Embrace The Dark: Gamma Screen Gratitude

By Alec Meer on January 14th, 2011 at 1:42 pm.

I tried to make a version that preserved colour information in case someone bothered to undarken it BUT I FAILED

Late to the party as usual, I’ve been giving Amnesia a brief spin this week. I’m afraid I can’t tough out the acting much longer (I must refer again to my recent rantette on such matters) but, y’know, good stuff in general.

What I definitely appreciate it for is a tiny little thing, just one single screen. It’s something I’ve always loved about any scary game worth its salt – that pre-play settings/advice screen that firmly suggets the ideal conditions for it to become suitably fearful. “For the best experience…” Yes, yes! I want that. Tell me more.

You’re probably familiar with messages like these:

“Adjust your screen so the square on the left is barely visible.”
“For best results listen using headphones.”
“Draw the curtains, turn off the lights, turn off anything else that makes a noise.”

Sir, yessir! I do it gladly, and painstakingly, every single time I’m asked. My gamma is anyone’s. My headphones yearn to be told what to do.

Give me this:

Not this:

Sure, it’s a little contrived, it’s always variations upon a theme, and it’s obvious fear/immersion factors rather than any great insight into this game or human psychology, but whenever I see it I feel like the game-makers care just that little bit more about their game. They don’t just want you to blast through to end then buy the DLC. They want you to experience something particular. They want to get into your head. They want you to play the game as they intended it to be played.

It’s base-level auteurdom, very much creator-knows-best, but it always works on me, even for lousy games. It’s not just tinkering with gamma settings: it’s a clear statement that “you are about to have an experience.”

It couldn’t be more different than tweaking settings yourself – mucking around with anisotropic filtering and shadow quality and whatnot is tailoring the game to what you think it should be, rather than to suit the stentorian omniscience of THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE that a brightness and sound adjustment pre-game screen presents.

I know many games have done it, but my useless memory’s come up short. AvP? Thief 3? Doom 3? Reminisce about those you know of below, please. Ah yes, there’s Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth (thanks Schtee):

I suppose many people must just ignored such a plea, perhaps because they don’t care, they can’t really see the difference between those two grey squares, because they just want to get the hell to the game already, or they’re massive wimps who really are afraid of the dark. They’re missing out. It’s the gaming equivalent of buying popcorn and putting your feet up on the back of the chair in front of you. Settling in, creating the conditions necessary to full give yourself to this thing.

I earnestly wish more games did it, and that those that did set out their preferred conditions in greater detail. Tell me how you think I’m going to most enjoy this, a little more sense of how you thought and felt while you created it, rather than leaving me to the mercy of my own uncouth Settings whims.

I want suggested smells, a recommended wine, what colour room it’s best played in, what music I should listen to first… I won’t pretend I’ll necessary prefer it all to my own such choices, but I’d love to at least try the intended context.

Here’s the liner notes from Gil Scott Heron’s excellent 2010 record I’m New Here (on Spotify here for EU types), which are pretty much exactly what I’m on about:

Exactly.
Everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.
Even her or him.
Think about what you got.

Gil knows what he’s talking about. It’s not demanding anything unusual, it’s not being aggressively precious: it’s just making it clear that he would very much like your full attention as you consume his creation.

Turn that phone off. Sign out of Messenger. Shut the cat out.
Darken your screen. Put your headphones on.

Do what you’re bloody told, yeah? It’s worth it.

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92 Comments »

  1. Nighthood says:

    Personally, I’d say Amnesia could have done with something that stopped you from just pausing the game willy nilly. Even with the curtains closed, lights off, and headphones on loud, I still felt I could easily give the nightmare a break whenever I chose to.I chose to a LOT.

    I agree with the article though, more games need that little message, even games that aren’t scary. STALKER is so much better if you open a window and make it really cold in your room, with the smell of fresh air wafting through. Really adds to the atmosphere.

    • Kidmonkey says:

      Man i can see what you’re saying about needing a break, but i don’t want to lose an hour or whayever of progress just cause the doorbell rang

    • Lack_26 says:

      You could remove the Esc key.

    • KillahMate says:

      (double post)

    • KillahMate says:

      Heh, that STALKER tip is great; next time I’m playing it that way.

      But this is all just a matter of respect towards the creator of the game you just spent your money on. My friends often make fun of me for spending so much time in the Options/Settings before I play a game for the first time, but why wouldn’t I want to get the maximum of Experience from it? And I’m one of the gamers for whom The Experience is paramount.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Whilst I fully approve of darkening the room for a MAXIMUM HORROR experience, it might induce greater eye-strain than a properly-lit room. Which sucks. :( As for this Stalker tip, jesus people, you’ll get a cold?

      /health and safety

      (No I’m not doing this to be an arse, just looking to provide a little balance. I completely agree with the sentiments GSH is putting across, though, as I’d hope people would do the same for my album – which is available now and free to stream from Bandcamp, by the way! ;)

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I have to post this here too as a warning:

      @Alec
      When you use the two screenshots, one with “Give me this”, and the other with “Not this”, the “not this” one is the correct one!
      See, what you ask developers to do, is to add a function to the game, to twist back what you messed up at the OS and hardware level.
      The problem is, that your display, like nearly all consumer LCDs, suffers from gross white-out when not calibrated. And you failed to calibrate it properly or at all.
      So the LCD twists everything to white, the OS just maps things 1:1, and you’re asking the game to map things back to normal.
      That is very very wrong, and you will agree.

      The reason I know this so well, is because I still use CRTs, and I am extremely particular about proper calibration. I know my setup is not only perfect, but thanks to self-developed technology automatically re-calibrated to room lighting conditions every few seconds. And the amount of black-out videos and pictures is rising like crazy since everyone got cheap LCDs. You can’t see shit.
      I usually don’t have to raise gamma for games, when the developer also used proper gamma. And professional graphics designers tend to have that. Usually with the help of a Spyder calibration device. But even some professionals fail at this. So I am forced to set my gamma to the wrong levels more and more often.

      Please please please calibrate your screen properly, then check your post again, and post a correction. I can’t stand how you unintentionally even supported that horrible white-out epidemic. :/

    • BAReFOOt says:

      @Casimir’s Blake: Uuuum, I thought it was assumed that you’d wear something appropriate when playing with an open window. Also, you never ever catch a cold from cold weather alone. A “cold” is a virus. If you don’t come in contact with a virus, you can’t catch it. Ever. All that can happen is hypothermia, which also weakens the immune system. But your just pack yourself is something warm, and move a bit (helps the immune system), and it will even help your immune system become stronger. :)

      But I definitely will try recreating the games’ atmospheres in my living room the next time. I think I’ll start with Crysis in the summer. Spread sand on the floor, buy some palms, raise humidity… ;))
      Although if I’d be on that island in RL, I’d very likely run around barefoot all the time. :)

    • Lilliput King says:

      Great Stalker tip!

      Smells of manure most of the time round here though, not quite the right ambience.

    • gwathdring says:

      Reply fail; wasn’t supposed to be one. :P

    • thebigJ_A says:

      What on Earth are you talking about, barefoot? The first image is dark but crisp, as the game intends. The second has the gamma turned way up. You can’t really be arguing for turning the gamma all the way up, can you?

      If you think that’s the way the game should look, maybe your CRT monitor is letting you down or something, idk, because you are wrong.

  2. Lack_26 says:

    Remember kids, orders are orders and orders are to be obeyed at all times, without question.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      YES, SIR! I mean, NO SIR! I mean…

    • Bret says:

      What about if a renegade interrupt comes up midway through?

    • Lack_26 says:

      Then you’ve probably just been thrown through a window, follow your orders until you hit the ground.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Coren says:

    Glad to head I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    I’m pretty sure Riven did this, too. And not just the brightness thing. I distinctly remember something about sound samples and turning up the volume, too. And I finetuned both sound and image, *every single time*, because It Was Important.
    Riven was all about immersion, playing it under less than optimal circumstances would have been heresy.

    • Polysynchronicity says:

      Riven did indeed do this, and so did all the other Cyan games that I remember.

      Alas I’m currently using a screen so dark that even maximum brightness is too dim. :(

  4. Mctittles says:

    Yes! I too love this.

    Just recently I played through S.T.A.L.K.E.R SOC and found it very scary in parts. I recommended it to my roommate and found him playing it with the volume barley up, the television turned on, all the lights on, and the screen brightness turned up to make up for the glare of lights being on.

    He was enjoying it, so I suppose that’s good, but I couldn’t help but cringe at his playing environment ruining the great atmosphere I experienced in my playthrough.

  5. Kidmonkey says:

    Also if i buy an album i’ll listen to whatever it under whatever conditions i fucking well feel like.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Ooh, get you!

    • Kidmonkey says:

      I’m actually listening to this record right now due to this post, its pretty great. But i have intense intense problems with people telling me what to do, so those liner notes rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      No one is telling you what to do. You are suggested with optimum conditions for the best experience. Many people forget about it and just consume stuff without giving it a proper thought. Honestly, I could’ve just copied and pasted the article again here in the comments so that you would actually read it, but it’d make me sad.

    • KillahMate says:

      If you don’t think the guy knows what he’s talking about then why the hell did you buy his album?

    • Premium User Badge

      Richard Beer says:

      It’s not someone telling you what to do, it’s a recipe; it’s an instruction manual; it’s guidelines; it’s someone with experience offering you advice on how to get the most out of the product you’ve just purchased.

      If that pushes all your buttons, you may have a few authority issues you should work out before they needlessly ruin your life!

    • Kidmonkey says:

      There is a difference in tone between the other items in the article and the liner notes there. Sure there is a line “for optimum enjoyment” but after that its all imperative. If i’m assembling an ikea cabinet thats fine, but otherwise, eh.

    • Kidmonkey says:

      @Doesntmeananything Just the tone that rubbed me wrong, i didn’t mind it in say CoC.

      @KillahMate I didn’t buy it, i’m listening to it on youtube. That and again, regardless if he knows what he’s talking about or not, just the way it was said, the tone, was what bothered me.

      @Richard Beer well i do have some bad issues with authority but i keep them really well in check most of them time. Sneering and going “pfff fuck that” when i see a jpeg on the internet, its not exactly on my list of things i need to keep in check. If you get what i mean?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Did it occur to you that Gil may have been using humour?

    • Kidmonkey says:

      @Teddy
      i didn’t get that vibe at all (obviously)

    • Mctittles says:

      I remember having a NIN Broken cassette that had a warning on it:

      caution: not for use with mono devices.

    • westyfield says:

      @ Teddy Leach
      It doesn’t look like humour to me, and the article would suggest that it didn’t occur to Alec either.
      I appreciate that he’s trying to help his listeners have the optimum listening experience, but I for one can’t concentrate on music alone. I listen whilst reading, or working, or anything that isn’t nothing at all.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      Coulda just said: *Serving suggestion.

      Mind you, I’ve been pretty pissed off at my cereals before. Fucking Nanas. Shreddies you bastards I’m gunna come to your factory and prove that nanas are in no way involved in the manufacture of your cereal product. Who would want old people handling their food anyway? I don’t get it! It’s not even your nana, just a random other nana! Even if it was your nana, it’s still undesirable! On what basis did anyone think that was a good idea? They must have been scraping the barrel by 11am on that meeting. GAAH!

      Ahem. I tend to give each game it’s due. Some games lend themselves to a more attuned and complete experience than others. There are very few MMOs or RPGs I’ve played where I kept their music on over my own library.

    • noodlecake says:

      I totally agree with Gil. :)

      I have a couple of friends that listen to new albums on random and never get to appreciate it as it was made. Bugs the hell out of me for some reason. It shouldn’t. It’s just that if you were to listen to, for example, Kid A by Radiohead it just doesn’t work as an album when played in the wrong order. :/

    • Matt says:

      @Mctittles: that was because they put some audio elements out of phase, so if listened to on a mono device those sounds would just drop out of the mix completely.

  6. G says:

    In general Gil does know what he’s talking about.

  7. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    The way Mr. Heron approaches this is to be lauded, sure. But there’s also something to be said about how Nirvana did this, that makes it a statement in and on itself.

  8. JuJuCam says:

    I’m pretty sure Batman: AA does it, for a recent big name title.

    I definitely agree that if you’re playing a game that is specifically designed around atmosphere and immersion, you owe it to yourself to play it only in the optimum conditions to promote such immersion.

    To do otherwise would be to rob the game of much of it’s power and worth. It’d be like playing a multiplayer game only in single player vs bots and declaring it boring and repetitive.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Same here. The developers know more about the game than you so it’s woth listening and a suggested setting cuts down on the time that you spend fiddling with the settings to find the optimum conditions.

  9. Shazbut says:

    It’s basically a way of saying, “My work contains subtlety. Unlike most things out there.”

    Because they can’t say that, they do this. I highly approve, even if I might not always take the direction, because I assume that less sophisticated games couldn’t copy it. You wouldn’t have McDonalds saying, “We highly recommend you savour every mouthful of our delicious burgers with your eyes closed and in a calm and quiet environment”, because they wouldn’t want to make us more aware that the food actually tastes like minced entrails and cardboard.

    • palican says:

      Excellent, exactly right! Each burger should have a label that reads: “snouts and hooves should be enjoyed in optimum conditions. Bright lights, lots of screaming children, random noise, cars honking, the more distractions the better.”

  10. necromental says:

    BING!! MICROSOFT ACHIEVEMENT! it’s like a sneeze or twitch…

  11. Mechorpheus says:

    Call of Cthulu should also come with a message informing the player that they should be prepared to complete the game within their own imagination, as it’ll fail at some point around the 8 hour mark just to REALLY irritate. Can’t think of another game I’ve felt so angry about the game-breaking bugs, as every time I try it something obscure hits just as I’m really getting into it.

    Anyone who knows how to make that damn game work properly, let me know. Aching to finish the damned thing. Furthest I’ve ever gotten was that damned ‘shoot the lights (which naturally don’t appear) with the ship cannon’ bit.

    • fuggles says:

      The key to getting past that is downloading a save game off of the interwebs and in my case a trainer for the end game bug that is still to come ^^

  12. faelnor says:

    “It’s the gaming equivalent of buying popcorn and putting your feet up on the back of the chair in front of you.”

    VS.

    “Everything that rings or beeps or rattles or whistles.”

    If you are the kind of person who buys popcorn at the cinema, you don’t even deserve to play good games.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Let’s make this a law. Everyone who’s ever bought the delicious industry-standard traditional cinema snack beloved of millions for decades, you’re not allowed to play good games anymore! IT IS LAW.

      Sigh.

    • faelnor says:

      That’s precisely what I’m trying to say Alec!

    • Rich says:

      Blow it out of your arse faelnor.
      If they sell the stuff at the door, eating it must be an approved practice. Indeed, as Alec said, it’s one that has been enjoyed for decades. If you want a totally popcorn free cinema, I suggest you build your own.

      I like mine sweetened, thanks.

    • kastanok says:

      “If you are the kind of person who buys popcorn at the cinema, you don’t even deserve to play good games.”

      It should be the £12.99 World Tour bento box or nothing at all ;)

    • Xercies says:

      Been reading Mark Kermode rules? Well blow it out his arse because I don’t have a problem with popcorn to be honest its not noisy enough.

      Also anyone who likes Salty popcorn shouldn’t even be allowed to exist.

    • Premium User Badge

      phlebas says:

      Popcorn is fine. Provided you take it into an appropriately unsubtle movie and only interact with it during the loud bits. Otherwise it’s a big obnoxious immersion-breaker.
      (And of course it’s approved by the management. It makes them money. Doesn’t mean it’s conducive to enjoying an atmospheric film.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      oh man I could go for some popcorn right about now.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I thought the same thing when I read that bit. Not because of it being particularly noisy or disruptive to everyone else (except the pricks that lob it around the place), but because you would have to be insane to pay the prices. A drink and popcorn costs more than the ticket! If I had the choice between that and another trip to the cinema, I know which I’ll pick. It is also infurating in a Vue waiting in the queue behind people who are all buying food when you just want a ticket.

      And there is nothing wrong with salty.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      I’m an avid cinema goer and my cinema-enjoyment fears are entirely based on the staff of the cinema’s incompetence than any infractions that the other patrons might happen to make during a film. I’d rather have a room of Crusty Jugglers than see another film with the edges cropped or the focus off or the sound fucked or the aspect ratio incorrectly managed or any number of utter-buggerups that seem to happen on a routine basis. There’s really no point in even pretending I’m remaining on topic about games here. But consider it some sort of elaborate parabel. Parabul? Instanbul? No thanks, I’m agoraphobic.

  13. Tei says:

    I normally have my monitor sets to a gamma value slighty high than necessary, that is ugly to my eyes, but I tryiing to see too dark images is bad for the eyes. Then, wen I play a game that is about all dark areas, I put less ambient light on the room.

  14. Tiddles says:

    Ahhh, those long winter nights…

    Pop on some big headphones, turn the lights off and play some Thief.

    I find a big mug of tea and a plate of biscuits to be the strategy gaming equivalent of adjusting the gamma.

  15. ThomasGrip says:

    I must admit the Gamma screen is a bit of an obsession of mine. What is a bit annoying that many games do have it, have it all wrong and if followed you get an extremely white game (so I hope ours turned out okay).

    I am also annoyed that no movies come with a gamma setup.

    Then there is of course all other sorts of problems that make dear old gamma screen fail.

    In case anybody as a slight interest, I wrote a blog post about it:
    http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2009/11/struggle-between-light-and-dark.html

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      I love this optical illusion! See others like it, but that one’s particularly good.

      My monitor’s pretty ancient, so I get used to winding up the brightness/gamma just to make stuff visible. But the one thing your post reminded me of was a level in DOOM (sorry, forget which) where you had to venture into a room populated by invisible demons that was pitch black (possibly with erratically blinking lights). You could hear them, but not see them. It transformed a standard pinky-shoot into a room I was afraid to go into. Great use of atmosphere.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      That illusion (or I guess the real illusion is in my brainstuffs) is utterly compelling. You can break the distinction if you stare at A for a while, mindful of B slowly changing to ‘match’. It’s fucking impressive, and really captures my attention for sure.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      What am I looking for in that illusion? I just see a checkered floor with a shadow on it.

      @Thomas: Just so you know, I will buy anything you guys make, after seeing all the potential Penumbra had (not to say it wasn’t really good) fulfilled in Amnesia. Thanks for the unique experience!

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      Sorry: lined to the image without the explanatory text. The ‘illusion’ is that the squares labelled A and B are actually the same colour (or brightness), but look anything but (to me at least). I had to blank out the rest of the screen with my hands before I could convince my brain that they were!

  16. JohnnyMaverik says:

    What always annoys me about the Gamma instructions is that they always seem to go one degree too dark (not the correct term for that I’m guessing). It’s always past shadowy and into the realms of looking a little weird.

  17. Berzee says:

    Dear all: bah.

  18. Rich says:

    Until I bought my new monitor, I always had to turn the gamma and brightness way up just to see in slightly dim areas, let alone dark bits.

  19. kyrieee says:

    If let Amnesia be as dark as that top picture I would get eyestrain playing it. I really hate it when games are too dark, not because it’s more scary, it’s just so annoying.

  20. loshon says:

    Alright, I give in, I’m buying Amnesia. I had been holding off thus far, because I absolutely hate scary games and movies, but that screenshot at the top of the page there is just too perfect.

  21. Jake says:

    Those rules could apply to a lot of media – I can’t tolerate the idea of watching a film with the lights on and people talking and advert breaks. I played Penumbra in a dark room at 3am with headphones on in an empty house and it was really effective, I was pretty ruined. This is also the only acceptable way to watch horror films – for some films it is OK to eat popcorn in a noisy cinema, but there are other films – especially horror – where it detracts from the atmosphere, if you ask me. And obviously people that talk during films are worse than zombie Hitlers.

  22. frenz0rz says:

    Im not really the sort of person who can simply sit there and listen to music or podcasts, regardless of how much I like them. I’ve always got to be doing something, preferably something mundane or repetative that occupies the part of my brain that needs to be occupied, whilst simultaneously appreciating what im listening to. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with gaming.

    In my early to mid teens when I was knee deep in my love of vanilla WoW, soloing and grinding would often be accompanied by listening to the latest album I’d purchased, or one of the regular live podcasts and radio shows I used to listen to. These two activities, gaming and listening, has resulted in some pleasant and oddly unique twinges of nostalgia that have long since been etched into my mind; for example, I can no longer listen to ‘Die With Your Boots On’ by Iron Maiden without thoughts of riding around the forests of Feralas on my wolf, leaping over logs and exploring ancient ruins; Trivium’s ‘Ascendancy’ conjures images of Zul Gurub, and roaming around Stranglethorn Vale; and BFMV’s ‘The Poison’ summons memories of killing endless waves of things in Outland, no doubt in reward for other things. I’ve long since stopped playing WoW, as you’ve no doubt gathered, but these first experiences of some of the most important albums of my youth (dont laugh) have become irreparably linked in my mind to the gaming experiences in which I first enjoyed them.

    I’ve also found certain other games which, often due to their simplicity, simply require me to be listening to or doing something else at the same time, for the same reason as before; my brain needs to be occupied. Torchlight is the most recent example of this; a fun game that quickly gets boring and repetative for me, but becomes a fine way to spend an evening when accompanied by a good podcast, a few beers and a bag of salted peanuts.

  23. Handsome Dead says:

    Dead To Rights Retribution has the gamma screen.

    Atmospheric as fuck hell yeah

  24. Persus-9 says:

    I sometimes wish “Remember to turn off all achievement notifications.” was flashed up on screen before I settle down to play a game. I recall being catapulted out of the Fallout 3 experience a couple of times by getting pats on the back from bloody GFWL.

  25. Baf says:

    I have a cautionary story to tell about the Mystiverse title “Uru: The Path of the Shell” (which I played when it was released along with the rest of the original Uru Live content as a standalone game). The first time you play Uru, it gives you a gamma-settings screen. I followed this to the letter, then forgot about it. However, by the time I got around to playing PotS, I had done some upgrading of my display hardware, throwing off my gamma adjustment without my noticing it. Consequently, things were too dark for me to see a completely essential clue, resulting in extreme stuckness and frustration, followed by exasperation of the worst sort when I found out the stupid reason for it.

  26. Davie says:

    When I first downloaded the Amnesia demo, it was a warm July day and the sun was streaming in through the window. I saw the message and obligingly spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to hang a dark towel over my window without the use of nails or the installation of a curtain rod, and the final effect was suitably dark and foreboding. However, the atmosphere was ruined by the fact that the game never topped 6 frames per second. Damn my computer.

    I do enjoy these kinds of settings, though. It’s rare that one encounters a game that’s genuinely scary in parts, and I want to do everything I can to make sure I soak up 100% of that delicious fear.

  27. BAReFOOt says:

    DUUUDE! How about fixing your damn SCREEN GAMMA! The SECOND screen is the proper gamma one! The first one is way too dark! EPIC FAIL!

    • Lilliput King says:

      The first looks ludicrously dark to me, too.

    • Rhin says:

      agree. in a dark room (especially if you’ve been in there and your eyes have adjusted, the moonlight and the lighter hallway should be a few notches brighter.

      Also, WTF, the moonlight is bright enough to show dust-beams from the window, but the hallway across from the window is pitch-black? I HATE it when a game makes an area gratuitously black and especially so if said area should realistically be one of the brightest parts on the screen.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      What are you on about? The second one is way too bright. The first image, when at fullscreen, is perfect. You can see what you are supposed to see, and can make out the things in the shadows if you look hard enough.

      Remember, one of the main mechanics in the game is a lantern. Things are supposed to be too dark to see clearly. It’s effing night time in a castle, with no lights.

      @Rhin, If you look close, you can see the moonlight on the floor. It’s very obvious when you play the game. The moon is high in the sky, so the angle of the light doesn’t reach across the hall.

  28. The Dude says:

    You know, I’m usually one of those people who advocates the merit of giving an album your undivided attention, and I have done it very many times.

    But… I don’t really recall most of those times. On the other hand, this one time, when Pink Floyd got to the good part of Echoes, I saw a fucking rainbow with a fucking girl on the roof of the tallest building in the neighborhood. And this other time, we were playing this other folk song on the radio, and dad hummed along, and it started raining. And this other time… you know.

    • gwathdring says:

      I know what you mean. But sort of in line with my post below, I still think that doing things like that sort of gives us a benchmark for attention and appreciation. Associations are what really give things power in hindsight, not an hour of sitting alone. But I think that hour is important for other reasons; it’s what makes reading so great. You get to escape into a fantastic world for a while, but you also get to rest, recharge, and recalibrate yourself by focusing on something so exclusively. It’s also why I get rather confused by a lot of the complaints people bring up about video games. Gaming can do a lot for your attentive processes and your ability to focus. It can also be just a really relaxing or at least refreshing thing to sit down and do for a few hours. That’s important. But you’re right.

      I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to listen to music. I just think it’s good to do SOMETHING like that regularly. Not necessarily music.

  29. gwathdring says:

    When I buy an album, I usually listen to it all the way through the first time I can. It just feels nice. I know a lot of people can’t just sit there and do nothing but listen to music, so I wouldn’t recommend it as the “proper way” to listen to an album. I also have a tendency to read instruction manuals just because. And most of an instruction manual just tells you the obvious stuff, so I wouldn’t recommend reading them cover to cover … I consider it one of my useful quirks. But music is an experience in itself for me, so I like to just absorb it as well as best I can on it’s own merits. And I think it’s important to have something that you do without any distractions and really just dig into. It could be reading, could be watching movies in theaters or a home cinema, could be listening to new albums end to end in your room, could be digesting a new video game in a dark,quiet room with the surround sound turned up; but I think it’s important to have something you always experience in isolation. From a purely psychological standpoint, we get worse at multitasking the more we do it, so the best way to cope with a multitasking world is to set aside the time to focus on something in particular to exercise your executive attention. From a philosophical standpoint, we are creatures of relativity: we lose something in our ability to appreciate things happening all at once in the world if we don’t set aside time to appreciate at least a few of them in isolation. It keeps us psychologically and otherwise primed for meaningful experience.

  30. Hematite says:

    Alec, you need to post a gamma calibration image so we can all configure our monitors to correctly interpret your snobbishness.

    With my tastefully low gamma settings I can only infer that the two images are of the same scene because I can see some candles in the same place in both images. The rest of the first one is completely black.

  31. Ravenger says:

    LCDs, particually TN panels are terrible for dark games like Amnesia or Thief. Blacklight bleed, terrible contrast, and in the case of TN panels 6-bit posterised colour make dark games look awful.

    I had to buy a new monitor to play Thief because my old TN panel LCD turned all the dark colours into a splodgy mess. It looked like it was running in badly converted 256 colours.

    The IPS panel monitor I’ve got now is much better, but that still doesn’t have enough contrast to do dark games justice. It’s also got an irritating polarisation glow that is visible if you sit close to the screen, so I have to push the monitor right back to minimise it.

    I think we’ll have to wait for high-res OLED panels to become affordable before we can get as good an experience on a flat panel playing dark games, as we did on the old CRTs.

  32. gwathdring says:

    Huh. I used the on screen instructions, and I got something that looks a hell of a lot more like the second image. I guess it depends on how you interpret “barely visible” and “clearly visible.” I like how mine is calibrated. It’s plenty creepy without being too dark.

  33. thebigJ_A says:

    What was wrong with Amnesia’s voice acting? I mean, maybe it wasn’t stand-out great, but it also wasn’t bad enough for me to ever notice. Ever.

    I actually really liked the voice of… well, to not spoil anything, the guy you hear your character conversing with in the audio flashbacks. That guy sounded perfect for his role.

    In summary, the voice acting was fine, not great, but fine. Everything else was done so perfectly that I could excuse it even if it were bad, anyway.

  34. The Dark One says:

    I liked the liner notes for the album Jarvis, telling you not to read the lyrics as you listened to the thing for the first time.

    • Cthulhuboy says:

      That’s written on the liner notes of all of Pulp’s albums. Jarvis Cocker is another one who knows what he’s talking about.

  35. Steven says:

    The top picture is indeed the correct one IMO, if you have played the game, taken the risk of venturing into the pitch black, you will see that once in the blackness it sort of… lights up ever so slightly, making the surroundings eerily visible. It might be their attempt at mimicing the pupil in the eye? or maybe I’m just hallucinating? I completely agree with Alec, it’s quite simple that if you give something your undivided attention and are truly in the mood for it, you’re going to pick up on all the subtle sounds, movements or other details that really are the icing on the cake.

  36. outoffeelinsobad says:

    TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME

  37. Cthulhuboy says:

    The problem I’m having with my monitor (A multifunction LG M2294D-PZ) is when you enter an especially dark area in a game, or one with low contrast, the screen dims even further, making it difficult to play games like Penumbra or Amnesia (which I’m otherwise loving!)

    I’m not sure what it is – an energy saving thing, dynamic contrast or just a fault, but it’s REALLY BLOODY ANNOYING, and I cannot resolve it no matter what I do to the settings.

    Anyone have any ideas? Other than flogging it on Ebay and getting something better.

    But perhaps its not the monitor but a video card setting? I have an ATI Radeon HD5770 connected via DVI.Though I didn’t have this problem with a cheapo analogue-only 22 inch monitor connected via a DVI-2-VGA adaptor that I was temporarily using.

  38. lord battenberg says:

    This game is F*****g awesome! Its the only game that i love yet purposely put off playing cos i know im gona shit myself :P

    Best set up:
    Small Dark room – Check
    Headset w/mic (incase i get too scared :P) – Check
    No one else in the house – Check
    Open door Behind (dont know why but its creepier) – Check
    Cafiter Bag/ Adult Nappy -…..BRB!

    I do wish there was a mod that would let you fight the molesterising monster back xD

    oh yeah and listen to gloomy sunday or some other deppressing song on loop :P

    • esca8652 says:

      I don’t know if you’ve tried playing the game with the original music but if you haven’t I’d highly suggest because it really does add a good atmosphere to the game. If you really don’t like it then some band suggestions I can make might be Nortt (very, very dark and disturbing music), Forgotten Tomb (particularly the song Springtime depression)- for a depressive song. Some other bands that you should definitely check into Gris (look up “Gris black metal” to find it), Life is pain, Hypothermia, Cryfemal (for the grueling sounding guitars).

      P.S.- All of the aforementioned bands are WAAAAY more “gloomy” than the song “gloomy sunday”. You are in for a definite change in atmosphere

    • esca8652 says:

      Shit, nevermind, Nortt is fucking scary with or without playing the game. I really haven’t tried playing it with the game though. Powerful music!