[one_third]Aduge Studio’s Bruno Brulhoes talks pacing and platforming in the fourth-last Trade Secrets stealth interview.[/one_third]
Developer: Bruno Bulhoes (Creative Director)
Game: Qasir Al-Wasat
Aduge Studio’s top-down indie stealth title Qasir Al-Wasat presents an immediately interesting design challenge: how do you engineer stealth gameplay when your character is permanently invisible? Bruno Bulhoes, Aduge Studio’s Creative Director, takes a break from solving this problem to give us his thoughts on where stealth games are now.
Sneaky Bastards: What is it that attracts you to stealth gameplay?
Bulhoes: I think stealth dynamics are sometimes more powerful than straightforward action to create a thrilling experience. The fact is that stealth as a core dynamic creates an engaging pacing for a game by itself, forcing the player to take two steps backs before acting and actually minding his surroundings, general map layout, enemy positioning and other spatial features. This actually makes the player experience more content from the game and be actively engaged with it rather than just mashing buttons or simply pointing and shooting his way through. Of course, you can create a compelling experience without stealth and I wouldn’t advocate the use of stealth dynamics to all types of games, but in the right place and at the right time, a good stealth segment of gameplay can work wonders for pacing and player engagement.
Why do you think stealth games fell out of popularity?
I suppose you are asking about the mainstream industry. Probably because we are in the middle of an economic crisis, which is synonymous with creative industry crisis. Stealth as a gameplay concept is niche, or better yet, not a strong marketing asset. Players in general do not actively search for stealth games (or a lot of other kinds of games that are in decline). Also, the seventh generation made action games truly awesome and full of bling and sweet and epic, so everyone is experimenting with the action genre because of that (and since we are amidst a crisis, everyone wants to be safe, so they just increment those numbers in the titles and make more of the same).
However I think indies are starting to give the stealth gameplay some love. Monaco and Gunpoint seem to be excellent games with stealth based gameplay as core. And as with all genres that are seeing decline within the mainstream industry, indies can nab the piece of the action because the players are still there, they still want those types of games, it is just that they are not profitable anymore to the AAA budget. To the indie budget though, any demographic is profitable.
As with all genres that are seeing decline within the mainstream industry, indies can nab the piece of the action because the players are still there.
What are your thoughts on stealth gameplay being included as one possible path or playstyle, as opposed to the main focus of a game?
I always see promoting different playstyles within a game as a good practice. It attracts different kinds of players to your game and actually increases the value of the game as a whole because it improves its replayability. However, this is an expensive strategy on a development standpoint. You can end up limping your gameplay without focusing on a core gameplay dynamic or suffering massive scope creep and destroying your project before it ever hits the market, so it is not something to be taken for granted when pitching for a new project.
In the mainstream industry as of today, it is the only way stealth can see the light of the day as I don’t think stealth as a core dynamic attracts enough audience to break even, when a budget is at the level of tens of millions of dollars. So, stealth dynamics must be mixed with action/horror/exploration and other more “popular” (ie. easily edible and marketeable) dynamics in order to become profitable.
What would a way forward for stealth gameplay be?
Stealth is a gameplay dynamic, which can emerge from a wide subset of mechanics. A way forward is diversifying the mechanics from which stealth can actually emerge. A stealth platformer, a stealth shoot’em up, a stealth turn-based strategic RPG… we could go on on thinking about ways of making a set of mechanics stealthy. Could we design a stealth dynamic over a Jump and Running game like Super Mario Bros.? Of course we can. There are a lot of genres where stealth can be applied as a dynamic which can promote an enriching and novel experience which nobody ever bothered experimenting with it, yet.
Thanks, Bruno! As always, you can return to the Trade Secrets hub for previous stealth interviews. Come back tomorrow for a conversation with Alex Quick, lead developer of stealthy sharks versus divers multiplayer game, Depth.