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Analysis / Useless Useful Stealth

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How to avoid Useless Useful Stealth without making a Stealth-Based Game

Just eliminating the most common causes of Useless Useful Stealth listed in the main article can fix most of the problems at a reasonable development price:

  • Problem: The player must kill bosses in upfront combat to progress through game, a.k.a. the Deus Ex: Human Revolution Syndrome.
    Solution: If any character really must die for the story to advance (an assumption that can be challenged in 99% of games), add an alternative path through the boss arena to a piece of Malevolent Architecture that can be used to kill the boss without them ever knowing the player is there. Otherwise, if the player just needs something from the boss, like a key, a weapon, or a piece of intel, maybe there is some way to steal it or to get them to hand it over without resorting to bloody murder?
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  • Problem: Stealthing past groups of enemies leaves them in place, and doing so every time you need to get from A to B stops being fun rapidly.
    Solution: Teleportation. If you let the player teleport back and forth between safe locations after they reach/unlock them, it would eliminate a lot of frustration. If that sounds too easy, give them a limited teleportation spot budget and force them to think twice about whether a spot is both safe and useful enough to teleport to later.
  • Problem: You get the vast majority or all of Experience Points in the game for killing enemies.
    Solution: Give the majority of XP for completing (side) mission objectives and/or reaching certain points in the world by any means.
  • Problem: Stealth mechanics are too intransparent and unreliable for players to use.
    Solution: Stealth is all about information management and traversal. As such, it must be made clear to the player when the enemies see them, as well as in how alerted the enemies currently are, even if that seems like too much information to reveal.
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  • Problem: A Player Party only has room for one Stealth Expert.
    Solution: Teleportation. Once The Sneaky Guy gets past the enemies and gets the XP for the whole party, the rest of it teleports to him. Or, if he gets caught, the rest of the party warps right in to protect him.
  • Problem: The game fosters Complacent Gaming Syndrome by encouraging/forcing player to specialize in either stealth or combat early on.
    Solution: Give the player enough XP to upgrade both skill trees. Add level and objective variety, where some missions are more fun to sneak into and to fight your way out of, while in others, the player goes in guns blazing, but has to sneak out when faced with overwhelming (but unobservant) opposition later on.


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