You can check it out on my level design page. Cheers!
Heya, haven’t really touched my website since I first set it up. Back into University again, and apart from working on a Castlevania clone I’m also designing a tf2 map!
The above image is from Aiguille du Midi, a mountain in the French Alps that gives fantastic inspiration for an snowy king of the hill map! I’ll be updating sporadically as I go with my progress!
This excerpt is part of a larger overall analysis of Silent Hill 2 from an assessment item for the bachelor of games design at Qantm Brisbane, Australia.
Mechanics, Tokens, and Skills in Silent Hill 2
Part One: The influences of Camera Control, Lighting, Fog and Movement Control
By Harley Gresham
There have been many analyses that have covered the psychological themes in the narrative of Silent Hill 2, but few have reduced the game to its key components of play. In this analysis I will attempt to shed light on how Team Silent crafted the traumatic experience of Silent Hill 2 and how designers can apply this knowledge to future games. Understand however, that such a game is inherently complex, not every aspect of play will be covered, but the core components of Silent Hill 2 will be examined.
Silent Hill 2 ‘s mechanics focus on creating as unsettling an experience as possible, tweaked to take advantage of the player’s fear of what they can and more importantly, what they cannot see. As such, it relies on the relationship between several tokens of play, dynamically scaling on what is present in a particular area at a time. The
- Camera Control
- Movement Control
The story of the game follows James, and as such he is our avatar. The decision to make the game from the third person perspective lends many opportunities to the designers of Team Silent. By creating this perspective, the designers are able to better limit what the player can and cannot see. As a horror game, limiting the player’s control over their surroundings has the effect of raising tension by the player’s struggle to interact with the virtual world. This has the impact of changing many other aspects of the game as well, navigation and combat being the most obvious.
This view obstructs some of the player’s vision however, with the addition of the environment also limiting the player’s view. Figure 1 shows the player’s perspective in a tight corridor, a common situation in the game.
Depending on the player’s location, the player’s perspective changes to a system of cameras usually mounted in corners or directly in front of or behind the player. The viewpoint of the player changes particularly in interior sections, depending on where James is standing. Sometimes this can mean that the player cannot see what is coming from a certain direction on the screen. While working around the constraints of the room, these viewpoints are chosen carefully by designers to control what the player can see, as well as what emotional state they wish the player to be in. This can mean that the player controls James from a higher angle, to accommodate architecture and to enhance the player’s feeling of the ‘unseen watcher.’
Lighting & Fog
In addition to the camera angle, lighting and view distance are paramount as designed constricting features of Silent Hill 2. As such, the relationships between these three give Team Silent a powerful toolset to control the player with.
Lighting has a strong effect on the player’s ability to examine and engage with their surroundings. Initially, the player is not given any control over lighting, with outside lighting being fairly dim. In the first interior location of the game, the player wanders through near darkness, alone and afraid. As evident in figure 8, lighting is especially important indoors, with this particular image showing the player only darkness at the end of the corridor. Lighting is used here to accentuate the audio aspect of the game; the player can only hear static from their radio broken only by the cries of enemies. When the player is given control over light in the form of a flashlight, it is placed on the front of the player so that they must turn the character to view areas of darkness. In areas of absolute darkness the player has only a cone of vision.
Furthermore, as they cannot look behind themselves, lighting in areas is particularly important as it gives the player a larger area of influence. Brighter areas bring a larger view distance, and the ability to manoeuvre easier whilst darker areas are much more intense as the player has a much smaller area of influence. This meaning that Team Silent has greater control over certain parts they wish to highlight and hide. Light is another token that has an exponential effect on the difficulty and emotional pressure on the player.
The usage of fog as both a hardware-efficient process and as a creative restriction of view distance is another important token which affects the player’s ability. The presence of the fog gives the player a very small area of influence in outside areas, and thus shorter time to react to new information and obstacles. This token in combination with obstacles, enemies and items of desire dynamically scales the difficulty of an encounter.
The exterior space also changes dramatically when night falls in Silent Hill. The lack of lighting brings about a great change in the depth of field, similar to interior areas.
Here both tokens are present, making the area quite stressful for the player.
Figure 6: Controls of Silent Hil 2 from the manual
Movement is dictated by the direction in which the player faces and by what angle the player’s camera is at a given time. This can mean that moving is reversed based on the player’s perspective. This can give to rise to difficulty manoeuvring in the world. For some players this can mean frustration with the controls of the game. However, while it is not a sound control system for the player, it is powerful as a tool for the designers to control the player’s movements. In addition, if one was to look at the game from a narrative perspective, it makes sense that James’ ability to move and to fight would not be fantastic as an ordinary clerk in an otherworldly scenario.
To summarise this brief discussion of these mechanics and tokens, the design of Silent Hill 2 can be viewed as one revolving around the control and constriction of the player’s ability to act in this virtual world. As designers, these tokens give us the ability to better control the emotional state of the player, which is imperative to the success of a strong horror game. In the next part I will detail on the navigational aspects of Silent Hill 2; including navigational skills, lock progression, puzzle systems, and obstacles. How Team Silent created a virtual town and successfully reduced it to a linear sequence of events in order to give us the emotional experience of Silent Hill 2.
Thanks for reading,