Tutorial: Adding Atmosphere Last edited 1 year ago2022-10-10 22:34:15 UTC

Horror in Half-Life

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A great videogame isn't just a bunch of big guns, awesome enemies, and cool architecture. The great part of a videogame like Half-Life is the heart stopping freaked out feeling you get. There is no word for this, but it is best classified under the name Horror.

I will never forget the time in the original Half-Life when I truly felt this. I had recently got the game and was hooked. It was late in the night. Nothing stirred except my mouse on the mouse-pad, walking around a room to turn off a light that made the water electric. I had completed this puzzle, and was ready to move on to one of the air-vents that I had traveled through so many times already in the game. I crouched down, and started my journey into the dark, my flashlight skimming the cold metal walls as I continued into the darkness down the other end. I noticed it turned a little, so I decided to look to the right, where it supposedly did. Little did I know that the vent dropped a little, concealing a head-crab from my flashlight. My ears adjusted to the little noise of my footsteps on the metal below when it jumped out of nowhere, onto my face, the flashlight revealing a most hideous bottom of this evil beast! I fell backwards in my computer chair, giving out a little gasp as I fell. I looked around a little, the sound of the head-crab devouring my character filled the room. I smiled.

Most of the SP maps I see now don't deliver that. It is just all out war between grunts.

What happened to slowly building up your character, facing puzzles and creepy aliens, slowly a story being revealed before your eyes? That is what was is truly great about Half-Life.

Half-Life and Hammer (World-Craft) supply us with enough tools to create this, even as one person alone. Even you can do this great aspect of a game. You just have to start simple and work your way up.

Lets start with something simple and rip something from the original Half-life. Take our friend here Mr.Head-crab. He reallllly wants a bite of Gordon. All that needs to be done is to create a way for him to Scare the heck out of our unknowing player. Why not just try using my little story as a starter. After reading this, try to mimic it. That is your true test.
Face muncher!Face muncher!
Here are a few things you have to keep in mind while making this (in order from most important to least).
  1. Unexpectedness
  2. Lighting
  3. Fear
  4. Preparation
  5. Textures


Unexpectedness, sudden, unanticipated, unforseen are the most important part of this. Would it be scary to have a sign next to the air-vent saying, "Head-crabs ahead" (Excuse the pun). No it wouldn't. The player must not see it coming.

In order to do this, you should not put any enemies too near to when the player is to be startled. The player should not have to shoot anything before he is scared either. A puzzle is a good way to ill prepare them for this, because their mind will be thinking a lot when it happens, distracting them from the game and making them able to fall into your trap.


Lighting matters a whole lot when dealing with fear. Would it be scary to have a monster jump out at you when you can see everything around you? Maybe, but not as much as when it is dark and you can't even make out the texture on the wall, without the little ray of the flashlight.

Minimal lighting makes the player pull out his flashlight, which is a good thing. Most people play on easy mode, where the flashlight homes onto any enemy and stays on them (even scientists) so you can see their hideous features as it freaks you out. An air-vent with a head-crab that is pitch black is a good place to have them use a flashlight.

Cool colored lights will bring out a more intense horror. A red light that fades in and out randomly is a great way to make them scared.

Strobe lights (blinking fast) and zombies mix great since Zombies are slow and you can watch them slowly advance on you. It is really good to have this happen when you are unarmed and you have to get around them.


Fear is generated from lighting and the monsters themselves. It is a good thing to be when you try and make a great game. Arming the player with a crowbar against a garg is a great way to do this, especially if the player hits a button, and an elevator with a garg slowly comes down to you, him facing the other way. The first instinct for the player is to run for their life for any cover around. It is better to not have much cover around, so the player will really scramble. The best place for a garg is a forest where it can fit around the trees, and you are lost, fleeing from its incredible power.


Preparation is preparing the rooms before the freakout point. Have no enemies there, and have them just normal rooms, no really cool architecture in the rooms to make them awe. A puzzle would be the best way if you want to distract them. Have lights be broken, and nothing really light. If it is an outdoor freakout point, have it be nighttime. If it can't be nighttime, then have it in the shade. If there is no shade, pick another freakout point. There can be some humans before, but they have to die by aliens, traps, or already be dead.


Textures comes last because you really shouldn't be able to see very much of them if you get the lighting right. They should be plain and normal. Have everything look like it does in real life, not awesome textures everywhere, with glowey thingys and computers. "Textures" is here so that they can be limited.

Have fun doing this and be very creative at how you scare them. Limit your grunts, and bring out your aliens. They are what made Half-Life great.


Commented 13 years ago2010-12-21 20:06:45 UTC Comment #100664
true true true true
ep!c TUT()R|AL
Commented 12 years ago2011-10-23 02:47:58 UTC Comment #100665
I'm getting scare_ex is not valid BSP under HL2 putting in right /maps folder.

ooops. It seems HL1 :(

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