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Analysis / Five Nights at Freddy's

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Why 1 and 6 are the most terrifying works in the series: A design analysis

A long discussion of this has been posted by Etra Games here.

It posits the following progression of game design:

  • In FNAF 1, it was a Luck-Based Mission to survive the night on the harder difficulties: Even with the optimal strategy, there was a tiny chance that Foxy or Golden Freddy could still come in and ruin your day.

  • Scott, having heard complaints about this randomness, excluded it in the designs of FNAF 2-4.

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  • However, without the influence of this randomness, the optimal strategy became flawless: in effect, the games could be strategically (if not mathematically) solved. The games became tensionless once the optimal safe strategy was discovered: there was no chance of failure, no risk. As a result the sequel (and their sequels) became less scary.

  • In Etra Game's opinion, this flaw hampered the success of FNAF 3 (which was decried as It's Easy, So It Sucks!), and FNAF 4(where changing core mechanics and setting wasn't enough to escape this pattern, making it less frightning.) FNAF 5 suffered for slightly different reasons: the main game was a series of minigames lacking depth, and the first Custom night was a similar failure, as there was no trial and error at all to discover the optimal strategy.

  • Pizzeria Simulator (AKA FNAF 6) managed to form a compromise between the fear caused by survival being in the hands of fate, and the frustration this can cause: Similarly, it changes the design-pattern: In 6, there is no one optimal strategy: there are instead a number of possibly successful strategies that the player can rapidly choose between.

  • This is achieved through two main means.
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    • A) The animatronics can move their starting locations each night, Hence, they can appear in unanticipated locations and force the player to adapt their strategies.
    • B) Even with multiple layers of defenses, none of them are airtight: and while they can have a 90% success rate, it is still not a 100% success rate and leaves a small window that Afton or Lefty will get you anyway.

  • This is what raises tension. There is no guaranteed victory, no safe strategy that will save you every time, and there's no way of truly knowing what you'll be facing in FNAF 6 each night. Hence 1 and 6 are the scariest games in the series, because there is room for the fear of the unknown; even if it's fear of ''known'' unknowns.

    Etra Games: And isn't that what fear is? Not knowing enough information to be safe?
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