Stealth

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BobisOnlyBob:

This is basically what I want in Prototype 2. More stealth, better stealth, and better civilian AI. More shadowy infiltrations of bases where the soldiers NOTICE their slowly-dwindling numbers and start panicking, skirmishing, blind-firing at shadows, and eachother... and occasionally you, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Are they definitely making a prototype 2?
I agree, the stealth in that could have been a lot better. Wait until no-one's looking, absorb relevant person, then either absorb others one by one whilst their squadmates pay no attention to disappearances, or cut everything into small bloody chunks. Although, come to think of it, it did have all 3 parts of the 'conflict triangle'. At the start, you have no powers, you have to disguise yourself as the military to get close to them. Part way through, you stealth to get into bases or to escape, and at the end, you're a nigh-unstoppable killing machine! Just a shame about the distance at which the camera stopped showing you anything, really...

How about a real life stealth game where you play a CIA agent under cover to find out information about some crime like drug trafficking and murders ? you get no help only instinct this can create th tension, or you could just risk your job and point the gun at who ever you think might be the criminal...

"Ideally, a game with a three-act plot would use all three corners of the triangle - start out with evasion when you're vulnerable, use stealth in the middle to redress the balance guerrilla-style, then gain sufficient strength to sort everything out with violence in the end. But that's mixing gameplay styles, which is almost inevitably rubbish."

perhaps a game which gives you the option to do either?
or different classes in which you follow the story with different gameplay?

Y'know, stealth is all well and good, but I for one would love to see some more games that focus on evasion.

Some of the most intense and most fun moments I've ever had in video games involved desperately fleeing from enemies of superior strength. However, I am yet to see a game really nail evasion as a gameplay mechanic. Or as a story element for that matter.

Mirror's Edge came pretty close at times. Running for dear life and vaulting obstacles with the cops in hot pursuit and bullets whistling past your head was pretty damn exhilarating. Unfortunately that game kept making the player fight. Besides, the player character, despite being an ordinary (if athletic) human, could shrug off bullet strikes like mosquito bites. So the danger was mostly an illusion.

Then there was that Call of Cthulhu game that features a bloody excellent level where the player is attacked in his hotel room by possessed villagers and has to run for his life, locking doors and creating obstacles as he goes. But that was something of a once-off before the game turned into a fairly mediocre FPS.

Lastly, there was a pretty good episodic indie horror title called Penumbra that made a point of giving the player utterly inadequate weapons and pitting them against starving guard dogs and disquietingly large spiders. However, with a bit of practice and common sense, fighting was still an all too viable option. To their credit, they tried to fix this in the second episode by depriving the player of weapons altogether. But then they messed it up by having only four or so individual enemies in the whole game.

And, sadly, that's about it. I can't really think of any others.

Oh well, here's to less macho space marines and more scared little protagonists fleeing for their lives.

Hey, a guy can dream.

(Also, this post turned out way longer then planned. Verging on wall-o-text territory.)

sorry yahtzee, normally you write good stuff, but this seemed to just ramble. im still unclear as to whether you made any statements at all. something about stealth, and you not liking splinter cell stealth. but then you went onto plot structure in games. dont forget the random interjection about violence in video games. pretty incoherent dude.

That description in the last bit sounds like it could work, but would be difficult to pull off while still seeming coherent. That isn't to say it shouldn't be done, just done carefully.

Page 2, Paragraph 2, Sentence 3: Mixed tense - change "(and indeed have)" to "(and indeed do)"

As always, insightful and well written (which is why the above stands out like an angry welt.)

I've only scanned most of the commentary, but there seems to be chimings for the idea that the three-act story model may work just fine if done right. I think it would also be possible to utilize all three corners of the triangle while keeping the same mechanics, within the same game. I think it could be accomplished with a subtle shift, as opposed to an outright gameplay change.

Portal would seem to be an acceptable example, although it's accomplished more through a change of tone. It begins with the AI as a detached guide evolving into a passive-aggressive antagonist and culminating in a final battle which is our hero's first opportunity to truly fight back against her captor. In a way this starts with a teaparty, shifts into evasion, and only culminates in head-to-head conflict in our final scene.

This only works if one considers GLaDOS as the adversary and not the environment itself, though even the world doesn't really fight back until the electric sewage.

RobCoxxy:
I agree that Splinter Cell doesn't appeal to a lot of people, but Chaos Theory was amazing.
There was a certain degree of skill involved navigating a fairly linear level, as you had to carefully plan when to move, where to hide, who to knock out. It was a good game.

This is, if you're going for stealth rather than headshotting every security guard working nightshift.

I agree, Chaos Theory was just the bomb.

It was most exciting when I was engaging in a mission with a co-op partner, we were actually so immeresed that we were whispering to avoid guards hearing us. The stealth and sweet sensation of succeeding was awesome.

And Yahtzee, amazing read. You always come off more genius than you do in your videos. I love you. No-homo.

psychodynamica:
Stealth games need to focus on psychological warfare. not that it hasn't been attempted. a game in which you sneak around tearing out throats shooting some dudes and disappear into a shadow until you find more of your other victims buddies to brutally kill. now what if every time they saw a body they would instead of uttering "There is a body here, I'll be cautious from now on." but instead reacted with a bit of shock and fear. I want to see a game where you can kill someone leaving blood spattered up the walls and then take the body and hide it in the rafters. I'd like to have an enemy arrive and see blood and lack of a body and move in closer to investigate, then while he searches to drop the body behind him. he would react as we all would and run away screaming and blubbering.
this may say more about me than it does about gaming but I promise I am not a serial killer of and shape sort or description.

Good sir, that is an absolutely brilliant idea. You ought to pen a design document as soon as it is feasible. I can honestly see this being an evolutionary new AAA-quality title.

Straying Bullet:

RobCoxxy:
I agree that Splinter Cell doesn't appeal to a lot of people, but Chaos Theory was amazing.
There was a certain degree of skill involved navigating a fairly linear level, as you had to carefully plan when to move, where to hide, who to knock out. It was a good game.

This is, if you're going for stealth rather than headshotting every security guard working nightshift.

I agree, Chaos Theory was just the bomb.

It was most exciting when I was engaging in a mission with a co-op partner, we were actually so immeresed that we were whispering to avoid guards hearing us. The stealth and sweet sensation of succeeding was awesome.

Oh, I remember the coop. Good times. Hilarious cockups sometimes... Punched a guard, he fell off a balcony, landing on my partner below; knocked him unconscious. I miss that game.

...

WAIT!

It's on the XBL Marketplace!

PRAISE THE LAWD!

I think that Arkham Asylum nicely ignored the triangle and kept to the square:

Player attacking/enemies attacking happens repeatedly when the Joker tries to trap you.

Player attacking/enemies not attacking happens during the stealth sections.

Player not attacking/enemies attacking or evasion sections occurs during the part set in Killer Croc's lair and avoiding the Scarecrow's gaze in the mind-screw parts.

Player not attacking/enemies not attacking occurs right near the end of the game when the Joker's goons let you into the last building and applaud you as you walk past (although I didn't realise this first time through and beat the guards outside the door to a pulp as I'd been conditioned to all game long). Was a nice twist that I really wasn't expecting.

As for the whole world only existing within 50 yards of Batman, I think that considering the whole story was the Joker setting a trap specifically for him justifies it in this instance.

Yahtzee, I think you hit a very intersting point.

One of the reasons the 1999 Aliens vs. Predator game keeps such a warm place in many players' hearts is because that "triangle" was used very effectively in most campaigns. Take the alien campaign where you started off as a defenseless "chestburster" that had to evade soldiers trying to hunt you down. Then you moved into a stealth mode where you'd creep around the station taking out unwary guards. Until the end where you became powerful enough to eviscerate the dirty humans and win the day for the evil alien race!

Another example of your theory is what many people hate modern RPGs for. Old school RPGs would start out with you powerless, you'd have to use stealth and, many times, evasion to get away from high-level baddies because you didn't have the ability to fight them toe-to-toe. So the journey was extra-exhilarating when you finally get the weapons, armor, and skills to fight pitched battles in situations where before you had to evade and be stealthy.

I think there's a lot of truth in your article. A lot of wisdom that was once understood on some level but has now been lost to the idocracy of modern game development.

Pac-man is a stealth game!

I knew it, you all thought I was crazy

*twitch*

I read the bit about Anime being a medium and not a genre and I immediately came here to agree. I hate it when people just say 'I like anime'. It makes as much sense as saying 'I like western animation'.

Hmm...there hasn't been a single stealth game I've loved, but I've heard good things from the Thief series. Are any Vista-compatible?

"Even something like Animal Crossing has the overhanging threat of Tom Nook breaking your kneecaps for debt non-repayment. "

This made my shitty day good.

So you mean that the first three splinter cell games weren't about an unkonwn guy sneaking into a building complex/stronghold where you're not supposed to be in, which isn't anticipating you and hopefully won't notice you throughout?
Because in those games, I killed at most one guy per level. And that was mostly because I fucked up, but in the splinter cell series you are always that one guy that no one see coming.

And yet you mostly had the freedom to get through the level however you wanted. Wanna kill everyone and cause havoc on the level? You sure could, with some restrictions, but you also had the oppurtunity to be silent. In most of my playthroughs, I could sometime wait half an hour just to get to that perfect spot to avoid some guard while choosing my entrances carefully, staying in the dark corners of the ceiling, hanging on pipes and walls just to get through the level without any casualities. Those were the good games, though it was slow and grinding, it would always become a great challenge to get through the level without setting any alarms or killing any guards.

By my experience, the splinter cell games had much better stealth gameplay then any other game has yet to accomplish. It was excilirating to creep in the shadow while ten guards were chasing you or using Sam's incredible acrobatics to reach airvents and pipes to get to that unobtainable vantage point for you to intercept a suspect.
But if your experience with the splinter cell franchise is governed by the last two games (double agent and conviction) I could reckon that you would send of these games as bad stealth games.

Two examples--

MIRROR'S EDGE was excellent when it was hunkering down and exploring fresh territory in the Evasion corner of the triangle. Unfortunately, the designers just couldn't avoid falling into the quicksand of mandatory combat and fatally crippled what could have otherwise been a completely revolutionary game.

DEUS EX, on the other hand, largely achieved the mixing of all three corners of the triangle through the simple expedient of making it possible to overcome every challenge in the game in a variety of different ways. Because I was never forced into a style of play I didn't want, the mixing of gameplay styles wasn't a problem. And, better yet, the RPG elements of the design allowed me to improve my character in the styles of gameplay I preferred.

You know, there could be a game in that fourth corner. In this train of thought, I find myself continuously thinking of Pratchett's Rincewind, so I'll use him as a kind of image to keep in mind. Why don't we have a game where killing a single guy is practically impossible, while stealth and sneaking and running away are preferred. Sure, it wouldn't be the most exciting, but imagine a falsely accused man, perhaps with a title like "Primary Enemy of the State/King/Queen/Horse-Elected Senator", running away from meatheads in armor waving swords around for effect, having to parkour his way out of an area. He'd be unarmed, where he can only use improvised junk laying around (a halfbrick in a sock, for instance), and where the ultimate goal is to get away, with no one noticing, taking into account civilians along the way. You could find a clothesline, and change your attire, you can hide in buildings and barrels and crates, you'll have a stamina gauge that you can improve over time by running more, or completing challenges. You can find little hideouts that teach you a new way to run that allows you to run further/faster and also might teach you the slogans of political dissidents that they might hinder your pursuers in the manner of the thugs or hookers in Assassin's Creed. You could even vary it up by having sages or seers peppered in the later enemies, disabling your early forms of hiding because they are aware of your presence and can find you, making the escape even more hectic. Maybe you'll eventually encounter other runners, and find their markers that only the initiated can read (I'm reminded of the Himalayan rock stacking to mark the path), to lead you to safety. He could even be a normal guy, who gets more haggard as he goes along, having no time to stop and shave, or shower, or wash off the pond scum from the pond he dove into in the last mission to avoid the dogs, using the old reed technique to hide under the surface. It could be part puzzle (what do I use to make sure I live), and part stealth (hide like hell and hope they don't shine the light in my direction).

Well, there's always supposed-to-lose fights to mix up the combat and narrative.
Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword had a couple of those, and the story was more engaging as a result. At least, I thought so. Okay, the second one was followed by a cop-out deus-ex-machina, but at least it was comforting to know that you really were supposed to lose that fight when many of the bosses on the console games are nigh impossible to beat, yet you need to beat them to continue the story.

And hey, better to have a supposed-to-lose fight after a stroll down I'm-a-fucking-badass street than to wade umpteen times through a cheaply difficult level, only to die in a cutscene anyway, right?

I never enjoyed splinter cell, but saying that out loud was apparently considered a gaming-sin.

Ha I contest your silly Tea Party Mr Hatter. Investitive gameplay still exists and normally is sandwiched into RPG's, requiring you to go speak to X in order to get Y to give you a coin so you can pay for Z's magical boomerang. Ok most of the time it is just not required or forced but there are times where it is immersive.

So my question to you Yahtzee is - doesn't the existence of Deus Ex shit on your Triangle?

The only game that did the storytelling like a movie and was a lot of fun was GUN. So it can be done sometimes. It started of slow, had ups and downs of a character and even a bit of stealth in some levels and it culminated with an epic boss battle. I really felt like I was "playing a movie".

It seems to me that modern sneaking games are like playing Adventures of Lolo (on NES) in 3D. We have the technology to make smart stronghold guards, but now, like in Lolo they are only able to breath fire in one direction.

I would give my soul for a good stealth. :( It is true that developers are trying to make movie like games and perhaps fail in them that way... Like in splinter cell you can wait the guy next to you just ignore the seventh time he, lets say had the "I-thought-I-saw-something" movement, but there is no feel to it like Yahtzee said. World is revolving around Fisher. I would like to fear the guards that the stronghold has to offer. I wish they offered a challenge. More autonomous world would also be nice (No freaking position triggers that make something happen over and over in the same way).

RobCoxxy:

Straying Bullet:

RobCoxxy:
I agree that Splinter Cell doesn't appeal to a lot of people, but Chaos Theory was amazing.
There was a certain degree of skill involved navigating a fairly linear level, as you had to carefully plan when to move, where to hide, who to knock out. It was a good game.

This is, if you're going for stealth rather than headshotting every security guard working nightshift.

I agree, Chaos Theory was just the bomb.

It was most exciting when I was engaging in a mission with a co-op partner, we were actually so immeresed that we were whispering to avoid guards hearing us. The stealth and sweet sensation of succeeding was awesome.

Oh, I remember the coop. Good times. Hilarious cockups sometimes... Punched a guard, he fell off a balcony, landing on my partner below; knocked him unconscious. I miss that game.

...

WAIT!

It's on the XBL Marketplace!

PRAISE THE LAWD!

It's online? REALLY??!

Lawd be praised, hurry my brethern, empty your wallets! For Ferelden!

Yahtzee:
a game with a three-act plot would use all three corners of the triangle - start out with evasion when you're vulnerable, use stealth in the middle to redress the balance guerrilla-style, then gain sufficient strength to sort everything out with violence in the end.

that's exactly what Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth did!

Zhukov:
Some of the most intense and most fun moments I've ever had in video games involved desperately fleeing from enemies of superior strength. However, I am yet to see a game really nail evasion as a gameplay mechanic. Or as a story element for that matter.

It's been mentioned before, but the only game that has had parts that nail that feeling for me has been Metroid Fusion. Some of the evasion parts had me simply terrified running all out. Almost as good in the related section of Metroid Zero Mission.

And Yahtzee, thank you (seriously, not sarcastically) for finally putting the Ebert controversy to rest. They're different, they aren't the same, now let's let it go and let games be games and films be films.

Kind of funny cause some of my favorite games used the category that neither the enemy or the player are attacking for at least some parts... Some old PC RPGs had parts like this such as the Fallout games and Planescape: torment, and Arcanum (or maybe that is almost all the games that had that. of them...)

But heck, there is a whole GENRE that involves relatively little of enemy attacking the player or player attacking the enemy- puzzle adventure games such as Gabriel Knight and Monkey Island. I do admit some of the puzzles in those type of games could be lame and annoying with just trying to use items on everything... But what would be perhaps interesting is a game that revolves around diplomacy and words, like the parts in WRPGs where you convince a boss to commit suicide or for some other situation that avoids a physical conflict.

To me this is as much escapism as going and beating up 20 guys at once. Why? Because even though I read a decent amount, my writing and speech skills are still rather sub par, yet, being able to convince an enemy to kill itself or some other situation that my character's words alone solve the situation can be as fun or even more fun than just bashing the other dude's skull in.

Your idea of a game that's like a real story reminds me of Two Thrones, where it was easier to sneak up on someone and Speed Kill them rather than engage in Free Form Fighting, until you got the Kings Sword near the end, and all the enemies fell like scarecrows. And of course you had the Dark Prince sections in between to give you a God Mode feel when you were in a jam.

Metal Gear Solid 1 hits all three points pretty well.

Early on, you are pretty weak, so you evade and avoid fights altogether. Plus, being seen and taking down opponents downgrades you, so you avoid it.

Then you have a couple of sequences of forced action or a boss fight.

To top that off, whenever you want, you can snap and just start hunting guards (screw the downgrade). Combined with a silencer and more weapons, this is more hunting than evasion.

Also, ironically, it sounds like splinter cell hits some of these points, too. I'm playing through double agent, which is a lot of evasion, and some hunting (required to kill X guards). It sounds like Conviction is hunting + forced combat. Plus, there is also the co-op...

I really like the example, though. Can games tell a story in a non-film method? Or can a game tell a story in a film method, that often involves continual loss and punishment?

Can the idea be applied to racing games? where the AI isnt racing (i.e the police) You are, and you must race without them noticing... Although killing said police car would cause more trouble than it'd solve...

You know, I've long been thinking that in fire fights where the player is seriously outmatched, there should be a retreat option (read: requirement) to have things play out a bit more realistically. I mean if I were a burly commando type I'd only have gotten to be such a force of testosterone by knowing when I can and cannot win - and discretion IS the better part of valour, right?

Trouble is, developers never consider running away as a valid option unless the game has planted you specifically weapon-less and it the serves the plot.

There are, however some exceptions - Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth and the Thief series actually reward your cowardice with survival. Well, the latter more than the former which again had retreat as an oft-used plot mechanic. So I guess we're really just down to Thief being the only game that made running away screaming like a little girl a viable option.

Buggery.

"Ideally, a game with a three-act plot would use all three corners of the triangle - start out with evasion when you're vulnerable, use stealth in the middle to redress the balance guerrilla-style, then gain sufficient strength to sort everything out with violence in the end."

That sounds like Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth to me... good game :)

psychodynamica:
Stealth games need to focus on psychological warfare. not that it hasn't been attempted. a game in which you sneak around tearing out throats shooting some dudes and disappear into a shadow until you find more of your other victims buddies to brutally kill. now what if every time they saw a body they would instead of uttering "There is a body here, I'll be cautious from now on." but instead reacted with a bit of shock and fear. I want to see a game where you can kill someone leaving blood spattered up the walls and then take the body and hide it in the rafters. I'd like to have an enemy arrive and see blood and lack of a body and move in closer to investigate, then while he searches to drop the body behind him. he would react as we all would and run away screaming and blubbering.
this may say more about me than it does about gaming but I promise I am not a serial killer of and shape sort or description.

I think this would work absolute wonders in an Aliens Versus Predator game. Personally, if I was a Marine - I wouldn't feel so cocky about taking down the Predator if I saw my squadmate's skinned body hanging upisde-down from the rafters. I certainly wouldn't dismiss it with a "Don't let your guard down, Marines."

I thought Arkham Asylum covered the three sections pretty well.

You use direct combat when squaring off against a horde of joker's goons in various arena like sections. You use stealth when presented with a room full of armed thugs so they don't spray you brains all over arkham's rusted walls. And you evade enemies throughout most of the latter part of the game once armed thugs become almost instantly aware when you take someone out. I honestly would get stressed out at times when I found myself stuck in a corner when they became aware of my presence.

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