Horror experiment


What it is

During 2011 I created a short horror gameplay experience as part of my senior thesis. Long story short, it was used to determine the possibility of increasing and prolonging fear by using random elements in sound.

It’s a first-person experience where the player can move around and turn a flashlight on and off. The goal when playing is to reach the other side of a long tunnel without being seen by the monster lurking there.
When the monster is close, the sound changes and the player has to turn off the flashlight at the right moment to avoid confrontation, ie. death. At the same time, the player has to avoid staying in the dark for too long, because that will eventually lead to death as well.

What I did

This was a one-man project; I created the level and programmed everything on my own using Unity 3d. Of course, all the sound and music used was created and implemented by me as well.

Samples of my work

Time was spent on creating shifting sound layers that induce different amounts of fear depending on situation. Here’s an example of the more ”silent” ambient sound heard, the calm before the storm:

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Also, here’s a video showing part of the level being played:

How I did it

Since this project was of the survival horror kind, my starting point was the few scientific theories I’d found on how to induce fear through sound.
For example, the distorted screams heard when the monster is nearby is actually a human scream in several layers with differences in pitch, distortion and EQ. The theory behind it was that humans tend to react in the same way on an emotional level as a person screaming in agony (the scream triggers a self-defence system to escape the probable threat and ensure survival).
I also paid much attention to the relation between terror (the build-up and tension) and horror (the shock or climax of the build-up) and did a lot of programming in Unity3d to ensure the sound worked as I wanted with smooth fades, randomized sounds etc.

Download the game

Download the game for PC: Horror_project_pc.zip

Download the game for Mac: Horror_project_mac.zip

How to play: You play the game by using the W, A, S, D or arrow keys to control the character and the mouse to look around. The F key turns the flashlight on and off.
The goal is to figure out when to turn off the flashlight and avoid the monster while trying to reach the end of the tunnel (the end being an invisible wall).
In the upper left corner is a life meter of sorts. The meter goes down when the flashlight is turned off. If it reaches zero before the player turns the flashlight on the main character dies and the game restarts.
Once the flashlight is turned on again the meter will disappear momentarily and the player will have to wait for the meter to reappear before turning off the flashlight again.