THE ART OF SCARY MOON DESIGN
I love horror, and I love monsters. It is fascinating to see how the human mind can transform abstract fears into physical creatures. They can make us feel scared, repulsed, or anxious if done right. Because video games are easy to play, they have created a lot of monsters, from creepy clowns to evil Necromorphs. Sociology and evolutionary psychology are both involved in studying what makes a scary monster design. Sometimes, creatures are used to avoid the need to empathize and relate to what you are facing in a game. What I want to focus on are the ones that scare us.
KEEPING IT REAL WITH ANIMALS
Creature designs are based on the real world. This allows for a suspension of disbelief. Mother Nature has some amazing ideas for creating scary monsters. Many monsters are made from a variety of real-life animals. It may seem a bit strange to create something new from scratch. It is an important element of the design that makes a monster real. The Gears of War4 Pouncer is an example of a hybrid dog, crustaceans, and scorpions’ tail. Designers need to understand anatomy and how the body is constructed.
It is also helpful to know how the environment will affect the creature’s evolution. It’s not difficult, but shouldn’t the arms of a Mermaid be webbed? Or should the Centaurs’ human body be farther back than the horse? Of course, this applies to creatures with more industrial/mechanical aspects. For example, pyramid Head’s iconic helmet is awkward to hold up and seems clumsy. This works visually in the same way that a large metal helmet would be.
Jerad Marantz is the concept artist for Gears of War 4. she describes how the process works as “the combination of familiar components…You’d believe you can do almost anything…But you’d be wrong.” We hope that we will someday return to Dead By Daylight.
MANIPULATION OF HUMANOID FORMS
While animals are a good starting point, let’s not forget about the terrifying monster of all: humans. It all depends on the design goals. We can tap into our instinctive fear with more bestial designs for our fear of predators. The human monsters can be even more disturbing. Until Dawn deliberately exaggerates the human anatomy of the Wendigo by using unnaturally tight skin or long limbs. Not only can a corrupted body be dangerous for us, but it could also mean that we might be able to become it. We can relate to the creature, much like the uncanny valley effect. We will not be disturbed by the unnatural design.
Humanoid designs are well-suited to psychological and body terror. You can think of all the famous monsters that are human but twisted. Vampires and Zombies, Werewolves and Sirens, Goblins and Goblins, Trolls… the list go on. Partly, this is because we assume intelligence and malice on the part of the monster. The fear of becoming the monster and the consequent loss of your mind and soul is even more frightening. It is possible to create a terrifying monster design by combining human and inhuman elements.
FEAR AND SYMBOLISM
This has been the forte of the Silent Hill franchise, particularly Masahiro Ito. The psychology of the protagonist is the basis for the creation of monsters. Masahiro Ito describes his designs as metaphorical. I consider this to be the difference between great monster designs and the average. The Lying Figur from Silent Hill2 depicts a patient in pain. Mary Sunderland is the protagonist’s wife. It also spits acid, which is symbolic of the illness she suffered and the harsh words she spoke to her husband.
Based on the player’s focus, the Raw shocks (a play upon the famous Rorschach Test) of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories can be adapted. You can make them abstract, atrophied, or diseased depending on what you focus on: alcohol, your daughter, trivial matters, and sex. This design adds another layer to the meta-level because it responds to the players, not just the character.