Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bloody hell

Horror game, blood. That matches like meat & barbeque, gunpowder & boom, baby & poop, Japanese & Hentai, or Eurosong festival & shit music. And T22 is no exception, although I believe buckets of blood don't necessarily make a scary setting. In contrary, overdo it, and it becomes an ordinary chocolate-cake throwing fight. Some of the more bloody movies I know, where more humorous than scary. While the real messed up movies weren’t that gory at all usually. Though The Shining had a few short bloody scenes (the flooding corridor & slashed kids), the major fear effect came from an overall, slowly evolving madness in that hotel. We all know the twins, but to me, the particular scene depicted below, was the most disturbing. I still have no idea what the hell I’m looking at here. And it isn’t just the picture that’s absurd, the way how the bear/dog/whatever costume guy(?) slowly bows back, is just freaking unreal. Bad dream, bad dream!

Speaking of The Shining, I picked up “dr. Sleep” a few weeks ago, Stephen Kings official successor to The Shining. Little Danny becomes a big drunk Danny –like daddy-, and tries to make something useful of its life and unfortunate gift to see dead people. In the meanwhile, a cult of vampire like “human” is cruis’n through USA, feeding themselves. With paranormal kids.

About halfway the book now, and all in all it’s an amusing read. But scary… maybe I’m too lazy to get myself scared, but it just didn’t really happen so far. Dan’s fight against his visions and alcoholism is very convincing. The vampire family on the other hand may have been better in another book. Twilight or something.

Anyhow. Back to blood and intestines. One thing that annoys me in quite a lot of movies and games, is that –despite modern technology- they don’t always draw it in a convincing way. And I’m not talking about German games (in Germany, all organisms have green blood). You shoot a zombie, and instead of old dried brown chunky guts, it sprays pink juices. You blow up a bunch of soldiers, and all you get is some flying ragdolls and orange sticky “Gak!” flying around. You chainsaw a bear in half, and 4 seconds later the room looks clean again as all the mess was cleaned up by invisible Mexicans. If the blood doesn’t look disgusting, the whole “eeeww gross!” effect will be ruined in a split second.

Mortal kombat
Bicycle-kicking someone in the face would spawn some greyish sweat-stuff in MK1. Something with censoring. The second MK on the other hand opened Pandora’s box. A single uppercut could spawn three ears, six eyeballs, and more liters of blood than a human can actually carry. Excellent!

Three heads?! I'm not kidding, the very first shot I found on MK.

As I said, a movie or game doesn’t necessarily need blood to be scary, but if we do it, we’d better do it good. I liked how Doom3 or Silent Hill did it for example. Silent Hill didn’t forgot to hire invisible Mexican cleaners, the entire SH world looks like if God took a gigantic crap on it. Thin bloody splatter diarrhea to be more precise. Blood doesn’t automatically generate a scary setting, but in Silent Hill everything is so dark, foggy and dirty, that you almost can’t breathe. Literally. Discovering a clean, “normal” room in SH feels like a relief. The continuous overwhelming “filth” brings the player in an unreal, nightmarish, uncomfortable setting. Doom3 wasn’t that much of a shithole, but I found it really interesting to study the shiny specular lighting (quite new at that time) on the bloodpools and slimy intestines that penetrate the Mars base. Then looking at a modern game like Crysis 2 again, the blood effects look like Play-Doh.

Tower22 will become quite bloody here and there, though the focus is not on gore. Most of the environments won’t be decorated with pig stomachs, and neither will you decapitate a whole lot of monsters. But if the red magical fluid makes an appearance, we’ll do our best to make it look like Hell. Easier said than done though. And this is where the post becomes slightly more technical. Since realtime fluid dynamics are still far away from games, most blood effects are based on decals and flying particles. If not done carefully, particles quickly become like a simplistic MS-Paint Spraybrush of red pixels.

Decals might be a bit easier, but also have some special features. Like most liquids, blood is reflective. But not for too long, as it gets soaked by the surface, resulting in a dried, dark-red / brownish spot. To simulate such characteristics a bit, you’ll need to pick a good blending method. Standard transparency methods may result in a red pool that doesn’t blend very well with its underground. Multiplying seems to work much better, but I found the resulting colors still too reddish and bright in my test cases. So, I implemented a “Color Burn” blend method. It doesn’t always work out either, but on the majority of somewhat darker undergrounds in T22, you get a nasty, dark & rich fluid.

Another effect you rarely see (last time for me was in Duke Nukem 3D), are the fluid dynamics itself. Once a decal splats on a wall, it sticks there as if you shot a red paintball pellet. If the surface is smooth, the fluid would likely pour down though. Or how about shooting someone wearing a nice blue sweater? If games support decals on characters at all, they often show you a big reddish hole straight away. In reality, you may not see anything for a moment, then a darkish circle starts appearing and growing on that nice blue sweater. Not very relevant for T22 monsters, as most of them will be naked likely. But the point is, if engines would put just 0,1% of all their graphical artillery into making a bit more creative blood effects, the world would be a redder, uhm better, place. Since the majority of super-heavy-weight engines is made for shooters, it’s quite weird that they stick with 10 year old cheap tricks for gun wounds. Or maybe that has more to do with keeping the age limit below 18 for sales…

Used ingredients here: a projective decal with lots of red, some reflections, and a burn-blend modus. Bon apetit!


  1. one of the best videogame blood, i've ever seen is in the indiegame Overgrowth.

    examples (youtube)

    I'm really looking forward to tower22 , and i'm very excited =)
    keep up the great work!

  2. Rick, as for me that blood looks already very very nice. Remember to carefully invest your time in such features because some day you can wake up having incredible realistic blood effects but no content where you can put them on;)

    As for nice horror games and some inspiration, have you tired Dead Space? For me it is fu***ng scary. They are making wonders with music, sound effects and lights...and this suspension...

    But I am quite easly scared, I have overgrown imagination. I was not able to finish the game because of fear and I did not wanted to play it at daytime with lights, because what is the point?;)

  3. @Anonymous
    Thank you! Asides from rabbits brawling with each other, the blood shown there is indeed pretty realistic. Not too much liters, fine drips, and it flows down on that cube as it should be.

    @Soul Intruder
    Never tried Dead Space, asides from a short demo. You know, no time to play games really. like the space theme though. One of the premature ideas for a horror game, before T22, was to use an old spaceship as a main theme. Well, maybe another time in a far future!

    For me, the key is indeed in making the world(and audio) suck the player into a certain oncomfortable state of mind, rather than just attacking him all the time with monsters & blood. It's difficult to pour that into a nice playable game though. Which is probably why 99% of the horror games end up in action games.