Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

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The Artificially Prolonged:
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.

The only games that come to mind for me are Neverwinter Nights 2 and the Geneforge series.

I had an enjoyable playthrough of NWN2 where I rolled a chaotic evil halfling bard, who would be the biggest dick to everyone he ever met right up until he needed something from them, where he suddenly started to ooze charm from every orifice. It worked well in a few situations, right before some big fights when a conversation window popped up there was occasionally an option to say "haha no you can't fight me I'm too charming", and this would actually work and you could get through a lot of encounters like this. Unfortunately, it was always just an extra button that said "you have a high enough stat - click this to not get stabbed and lose a pile of experience for not killing things", and in all other situations I just played the bongos at my party to make them not die in the unavoidable combat. Still wasn't as fun as that time I rolled a wizard who was canonically 52 years old, making him older than his foster father, and making that scene with the ~20 year old elf lady particularly creepy, but I digress.

Geneforge also suffered from this kind of problem, but less so - it was possible to never lift a sword but still win the game; you could win sieges by giving a rallying enough speech to the people camping outside, talk people down from fights before they leapt at you, and generally be a silver-tongued badass. It even gave you exp for doing it, so you didn't lose out for not killing people. Unfortunately, it was exactly the same system as before - if your leadership stat is high enough, then you can pick more dialogue options. The wordiest option is invariably the best one.

I like the direction that these games point in, but what I think we really need is some model of conversation that isn't just "pick the right thing". Yahtzee (again) had the decent idea of having a sort of conversation wheel, where each spoke represented a topic, and the cursor's distance from the centre represented how strongly you approached it, so you could move the mouse around in a nice fluid way to lead the conversation in various directions. The downside here, of course, is that you'd need about 7 years of voice acting to make this kind of thing possible.

inkheart_artist:
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 don't know; naming them 'Fingers the Sneak' has a certain charm.

Ymbirtt:

The Artificially Prolonged:
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.

The only games that come to mind for me are Neverwinter Nights 2 and the Geneforge series.

I had an enjoyable playthrough of NWN2 where I rolled a chaotic evil halfling bard, who would be the biggest dick to everyone he ever met right up until he needed something from them, where he suddenly started to ooze charm from every orifice. It worked well in a few situations, right before some big fights when a conversation window popped up there was occasionally an option to say "haha no you can't fight me I'm too charming", and this would actually work and you could get through a lot of encounters like this. Unfortunately, it was always just an extra button that said "you have a high enough stat - click this to not get stabbed and lose a pile of experience for not killing things", and in all other situations I just played the bongos at my party to make them not die in the unavoidable combat. Still wasn't as fun as that time I rolled a wizard who was canonically 52 years old, making him older than his foster father, and making that scene with the ~20 year old elf lady particularly creepy, but I digress.

Geneforge also suffered from this kind of problem, but less so - it was possible to never lift a sword but still win the game; you could win sieges by giving a rallying enough speech to the people camping outside, talk people down from fights before they leapt at you, and generally be a silver-tongued badass. It even gave you exp for doing it, so you didn't lose out for not killing people. Unfortunately, it was exactly the same system as before - if your leadership stat is high enough, then you can pick more dialogue options. The wordiest option is invariably the best one.

I like the direction that these games point in, but what I think we really need is some model of conversation that isn't just "pick the right thing". Yahtzee (again) had the decent idea of having a sort of conversation wheel, where each spoke represented a topic, and the cursor's distance from the centre represented how strongly you approached it, so you could move the mouse around in a nice fluid way to lead the conversation in various directions. The downside here, of course, is that you'd need about 7 years of voice acting to make this kind of thing possible.

And your telling me this awesome NWN2 story after I decided not to buy it in gog.com's DnD promo over the weekend -_-

Yeah I can't even imagine how much dialogue would need to be recorded for that type of conversation system, I guest you could just use text but I imagine that would break the flow of gameplay a bit too much.

IMO games where stealth is the only option generally aren't fun to play, as often you are at the mercy of game and all its quirks. They become more frustrating than challenging. I liked how Dishonored did it, by making stealth as viable as normal combat.

Sounds intriguing.
I always played the Splinter Cell games as a ghost, never letting anyone know that I had been there. Later Splinter Cell titles made this basically impossible ("Oh shit, it's FISHER!!!!!!").
Deus Ex HR... I ghosted that one, too... though the bosses were simply badly designed. Even didn't use cheap invisibility and silent running until he's mesmerized and trapped by a swat team.
Mark of the Ninja: Ghosting FTW!
Dishonored: Haven't played it yet but it seems ghosting is possible but from what I saw about it up to now made "cheap" by teleporting around.

I'd love to play more stealth games but they are rare :(

thaluikhain:
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)

Vampire Bloodlines - I miss that game! I would like to do the full stealth thing myself but I agree that we should have that second option.

I wonder though as we get more believable digital persona's will our willingness to kill everything in the face finally be curbed? For myself, I would like alot less killing and more choices where my decision path has an impact in the world.

That sounds pretty fun. I'm tired of stealth games where if one guy sees me I have to start over. Why can't I deal with him somehow and get back to stealth? I like the idea of having to deal with getting spotted. It also sounds fun to play a game where the guards are reasonable and don't kill me for being mean to a chicken. Not killing everyone could also be fun. Assassins Creed 3 is a major pain because it keeps expecting me to kill people for no reason. It's fucking stressful running around the Boston Tea Party trying to keep everyone from killing each other. It's just tea you douche bags.

I'd like to see this with co-op, using a balanced team of specialists to pull off an elaborate heist.

I'd say that this a great idea for the most part, but needs a couple tweaks. First off, instead of making three separate classes, have it be a skill-system with three separate branches in the vein of Far Cry 3. Also, add an outfit system that bolsters up specific capabilities - such as a ninja suit or camo suit making the role of the Sneak better, generic outfits that affect how well one can blend into crowds for the Spy, and maybe business suits or catchy attire that makes the Conman look more confident or charismatic - that way there's more incentive to specialize in a particular branch or role while still allowing players to adapt to the situation at hand with a variety of skills from each branch.

EDIT: Also, give the player just enough skill points to fully level up a skill branch and maybe pick up a couple extra skills from other branches and that's it - no maxing out 2 or more skill branches, making players decide between specialization and versatility. Of course the top-tier skills for each branch would have to be really powerful (such as the teleport ability you mentioned) in order to really make it a choice. You'd also want to make it to where the outfits can only be switched out at particular times, that way the player really does have to decide on a preferred role beforehand and make it more strategic, though the player should have a rough idea of what to expect beforehand like in the old Rainbow Six / Splinter Cell / Thief games.

This sounds like an awesome idea! I'm surprised the Metal Gear Solid series didn't fit into one of the 3 criteria, but those games don't have to always be violently lethal.

Thunderous Cacophony:
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.

I really like this idea. It seems like an RPG that would play like Ocean's Eleven. You're the boss of a small, focused crime gang, and you and a pre-chosen squad pull off impressive heists and getaways.

Mark of the Ninja has this sort of "stealth-variation" built in. The different outfits that you unlock as progress through the game could work as a this "class" system. You have one that negates the ability to kill by giving you more space for trinkets, another that makes you more competent at direct combat and killing, but less able to sneak around and distract, and one that basically turns you into a freaking walking nightmare, creating terror and mayhem as you progress. It's not exactly the styles that Yahtee proposes, but it servers a purpose of distinguishing ninja-ish styles of play.

You know the way far Cry 3 was presented it was shown as mostly all guns blazing but when I played it I was a stealthy motherfucker with each base I laid eyes on I would rig the place with c4 and trip mines and then throw a rock and watch the mayhem unfold as I silently pick one enemy at a time with either a bow or silenced weapon of choice, for each base there was always a different stealthy approach for me and that's what made the game more fun for me right up until the tribe would show up and yell "I DID THIS, THIS IS ALL ME!" to which I'd shoot regardless of them being on my side because they broke my stealth emersion and accomplishment.

I loved the Thief franchise and I'm really looking forward for the reboot or Thief 4 or whatever they are calling the next game.

I really hope they don't try to mainstream it in any way.

Kuomon:
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.

All they need to do is make Deus Ex: 007. I mean, that's all I want. From anything. Ever. Also Deus Ex: Star Wars. But other than that I'm good.

DarkhoIlow:
I loved the Thief franchise and I'm really looking forward for the reboot or Thief 4 or whatever they are calling the next game.

I really hope they don't try to mainstream it in any way.

Just 'Thief' these days. Guess they decided to stop Thi4ffing about, hehe...

... I'll show myself out.

what about a game where you play as a hippy activist?

You have a reason for the non-violence, you have a reason to break into secure facilities (like... nuclear power plants or whatever) you have a cause the audience can relate to (sort of) and you can kick in some cool music to boot. maybe throw in some moral dilemmas and of course the player would get in completely over his head and then... I think I should write this down.

I'd try it.

Games where stealth is just an option make using it more powerful - Dishonored, for example. You could kill everything, or you could play the whole game without being detected, which made you even more badass. Or V:TM as mentioned.

I can't think of a single stealth as your only option game or level that was all that fun, but maybe that's just because nobody's made it yet! You could argue some horror games fit the description (Amnesia), but the atmosphere is completely different.

I would lose the class based and make it skill based, you have all 3 skills in a basic form and need to practice each one and get better at themand have each mission have multiple ways to do it but only 1 would be the best method and that could be use all 3 at different times. stealth into the compound, switch to conman to setup a clear extraction route and pass the guards at the target itself. once the target has been aquired set off a distraction that was setup in sneak mode like a smalll explosive on a window to set off a security alarm or a device that sets off the fire alarms. then once the distraction is happening use spy to blend in and walk right out the main door. other missions could be acomplished with just one skill such as stealth to the roof and rope down to a window where the target is at, grab the target and stealth back out, you could try to spy or con your way in but the guards are more alert. Another could be the location is too well lit, and theres only 1 way to get to the target and it requires you to con the guard.

Then you need to have a variety of missions, always thieving would be boring so maybe some espionagewhere you are hired to get the layout of a location, guard routes and schedules, and where a specific item is located without being detected. then you have the basic theft job where you go in and steal something up to complicated by having to access several parts of the compound to gather multiple items, such as a prototype piece of tech, the software used in it from another lab, and the design schematics from another. The last mission type I can think of is planting something instead of removing. Examples could be a trojan virus on the secure system, planting false evidence, or changing some research making them start following the wrong research path. and missions could be a mix of the main types like both stealing research and planting false. doing recon and stealing keys. or recon, stealing something, and planting false evidence in its place.

I wonder if he has played Sang Froid: Tales Of Werewolves? I think he might like the stealth through misdirection and traps, rather then just the "ninja" type game. It has patrol routs, traps and detection trappings and hack and slash.

I'd like to hear his review of the game. Especially the part where he describes himself running through the woods being chased by wolves, screaming like a little girl.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

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

Read Full Article

Yahtzee, what the hell happened to "What's a stealth game supposed to do? Not have token RPG elementS? Don't answer that."?

It hasn't been that long since your dishonored review, has it?

if the object is not getting caught, shouldn't there also be a runner class. A parkour guy/girl who storms the front and just sprints past things until everyone has lost him/her again and the loot can be picked. Or even just grab and run. It would have to be some kind of mirrors edge parkour thing, maby with a sort of spider sense to avoid getting shot and or hit. not with quicktime events but more along the line of a directional dodge skill you have to use in the right direction at the right time. They could also use the enviroment to create barriers as they go and all that jazz.

It's a shame this kind of game is ever likely to come to light but it would certainly improve some others.

It was badly done but I loved the first Assassin's Creed concept of missions that prepare for the big assassination. Find out guard routes, entry points, the target's movements. The only problem with it was that the prep missions were reptitive, dull, and in some cases barely gameplay. The also failed the number one rule of any assassination/heist plan... an exit strategy. In every single assassination you got a wealth of information on how to GET to the target, but the exit strategy was always the same ... LEG IT!

After the popularity of GTAIV's bank heist mission(and the one in Vice City which was great too) I thought that would make a great game in itself. Group of characters, mostly like the rogue's gallery Yahtzee describes above, each have a mission. The conman gets the plans of the buildings, passes, etc. The spy uses surveilance to get guard movements and passcodes. The ninja infiltrates parts of the building to prepare for the main heist. Then you plan the whole thing out and play it like Ocean's Eleven.

Attempts have been made. Payday 2 looks to try some of this. The game The Heist got canned. And there are others, but they're all too restricted.

However, there's one game coming that has basically said it will have all these things... GTA V

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Also, it would be good if guards/baddies flipped out when they found a dead/unconscious colleague like they do in Batman. What kind of guard sees their mate lying on the floor and goes "Holy crap... guess I'll look around for a few minutes then go back to standing under this vent rather than calling the police/guards, or helping my mate or moving his body, or calling my boss or anything. I'm sure what ever did that to him is long gone and no threat to me. All this is above my pay grade and my Health & Safety supervisor says I don't have to do no heavy lifting"

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Stealth Games Don't Have to Be About Killing People

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

Read Full Article

I want to give you my money. Please for the love of Gaming, make this game. Kickstarter, Traditional developer, Start an Escapist Development studio, I don't care.

Take my money please! I want that game.

Excellent idea. I've always wanted a proper spy game: that is to say, one built around disguises, confidence tricks and phishing. No one can do them without an added "and you then kill this guy" requirement, and every game with sneaking can quickly devolve into a massacre. Real spies don't even carry weapons (except for specific wet work).

Good idea but The Conman doesn't sound like much fun to play. I like the concept but I think the execution will be difficult to pull off and keep it fun.

Like the idea of that type of game, when I am bored I tend to think about things that could add to certain types of games, extra things such as robotic spy camera's to scout out the area and gather information would be a nice addition (Sneak). Using items (knock out gas) to harmlessly knock out guards to gather the keys or change outfits (the Spy). Or even forging fake identities or acting like an applicant to get a job there (Conman).

I just finished playing through Hitman Absolution, and I enjoyed the fact that it penalized you for needlessly killing civilians, though it was rather forgiving on killing anyone else, as long as you hid the bodies afterward. It also made subduing them considerably harder than just garroting them, due to noise issues. But it did at least try to give you options and make you think twice before stringing up everyone you found out of matters of convenience.

wait just a second, did you say that in the new SLY COOPER game they have you murdering a bunch of guards?! I've never owned a playstation system and never actually played a Sly Cooper game but I was sympathetic towards the series because it's one of those cartoony mascot driven franchises (my favorite genre) on a system that is not well known for them. I always figured Sly was a thief or sportsman, I didn't think that killing was even a thing that he DID, and it really seems messed up to have him doing all that.

Or maybe I'm wrong and Sly has always been a mass murdering sociopath, making me totally wrong for ever thinking the Playstation could make a harmless family friendly game franchise.

you could take a hint from tv with the conman. looking at a guard you get an overlay of small details, like patched shoes that show the person might be open to bribery, or a mark for a wedding ring and a hint of lipstick on the guards collar show he might be open to blackmail, etc

now i want it even more. so ill be investing $30 in the kickstarter if he get around to it :D

So about optional stealth. What about a game where the alternative to stealth is not violence, but flight?

Waiting for your moment to slip through a gap in the shadows can be fairly dull. However, when you're not sure that stealth is the right decision at all, and your window of possible escape from a failed attempt at infiltration is closing by the second, stealth is terrifying. The game should make you want to break and run. That guard is not an obstacle, but rather someone that is going to hunt you down, and you do NOT want to be close to him. Every move your accomplished infiltrator makes in a normal stealth game is a tradeoff here, an exponentially increasing risks that degrades your ability to run away. Sneak vs flight should be a game of chicken. And often there is no way to sneak past, only a stealthy approach and then a well-timed burst of speed. The skilled player will keep his nerve until he can identify that critical moment of changed tactics.

So instead of a stealth game that can turn into an action game, a stealth game that can suddenly turn into a chase game. Like Assassin's Creed, or the teaser trailer for Beyond Good and Evil II. The objective here is getting from point A to point B by any means necessary.

One incarnation this game could take is a wartorn city (think Homs or Aleppo), were the young protagonist has to navigate a bombed-out concrete maze of roadblocks, roving militias, changing frontlines and airstrikes. And in the opening cutscene you get your trigger finger blown off symbolically.

I would play the shit out of that game.

Silly Hats:
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.

Yeah, same here. I loved that part with Daud, where you could choose to just pick the stuff right out of his pocket and leave, knowing that he'd freak the hell out when he noticed. Well, in real life, anyway.

The funny thing about Skyrim, on the other hand, is that most people default to the killing anyway. At the end of the day, you only have to kill a very few beings - three dragons and the draugr carrying the dragonstone. Aaaand maybe a couple more that I've forgotten.

I like thinking how the visual design of the characters would be. I figure the Sneak using something similar to what the Spetnaz use, a camouflaged face mask with nothing more than a pair of holes for the eyes, along with a full camouflaged sniper suit that s/he bought on the internet
The Spy would need to have loose clothes that are easy to remove and hide, something like generic sportswear. A natural actor/actress, s/he forgoes any kind of distinctive characteristics, making him/her something akin to a men in black. "Someone was there, but frankly I can't remember any face".
The Conman is a charming guy/gal, always dressed with impecable style, using suits/dresses that are slightly shabby, giving off the appereance that s/he comes from a party.

Captcha: halp meh

You can't lie to me, Yahtzee. You already DID make a stealth action game. Not THIS one, but I played The Art of Theft! I played it!

Incidentally, why bother having a "class" system at all? Outside of D&D, I don't see them as fun or interesting when you can have much more organic playstyles in games. Bioshock, as an example, allows for multiple paths to go down even though you're essentially the same dude with the same background. I hardly ever used my guns when I played. I went with wrench first and plasmids later, only using a shotgun for Big Daddies. I still found the game piss-easy on medium difficulty. The game's mechanics allowed me to pursue that route, with upgrades that greatly enhanced the wrench's power, as well as making sneaking an option and sometimes giving my blows a freezing effect.

I'm just saying, class systems are very rigid and outdated to me.

ajapam:
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.

Yeah, like that

The Idea is very nice, to put it simply. A game could be made out of this idea, and if done properly, a fun game it would be, but it would take a looong time and effort to get up from concept to finish production. It has been done before for fan games and freeware, though, so anything is possible if you put the sword to the grindstone. Or we could wait until a triple makes it and... HA, like that's going to happen.

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