Written By: Klown
June 4th, 2011 at 3:24am
Why do modern Stealth Games fail, and how can we change it?
I think that I'd be a ninja if I could, not that I've been asked. I find something strangely compelling to being able to kill, attack, steal or just play practical jokes on a person, with the person having no idea you were even there, much less did it. I think that's why I always use the sniper rifle in Fallout 3, standing on a cliff top shooting a brotherhood of steel member who is out picking daisies and doesn't even know I'm there until the blast. Even more important, this is why I love love love love Thief II. Walking around a huge castle, stealing everything that isn't nailed down, and the guards don't have a clue that you were even there. Something was made clear when I was playing Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass just recently again, and that's a lot of games have a forced stealth section, and even some games like Splinter Cell are all about stealth, but none of them give me that thrill and excitement of being unseen by the monsters could give me. I stopped and had to think about why that was, and I came up with an answer. Stealth in gaming today is implemented into games horridly.
There are basically three types of Stealth in all of gaming that I can really think of, Forced stealth, Linear Stealth, and Open Stealth, is what I'm going to call them for lack of better types. I'll break each one down, and give a couple of examples of each, and then discuss why Open Stealth is always going to be the best, and why we need more of them.
- Forced Stealth: Forced stealth is where you are forced to act stealthy in a game, for some small contrived reason, and you can't continue or may get some kind of penalty for being seen. A lot of games do this these days, even things like Legend of Zelda. In the Phantom Hourglass example, as you explore deeper in the temple, you can't fight the phantom armors, and if you are seen, you either run away or go into hiding or you'll be one shotted and forced to start over. This is always implemented as an after thought and there to just kinda extend game play.
- Linear Stealth: Linear Stealth is where you aren't forced to stealth, it is an extra option, but it isn't really something stealthy or is there to give another game play route without having to do much extra work. RPGs are the biggest players in this type of stealth. Fallout 3 has a stealth skill you can upgrade, which basically just makes you have to be closer before monsters will notice you, so you can get your shot off for a critical hit easier. It's restrictive in it's linearity, because you are always playing by it's rules for the stealth, you never get to explore funny and unique ways to use stealth, but just as an extra way to gain better damage. It's not really a sneaking up to the guy and taping a sign on his back stealth. It's not bad for these games to do it, but it's not really something you can really feel like a shadow walker with either.
- Open Stealth: Open Stealth is a game that is built to sustain stealth, and allow freedom within the stealth. Games like Thief II and Hitman: Blood Money are in this category. They give you a big area you can explore and find your own path to the target. The game was built from the ground up to have stealth, so shadows and darkness can hide you. Thief II had a big castle with tons of rooms, a bunch of different areas you could hide in while you watched and calculated where the guards were and where they were going. It allowed you to feel smart from outwitting them, and then be able to think about them jumping on their hats after they saw the safe was wide open and empty.
These basically encompass all stealth in games today, and Open Stealth is obviously the best type of stealth to do in a game. Now I don't want to sound like I think all games need to be built to have stealth, but I really want to stress that games that just add a steal section in the game and have it be out of place and not feel like you were a master ninja in the night, should just skip it.
Why is open stealth the best option you may ask yourself, and I'd say, well let me explain! You see, forcing a stealth section, or giving you a stealth option that doesn't really feel like they tried is going to make you not want to use it, and that's bad. Building a world, or even just a single section in a game, with stealth as the main focus, you can really get creative with how you allow the player to get past it. I'll give an example.
Think of a huge castle, with several rooms and the King's Chamber is in the very center. You start at the front door. You are given a set of tools to get through the area, and only a destination to get too. How you get there is up to you, you can sneak through the main hall, or climb up to the second story and come in through the window, or anything else your mind can imagine. You can take your time to scout the areas, and know where the guards walk through and how often. When you do finally make it to the King's Chamber, you can steal everything in the room, and leave, with no one knowing you were even there.
Given such freedom in a game, makes the game more immersible and more personally appealing to anyone as they are the ones who come up with how they get through it. They feel smarter because they outwitted the game, and they feel accomplished because they did it all without anyone knowing. I might be in the minority here, and it wouldn't really surprise me, but if we allow game designers to continually make lazy stealth sections, who is going to take the time to really create an immersible and sprawling stealth, even in just one small section, or an entire game.
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