I’m am halfway done with a whole new level relying on stealthy infiltration, now featuring slightly less dumb AI!
New Level, New focus
I’ve gone to laying out a whole new level with unique textures and props to give its own atmosphere. This one’s more of a hostile territory focused on stealth, infiltration, and finding new paths, a contrast to the previous one which is sort of a free-roam friendly area full of NPCs you can talk to and personal rooms you can break into.
I guess the best description of what I’m going for is is a “safe hub with multiple hostile zones” similar to things you might see in Deus Ex (base and missions) or Diablo (town and dungeons). At the same time, I am trying to keep it non-linear, so you can roam around as you please, with story and exploration giving you new tools to open up areas you couldn’t get to previously. So a little sprinkle of lite Metrovenia?
Undumbing the AI
I already had wandering NPCs, with some very rudimentary chase-the-player mechanic for guards. Which, as I found out, was hilariously broken – all you had to do was stand on a crate and wa-bam, the guards would stop in their track, staring at you as they pondered the futility of their existence. Because, you see, they can’t get on top of crates. So why even bother?
I tweaked the pathfinding so they now try to find the closest point to you, even if they can’t reach you directly, yay! Another cool feature is: they don’t just remember where they last saw you, but also remember which direction you were moving in, and can thus guess your future location. Cue a cool moment when I was running away, rounded a corner and hid behind a crate, while the AI foolishly ran past me. Cheesy 80s action movies anyone?
But this led to a new problem…
Somewhat unexpectedly I fell in love with the idea of vertical stealth – hiding up on rafters, climbing stacks of crates to get a vantage point, etc. But in my design and for narrative reasons, the NPCs are all currently melee based, so what can they do when they spot you at a place they can’t reach? Some Ideas I’ve been musing:
- Add ranged weapon – probably the best and easiest solution, at least for now
- Make them sound an alarm leading to insta-fail / restart – Personally, I hate that approach in stealth games
- Give them ability to climb – a little too complex to code up at this point, and would probably look really weird. Still doesn’t solve the problem of some unreachable areas (like rafters).
- Make them walk in circles saying “musta been rats” – not really :p
Perhaps it’s due to the new levels atmosphere and focus on infiltration, but I’ve been finding myself listening to the Deus Ex soundtrack to get me in the right mood. And I’m not even talking about the signature UNATCO theme, but the moody Liberty Island or even Majestic 12 labs.
And there’s also the beautifully creepy scifi System Shock 2, another big inspiration for my overall gameplay, setting and design. Speaking of which, I’ve been messing around having some fun, so figured I’d do a little homage ;)
Next Week Plan
I’m thinking about finalizing the new level (still some areas that need furnishing, some vent shafts that need to be added, quest items to be scattered around etc.) and polishing up the stealth system, adding more AI tweaks (like the vertical problem), maybe sound based detection.
Time permitting, maybe I can get to reworking the player controller (the default Unity one has some issues), and potentially brainstorm some new gameplay tools now that I have a level to test them in (lockpick minigame? sound-dampening shoes? grappling hook?)
Curious about my next Indie Game?
Karaski: What Goes Up... is a Deus Ex meets Clue with branching open-ended story, meaningful choices and trying not to become the suspect yourself.