Stealth Without Guns

1. Is Thi4f worth playing? I”m not really experienced in the stealth genre but I know you are supposed to be god-like at that game. 2. Agree/disagree with the thesis of this post?

1. No. Really no. Unless for some reason you really want to see how the swoop works, because I thought that mechanic was pretty cool and totally worth stealing for a worthwhile game, don’t bother.

I heard when the game was released that there would be custom difficulty modes and leaderboards based on who could beat the game with a custom difficulty setting, and that whoever got to a certain rank would sit there forever, instead of getting dethroned by someone playing on the same difficulty with a faster time. My intention was to download the game, beat it with every modifier turned on, and then write a review being the permanent best player in the world. In practice, I could not accomplish this, because beating the whole game in one go is fucking insane. I got glitches that would randomly kill me in a late level, you were supposed to press space to do a context sensitive jump, but it wouldn’t register sometimes and you’d swoop off the ledge and just die right there. I was number 1 in the world when that review went up, but not with the maximum possible rank. I was rushing to complete the review, and I actually had a thesis project I was putting off to work on it, so I didn’t have additional time to try to get the maximum score possible and wreck that game permanently. It was a good accomplishment for the time though and makes for a good story. How many journalists have literally become the quantifiable best player in the world for their review?

2. Partially agree.

The thing is, if you don’t have some way of manipulating or removing the guards, then stealth games become timed movement games and that’s really really lame. Successfully taking out a guard means multiple things in a stealth game. It means you need to do it when no other guard is watching. It means you need to do it without them noticing you. It means you need to prevent other guards from noticing their body. And it means you need to worry about what they’ll do when they wake up.

If you kill them outright, or are playing deus ex and hide their body sufficiently well, you never need to worry about them waking up.

If they’re the only guard in an area, you never need to worry about another guard seeing them.

If you have a ranged weapon that incapacitates them instantly, you never need to worry about them noticing you as you take them out.

Unfortunately silenced lethal weapons can do all of these things. They can invalidate any single guard, and also invalidate lineups of multiple guards should they look in different directions and you headshot fast enough. This is why level design and enemy placement are really important for stealth games. You need to make sure guards cover each other with sight and in patrol paths.

SIlenced nonlethal weapons can do most of these things good enough for the difference to not be that big, and DXMD doesn’t have enemies wake up or investigate when you shoot them, both of which are faults.

I don’t think guns are without a stealth challenge, but one perspective is we aren’t building stealth levels tough enough to adjust for the use of guns, to take them into account and make use of them difficult, by making it difficult to incapacitate guards without others noticing, and to necessitate that players incapacitate at least some guards to progress, but of course allow them their choice of which ones at which times.

Beyond that, naturally follow MGS3’s solution of having guards only get incapacitated for a brief period of time (I know technology is good enough now to allow ragdolled characters to get back up), and have them investigate around your area if you shoot at them, so you’re presented with an up front evasion challenge when you want to risk taking out a guard. Headshotting them could be adjusted to either no longer instantly take out a guard, or to cause them to make a loud sound when shot that can alert nearby guards, so you need to consider if guards are nearby. As in DXMD and MGSV, you could add head gear that makes guards immune to instant kill or instant sleep headshots, and stick those on any guards that are by themselves, so you always need to evade them before they pass out. A level design solution to this problem was presented by the original Thief, require that players both infiltrate an area, and exfiltrate, so they need to go back through the areas they’ve beaten already, living with the consequences of what they did in earlier areas. Unfortunately Thief didn’t have enemy guards wake up, either on a timer, or when other guards noticed their bodies. Another touch could be to automatically wake up guards in earlier areas as you make progress into the compound, so you need to deal with them on the way out, which could lead to choices in how you solved early level challenges rippling into later in the level.

And of course, don’t include lethal silenced weapons. Just don’t.

I think we should reconsider a lot of elements in stealth games and rework them to fit their apparent purpose better so that we don’t end up with all these weird genre conflicts. Like a line from that “what’s with stealth” video made me consider that the current lethal assortment of weapons that are used for fighting during alerts should probably be tools for re-establishing stealth, making the run away phase interesting a la monaco, rather than just killing enemies and eliminating the stealth challenge. Maybe you outright fight and disable enemies during the run away phase, but you want to get away from them before they get back up because they’ll do so with a start and you’ll get killed really quick if you’re too close. Also there should be measures in place preventing you from progressing if you get caught, since in many stealth games it’s easy to just get caught and run past without really caring. Sokolov refusing to let you in during alert in MGS3 worked great for this purpose and that level still gives me more trouble than the rest of the game for some reason (probably the level design).

If there is a problem, diagnose and find a solution.

Monaco is interesting in that it entirely intends for you to get caught and chased around the level, making that really exciting, but then it has obstacles you can’t reasonably get past while running away, so you’re given this freedom to get caught, run away, hide, and get back to business in completing level objectives.

One thought on “Stealth Without Guns

  1. Mulgar H November 4, 2016 / 12:43 pm

    Speaking of silenced weapons, here’s a cool speedrun of MGS3 I found where the guy goes through the game without using silencers.


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