Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 9 Apr 2013 16:00
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Class 2: The Spy

The second variety of stealth is best summarized with the phrase "hide in plain sight". This is the sort of thing you see in games like Hitman and Assassin's Creed; guards are pretty much constantly looking at you, but the trick is to blend into the scenery and look harmless. The spy is a master of disguise who possesses some kind of "blend" stat, which goes up if they are wearing the same clothes as everyone around them, hanging around groups, and are acting innocuously with absolute confidence that they belong. It goes down when running or acting suspiciously, such as when fiddling with someone's computer, but if your blend has been sufficiently built up enough then you may have the benefit of the doubt long enough to get away with it.

The spy must also be aware of the guards around them, but only to the extent of which ones are currently looking in their direction. Special skills include some kind of really determined walk that makes you look like a total professional who mustn't be disturbed - maybe with your sleeves rolled up and holding a clipboard - and that one really hilarious ability from Prototype where you throw suspicion on somebody else and then eat all their friends.

Class 3: The Conman

The conman's chance to shine comes only after a guard spots him. Indeed, while the sneak avoids guards altogether and the spy concentrates on not looking out of place, the conman actively seeks out guards, in order to win them over with confident words and a winning smile. The best equivalent for this mode is using a persuasion dialog option in Mass Effect or Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines to pacify an environment, or the rather awful section of early LucasArts adventure Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which Indy must explore a castle and use trial and error to figure out what dialog path will get him past every individual guard.

I picture something a little more organic, though, with a gameplay style based around observation and intelligence gathering. The conman can look a guard up and down as they come bearing down demanding to know their business, notice the guard's name badge and drop the guard's name to convince him that they've already met. Or perhaps, earlier, the conman noticed the name on the head of security's door, and now picks the dialogue option that drops that particular name. From three variant spellings, so that there's an element of memory challenge. If the conman can convince the head of security themselves, that can make all the other guards harmless, too.

The conman's special skills make the dialog picks easier, knocking out incorrect ones and making guards slightly easier to convince, but since they put themselves in the greatest risk they also have skills for effectively legging it. Perhaps they could have the skill to run away, and then stand just around the corner leaning on a wall with their hat tipped over their eyes as the guards run straight past them. Then they light a cigarette and all the ladies in the audience ruin the upholstery.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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