QUOTE (24ctPenguin @ Oct 31 2011, 08:27 PM)
It's a difficult thing, getting horror to work in RM, regardless of what kind of horror you're going for. Zombie slaughter or slasher inspired games are sometimes successful, but they're not really horror IMO. As Perihelion said, the top down view doesn't allow for many scares in terms of gameplay/exploration, unless you count a few jumps here and there [which are more difficult to pull of than you'd think].
This is something I've been struggling with when it comes to my project, HEX. It has the jumps and the scares and the creepy atmosphere [hopefully, anyhow]. But it's difficult to create a true horror feel while you have enemies that can be defeated. I toyed with the idea of un-killable enemies that you simply have to avoid or debilitate long enough to escape, but ultimately... you're making a game, and it has to be an enjoyable experience. Running away from fights all the time and not really getting any sense of progression isn't a lot of fun.
Lovecraft... well, I'm not sure it could work. At least not well. It's really difficult because if you're creating something Lovecraft inspired, it's probably going to be fairly obvious from the get go, and IMO, from that point on, I'd just be expecting there to be no way to "win". I don't really want to spend 8+ hours playing a game that gets increasingly more depressing, with no hope of getting better.
Thinking of horror experiences I've most enjoyed, they all seem to feature the same basic principle of any other kind of story-telling; a well-rounded, relatable protagonist facing challenges. In terms of horror, these challenges are often life-threatening, and a cast of just as well-rounded but ultimately disposable characters certainly helps to show the consequences of failing to overcome them. You just need someone who people like, and then, do whatever you want to them. If people like the character, they'll care. If that character's life is in danger, they'll be frightened for them.
I don't know. I think I'm just rambling at this point. But my point is, it's hard enough to tell an interesting, original story [and also, one where the twists and turns are neither obvious, nor nonsensical] without trying to then write a story around a style as distinct and rigid as Lovecraft. Ultimately we all know how it's going to end and we know we're probably not going to have a great time getting there.
Zombies, ghosts and demons are perhaps overused [probably for a good reason, people find them entertaining!], but hey, there's still plenty of things you can do with them that hasn't been explored [at least in the world of videogames] and ultimately it's how you tell a story that really sells it.
But that's just my opinion.
Hmmm. This is how I'd do something like this (I'd never actually read
Lovecraft, just experienced it secondhand, so I watched Call of Cthulhu silent film last night to get a better feel).
To make zombies and the like closer to true horror, here's what I'd start with. Rework your battle system, flattening AGI to something like 150 from the normal progressing (yep, from 1 to 99). Make all enemies have AGI between 75 and 150, with most being about 100. Why? Because agility besides controlling turn progression, controls ability to dodge enemies and magical defense. You don't want any of these to increase over the course of the game. (The exception of course is your Elder Gods, which have upwards of 300, but we'll get to them later) Now change all attacks to skills named stuff like punch, kick, throw chair, etc. Make them Normal skills, with no MP cost, and attack rather than intelligence influence. Now raise each monster's strength (alternatively, you can have monsters continue to damage you throughout the game regardless of your level, simply by checkboxing Ignore Defense). You'll also want these creatures to be extremely resistant to physical attacks (change all weapons having one of the first four attributes, which should be Magic rather than Weapon, and read Bashing/Bludgeoning, Slashing, Piercing, Ranged), compared with rats and spiders, if not outright immune in the case of ghosts. It should end up being a very different feel than what you're used to with grind-based battles, since HP will suddenly become way more important than Defense (which is basically being ignored). Give them the traditional weaknesses, but also make them difficult to kill otherwise. Basically, a horror game starts with mechanics, and relies heavily on equips having elemental defense for even partial protection. One-hit killed on a regular basis isn't scary (I've seen some games do this), but neither is getting stronger to the point where attacks don't hurt you.
As for Lovecraft horror being obvious, it doesn't need to be, until the very end. Set up a nice mood, perhaps making the one who animated all of these critters an insane cultist. After you defeat the final boss, you feel a brief sense of accomplishment, until the door behind the cultist suddenly opens... You enter a room with weird, alien architecture and get an increasing sense of dread, if you don't know the books from uncertainty of what's coming next, and if you are aware, from dawning comprehension of what's coming. At this point, you don't even get in a battle, or if you do, it's completely one-sided in the enemy's favor, probably killing you in one move where the other enemies gave you a fighting chance at least. Then you get either driven insane or killed. (I'd take some surreal art online, and use Irfanview to convert it to a 256 color bmp then save as a 320 x 240 PNG, and flash a couple of these in succession to give a sense of something going on onscreen that can't be described) Basically, you'd need the end result to be that the characters were "doomed all along." But yea, I definitely agree you'd probably want good character development to make it all the more horrifying (for that matter, "bad" character development is often a component in horror, having those with exposed character flaws the first to go).