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Report content RSS feed The psychology of the reticle and the feeling of control

This blog post contains extensive spoilers about a new mob in the adventure update. Don’t read unless you want spoilers!

Posted by Kizzycocoa on Jul 29th, 2011

This blog post contains extensive spoilers about a new mob in the adventure update. Don’t read unless you want spoilers!

Fear is one of the easiest emotions to evoke, but doing so in a way that doesn't frustrate or fatigue the player is more difficult. I find this fascinating. What parts of fear are fun, and what parts aren't fun?

One of the biggest game design decisions in Minecraft is that all (well, most) negative things that affect the world or the player should happen near the player, and be clear to the player. That's why creepers only explode near players, and that's why fires stopped spreading indefinitely. This is somewhat related to my dislike of mazes in game design, where the player has no way of knowing or figuring out before hand what decision is the correct decision. Don't penalize the player for things they can't control.

Last weekend, I started working on a new mob because I was frustrated with the slow progress on some town code I was writing, and for some reason I decided to make yet another creepy one. It's dark, it has long and narrow limbs, moves very slowly, and will pick up blocks and move them around. I wanted this to be a mob you only saw in the distance and a mob you'd be afraid of, but when I playtested it, it mostly felt like a regular zombie. There's was a distinct mismatch between looking creepy and not actually playing creepy. When I made it move faster towards the player when attacking, and deal more damage, it got more difficult and I started respecting it, but it never felt creepy or scary.

So I thought some about what “creepy” actually is, and it's more about trying to avoid something from happening than it is about actually having that thing happen. If you know something bad can happen if you do the wrong thing, you will start thinking about your actions, and that might make things more scary.

So I made it passive until you looked straight at it. And that was scary. Suddenly you could walk up to these looking beasts (they're three meters tall) and watch them as they moved their blocks around, but as soon as you happened to look straight at them, they'd attack. And by “straight at them”, I mean putting the reticle on top of them. You can keep them visible on screen and actually look straight at them in real life, but as soon as your in game character looks straight at them, boom.

Still, that was more scary than creepy. It's like a jump scare in a movie. You know it might happen at any time, and when it happens you freak out a bit. I wanted something a bit more psychological. So to really drive home the point of looking at them being bad, I made the Endermen freeze and turn towards you when you look at them. As long as you look straight at them, they stand perfectly still and look straight at you. As soon as you look away, they will run (very fast) towards you.

And they teleport. If they're too far away to reach you in a short period of time, they will teleport about once per second. They try to make sure they always teleport to somewhere you can see, as I don't want to confuse the player as to what is happening.

When they attack, you know it's your fault. When you happen to look at one, you can keep looking at it to figure out how to deal with it, but you know it WILL reach you very fast once you stop looking at it.

And that, my friends, is creepy. Possibly too creepy.

(Development blog link)

Post comment Comments
P3ACE753 Jul 29 2011 says:

Will they 'move' my house around?

+21 votes     reply to comment
masterchief396 Aug 13 2011 replied:

I hope not... This mob sounds awesome though!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Renegade2 Jul 29 2011 says:

ehh i dunno about this mob, it makes it sound like going out at dark will be impossible

+9 votes     reply to comment
Mexicouger Jul 29 2011 says:

This new mob adds more to the game. I like how Minecraft is trying to add some scary feel to it.

+16 votes     reply to comment
shortandpoor Jul 29 2011 says:

I'm creeped out just reading about it. But I agree with Renegade2 it might make night travel slightly difficult.

+6 votes     reply to comment
why_me Jul 30 2011 replied:

Well, this is going to make things harder... at least i have portal turrets to shoot anything that moves

+1 vote     reply to comment
architectts Jul 29 2011 says:

How do we beat them? The look as if they travel in packs. Also, Slendermen rhymes with Endermen. Maybe that's where the idea came from.

+2 votes     reply to comment
DarkPivot Jul 29 2011 replied:

It's called enderman because since the picture was posted on Google+ only, someone made a reference to slenderman in the comments (which was the first thing I thought when I saw it), so notch decided he was right and called them endermen in reference.

+2 votes     reply to comment
mcpop9 Jul 30 2011 replied:

holy s*** i don't want to take credit for name inspiration but i think it was my comment that started the naming process. that's cool and its going to be a large game changer

+4 votes     reply to comment
Garyn Dakari Jul 30 2011 replied:

What was your comment?

(Just curious :)

Anyway, I actually really like the idea of this mob. It'll be fun playing this with my little sister, lol.

+1 vote     reply to comment
mcpop9 Jul 30 2011 replied:

"Hey look its slender man!" its somewhere around mid-page on the actual picture comments

+1 vote     reply to comment
trakmiro Jul 29 2011 says:

I still want to know more about the mechanics of them moving blocks around. I'd really rather not have one of these things abscond with the north wall of my house.

+12 votes     reply to comment
DarkLiberator Jul 29 2011 says:

That would suck if it teleported into my house....

+9 votes     reply to comment
VonMuenchhausen Aug 6 2011 replied:

This teleporting bit sounds rather worrying. Does that mean they could beam into your (lit and secured) courtyard, just like that?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Kanealii Jul 30 2011 buried:


man dats epic..now only..if they could like..idk..be more creepy in a sense dat NOW U SEE ME? NOW U DONT, OH LOOK BEHIND YOU, BOO! OH NO NOT ANYMORE, UPFRONT, lolz idk. Epic mob though, gonna add so much more..survival snags.

-5 votes     reply to comment
BlueSunsleader Jul 30 2011 says:

cool the night just got creepy again.

+9 votes     reply to comment
DeltaForce95 Jul 30 2011 says:

just don't take my house >_>

+4 votes     reply to comment
CptWesley Jul 30 2011 says:

I hope theres like a mechanism where they don't move blocks with a light level of something +, else I need to make my walls thicker....

+2 votes     reply to comment
Valhyn Jul 30 2011 says:

Why Not Make a Demo Video on these Endermen and Could They Move "Any" Block, If so These Could Litterially Break Maps...

+1 vote     reply to comment
Mr.Nuke Jul 30 2011 says:

yes maybe they just cant move player place blocks, and i dont like teleportation at all, unless if its like 20 blocks distance or so, this sounds like a shaky mob, but the look idea sounds terryifying

+2 votes     reply to comment
Drakkenor Jul 30 2011 says:

idea! a mob that follows you behind you and tries to stay behind you but when you keep it in your vision for about 5 seconds it attacks.

or you could make different mobs that act according to what the player does. for example: if their is another mob that looks like this one but one arm is only half the length(why do i feel this is misspelled???) of normal that instead of acting like said it attacks if you look at it too long. This would force the player to pay attention to not use the wrong strategy on the wrong mob.

+2 votes     reply to comment
TheNodCommander Jul 30 2011 says:

Holy blarg... That does NOT sound pleasant to run into!

+2 votes     reply to comment
asteroidrules Jul 30 2011 says:

I got the feeling there was a guy standing behind me about to violently murder me while reading this. Yeah it's too creepy unless you make it die pretty easily, maybe it won't attack you without looking away but you can still attack it.

+1 vote     reply to comment
IVUIUVI Jul 30 2011 says:

Haha I think the whole "looking away and then they attack" thing was taken from the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Auxor Jul 30 2011 replied:

Most likely, things like that are always the most creepy. The idea something that a human does normally, i.e blinking or looking at something can be detrimental subverts the horror theme into something hell of a lot more creepy. Hell, I find Creepers creepy, not because of their physical appearance, but because you know that they can **** you up.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Mateos Jul 30 2011 says:

I'm busy to use my legs, I hope they'll be albe to "move" players :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
mangosofdoom Jul 30 2011 says:

Ok I have a couple of questions about this when you say look away do you mean take the reticle of it or the mob is no longer on screen. Because you have to remember that there are other things that go bump in the night in the world of minecraft, so while you stare at this isn't something else just gonna sneak up behind you and molest you?

Also will it make any noise as silence can be both detrimental and frightening, personally I think it should hum innocently or something like when passive, then go dead silent when it becomes hostile.

Just my opinion though.

+5 votes     reply to comment
Wazubaba Aug 8 2011 replied:

This. It would be amazing if it made some sound but then went quiet when attacking. The sound should definitely be something that draws attention though. Maybe a creeper hiss ? That would probably draw even long-time player's attention. When they look to see if a creeper is coming, they look at the Enderman. Now they are royally screwed ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
like.dinosaurrrs Jul 30 2011 says:

Woooo!! Excitement!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Tilranus Jul 30 2011 says:

great he's put in the weeping angels in from Dr. Who

+1 vote     reply to comment
mjl8 Jul 30 2011 says:

...i just realized how scary it would be if u were mining in a cave, then u break a block to enter a cavern that's pitch black and there happens to be a enderman right in front of where that block you mined was. THATS GONNA BE SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT WHEN MINING IN FRONT OF YOU

+2 votes     reply to comment
Metalspy Jul 30 2011 says:

I read this at his blog yesterday and I think it's some clever thinking, the part about how to make them creepy. I can imagine seeing one for the first time and standing there for a minute, just thinking how to get out of the situation (probably just walking backwards while looking at him until he's out of rendering range but meh >.<).

+1 vote     reply to comment
front2battle Jul 30 2011 says:

It sounds Creepy, but yet so freaking awesome. I like the idea!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Legiondude Jul 30 2011 says:

If these guys "move" my fortress/home rendition of Yggdrasil I WILL be ******

+1 vote     reply to comment
Luigis_#1 Jul 30 2011 says:

It would be cool if instead of dieing like Zombies and Skeletons these things just kinda look at the sun and fade away at the morning.
Because how creepy these things sound, it would be kind of lame if they just light on fire and slowly die.

+4 votes     reply to comment
xXMaNiAcXx Jul 30 2011 says:

The idea of it is simply perfect. Notch will make it sweetly creepy. And this will be hard too... imagine yourself in a recently-discovered cave. No torches or else. You pass the reticle around trying to see something, when you put a torch BOOM! It is at your face. Sweet idea.

+1 vote     reply to comment
TheWabb Jul 30 2011 says:

This sounds amazing.I hope Notch puts in more creepy mobs. I still feel as though the water could use a creepy mob, because in other games the water (for ME) is the creepiest place to be. In Minecraft the water is kind of a safe zone.

+3 votes     reply to comment
mike576 Aug 3 2011 replied:

Yea, I always thought there should be some kind of scary water mob.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Lazypro Jul 30 2011 says:

The one reason why I prefer to build my stuff underground and on peaceful.

-1 votes     reply to comment
ciastoludek Jul 31 2011 says:

This mob works like the "librarian" monster from the game Metro 2033. It charged at you, but when you looked straight at it, it just walked slowly and didn't attack :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
SolidFake Aug 3 2011 says:

holy ****, that sounds so fucken scary, screw fear and everything else, this is just crazy!

+2 votes     reply to comment
Noremakk Aug 6 2011 says:

Brilliant! I love this idea, I hope to see these Slender Men in the next update.

+2 votes     reply to comment
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