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How Survival Horror Evolved with 3D Technology | FiendZone

How Survival Horror Evolved with 3D Technology | FiendZone

If Pyramid Head falls in the woods and
nobody’s around to hear it, does the console render the sound of him falling? Whenever new technology debuts, media
adjusts alongside the innovation. From the creation of talking pictures to binge-watching TV shows, each new innovation changes the style of the media that’s
produced for it. For example, while people were still
adjusting to audio syncing up with a video in the talkies, horror cinema
capitalized on the transition by disconnecting sounds from visual markers. [eerie laughter] “Why, he’s mad! Look at his eyes” Renfield doesn’t look like he’s laughing,
and the sound isn’t acknowledged, so it feels more unreal, like it’s just in your
mind. Once sound film became standard and everyone got used to it, this technique
fell by the wayside. [Renfield sobbing with laughter] The same evolutionary principle is true
for survival horror games and the capacity for 3d graphics and surround
sound. Modern games regularly use surround sound to position enemies on a
map relative to the player. To pinpoint an enemy, the player will move the camera to determine where the sound is coming from. Part of the fear mechanic in
survival horror games comes from knowing that if you can hear an enemy, they can
hear you. Gameplay becomes hide-and-seek. Now it’s easy to take for granted the
technological capacity to render 3D sounds in a 3D environment, but there was a time when 3D graphics processing wasn’t as powerful, and surround sound
wasn’t available at all. And survival horror looked a lot different because of
that. Resident Evil, released in 1996, was the first game to be described as
survival horror, but a game like 1992’s Alone in the Dark can retroactively be
considered part of the same genre. Along with 1999’s Silent Hill, these represent
the first wave of survival horror games. For Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark,
even though 3d graphics were possible, there wasn’t enough rendering power to
create 3D characters AND a 3D room model. To compensate, both games relied solely
on a fixed 3D viewpoint, where the camera remained still as the player wanders
within its purview, switching when they move out of frame.
Silent Hill combined a fixed third-person view with an eerily roaming
POV camera. It also used fog outside and darkness inside to cut down on the load
of rendering distant background graphics. Although the fixed camera was a way of
managing technological limitations, these games used it to their advantage. The
inability to control the perspective underscores a sense of powerlessness.
Hearing a monster roar implies that it must be nearby, but without the ability
to see where it might be the danger can come from any direction. Instead of
sounds being a deterrent for exploration, it forced the player to move forward so
that they could find the camera angle that allowed them to see the monster.
Because the developers controlled the viewpoint of the camera, scenes could be
structured around moments of terror. Which is uncommon outside of cutscenes
in modern survival horror. Consider this scene from Silent Hill: [endless alarm]
“What’s going on with that radio?” [glass breaks] [glass breaks!] This jump-scare works because we are
drawn – visually aurally and through the dialogue – to concentrate on the radio. The camera cuts away so the player is no longer visible. The glass breaks, drawing
the attention away from the radio, which leaves us unprepared for the aural spike
and sudden monster that comes from the front. You can’t create moments like this
if the player is capable of controlling their viewpoint. Specifically. the camera
angles mimic the cinematography of horror films. The player is positioned as the subject, then pushed to explore, even though they’re not in control of what
they see. And it’s no coincidence that this style is reminiscent of horror
cinema; The creators of Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil both cite George
Romero as an inspiration, and Silent Hill was explicitly described as an attempt
to make quote “Hollywood horror” Survival horror games shifted once 3D graphic technology became sufficiently powerful, and surround-sound became standardized.
It was possible to program parameters such as a room size and acoustic
properties to create a dynamic landscape, and make the sound location of the
player available to enemy AI. Thus you have modern survival horror games, which
are often closer to stealth games in terms of mechanics. Creators used fixed
cameras as a workaround, but that choice has informed the styles of all of these
franchises. Silent Hill games relied on cinematic camera usage long after
technology had advanced beyond the need for it. And even though fog and darkness
started as a workaround to a technologic restraint, it’s become a part of the
franchise signature style. It’s very possible that if 3D technology had
arrived even later than it did, the aesthetics of survival horror would have
been codified to be more cinematic. And it’s likely that survival horror will
look and play entirely different in VR, once creators figure out how to
translate the experience in the most terrifying ways possible. Once they do you can be certain we’ll talk about it here, in the FiendZone. Hi! Thanks for watching this video. If you
enjoyed it go ahead and hit like and subscribe to Polygon. Also check out our
other videos – we have a ton, including a bunch of other episodes of FiendZone, so
if you liked this or you learned anything, go ahead and watch those, and
learn something else.

62 thoughts on “How Survival Horror Evolved with 3D Technology | FiendZone”

  1. it's not so much 3D technology advancing as it is technology in general…. but Eternal Darkness was such a creative horror game using technology to add to the horror. It broke the 4th wall in ways that seriously shook me up

  2. This one seems simpler than the last one. Horror in games essentially comes down to a mix of unknowns and danger. Introduction of 3D just adds more unknowns; limited FOV, stuff like that.

  3. If you haven't, check out chair in a room greenwater for what might be the best VR tricks in a horror game! You need kind of a big space because the game has no other movement but you taking steps, and every time you open the door to a new room, you appear facing the door, which means you get to walk in your room again AND you have to turn physically turn around and face a possible scary thing.

  4. FiendZone rules omg, I've always been really interested in the horror genre but too anxious to enjoy it so this is perfect for me!

  5. that monster growl gave me flashbacks. still scary to me. thanks for bringing up Alone in the Dark and Siren.

  6. tbh the best part of fiendzone is how reassuring it is to see someone with a masters degree in the humanities actually get to make media analysis content professionally. you rock jenna!

  7. This series is so interesting! I've always been super interested in what makes different forms of horror work, and I love how well put together these videos always are. Great job as always!!

  8. this fiendzone was such a treat! keep doing this good work! ♡

    also, is the song something from taz? it sounds really similar from the ones in the wonderland ark?

  9. Please keep doing this series! I love it so much. It gives me hope, that my academic training in media science is actually usable outside academic contexts und usefull in journalism as well! You are my role model, Jenna!

  10. I haven't played very many fixed perspective horror games, but a few years back some friends and I were playing Fatal Frame 2 which has a similar camera angle thing to Resident Evil. Trying to find monsters in the camera angle definitely force you to move forward,. Absolutely terrifying to know there's a monster in the room with you but you can't see it because of the camera angle. Fatal frame took it to the next level because you had to literally find the best angle to take a picture of a monster/ghost. It was really cool that the graphics limitation basically created the way that the mechanics worked.

  11. Jenna, I love this whole series. The horror genre is just not for me, but this is such a well done series, I've watched every episode!

  12. "once they do". Resident Evil 7 for VR has been out for a while, and Alien Isolation has a pretty good mod that active VR in the game at a native level. Horror adventures are plenty in VR, people were scared that it was going to be the only genre that would exist in VR.

  13. It’s so interesting to hear this kind of analysis of how video games are developed, and how they evolve. I’m so glad this series exists. Oh and Jenna is serving up looks as per usual, I especially love the overalls and graphic t

  14. If old horror… um classic horror inspired the feel and storytelling of those early survival horror games, what will inspire the new virtual reality games? Films are still a pretty much a 2d medium causing them to fear because they can frame things in a specific way. And once they do get it right with the VR what change will it trigger in the horror genre?

  15. figuring out how the mechanics of horror games respond to technological advancements? this KICKS Jenna, thank you for this series and the analysis throughout

  16. Why not just use cues to draw attention to what you want them to look at, and then trigger it when they interact or look at it. Then you know where they're looking

  17. Even if silent hill was an fps you could force the player to look away from the window to inspect the radio through level design.

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