat up the action music cues - it's not rock or synth work, it's industrial percussion (bin lids and metal pipes style). The naked violence that is apparent with the music works well with the twisted setting and the pace of the actions from the player.
Then we have the sounds of the dialogue, you encounter many characters in both games and most of the more naughty ones have great voices, from the wheezing of Hermes to the excellent high pitched maniac voice from The Creeper. The voices can be random and creepy as hell, walking down a dark corridor is one thing but when you hear a faint "been...waiting...for...you..." *shivers*.
But I've saved the best until last, the atmospheric sounds - especially during flashbacks.
Now, I'm usually not phased by those 'gory' or 'gross' horror films or games, to me violence or blood isn't scary. I've watched a few of the SAW films and got bored rather quickly, and Hostel - don't make me laugh!
Some of the flashbacks in these games however, scared the hell out of me. These sequences uses little in the way of visual trickery, just things randomly appearing with slight blur and colour effects. But add the right sounds and my god, the one in the prison basement still freaks me out.
I can't do it justice here but the sequence goes like this: *SPOILER ALERT*
You approach a locked door and you hear the voice of your youngest son (that drowned in the bathtub) saying "Daddy, is that you daddy? Help me daddy". You break into the room and it's just an empty storeroom. As you approach the other door the lights go out and you see a vision of your son on a chair surrounded by prison guards armed with bats, one of which poised to hit him. There's blood on the floor and the kid screaming "no daddy, I don't want to see it, please daddy, NO!". In a flash everything returns to normal apart from Torques own panicked breathing and higher heart rate.
Play through that without the child's voice or Torque's heart rate and it's nowhere near as scary at all. It is the sounds that make this scene far more effective, and far more memorable.
So what have we learned? That The Suffering is a GREAT game and I recommend it obviously - but more to the point sound is vital to set the right atmosphere in a game, it helps players immerse into the game and it adds realism.
Well that's post #1, if you're still alive after this well done!