Trade Secrets: Dan Silvers

Find out why stealth goes sidescrolling in this Trade Secrets interview with Children of Liberty’s Dan Silvers.

[one_third]Find out why stealth goes sidescrolling in ┬áthis Trade Secrets interview with Children of Liberty’s Dan Silvers.[/one_third]

Lantana Games
Dan Silvers (Game Designer)
Game: Children of Liberty
Due: 2012


With indie games expanding stealth gameplay beyond the parameters of 3D cat-and-mouse, other genres are ripe for exploration. It’s exactly what Dan Silvers, game designer at Lantana Games, is doing with Children of Liberty – taking stealth gameplay into the platforming genre with a heartwarming tale set on the eve of the American Revolution.

Sneaky Bastards: What is it that attracts you to stealth gameplay?

Silvers: What attracts me to stealth gameplay is how much hasn’t been explored in that area. While the basics of sneaking, stealing, and high-risk high-reward combat certainly have, there’s a lot that goes along with the art of not being seen. Recent entries in the genre like Batman Arkham Asylum/City and Deus Ex: Human Revolution have shown that stealth is alive, well, and attractive; but the stealth in those is interestingly quite similar: duck down, sneak around, takedown. What excites me is to try to create gameplay that breaks away from that mold while maintaining stealth as the core.

Why do you think stealth games fell out of popularity?

If they did, it’s because stealth gameplay is difficult to get right. What you used to see a lot was “stealth segments” in a game that would instantly fail you for being seen. This tradition carries over into Assassin’s Creed, but as stealth is at the core of Assassin’s Creed it’s a slightly different scenario. Stealth is often treated in a binary fashion, all or nothing style gameplay, either stay hidden or die. It’s the games that allow you to recover and regain your sneaky advantages that work best. This is the reason stealth has often failed in first person shooters and similar action games. If stealth is not at the core of the gameplay, and suddenly the player is presented with a level that requires them to be stealthy, they lack the necessary tools for completing that segment in an inherent fashion. It would be like if in Monopoly the game suddenly told you that the quality of life on Mediterranean Avenue needed to be improved. Well, you don’t have the tools to do that. All you know how to do is drive the rent up. Similarly, if all you know how to do is shoot a gun, there’s really no inherent way to be stealthy.

I think games that didn’t inherently teach you how to use the shadows to your advantage have fallen out of popularity, and for this I am thankful. People voted with their wallets on these kinds of games. Games with stealth at their core, however, couldn’t be more popular. You’ve got Batman, Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed, a new Hitman and Thief on the way; plus indie gems like Monaco, Gunpoint, Mark of the Ninja, and Children of Liberty. I think the only thing that’s missing now is a multitude of multiplayer options in the stealth category, but they do exist and we will hopefully see more in the years to come.

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 think it depends on how it’s handled, much like the other playstyles. I can tell you I tried doing an entirely stealth playthrough of Deus Ex: HR my first time through, and boy did that not go according to plan. Alternately, if one were to try a pure action approach to Assassin’s Creed, they would fail very often (especially as those games sometimes require you to not be seen).

However I think a lot of games lend themselves to stealth gameplay without even knowing it. Far Cry 2 for instance, I would love to do a permadeath stealth playthrough of that, just all sniper rifles and machetes. No cars either since I can’t be heard. It would be like that night scene in Tears of the Sun but with less threat of a baby giving away my position. So yeah, stealth as an alternate playstyle? I’m good with it.

Platformers are the big genre being given the stealth treatment right now, with Gunpoint, Children of Liberty, and now Mark of the Ninja

What would a way forward for stealth gameplay be?

I think the main way forward would be to eliminate some of the binary systems that have been holding stealth gameplay back, like takedowns being an instant killing move. There’s a lot of room for growth in terms of skill-based stealth beyond just staying out of an AI’s vision cone.

I also think a lot of genres can be blended into a healthy stealthy smoothie. Platformers are the big genre being given the stealth treatment right now, with Gunpoint, Children of Liberty, and now Mark of the Ninja; and of course it all started with Abe’s Oddysee. Action titles are the easiest to be blended with Stealth (Metal Gear, Assassin’s Creed), though RPGs have proven they can have finely crafted stealth mechanics (Deus Ex) and even first-person shooters have proven their mettle in sneakiness (Far Cry 2, No One Lives Forever). I believe there’s still room to grow, specifically in the strategy and sports categories (don’t ever say a game can’t be made). I’m excited to see what developers can come up with for the stealth genre in the future.

Thanks, Dan! Check out the Trade Secrets hub for previous stealth interviews, and return here tomorrow for a new one!

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