Don't look away. Don't even blink. Exploring new ways to instill fear in the upcoming adventure update for Minecraft, creator Notch explores placing the responsibility for terror on the players themselves, creating a creature that's equal parts Doctor Who Weeping Angles and Super Mario's Boo.
The first time you encounter a Creeper in Minecraft is terrifying, but the fear fades once you learn how to fend the creatures off. For the adventure update, Notch wanted to bring the fear back. To that end he began working on a creepy new creation called the Endermen.
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...
It sounds like the stuff of nightmares, but there's a difference between looking creepy and being creepy. Notch toyed with the creature's stats, making it faster than the player, harder to kill, only to discover a tougher creature demands respect, but not necessarily fear.
Pondering the nature of creepiness, the developer realised a fundamental truth about fear: It's worse when you're responsible for it. When something you do causes something terrible to happen, you own the fear, and simply knowing that something bad could occur can be more terrifying than the occurrence itself.
So he made this Endermen stand completely still until the player's targeting reticle passed over it. As soon as it was in the crosshairs, it attacked. Terrifying, yes, but not quite there yet, so he made one more adjustment.
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.
I'm not going to be able to play Minecraft after the adventure update for fear of pissing myself.
To make matters worse, the Endermen teleports, so if it isn't close enough to catch you when you spot it, it soon will be.
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's how you bring terror to the world of Minecraft.
The psychology of the reticle and the feeling of control [The Word of Notch]