Making a Horror Stealth Action Game

Is it possible to make a good game with elements of survival horror, stealth, and action? (something Resident Evil 6 poorly attempted to do)

Conventional wisdom says, “Sure, just switch between them.” If you want Stealth + Action, easy, you have Crysis and MGS GZ. If you want Stealth + Horror, that’s already practically the basis of horror games. If you want Horror + Action, you run into some trouble.

Closest thing I’d say is that the original Doom is honestly a bit scary in ep 2. Like they have dark sections, then invisible enemies in the dark sections. So I’m already freaking out from turning a dark corner onto barons of hell I’m not sure I see clearly, but then I have something I can barely see stalking me and I’m just like, “The level designer is a DICK.”

I’d say, take a page from Doom E2M6, impose some ammo limitations, limit the ammo overall, add some actual stealth, and you probably have something of a foundation to work with.

Horror as it pertains to games is based on uncertainty of information, like level layouts, enemies approaching you, uncertainty of whether you can dispatch them, uncertainty of whether you can avoid them, uncertainty of whether they’re even there. Also the threats should probably be really highly lethal, because otherwise there’s not really any sense of urgency when they’re in your face demanding your attention. This means random number generation can be handy if used sparingly at the right times. Random number generation makes it more difficult to figure out how a mechanism works, because it prevents people from making hypothesis and getting deterministic results. Horror games stop being scary when people figure out how they work well enough to know when a scare is going to happen before it does. There needs to be that tension with an uncertain payoff. If it’s all action all the time then there’s no time to build tension. Also considering that games are built on repetition, you repeat sections when you die, a horror game, or section of a horror game, will naturally lend itself to becoming less scary over time unless something is done to break the tension only at moments the player cannot predict.

Also probably consider how Left 4 Dead isn’t really scary, despite having a zombie theme, poorly lit levels, and random number generation all over the place. It’s not really doing anything to build tension on uncertainty, or making this horrifying sudden threat to the player. It’s just waves of enemies that are handled in a rather standard fashion, with occasionally stronger enemies at regular intervals. They aren’t intensely lethal except the Witch, who can be kind of scary and unpredictable sometimes.

So in short, highly lethal threats, get hinted at a lot before they show up, ideally in a way that is mechanically sound (like silent hill’s unreliable radio static), rather than aesthetically or narratively sound, appear suddenly, are hard to detect before they appear, hard to predict their appearance, difficult to kill, slow down, or escape from. Some filler enemies inbetween might be appropriate to build tension before the main attraction.

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