Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

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Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

Yahtzee outlines a proposal for a class-based stealth game with non-violent solutions.

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Personal I hate stealth, or at least enforced stealth. I liked VTM:B version, where stealth was an option, and it gave you an advantage, but generally if things went wrong, you could try something else. I really hated the parts where you absolutely had to be stealthy.

Now, sneaking along trying to get as far as you can until things inevitable go wrong, that I can get behind.

(Oh, and I expected a mention of a game about a guy in a hat there)

I'd play it

I've never been a huge stealth fan, but I did very much enjoy Assassin's Creed and Arkham Asylum, so this all sounds pretty interesting.

Mark of the Ninja presents an interesting 4th version, built into the first one presented here:
The game's a horror movie and you're the monster.
It's pretty much the ultimate power fantasy.

Also, this article made me want to play Vampire: The Masquerade again soooo bad.

I would very much like to play this game, hypothetical though it may currently be.

It's a neat idea, but I think that class-based is the wrong way to go. If you rolled them into one RPG-style leveling system, it would give the players a lot more variety and tools to get the job done; they might be able to bluff their way into a bank with just a determined walk, but to do the same at a military base they'd have to gather intel on the officers in charge, learn codes for doors, and other prep work first.

Unless there is a party/NPC system, like a less-shit version of the Assassin's Creed recruits that you can use to deal with the stuff you're not capable of.

My big problem with most stealth games is that despite one of the main focuses being using a variety or tools and skills to create your own path to the goal they always reward you with money and exp if you knock out guards and explore the level.

I'm not usually a fan of stealth, but that actually sounds fun.

I really like this idea a lot. I could see it taking a lot of work to make into a viable solution, but the payoff could be amazing.

It would be a great mechanic for a Burn Notice game.

I would love to play this game. I'm generally a fan of stealth in games, but not always of stealth-focused games. I think the main reason is that I like being able to recover from screwups, as I am given to bouts of homicidal rage when forced to play the same segment for the twelfth time because of a single screwup. So I couldn't get into Hitman, but I loved the Arkham games, and often go for stealthy attacks in games like Far Cry 3 or Skyrim, where stealth is optional but useful. For me, the ideal stealth game is something like Deus Ex:

1) Sneak around a base.
2) Pick locks, steal gear, silently eliminate enemies
3) ???
4) Oh, SHIT!
6) Game of the Year.

I'd play this game. The "conman" style would certainly be interesting, I can't think of any game that has really done that type of stealth gameplay.

I would play the hell out of this game. Sometimes I hate it when Yahtzee posts his game concepts because it makes me sad that those games don't exist.


Damn double post, my bad.


Damn I mean triple post -_-

It's been a while since one of Yahtzee's hypothetical game pitches and as always, intriguing gameplay ideas and as always, a shame we'll never get to play them.

One more option: Run like hell past all the guards and accomplish your mission before they chase you down. Assassin's Creed had elements of this, usually after you'd performed an assassination.

My big problem with most stealth games is that despite one of the main focuses being using a variety or tools and skills to create your own path to the goal they always reward you with money and exp if you knock out guards and explore the level.

I think the lather Sly Copper games did a good thing to confront this. If you stealthed behind them, you could slowly obtain all of their cash, including gems or whatever that you could sell for a pretty penny. Afterwards, you could still kill them, but they gave you nothing. You were rewarded more by taking risks and getting in close, rather than just going on swinging.

This would be fantastic but it is far too ambitious, the reason why the current 3 type approach is popular is because it fits with the 12 year old 3 tier AI model. It's easy, relatively speaking.

For what Yahtzee is suggesting you will have to balance so many unique mechanics in one game, some of which are kind of broken and limited in games dedicated to that playstyle today (Hitman absolution #*cough*)

The amount of resources and money it would take to make a game like that and make it well will never be recouped from sales.
I love dialogue conman option and I love stealth (probably why deus ex:HR is one of my fav game) but without a 'panther' option the action junkies won't buy it.

I can't see it happening...unless this mini stealth renaissance we are in now explodes and grows exponentially

Hopefully I'm being overly pesimistic and this does come to pass

All Mr. Yahtzee seems to have mentioned is ways to neutralize or avoid guards in order to access specific areas.
My input: You don't verbally outwit guards just to get past them. You could also trick them into giving you keys or security codes you need. Or, here's a fun thing to roll in your head: false evidence. You could plant irrefutable proof on the scene that Guard A stole the sensitive documents that you have stashed under the floorboard in your office. Then watch as guard A is arrested for your crimes, lowering your heat in the process. Or maybe you could frame guard B instead, because Guard B is smart, and therefore difficult to make see things from your point of view. Not all stealth missions have to be 'get in and get out' style raids. You could plant yourself there for a long time, socializing and gaining their trust. Building up a stash of keys, passwords, floor maps and codes. Then pick your date on the calendar to loot the place and scram. There are tons of things you could do to prepare for a mission like that if you're patient. or you could just get in, and get out if you're not patient. This could be a way for the player to control their level of difficulty. If they're really good, they can just walk in and ghost the place in less than an hour before anybody knows whats going on. Or, if, like most people, they're idiots and they suck, they can take their time, read lots of flavor text, and build up a huge amount of intel and connections that inevitably fall into their lap. Finishing up whenever their stagnant brains decide it's time. I see a grand opportunity for role playing facilitation here.

I think this could be the basis of a new kind of 007 licensed game. As much as I enjoyed Goldeneye, Nightfire and a couple of other ones, it's always bothered me that all the games based on the world's greatest spy devolve into unhinged firefights. Enter Yahtzee's concept, but instead of making it 3 RPG like classes, just make it various different game play mechanics available to Bond.

The Conman game is something I've toyed with a lot in my head. Watching and reading about conmen, plus with White Collar being as popular as it is it really has possibilities. I think it could be done but if it was done it would have to be done by a small development studio with out a big publisher parent company. As no big corporation is going to run the risk on making a game so nontraditional. Telltale might be able to do it.

So basically the Con-man is Sherlock Holmes.

Alpha Protocol had some 'Conman' moments, mainly by snooping info about people to fill dossiers to give you a better idea of what made them tick. The best example was Marberg though, if you managed to complete his Dossier, at a cruical moment you could get inside his head so efficently (by convincing him that he'd been made a fool of so many times and never learnt from it) you could make him betray his employer and avoid one of the nastiest fights in the game.

Back OT: Totally agreed, i lost interest in the Splinter Cell series long before it officially went south due to the fact that Stealth seemed to mean only follow a predetermined path killing or knocking out every guard en route.

Beyond Good & Evil is a good example of stealth and not killing enemies. Even though you can fight any of the guards that spot you, you are much, much weaker than they are. So there's an added incentive to not getting caught; not only will you not complete your mission, but you'll also die.

The Conman might be hard to implement because he would need unique responses to every encounter rather than general game mechanics, but imagine the potential. Dress yourself up as a maintenance worker, then shout "There's a bomb! Everybody out!" to get rid of all the guards.

Yahtzee I want to play this game!

TL: DR When I encountered Disney's failed attempt at a nonviolent FPS, I came up with a number of ideas of where the gameplay would be, if not by dispensing helpful bullets

I'm reminded of an idea I had not long after Disney came up with their Atlantis FPS which they promised to be non-violent, but simply used context to allow people to kill guards without killing guards. Being an old student of the Thief series, my approach was to look at the gameplay elements of that that wasn't killing or blackjacking the guards.

~ Opening Doors: because of this one (and my fondness of the simple lockpick system in Thief: TDP and Thief 2: TMA) this game idea got the working title of Sonic Screwdriver. The tension of timing a guard's beat with running and picking open a lock was some of the richest I've felt in games. Making a player feel like they've earned access to the facility does a lot (and not by killing bunches of dudes to get a keycard on a pedestal). On the flip side:

~ Closing Doors: Obstructing access by guards to areas (or the less conspicuous forcing them to take the long way around). Typically this is done from master control rooms and such, but was elegantly done in SWAT 4 with a tactical doorjam that is evidently standard SWAT equipment. And when you had a key in Thief you could lock doors and guards wouldn't notice.

~ Killing The Lights: Nicely done by dousing torches in Thief, also softening noisy floors. Smell-sensitive guards may not go down stinky corridors and such.

~ Finding Secret Routes: Appears in some of the less linear Splinter Cell levels (also Thief, Thief, Thief). Bettered if ropes, climbing claws, portal guns and such are necessary (or help) to access said secrets. Better still if this facilitates avoiding / escaping guards.

~ Manipulating Guards: Teleporting them, slowing them, distracting them, trapping them, stunning them, recruiting them and so on all may be regarded as killing-light (though the context allows them to recover, some games spawn new guards with time and low active population), but all fits in to the category of sweetly humiliating your enemies and leaving them to never live it down.

Anyway, with this kit of stuff, it's what Disney should've utilized in a "non-violent" FPS rather than allowing the player to kill things and just saying it's not really killing them.


Mass Effect 2 did stealth in a strange way, since it's a third person shooter/RPG hybrid not a stealth-game. To be said, though, the feeling of getting that achievement specifically geared towards not letting the guards see you was very sweet! The Arkham series (Batman) did stealth very well - you're playing the G&%d&%ned Batman, so stealth and how the baddies react as you systematically take them out was pure gold.

The bottom line is make a game about a character that does things stealthy/non-violently, not put those elements in a game that doesn't look like it would fit.

Why must you keep describing these awesome game concepts that never come to light? Why must you keep breaking my heart, Ben?

Also, this article made me want to play Vampire: The Masquerade again soooo bad.

What's stopping you?

Also funny how several people mentioned Deus Ex as I think that the social enhancement mechanic from that game would adapt very well to the conman class.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Everything mentioned herein.

I REALLY like the idea of this- I'd like to imagine it used in a (naturally) open world city game a la GTA4 where you perform corporate espionage/heists for profit. Start small in a crappy efficiency apartment or hotel room stealing recipe secrets from local restaurants or sabotaging the ovens prior to a chili cookoff or something for chump change, and eventually you're in your Saints Row 3 style penthouse prepping for major data heists in the shimmering towers of downtown.

Each character type you outlined would have to acquire and maintain different types of equipment, and could optionally perform different types of preparatory missions to make the main assignment go easier (think of every assignment being like the prep for the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2). For instance-

The conman would tend to maintain surveillance equipment and low-key vehicles to blend in and gather information on people involved at your target.

The spy would want a bevy of power suits (that is, bespoke business attire, not exoskeleton powered armor), and vehicles that could be resprayed with corporate logos, or just high-end vehicles in general to fit the extreme white-collar image, and preparation missions would involve acquiring credentials and uniforms.

The sneak would, of course, have their aforementioned ninja sneaking suit, and an assortment of high-end intrusion implements that Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones would drool over (if they were in a movie together). Prep missions for this player type would involve getting equipment into place and pre-emptively disabling or setting in place the ability to remotely disable security features during the main assignment.

Story optional, many things could be done, a couple even done right, but the real fun would be just doing these tycoon style and playing around with your wealth, as well as having random side jobs for when the main jobs dry up. Also, I tend to hate being forced to interact with other humans remotely during my precious gaming time, but a co-op element to these could be damn good fun too- a heist where you have a conman talking the guards to let him bring his buddy in, who is a spy, who in turn disables surveillance allowing a sneak to infiltrate and get information for a conman to help him talk a password out of a junior boardmember that the spy then uses to steal blueprints to the newest widget mk3 pro... that could be a hell of a lot of fun.

We could use Yahtzee's idea. Or we could make the same game, but abandon this restrictive, overused class-based nonsense and just let the player tackle each mission using whichever tactic he/she deems to be the most effective or interesting at the time. But I'm sure somebody is going to call me an idiot for that. Forcing people to commit to a single play-style is, like, so deep, after all.

I've always liked the idea of a game that's more role-play heavy than action-based stuff. Honestly, in stealth games, I avoid killing as many people as possible. In a game where I don't have to kill in order to get around, I always take that route because it's just more interesting.

I love the name drop for Vampire: the Masquerade. That's a great game. I think a more appropriate name for the sneak would be the thief. Sneak sounds silly for a class name. It might be a better name for the game idea.

I really liked Dishonored because you could play any form of Stealth you wanted, I didn't kill any guards and always played for Ghost. Nothing lamer than an Assassin that has to barge through head on then kills the entire population to escape. Going in -> out undetected is how I feel like an assassin should be.

Even in Skyrim, I try to sneak past everyone and just kill the Chief Bandit for the extra difficulty.

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