Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
14 July 2006
Stealth is good for you, in moderation
Update: As noted in the comments, the post I was quoting left out some context: It was supposed to be a humorous discussion and the target was games that use stealth needlessly, not all stealth. More here at the Simon Byron's site, The Triforce.

Do you know who Simon Byron is? I don't, but I know he's wrong about stealth in games in this article on Three Game Design Evils. Not completely wrong, but still wrong. To start with, he's somewhat right here:
For me [the Great Game Design Evil is] stealth. I can't stand it. It's all about patiently lurking and avoiding detection. It's so sinister and creepy; like the sort of thing a pervert does. But ever since Metal Gear Solid it's everywhere. You can hardly find a game without some stealth level.
The last part is right on: not every game needs a stealth section. It fits in certain game types, and even then you have to do it skillfully.

This, on the other hand, is wrong:
But when you think about games, do you remember the bit where you blew away a load of guys with a rocket launcher, or do you remember the bit where you sat quietly in a dark room? Games should be about fantasy and action - if I want to hide in a cupboard I can do that anytime.

It seems to me that only a very peculiar individual would want to spend on-screen time sitting still or creeping around.
When stealth is implemented badly, it is very, very bad. But when it's done right, it's brilliant. In fact, two of my top gaming memories have to do with stealth.

The most memorable battle in all of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the battle against The End, which is all about stalking and evading. Staying quiet and hidden is essential, and patience pays off. I lost my first battle against him when I thought I had him in the area in front of me but he had actually circled around and was standing just a couple of feet behind me. Only the dog-through-the-window of Resident Evil made me jump more than when he zapped me that time. During our second battle, I learned from my mistakes and made much better use of the environment and my available equipment. Even then, it took well over an hour of tense, focused combat.

While MGS3 was designed to give the player a chance to play that battle, the other memorable stealth encounter I've had was in an impromptu 1-on-1 Action Quake 2 match. We were playing this night-time map in a grassy field, stuck to just pistol gunplay, and hunted each other silently. We were very closely matched, each getting in some choice kills, and barely said a word for a tense 30 minutes. When the map changed, the spell was broken and we exchanged ggs and moved on.

Sure, I remember the big set pieces of MGS3 and hectic "staying alive" melee of AQ2, but those parts don't stand out as much against the backdrop of all the other action games I've played. What stands out to me are the quiet moments as I strive to get a clean shot on a wily enemy, fearful that I've exposed my noggin to a fatal snipe.
--Matt Matthews at 10:25
Comment [ 4 ]

Comments on this post:

Agreed. Indeed, I don't think there's anything that is "evil" in a game, there are plenty of design choices that are out of fashion now or "obviously" wrong that, used correctly, could make for an interesting game.

Making sweeping pronouncements like "Stealth is bad" does no one any favors. It's the kind of thing know-nothing producers use to forbid vast categories of potential games from ever being made.

By Blogger JohnH, at 14 July, 2006 13:24  

Sure stealth can be used badly in some games that don't need it, just like the dreaded "escort mission"...

But to say stealth is bad is silly. Beyond Good and Evil had a large number of stealth missions in it, and they were done well, and were totally entertaining.

By Blogger Dan-o, at 15 July, 2006 02:34  

Hello! I'm Simon Byron. I just wanted to point out that this session was supposed to be a funny way of ending off the day, and that the transcript completely misrepresented this/ I argued with Kotaku about it and everything!

By Blogger byronicman, at 25 September, 2006 14:48  

The most memorable battle in all of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was the battle against The End, which is all about stalking and evading. Staying quiet and hidden is essential, and patience pays off.

Hey, isn't that the guy in the wheelchair you can pop from afar right after a long cut scene, Indiana Jones and swordsman style? I do remember that part fairly well. A true paradigm for sneaking missions. ;^)

Btw, Next-Gen guy has an issue with perversion, it seems. Heck, I play Quake online (and goodness only knows off-line) seeeeee-low out of not being sinister and creepy, but overly cautious. All about play styles and, as Matt points out, the ability of a game to match style with scene.

By Blogger rufbo, at 25 September, 2006 15:29  

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