The Annoying Tendency To Mix Styles of Play In A Single Game

The Annoying Tendency To Mix Styles of Play In A Single Game

Do you want to play a shooter or a stealth game? Most AAA titles these days give you that option, and Yahtzee thinks that's a bad idea.

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I feel Deus Ex: Human Revolution also fell prey to this dual gameplay ideology, especially since it's an RPG. Sure, you can shoot your way through, but non-lethal silent takedown gives 40 xp, headshot kill 20 xp, normal kill 10 xp. This gears one mechanically towards stealth play-style. Hacking also provides additional experience, but requires big xp investment to open it up fully, therefore you have to be stealthy to get to hacking. Narratively one is also pushed towards stealth, because more experience means hacking which in turn means more details about the world.
Unless it was a scripted sequence (sniping around helicopter), getting shooty always felt like a fuck-up. And another problem is that while going from stealth to shooting was not that difficult due to weapon upgrades, going the other way mid-game would be nearly impossible due to insufficient xp pool and non-optimal skill selection.

What, Yahtzee reads our comments?

OMGZ IM FANGURLING OUT

Seriously though, it's funny. I wanted to make a thread about exactly what Yahtzee was talking about. I was thinking that games should either be stealth or something else, no stealth mechanics on the side. Who here actually played Far Cry 3 as a shoot em up? Or played Deus Ex Human Revolution as a run n' gun? Or Skyrim as a non-sneaky mage/knight? Hell, even in CoD I used to try and play like a ninja! It was tedious and annoying most of the time.

Funny that he brought up Dishonored as well, because I rage quit that game due to my feeling that I was being forced by the game to choke every single guy instead of blowing off their heads or knifing their throats or setting flash eating rats on them.

Mr. Croshaw, you and I seem to be very similar people.

I know it gets a lot of hate, but I like the rails Call of Duty puts you on for mixing up the experiences. There are clear sections where you are supposed to sneak, there are clear sections where you are supposed to shoot, and if the mission moves from one to the other it's very obvious about when that happens (usually by blowing up something). Your expectations in each part are clear, and the levels are built for that style of play.

Hardline's 'open room with a few guys, move to the next place' always feels like a letdown if you do decide to shoot because you get no momentum. In CoD you start shooting and running around, grenades are going off and Generic Grizzled Sergeant is shouting your instructions, so you start rushing forward. In Hardline there's enforced breaks as you go from one zone to the next, where you feel your heart rate slowing down as you jog to the next area.

This only works if done very carefully, and your designers have to be competent.

1. Each style of play must be equally viable and equally fun.
2. One style of play must not give more rewards than another. (Non-lethal should NOT give more exp than lethal, for example)
3. Don't suddenly force one style of play at points during the game when you've let the player build their character for another (Deus Ex HR boss battle are the go-to example)
4. Don't tie it to achievements, and/or don't hide those achievements.
5. NEVER tie the ending or story to the gameplay style chosen. (Except perhaps at critical junctures where you allow the player to choose what they want to do)

Sometimes, letting people approach a problem how they want can work, to an extent. Halo 3 would often dump you in front of of a large open area, and say "run wild," leaving it up to you whether you wanted to pick each enemy off with a battle rifle, charge forwards in a vortex of needle rounds and flailing punches, or strafe everything in sight with a vehicle mounted weapon. The crucial point is that the game didn't treat you any differently for taking any one approach; as long as all the enemies all died, it didn't matter how you achieved it.

I find it really annoying when a stealth mission you have to play as a stealth mission is stuck in the middle of a shooter. I'm playing the shooter to shoot stuff, but then to get to the next shooting stuff I have to go through the stealth level...or use a cheat, which is what is more likely.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
The triple-A games market is nothing if not broad these days. Common denominators are hanging pretty lowly at present. But you can hardly blame the creators for that. Since the cost of developing on the cutting edge is so high, getting as many people to buy the game as possible is almost essential for making the investment back. Would be nice if we could have a mainstream industry where creative expression doesn't have to be so dependent on monetization, but then I'd also like a cloaking device and that's not happening either.

Actually, we can blame the creators, considering it's entirely their fault. They keep trying to one up themselves and each other by shooting up the graphics as far as they technology allows without any concern for the actual importance of it to the game they are creating while making the gameplay more excessively spectacular and over the top with each game, driving up costs to more and more absurd levels every passing year instead of doing the intelligent thing and focusing on substance over style and trying to make developing these very games quicker and easier and thus MUCH cheaper BEFORE trying to ramp them up. Worse, doing this encourages the mentality in the minds of the gamers that each game absolutely MUST exceed everything that came before it, which encourages the developers to continue ramping everything up, repeat ad infintium.

The entire REASON creative expression is so dependent on monetization is because these creators make it that way, and they get away with it because of the rationalization that that's what the customer want, failing to recognize the entire reason the customer want that is because the creators MADE them want it.

Yay, I actually agree with Yahtzee about video games, for once. Doesn't happen often.

The one game which actually did a pretty good job of mixing stealth and action was Far Cry 3, but that was mostly because stealthing in that game was about killing as many enemies as you could before all hell broke loose. In that sense, there was hardly any need to stealth, and the game wasn't so hard as to demand it most of the time, but it was still fun to knife a few guys before the explosions started.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Part of that comes from the fact that, it most cases, there's no way to go back and try the stealthing from the top once the shooting starts, you're locked into shooty mode until the room is cleared; so much for choosing what kind of game we want to play.

I'd not really thought about it before, but this may be why Shadow of Mordor is so satisfying compared to similar sorts of games. It's the only one I can think of where fighting and stealth are both meaningful fallbacks to each other. If you screw up stealth you tend to end up in a big fight, as is standard. But if you get in over your head in a fight, you can run around the corner and don't even need to wait until they stop looking for you before sneaking around to take people out stealthily. Even in other more open games where running away is possible (Skyrim, for example), there tends of be an official "you have failed at stealth" state that doesn't allow you to do anything other than fight until you've run halfway across the country and the encounter is well and truly over. SoM does a very good job of not just allowing you to choose how you want to play at the start, but allowing you to freely change your mind at any time (other than during a few optional missions with hard failures when stealth is part of the completion conditions).

I find it odd that no one has mentioned Wolfenstein: The New Order in here yet. It is probably the best realized dual-concept shooter as of yet, as it manages to mix not two, but three separate play styles and make them all equally valid and fun. You can go stealthy, you can play modern cover shooter or go old school run and gun and all three work equally well and you never feel penalized for choosing one over the other. In fact, most of the game I had fun switching back and forth between styles of play, alternating between stealthing and run and gunning and both had really satisfying game play.

You are crushing my dreams to make a first person match 3 visual novel.

Not sure about this. You might be right that trying to allow vastly different playstyles doesn't add any depth and can actually make the game worse. Perhaps a more careful map design could hint at which is the preferred option for different sections?

I actually really liked the Special Ops missions in CoD MW2, where some of them required you to be more methodical and stealthy than just ramboing it. These were separate and distinct from the main campaign though.

dangoball:
I feel Deus Ex: Human Revolution also fell prey to this dual gameplay ideology, especially since it's an RPG. Sure, you can shoot your way through, but non-lethal silent takedown gives 40 xp, headshot kill 20 xp, normal kill 10 xp. This gears one mechanically towards stealth play-style. Hacking also provides additional experience, but requires big xp investment to open it up fully, therefore you have to be stealthy to get to hacking. Narratively one is also pushed towards stealth, because more experience means hacking which in turn means more details about the world.

I was gonna say, the original Deus Ex messed with my head for the same reason Yahtzee's talking about, which is why I never got very far in it (that, plus forgetting to save my game between levels because I'm used to some degree of autosave). Every time I started the first mission, if I failed to take out a dude stealthily, it felt like a game-over that the game wasn't even courteous enough to treat as such, forcing me to keep going even knowing I had already failed. (See also the respawn feature in BioShock.) I get enough of that from reality, and it wasn't nearly as amusing to roll with it as it was in, say, Fallout 3.

rembrandtqeinstein:
You are crushing my dreams to make a first person match 3 visual novel.

HuniePop is 2/3 of the way there......................

When I play fallout 3 or New Vegas I mix my playstyle up, sometimes I stealth and take out enemies from a distance with a silenced sniper rifle or I will charge right for some run and gun action. Both are equally satisfying. In Skyrim sometimes I go sword and board and others a stealth archer. never has the games told me to choose a style, the tools to make the style up are just there to be used or ignored as I see fit. That's the key to giving playstyle choices, provide the tools and not mention different styles and never force the player to do one style at anytime. With just providing the tools if you choose stealth and alert everyone within 100 miles then that is a consequence for your mistake that feels right, when it's a forced stealth section the consequences never feel right when the mission fails or some other hackneyed consequence.

Bob_McMillan:
Who here actually played Far Cry 3 as a shoot em up?

The missions in Far Cry 3 kinda railroad you into stealth or action, there's very little room for choosing. Often missions will be evenly split between The Stealth Bit and The Action Bit (the mission with the beached ships, the mission with the marijuana fields, the mission where you 1) stealthily work your way towards a prisoner and 2) shoot your way back, etc). You only really get to choose how you get to clear the outspots, if you want to clear the outposts. And why wouldn't you? It's the most fun part of the game. The advantage of stealth is that it rewards more XP and also there will be no reinforcements. On the other hand, you can preemptively shoot the alarm/s to eliminate reinforcements in case of a shootout, and halfway through the game I was maxed out on XP so there was no true reward for stealth other than the personal satisfaction of a job skillfully accomplished. I RPG'd the last couple of outposts, because fuck getting around dogs. The bottom line is, I don't think this duality in game design was as bipolar as it could've been. Action felt pretty solid, and I liked how you could blend the two by luring chasers into the forest, breaking lines of sight and continue to take them one-on-one, Rambo style.

"But even if the game doesn't make that kind of overbearing moral judgment, and beats me over the head with the knowledge that it's entirely up to what I feel like doing and there'll be no consequences either way, it's impossible to make a dual stealth/shooter game where the shooting doesn't feel like the fallback for after you fuck up the stealth."

B-but that's the CORRECT way to do a stealth game, rather than getting "Bzzzz! Game Over!" if you're detected. You done goofed, and now you have to shoot your way out of the goof. At least that's what we all (well, maybe not ALL of us) tried to tell Ubisoft when they had that same separate "play styles" scoring system in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, with an "Assault" shooty option. Dunno if they listened, no news of a new Splinter Cell as of yet. But here's a hoping.

09philj:
Sometimes, letting people approach a problem how they want can work, to an extent. Halo 3 would often dump you in front of of a large open area, and say "run wild," leaving it up to you whether you wanted to pick each enemy off with a battle rifle, charge forwards in a vortex of needle rounds and flailing punches, or strafe everything in sight with a vehicle mounted weapon. The crucial point is that the game didn't treat you any differently for taking any one approach; as long as all the enemies all died, it didn't matter how you achieved it.

Often times you didn't even need to kill the enemies in Halo 3. I often enjoy skipping over large portions of some of the levels (especially The Covenant) through strategic use of vehicles, legging it and invisibility, especially on Legendary.

Glad to hear I am not the only one driven crazy by the "optional" stealth style in so many games. Sometimes I would like have a little fun running and gunning but everything about these types of games insists that is the lesser or even wrong option. Not to mention these games seem to always have some sort of "No Kills the entire game" achievement that essentially punishes you for ever deviating from the stealth if you start off playing that way. Also glad to know I am not the only one who gets some irrational guilt for killing NPCs when the game gives me the option not to, even when they are straight up enemies. I have learned to avoid this type of game unless I really want to do some stealth, and even then I may avoid it because trying to both usually means neither are done particularly well.

Bob_McMillan:
What, Yahtzee reads our comments?

OMGZ IM FANGURLING OUT

Seriously though, it's funny. I wanted to make a thread about exactly what Yahtzee was talking about. I was thinking that games should either be stealth or something else, no stealth mechanics on the side. Who here actually played Far Cry 3 as a shoot em up? Or played Deus Ex Human Revolution as a run n' gun? Or Skyrim as a non-sneaky mage/knight? Hell, even in CoD I used to try and play like a ninja! It was tedious and annoying most of the time.

Funny that he brought up Dishonored as well, because I rage quit that game due to my feeling that I was being forced by the game to choke every single guy instead of blowing off their heads or knifing their throats or setting flash eating rats on them.

Mr. Croshaw, you and I seem to be very similar people.

I played Far Cry 3 with a silenced sniper for outposts, a flamethrower, a grenade launcher, and an LMG. I did every non-outpost by just unloading with whatever weapon was appropriate for the range. The only thing I did "stealth" were the outposts (since doing them any other way was a SERIOUS XP penalty) and then I only did them stealth if you count headshotting everyone from a mile away with a high-powered sniper-rifle to be stealthing.

Similarly, I play Skyrim defaulty as a battlemage, because magic is cool and actually kind of works in that game. In previous games, I played as big nasty Orcs with two-handed weapons and heavy armor.

Gethsemani:
I find it odd that no one has mentioned Wolfenstein: The New Order in here yet. It is probably the best realized dual-concept shooter as of yet, as it manages to mix not two, but three separate play styles and make them all equally valid and fun. You can go stealthy, you can play modern cover shooter or go old school run and gun and all three work equally well and you never feel penalized for choosing one over the other. In fact, most of the game I had fun switching back and forth between styles of play, alternating between stealthing and run and gunning and both had really satisfying game play.

THIS.

I'm really surprised Yahtzee didn't mention it too, considering it was his #2 game of 2014 in his best of video.

Good points Yahtzee and thanks for the post : )

Hmm, I have felt the same, like oops you goofed by not stealthing. I generally enjoy doing things stealthed where I can though the tedium of rerunning a map do to strictly set patrol pattern can move things to the no fun section.

Breaching a room big and loud is fun as well but I don't feel as personally rewarding. I wonder if Yahtzee got as OCD as the rest of us when playing Tenchu : ) There is something about entering, completing the objective, disappearing and they had no idea you were even there.

Alright I am going to throw the banana! I think the developers should do a better job of allowing us to do both and allow the story to change based on our choices - real verbal dialog, CG and all that. Yes it ups production costs but the tools are getting better and easier to use so that should offset it some heh.

And one of my favourite games, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, is guilty of all of that. I like the dual concept and (as has been pointed out, SC:BL has 3) like the option of using what I want to choose to play. The style goes all the way back to the original Deus Ex/Thief/Splinter Cell.

I also am for somewhat better rewards for stealthing as stealthing is actually much more difficult that just murdering everyone. In Blacklist the three options were: non-lethal stealth, lethal stealth, and just plain lethal.

The reason I like this concept is that the alternate is forced stealth. An example of this is The Last of Us. Shooting your way through that game is almost impossible as there are very few bullets available (which is odd considering the amount of people shooting at you) and the clickers are almost instant death. So you are forced into stealth.

So while I hate gameplay types being shoehorned in just to have it in there, I really do like the shoot/stealth option system in many modern games. In fact, I became more interested in Hardline once I heard you could go all stealth.

Kahani:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Part of that comes from the fact that, it most cases, there's no way to go back and try the stealthing from the top once the shooting starts, you're locked into shooty mode until the room is cleared; so much for choosing what kind of game we want to play.

I'd not really thought about it before, but this may be why Shadow of Mordor is so satisfying compared to similar sorts of games. It's the only one I can think of where fighting and stealth are both meaningful fallbacks to each other. If you screw up stealth you tend to end up in a big fight, as is standard. But if you get in over your head in a fight, you can run around the corner and don't even need to wait until they stop looking for you before sneaking around to take people out stealthily. Even in other more open games where running away is possible (Skyrim, for example), there tends of be an official "you have failed at stealth" state that doesn't allow you to do anything other than fight until you've run halfway across the country and the encounter is well and truly over. SoM does a very good job of not just allowing you to choose how you want to play at the start, but allowing you to freely change your mind at any time (other than during a few optional missions with hard failures when stealth is part of the completion conditions).

I also was about to mention SoM - mostly because it surprised me in its skill trees: I expected one path to be the clearly winning spec, and the others only used when enforced in mission context. Colour my surprise when it became clear you had to use all three weapons in order to fight well.

And thus, the only game I can even think of where one option in the sneak/ranged/brawl trifecta wasn't vastly superior, is the one where the correct answer is "all of the above".

I disagree. If the game is good mechanically, more options for the player is always a good thing.

I personally view stealth as one of many tools in my arsenal, that I can use to gain a tactical advantage. Its easier to kill or knock out enemies when they aren't shooting back, so I try to keep that going as long as possible. But when I mess up (and I usually will sooner or later), I want the freedom to adapt my tactics to the situation, and bring out my guns/swords/whatever. Deus Ex Human Revolution is probably my favourite example of this type of game but I've also used it in other games such as Metro Last Light and Far Cry 3.

I find this vastly more enjoyable than stealth only games where one mistake results in an instant failure, reload the last checkpoint and keep doing it over and over until you find the one solution that the developers have programmed. Its one of the reasons that I quit the Assassins Creed franchise.

I haven't played Battlefield Hardline, but from the reviews I've read, I don't think the "shoot or stealth" choice is the problem - its that the shooting and stealth mechanics are all shit.

I agree with this. I recently played Killzone: Shadowfall because a friend loaned it to me for a bit. For the first probably half of the game, I kept trying to be sneaky, get in and out without alerting enemies, and try to kill as few as possible. Because the game just made it seem like that was what I was supposed to do. I could disable alarm, I could stealth kill people, and if I killed someone, it alerted more people. When I first arrived on the Helghan side, I restarted the first section five times because they kept noticing me.

That was when I figured it out. Stealth, despite how they made it seem, didn't matter. So I went in guns blazing and had a much better time. The only mission where stealth mattered was the last one it seemed.

So yeah, I don't like it when games try to give you options like this, but make it clear that one option is the better option.

Kahani:

I'd not really thought about it before, but this may be why Shadow of Mordor is so satisfying compared to similar sorts of games. It's the only one I can think of where fighting and stealth are both meaningful fallbacks to each other. If you screw up stealth you tend to end up in a big fight, as is standard. But if you get in over your head in a fight, you can run around the corner and don't even need to wait until they stop looking for you before sneaking around to take people out stealthily. Even in other more open games where running away is possible (Skyrim, for example), there tends of be an official "you have failed at stealth" state that doesn't allow you to do anything other than fight until you've run halfway across the country and the encounter is well and truly over. SoM does a very good job of not just allowing you to choose how you want to play at the start, but allowing you to freely change your mind at any time (other than during a few optional missions with hard failures when stealth is part of the completion conditions).

Yes. The problem isn't so much that a game has multiple play styles the player can switch to on the fly, but that the game does terribly at one style or another or sometimes many of them. Shadow of Mordor is a great example precisely because it avoids making it's various play styles inferior to one another while each is good on it's own. Far more games make the stealthy approach pretty much mandatory because the player character can't hope to be a match in a straight fight with anyone, or make stealth pointless because the player character is such a one man army that simply running and gunning is far easier and more convenient thing to do, rather than balancing this out.

I suppose another thing that might be relevant to this mandatory minigames that show up a couple times, have little to nothing to do with the story or other gameplay, and largely exist solely to stall the player for a bit. For instance, if I'm playing a game about swords and sorcery, I don't think I'd want to be stuck having to beat someone at blackjack to continue with the story.

I'm playing a lot of Pay Day 2 lately, that has that duality too. Though I think that's mostly because people complained about the lack of a stealth option in most Pay Day 1 missions. Generally people pick one style and gear their character towards it. Stealth tends to get better rewards (some missions give extra loot, you usually get a ~10% XP bonus to your next mission for completing one without the alarm going off) but it's also extremely difficult because it adds extra complexity to most missions, you can only kill four guards before the pager central gets suspicious and raises an alarm and often there's just no way at all to remain hidden 100%, you must keep civilians on the ground or as hostages to prevent them from raising the alarm. Also most missions have a voiceover that makes going loud seem like a total failure.

Meanwhile shooting is just gunning down literally hundreds of cops...

I completely agree with Yahtzee on this one.

I really did not enjoy the not-Thief game that was released last year and one of those reasons was the conflicting ways to play it. Garret, I thought, would always do things one way, only. Killing people was a last resort for the weak - those not strong enough to do it without death. Even the intro. sequence from last year's offering reinforced this idea but, no matter how hard I tried to play it that way, I never knew how well I did because the game invariably misinterpreted my failed attempts to be stealthy as mediocre attempts to kill every guard.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Metro games where Stealth was a mechanic simply because ammunition was scarce and stealth didn't consume it. The "punishment" for failure was a manic shootout that cost you dearly and was immensely fun because the guards you evaded would join in.

Good point, Yahtzee. To add to the earlier comments about Deus Ex and Dishonored, the former feels less blatant by rewarding the stealth option more than run-n-gun, because that way will punish you in the long run by making you work toward proceeding. Dishonored sounds like its punishing you for using the kick-ass superpowers it provides you, and I hat that kind of railroading. At least Human Revolution's ending mainly depends on pushing a button over your overall actions and choices.

Speaking of, I wonder which one will be the "canon" one since HR's sequel, Mankind Divided has been leaked/announced (leanounced).

I tend to like the hybrid game play idea, and usually I wind up adopting a variety of methods depending on the situation. What's more I feel stealth gameplay tends to be kind of buggy in most cases, and relies on being touchy to provide any kind of challenge. Being able to fight my way out when the game decides I was detected for some reason known only to it is a good thing. When the game is designed well I don't feel any real compelling reason to be a humanitarian anyway.

To put things into perspective when I play Assassin's Creed (or at least the latter ones I like) they get me in the mood to buckle some swashes so to speak. Being the most legendary (yet somehow unknown) pirate on the high seas, or running around Revolutionary France makes me want to fight with swords and shoot people with pistols. I tend to like doing enough stealth to get into an ideal position and then jump down and wreck havoc with my swords, guns, and smoke bombs, and then vanish without a trace like a Napoleanic era Batman, except without the code against killing because I mean really, what kind of serious pirate doesn't kill people? and the title IS "Assassin's Creed" which doesn't exactly lead me to think in non-lethal terms.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand the appreciation for a good stealth puzzle, but I think the current gameplay conventions evolved mostly due to people liking a varied approach as opposed to it being all one thing or another. To be honest I think half the problem is when people play this kind of game thinking in terms of ALL stealth, or all action, when really it seems to me that while all approaches tend to be possible to all of the situations presented, some situations do favor one approach or another. One moment I might circle around a building and jump over a gate via the rooftops, another time I might decide to just walk in the front gate, it depends on what's there. Of course at the same time I'm not an achievement junky, to me I find it somewhat refreshing to be able to use common sense, why set up an overcomplicated air assassination when you can just shoot some dude and easily escape or kill his guards like they are nothing.

AC isn't a perfect analogy but that's what I think of when he brings this up. Far Cry 3 and 4 have some of these elements as well.

 

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