The Games of Stealthjam
[one_third]The world’s first global stealth game jam has concluded, and the completed stealth game entries are here to download![/one_third]
On the weekend of June 22, Sneaky Bastards kicked off Stealthjam: the world’s first global stealth game jam. It was a weekend brimming with stealth design discussion and furious prototyping, and teams of independent developers from around the world raced to create and explore new forms of stealth gameplay in just 48 hours. What follows are the games that were successfully completed; games that take stealth in directions we have not seen before.
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Blackout offers an interesting twist on the core light and shadow-based dynamic of power and safety. Usually, shadows are your friend; from them, you are completely safe (so long as no guard happens to trip over you, or shine a flashlight in your eyes) and you also have the power to observe your surroundings uninhibited. Here, shadow is only created when hitting the spacebar to temporarily create a level-wide blackout. And it is completely black, save for a tiny light cone around your character. A blackout causes lasers to deactivate and severely inhibits guards’ line of sight, but also makes it far easier to accidentally step on a pressure plate – and then, it’s game over. A basic planning phase has been implemented that consists of drawing a path through the level which remains visible during the blackout, and there’s a kind of tension that arises from trusting your own drawn path by bailing along it in the dark. Though the levels end just as things start getting tricky, there’s a solid core concept behind Blackout we’d love to see developed further.
A simple, top-down game of timing whereby a cube must be moved to the end of the level, whilst avoiding roaming spotlights. What Box Escape does is strip back the typical system of guard patrols (represented here by the spotlights) into its most basic form – a timing-based puzzle. Whilst Box Escape does offer a few nailbiting moments, and evokes something of a planning phase through safe spots and having every light follow very readable patterns, the game, in and of itself, isn’t an entirely unique exploration of stealth gameplay.
James Apple, John Apple, James Zin, Jared Michael
Quite a few games in Stealthjam explored existing methods of evasion in the animal kingdom. Colour Chameleon is the first of them. Created by a group of artists with no actual programming experience, the game is rough but built upon an original spin on stealth gameplay. As the chameleon runs down the track, it must blend in to coloured strips on the ground to avoid being attacked by the spiders that await. What we can see from this concept is a game that potentially marries sneaking and rhythm to create a kind of stealth-based synesthesia similar to something like Audiosurf. Give it a go, and see where your own extrapolations take you.
Dance or Die
David Davila, Gabriel Ortiz, Felipe Lucio, Miguel Olvera
Speaking of rhythm, Dance or Die is one of the strangest things we’ve ever played. It’s about getting fed up with being in a club playing that’s lame music and is full of lame people on the dancefloor, so you need to collect your stuff and get out. But you need to do it without the other dancers thinking you’re lame, which means… you need to do it in time with the music. It’s totally bizarre, totally abstract, and it totally works. If you just project the team’s given context onto the coloured squares, it’s kind of hilarious. What the game needs, however, is actual music, as well as a slightly more forgiving window to move on the beat. Perhaps a penalty for standing still, too, to force you to plan your route through the dancefloor and not break your flow. Flow is a thing, right? Can you tell I can’t dance? Good. Play this game.
Desk Rage Team
This game reminds me of one of those 90s Dilbert Desktop games, in that you play as a disgruntled employee who must sneak his way through his office’s cubicles and flip his boss’s desk. On the way, they need to avoid other employees, who will run and tell the boss because they’re suck-ups. Desk Rage explores a bit of AI manipulation: the player is able to tamper with office equipment that will distract the employees to create a risk/reward situation through the need to leave the cover of the cubicles to do so. We don’t think the third-person view works however; the game would play much better from a top-down, or fixed isometric, perspective.
Facility Sneak is perhaps a victim of its own ambition. With an original goal of a squad-based, turn-based, grid-based stealth game – which sounds fantastic – the realities of the game jam environment proved, well, too real for this one-man team. Though the final version retains the turns and the grids, it doesn’t appear to use them to explore the kind of potential a turn-based stealth game could have with a single character given the rest of the game’s mechanics.
Giraffes Gone Wild
Giraffes Gone Wild is another game where the team’s original vision was closer to fulfilling the Stealthjam mission of exploring new stealth mechanics. Players would contort a giraffe into comically impossible positions to hide behind things like trees in the manner of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Unfortunately, the team was unable to bring the concept to fruiting within the game jam time limit, and so what resulted feels less like it explores stealth gameplay. There are some great physics and random level generation driving the game, but the game needs some kind of motivation to commit to actions which raise the alert meter, in order to give reason to subsequently visit the giraffe sanctuary to cool it down. Did I mention this game is kind of wacky?
Michael Sawayda, Dustin Byrne, Eduardo Cabrera, Ian Chee, Robert Munn
GLOW does a fantastic job of exploring the delicate interplay between safety, action and perception in stealth-based multiplayer combat. This is a two-player deathmatch game where the level is pitch black. Firing lights up the area around you, and your projectile, but also leaves your player-character glowing for a few seconds, giving the other player a chance to line up a shot from the safety of the shadows. The thing is, no one will win unless someone fires and reveals themselves, so battles can develop into tense games of misdirection. We’d love to see this concept explored over more complex level designs and with higher player counts.
Jason King, Matthew Korver, Tom Spratt
The Huntsman is part DayZ, part Splinter Cell Versus mode. It’s an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one player is the Huntsman (literally a giant spider – we can already see Justin running in the opposite direction) and the other is the Hunter (a man with a big gun). Both are tasked with killing the other, but are easily killed themselves. The spider relies on using the dark to close in on the unsuspecting hunter, and using his webs to slow. The Hunter has limited ammo and vision and must be aware of his prey hunting him throughout, using his flashlight and flares sparingly. Dark, ominous woods and hilly terrain make this a deadly game of cat and mouse (man and spider?) that can be won through stealth or firepower.
Calum Spring, Tim Stasse, Blair Duncan, Glenn Cowley, Tim Bermanseder, Dylan Young, Rob Krix
What we have here is a basic approximation of the social stealth gameplay that Chris Hecker is currently exploring in the development of SpyParty. That kind of exploration is exactly what Stealthjam encourages, but it’s probably the most difficult angle to approach stealth mechanics given the 48 hour time constraints. So it is that InconSPYcuous offers a multiplayer spy/sniper setup that is hampered by the spy’s inability to really imitate NPCs and throw the sniper off. There’s some fun to be had in imitating their skittish, random movement, but the game needs more behaviours to explore. That said, InconSPYcuous lays solid groundwork, though we don’t know if the shadow being cast by SpyParty is, at the moment, too long.
Million Dollar Monkey
Team Fully-Evolved wanted to make a Nightcrawler Super Meat Boy Platformer where the player is able to shift in and out of space to pass through walls avoid being seen by enemies, and avoid damage from environmental hazards. And they’ve done just that. Million Dollar Monkey explores occlusion-based stealth where you have more control over that occlusion than in most other stealth games – the closest we can think of is Warp. We’d love to see the stealth aspects here explored more than the platform and puzzle mechanics, because the core concept is so simple, yet so solid, that it could easily make for a new kind of stealth game.
Moonlight: Mistress of Mischief
We think Moonlight’s creator must hate us. Why else would he place a giant gemstone in front of an arrow-launching turret that instantly kills the game’s player character? We want that damn gem. Though pressing the movement key really fast to dodge the arrow by moving two squares super quick kind of replicates the ‘flight’ moments in stealth games, it feels a little like we’re cheating the system. For a stealth/puzzler so stalwartly grid-based, we were hoping for a few more ways of bypassing these kinds of roadblocks. The game is currently being developed and updated beyond the Stealthjam event, as this IndieDB page details.
Awesome Ninja Game
Thomas Hill, Elliott Richards, Lachlan Page, Angus McPherson
This is the first Stealthjam game to include an incentive for non-lethal action. More points are awarded for leaving guards alive whilst collecting treasure in this 2D sidescroller reminiscent of upcoming stealth game Mark of the Ninja. The player can hide behind doors while a guard patrols past them, or take them out from behind. It is a basic translation of stealth mechanics onto a 2D plane whilst providing faux depth, but the eponymous ninja’s shoes are remarkably slippery, and thus his ability to jump with precision not too… well, precise.
Recall fares a little better than the previous attempt at turn-based stealth, using its Roguelike inspiration to instil a sense of dread and urgency. There’s a tension that arises from hiding behind a cupboard and hitting the ‘next turn’ button, wondering if the guards saw you and are about to change their patrol pattern and make a beeline for you. Unfortunately, there’s insufficient feedback for when this is the case, and with no recourse to recover when spotted, the Roguelike influence starts to strangle the otherwise interesting exploration of stealth.
Patrick Rasumssen, Carmen Penna
Shadow Thief is a game is about a thief breaking into an office building on the top floor to reach the bank on the ground floor. You are to use the shadows to avoid the guards by jumping into the shadow itself. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to get the game to function properly. We jump into the shadow, but are still detected by the patrolling guards. Perhaps you might have better luck? The game requires the installation of GameMaker 8.1, and must be opened in it as a project file.
Sir Steal-a-Lot’s Adventures
Martin Gartz, Jorge Monterrubio, Diego Guerra
We love this idea. You’re a chameleon who “absorbs” not just the colour of his background, but the pattern as well, in order to sneak past guards. If you absorb stripey wallpaper, for example, you’re only hidden unless you position yourself exactly over the wallpaper so that the patterns match up, like Gotye. It’s like a combination of Metal Gear Solid 4’s octo-camo, and Metal Gear Solid 3’s camouflage percentage index, but far more exact. We can’t actually seem to get past the sixth room, but it doesn’t matter; the concept is brilliant and we want to see more.
Jack Erskine, Jake Higgs, Micheal Muirden, Tom Buttery, Anneke Cox, Dan Harvey, Trevor Clift, Hannah Mattner
Squidden is one of the most polished games to come out of Stealthjam, and another that explores colour-based camouflage in the animal kingdom. We’re also giving it the award for best-worst pun in the title. You play as a squid who must consume fish then change colour to hide in the coral as a bigger, snappier fish tries to, in turn, eat him. It’s a good idea, but I feel the stealth aspect is perhaps a little divorced from the game’s objective. Having the different colours on the right thumbstick is definitely an interesting approach, though. Still, There’s a solid foundation in Squidden that we would like to see developed upon.
Steampunk Inn Team
Steampunk Inn presents an intersting concept, whereby you play as an inn owner who robs from his tenents whilst they sleep. The more you steal, the more you can upgrade your inn, which attracts more unaware guests. Sneaking into their rooms requires holding your breath, as floating security sentries detect increased levels of moisture in the air. The random level generation doesn’t particularly play well into the strict time limit for each level; perhaps, given an overview of each floor before commencing, some rudimentary planning could facilitate the most optimal path to the most bountiful rooms and make for a richer experience.
We hope you like dubstep! TAG paints you as a graffiti artist who navigates a city environment through some athletic platforming trying to get as many graffiti tags up as possible, all while trying to avoid detection by floating police sentries. Kind of like a stealth-based Jet Set Radio. It’s a cool idea, however we’d like to have seen some more done with the police sentries to prevent gameplay from devolving into a stop-and-start affair. Perhaps spraypainting their lenses to ward them off?
SNEAKY BASTARDS GAME OF DISTINCTION
Operation Om Nom
Team Operation Om Nom
Operation Om Nom is nothing short of brilliant. It’s a stealth game where the player creature can disguise himself as everyday objects by eating them. You can eat a pot plant, which you’ll then turn into, but have sprouted legs and can shuffle along like in an old cartoon. Stay still – in places where pot plants would logically be – and guards won’t notice you. This ability is limited by the creature’s digestive system – you eat the pot plant to turn into it, and then have a limited run with it before you’ll poop it out. There’s some other brilliant stuff in here, like dynamic music that adds new layers depending upon how close you are to your goal, and the ability to run on the ceiling (but not on ceiling fans). However, it’s the ability to disguise as objects that we’ve completely taken to. This idea is begging for a complete stealth game to be designed around.
Interested in hosting Stealthjam 2013?
It’s safe to say that Stealthjam will become an annual event – and we’re looking for people to help make next year even bigger!
If you’re interested in applying to host a local Stealthjam event in your city in the middle of 2013, get in touch:
See you next year!
3 thoughts on “The Games of Stealthjam”
Why didn\’t I heard about this before?! I would definitely have joined!
This is the website I want to be a part of.
Hey, I\’d love to download \”The Huntsman\”, but the link\’s dead! any chance of a revive or a new one?