The Neverending Stairway: SCP-087

By Adam Smith on February 21st, 2012 at 12:50 pm.

This is how my landing looks when I want to get up for a drink in the middle of the night

BOO! SCP-087 (direct download link only) is a Unity-based first-person horror game that involves walking down some stairs, through a random number of floors with random horrible noises and events occurring. It’s the kind of stairway you might find in a House of Leaves. Incredibly simple and far too dark but with sound design decent enough that I just became too nervous to carry on my descent and quit. But I’m a coward and perhaps you’re not. If you don’t know what SCP stands for in this context, read on.

The game might make a little more sense if you read this page at the SCP site first.

The SCP Foundation is a site that has been giving me the heebie-jeebies for a few years now, blending the fantastical and the horrific with the deadpan. It portrays itself as a catalogue of mysterious objects and places, all of which are secured and contained for the protection of the public. With redacted passages, missing details and photos, it’s of the ‘let’s pretend it’s real even though it clearly isn’t’ school of horror and to many people it’s probably the daftest thing they’ve ever seen, but as a keen advocate of daft things, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Mostly I just admire the imagination on display, although occasionally an entry does make me glance over my shoulders repeatedly and feel as if I’m covered in spiders, which seems to be my main response to any unnerving sense of otherworldly danger. I’d be absolutely useless in a crisis, particularly an otherworldly one. If I’m not feeling terrified and uncomfortable, my other response is to fall over, curl into a ball and remain completely silent.

It's quite dark

When I played Amnesia, I actually considered making a home for myself in a prison cell that had become a temporary hiding place from some rotten wanderer in the dark. After a couple of hours of self-imposed exile, compacted into an area best described as a ‘dank cranny’, I’d convinced myself that I could really make the space work for me because I sure as taxes wasn’t going to leave.

The thing is, I love being scared and I love that I’m so easily scared. If terror was candy, my own bedroom at night would be the biggest candystore imaginable. So, the SCP site is the second thing thing provided for everyone to explore in this post and it’s a lovely shop selling pear drops and sherbert dips.

The third inclusion is a Steam group wherein fellows of sinister aspect discuss creating more games based on the SCP entries. There are a few linked and discussions about future projects. This one experiment is a little flimsy by itself, but a kind of interactive gallery of entries could be quite impressive. If you have any favourite SCP links of your own, do drop them in below. I’m sure at least some of you have heard of it before.

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84 Comments »

  1. Stuart Walton says:

    I am reading House of Leaves at the moment and it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this ‘game’.

    • Nathan_G says:

      One of my favourite books of all time, always surprised me there weren’t more/any game-based tributes to it.

      Definitely have to have a look at this when I get home tonight.

    • 0rpheus says:

      It’s a stunner. Seems to be a Marmite book though, provoking as many horrified reactions as it does positive ones, but I loved it.

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      Oozo says:

      It’s mentioned by level designers as an inspiration, though. (I am certain that it was name-checked in Gillen’s “Cradle”-piece, because that’s what got me to read the book. But I vaguely remember having read similar claims by other designers as well.)

      Even though there are not many direct tributes, it crept its way into the mind of industry folks, is what I’m trying to say.

    • ninjapirate says:

      I just added “House of Leaves” to my Amazon wishlist, ;o)

    • Harvey says:

      oh, how i hated house of leaves! bunch of farting about turning the book in circles, and having to jump back and forth ruined my sense of immersion. Gimmicky and bad, imo.

    • Angel Dust says:

      I thought ‘House of Leaves’ was an effective enough spooky house story, and while the unconventional layout and typography was more than a little gimmicky, they did have their moments. What killed the book for me was the tedious footnotes. Now, I have no problem with footnotes per se* but most of the footnotes in ‘House Of Leaves’ seemed to boil down to two types:
      a) Bogus references to texts that don’t actually exist. Some of these are funny but it’s pretty much the same joke over and over and over.
      b) The interminable faux-Palahniuk (who I’m not a huge fan of either) ramblings from the dude who ‘found’ this book before you did.
      I love a good slice of avant-garde or post-modernist fiction but I felt ‘House Of Leaves’ was basically a Stephen King novel with a whole bunch of post-modern window dressing.

      * David Foster Wallace is my favourite author, with ‘Infinite Jest’ being my favourite book

    • pasdcvbc says:

      One should be wary of evoking the name of 4Chan lest one summon forth it’s horrific denizens. http://ho.io/3154

    • edit says:

      I loved House of Leaves so much. While I can see how the footnotes could be found to be tedious, one of the strengths of the book in my view is that it practically forces you to proceed through it non-linearly, skipping between footnotes and main text at your own leisure. I missed many of the footnotes on my first reading, probably for the same reasons some might find them tedious, but my advice to new readers is just to follow what you are interested in. If you don’t want to read through all the footnotes right away, skip them. I’ve had great experiences coming back to the book and perusing the things I’d missed and picking up new details and connections.

      I can see why someone might call the book gimmicky, but my own feeling is that every aspect of the book serves it conceptually and makes it one of the most deeply layered and interesting experiences I’ve ever had with a novel. If you can drop your guard a bit when you see all the warped text and just let yourself have the experience, you might find it as exhilarating and evocative as I did. I totally disagree that it’s a Stephen King novel with window dressing. In my experience it’s capable of delivering a MUCH deeper, more absorbing, more memorable, more psychologically affecting experience than anything I’ve read from King.

      I’m about to check out this game.. but it does make me think that a House of Leaves game could be phenomenal, as you could actually do all the shifting and impossible-spaces stuff by procedurally generating the inner parts of the house on the fly.

  2. Jorum says:

    There are a few SCP’s that would make terrifying awesome little exploration games.

  3. Matt says:

    I’m such a wuss that I haven’t even gotten past the main menu screen of Amnesia despite preordering it.

    That SCP wiki is pretty awesome though… I tend to rediscover it every few months and read a few more fake spooky tales late at night.

    • scottyjx says:

      Haha. I haven’t even gotten that far. I’m thoroughly terrified.

    • nizzie says:

      You’re not alone. I preordered Amnesia, and actually managed to play till the Cisterns (~50%). Then I stopped, and never touched it again. Last night I watched a Let’s play until the end. I also loaded up the game in this article, but alt-F4′ed after 5 seconds and watched someone else play it on youtube, with my mouse over the pause button.

      And you know what? I’m going to preorder the next Frictional Game anyway, as soon as it’s available!

  4. Kaira- says:

    I actually think SCP-087B is better. More claustrophobic, even, though it apparently has a game-crashing bug.

    • lordcooper says:

      It runs fine for me, and it really is much better.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      Yeah hah, no, no jump scares please.

      Opressive atmosphere, yeah sure. Scary scenery, bring it. But that first scare chord just about launched me through the roof.

    • kemryl says:

      That is the scariest thing I have ever experienced. Amnesia, Metro 2033, Stalker x18, are all child’s play compared to that. I was much less frightened when I fell nearly to my death out of a tree.

      edit: I assumed the crash was deliberate when it happened

    • essentialatom says:

      It’s all I can do just to watch videos of these games. I’ve made it three flights of stairs into 087 and literally no steps into 087B.

  5. Sentient Waffle says:

    Awesome, often found myself thinking “this could be really creepy if made into a game” when browsing the SCP entries, love that site :)

  6. groovychainsaw says:

    This reminds me of a neat little lovecraftian short story I read a while back about an ‘infinite’ staircase ‘L’esprit de L’escalier’. Of interest for anyone after something vaguely unsettling, if not actually outright horrific.

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    selkcip says:

    My friend played/streamed this, getting to some floor past 100 and the only “exciting” things that happened were a couple shadow figures flying at him.

    • kastanok says:

      I’m yet to play SCP-087 but I have heard it said (possibly by me, to be fair) that excitement is the antithesis of dread. I don’t want things jumping around corners and looking scary, I want my mind to create something infinitely worse.

    • wccrawford says:

      On the other hand, if you -know- nothing is going to happen, then it starts to lose power.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, this comment needs to be deleted. Game ruining spoiler.

      I found that this game bores you into being scared. It goes on for ages, then catches you out by doing exactly what you thought it was going to.

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      SpakAttack says:

      This is misinformation. I had an ‘encounter’ on floor 39 that ended the game – all I’ll say is watch out for a light in the darkness….

    • SiHy_ says:

      These comments do kind of ruin the game for people. It’s much better to go into this game completely blind.
      DrGonzo is right, though. As soon as I started getting complacent I would get a shock.

  8. kastanok says:

    My day has been made (screw mornings golden and true, give me impossible post-post-modern existential dread any day) both for learning of this thing and being reminded of House of Leaves. Perhaps I’ll read a few chapters later today…

  9. jhng says:

    Thanks for the pointer to SPC Foundation — what an awesomely weird site. As if Wikipedia had been founded by Jorge Luis Borges…

  10. lgs says:

    Jump scares are lame

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    equatorian says:

    They should really do the one SCP about the beached Ghost Ship. That strikes me as a fantastic location to explore, eldritch horrors and gruesome deaths or no. Or a game where you’re a D-class who has to clean SCP-173′s cell with another D-class who just keeps doing the wrong things.

    Or they could have SCP-682 released as a COD mod and frustrate screaming teenagers everywhere.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      A 682 game done right could be really interesting- you play the hapless security guard during a containment breach, and you have to puzzle together some way to incapacitate 682 quickly.

  12. Buttonbasher says:

    I would love for a bunch of indie devs to do a SCP Game jam and create something like a short story collection of games in that world.

  13. McDan says:

    Thank you so much for reminding me of the title of the House of Leaves, someone told me about it two years ago but I forgot to write it down! Now that I’ve remembered it I’ll be sure to get it. I’ll try this game as well, even though I’ll probably be too scared to play more than 5 minutes of it, but that’s fine. That SCP thing is great as well. This post has made my day, excellent stuff.

  14. et1337 says:

    My favorite SCP is 093. It’s been mentioned that it would make a freaky and awesome game. Wandering around an alternate reality with massive disgusting thingies absorbing people.

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      Graves says:

      I agree. 93 was one of the first I read and is one of my favorite for it’s creepy weirdness. The slow burn of discovering exactly what is goingon is great, and would make a great little exploration game.

    • Oasx says:

      SCP 93 is the one i would recommend to anyone who visits the site for the first time.

    • Vitruality says:

      Yeah, 93 is the one that got me really hooked on that site. Other favourites are the guy who randomly teleports into other dimensions (SCP-507) and the evil tardis-ship (SCP-455). Both of those would make awesome games.

  15. Lev Astov says:

    OMG OMG! I love the SCP Foundation! I’ve been reading their stuff for years! I’d never even thought to make any of the objects a game! This opens up many possibilities. SCP-087 was always one of my favorites, in fact, along with SCP-093. Very well written creepiness.

  16. Jarenth says:

    So here’s something interesting: I started reading that SCP story you linked. When I got to the first exploration log part, the sound of a kid yelling for their mother picked up outside. It went on for a while, so I tabbed out to go look. The sound instantly stopped.

    So I tabbed back in to continue reading. And the sound picked up again.

    Tabbed back out again. The sound stopped again. I’m… hesistant to continue reading.

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      Graves says:

      D-Jarenth, please continue your investigation of the anomalous sound.

      For Science.

    • Adam Smith says:

      I regret to inform that Janreth should now be referred to as SCP-1970.

    • Jarenth says:

      I know not this Janreth fellow. He sounds handsome, though.

      Sound of children crying for mothers is now coming from all directions at once. Also, I’m pretty sure some of them are whispering stock tips to me. Request advice. Should I invest my savings in this?

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      Graves says:

      Yes, SCP-1970. Take any advice you receive and report the results to either Dr. Graves or Dr. Smith.

    • Kerbobotat says:

      D-1970, please continue your investigation. A note to other researchers involved in the ██████████ Project, be aware that Dr. K██████ and Dr. J████████ are moving the categorization of this experiment to a Class B. As you will note, we have not had such a change in procedure since ██████ to ███████████ ███████ █████ ███ █████ railway lines.

    • Jarenth says:

      Update: Invested in whispered stock options. Bought exactly three-hundred-nine (309) shares at €0.10 each in… actually, I can’t remember the company name anymore. Check notes later?

      Upon purchase, stock price started climbing steadily, over a period of five (5) hours, finally reaching and stabilizing on €1.61803399 per share. Any significance to this number?

      After waiting another three (3) hours with no change in stock price, decided to sell stocks.

      The next day (22-02-2012), I received in payment not the +-€500 I was expecting, but instead five (5) coins. They’re about the size of a two-euro coin, about twice as heavy, and apparently made of gold or gold-like material. One side shows the face of either a man or a woman in deep thought (ratio: 2-3); the other side contains the (Latin?) phrase “Sapientia centus est potentia infinito”.

      The sound of children has abated. In its place has come… a sort of tension, I suppose. Like something is slated to happen. I don’t know. I feel on edge. I feel… I feel I should be writing this down.

      I feel I should be writing something down.

      Please advise.

  17. grundus says:

    Oh wow, I’ve never heard of this SCP thing but thanks to you people I’ve spent the last hour reading some. Reminds me of NERV and the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

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    Graves says:

    The appearance of this article was creepy enough for me. I only just recently discovered the SCP site, and am in the midst of an archive binge. Inundated with the weirdness of the SCP site itself, Seeing RPS (which I have read every day for a long time) make reference to it almost made me start thinking conspiracies.

  19. Eukatheude says:

    Yup, that SCP-087 thing is clearly inspired, if not ripped off, from House Of Leaves.

  20. BobbleHat says:

    I would play this, but I have to walk home through the woods after work tonight.

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    Jackablade says:

    Ah cheers, for the link to SCP. I read a bunch of it years ago and then subsequently forgot what it was called.

  22. Silver says:

    Wasn’t scary at all. Must give another shot with dark room + overamplified speakers..

    But BUT wait!

    If there would be Pyramidhead from SH series chasing you/me , that would really be scaring my pants off :)

  23. Maldomel says:

    That SCP site looks pretty cool (I don’t know if that is the right word to describe it though), but now I am scared to play the game :(

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      MonkeyMonster says:

      thought i’d run it at work (headphones) just to see how bad it was… after reading the case notes as well…..

      hmmm, no, I’m not doing that at work after not even descending 1 floor – I don’t want my co-workers to wonder why there is a gibbering mess sitting next to them. Alas at home I have 5.1 surround headphones. I’ll say my goodbyes now I think…

  24. Grover says:

    Why doesn’t Rock Paper Shotgun acknowledge /v/? Did you even mention the /v/GAs? It’s not like mentioning a board on 4chan is going to kill you.

    EDIT: The group for making further SCP games is a /v/ group, also the guy who made this game goes to /v/ and /v/ popularized it (as well as being the first place Minecraft blew up, but that’s another matter I mention merely to impress upon you how influential /v/ really is).

    • nordsmark says:

      Yeah, I discovered it through a thread on /v/ as well the day the video from Haversine (the creator) was uploaded. I kept going to the different threads and read people discussing how they were working on other SCP games, good stuff. Visiting that board from time to time has made me pick up quite a few games and sites I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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      Jackablade says:

      One should be wary of evoking the name of 4Chan lest one summon forth it’s horrific denizens.

    • Muzman says:

      4chan is actually case SCP-1086b. All containment protocols have thus far failed, however. The board will convene on the matter in the spring.

    • EthZee says:

      I’m also surprised that the /v/GAs weren’t mentioned. Granted, it was a multiplatform event, but as anyone on /v/ will tell you, PC is master race.

      /v/ does seem to pick up on flavour-of-the-month games quite soon before anyone else, it’s a good way of seeing what might be popular in future. (at which point it will become hated on /v/ due to its sudden popularity: see also, Minecraft, Ace of Spades)

  25. Prince says:

    Am I the only one hoping that the soundtrack for this will feature an Asian Limahl?

  26. Iain says:

    Relevant and very creepy short film: The Ten Steps

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    MonkeyMonster says:

    Just reading the case notes can give you the heebies… Good work those people.

  28. nblake42 says:

    ***POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE STAIRCASE GAME THING***

    Just gonna type a sentence here so that wandering eyes won’t accidentally read anything I type. Right, so, does anything happen in this, or is it just a massive loop? I went down to level 51… The first time the shadows moved it freaked me out completely, but then when it just keeps repeating, bleh. Someone mentioned a “game ending event” at level 39, and someone else mentioned “jump scares”, and I’ve experienced neither…are they random events, or do they not exist?

    It’s a lovely little simulator, I have to say, though it’s a shame the sound design is very basic and just gradually layering sounds on top of each other. A bit more consideration and subtlety, periods of silence, and other things like perhaps the sound of someone running up the stairs towards you, would perhaps make the whole thing even more effective!

    • nblake42 says:

      Ahahaha, played a bit more, take it all back. AHAHAHA!

    • nordsmark says:

      Something does happen. I won’t spoil it for you, but just keep going – it’s completely random, so it might happen at any level. And the sound design, well, considering it was made in only 2 days in Unity, you can’t expect a whole lot.

      EDIT: Saw your reply just after I posted my reply, you sneaky bastard!

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      ***SOME SPOILERS IN THIS POST AS WELL*****

      Nblake, props for the inclusion of an extra sentence after a spoiler warning. At least someone realizes that human eyes don’t shut down automatically upon seeing the word “spoiler”.

      As for the game itself, I appreciated the atmosphere, the subtlety of effects and restraint they excercise. The first jump scare hit me really hard – harder than any videogame managed to pull off in a long while.
      Too bad that the rest of the game was just that same scare repeating over and over infinitely. I kept trying to find anything else interesting until floor 102, at which point it became clear that the game was just punishing the player for expecting more from it by making them waste more time.
      But I would love to see the same quality of scares in an actual paid game with actual content.

  29. tanith says:

    Curse you, Mr. Smith.
    Now that I have learned of SCP I became entirely unproductive.
    Furthermore I will not be able to sleep tonight. Or the next few weeks.

  30. nemryn says:

    I think my favorite part of the SCP ‘thing’ is that the safety classification isn’t a measure of how dangerous an item is, because all of them are potentially lethal in some way; it’s a measurement of how likely something is to attack you.

  31. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I love SCP, but I won’t play this, because the story (and the exploration logs) already hit my creepiness limit.

    This is simply a simulation of the exploration of SCP-087, yes? You descend the stair, you hear the kid pleading, and after a random amount of time, you encounter the face. Or is there something in addition to that?

    God. I think knowing the story makes that even worse, in a way. I mean, the face could be behind you, the entire time…

  32. Davie says:

    Christ on a cracker, I am actually slightly apprehensive even thinking about playing this. 087 always creeped me right the fuck out. Still though,only good can come of SCP games, and it may eventually lead up to the gigantic mystery-solving-exploration-action-RPG the setting deserves. At least, I hope.

  33. quincunx says:

    At this point (after reading the article on the SCP site and the comments here) the only way I’d play this game is if it were a 2D platformer. Even then..

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      Bluerps says:

      Heh. That would make the face less creepy. Until you realize that it is not looking at your character. It is looking at you.

  34. Nate says:

    This is… quite good. I made it down fifty levels or so, then– well, something, I suppose– happened, and I’m not sure what it was, maybe just a hallucination, but it certainly gave me a startle– and a few more steps, and my computer shut down. Which it’s been doing lately.

    Very impressive in the restraint shown by the designers. Play in a dark room, full screen, with headphones, and it is quite creepy.

  35. edit says:

    Oi Adam, you didn’t make the word House blue :(

  36. horsemedic says:

    Someone please spoil it for me. I went to level 180-something before I saw something that wasn’t a shadow waiting on the platform. When I approached: crash to desktop. Is that what’s supposed to happen? If so, I’m sorry for the spoiler, but that’s rubbish. If not,… well I’m not playing again in either case.

    *To be fair, I was avoiding many platforms by leaping over the railings. BTW, spooky atmosphere game probably shouldn’t give you Mario jumping powers.

  37. Tony Heugh says:

    I read this story a few weeks ago and I still think of it when walking down stairs in the dark. Now I’m going to play this and make it worse. Thanks for that.

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    Dilapinated says:

    Am I the only one who finds that my mouse cursor remains in the game, flitting around over the surface of it and utterly ruining the atmosphere?

    Reminds me a bit of the PC version of PJEden in that regard. [/grumble]

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      Dilapinated says:

      Having played it for a while longer, I.. found myself jumping down infinite banisters while listening to an eerie soundfile? Ho hum. Didn’t grab me I’m afraid, and I’m a fan of SCP.. YMMV, as always.

      Edit: After reading the article, a question. Does SCP-087-1 ever turn up? I went down a fairly long way.

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      maninahat says:

      The mouse thing happens to me too, making it barely playable. Haven’t got beyond 20 levels without getting frustrated and quitting.

      In regards to the SCP site, I think the effect would be far greater if the content was on what appeared to be old typed documents that have been scanned in. The existance of redactions, ommissions and crossouts make less sense in documents created on a computer (where a “delete” key works just as well).

  39. finney says:

    Well, that was a waste of 20 minutes. Game crashes on the 39th floor.

  40. Partyhat says:

    Hey, it’s the creator of the steam group here, and i must say, thank you for adding it to the post, it really attracted lots of members and interested lots of people in SCP, which is great.
    And yes, there’s a longer scp game on the works.

  41. silverxsephiroth says:

    The download link doesn’t work anymore. Could you or someone else repost it?

  42. asagao says:

    ——-SPOILER ALERT———-
    My flat mate got me into the whole SCP deal recently and I saw this post. I wanna say first that I have read well into the thousands and SCP-011 is still my favorite. Not scary, but just goes to show that the foundation has a heart. It really means well in what it does… Though the relentless and sometimes comical experiments on SCP-682 are a bit much for something we can launch into space. Game wise, maybe make an FPS for containing SCP-076 in a style akin to a CoD breech scenario or escaping The realm of SCP-093.
    Anyways, now that the anti-spoiler part is done… I watched my flat mate play and she got so scared she cried. Then she jumped the railing and crashed the game. There is a YouTube video of her playing if anyone wants to see, though the mood is comically pushed rather than eerily by her friends’ taunts over the headset and you can’t really hear the game due to them. If you wanna laugh though, it’s not bad for it. I watched and honestly wasn’t scared, read the SCP entry on it before hand. Maybe they just ruined it for me. The one that frightens me is SCP-173. Don’t blink. T, T