On the senses of a character

A little tidbit about myself: I've always played stealth classes whenever possible. It's always been a much more satisfying experience to sneak through an enemy stronghold, complete my mission, and get out rather than the standard "fight your way through hordes of guards and soldiers" approach. It's certainly much easier as well.

There are a lot of games out there which treat stealth as though it was an invisibility and one thing that I wanted to do was get rid of the whole invisibility thing and take the stealth concept to be something that actually requires you to be stealthy. Mostly, they handle things through a "stealth detection" stat of some kind where if you get close enough to your enemy, they can see you. There's just one problem with that: most of the enemies can see behind them, regardless of which way they are facing. This is a problem in most PvP combat systems as well, as when your enemy is facing away from you, the player can still rotate the camera and see you coming from behind them.

I want to have the NPCs and players be limited to what their characters can actually see, hear, smell, and feel. That's where the senses come into play. Players would only be able to see things that are in front of them, or where they turn the character's head. Things that are behind the player would be only what they saw last, so if the player wanted to turn the camera around and admire the beautiful statue they just passed by, they could do so. Things only update on their current state when the player is looking at them.

The player can still tell what is going on around them though by hearing and feeling. Everything that goes on around you makes noise. Footsteps ("Where did these footsteps come from?!") and rocks, cars driving around, birds chirping, etc. Things that the player can hear from outside their field of vision will show up as sonic vibrations with faint outlines of what that could be. If there are footsteps behind the player, then turning just the camera around will reveal a sonic vibration like animation on the ground along with some ghostly feet.

Of course, the enemies will have these limitations as well. Things in line of sight of the enemies will be visible, but they can still hear things going on around them. Many games just use chat as a chat channel, but of course talking is sound. Players moving around creates sound, but talking is even more suspicious. Players are able to set the volume at which they speak. A whisper can only be heard by people right next to each other. A yell can be heard from everyone. If players speak too loudly, enemies will come looking for you.

This is what the stealth concept is. Learning to stay out of sight and remain as quiet as possible to avoid detection by others. Thieves (and their more advanced class counterparts) train in the art of stealth as part of their burglar craft. They learn to walk and move as quietly as possible, and they know how to observe enemies. They can tell when enemies are looking directly at them, when they are only in that enemy's peripheral vision, and when they are unseen.

Of course, any character can learn to be stealthy, and any character can try to sneak around (just not as well as some). I feel like systems like this would go a long way to improving the immersion in fantasy worlds for classes that use the mechanics. If feel like it's something which emphasizes a belief of mine which I see disregarded in most MMO games:

Stats aren't everything. They help, sure, but it's SKILL that determines much of your success. I think that's been forgotten by a lot of players for some reason.

Posted by Glyph, the Architect | at 10/05/2009 07:10:00 PM


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