Mini LD #31 : “Fear” – January 21st – 22nd

Posted by (twitter: @thegrieve)
January 3rd, 2012 1:25 pm


The Gatekeeper

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When I was but a young lad, no taller than a spaniel standing on a phone book, I had a board game that I loved above all others. I’d get a few select friends around, we’d set up the pieces, get the TV in just the right place, kill the lights and we would play.

That game was Atmosfear.

As well as being a board game… it was quite literally a video game. You popped the video in the VCR and the pre-recorded Gatekeeper played a crucial role in your experience.

I loved this game so much because of (would you believe it) the atmosphere, created not just by the game, but also carefully crafted by the players trying to eek every last morsel out of the experience. I was never scared playing it… but I was always pushing myself into a tense, edgy state intentionally. It was better that way.

Sure, the tape was the same every time, but after a few moments, after getting absorbed in the game itself, jostling with each other for the early lead… you forgot, and just as you did, the Gatekeeper would bellow “STOP!”.

Naturally, myself and my skin would exist a few inches apart for a few seconds.

Since then I’ve always had a deep fascination with games that could craft a deep and immersive emotional state in and around the player. Or even better, games that would get the player to work themselves up into that state.

And so… I throw that challenge to you…

Put fear into your players…

…or convince your players to scare themselves, but remember:

Fear does not have to be horror.
Fear does not have to be shock.

Fear can be crafted in quite a few different ways, experiment, find exciting and interesting ways to keep your players on the edge of their seats. Keep them tense, keep them wary.

I’d been hoping to do a theme like this for quite a while, and with the addition of the “Mood” category to the voting in the recent compo, now seems like an ideal time. Some of the sterling examples of mood in the LD22’s entries makes it clear that the talent is here. :)

As is common with Mini LD’s, the rules may be relaxed a bit. Source will not be required, but it is encouraged, (we can all learn from each other right ;)). The usual rules will stand on basecode, feel free to reuse and recycle. Please declare where possible, but don’t be bringing half completed games to the table, you’re only cheating yourself.


“How To Make A Scary Game” – Mike Birkhead – Excellent post deconstructing some of the aspects of interactive fear.

The Shining Bathroom Scene – A stunning example of how fear can be created without shock or direct horror, the slow ramping up of tension and menace. This scene oozes creepiness and makes me shiver everytime.

SHODAN’s Infamous Speech – This still creeps me out, it’s simple, powerful and the screeching crescendo is awesome.

An Example of the Atmosfear Gatekeeper – Not as scary nowadays of course, but here he is for reference ๐Ÿ˜‰

Amnesia: The Dark Descent – The finest example of tense atmospheric fear I’ve seen in a long time. Healthy does of shock too. You’ve no doubt all played this already… If not… grab the demo now.

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59 Responses to “Mini LD #31 : “Fear” – January 21st – 22nd”

  1. TheGrieve says:

    Some people in IRC have pointed out that increpare ran with the theme “Horror” in September past. I overlooked this (despite I think that’s where I originally read the gamasutra article linked above, weird).

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that Horror != Fear. Here I’m hoping people will focus more on the atmosphere and tension you can build.

    If people are uncomfortable running with “Fear” please, feel free to take part using “Atmosphere” since this was originally one of contenders :)

  2. digital_sorceress says:

    This is a fascinating idea. :)

    I’ve never considered use of a gamesmaster in a computer game. The fear it invokes is not of gratuitous horror, but of things being forced unexpectedly upon the player, and gambling with their destiny. Similar perhaps to how the Ancient Greeks feared the Gods of Olympus?

    Anyway… I’ve taken part in the last two miniLDs, and I think I will join in this one as well. :)

  3. Shigor says:

    wellll…. maybe as a warmup before Global Game Jam?
    I’d have to think out something… different though, since I’ve already tried “maximal atmosphere in minimal time” in september’s LD…

  4. NeiloGD says:

    Ohh on my birthday weekend! I might have a go…might…

  5. sirius_black9999 says:

    i like this idea ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    reminds me of the games from frictionalgames, they have an atmosphere that even gets my heart pounding all the time, even if i am listening to dev commentary or turn brightness up :O i’ll be sure to check out the games at least, if i have nothing to submit myself, because this seems like it could yield some really cool games

    in my experience, games like penumbra and amnesia really get the fear pumping in players through sound and the “scare-events” rather than the actual enemies, also the fact that you’re almost defenseless, and for those people who have played games like that: who doesn’t remember that moment when your flashlight/oil lamp cuts out and it’s suddenly pitch black, whilst you’re hearing growls in the distance, also first person/3d seems to be something almost vital to making a really scary game, since you can’t see what’s behind you, and running backwards is counter-intuitive and slow

    stuff like that ๐Ÿ˜‰ gotta love a good scary game though ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. For me, fear and atmosphere in games is completely controlled by one thing:


    You can scare the heck out of me with a pure black screen and the right music.

  7. Patacorow says:

    Why do you guys always choose the worst dates? One day. Move it just by one day! D;

  8. 0x64 says:

    on old mixtape of mine that fits the theme :)
    Made from game musics, can you identify them all?

  9. VonZippenstein says:

    Oh man. I had this game. The Gatekeeper used to ask me my name. I would tell him it’s ‘Gatekeeper’. He would comment on how stupid of a name that was. I know, Gatekeeper. I know.

  10. Cell says:

    Good luck :)

    but since Fear is very, very close to the Horror/Alone/Mood genre. It may cause idea-less-ivity.


  11. The Jahn says:

    I’m pumped for this one. I’ve been looking into topics like this one for quite a while now, haven’t been able to put most of the info to use yet. This should be fun!

  12. CWolf says:

    This is my first step into the LD community. I’ll use this as practice for the LD in April! =D

  13. Nilmrots says:

    I have a lot of ideas sprouting from this already.
    This will be my first mini LD and I’m very excited.

  14. Making a game about fear in 48h is… scary! Holy crap!

    I’m gonna sit this one out, I think. I’m awful with fear. No idea how to use it effectively since I tend to avoid it.

    Sorry, man. :(

  15. eli says:

    I am jumping the gun on this one. There’s an idea kicking around my head that I just started working on because it fits the theme in a personal way. So eligible or not for the mini-LD, I’m making it for the compo =)

  16. iisjreg says:


  17. I might take part to this jam too. Yet, I have ideas, but no time next week-endโ€ฆ So I’m beginning tomorrow, and I’ll try to finish the game next sunday. :)

  18. limbster says:

    This will be my first Mini LD. Very excited about it. A Chance to hone my storytelling abilities.

  19. Pixel_Phased says:

    i know this could be my first miniLD but currently i’m going to pass, i just don’t have any ideas for this.

  20. Faison says:

    So I just found out about the Ludum Dare as the jam was ending and I’m completely on board with practicing on the mini. A question though, when do participants officially begin and end? I know the days, but what are the official times?

    • digital_sorceress says:

      For the ludum-dares (LD), there is a fixed deadline, that is shown up above, where the red count-down clock is at present. The start/stop times are usually 02:00 GMT.

      For the mini-dares (MD), we’re on flexi-time, and there isn’t a rigid deadline, and you just put in approximately 48 hours work at or near to the scheduled days. :)

  21. NeiloGD says:

    I’ve got an idea…I think a good one…I hope I can pull it off!!

  22. thristhart says:

    I know the usual rules are a little more relaxed, but can I do this with a partner?

  23. callidus says:

    Humm, sounds cool. I will have to have a think but should be participating in this, first miniLD for me :-)

  24. Randomasta says:

    So is there any rules like the original LD?

    • TheGrieve says:

      The rules are there, but they are more like guidelines ๐Ÿ˜‰ As long you make a game, that’s what’s important.

      • Randomasta says:

        Oh right, sorry for not reading it thoroughly. This Mini LD takes place just before new term started, so I might be able to get something out.

        • NeiloGD says:

          I know TheGrieve gets final say on this (given the hosting this time of course), but I do believe they are waaay more relaxed.

          Looking at the last few, it seems like only the ‘hardcore’ do it, and that is, barely anyone. Relaxed or not I’m sticking as close as I can to the normal rules…just for fun. Lets make this a good one ๐Ÿ˜€

  25. MaverickProgrammer says:

    I’m definitely interested in participating. I hope I come up with something both achievable and effective! ๐Ÿ˜€

  26. austinbreed says:

    I think I’m going to try to make something. That game you described with the video tape is pretty inspiring.

  27. PaulSB says:

    I intend to enter this as some sort of redemption from my not-so-exciting LD22 entry… I have an idea involving colour. I think it has potential.

  28. A_Homeless_Guy says:

    Does anyone know a good FREE game designer because I think this compo is really cool but I don’t know how to get started. Can anyone help? The Homeless everywhere thank you.

  29. digital_sorceress says:

    I’d forgotten all about this! It’s this weekend!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  30. SkullSoft says:

    I think the difference between fear and horror is that fear is “uh-oh” and horror is “oh no”. :)

    This is going to be my first LD entry. I’ve got a really cool idea for it!

    I have Atmosfear too, but never played it.

    Speaking of scary games…. “The NeverEnding Light” on Kongregate is a must-play!

  31. beat1823 says:

    Hi, this will be me and my friends first submission to ludumdare. We are going to compete in the main one, and are using this one for practice.

    Now were not necessarily going to use this for the main one, but for this mini dare, are submissions done in the Unreal Engine/UDK accepted?

  32. Kelly Thomas says:

    I have an idea I think will work well for this theme.

    But I wont have to to make it this weekend.

    If I work on it monday-tuesday will I still be able to submit?

    How long will submissions be open?

  33. Randomasta says:

    I think I have to cheat on the theme this time. My game won’t put fear into the player, but rather it’s a game about fear itself. I hope people is okay with that :)

  34. CWolf says:

    That was a tough LD for me (my first). I finished thought! I take a rest then carry on with my other game dev heh.

  35. Randomasta says:

    See you guys in February. Can’t get my stuff finished with the one day I had in hand :S

  36. JeanXom says:

    Do mini LD do ratings anymore? Just wondering. :O

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