Stealth game project and survey

(TL;DR) We’re working on a Thief-inspired stealth game and want people to fill out a survey!

We already talked on this blog about how we put Behind Stars and Under Hills on ice (with a big sad sigh), and that our next game project will be a Thief-like (1998 Thief, not 2014 Thief), but we didn’t get into much detail here. Instead we did a livestream about the current state of our new project, so have a look if you want to catch up. Now, the sandbox demo we showed in the video is finally available to selected testers!

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While the difference to the version from the stream isn’t that vast, the playground level now has an individually created mission (with simple quests like “Steal 700 loot”) and offers a few coherent gameplay elements and situations. The geometry overall is super simple, with a lot of placeholder textures and models. Especially the enemy is still the skeleton from the Asset Store, which Friedrich has been using for nearly a year now, just because it’s so nice to look at and has a lot of personality. The level was built quickly with RealtimeCSG, a tool we will also use for the final missions, as it keeps the level creation inside Unity (in TRI, we made all the levels in 3dsmax) and its limitations work well with our chosen settings. Also, the lighting is all real-time for now (which results in a pretty high number of draw calls), as the pipeline for baking and integrating lightmaps is not ready yet.

For us it was important to create a level that demonstrates the “game feel”, and of course the basic gameplay. The sandbox-y nature is clear from the beginning as each room has more than one entrance and the mission does not enforce to do things in a certain order. Of course the whole level is pretty weird. Most jarring: the buildings were put on a big floating block. And the rooms don’t make much sense in their architecture. But we hope this also creates its own atmosphere; and at least with this demo, we put gameplay far before realism anyway.

While the AI will be “under construction” until the beta or even the final version of the game, the enemies already are dangerous and behave in sometimes unexpected ways, which is the heart of a stealth game: it only works well as a game if the danger is big (and preferably constant), but always manageable. Thanks to the players’ powers to hide inside shadows and use various tools (like projectiles or a hacking device) the latter should already be the case in our playground demo.

As we’re still trying to find out if the character controller’s programming is going the right direction and if the AI actually feels natural in its reactions towards the players, we decided against doing a full vertical slice. Which mostly means we’re trying to make sure we appeal to stealth fans for now, and not to publishers. This is obvious in how many things are missing, with the graphics assets already mentioned. But also the sounds are much too sparse for now, with a skeleton only generating footstep sounds, and sometimes a scream that should alarm other enemies. And we’re working on the plot and story in parallel to graphics and tech, but are still not satisfied with those yet, so they are also not part of the playground demo (only hinted a bit).

It goes without saying that a lot of the game’s gameplay mechanics are not yet implemented or even planned. For this and other reasons we created a questionnaire that we’d like to have filled out by stealth enthusiasts and gamers in general, mostly to see how other people see the genre and how important certain elements are. So please, dear reader, fill out the survey and maybe even forward it to others. And if you’re even more interested, you might want to become a part of our Discord server! See you soon!