Extra Credits: Like a Ninja

This week, we talk about how to make good stealth games.

Episode video is on YouTube

Show Notes:

Be sure to check out the Extra Credits Store.

Would you like James to come speak at your school or organization?

For info, contact us at: kate@extra-credits.net

Apologies for any inconvenience, a better approach to new episodes will be live as soon as possible.

Recent Comments:

  • I like this idea.

    What would make it even more interesting, for me at least, is if you could find a way to make the game output somehow 'alien', an interpetation of what a rat would sense, so you couldn't completely rely on your human intellect.

    I have actually thought about this a bit, but for another project. The idea holds true for the rat game though. Rats don't have very good eyesight, in fact their vision is terrible, but they can orient with touch (whiskers) smells and hearing.
    Here's a site that can explain it better than me. At the bottom is a vision comparison.

    They apparently don't see all colors, but can also see infrared, so that could be a cool thing to experiment with.
    Another idea I had was using force feedback to give information about the environment. Feeling sound like footsteps or voices might be a fun way to get further into the game.

    If you want to discuss ideas like this you can send me a message. No need to hijack the thread with talk about conceptual features that are so specific.

    That kinda reminds me of Tokyo Jungle in some ways. If you play an herbivore, you're tactic is pretty much to avoid being spotted by carnivores while you look for food. It can get rather tense.

    Yeah, the adrenaline rush you get from such games can get pretty intense. What I have in mind is more of a "heist" game rather than an action one though. Also, Tokyo jungle is based at least somewhat around group building, while in my head the rat game would be a solitary experience, at least when it comes to the active part of the game, ie stealing food. Then again, who knows, rats are said to be social, so maybe a community building game where you need to share your food or such could be cool too.

    You might want to check out this Kickstarter project:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kri ... -the-sleep

    Allready have. I'm still looking over my budget for the next six months to see how much I can give. The feeling in that game seems amazing, and I really want it to succeed.

    Thanks for the heads up anyway though.

    We must spread the word =)

  • Feeling sound like footsteps or voices might be a fun way to get further into the game.

    There's a game called Devil's Tuning Fork where you use echolocation for getting around, and it's very much worth experiencing.

    It's short, free and you can get it here: http://www.devilstuningfork.com/download.php

  • Feeling sound like footsteps or voices might be a fun way to get further into the game.

    Speaking of which, there's a game called Devil's Tuning Fork where you use echolocation for getting around, and it's very much worth experiencing.

    It's short, free and you can get it here: http://www.devilstuningfork.com/download.php

    Duuuude, no way. One of the designers from that is a good buddy of mine from college. Its a really neat game, and definitely worth checking out.

  • Also, while we are on the topic, sound design was another aspect which Thief pretty much nailed, imho. The sound propagation and its use in the stealth mechanics, the voice acting, the ambient music, everything was spot on.

  • One thing that I noticed about Tenchu Z that kinda bugged me at first, and then made much more sense later, was being able to stealth-kill the 'boss' of the stage.

    It bugged me at first because it made the end of each stage very anti-climactic, especially when compared to the first two. But as I thought about it more, it started making sense because they're only human, like the rest of the mooks you (are encouraged to have) plowed through. they may not be aware that Gohda's sent a ninja to dispatch them, or they may know, but not know when it's coming.

    As I think about the series more, though, the one thing that does get under my skin is that the gameplay actively discourages you from being truly ninja-like, in that you fulfill your mission with as little impact as possible. How does it do this? By placing so much scoring emphasis on stealth kills that it's impossible to get the best ranking if you don't take out every guard from the shadows. In fact, the system is so biased towards these, that you can be seen once by every guard, then stealthkill them all, and still come out ahead to the tune of 4x the points than going in sword swinging. There's no bonus whatsoever for keeping body count to a minimum and your detection record spotless.

    Now, granted, at the time, any title that had the protagonist as a 'ninja' was just an excuse to get to wield a sword and some shurikens, then slaughter cannonfodder in waves after waves, so Tenchu, being closer to the reality, was a breath of fresh air, but I think a game with even more accuracy could be quite fun.

    My ideal version of a 'ninja' game would have each mission start by getting a brief outline of the area, say from a scout. You would then be able to pick a disguise, whether it's the standard 'black suit', or something more civilian, that affects what you could carry and not arouse suspicion. For example, if you went disguised as a farmer, guards seeing a big honkin' sword at your side or on your back would cause them to start getting curious about you, though you'd be able to get away with a smaller dagger you could conceal.

    In this 'initial phase' of the mission itself, being seen is fine, right up until your cover gets blown, at which point the disguise becomes a handicap, rather than a benefit, as you'd be much less armored and able to blend in, even in the shadows. Each time you're spotted would cause the guards not to reset upon going back to their posts, but become even more alert, which could work in your favor, by making them chase after sounds and other diversions.

    Further, each enemy would have its own point value (we need some metric for success, after all), depending on how much of an obstruction to your goal he is. That lonesome guy patrolling the middle of nowhere, for example, would have no reason to be killed, and would harm your ranking more than improving it. This would then be multiplied, depending on whether you killed them via stealth, heads-up, or not at all, with leaving them alive having the highest multiplier, and possibly one for being spotted after they know you're there (unless you wanted to set the values all manually, which might also work). This, in my opinion, would put more emphasis on accomplishing the goal, rather than being death from the shadows.

    Finally, one thing I liked about Tenchu, especially the original, was the ability to save items you picked up, but didn't use, in a level (and some could even be 'used' and then re-'used' again, like the poison rice ball). I think this could be further expanded on, allowing you to take, up to a limit, again based on your initial disguise, not only finished items, but raw materials that would become items only after the current mission. In this case, you'd come across some herbs your character knows has healing properties, but since you're in the field, you don't have the time or equipment to process them into a potion. When you get back from your mission, though, you will, so you would take them. This might also tie in to the mooks poking around, looking for the person that seems out of place, especially if you strip the levels bare.

    Another thing I think could work well, and have dual purpose, is money. Not only would you be able to purchase items from vendors while disguised (if you're in a settled area), but you could use it as a distraction to let you sneak past mooks you would otherwise have to kill. In some levels, though, tossing cash on the ground might arouse suspicion more than cause distraction, as they'd logically wonder why there's suddenly money that they know isn't theirs laying around. There could also be a sound value attached to this act, making it less worthwhile to throw coins from high up onto hard surfaces.

    I'm no game designer, though, so who knows if these ideas I'm spouting are anything decent, or doable... just random thoughts I've had.

Join The Discussion: