Making a Horror Map in Minecraft
How MineMakers made our lovely game absolutely terrifying
Like any petty editor, when he’s not demanding I make him his precious cappuccinos or to get him more pictures of Spider-Man, Tom assigns his writers interesting stories. But when he told me that a team called MineMakers, in collaboration with New Heaven, had made a Minecraft horror map that was actually scary, I didn’t believe him!
Well, I was wrong. Which means I now have to wear a massive sign that says 'I’m a big dumb idiot and LATE is an excellent Minecraft mod.'
But it’s a sign I wear with pride. Minecraft has always been scary - I still remember being startled by my first creeper. LATE takes that horror idea and runs with it; after a spooky nightmare, you wake up late for work, get yelled at by your boss, and eventually end up in a mysterious haunted office building - which is where things get really twisted.
Watch this trailer for a terrifying taste:
Keel, the founder of MineMakers, tells me that the team started in April last year, talking about the project for two months before getting to work on it.
"The map is about this battle between sanity and insanity, rationality and fear."
The actual building process took them about a month, with most time being spent by collaborating build team New Heaven on constructing the streets.
The MineMakers team built the actual office space quickly, but it took them a couple of weeks to make it feel just right. Let's take a cautious peek around that office.
Around August, the team began working on the more technical side of things, like the animations and gameplay systems. According to Maxo6, “finally, we had an “alpha” version at the beginning of October. And for the last two weeks before the release we had to make a few adjustments, fix some bugs and add some details.
"We were a bit LATE considering we finished the map 3-4 hours before its release!”
Where did the idea for LATE come from? According to Keel, “we wanted to represent someone who lost his mind, step-by-step. After some discussion, Thomas became an “everyman” who has a burn-out and almost a split personality... The map is about this battle between sanity and insanity, rationality and fear.”
As you play, you can totally see what Keel means. Thomas, the protagonist, seems like a totally normal guy at first - sure, the game starts with a surreal nightmare sequence, but we’ve all had nightmares, right? Thomas is fine! Probably!
Naturally, he doesn't stay that way. Some horror games like to keep everything scary the whole time, but LATE opts for the slow burn. At first, it makes you feel uneasy because you’re late for work and your boss is mad at you (we can all relate to the dread of being late for something and knowing you’re going to be punished for it). The real nastiness comes later...
But you do get one early preview of that horror to come, as LATE opens with this surreal nightmare of a dream sequence:
LATE’s dream sequence intro seems disconnected from the rest of the game, and I wondered what it meant. According to Bulix, one of the team members, the main purpose of the intro sequence was to create a unique atmosphere that was intended to clash with the rest of the game, leaving players confused.
Bulix also pointed out that the nightmare explains Thomas’ disorientated state of mind and thus why he’s late for work. Yeah, I've used that excuse before too.
"“We wanted the parking [garage] to be the most intense sequence of the whole map.” "
One of my favorite moments in LATE is the parking garage sequence, where Thomas has to hide underneath cars while a monster hunts him in the darkness.
Maxo6, the team’s jack-of-all-trades, told me, “we wanted the parking [garage] to be the most intense sequence of the whole map.”
You might notice that the parking garage sequence is really quiet compared to the rest of the game. That’s because the team deliberately removed the music and left you with just the sound effects. This was to make the player uneasy and make you focus more on the monster’s footsteps, making the scene more tense.
Maxo6 told me one other really cool tidbit about the garage sequence: “there is one thing that only a few people know - standing in the light makes you much more likely to be caught by [the monster].” WHAT?! No wonder I got caught so many times!
There are four different endings to the map which help explain the story, but even then, LATE keeps things pretty mysterious.
Any regrets? “We have some regrets regarding the fact that most of the players didn’t understand the meaning of the map and thought that there were too many inconsistencies," Maxo6 tells me. "After the release, we had some ideas that could have made the map better. For instance, the mirror was a good way to represent both the reality and the illusion.”
I know what it’s like to finish something but feel like you could have done more. Still, LATE was so good, it seemed like MineMakers were stretching the possibilities of what Minecraft could feasibly do.
But the team actually disagreed that they were reaching Minecraft’s limits, and told me that they felt Minecraft might be the only game that offered so many possibilities.
“The only limit we see right now is our imagination. With knowledge and perseverance, everything is possible! Today, the question is what to do with these possibilities. That’s why we think that each mapmaker has to change his vision of the mapmaking world: the mapmaker considered as a technician is becoming a programmer, a game designer, an artist.”
With that in mind, here are my horror highlights of LATE:
Minemakers are working on a new map now, which Keel says he feels is bigger and more important than LATE. While they aren’t ready to tell me anything about it (awwww!), they say you can catch some teasers on their Twitter feed. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
And if you're feeling really brave, why not try LATE yourself?