Stealth Game Distraction Tools

Stealth games need more distraction tools, here’s a list:

Old ideas:

Tap, bring enemies over to your position via sound, tapping on walls, or simply making noise in place
Coin, throw an object to make noise far from you

flash bang, temporarily disable enemies, but alert them. Can stun them during alert phase to allow for an escape.

Smoke Grenade, Obscures vision inside of and into an area temporarily, but alerts guards

Tranq, shoot someone from afar, they conk out after a delay

Sneak/Crouchwalk, move silently, but slowly.

blackjack, hit someone from behind/up close, they conk out.

Remote detonated noise maker, makes a noise, needs to be planted in advance

Water Arrow, shut off light sources

Moss Arrow, dampens sound on a surface

Decoy, guards will follow it when in alert if they can’t see you, will be drawn to it otherwise, dishonored 2 lets you swap places with your decoy and leaves the decoy to fight

Cardboard Box, move slower, but ignored while staying still, unless directly in guard’s path
Camouflage mat, like cardboard box, but must be set up

Fulton, dispose of guard bodies

Stealth Action Camo/invisibility potion, cannot be directly perceived, lasts a limited amount of time.

Disguise, allows access to areas granted by disguise. Certain suspicious actions may trigger an alert
Possession, like disguise, but possess a guard or animal, moving them around until they’re released.

Run Silent, removes the sound of your footsteps temporarily, allowing you to move fast silently.

Camoflage, blend into certain areas/surfaces, can be changed to match surfaces, octocamo in MGS4 changed automatically based on staying still

thermal vision/wallhacks, lets you see through walls, usually blinded by sources of light or heat, like grenades or flashbangs

Scouting Orb, see from another viewpoint, limited use

Lean, see around corners, making yourself slightly visible in the process.

Directional Microphone, Hear further in a specific direction

EMP/Chaff grenade, disables electronic sensors temporarily without alert

Magazine/stuffed puppy snare, lures enemies in and holds their attention, even when in investigation mode

Fake Death/Revival pills, Allows a player to fake being killed during an alert, then revive themselves, wait too long and die for real

Handkerchief, inconspicuous melee conk during disguise
Cig Spray, inconspicuous slightly ranged conk during disguise

Colored Smoke Grenades (Yellow, Red, Green, Blue), From MGS4, trigger enemies to laugh, get mad, scream, or get sad, then fall unconscious afterwards. Laughing has enemies kill those on their side, anger has them kill other non-allied enemy combatants. During these last two they’ll ignore snake. While screaming they’ll run around.

Bamboo dart, stuns enemy very briefly, causes them to investigate where it came from

Caltrops, stuns enemy when walked over

Blink, instant teleport to a position, ignoring everything between including guards and their line of sight. Can get away when spotted, ideally sets the investigation point to where you teleport to.

Swoop, move quickly across a short distance without making sound, limited by a recovery/cooldown time.

Bend time, slows guards, making it easier to move around them.

Stops guards, making it easier to move around them, or possibly through their line of sight temporarily.

Remote Drone/clone/spiderbot, can scout areas, sometimes using different routes and movement abilities than you, attack or interfere with enemies without risking yourself. Usually has limited environmental interactions, being incapable of completing some objectives

Patsy, accuse other guard of being a bad guy while disguised during a clearing phase

New Ideas:

Blur Ward, Place a small zone that when guards step into it, they cannot perceive anything outside that zone, but don’t realize something funny is up unless something egregious happens, or maybe the effect wears off based on how long they stay in there.

LIFE gun, Nonlethal tranq weapon that overheals enemies and buffs them for when they wake back up, so you can tranq people, but in the process you’re making them more powerful later

Holo-wall, an object that makes a detour guards must move around, can make hiding spots out of dead end hallways. Expires when passed by too much or after a period of time

Mass Mind Tuner, changes guard’s affinities towards certain objects, lets say red, yellow, and blue arbitrarily, so they patrol around these objects more frequently. Allows you to adjust the guard patrol patterns, but as a matter of level design, this opens up and closes different routes as well as forcing guards in the short term to move by you, so you gotta keep your wits about you (this absolutely depends on good level design and guard scheduling). Can have differing effects based on each guard’s distance from the affiliated object at the time of tuning, determining the direction they go, so the player needs to use timing and adapt in the moment.

Smelly garbage, makes guards adverse to moving near an area, might make them surround the areas around it though. (needs a better drawback, and a clear counter)

Reversi, Reverse guard patrol schedules, so they patrol backwards

Fake Grenade, makes guards rush away from a specific point, potentially onto the player’s position.

Slow Guard, makes a specific guard’s movements slower or stopped temporarily, broken by alert. Slow people while they’re in favorable positions. Faster to alert in this state, maybe wider peripheral vision

Caffeine Shot. Guard spends less time standing still, goes through patrol route faster. Speed people up to get them out of your hair quicker. Alert triggered more quickly, buffs enemies during alert.

Recall Point. Set a point that can be teleported back to, maybe takes time to teleport back to, maybe the point is conspicuous and can be destroyed.

Fear Gas, (inspired by the MGS4 green gas grenade) causes enemies to temporarily run in fear, ignoring the player while doing so, mixes up guard positions all over the place, potentially in good and bad positions, gives you a chance to move through enemies in the short term. Alternatively, you could need to hide while the fear effect is going on and take advantage of it afterwards.

Darkness aura, decrease guard vision cones in a limited area, triggers investigation and clearing of area. Like a less effective, but presumably larger radius smoke grenade.

Pretty Painting, draws guard attention, they don’t investigate it, but they can’t look away from it while patrolling, effect is stronger as they get closer to it. Won’t look over their shoulder at it though.

Position Swapper, swaps your position with a guard or other person. Makes them want to get back to where they just were.

Sleep gas but slow, temporarily makes a small area that will put enemies to sleep if they stay in it for too long.

Sleep poison, sets guard to clearing mode, gives them time limit to find you before succumbing to sleep, ineffective on alerted enemies

Shoulder Tap, causes enemy to turn around in your direction and look around for a bit.

Instant Barricade, throws up a wall behind you that enemies need to destroy or go around. Very loud.

Push, shunts enemies further away from you, making space to run. Obviously triggers alert.

Trip Wire, a wire that trips enemies who run over it, temporarily stunning them, ineffective on enemies in idle or investigating states, will be removed by those and trigger clearing. When Tripped, extra time can be devoted on knocked down enemies to easily knock them out.

ADHD Inducer, Guard in Alert or Clearing is temporarily forced down into doing an idle patrol of the immediate area. If they can directly perceive you when hit, they will only have a momentary lapse in concentration.

Swift Kick in the Shins, slows guards down.

Sonic Flashbang, deafens guards temporarily, also stuns for a brief period. Causes them to go into clearing or alert phase while still deaf.

Meme Machine: Change a guard’s memory so it remembers everything that they currently know as being in the wrong state

Amnesia: Wipe all current object state knowledge

Meme Virus, set a charge on one guard, have them pass it off whenever they encounter another guard, so it gets passed between guards one by one. Not duplicated, just passed. Then some effect on whoever’s holding it.

Block off doors, either with an adhesive tool, or by physically moving objects in front of them.

Recorder/tapedeck, record guard conversations and play them back in different places for an effect, maybe to keep people out of a room

Sticky floor: Slows down pursuers who walk through it. Useful in escapes.
Glue bomb/thrown object: throw at people chasing you to stun them briefly, giving you a chance to run away. Probably only stun for like half a second, because more than that would end the chase completely.

Constraints to think about:

Guard movement paths through levels, predicting and affecting it. How can you reward someone for predicting where a guard will be in the future? How can you reward them for predicting where multiple guards will be in the future? How can guard paths be altered strategically, how can this have drawbacks as well as benefits? Maybe tune guard affinities to inspect and patrol around certain areas?

Items targeted at interacting with different guard states (idle, investigate, clearing, alert, unconscious, dead). How can you interestingly move them from one state to another? How can you differentiate the states? How can you manipulate them while keeping them in the same state?

How can these be made to have varying effects based on when and where they’re used in relation to the guards?

How can the guards’ scheduling be affected?

Scale, how can you make people worry about future and past encounters more? Maybe a way of setting up

Affect guard vision, change what they look at?

How can escaping be made more interesting? Ideally in cycles of causing the alert, running away, and triggering more alerts as you go.

How can clearing phases be made more interesting? How do you force people to pick good hiding spots, then move from them regularly? How do you give people options when they’re cornered? How do you give people options to get the guards to not look where you are currently hiding versus the other hiding spots in the room? Rather, how do you make selecting a good hiding spot a fuzzy heuristic evaluation instead of a binary right or wrong?

Guard states

Idle: No perception of the player, purely following schedule
Investigation: moving slowly to look at something outside of patrol, small perception of player, not coordinating
Caution: Follows Alert and Clearing phases, like Idle, but skips investigation phase to go directly to clearing, and has more aggressive and fast patrol patterns.
Clearing: Moving quickly to check over areas, follows direct perception of player, but not currently perceiving player, coordinating together
Alert: Moving to attack player, directly perceiving player, coordinating together
Unconscious: Cannot act, revives after a timer, can be revived by other guards, triggers investigation or clearing
Dead: Cannot Act, triggers clearing
Injured: Can act, Actions impaired during active states

On guard AI: maybe enemies could have narrower vision cones during alert and clearing phases and more wide ones during investigation and idle. So they have the easiest time seeing you when idle, and the hardest time while alerted. This also incentivizes moving around more during clearing and alert phases, when players normally want to bunker up.

General categories of tools in Stealth games:

– Distraction

– Escape

– Information

– Self Obscuring

– Disablers (weapons)

– Mobility/Area Access

Enemy Ideas:

Eleven Men, an enemy that can split off and rejoin

An enemy that can see in all directions but not hear (dishonored 2 sort of did this with jindosh’s robots, but only 2 directions, which makes more sense than seeing in all directions, which is kind of dumb actually. narrower vision cones in multiple directions makes a lot of sense)

Enemy that is blind, but good hearing. (feel like this has been done before)

An enemy that can see extremely far, but tight like a laser beam

Enemies that function like pacman ghosts, alternating between investigation phase and sleep phases, regardless of what you do and whether you trigger them, so there’s always some enemies that aren’t just purely patrolling (and therefore function as simple timing puzzles), but are actively looking for you and thus need to be avoided.

4 thoughts on “Stealth Game Distraction Tools

  1. Mulgar February 1, 2017 / 10:20 am

    “Eleven Men, an enemy that can split off and rejoin.”
    Cool idea.

    “Enemy that is blind, but good hearing. (feel like this has been done before)”
    You’re probably thinking of the couple of times Thief made you avoid a guard in a pitch black tiled room

    “An enemy that can see extremely far, but tight like a laser beam”
    Metal Gear 1 :^)
    (also the security cameras in metal gear 2)


    • Chris Wagar February 1, 2017 / 10:34 am

      “You’re probably thinking of the couple of times Thief made you avoid a guard in a pitch black tiled room”

      Was thinking of Old Hero from Demon’s Souls, but it’s also just a really obvious idea.


  2. Gilgamesh February 1, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Styx Master of Shadows, has enemies that can hear you and not see you. They were a bit underused, though.


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