So some of you may have heard a bad ass classic metal soundtrack by reading this title. If that’s the case, hallo metal bother/sister, others may think of some scary childhood memory, or a freakishly scary game
So although I really wanted it to be, this blog is not about Iron Maiden, sorry to disappoint you with that click bait title. No this blog is about darkness in videogames but at the same time not about the god awful piece of shit “DARK” or the pretty sweet series “the darkness”. Confused yet? Well confused is the new black, and black is a dark colour, you see what I did there? Anyway let’s write an actual article shall we?
So darkness in games is one of those things that gets fucked up so many times, it almost seems hard to do it right. It isn’t. Really it’s pretty easy. Where most people mess up is by thinking that an absolute lack of sight is scary, they’re wrong. Other devs think that a flashlight is only highlight and nothing else, then there are those wo believe everything should be visible just with a dark skybox and some vague shadow effects,… All of these developers are wrong.
You can still make out things in the dark, but at the same time you can’t see the details of everything, but you can still see! How can you be scared of what’s haunting you when you can’t ever see it? How can you feel emerged when you only see the tiny cone of light your torch allows you to see? Or how can you fear the evils lurking in the abyss ahead when they radiate clear as day against the dark background? So many questions that not enough developers seem to ask themselves. And let’s not pretend like it’s only the small indie devs that mess this up, the big ones are in on it to. The latest alone in the dark (if you still consider that AAA) was a piece of shit for multiple reasons but at least one of them was that it never felt like it knew how to adequately use the darkness.
Humans have always been afraid of what they can’t see, a dark corridor, footsteps sounding I the distance, behind you? In front of you? Tension rises, but if it’s absolute black you’ll get nothing of those feelings, if it’ a more realistic darkness in which you can still make out silhouettes, some atmospheric light at key locations and you’ll start to feel that shiver crawling down your spine. It’s a very thin line as to where you stop illuminating or darkening your scene, but if you hit the mark your scene will be more memorable and scary then it would otherwise, and leave a much better impression.
So let’s get on to some practical examples of those who do this really good in my opinion: outlast, Silent Hill 2, Dead Space, alien isolation, amnesia, interstellar marines (small indie game, really enjoyed it for a while),… All of these set up their lighting extremely well, you can make out the entire scene but you’ll never know if something is a rock or a dismembered corpse until you get close enough. I would also make a list of games that do a bad job but just the one on steam alone is already too long to copy/paste here. But fuck it let’s give it shot anyway shall we? Alone in the dark, the slaughtering grounds, terror lab, bubonic outbreak, second warfare,… Okay I’m sorry, I gave up. It’s too much for me to handle.
But yeah the point I’m trying to make is that I really couldn’t find any actual news to write about today so I just picked something that really annoys me instead. Hope you liked it, that would make me fairly happy. But you can leave a mean comment if you didn’t so I can sue you for harassment.