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Cliff Bleszinski: People rent, not buy, $60 horror games

Ex-Epic dev says EA knew pure scares weren't right for Dead Space 3

Ex-Epic developer Clif Bleszinski has written that EA was wise to temper Dead Space 3's horror with an action-focus, because people don't spend $60 on pure horror games on disc.

Writing on his blog, Bleszinksi discussed his experiences with Visceral's sci-fi thriller at length - pointing out some of the developmental difficulties inherent in the horror genre.

"Generally speaking, the scarier a game is the less empowered a player feels," said the Gears of War design director. "Controls are often clunky on purpose, and the pacing is quite different from an action movie. It feels as if Visceral consciously gravitated the franchise more towards the 'action' elements over the 'suspense/horror' ones, and I'm quite okay with that.

"We look at the target audience for your average console game and it's often a cocky young male who doesn't want to be scared, unfortunately, he's the guy who wants to get in and 'f*** shit up.'"

Although Bleszinksi makes clear that it's difficult but not impossible to combine true horror with an action game to appeal to both the gung-ho and those looking for a fright, he's of the opinion that it takes a master of the medium.

"Horror is hard, and suspense is even harder," he writes. "It requires a true director's hand. A nudge this way and a moment plays as comedic, a nudge too far the other way and it's not scary at all. To compound it all, making a scary moment is kind of like trying to tickle yourself. You think it's scary, but you're never sure until you test it on someone who has never seen the moment.

"At the end of the day this franchise feels like it's starting as a solo experience, a solitary and confined horror game, and now it's evolving into much more than that. You can either fight it or embrace it. I choose the latter, as at the end of the day it's fun."

It's in a small footnote at the end of his post that the Unreal mastermind explains why he sees AAA horror as a risky prospect.

"P.S. In the $60 disc based market horror doesn't fly - it's the ultimate 'Campaign Rental' that's played for 2 days and traded in and I'm sure EA knows this. When we're fully digital we'll see more true horror games coming back. (Look at Amnesia and Slenderman on PC.)"

Bleszinski left Epic in October, 2012 to go on sabbatical before his next placement.

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Dan Pearson

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