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How to make top down horror like Noct scary? Ditch zombies

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Noct, a new survival horror shooter by Chris Eskins, shouldn't be scary. Outwardly simplistic, Noct borrows the top down perspective of Devolver label-mate Hotline Miami as well 360-degree style shooting but ditches the color and detail. Dark, drab, and obscure, the black and white action is filtered through the ambient light of satellite night vision. Your blob of a character so easily killed is glimpsed through snaky sharp brambles and wandering down empty streets and detail-less warehouses. Noct should feel isolating but not scary. It's too distant, both in fidelity and in action. Yet it got me to yell, "Nope!" just like its characters do before they're run down by the blurry outline of a giant arachnid or wandering, ravenous, ill-defined bovine beast.



"It's gotten a lot bigger," Eskins explained at PAX South. The scares in the game as it is were unexpected, growing organically as he worked on a game just for his friends. "At first I thought it would be cool to have an area of the game that's just secluded. That's where you would wander. But as the game grew, the monsters evolved, and we started testing boss battles the world had to get bigger. The scope changed things drastically."

Those blobby, almost phosphorescent monsters also weren't supposed to be the freaks hunting you while you scrambled to find precious, rare ammunition for as many as four weapons you find randomly dotted through the world. At first, Eskins was banking on the most familiar video game enemy there is. In order to get Noct to actually be scary, he had to do away with the freaks players have become so desensitized to. What did he get rid of?

"Zombies! It started as a zombie game that I was going to play with my buddies," said Eskins. "That was the reason for developing it at all. When I started showing it to more people and they saw the bigger creatures I was putting in it, they said, 'Forget about the zombies! Put more of that in. That's scary. That's disturbing, that makes me feel unnerved while playing.' Zombies have to go. I want overwhelming dread from giant monsters."

Noct is still early. The single player demo on hand at PAX South will eventually evolve into a PVP game later. In the meantime, keep an eye out for it on Steam Early Access in early 2015.

[Images: C3SK]








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