Armchair Designers Episode 2

The second episode of our podcast is out, and we ramble at some length about stealth games.  It’s a topic that deserves to be revisited at some point in the future.  Get comfortable.  This one clocks in at about 2 hours and 49 minutes.

Show notes:

00:01:00  Our first stealth games

00:12:00  Stealth in games.

We talk briefly about technology, gadgets, settings, etc. often used in stealth games.  Various titles are mentioned here and throughout.  Perfect Dark N64, Splinter Cell, Deus Ex, and…

00:26:00  Thief

00:35:00  The greatest stealth tool EVER

Seriously, whatever you might be thinking this tool is, you’re probably wrong.  This threw me for a whirl.

00:36:30  Mark of the Ninja Coffee

00:37:26  MARK OF THE NINJA!

00:58:00  Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole, AKA, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark

I guess I can’t really blame Sony for not wanting to put a game called “Stealth Bastard” on their digital store.

01:02:00  Invisible Inc.

1:14:00  Hitman series

I bring up the concept of stealth games as puzzle games, and while we discuss this, I didn’t get a chance to mention what originally brought this idea up on the show:

One of my friend’s on Twitter once posited that stealth games were, ideally, like puzzle games where all the pieces and patterns to the solution were before your eyes.  He felt Hitman (Blood Money in particular) did not do this–that there were too many unknown factors.  In other words, before you could complete a mission with any degree of actual “success” (no witnesses, little to no deaths besides the target, etc.), you had to go through a significant degree of trial and error beforehand.  To that end, he concluded Hitman: Blood Money was not a good stealth game.  I’m not sure what I think of that myself yet, but I think it’s worth discussing.

01:21:00 Spy Party and The Ship

I also mention Oblivion’s Dark Brotherhood mission where you have to murder all the guests.  The number of ways that it can play out is one of the few times a quest in an Elder Scrolls game shows any kind of variety or depth in its choice.  I didn’t go into the “why” of this on the podcast, but I’d like to briefly do that here for those interested:

You can waste no time cutting everyone down.  Or you can quietly take them out one by one.  Or you can learn about each target–who they like, don’t like, etc. and trick them into killing each other.  Or you can frame one of the other guests.  OR you can bump a few off, and terrify them into killing each other in hopes of stopping the killer.  Mix it up however you like.  It’s easily one of the best quests in the entire game, and probably in any TES game.

01:29:00 ARMA 3–wait, what?

This one really took me by surprise, but it’s fascinating the stuff that ARMA 3 will let you do.  The best example of emergent play that I’ve personally ever seen is EVE Online.  The economy, politics, intrigue and espionage, whatever you can think of, it’s all powered by the players.  EVE Online sounds exactly like the kind of game I could never get into myself, but I really admire it from afar.  With everything that happens in that game, it is not exaggeration when I say EVE is deserving of its own history book for all the crazy things that come about in it.  Shamus Young does a good job summarizing what the core of the game is, as well as some of the current events within its history, including an in-game war that ended up costing players $300,000 USD.

01:36:00  EYE: Divine Cybermancy

I don’t even know where to begin with this game, but I love it so much.  Jim Sterling probably said it best when he described EYE as “basically what Deus Ex would be if Eidos had spent its time licking toads and drinking Red Bull.”

01:41:00  Alpha Protocol

At one point I mentioned that I “got about as far as Rome.”  I should clarify.  You can tackle the game in any order you choose (with different outcomes in each location depending on where you go first).  After the game’s starting locations (the AP base and Saudi Arabia), I chose to first go to Taipei, followed by Moscow, then finally Rome.  And as close as I got to finishing the game, I put it down and never went back.  As amazing as Alpha Protocol is on paper, it’s rough to play in practice.  For some, this isn’t an issue.  For others, it is.  I was the latter.  I feel like it might be more enjoyable if I could start the game as a powerhouse so I wouldn’t have to deal with the clunky combat at early levels.  There is actually a feature to go back on a sort of “new game plus” mode where you play as a veteran with significant boost to all your skills at the game’s start.  You also get new dialogue options.  Maybe I will go back and finish the game so I can unlock that.

02:00:00  Bel talks Metal Gear Solid

Here is one of the videos I watched on the games from Super Bunnyhop.  It’s a very insightful look into the series.

02:20:00  I rant about Dishonored’s stealth systems

02:27:00  Bel talks about the Evolve alpha

Around this point, my internet crapped out as I was wrapping up my thoughts.  Trying to patch up the discussion in editing was something of a mess so a lot of what happened after the call dropped for me was cut.  By the time it was sorted out I think we forgot to try to replicate and patch in what I was going to say.  I can’t recall my nitty gritty reasons right now, but suffice to say that, on paper, Arkane Studios’ idea for the Chaos system was fantastic.  In practice, it’s not only poorly simplified in execution, it punishes the play it encourages.

Oh!  And Evolve is sounding pretty interesting.

02:36:00  Eldritch

02:38:00  Clocktower

JonTron’s video is where I learned about this particular game.

02:39:00  Stealth and horror

Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Alien: Isolation get brought up.

Another game I just thought of (which I think might be right up David’s alley) is U55: End of the Line, where you play as a young foreign exchange student trapped in Berlin’s subway.  Using only the light from your smartphone, you must survive Lovecraftian horrors.  It was on Kickstarter about a year ago, but didn’t up making the cut.  Fortunately, it got enough exposure that it was able to get support from elsewhere, apparently.  I wonder what ever happened to it?

Looking at the dev’s website, development appears to be alive and well.  That’s good to hear.  I hope it does well.  I’m interested to see it come out.

02:42:00-ish  Closing thoughts

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