Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Older Brothers Disease

One of the coolest things I ever saw was on the Vampire Bloodlines forums.

It started out as some guy saying that that level with the Haunted Hotel was the scariest goddam thing ever, and that he couldn't play through it, and then a bunch of folks started commenting on how great that level was, and comparing it to other "scariest goddam things in gaming history."

And then one of the game designers showed up and told the original guy that it was the best compliment he could ever imagine getting, and that he'd take the guy's savegame and play through the level for him and save it so that the guy could get on with the game.

As an Older Brother, I love to scare the living shit out of people, that's just one of those immutable laws of nature and shit, y'know, I grew up torturing the crap out of my little brother with all sorts of overly-complicated scare thingies, until I started feeling sorry for him heh.

Like this one time, in the middle of the night, when he was sleeping, (we had to share a room 'cause we were poor y'know), I made my bed look like I was still sleeping in it by lumping up the sheets, and then I crawled under his bed and I lifted the whole thing up in the air and shook it all Linda Blair Exorcist style.

That's a goddam horrible way to wake somebody up, with him screaming to the lumped-up sheets in my bed for help, and getting no response, as if I was dead or something, haha, awyah, and I know I'll be spending a few thousand eternities in hell paying for that one heh.

But that's just the kinda shit that all Older Brothers do, man, we're just designed like that, so I know I won't be burning alone down there in the inferno of Little Brother Justice or whatever ahaha.

Anyways, I try to keep that shit in check, as best I can, 'cause I know its more of a curse than anything, y'know, you don't make yerself any friends doing that kinda shit to people all the time, that's just like going around and giving folks titty-twisters or something.

And some folks really can't handle a scare at all, its downright dangerous to scare 'em, 'cause their fragile psyches can permanently crack like eggs and shit, so there's that to worry about too.

But sometimes, when I think about making a game, I think about how much fun it would be to use the goddam things to scare people to death, and what a great compliment it would be if your shit was so scary that you actually gave somebody a heart attack and killed them.

Okay that's horrible, I know, I'm already adding a few thousand years on to my Hell Sentence for just thinking up that one, but I can't help it, y'know, I'm an Older Brother, man, I got that Older Brother Disease, I got that Evil Blood running through my veins and shit, all I'm really wondering is whether or not scaring somebody to death is considered murder or not ahaha.

I guess nobody has ever died from watching a scary movie, but a scary movie never made my heart jump like the shit that made me gasp and toss my mouse up in the air in that Aliens Vs. Predator game, either.

And then there's the stuff in that one Asylum-slash-Orphanage in Thief 3, thats another "classic" one, the Thief games had a lot of that awesome Older Brother Scare shit in 'em, although a lot of 'em were slow-building scares that just made you wanna get the hell outta some place as fast as you could.

MMOs seem to steer clear of that shit, like they'll lose customers or something if they do it, and mebbe they would, I dunno, mebbe the crowd that likes Scares is some minor subset or something, I know my stalker Ex-girlfriend totally hated that kinda shit, even though she's scarier than hell to me heh.

There was some dungeon in EQ1 that made her cry once, that's a pretty good compliment in my book ahaha.

Anyways, what got me thinking about this junk again was the way that the spawning system for LOTRO wights totally takes the scare out of 'em, y'know?

There's a few good ones, like the ones that crawl outta the ground when you go up to a tomb door, but just having them all wandering around on the lawn so you can see 'em coming from a mile away is a total buzzkill, I mean, it seems like they oughta be something that you don't see coming, something that suddenly lurches out at you from around a corner and twists its neck with a hideous cracking noise or something, y'know?

Or at least something that operates on a scarier level than just spawning every-so-many-feet and wandering around randomly or whatever, y'know, like, if they all shuffled along in the same direction, then that would be scarier, 'cause it'd seem like had a purpose, or something.

I dunno, whatever it is, it just set something off in my brain that it wasn't right, y'know?

And then I started thinking about how scaring the living shit out of people was probably against the MMO Designer Code of Ethics or something anyways, 'cause hardly anybody ever does it, even though these games are almost entirely about fighting monsters heh.

And I know there's a good reason not to do the Scary Thing all the time, 'cause I know that even if it isn't scary, grim and intense and stressful dirty-murky-dark-n-muddy environments wear away at you after a while, they're just depressing or something, and nobody wants to be stuck hanging out there and stuff, its the same kinda thing that makes the suicide rates go up in gloomy places where it drizzles all the time, you need breaks from that junk where you get to go and hang out in the Beer Commercial Sunshine Land of Sky Blue Waters or the Happy Green Ewok Village or something to let your nerves settle back to normal and recharge or whatever.

But you'd think there'd be at least a few more scare-the-shit out of you moments and a little bit more of an appreciation for suspense and all that than there seems to be with all these games fulla monsters, y'know?

Especially in anything with zombies and ghosts and shit, I mean, wtf are people who really hate being scared (and don't love-to-hate being scared or something heh) doing in a zombie-n-ghost fighting game anyways?

I mean, seriously, c'mon, get outta there and leave that shit to the Older Brothers heh.

And Older Sisters, too, now that I think about it, there's no sense in being sexist about it, I just didn't think through it 'till now.

Anyways its not that I haven't seen some pretty great stuff, in LOTRO and WoW and all that (EQ had a shit ton of that kinda stuff), its just that, in general, its always so goddam tame that's its almost like its ruining the whole point of having wights and whatever in the first place, and it seems strange to have such a total disregard for it if ain't on purpose, and none of it matches up to how scary shit is in the really scary games.

There's no moments of impending doom like when they rolled out the AT-ATs in Empire Strikes back, or little cinematic bits like they did in DOOM 3 (and a lot of other horror games) when they introduced some new robo-alien-demon (bleh) menace and froze up your controls (grr! nooo!), or anything like that.

And I just thought it was interesting to think about what the self-imposed limits are with that scare-the-shit-out-of-you kinda stuff and why its different in MMOs than it is in single-player games 'cause they think they'll do better and appeal to a wider crowd if they don't scare the living shit out of them or something heh.

Maybe that's true, but I'm not sure that's right.

And if that's really the way its working, its just gotta burn some of the Older Brother Game Devs up that they gotta hold themselves back like that when what they really wanna do is make people have heart attacks and fall out of their chairs and throw their mice up in the air and shit heh.

And I wonder if a game that was "Too Scary For Some People To Play, You Need To Sign This Release Form" would really do better or worse than a game with yard after yard of random whack-a-mole monsters spawning on a lawn and wandering around aimlessly with their hands in their mouths and junk ahaha.

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