I'm just an amateur programmer. I played around with Python for a while. I took a C++ class, and while I didn't exactly cheat to earn my "C" grade, I might as well have; our professor wasn't that rigorous. I downloaded Game Maker during a heavy bout of software piracy (by which I mean skimming the lists of The Pirate Bay, so I'm by no means a hacker), and that was a program that intrigued me.
You see, there's these platform games. The Luna Games, specifically. You've all heard of the Luna Games, right? They're not really worth playing, but there are videos that you can watch. Even funner to watch are the reactions. You know these games actually scare people? Cartoon ponies—My Little Ponies—running about, hacking each other to pieces or some nonsense. Low resolution sprites running across a barren landscape to some rave music, and then ending with a "surprise" scare at the end. Hint: it's not surprising when it happens every time. Though it is said, the meaning behind the Luna Games (due to evidence from the last few) is that Luna is being hautned by Nightmare Moon, the form she had before she was turned to good. The corruption in the game, and the sense of knowing all of this background summary really petrifies the brony community.
Oh but those reactions...hee hee...those reactions are priceless. I wondered if I could be the one to instill terror in the hearts of those children. And that's exactly what I set out to do, much to my regret.
I mentioned Game Maker. It's the very same program that the creator of the Luna Games used. It didn't take more than a day or so to learn enough from the manual to mimick the basic Luna Game style. All that was left now was to write a story that was creepy enough to scare them...which should have been easy enough. It wasn't.
I had to delve deep into the Luna Games. Study them. I had to memorize every single element. Every scream. Every blood-stained image and Zalgo-eyed character. The too-wide smiles and the chilling music. I had to play every level and find every bug. If I was going to copy someone, I was going to do it perfectly...and do a better job than them.
I needed to start where the latest game (chronologically) had left off—Luna Game 4. A room. An annoying and unsettling room made of glitched-up blocks and low-pitch chiptunes playing in the background. In this room, your character has to explore the highest point. As you go higher and higher into the room, the room gets darker and darker. You can barely see where you are jumping. You get the feeling that something's going to grab you. Someone's watching you when you aren't looki—no...stay on course...
Silly little games...
"Why is it always Pinkie Pie?" they ask. An innocuous pink pony that has an affinity for parties. And for a split second, she appears on screen as you jump out of the deepest darkness, with her too-wide grin. And then she's gone, leaving only an after-image on your subconscious.
Yes...this level will do nicely...
I took a screenshot of the level at its brightest, and then proceeded to complete the game for what would hopefully be my last time. I shivered at the end from the sound of the beating hearts, but it was getting late. Even the little things can wear you out when you're tired.
I quickly counted the number of glitch-tiles in the image. Nineteen, assuming I didn't miss any. Nineteen unique images that needed to be cut, pasted, saved, and loaded into Game Maker. That was devotion. I had come too far to quit at a little grunt work. Of course, all of that was easier than mapping out the level to mimic original game. For that, I had to alternate between a "Let's Play" video and the game editor.
After another hour or so of moving game tiles around, I finally had something playable. It would still need a story, but something in the back of my mind was piecing itself together. At the moment, I needed to get the engine running. After quickly adding a looping music track, I clicked the "Run" button built into the editor, and my level immediately loaded.
I stood there, within the game. I was a cute little purple winged unicorn sitting in a pitch-black room. Soon each tile began to load into a randomly chosen glitch image. I was proud of the code behind it, as simple as it was. It reminded me of the scare-game all too well. There was a low-pitch droning sound playing in the background. I chose the track for it's creepy ambience, but it was starting to unsettle me a bit. I took a step forward to make sure everything functioned, when there was a sudden knock at my door.
I jumped out of my seat, and my mother entered the room. She mentioned something about leaving a bit of dinner for me in the oven, as I hadn't gone down to eat. I quickly muttered something about getting to it later, and she headed off to bed, closing my door behind her.
I chuckled a bit, still staring at the door. I couldn't believe that the so-called "creepy" games were actually getting to me. At the time, I blamed the over-exposure along with the lack of sleep. Knowing that I needed to complete my project, I turned back towards my computer...and that's when I panicked.
The screen...nothing had changed. Everything was exactly as I left it. For the briefest moment, just before my eyes had caught focus of the screen, I could have sworn that I saw something flicker. I knew what I thought I saw, but I also knew that it was impossible. It had been the same Pinkie Pie sprite from the original game.
I had never experienced hallucinations before, but I did know that the eyes can play tricks on their owners. It was dark, and the only thing lighting up my room was the LCD screen. It was natural for a LCD screen to look odd at the wrong angle. Still, my sense of paranoia had me exploring my own level more thoroughly. While I had downloaded that Pinkie sprite, I hadn't yet coded her in. Plus, a timed flicker was way too detailed for me to forget about. I figured I was remembering the game I had just played.
After a minute or so, I realized that I could just check my source code. I slapped my forehead and laughed. I closed my game, returning me to the editor, and I brought up the sprite list. I drew a sharp breath, but I didn't jump this time. In my list was "pinkie_scare_left", which was exactly how I named my sprites. I must have forgotten about it.
I brought up the level and searched through it for NPCs. Other than my glitch-tiles and the Luna character, it didn't seem like there was anything else there. It was a large level, though, so I decided to run the game one more time...just in case.
Same as before, I stood in the dark room and the tiles slowly became visible. I took that single step forward and stared at the screen, waiting for "it" to appear. After a few minutes, there was nothing new. I walked around the level some more, giving it the thorough exploration I had given it before.
I heard a branch creak outside my window. While I did flinch at first, I realized that the wind had picked up. You see, human psychology is an interesting thing. A person can be unafraid of the dark. But when you put a person in the dark, and they start thinking about being afraid, they can develop a fear they don't really have. So hearing the sound of a branch suddenly break the silence naturally put me on edge.
Silence? My game had a looping soundtrack. I was looking away, but I could see the light of my monitor suddenly flicker off of the wall. My palms started to sweat, and my heart was already pounding.
I made myself look back at my screen. Just as before, nothing new was there. Everything was as I left it. I stared at Luna, the purple unicorn. I thought about the horrors I had considered putting her through, and how I was having doubts. Then she blinked. Blinked blinked. Her eyes closed, and then opened again. Moments later, my game crashed.
Desktop Ponies, the program I had "borrowed" Luna's sprite from, didn't have her blinking in the "walk" animation I was using. She had no reason to be blinking in my game. I checked my sprite list again and there was nothing there to have caused it. I decided that I was done.
I closed down my game editor, not even bothering to save my work. I then deleted the game file, deleted all files I had created or downloaded during the process, and then uninstalled Game Maker. I giggled, a bit more hysteric than I had intended.
Soon I was pacing around the room, trying to wear off the adrenaline coursing through me. I had clearly spent way too much time looking at unsettling material, and I was clearly losing it. I looked at my bed, realizing that I really needed to rest. When the light from my monitor suddenly bathed my walls in red, I closed my eyes and fought back the tears.
The memory of a single phrase rang loudly in my head. A phrase that was displayed so prominently in the Luna Game I had been playing. A phrase taken from an even older story.
"You shouldn't have done that."