Experimentation – Fear (Unit 12 2.1, 2.2)

FEAR in 2D Level Design

Recently we have been looking at experimentation and how we could use it to help us further our ideas towards our final major project, we discussed how experimentation to help us both solve questions and lead us to more questions if they so come up. So to show our understanding towards the topic of experimentation, we have been tasked with researching examples of how people explore the theme of FEAR within our specialist area, deconstructing those examples to identify how different materials, processes, technology and techniques are used, and reflect on how they achieved their intended results. I will be focusing on 2D level design and how that can create fear.

There are multiple games that use there environments to create fear in there games either for the whole game like Super Metroid, Castlevania, DOOM (Classic), Binding of Isaac and Lone Survivor and a few games that look at the theme of fear within a couple of levels like Shovel Knight and Super Mario World. I will be using 3 of these games as examples being Super Metroid, Castlevania and Shovel Knight.

Super Metroid (SNES)

Super Metroid is a 2D side-scrolling action-adventure game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that has you explore the planet Zebes, while exploring you will be solving puzzles and gathering equipment that would be needed to progress through the game to complete the end goal of defeating Mother Brain. Super Metroid invokes fear to its players through its level design by using different shades of grey that use a slight hint of purple to produce heavy clouds that cover the entire sky, The backgrounds mountains are also grey but also empty with no life to be seen on them what so ever giving a feeling of death and emptiness.

Beginning of Super Metroid for Super Nintendo

Castlevania (NES)

Castlevania is a side-scrolling action-adventure game for the Nintendo Entertainment System created by Komani that lets you explore Dracula’s castle in search of the vampire himself. While you find your way to Dracula, you will find different items, weapons and food as you battle different monsters like ghosts and demons as you progress through six different levels to finally face Dracula. Castlevania explores the fear theme, while sticking to the Consoles limited colour pallet, by using loss of dark tones and colours in the background and using impactful colours like red to convey a sense of danger.

The Introduction Cutscene for Castlevania for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Shovel Knight – The Lich Yard Stage (Multi-platform)

Shovel Knight is an Action platform side-scroller where you play as Shovel Knight in search of his love interest Shield Knight as he travels through a variety of levels to defeat different knights that serve under the order of no quarter. The lich yard stage in particularly is a stage that follows the theme of fear as you journey through the stage to face sceptre knight, the stage itself takes alot of inspiration from the Castlevania series using different tones of purple and black in the background and impact colours like red in the foreground but also mixes in some brown and green to add some plants in to the level.

The Lich Yard Stage from Shovel Knight
The Lich Yard Stage from Shovel Knight

Question: How is FEAR portrayed through the 2D level Design?

From the research I gathered for this experiment, I have decided that I would take everything that I had learned, and try to implement it all together to create my own level screen shot. I will be experimenting with both colour and shading while creating this level, but I will also be doing my first ever level out of pixel art. I will be using different reference Images as show below to help create my experiment.

Reference Images

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

End Results

Fear Mansion – 80×80 pixels

As you can see I have created a Mansion screen shot based off the introduction of Castlevania, Using photo shop, I looked at using different tones of purple to create the background, the mansion and the clouds, with a bright yellow to add light to locate the windows of the mansion and the moon. The fore ground is where most of my time went looking at trying to make the gate and the wall look damaged and old with the foliage looking overgrown and even growing in to the wall and the cobble stone in front of the gate. The cobblestone itself took the longest as I tried to figure out a way to make it look like is moves further in, this was done by creating another layer over the cobblestone and using the gradient tool to make it look a touch darker the farther you look.


From this experiment, I have both furthered my skill in pixel art and improved my knowledge on shading, colour and Photoshop which will help me in the future when experimenting more and even when creating my Final Major Project. I was overall happy with how my experiment turned out but I feel I could improve it by darkening the Image a touch to add to the feel of the Image.


Nintendo (2016) Super Metroid. Available at: http://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/super-metroid-3ds (Accessed: 23rd January 2017).

temujin9000 (2012) Super Metroid (SNES) – Full Game (100% run with best ending). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB317FOcU0Y (Accessed: 27th January 2017).

Nintendo (2016) CastleVania. Available at: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/NES/Castlevania–720215.html (Accessed: 27th January 2017).

sirkrozz (No Year Given) PhotoBucket – Castlevania01-intro2.png. Available at: http://s298.photobucket.com/user/sirkrozz/media/Castlevania01-Intro2.png.html (Accessed: 23rd January 2017).

Yacht Club Games (2017) Shovel Knight. Available at: http://yachtclubgames.com/shovel-knight/ (Accessed 23rd January 2017)

Rodriguezjr (2014) Shovel Knight 100% Walkthrough 60fps (Specter Knight Stage, Forest of Phasing, & More Exploration). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU8zG4ZBo-w (Accessed: 27th January 2017).

Beck, D. (2007) photo-mansion3.jpg. Available at: http://www.ingomar.org/photos-mansion.html (Accessed/downloaded: 27th January 2017).

Espenak, F. (2007) Phases10-5x3w. Available at: http://astropixels.com/moon/phases2/Phases10-5×3.html (Accessed/downloaded: 27th January 2017).

Experimentation – Part 2 (Unit 12 2.1, 2.2)

Continuing from the our previous task were we looked at experimentation and how it can be used to help us create our final major project, we have been given the same task as last time but this time with a theme of our choosing instead of fear. This time I will be looking at how level design can be used to create a feeling of loneliness.

I first started off this task by looking at a few examples of games that make their players feel alone and isolated using a Reddit thread titled Loneliness in games (komputerwelt, 2013) where they talk about what games made them feel alone and some of them talk about their experiences with the game. From this thread I saw three games that caught my attention, Limbo, Metroid Prime and Silent Hill, I will use these games as examples to figure out what makes a player feel alone with how the level is designed.

Limbo (Multi-platform)

Limbo’s level design is simple yet is really effective when applying it to the theme of loneliness, which is down through the use of the different tones of grey for pretty much everything, from their characters, to their foliage and even their backgrounds, the game also seems to use a touch of fog to add to the atmosphere to help create a lonely feel to it.

Metroid Prime (GameCube/Wii)

Metroid Prime’s level design is all connected to each other with only a few doors requiring specific items to open them before you can progress through the game, but the game makes you feel lonely by using really small rooms and hallways, the game also uses a small amount of fog in the outside area’s especially in the areas where there is snow.

Silent Hill (PlayStation)

Silent Hill’s level design just screams loneliness as you travel on your own in a fog filled snowing town and small corridors as you try to survive against different zombies. The outside area’s use snow and fog to give off a feel of danger being close at any point but also makes your feel alone with an endless fog, meanwhile feeling closed off and trapped within small corridors that you feel like there is nowhere to go to make you feel helpless and lost.

Question: How can you portray a feel of loneliness using Level Design?

From the research that I have gathered I have learned that most games use colours that give a feel for emptiness like whites, blacks and greys to make the player feel empty and to add to that they also often use fogs to add to the feeling of being alone and help create an isolation between the player and the surrounding environment, yet to add to this they also use closed off tiny area’s to make the player feel claustrophobic. So for my experiment, like my previous experiment I will be creating a level screen shot based off a few reference images and what I had found from my research.

Reference Images

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

End Result

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were two different ending results for this experiment when it came to creating this. the first one that was created was the lighter version where I was focusing on getting an Icey feel with the different blues and whites to create the feel that limbo does with its different greys and different tones, the trees in the foreground of both images are both dark oak trees which are commonly found in forests where i focused on their shading to make it look natural. The fog was created using a front layer of grey with darker greys mixed in to add different thicknesses and then using the opacity slider to create its see through look. The snow was the easiest to make by using really light blues and making it look like there are a few lumps of snow. Now the darker one was done by using the brightness slider to try and add to the feel of loneliness which I believe worked alot better.


From this experiment, I have continued to further my skill when creating pixel art and helped me improve my knowledge on shading, colour and Photoshop, this will help me when I figure out ways to create my final major project. I was proud with how my experiment turned out especially with all the positive feedback from my peers with most of them saying they can really get the feeling of loneliness try from looking at that image.


komputerwel. (2013) True Gaming – Reddit – Loneliness in games. Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/truegaming/comments/18wi9o/loneliness_in_games/ (Accessed: 24th January 2017).

Playdead (2010) Limbo [Video game]. Playdead.

Playdead (2010) LIMBO – Trailer. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4HSyVXKYz8 (Accessed: 24th January 2017).

Retro Studios (2002) Metroid Prime [Video game]. Nintendo.

TRR010 (2014) Metroid Prime – 1:13 100% Speedrun. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHSc1p5A8yI (Accessed: 24th January 2017).

Team Silent (1999) Silent Hill [Video game]. Konami.

SHN Survival Horror Network (2015) Silent Hill Walkthrough Longplay Gameplay Lets Play No Commentary. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X4ZW6bvyt4 (Accessed: 24th January 2017).

Stinkypuppy. (No Date Given) Snow Forest-Main.jpg. Available at: http://nodiatis.wikia.com/wiki/Snow_Forest?file=Snow_Forest-Main.jpg (Accessed/downloaded: 24th January 2017).

Unsplash. (No Date Given) foggy forest mystery fog landscape. Available at: https://pixabay.com/en/foggy-forest-mystery-fog-landscape-1149180/ (Accessed/downloaded: 24th January 2017).