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back to article Ding-dong, Cthulu calling: Infogrames’ 1992 Alone in the Dark

There was a time when you were considered a bit of a sissy if a computer game scared you. Yet along with the numerous innovations Alone in the Dark brought to the gaming world, it was one of the first titles to genuinely put the shits up anyone brave enough to play it. Creaky floorboards, distant howls, Hitchcock camera angles, …

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I loved that game :-)

Though it pushed my 386DX33 with trident video card to the limit ;-)

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Re: I loved that game :-)

We love it when the devs really push a system almost beyond its limits. Like this game, or the the famous zx81 "chess in 1 kb".

Atmosphere is an important part of any game, but hard to pin down. It's not a technology thing. Chunky pixels can be more disquieting than the latest graphics. I recall even Dragon 32 games that overflowed with atmosphere at just 0.8 Mhz. Inevitably the atmosphere is reduced once you have played more modern games, so it must be something about discovering things for the first time too.

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Re: I loved that game :-)

Ha, it was games like this that got people lusting after newer processors and graphics cards.

Things have changed a bit now in portable age though, eh?

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Technological advance, psychology and change ?

I absolutely loved Alone in the Dark, it had everything that made a great game great for the period.

Recently I have just finished The Last of Us which also had everything that makes a great game great.

There is a HUGE difference between them technologically, in terms of graphics, physics engines, sound quality, fluidity etc. BUT both of have/had the "wow" factor.

If I replayed AITD today I would probably find it dull, maybe even a little cheesy and yet at the time it was great.

So what is it exactly that changes, what happens in the mind, that yesterday I found AITD completely immersive and yet today I no longer do ?

I presume that same will happen with TLOU if I were to replay it in 10 years’ time..

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Re: Technological advance, psychology and change ?

A good point.

When we play games as children / teenagers, there's a certain amount of imagination that we bring to the proceedings, don't you think?

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Re: Technological advance, psychology and change ?

Which I guess is why BBC Micro, Speccy games et al. still managed to inspire commitment from fans.

I guess when graphics are the "cutting edge" for the time, people will buy into it, and objectivity doesn't really come into it.

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Re: same will ... if I were to replay it in 10 years’ time

Maybe not if you were to play it the first time 10 years from now. I find the whole "great for the period" argument rather moot. Some games (like StarControl II, Ultima 7 BG/SI, RoA StarTrail, SystemShock II, DeusEx (the 1st one) etc) are great for any period, not sure about Alone in the Dark though - I didn't like it then, I don't like it now, so maybe it's great just not for my taste.

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I can remember playing this at university, 10 of us all crowded into a single room gathered round a CRT. Scared the living shits out of us. Never played anything like it since - truly a masterpiece, especially given the power of PCs back then.

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The only real sucessor IMHO

Was a game called CLIVE BARKER's: UNDYING. It had a FPS approach, puzzle resolution, incredible music and ambientation (the designer of the mansion floor plans should be awarded) and it added the "psychic sight" feature wich allowed you to see beyond what was evident which usually led to me jumping from my seat like a tennage girl. I now people who where unable to complete the game because they had genuine fear of it..... Good 'ol days !

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Devil

Re: The only real sucessor IMHO

Good choice, will look that one up.

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Alert

Re: The only real sucessor IMHO

Psychic sight is a bit like "beer goggles" but worse?

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Re: The only real sucessor IMHO

Well, now that you mention it...... It kind of is isn´t it (for dinamic values of beer|other alcohol based beverages)

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Pickman

Nice choice on the title :)

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Re: Pickman

Except for the spelling, it's "Cthulhu".

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Re: Pickman

No, I meant Pickman + Model.

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Zot
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Re: Pickman

Yeah, makes the article appear a bit amateur, dunnit!

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CD Audio?

I remember getting a copy of it bundled with a CD-ROM drive I bought (double speed no less) that had a full orchestra sound track on the audio part of the CD. It took me a while to work out that I had to plug the phono audio out of the cd drive into a separate pair of speakers...

Anyway I always found it slow and frustrating moving around and it always seemed to change camera angle at the wrong time. Still, a groundbreaking game for its time!

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Happy

Re: CD Audio?

Ah, yes, the games bundled with a CD-ROM. 'Twas a new-age dream they were a sellin'

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Unhappy

Nice review, but the compression artifacts in those screenshots are horrendous! Wouldn't PNG have been a better choice than JPEG?

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jjk
Headmaster

Crawling Chaos?

That would be Nyarlathotep, not Cthulhu. (Although it's probably not that important if you get eaten anyway).

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About gameplay and atmosphere

One of the best games I ever played is nethack, with its can't-get-more-basic use of ASCII text characters to render the dungeon, I have often been scared shitless playing that. Insanely complicated, I still never managed to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor!

Your limbs are stiffening...

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Re: About gameplay and atmosphere

You should try Brogue, it's the same genre as nethack but more streamlined

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Re: About gameplay and atmosphere

Brogue is good. But half of the appeal of nethack is how precisely "un-streamlined" it is, all the silly little touches and obscure details and tricks give it character.

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Re: About gameplay and atmosphere

Character and imagination (of the viewer / reader) must be two of the vital ingredients for horror.

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Re: About gameplay and atmosphere

I guess that's why children get so scared of horror - imagination runs wild at that age. Most probably why all our fondest computer game memories come from childhood.

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Go

Aaargh!

Still sends a chill down my spine.

What a game, and how very French.

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Ah good memories...

Oh look a shadow figure sitting in a chair. I'll go and investigate...

Erm... that looks a bit like Yog-Sothoth *dies*

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WTF?

There was one terrible puzzle in Alone in the Dark which I can't believe was left in. Spoiler alert...

You have to remove the wedge from some beer barrels in the cellar to uncover a secret passage to the caves under the mansion. If you go into this passage from the cellar, you get eaten by a zombie worm. However, when escaping the caves at the very end of the game, you have to do it through this passageway. If you didn't clear the barrels half way through the game, you get stuck on the final "run" out of the mansion and have to play half the game again to put it right.

That aside, what an epic game. Tres bien fait!

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Zot
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Positioning problems

I remember it was difficult to get in the correct potion to open or use something. I'm wondering about for ages looking for a way forward, when all along THAT key fitted THAT lock after all, I was just standing in slightly the wrong place. And it was very frustrating using a gun when, like the article says, the camera changes completely and you can't even see what your aiming at any more!

It has a great story though. I think I remember a wolf, an underground cave bit, and some strange Native American magic?

For those that 'copied' the game rather than purchase it (yes, you), you can still buy it from gog.com:

http://www.gog.com/game/alone_in_the_dark

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