Joined: 01 Jul 2007
|Posted: Sun 16 Jan - 18:17 (2011) Post subject: The Problem With Stealth
|Justin Keverne wrote: |
|I'm not sure what you see as the ideal future for the stealth genre? You mention Thief and yet fail to discuss the reasons why that game is fundamentally different from the current crop of stealth-action titles. |
At the heart of Thief series are three basic concepts that have been missing from most stealth games of the last decade:
1) A variety of movement options. Movement in Thief is actually closer to that of Mirror's Edge than a traditional action game. The range of movement options available allows players to develop mastery of what is usually a very basic set of mechanics; this increases the options available at any given moment.
2) Multipurpose tools in a simulated environment. The tools available to the player are not designed around scripted uses, but systemic interactions. Water Arrows can be used for more than simply dousing torches. Mastery of this toolset combined with an understanding of the movement options available allows players to create their own solutions to the problems they encounter.
3) Long and short term consequences. The non-linear structure of levels leads to the possibility of enemies being behind you, and this combined with the limited ability to reequip means you have to consider the long term consequences of your actions. Do you use the Moss Arrow here to approach this guard and subdue him so you don’t have to face him again, or do you hold on to it because you might need it later?
Together these three interlocking concepts form a stealth design based around creative problem solving. It is as much about manipulating the systems and environment of the game as it is about movement through space.
The current trend for stealth games is a linear sequence of discrete problem encounters and the ability to reload and reequip between those encounters, this leads to an arena mentality of level design. Within those individual encounter arenas the options available can be varied but with no consequences beyond that encounter there is little motivation to attempt anything that diverges from the path of least resistance. That’s why in order to promote different styles of player there tend to be globally imposed restrictions on certain levels, “No Alarms”, “No Kills” etc.
The problem with designing a game based on interlocking systems like Thief is that such systems by their very nature are difficult to debug as they are prone to unpredictable behaviour. As the costs of development have increased it’s understandable that the stealth genre has moved towards mechanics that can be created and tested in isolation.