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Farlander1991
08-28-2016, 09:09 PM
Hi everyone.

So here's another AC related post, inspired by an event that happened to me in Syndicate.

It's going to be my last AC-related post for quite some time, as I want to write about other games as well :) So be sure to keep an eye on the site if you're interested (or the 3rd party gaming website where I'll probably share them).

Hope you all enjoy the read and have a healthy discussion on this topic :) Cheers!

https://stanislavcostiuc.com/2016/08/28/why-assassins-creed-series-isnt-social-stealth-and-what-to-do-about-that/

Farlander1991
08-28-2016, 10:03 PM
Updated the post a bit, realized that my proposed solution might seem similar to how Syndicate handles Blighters, and specified why this is not the case (in Syndicate Blighters become aggressively aware of you the instant you're in their line of sight, regardless of how you act).

SixKeys
08-28-2016, 10:38 PM
Very good post! This should be stickied so the devs will see it. :)

I read the whole thing and love your ideas. Your version of the detection system - NPCs growing gradually more aware of you and transmitting information to each other - is definitely the way to go.

I love that you brought up multiplayer as I agree that that's where social stealth lives up to its name more than in singleplayer.

A few of the MP abilities like Bodyguard, Decoy and even Morph could easily be incorporated into singleplayer. Bodyguard is essentially the same as the factions mechanic, where you send a thief or courtesan to briefly distract guards. All they need is to alter the context a bit. Decoy is a little harder as in MP its purpose is to lure the enemy to kill someone else instead of you. Unlike Bodyguard, Decoys can't stun or in other ways interact with enemies. So context would require a bit of creativity as we can't exactly have our hero knowingly send hired help to certain death. :p So perhaps enemies would have special ways of reacting to running targets: instead of going for a kill, their first instinct would be to tackle and then interrogate, while our assassin slips away in the confusion. The agiles already do this occasionally so again, all that's needed is a bit of tweaking.
Morph may sound weird for singleplayer as it's an ability that turns everyone around you into a copy of yourself. But what does that mean, exactly? The context can be as simple as the assassin buying a round of drinks to a group of civilians with whom he's blending, and at that moment all of them (including the assassin) turn into rowdy drunkards. (Like the sailors in AC4.) It's about making the rest of the group indistinguishable from yourself in behavior, not just aesthetics. It's similar to the money-throwing system: if everyone behaves in socially unacceptable ways, guards will have a hard time distinguishing the culprit.

As for NPCs transmitting information to each other, I think it's definitely doable. They considered doing it for AC1, where civilians would run to guards and alert them of your crimes, but they took it out because they thought it would make the game too hard. That was back when AC and the whole concept of social stealth was still new, though. By now pretty much everyone knows how AC works and what its ground rules are based upon. We even have games that use AC as a starting point and build more complex AI behaviors on top, like Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system. Games have evolved, audiences have evolved and what was considered too difficult for players back in 2007 might not be that anymore.

Farlander1991
08-29-2016, 08:17 AM
Very good post! This should be stickied so the devs will see it.

Thanks :)


A few of the MP abilities like Bodyguard, Decoy and even Morph could easily be incorporated into singleplayer. Bodyguard is essentially the same as the factions mechanic, where you send a thief or courtesan to briefly distract guards.

The danger here is to not transform this ability into a tool that avoids the social layer like the factions in AC currently. So it has to be a crowd archetype.


They considered doing it for AC1, where civilians would run to guards and alert them of your crimes, but they took it out because they thought it would make the game too hard.

Well, transmitting information is not just civilians running to guards to tell about crimes. What I'm talking about is the very basics that's kind of absent, meaning NPCs sending information about their state (depending of what they see and how are aware they are) in a certain radius around them. This creates a chain reaction of the crowd in the vicinity becoming aware of your actions if you act to weirdly. And also avoids situations mentioned in the post as well. Civilians specifically going to guards is more of a 'topping' to that.

MikeFNY
08-29-2016, 08:55 AM
I'll be damned if I haven't just finished writing something similar on a much smaller scale.

It's work in a progress, will open new thread when complete.

Helforsite
08-29-2016, 02:48 PM
Another great article as always! I agree with pretty much everything, but would have wished you would have delved deeper into disguises, which I personally find to be an excellent tool of social stealth if done right. Therefore my question would be how would you integrate and design disguises into an social stealth system?

cawatrooper9
08-29-2016, 03:58 PM
Very interesting and provacitive article! I'm sure I'll have to think this one over some, but here are just a few knee-jerk reactions and responses.


1. The difference between crowds and bushes is that crowds can indeed betray you. If you end up behaving in such a way that upsets the crowds (which are admittedly limited), they will back away and prevent you from blending.

2. I wouldn't agree that mercenaries/thieves/courtesans/guards are "above the system of crowds". Rather, they just have different interactions with them. Guards react as guards generally should to disruptions (well, perhaps a bit more extreme than they should in some cases)- they engage in combat. Thieves/mercenaries/courtesans- you used the word "tool", and I think that's a pretty good term for them. As NPCs, I suppose you're right that they themselves aren't really a part of the crowd of social stealth- but that doesn't mean that they can't intrinsically related to it. Mercenaries can be sent in to take out guards in an area, but a smart player will also note the chaos that this causes in the crowds, and use it to their advantage. Same with thieves. Courtesans are basically a tool to enhance the blending mechanism. They can allow blending on their own, but also make it even easier within crowds- not to mention the direct way they can be used as a "tool" (finding that word regrettable now :p) to directly engage with guards.

3. I am a sucker for random encounters in video games, but I like that AC limits that agents out of our control that cause disruptions. Remember the bards, beggars, and drunks from earlier games? I'd rather be done with the likes of them, to be honest.

4. I actually really like your fourth point. Personally, I'm still very impressed with crowd behavior in AC1, even compared to other AC games- but even that has much room to improve in this regard.

5. I also wouldn't mind having players appearance reflect in some way upon how they're seen. I think this relates to my crusade to have a future game take Liberation's persona system and really run with the idea.

6. Interesting that the multiplayer game is far more social stealth than the single player one. I guess that makes sense, though- it's just more social and general.


Anyway, great article! I think you made some really compelling points, and while I think the claim that Assassins Creed is not at all a social stealth game is a bit bold, you've certainly demonstrated many ways in which it has failed to attain that distinction.

Farlander1991
08-29-2016, 05:45 PM
Another great article as always! I agree with pretty much everything, but would have wished you would have delved deeper into disguises, which I personally find to be an excellent tool of social stealth if done right. Therefore my question would be how would you integrate and design disguises into an social stealth system?

Well, to be honest, I didn't go deep into disguises because I think disguises are not inherently important for a social stealth game. There's just so many things that a social stealth game has to handle without disguises, so I wanted to focus on the core. Disguises are more of an add-on. They certainly can help, even though usually they just change the context of what is considered a restricted zone or not (which is not exactly a social stealth mechanic as it doesn't really relate to systems of crowds).

For example, if we talk modern day social stealth, it's much more important to have distinction between how civilians react to a person with a machine gun, bazooka and a bulletproof vest and without those things rather than whether he's in police uniform or not.

So a first proper social stealth iteration, if I'd design it, wouldn't have disguises at all, to not get caught into the trap of traditional stealth with social thematic rather than straight social stealth.

But then, let's say for a sequel of that game, after social stealth is implemented and I'd want to add disguises, I would make sure that it changes the contexts of how the crowds react to that. So, if we expand the AC:Revelations example from the blog, then it would be:

We run through a street in line of sight of everyone (no touching, pushing, or additional actions).
1. If we're in Plain Outfit with minimal equipment, the detection speed for just running is rather small, so there'd be just mild attention at best.
2. If we're maximally armoured with tons of heavy weaponry, a big detection multiplier would apply for all those things and the crowd would detect us really fast as we run and send information across each other (which might get guards' attention).
3. If we're in a Janissarry outfit, then the crowd seeing that we're a guard steps to the side of the street to open a free running path for us (you know, how people usually do when they see police quickly running for their business).

So the important thing about disguises would not be which restricted zones you can get to or which guards think of you as an ally or not, but how the interaction with the crowds would work.


Very interesting and provacitive article! I'm sure I'll have to think this one over some, but here are just a few knee-jerk reactions and responses.1. The difference between crowds and bushes is that crowds can indeed betray you. If you end up behaving in such a way that upsets the crowds (which are admittedly limited), they will back away and prevent you from blending.

Can they though? That's what I was getting at, that currently they can't (though in my proposition they can :p ).

1. You can stay as long as you like in a crowd, you can stay as long as you like in a bush.
2. If you move in high profile in a crowd, you're visible, if you move in high profile in a bush, you're visible.
3. When in direct line of sight of alert chasing guards, you can't properly hide in the crowd, as well as you can't properly hide in a bush.
Yes, there are a couple actual differences (like, for example, bushes can't move, that's a big one), and also bushes don't try to attack you if you steal from them :D But globally speaking in terms of mechanics, crowds are a hiding spot. Heck, that's what the monks were in AC1 - they were literally listed among the hiding spots, only in AC2 and forward not only monks have become hiding spots. And bushes are, well, hiding spots as well :p

What would really define crowd apart is their interaction with player behavior, which is pretty barebones in AC right now which is why crowds are so close to bushes.


2. I wouldn't agree that mercenaries/thieves/courtesans/guards are "above the system of crowds". Rather, they just have different interactions with them.

Courtesans don't have any interaction with the crowds - just with the player and guards. Thieves don't have any interaction with the crowds (the crowds just ignore when guards chase after thieves unless somebody pushes them), just with the player and guards. Mercenaries, I'll admit, do kinda have an interaction with the crowd, that said usually it doesn't create chaos or really change the civilian behavior, but just creates 'points of interest'.

The point is, if we remove the crowd from the equation, the factions would work absolutely the same. And if there's no one near from the faction you want, you just go a block away and get the faction you want, and take it even across the whole city if you'd like. And when they're not hired, they're just waiting in one spot for you to get them hired. That's why they're above the system of crowds and not a social stealth mechanism - their existence and mechanics wait for the player, are not a part of a living system and don't require the crowd to exist.

My point though wasn't that factions are bad and there shouldn't be any (however, I do think they can be implemented and weaved in better), but to distinguish what is actually a social stealth mechanic and what has a 'social theme' but is not actually related to social stealth.


3. I am a sucker for random encounters in video games, but I like that AC limits that agents out of our control that cause disruptions. Remember the bards, beggars, and drunks from earlier games? I'd rather be done with the likes of them, to be honest.

There's one thing about bards, beggars, and drunks which makes them NOT what I was talking about in point 3. Point 3 is about agents disrupting the existing system. Bards, beggars and drunks the way they're implemented in AC games DON'T disrupt the system. They disrupt YOU, and that's a huge difference.

You won't see a drunk pushing a jug carrier and attracting attention. The drunk avoids all civilians and specifically targets YOU so YOU'D get pushed into a jug carrier and draw attention to yourself.

You won't see beggars or ministrels annoying other civilians, or running from civilian to civilian. They wait on one spot, letting everyone pass by freely, until they specifically see YOU and start blocking specifically YOUR path.

So bard, beggars and drunks are also not part of social stealth because they don't influence the system, they're annoyance to you, the player, specifically, and make you, the player specifically, mess up.

A proper social stealth implementation according to point #3 would have you as just one of the possible targets those archetypes could choose. But they'd be able to bother anyone else from the crowd as well.


5. I also wouldn't mind having players appearance reflect in some way upon how they're seen. I think this relates to my crusade to have a future game take Liberation's persona system and really run with the idea.

Yeah. As I mentioned though in my reply to Helforsite, I don't think a persona or disguise system themselves are imperial to social stealth, but it can help.


6. Interesting that the multiplayer game is far more social stealth than the single player one. I guess that makes sense, though- it's just more social and general.

Yeah, there's the human factor that makes it a much simpler system than an open-world AI-defined social stealth system would be.


Anyway, great article!

Thanks :)


I think you made some really compelling points, and while I think the claim that Assassins Creed is not at all a social stealth game is a bit bold, you've certainly demonstrated many ways in which it has failed to attain that distinction.

Well, I'm not saying that there's no social stealth in Assassin's Creed, it's got social stealth elements for sure, but too many things mechanically are not actual social stealth, but rather mostly traditional stealth with a social theme to it, which is an important distinction that I wanted to draw.

HDinHB
08-29-2016, 06:42 PM
Nobody finds it suspicious when there’s a person who runs from one group of people to another, stands there for a bit, then runs to the bench, sits there for a bit, then runs behind a corner and waits there (as the detection is based on line of sight, running a lot of times can be more efficient than walking, so this is how switching between blend groups looks like).

When I got to this paragraph I almost shouted YES out loud. I've always found this odd. Even though I understand why it is the way it is, running from cover to cover always feels cartoony.

I was going to bring up the box-carriers in AC2 (and especially Venice) and how they zigzag in front of you so you would bump into them, they would drop the box, and guards would give you a ration of crap for disrupting commerce, but I think you addressed that in your reply above about the jug-carriers.

I understand your point about appearance affecting awareness, but I think the devs are going to have a tricky balancing act here. I see more and more players are clamoring for more and more customization options, and while most of them probably want a bad-*** looking Assassin, I doubt most of them want a bad-*** looking Assassin that is penalized by being more detectable. They could make a more elegant version of Liberation's persona system, where you could select gear and outfits based on mission type. That could work well in my hoped-for game where being an Assassin is only a part-time job, like Giovanni Auditore.

If they do add a stealth penalty for gear, should they add speed and stamina and burden penalities as well? That may be more realism than I want.

MikeFNY
08-29-2016, 06:47 PM
The problem with the Syndicate mission you mentioned is not the unorthodox way to steal the plans undetected, it's the brain of the assassin if you like.

I love AC, I really do, but I very rarely see so many stupid characters at the same time in a videogame.

I counted at least 50 NPCs in that video and none of them bothered the guards in the area.

I mean, a non-assassin knows how to "infiltrate" that area and be in a position to steal the plans but an assassin does not.

And that's because he's the only one with a hood and the only one carrying weapons. I'm not the most clever person on the planet but if you're going to enter a restricted area dressed like that, you should know that they will spot you.

On minute 6:05 you can see three kids wiping the floor. Now that would have been a clever way of stealing the plans: dress up like a cleaner, have someone distract the one carrying the plans and steal them. After all we've had missions like that in the past if I'm not wrong.

In AC3 you could be escorted by your recruits to infiltrate a restricted area, it would have been nice had they kept working on this feature because it was an interesting concept.

Really, these type of missions that make the assassin look like a novice bother me and should be wiped from the series. Else the risk is indeed to adopt a last-resource such as the smoke bomb, and by the way, it makes me cringe to have an optional objective of "steal this without being detected" that can be completed with a smoke bomb.

That's not really "undetected" is it?

I mean really? I use a smoke bomb, I steal the plans, whoever was carrying them knows that they have gone missing yet when I reach the place where the templates are producing a certain syrup they act as if nothing happened.

BATISTABUS
08-29-2016, 07:09 PM
An interesting read. Aside from the fact that this might be difficult to program, I see some potential issues.

While your proposed changes make detection by NPCs more realistic, it essentially discourages using social stealth. In many of the AC games, using stealth is certainly the most time consuming option and it is often the most difficult. Why go through all of the trouble of adhering to all of these extra rules when you can (1) fight everyone and probably win or (2) take to the rooftops, kill your target in plain sight, and then easily escape? I don't see increased detection as something that would encourage certain stealthy behaviors as much as it would frustrate players and arbitrarily increase the existing difficulty of hiding in plain sight.

cawatrooper9
08-29-2016, 07:29 PM
What would really define crowd apart is their interaction with player behavior, which is pretty barebones in AC right now which is why crowds are so close to bushes.


Fair enough. I still don't see it as a very perfect analogy, but I get what you mean.


The point is, if we remove the crowd from the equation, the factions would work absolutely the same. And if there's no one near from the faction you want, you just go a block away and get the faction you want, and take it even across the whole city if you'd like. And when they're not hired, they're just waiting in one spot for you to get them hired. That's why they're above the system of crowds and not a social stealth mechanism - their existence and mechanics wait for the player, are not a part of a living system and don't require the crowd to exist.
I see what you mean now. Again, I think that recognizing this issue and actually implementing a fix to it are two wildly different things, but I'd be interested in seeing someone try to connect these "tools" to the wider world as a whole.


A proper social stealth implementation according to point #3 would have you as just one of the possible targets those archetypes could choose. But they'd be able to bother anyone else from the crowd as well.
Regardless, my intent still stands- in a stealth game, it's not really fair for elements like that to be out of the player's control. How obnoxious would it be if the guards in an area got alerted because some drunk pushed a beggar near you? That would be something that the player had absolutely no control over.

Games often strive for realism, and I think that's great- but playability is very important, too, and I just don't think random encounters during stealth sections are a good idea.



Yeah. As I mentioned though in my reply to Helforsite, I don't think a persona or disguise system themselves are imperial to social stealth, but it can help.

I think it's certainly a part of it, though. Sure, you can have a system like TES where people will treat you differently if you have your weapon drawn vs sheathed (and perhaps, as you suggest, simply based on the size and type of weapon as well). But one criticism of the games since the first entry has been that the iconic white robes of the Assassins, while able to blend with scholars, are still pretty glaringly stark against the normal outfits of citizens and guards at the times.
Liberation, in all it faults, at least saw that the Assassin outfit was the best equipped, but that the more standard civilian clothes of the Slave and the Lady drew less attention. It was a nice payoff, and if opened up a little more in a larger release, could really bring about some interesting play strategies.

Farlander1991
08-29-2016, 07:43 PM
An interesting read. Aside from the fact that this might be difficult to program, I see some potential issues.

While your proposed changes make detection by NPCs more realistic, it essentially discourages using social stealth. In many of the AC games, using stealth is certainly the most time consuming option and it is often the most difficult. Why go through all of the trouble of adhering to all of these extra rules when you can (1) fight everyone and probably win or (2) take to the rooftops, kill your target in plain sight, and then easily escape? I don't see increased detection as something that would encourage certain stealthy behaviors as much as it would frustrate players and arbitrarily increase the existing difficulty of hiding in plain sight.

Those are interesting points. First, when it comes to combat, that's more of an issue with combat (if combat is easy it would always be a preferred option). When it comes to frustration and difficulty, I don't really believe that this would be an increase in difficulty, since the solution to not being detected would be 'don't like an idiot' :p That said, in this point you look at just one aspect of social stealth - of that not being detected. And it's indeed very troublesome in its current state, but I've mentioned all other points precisely because of the reason that social stealth is not just about not being detected, but it's also about influencing the system as well as adapting to possible changes in the system. If you've got enough ways to influence the crowd as well as other things that might influence it, gameplay would be not just about, you know, walking on the streets being afraid to do anything. The system proposed due to its gradual detection doesn't even really hinder running from point A to point B on the streets (well, as long as you don't look like you're a tank I suppose :p ), since in that situation as you run, even though running would increase your detection speed as it's a high profile action, you would also not be in anybody's line of sight long enough for that to matter (but it will matter in a social stealth assassination set up, for example).

SixKeys
08-29-2016, 08:52 PM
I actually miss the bards, beggars and drunks to a degree, mostly because they inserted some individualism into cities where most people act as a same-y mass. As has been suggested, though, instead of making them react solely to the player, they should be like the player and disrupt the system. Introduce a little anarchy. The player could see from a distance that a certain subset of civilians (like beggars) will harass all kinds of people who pass by and realizes this is a problem he will most likely have to deal with unless he comes up with a way to circumvent it. We don't have to be the only person in the system who is affected by a particular nuisance, we're just the one who has to be the most creative about it.



Really, these type of missions that make the assassin look like a novice bother me and should be wiped from the series. Else the risk is indeed to adopt a last-resource such as the smoke bomb, and by the way, it makes me cringe to have an optional objective of "steal this without being detected" that can be completed with a smoke bomb.

That's not really "undetected" is it?

^ This. Specific conditions like this can stifle creativity. More than once I've gotten to the end of the mission undetected using my own methods, and at the last minute realize I haven't met the full sync specifications, so I run back and throw a smoke bomb in some random guard's face before ending the mission.

That's kind of off-topic though and I don't want to derail.


An interesting read. Aside from the fact that this might be difficult to program, I see some potential issues.

While your proposed changes make detection by NPCs more realistic, it essentially discourages using social stealth. In many of the AC games, using stealth is certainly the most time consuming option and it is often the most difficult. Why go through all of the trouble of adhering to all of these extra rules when you can (1) fight everyone and probably win or (2) take to the rooftops, kill your target in plain sight, and then easily escape? I don't see increased detection as something that would encourage certain stealthy behaviors as much as it would frustrate players and arbitrarily increase the existing difficulty of hiding in plain sight.

Frankly, players will play in whatever style they want regardless. I've always played stealthy in AC even though I know perfectly well I could just steamroll my way through 90% of enemy encounters. The question of "why would you do X if you can just do Y?" can apply to anything and render almost any feature meaningless. Why would you use factions if you can just kill everyone? Why use throwing knives if you can just shoot everyone? Why play a game on Hard mode if you can just do it on Easy? The answer is: we do whatever we find most fun. We take the hard route even when we know there's an easy one because some of us enjoy the extra challenge. Just because social stealth is time-consuming and difficult doesn't mean it will turn most players off. If anything, it will probably be an incentive considering how much these games get criticized for being too easy. These games also rely heavily on atmosphere, the historical tourism. Feeling like you're part of a living, breathing world where people react realistically to your actions. The moment you ignore the roleplaying aspect and just start killing everything in sight, the illusion breaks and you become acutely aware of how easy the whole game really is. Why choose to do anything other than fight your way through every mission if getting to the end quickly is your main priority? People choose stealth in these games because it's the more fun option.

Farlander1991
08-29-2016, 09:28 PM
Regardless, my intent still stands- in a stealth game, it's not really fair for elements like that to be out of the player's control

It is in a social stealth game :p


How obnoxious would it be if the guards in an area got alerted because some drunk pushed a beggar near you? That would be something that the player had absolutely no control over.

Here's the problem with your problem :p When a drunk pushes a beggar near me, it's not me who gets focused on. It's the drunk. So now that the guards approach him as HE acted in a socially unacceptable manner, I as the player have a chance to get past those guards. It's an opportunity. You know, the mantra of black box missions now, 'seek opportunities', only this one is systemic and not scripted. The player story here would be 'so I was trying to figure out how to get past this guard post, and then a drunk pushed a beggar and a fight broke out, and the guards approached them to stop it, and I quickly scuffled to get past where they stood and it was cool', not 'so I was trying to figure out how to get past this guard post, and then a drunk pushed a beggar and the guards attacked me'.

And yes, in a systemic world there would be moments when player's plan gets messed up, but still most of the time not in a way that guards become alerted at him (as the player is not the source of what has happened), but in a way that he has to change what he was doing because the context changes. But then the player adapts to the situation and makes it all work. There's a story to tell after that. It's an experience that only a social stealth game with systemic events can provide.

SixKeys
08-29-2016, 10:49 PM
I'll be damned if I haven't just finished writing something similar on a much smaller scale.

I sent it to a friend yesterday for "review" but since we're at it, must as well put it here to avoid duplicate threads then:
https://mikefny.github.io/ac_dark/

Not as detailed as your blog Farlander but it's more or less on the same subject :)

Just wanted to say I read this and I like your ideas too. One thing that puzzles me a bit is the point about lowering your notoriety to avoid your community being attacked. If your community DOES get attacked, even if you fend off the invaders, it means your enemies now know where your hideout is, which would mess with the whole concept of working in the shadows. Revelations skirted this problem by having one main hideout the Templars were unaware of and a bunch of smaller bureaus in plain sight, dens that could be contested by either faction. In this case though, assassins had a very visible presence in the city and didn't even seem to care much about working in the dark. So either you make your hideout indetectible or you make up some excuse why it's okay for the general populace to know where you're based.

BATISTABUS
08-29-2016, 10:51 PM
When it comes to frustration and difficulty, I don't really believe that this would be an increase in difficulty, since the solution to not being detected would be 'don't like an idiot' :p
What concerns me most is the fact that your proposition punishes people for standing in a group for too long. There are many missions in the series where you're required to assassinate someone who is walking around in a crowded area (often a party) full of guards. Part of this is observing the walking path of someone, or waiting for them to walk by your hiding spot. If you're punished for waiting around too long, that's another layer of strategy that needs to be considered.

Hey, in practice, maybe it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I'm all in favor of improving social stealth.


Frankly, players will play in whatever style they want regardless. I've always played stealthy in AC even though I know perfectly well I could just steamroll my way through 90% of enemy encounters. The question of "why would you do X if you can just do Y?" can apply to anything and render almost any feature meaningless. Why would you use factions if you can just kill everyone? Why use throwing knives if you can just shoot everyone? Why play a game on Hard mode if you can just do it on Easy? The answer is: we do whatever we find most fun. We take the hard route even when we know there's an easy one because some of us enjoy the extra challenge. Just because social stealth is time-consuming and difficult doesn't mean it will turn most players off. If anything, it will probably be an incentive considering how much these games get criticized for being too easy. These games also rely heavily on atmosphere, the historical tourism. Feeling like you're part of a living, breathing world where people react realistically to your actions. The moment you ignore the roleplaying aspect and just start killing everything in sight, the illusion breaks and you become acutely aware of how easy the whole game really is. Why choose to do anything other than fight your way through every mission if getting to the end quickly is your main priority? People choose stealth in these games because it's the more fun option.
I believe very strongly that a player should not have to handicap themselves to make a game enjoyable. Yes, doing these things can be fun and I do them as well (more often in Assassin's Creed than any other game). For me, it's much more rewarding to use every tool at your disposal to solve a challenging issue, rather than limit the amount of tools you can use to solve an easy issue.

I understand what you mean about atmosphere and roleplaying, which are very important, but that is something that I feel other games do much better than Assassin's Creed. Red Dead Redemption, a story about a personal journey where your actions have consequences, influenced me to always do the righteous thing when given the choice. Doing so may have been more difficult, but I felt like that was truly the best path to redemption. Killing or saving people was reflected in your karma and infamy, so that was another incentive to keep me in check. Killing or knocking out an enemy in Assassin's Creed has rarely been a choice I've felt an emotional response to, and that's the fault of the game for the way the world works and for not giving us a strong enough sense of the character's (main character or target) personality/motivations/etc.

SixKeys
08-29-2016, 11:15 PM
I believe very strongly that a player should not have to handicap themselves to make a game enjoyable. Yes, doing these things can be fun and I do them as well (more often in Assassin's Creed than any other game). For me, it's much more rewarding to use every tool at your disposal to solve a challenging issue, rather than limit the amount of tools you can use to solve an easy issue.

I agree, to an extent. A game should be challenging enough that the player doesn't have to create arbitrary difficulty by limiting themselves (though some people enjoy that even in games that are difficult, in which case it's about extra challenge rather than being bored). But you're essentially saying there's no point in adding new features that might make the game more interesting just because it doesn't necessarily translate to harder difficulty. In that case, why bother adding anything new? Why add swimming into AC2 when you could get around just fine without swimming in AC1? Why introduce new weapons when the hidden blade is enough in almost any situation?



I understand what you mean about atmosphere and roleplaying, which are very important, but that is something that I feel other games do much better than Assassin's Creed. Red Dead Redemption, a story about a personal journey where your actions have consequences, influenced me to always do the righteous thing when given the choice. Doing so may have been more difficult, but I felt like that was truly the best past to redemption. Killing or saving people was reflected in your karma and infamy, so that was another incentive to keep me in check. Killing or knocking out an enemy in Assassin's Creed has rarely been a choice I've felt an emotional response to, and that's the fault of the game for not giving us a strong enough sense of the character's (main character or target) personality/motivations/etc.

I don't feel like RDR is the best comparison. The morality system in that game is extremely shallow. In freeroam you're allowed to act like the biggest d*uchebag if you want, and then you return to the main story where Marston is portrayed as a fairly decent family man determined to find redemption. The same disconnect exists in AC3 - to a lesser extent - with Connor the pacifist in the main story vs. Connor the ruthless killing machine in freeroam. But at least AC3 doesn't have an achievement for placing a kidnapped and bound victim on the railroad track and watching gleefully as they get run over, then return to helping a nice lady run her farm. That kind of discrepancy makes RD'R's karma system a joke. The Animus gives the player more of an excuse to ignore the inconsistencies between story and freeroam, since not everything we do in freeroam is officially part of the ancestor's memories. RDR is all one big story, so everything the player does really did happen to Marston, supposedly.

Farlander1991
08-29-2016, 11:15 PM
What concerns me most is the fact that your proposition punishes people for standing in a group for too long. There are many missions in the series where you're required to assassinate someone who is walking around in a crowded area (often a party) full of guards. Part of this is observing the walking path of someone, or waiting for them to walk by your hiding spot. If you're punished for waiting around too long, that's another layer of strategy that needs to be considered.

Hey, in practice, maybe it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I'm all in favor of improving social stealth.

But see, with AC being so rooted actually in traditional stealth mechanics, your example is that of a traditional stealth mechanic too. 'Wait until guards pass by to exit your crowd hiding spot'. With social stealth detection you wouldn't necessarily have to wait, it's actually more lenient in that regard than what AC has, as if you walk in guards line of sight from a group to another not enough time would pass for them to become aware and start investigation.

Speaking of limited time in a crowd, since the general rule of thumb is 'people don't like when there's a strange dude bothering them for a long time', I do think that it's fitting to social stealth.

However, nobody says that you can't have additional mechanics that let you stay longer in a group. For example, if you're at a party it makes sense that people would react good to you if you bought drinks. If you're at a market stall, people would react good if you bought some goods. Or plain old bribery :D Etc. This can be abstracted into, well, money. So every crowd group essentially are potential 'courtesans' (without the movement and distracting capabilities though, just unlimited hiding spot if you pay, limited hiding spot because wtf are you bothering us?).

And that also can be expanded further for example. Maybe some groups have a 'snitch' who decides to tell on you if you pay and alert the guards of suspicious behavior. Then you need to use eagle vision to see if the group is 'clean' for 'purchase' if you want to stay in it.

These are just some thoughts off the top, maybe they're problematic as I haven't really thought them through, but the point is there are a lot of ways that a social stealth system can be expanded for some neat interactions with the crowd, in the blog post I focused more on what should be the core of social stealth experience, and once there's a core things can be added on to make it deeper.

cawatrooper9
08-30-2016, 03:45 PM
It is in a social stealth game :p

Here's the problem with your problem When a drunk pushes a beggar near me, it's not me who gets focused on. It's the drunk. So now that the guards approach him as HE acted in a socially unacceptable manner, I as the player have a chance to get past those guards. It's an opportunity. You know, the mantra of black box missions now, 'seek opportunities', only this one is systemic and not scripted. The player story here would be 'so I was trying to figure out how to get past this guard post, and then a drunk pushed a beggar and a fight broke out, and the guards approached them to stop it, and I quickly scuffled to get past where they stood and it was cool', not 'so I was trying to figure out how to get past this guard post, and then a drunk pushed a beggar and the guards attacked me'.

Or, alternatively, it is in a social stealth game. As in, it has to actually be playable.
As far as I can tell, the only difference between a drunk stumbling into some guards and sending mercenaries in is that one is player initiated and the other is simply a random event. As I've said, I love random events and chaos in my games, but stealth games require a lighter hand.

We can talk in circles all we want, I guess, but what it boils down to is that if my plans get "messed up" in a stealth section, I can only hope that it is due to my own doing. Anything else would just be frustrating.

Now, I can see how this could not entirely ruin plans.If we had a drunk stumble into a group of guards, they wouldn't necessarily alert the guards to the player, much like mercenaries or thieves wouldn't. But it still could affect the outcome of the game. What if the drunk draws a large group of guards right on top of the objective?



I guess the way I see it is that you're right about Assassins Creed not being a social stealth game- but I wouldn't really call it a stealth game, either. Sure, you can be stealthy, and you do have options for both social and traditional stealth. But don't forget, you can usually choose to run in and go full Rambo if you want to, as well. I'm not saying that the game defies categorization, but simply that it is a blend of many labels.

Farlander1991
08-30-2016, 06:38 PM
As far as I can tell, the only difference between a drunk stumbling into some guards and sending mercenaries in is that one is player initiated and the other is simply a random event.

The other one is not a random event, it's a systemic event. And it's not a nomenclature, there's a big difference (and now that I think about it, I shouldn't have used an example of thieves in my post because it's not a systemic event, but I just wanted to use as one of the examples what can potenitally happen... and it can happen systemically, but it doesn't in Unity or Syndicate... oh well, too late now).

Random events, of which there are plenty in open-world games and some AC games as well, is a situation that just appears because player has got close enough to one of possible locations where it can happen and it has randomly appeared there.

A systemic event happens due to interaction within the system. It's not that the drunk has just suddenly magically appeared infront of the guards and pushed them, or at a random moment a specific drunk was spawned to specifically go and push the guards. The drunk was there. The guards were there. Then later on an interaction happened. It's something possible and foreseeable, especially if agents that can disrupt the system are also highlighted by Eagle Vision (meaning when planning your approach you'd use it to see if there's something that can happen).

cawatrooper9
08-30-2016, 06:46 PM
The other one is not a random event, it's a systemic event. And it's not a nomenclature, there's a big difference (and now that I think about it, I shouldn't have used an example of thieves in my post because it's not a systemic event, but I just wanted to use as one of the examples what can potenitally happen... and it can happen systemically, but it doesn't in Unity or Syndicate... oh well, too late now).

Random events, of which there are plenty in open-world games and some AC games as well, is a situation that just appears because player has got close enough to one of possible locations where it can happen and it has randomly appeared there.

A systemic event happens due to interaction within the system. It's not that the drunk has just suddenly magically appeared infront of the guards and pushed them, or at a random moment a specific drunk was spawned to specifically go and push the guards. The drunk was there. The guards were there. Then later on an interaction happened. It's something possible and foreseeable, especially if agents that can disrupt the system are also highlighted by Eagle Vision (meaning when planning your approach you'd use it to see if there's something that can happen).

I mean, I get that there's a difference in terminology at the technical level, but I think that as a simple adjective "random" still suits my purposes. Unless this event was either scripted to happen or is player initiated, that's how most players are going to see it.

And sure, one could passively watch and look for those opportunities- and I guess that's a fair strategy. But again, this is a game- I'd much rather cause them myself, and actually play the game in the process.

Farlander1991
08-30-2016, 06:58 PM
But again, this is a game- I'd much rather cause them myself, and actually play the game in the process.

Which you can also. My point is, a social stealth game should have both. We've established that we disagree on this, but, hey, a game is a set of rules and how the amount of control makes the game good is defined on a case by case basis. In traditional stealth games events that happen without player's control suck. But traditional stealth games also don't have crowd systems.

Farlander1991
08-30-2016, 08:15 PM
Btw, just want you to know, that even if we seem to fundamentally disagree on the matter of how interesting and engaging systemic interactions are or could be, I do appreciate the discussion and find it interesting :)

cawatrooper9
08-30-2016, 09:55 PM
Btw, just want you to know, that even if we seem to fundamentally disagree on the matter of how interesting and engaging systemic interactions are or could be, I do appreciate the discussion and find it interesting :)

Absolutely, man. I'm not gonna fault you for having a different opinion than me. :D
Basically, me mantra on these forums is "different strokes". At the end of the day, we're all still fans.