All The Burning Bridges

How exactly can you be stealthy in a multi-tonne, petrol-guzzling tank? Just don’t be heard…

[one_third]How exactly can you be stealthy in a multi-tonne, petrol-guzzling tank? Just don’t be heard…[/one_third]

There’s a scene toward the end of Kelly’s Heroes where Clint Eastwood & Co. must sneak a tank into a German-occupied town in broad daylight. The town is populated my a contingent of German infantry, officers, and most importantly, three deadly Tiger tanks. Now, tanks are loud, so driving directly into the town isn’t an option.

Eastwood and Sutherland halt their tank on the outskirts of the town, waiting for the opportunity to sneak in.

In fact, Eastwood appears to be all out of options, when the enemy Tiger tanks start gunning their engines whilst remaining stationary. Donald Sutherland remarks that it’s just a routine procedure – the Tiger tanks turn their engines over for about twenty minutes every four hours. Lucky for them, it’s noisy as hell.

Using this aural cover, Eastwood and Sutherland sneak their tank into the town and position it behind the Tigers, ready to fire upon their weaker rear armour in a coordinated assault. The enemy can’t hear them approach because of the Tiger tanks’ routine. It’s this scene gave me an idea for a basic but rather radical stealth game.

The thing about current stealth games is that there is a bit too much of a safety net. The further away from enemies you are, the safer you are. But what if getting closer to enemies meant increased safety?

Imagine your character is driving a tank. They must get from one point of a town to an exit – and it’s a town patrolled by enemy tanks. Take the basics of the aforementioned scene from Kelly’s Heroes – the sound of an enemy tank’s engine makes it impossible for them to hear your own tank. Imagine this noise creates a kind of “noise masking” around each enemy tank – like an aura. Thus, the closer you trail an enemy tank, the more the sound of their engine masks the sound of your own.

Think of how the audio meter worked in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. The decibel level of every footstep or action you took was displayed against a set level of ambient noise in the environment. If your actions were louder than that of the ambience, the enemy would hear you. It would be the same principle here, but imagine that aural ambience is attached to the enemy tanks – thus, the closer you are, the safer you are.

Visual detection would of course come from the front of the tanks, so gameplay would involve examining each tank’s patrol route, trailing behind them, then gunning from one tank’s aural safety net to another when those patrol paths converge at an appropriate moment. There could even be a time trial element; the faster you drive, the more noise your engine makes, so the closer you remain to enemies, the faster  you can zoom through the level.

The viewpoint and level layout of walls and roads could be similar to Pac-Man and other top-down games.

How about a bit of environmental interaction? Though the title of this entry refers to the chorus of The Mike Curb Congregation’s theme song from the film, it could be taken literally here. Bridges throughout each level could be burned to alter the patrol routes of enemy tanks and create different paths through the level.

I’m picturing this as a really simple, top-down iOS game. It sounds like something that should be pretty simple to prototype, but I lack the skills to do so. Still, it’s an idea I’d love to see implemented in a future stealth game – not just the proximity of enemies as the safety net, but greater emphasis on aural masking and greater reward for greater risk. That would fill me with positive waves.

4 thoughts on “All The Burning Bridges

  1. I love the idea, if I find the time I\’ll try prototyping that in Flash ! It would also be my first crack at the stealth genre I enjoy (& miss nowadays) so much 🙂

  2. Reminds me of a sequence from the recent Neal Stephenson novel Reamde, where some characters sneak out of the country in a private jet by flying close to a civilian airliner so their radar signature merges with the airliner\’s.

    I don\’t know if this really works for tanks – it seems to me that it would work better for aircraft, spacecraft or subs on radar. By staying close to A, you prevent B from detecting you. (But you would have to stay in A\’s blind area to avoid being detected by A.)

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