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  • Key Features Of Stealth Games

    [10.13.20]
    - Ludovic Servat

  • The Intruder

    The player is an intruder who has to find and reach objectives using ideal conditions to pass through the surveillance.

    Qualities

    To infiltrate, the player can use:

    Stealth:
    Stealth approach helps the intruder to avoid risks or escape the negative consequences of being caught by the surveillance. To do this, the player has to be invisible, act without being detected and vanish without a trace.

    Depending on the conditions, the intruder presence produces effects noticeable by the surveillance.
    Stealth depends on the surveillance perception, the conditions, but also on player's exposure (ex: pass in front of a guard, hide in a closet ...), their actions (ex: use a gun, move in a crouched position ...), and their abilities (ex: use smoke bombs, take cover behind a wall, use camouflage ...) to hide.


    Splinter Cell Blacklist

    By doing stealthily, escaping negative impacts, or neutralizing surveillance without alerting other opponents, the player can feel the power and impunity of being elusive.

    Observation:
    Observation helps the intruder to gather useful information about blocking situations they have to overcome to reach their goals. With it, the player can learn more about the surveillance routes, the risks and the opportunities to find stealthy places, vantage points, windows of intervention and items.

    Observing stealthily increases the feeling of accessing confidential information.


    Dishonored

    Intervention:
    Interventions allow the player to reach points of interest in order to hide, observe, or to get useful objects and achieve goals.

    Player's observations help to find windows of intervention. These windows rely on the player's ability to use gathered information and wait for the best moment to execute the planned action.

    To act stealthily, interventions must be able to be done in accordance with the constraints of the surveillance perception.

    When there is no window of intervention available, the player should have tools to change the conditions, the surveillance vigilance, or the place configuration (ex: throwing a pebble to create a diversion, hack remotely a locked door, stun a guard ...) to create alternative accesses, get rid of risks or prevent alerts.

    Here, the tension is based on the accuracy of the player to execute plans and their ability to adapt to evolving situations.
    This tension builds up around efforts and the level of risk. The more the player invests efforts while surveillance is around, the more the pressure increases to the idea of losing progression if spotted.
    Tight windows of intervention with big risks gives stress and excitement to the player.
    And, finding the ideal moment to act adds tension because if there is hesitation, context gets lost and risks of bad timing grow and increase the fear of negative impacts.


    Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    Adaptation:
    In order to react to changing situations, the player must have tools to evade (ex: climb on roofs ...), hide (ex: take cover behind a wall ...), or neutralize the surveillance (ex: stun shot ...).

    Unexpected situations (ex: arrival of surveillance reinforcement, alert, hideouts destruction ...) can lead the player to find how to disappear quickly when there is no plan for it. And surprising unforeseen can increase the tension.

    Sensations

    The expected sensations while infiltrating may change depending on who is playing.
    That being said, doubt when the player lacks information, stress and excitement approaching surveillance stealthily, the satisfaction of being invisible like a breeze and the impunity of reaching our goals without getting noticed, are sensations and feelings helping them to believe the atmosphere and the tension felt lead to the infiltration.

    The Game loop

    The player experiences stealth games in a loop of tasks to progress step by step.

    Loop tasks

    Observation:

    • collect informations
    • locate the goal of the step (hideout, vantage point, item, exit ...)
    • evaluate the risks to reach the goal (surveillance routine, camera ...)
    • locate a window of intervention

    Action:

    • take the opportunity to proceed in the window of intervention

    Result:

    • succeed or fail

    Adaptation:

    • back to Observation

    Conclusion

    The use of stealth will be, depending on the game, required or optional. And depending on the progression dynamics, infiltration will be from fragile to impudent.

    To sum up, using information to locate and take opportunities to reach stealthily the inaccessible, that is infiltration.

    This document has been created for these reasons:

    I always took advantage of the synthesis of works and experiences from other creators, who shared it on the internet, to learn, discover and increase my knowledge about rich topics difficult to master.

    I wanted to return the favor in offering to any person, trying the difficult exercise of making a stealth game, what seems to be for me, the basics of this genre and a starting point to think about it.

    I am not going to hide it, this synthesis of 2 years of research, observations, thoughts, tests, mistakes and notes allows me to show you to what extent I got invested in the making of my game Volt Patrol. So it is also a way to invite you to take a look at it ;) 

    Volt Patrol is a stealth driving game. 

    To create this uncommon mix, I had to absorb the infiltration basics in order to combine them with driving mechanics. And, honestly, combining these two seemingly incompatible genres the right way was a real challenge. . 

    If you appreciated this document, if you want to support me and most importantly if you are interested in the game: 

    Add Volt Patrol to your wishlist and try the demo on Steam ;)
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/1109300/Volt_Patrol/ 

    PS: This document shows only my observations and my thoughts so I may have missed, despite my efforts, representations or sensations you could perceive in stealth games.

    Ludovic
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/visumeca
    Visumeca Games

    References:
    Games considered: Thief Collection, Volume, Dishonored, Metal Gear Solid Collection, Alien Isolation, Mark of the Ninja, Tomb Raider (2013), Hello Neighbor, Hitman 2, Shadow Tactics, Aragami, Deus Ex Collection, Batman: Arkham Collection, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Collection, Styx: Collection, Gunpoint.

    Some additional resources to go further:

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