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Scorpinax

What makes classic DOOM scary?

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I find pretending to actually be Doomguy, and being in real mortal danger does increase the intensity, heh.

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I found the playstation versions of Doom to be a lot more horrifying than the PC versions.. Mostly due to the new soundtrack (which is totally effed by the way!) and colored lighting effects making a lot of areas appear darker.. Really though, it's amazing what the different soundtrack did to change the atmosphere of the game.

Aside from knee deep in the dead, the PC versions soundtracks never really did it for me...

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to be honest when i got my hands on PC doom i was really disappointed in it. I thought the sound effects were goofy and the music not fitting at all. i used to play the game with the music off and it wasnt until years later that i enjoyed the classic soundtrack and got used to the monster sounds. this is probably all because the first doom i played was final doom on the playstation. that game creeped me out as a kid. there is one level i think called greyon or something like that where you walk outside under a night sky and its pitch black but if you walk into the darkness you come up on two humans impaled on sticks still twitching.

 

tldr classic PC doom never scared me but i grew to appreciate its original incarnation. im defo a playstation doom gal though!

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Posted (edited)

I always found Minecraft to be scary when it's night or you are in the caves. Not like "I can't sleep" scary but unsettling and tense. I think there's something to be said about low-res stuff finding a balance between representation and imagination. I remember this was something I read in a book about comic books as a kid by Scott McCloud which talked about stuff like that in the context of comics being abstract representations of reality and the imagination filling stuff in or something along those lines. Also there's something much more haunting about old game engines to me in that the worlds seem more dreamlike and oddly immersive in that sense, more so than games that are "realistic". That might be because as powerful as graphics get, we haven't yet really escaped the uncanny valley level of realism, so we really only have the cartoony end of the spectrum and the uncanny part, but not yet the full on Matrix-esque plug in your brain level realism.

Edited by insertwackynamehere

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Definitely the lighting. If it was all a uniform brightness like Wolf3D, the atmosphere would have suffered terribly. 

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On 2/28/2018 at 12:58 PM, obake said:

I find pretending to actually be Doomguy, and being in real mortal danger does increase the intensity, heh.

This, exactly. I doubt the OP is referring to the scary looking monsters, or the gore, but rather that 'how in the world am I going to get through this alive?' feeling. We generate that "fear" ourselves, especially when we recognize a particularly clever monster layout, or we're in a low health/ammo situation. We rise to the challenge, and challenge ourselves to get through it without dying. In other words, we add value to the prospect of survival.

 

And, because it's Doom, there are a lot of ways to accomplish the goal, suggesting that, if we fail, it is our fault. Doom provides so many possibilities that, if we cannot survive, we must have done the wrong thing. Thus, it's important to win, it's possible to win, so the thought of not winning is "scary". Many other games attempt this, but there is often only one method to win, which reduces this concept of ownership of your own destiny. If you fail at a different game, oh well, your reflexes need practice, or the level is just too difficult.

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45 minutes ago, kb1 said:

And, because it's Doom, there are a lot of ways to accomplish the goal, suggesting that, if we fail, it is our fault.

There's a good article (blog post?) somewhere likening Doom to a 2.5D version of Asteroids. Since most of the enemies are projectile attackers, player maneuverability and knowledge of the map becomes really important. I guess you could say that resourcefulness like that isn't always as important in modern FPS games.

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1 hour ago, StoneFrog said:

There's a good article (blog post?) somewhere likening Doom to a 2.5D version of Asteroids. Since most of the enemies are projectile attackers, player maneuverability and knowledge of the map becomes really important. I guess you could say that resourcefulness like that isn't always as important in modern FPS games.

Yeah, in more modern shooters, you can't step out of a projectile's path, you usually can't invoke infighting. And, you often have only one gun that'll do the trick, and you have to hide in the same place and shoot the same enemy in the same order during each play, more or less. It's all very choreographed. In Doom, it's basically "Here's your arsenal, here's the monsters, good luck!". You can devise all manners of strategy to try, and, often, it'll work, if you try. This, somehow makes it feel more real to me.

 

In Doom, I'm playing. In some other shooters, I'm moving an actor along a predetermined path and plot in a pre-scripted movie.

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Not to mention, the monsters 'wandering' the map really adds to the experience, since even the enemies themselves aren't limited to a single spot: as long as an enemy is shown alive on the minimap, there's a chance it's stalking you or somewhere entirely different from it's original position, putting even more emphasis on learning the enemies inside and out.

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On 28/02/2018 at 9:08 PM, TabbiKatt said:

to be honest when i got my hands on PC doom i was really disappointed in it. I thought the sound effects were goofy and the music not fitting at all. i used to play the game with the music off and it wasnt until years later that i enjoyed the classic soundtrack and got used to the monster sounds. this is probably all because the first doom i played was final doom on the playstation. that game creeped me out as a kid. there is one level i think called greyon or something like that where you walk outside under a night sky and its pitch black but if you walk into the darkness you come up on two humans impaled on sticks still twitching.

 

tldr classic PC doom never scared me but i grew to appreciate its original incarnation. im defo a playstation doom gal though!

 

It was Geryon, on the Master Levels. I do remember how more atmospheric the psx version was, with the ambient sounds and colored lighting. Those levels were darker and the great stary sky background was really cool, which sky background I was under the impression were different on PC version of Master Levels last time I tried (but not sure). I just remember I wanted to play them more on PSX for the added atmosphere.

 

But since I was always dooming on PC, and only much later played the PSX version, so I found some sounds odd, I understand how it would be the other way around. 

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Personally only 64 actually got me some scary scares 

When playing any other classic game I simply felt RIP&TEAR

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23 hours ago, Optimus said:

 

It was Geryon, on the Master Levels. I do remember how more atmospheric the psx version was, with the ambient sounds and colored lighting. Those levels were darker and the great stary sky background was really cool, which sky background I was under the impression were different on PC version of Master Levels last time I tried (but not sure). I just remember I wanted to play them more on PSX for the added atmosphere.

 

But since I was always dooming on PC, and only much later played the PSX version, so I found some sounds odd, I understand how it would be the other way around. 

I adore classic Doom, it was the first version of Doom I ever played, right when it came out in 1993. But I would say that nowadays I prefer playing PSX Doom/64 for the dark and oppressing atmosphere that exists within these versions. Bobby Prince did an amazing job with the sound and music for PC Doom, he made it feel like you were an unstoppable badass. Aubrey Hodges did an amazing job as well, he made you feel like you were the only human being left, but you weren't truly alone, your only company were eldritch demons from beyond the stars who were hunting you down.

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While it's hard for me to find doom scary again, but there were a lot of factors that made the game scary back then, low lights, clever traps, the macabre design of some monsters and some small details such as hearing the cyberdemon steps as he gets closer... it's very tame by today standards, but i can share my curious experience from the time when i used to think doom was the scariest game ever

When i had my first computer it came with a shareware disk and naturally it had a doom 95 shareware. What cemented the classic game as a scary game for me wasn't the game itself, but the installer on the shareware disk....
 

Spoiler

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The spider mastermind on the installer was animated and the e2m6 song was playing in the background, oh boy that installer made an impression on me, i didn't wanted to play it, i didn't want to see the spider demon and certainly i didn't wanted to hear that damn song... so i avoided the game and when i finally i got to play it some time latter i couldn't belive my eyes on the gored corpse on e1m1. By the time i managed to get to e1m2 my legs were shaking in fear so i stopped playing doom for years. If it didn't had that damn spidermastermind and song on the installer maybe i wouldn't had found the game that scary.... but anyway i was very young and i really shouldn't had been playing doom back then!

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13 hours ago, YukiTakashi said:

The ending to Episode 3 when I was 9. That thing traumatized me

 

Say what you want about Doom's story, but the ending is still pretty damn dark.

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I never really considered Doom a "scary game" until I found Doomworld and saw that most of the Members kept talking about how scary it was; then I had to re-evaluate my impression of what "scary" means. (Not trying to pretend to be 'badass' here, because I'm not - it was more of a kind of ignorance on my part).

 

I do recall getting scared the first time I was fighting the Cyberdemon... or stressed out by it, but that had a lot to do with the fact that I was playing it on a PC with no sound card, so it had PC Speaker sounds (beep-boop type sounds). There's no sound attenuation with PC Speaker sounds and the Cyberdemon's stomping noises are really loud, meaning that when you first encounter the Cyberdemon and realize just how much damage his rockets do, you spend a lot of time hiding from him and expecting him to round the corner any second, because the loud grinding noise of his footstep sounds like he's stomping around just around the corner all the time.

 

Made for a heck of an intense experience.

 

I doubt playing it with a sound card would have been as scary because I would have been able to tell if the Cybie was close by or far away and make my move accordingly. I remember being pretty disappointed by the sound effect when I first heard it with a sound card; had expected something louder and more booming.

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That feeling that you have no fu*king idea what is behind this damn corner...

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Scary is basically being 5 years old and encountering a cyberdemon. Personal experience, leaving it at that.

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Yeah, I think a lot of people think of scary as in it frightens you for a sec.

But the actual scary part is..if you haven't played it, you don't know the maps, where the monsters are or what kind of monsters there are. That's a lot of unknowns. Then there's the dark lighting, the pixelated sprites to jolt your imagination. You have to go through all that and not die to the tune of that horrific sound effect.

If you've gone through life and conquered some parts of the unknown already, this of course wouldn't frighten you.

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The ambient noises from the monsters used to make my skin crawl, especially if I couldn't place where it was coming from. These days, any situation where I'm hovering close to death, searching for health with monsters on the loose or the potential trap being sprung is what gets the heart racing.

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There's a lot of 'PSX vs PC' stuff in this thread, suggesting that basic idea that first impressions play a big role. My guess is that, unless you're old enough to have already "seen it all", your earliest encounter with Doom will burn a spot into your little impressionable brains forever, be it PSX, PC, or whatever :) After that, you're ruined for life!

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Imagine:

You've just obliterated a large room of Demons, Imps, HKs, and Cacos. In that fight, you've lost the power of the Soulsphere and are currently at 29% health. You've also used up almost all of your ammunition, practically none is left. You open a door to progress the game only to be face-to-face with roughly 5 Barons, 3 Cacos, 20 Imps, and a few Demons, Shotgunners, Chaingunners, and Troopers. Don't forget, you saved after the previous battle.

 

This may not be an actual thing, but something along the lines of this did happen to me.

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The original game has a handful of moments that can be defined as scary back in the day. 

 

For me personally, it was the moment you were greeted to the barons in E1M8. That howl they do sent shivers down my spine. 

 

E2M6 is a bit scary too with the dark halls where demons come running out from the corners. First time playing that level, you don't know what to expect and may be afraid to venture through there. 

 

The PSX version can truly turn the game into a horror experience. I like to play Doom sometimes using wad files that replacement the sound effects and music with that of the PSX version and it can sorta transform the game in a way. With the fast paced Metal style songs replaced with dark ambiance, it gives Doom something of a horror vibe and while sitting in the dark and playing for hours on end, it can eventually rattle you in a bit. Aubrey Hodges made some amazing music for the PSX version and Doom 64. 

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I don't recall being scared while playing the original game back in the mid-90's, but I do recall E1M8 and E2M8 both being very tense and wondering what was coming. Both did that rather well.

 

On a related note, I recently watched one of the "Kids React to Doom" videos on youtube and, while playing E1M2, one of them actually said "Why does a game that is over 20 years old startle me?"

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I think E1M8 ending was huge jumpscare back in 90's (especially for those "chicken" with huge guts).

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Posted (edited)

I may be unknowingly parroting what others have said, but nowadays I don't consider Classic Doom to be "scary", in the traditional sense of the word. Certainly, as a young kid playing Doom, I would often have nightmares about the "hellish decorations" in some of the maps (i.e. mutilated bodies hanging from the ceiling and strewn about the walls, skulls on pikes, the gargoyle switches, those tormented faces that scroll past you in pain, and all the sinister Baphomet imagery), and I don't think I'm unique in that regard. Classic Doom was a frightening experience when it was released, due to the (at the time) hyper-realistic graphics, imposing monster sounds, the atmospheric soundtrack, and most of all the immersive world that the game imparts on the player (still prevalent to this day). 

 

Nowadays, I would regard Classic Doom (and its many IWAD and PWAD iterations) more as "suspenseful." That is, not causing outright horror, but instead invoking a sense of dread and ominous undertones that help refine the action-filled FPS experience. This is why I've always been taken aback when people have referred to Doom as mindless, arcadey action. I feel it discounts the efforts of the map and WAD authors to inspire a meaningful atmosphere within the worlds they've created. While fear is certainly subjective, I find that the graphical limitations of the original port, as well as the oft-utilized abstract map design both act to stimulate the imagination of the player, allowing their minds to fill in the gaps to help further entrench them into these surreal places. The suspense and atmosphere therefore is conveyed equally by what is explicitly presented, and by what is simply inferred. 

 

Maybe I'm reading too much into a game that's about a super athletic spaceman that fights colorful monsters... but then again, if the game were really that superficial I don't think it would have stood the test of time.

 

 

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Agree with others that I don't really find Classic Doom scary.  The generally bright visuals and midi tunes don't really allow for a "scary" atmosphere.  Throw the 3DO soundtrack on and you get that "Alright, let's get it ON!" vibe.

 

Lighting effects, dark areas, and ambient tunes in the PSX version, different story...much more unsettling and nerve-wracking.  Even though Doom 64 shares a good chunk of PSX Doom's general feel, I didn't find it quite as scary...not sure why.  Maybe because it seemed less "gritty" somehow, maybe a little bit too polished (still love Doom 64 though). 

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Ehh, I'd say I got some good jump scares on my first playthrough of PSX Doom. I didn't find the game particularly scary, though, it was more being startled by an enemy being where I didn't expect them to be (that maze in E1M4 made me jump for years...). The PC original was too bright and colorful to ever be truly scary...that said, the design of the Cacodemon definitely creeped me out when I was younger, to the point I changed the Doom95 icon on my first PC.

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1 hour ago, Dragonsbrethren said:

Ehh, I'd say I got some good jump scares on my first playthrough of PSX Doom. I didn't find the game particularly scary, though, it was more being startled by an enemy being where I didn't expect them to be (that maze in E1M4 made me jump for years...). The PC original was too bright and colorful to ever be truly scary...that said, the design of the Cacodemon definitely creeped me out when I was younger, to the point I changed the Doom95 icon on my first PC.

 

Yeah, the ambient tunes + the darker areas made the jump scare moments that much more effective in the PSX version.  And I know the maze you're talking about very well.  Had my share of "Oh shit, where did THAT guy come from?!" moments in there. 

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