"Part of the dynamic of stealth games is that you're holding that power of life and death over the NPCs, but electing not to do anything with it."
- Patrick Redding, game director at Ubisoft Toronto, talks about tackling stealth
in modern video games.
Discussing the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist
with GameSpot, Redding says that the act of keeping silent and remaining unseen by enemies isn't directly what gamers find satisfying in stealth games.
"Stealth -- from a level design perspective -- is not about avoidance," he says. "Instead, it's about building an ecosystem, and [that ecosystem] needs to feel like it has an existence outside of what the player is doing. That's why having a really [dynamic] AI is so important."
In fact, Redding says that in today's stealth games, giving the player lots of different methods for handling each situations always trumps avoidance of detection.
"There's a lot of depth in using gadgets in combination, understanding how sound will attract the AI, knowing where to hide bodies, and so on," he notes. "By giving all these tools to the player, and offering multiple paths in the environment, you're reinforcing that they have the ultimate choice in how this is going to play out."
However, he notes that while giving players the freedom to tackle each situation with multiple possible methods is the key to maximum enjoyment, you don't want to end up confusing them to the point that they have no idea what will happen when they attack from a particular angle.
"For the player, the challenge is surveying the situation, observing the AI, and then putting together a plan," he says. "The fun is then executing that plan and seeing whether it plays out exactly how you thought, went a little differently, or having it all go wrong and needing to [escape]. That's what's satisfying for stealth players."