[Prototype] Agent Unseen - "tough as nails" stealth-em-up


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edited in Projects
Gameplay Video:



Downloadable Builds: http://clockworkacorn.com/games/unseen/#download


Hello everyone,

We’re back with another weekly prototype. Thanks to everyone who’s been giving us feedback over the last month, we really appreciate it!

So, this week we revisited the idea of mixing stealth games and roguelikes. We originally prototyped this at the start of the year, but we felt we didn’t do it justice the first time, so we’ve taken another jab at it, and I think we’ve got a much more fun prototype this time.

Unseen is a stealth roguelike prototype where you’re trying to progress through a series of increasingly difficult missions with powerful upgrades. Move in the shadows and carry out your missions before the guards notice you.



Instructions:

Movement: WASD or arrow keys
Sprint: shift
Aim: mouse
Taser: left click
Active ability: right click
Select active ability: scroll wheel
Interact: space or E

Guards can’t see you in the shadow unless they are very close. You’re either in the light or not, there isn’t a continuum of lighting levels. Health and items refresh between missions.

Known issues:

AI is dumb as soup.
Dashing to your goal is way too easy now, and should be nerfed.

Feedback Questions:

1. Replayability is one of our primary goals. Do you think this is possible with the current direction? We want to make this game about as little direct combat as possible. Avoiding conflict and sneaky takedowns are the idea.

2. Exploration and discovery are staples of the roguelike genre for a reason, but seem counter to the “finish the job and escape” mentality you want in a stealth game. Do you think this will be an issue, or will side objectives and lootables be enough to encourage players?

3. Thoughts of the top down visual style with the raytraced vision/lighting?

4. Anything else? This is the first public showing, so please tell us any other thoughts/concerns.


Downloadable Builds: http://clockworkacorn.com/games/unseen/#download

Comments


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    The flash build isn't working for me... Just sits there on a black screen. Am I missing something?

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    @dislekcia: It seems like it's hit or miss with the flash version. There is an initial loading screen with a mostly black background, but it should arrive at the starting menu very quickly. Have you tried a native build? Due to framerate and fullscreen issues, the native build is actually a better playing experience.

    EDIT: trying to see if we can get the flash build working, but not sure yet.

    EDIT 2: Ok, I managed to reproduce and fix the issue in a VM. Hopefully this means it's been fixed in general. The native builds are still a better experience, but hopefully the flash build works now (same links).

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    edited
    Edit: Flash version is fixed now so please use the link in the original post please :)

    As Francois said, the flash build might have some frame rate issues due to some quickly implemented raytracing, so if thats an issue please try out one of the native builds, I just uploaded the mac one to our site. (Aside: The native builds also have antialiasing )

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    A lot of stealth games dissatisfy me mechanically and I've always felt that the best way to address matters would be to emphasise a particular angle. Most recent thing coming to mind is Stealth Bastard (http://www.stealthbastard.com) which emphasised precision and action quite well. I really like the promise that your system shows for an upgradeable information economy. In the between-level abilities, tools are probably decent overall, though I thought the stuff like vision width and blueprints were the most fascinating because they were "low-admin" tactical improvements. I don't know if you have any more of those, but I can imagine a well-equipped, late level sneaker in this game having diverse buffs like increased hearing range, better viewing angles around corners, extended view distance, and visual indicators of enemy sight cones.

    I would keep right-click abilities to a minimum if possible so the player can focus on doing the basic interactions with greater care and precision while their buffs automatically / passively serve them. I would go as far as saying that they pick their right-click at the start of the game and stick with it (this could be a way of selecting your basic "character class").

    I would also generally nuance and buff the information indicators. If I can hear a guard behind a wall, it's easier to keep track of a "ghost" of his inferred position than to visually process the current sound rings. I'd increase the default view cone to something slightly unrealistic. Temporary imprints can be left at the places they were last sighted, fading over a second or two. You could have your regular cone of "direct" vision, and have an extended arc of "peripheral vision" which gives you only partial or generalised information, etc. If all of this is too kind to the player, you can still increase external challenge to compensate.

    Finally, I think your exploration dilemma would be solved by working more on environmental features before returning to the matter of adversaries. Shifting walls could make the raycasting more mechanically relevant and interesting, doors could be added between rooms to break up levels and prevent excessive dashing behaviour (though one upgrade could be to instantly -- but noisily -- break through doors) and you could work on that good ol' rogue staple of vaults or set pieces, in which you can place treasure or side objectives (if you can somehow make getting these affect your ability to upgrade between levels, that would probably work well for you). The pickup reward is one thing in itself, but it's nice to have them in special or interesting situations, like guards patrolling in scripted patterns or formations. Or maybe it's a room full of traps.

    Otherwise, immediate suggestion I can make is that the AI's threat range needs to be increased to outstrip the player's and ensure that they get in the first hit if they discover and charge at you. :D Think that's it for now.

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    @Nandrew: Thanks for the feedback. We had discussed the idea of an "information economy" to some degree, but hadn't thought of making it the focus of the stealth until now. I think it's probably a good idea to find something to focus the stealth on, and an information economy is an interesting idea.

    As I see it, active and passive abilities have a few types of information they can play with: vision, hearing, lighting, level structure and movement (such as knowledge of guard patrols). Any others we missed? Also, we could relatively easily add other information systems, such as the wiring system we had in the earlier prototype.

    We've thought of a few information-focussed upgrades that we can/will try:
    • Your vision angle (already implemented).
    • Your vision range.
    • Memory of what you've seen or will see (variation on the current blueprints).
    • Hearing range (of you and guards).
    • Noise levels (how much noise you/guards make when walking/running).
    • Thrown vision cameras.
    • Projecting your vision to look around corners and such.
    • Better indication of enemy vision (currently not implemented for performance reasons).
    • Limited invisibility.
    • Things that play with the current lighting, like smoke bombs or disabling cameras.
    • Things that alter the levels structure.
    I think limiting the number of active abilities a player has at any one time is probably a good idea, possibly just to make it easier to play. However, I do think a few (maybe limited to 3 or so) active abilities will add quite a bit - there are already a few interesting interactions that can occur with the limited set of items available. The idea of classes is an interesting one, but something we'll probably want to avoid for now to make things easier to prototype.
    Nandrew said:
    If all of this is too kind to the player, you can still increase external challenge to compensate.
    I agree with this - rather give the player too much information for now, and then add more challenge, in the form of guards/cameras/traps/whatever a bit later.
    Nandrew said:
    Temporary imprints can be left at the places they were last sighted, fading over a second or two.
    Great usability improvement, thanks for the suggestion.
    Nandrew said:
    You could have your regular cone of "direct" vision, and have an extended arc of "peripheral vision" which gives you only partial or generalised information, etc.
    Will have to think about this a bit more, not sure what sort of information we might only show in the peripheral vision.

    The reason we haven't added doors and moving level structure is mostly due to performance concerns (our raycasting is fairly expensive at the moment), but we'll definitely have to tackle this at some point. Vision through doors is another piece of information to play with.

    Thanks again for all the great feedback, it's given us a lot to think about!

    We're also interested to hear what others think about the prototype so far. Any takers? :D

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    Played for a couple of mins only (sorry, it's near bedtime). Disclaimer: Roguelikes aren't my thing.

    My biggest problem was that the experience felt very "claustrophobic". Found myself selecting blueprints first by default. I like the idea of rooms as Nadrew mentioned, especially would be cool to have rooms with lights on that are "known" entities. Eg, this room has lights on and two guards. Okay what happens if I instead take this darkened corridor with potentially anything in it.

    Also I could've used more feedback on health damage - both dealing and receiving. Especially if you're expecting me to be engaging in "combat". I also surprised I had three lives. Hotline miami runs at one hit kills. That really encourages you to play tactically rather than just button mashing. I found it disappointing I didn't have a way to "sneak" (slower but no footsteps). I also thought my sound would be more alerting to the guards.

    In fairness though I didn't play long enough to learn about the interestingness of the upgrades, so I can't really comment on that.

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    If I may ask, how did you implement your vision system? Is it a package you used or did you do it from scratch?

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    @TheFuntastic: Thanks for trying it out. Any feedback, however brief, is appreciated :)
    My biggest problem was that the experience felt very "claustrophobic". Found myself selecting blueprints first by default. I like the idea of rooms as Nadrew mentioned, especially would be cool to have rooms with lights on that are "known" entities. Eg, this room has lights on and two guards. Okay what happens if I instead take this darkened corridor with potentially anything in it.
    Good point about the claustrophobic feel. A plan to combat this is to include some form of blueprint memory where you can see the level structure that you've seen earlier, but my initial implementation brought the game to a grinding halt, so I need to speed it up first.

    Memorable rooms types is a good idea, although I'm not sure how to best communicate those types to the player without giving them more information by default. Perhaps something like markings on the floor might work. Implementing this is gonna require a fair bit of work on the level generation code, so it might have to wait a bit, which is time to think about it :)
    Also I could've used more feedback on health damage - both dealing and receiving. Especially if you're expecting me to be engaging in "combat". I also surprised I had three lives. Hotline miami runs at one hit kills. That really encourages you to play tactically rather than just button mashing.
    The idea is not really to make the player engage in combat. The main reason we include multiple lives is to hopefully limit the frustration of playing for a long time and then dying after just one mistake. If the guards' AI is improved so that they don't react so quickly and go for the kill, we can probably get away with limiting the health more.
    I found it disappointing I didn't have a way to "sneak" (slower but no footsteps). I also thought my sound would be more alerting to the guards.
    The default movement is to sneak/walk, whereas you can hold down shift to run. If you run it's much easier to alert nearby guards. Maybe you move too fast, but when your speed was reduced the game felt quite sluggish, perhaps due to other factors.

    @Denzil: It makes sense to first mention that the tech stack for the prototype is Haxe + OpenFL + HaxeFlixel + Nape. Haxe is a cross-platform language, OpenFL is a framework for cross-platform media software, HaxeFlixel is a game engine, and Nape is a 2D physics engine (HaxeFlixel has a simple built-in 2D engine that I replaced).

    The visibility polygon generation was fairly difficult and I went with a fairly naive implementation initially to just get things working. This article, with its interactive demos, was a big help in quickly understanding the algorithm. Improving my implementation is something I want to do relatively soon so that I can use it for more interesting things, but I haven't had the time yet. I'd be happy to give you access to my code now, or later when I've improved it, but it might not be very helpful if you're not at least using Haxe.

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    Oh, thanks. I actually discovered that article (and Haxe) about two days ago. I get the general idea, but am missing the last few steps (actually drawing the shadows/light). But I have a Unity package now which kind of does it, but it misses some optimizations I feel. Do you raycast in an arc with small steps? Or do you raycast towards known vertices (and around them?) I think I will try and do that eventually, because at the moment I am just raycasting in steps, and it feels unnecessary (and processor intensive).

    PS. Nice little prototype, I don't have much more to contribute though than what was already said here :) I also have some sneaking about in Grave Days, so I'd like to see what you are doing and maybe get some ideas :P Grave Days won't be sneaking focused though, just a little side mechanic, so I don't expect it to be nearly as thorough as yours.

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    The default movement is to sneak/walk, whereas you can hold down shift to run.
    Ah, in that case the feedback is off. I shouldn't be making footsteps at all when I sneak. Only when I run. The speed has nothing to do with it ;)

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    @Denzil: I currently do a combination of steps and casting to vertices. The steps are just there to give a circular distance to the visibility. When I improve the algorithm I will probably only send rays to vertices. If your package works for you, I advise sticking with it for as long as possible.

    @TheFuntastic: Good point, I'll change that in the next build to make it clearer.

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    @fracoisvn: What can you do to allow for more emergence? In 2D stealth games, I feel like there's often very little variance in movement options, which is weird because MOBAs are 2D plane-based movement games and they've gone crazy with movement stuff... So what if you had player skills that would leave explosive packages on the ground that would blast stuff away from them when triggered? This could affect the player AND enemies too, stun people when they get lobbed into walls at high speed, etc. What about short-range teleports through walls? Risky, but potentially awesome, especially if you can't carry items with you when you teleport.

    Speaking of items - I feel like the way Spelunky's item carrying system is consistent is one of the major ways it creates awesome emergence. You could easily have levels where you had to carry stuff to an exit, or carry a key to a door to get through one area, or pick up a screwdriver to open vents, but then choose to leave that behind so that you can pick up a bomb, etc. Experiment!

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    @francoisvn Very nice! Those moving shadows etc feel a lot similar to Teleglitch, a game I bought on steam during the December sales.

    The real-time shadows in 2D is not always easy to achieve, so I can appreciate the complexities. I managed it in XNA a while back after reading many tutorials, but have yet to get a similar effect working in Unity... with or without shaders.

    I am currently building a prototype where AI moves around a navmap and use line of sight with a state machine engine to determine behavior, so that routed my interest in this - as this effect would compliment that style of game :)

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    @dislekcia In dota 2 at least a lot of the interesting movement they have plays around with elevation/cliff faces/other obstructions (trees). You have blinks, leaps, pushes, pulls etc. that play around these obstructions and contribute to making positioning an essential part of the game. In that regard I think we can add similar types of obstructions and even do something similar to elevation by adding "layers" to a level (pipes > floor > vents). The big difference I think comes in to how the player moves around. In stealth games my default assumption with movement is slow and calculating. Do those kind of crazy 2d movement skills work with that mindset? Experimentation seems to be a good mantra :P

    Btw. there is a blink item in the game atm you can sometimes finds. It's fun, but way too OP

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    @francoisvn - this is so much more polished than the old proto. And MUCH harder. It could do with a tutorial level. The controls freaked me out at first, but I think that was @Denzil's fault. I have played a fair bit of "Grave Days" and that control system is similar (but different?). He has you also aiming with the mouse, but then moving with W (or mouse key). Weird how one game can influence another. Like playing Battlefield after a couple of rounds of COD. Anyway, nice prototype, hope you take it further.

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    Fun. I played the first version and really liked the circuitry puzzle element to it, with that one I felt more stealthy though because i could plan my route. It kinda irritated me at first that there was limited sight in this one but I feel like that's a main mechanic in this one which I learned to like once you understand the way the guards see/hear you.

    Just a thought. Have the same circuitry thing to hook up to cameras around the level to increase what you can see in the level.

    Otherwise, good prototype.

    Side question, how's your experience been with HaxeFlixel? Saw, it a while ago and have been wanting to try it out.

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    Thanks for all the feedback guys :)

    @SUGBOERIE: I've use Haxe and OpenFL on other projects before, so I was already semi-familiar with the stack. I like HaxeFlixel, already used it for another prototype (in the works). It won't be for everyone, but I think it's awesome for 2D games.

    Gonna be working on Unseen again for the next while and I thought I'd just post a quick update on what I have planned:
    • More information-based upgrades: improved hearing, quieter movement, thrown vision cameras, ...
    • Improved information transparency: guard vision, lit/hidden indication, guard ghosts/imprints from sounds, ...
    • Minor UI improvements: bigger target indicator, pause menu, ...
    My current focus is to try slow down the game a bit, and give the player more interesting choices to consider when creeping around in the dark.

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    I'm happy to report that a new version of Unseen is available (same link). It's basically the same version we showed at the CT meetup last night, with a few more minor improvements.

    Some of the changes:
    • Changed the way sounds from guards are displayed on the screen.
    • Changed sound assets.
    • Added more indicators for when you are in light and when you are not.
    • Added doors between some rooms.
    • Changed walk and run speeds of the player and the guards to make more sense.
    • Added more upgrades.
    • Added ability hotkeys 1-9
    At the moment, we're primarily interested in how easy it is to understand the light and vision systems, but general feedback is always useful :)

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    I'm unfortunately getting insane amounts of lag, rendering it unplayable :/

    EDIT: clicking the download swf button seemed to fix that issue. I'll try it out a bit tonight/tomorrow

    One quick comment, I love the blink ability, but it is too powerful for one reason. Escaping. It is a great ability without it aiding in escaping (as much as it does). I think it should be limited in that it should not recharge while you are actively being chased. I think it is fine if the guards are alerted, or that you can use it while it is charged up, but just should not recharge after you are seen. Also, perhaps it should attract nearby guards to the position you blinked, similar to sprinting (does it do this already? I didn't check, just afterthought)

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    There is unfortunately a bug in flash that crops up in this case, and Adobe have long ago said they won't be fixing it. Running just the SWF (not embedded in a page) seems to fairly reliably resolve the problem.

    So that we can put out updates more quickly, and so that we don't need to get players to download a new version each time, we'll be using the flash build primarily at the moment. If it doesn't work for someone, really sorry about that; if you let us know we'd be happy to try upload a native build for you.

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    Hey Everyone,

    We’ve done a lot of work on Unseen and wanted to show you where the project is at the moment. Oh, and we’ve changed the name to Agent Unseen as part of an early attempt at theme, so let us know what you think about it.

    This is basically the same version that we were showing around at A MAZE. Since our last forum post, the following things have been changed:
    • Revamped level generation
    • Upgraded enemy AI
    • New item system
    • Updated visuals and more colour variety.
    • Added more information features, such as a minimap and guard state change alerts
    All these changes have made quite a impact to the frame rate, which means the web version is very sluggish right now. We highly recommend you download a native version here. If you’re determined to play web, we’ve put an updated flash version here.


    Looking for Help

    We’re very close to the point where we might decide to take this further and develop it into full commercial project. We still want to do some iteration on the core mechanics and then send it out to a broader audience, to see if it gains more traction, but we feel like some improved visuals and audio will go a long way to getting some more attention.

    One of the internal points we’ve been using to see if a project is viable to develop is the excitement of the community and the interest people show in potentially collaborating with us on said project. If someone actively wants to spend time on a project, we think that’s a great sign that we might have something people will want to eventually play and pay for.

    So with all that being said, we would like to officially invite people in the community who are interested in working on Agent Unseen to contact us. We are specifically looking for artists and sound designers, as those are the areas we are most lacking in.

    So yeah, get in touch, either in this thread, via DM or send an email to leonvn@clockworkacorn.com with your contact details and some information on how you would like to help.


    Play Online: http://clockworkacorn.com/games/unseen/#play
    Downloadable Builds: http://clockworkacorn.com/games/unseen/#download
  • MCAMCA

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    Hey @francoisvn, I'm very keen to contribute and get involved on the sound design side of things, although if I'm honest, my musical composition skills are moderate. I suppose some references as to what kind/style of sounds you're after could be useful - though I appreciate that the graphics can influence the sound and visa versa.

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    MCA said:
    I suppose some references as to what kind/style of sounds you're after could be useful - though I appreciate that the graphics can influence the sound and visa versa.
    Good question! Our idea is to have a secret agent theme (think some mix of James Bond, Johnny English, Austin Powers) with evil villains and their henchmen, and over-the-top level locations (like on top of a volcano, under the sea, or on the moon). Of course we are completely open to suggestions, and we imagine that the theme will be heavily informed by both the artist and musician as development progresses - we want to work with the artist and musician on the game, not dictate to them.

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    Just wanted to say that I'm also keen to collaborate. We can make this game awesome!

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    So we have a new build with an updated video:



    Downloadable Builds: http://clockworkacorn.com/games/unseen/#download

    We got some awesome feedback at rAge, and we had a few people that really got into the game, which was a terrific experience. This is basically the same build we had at rAge; we haven't had time to make any changes from all the great feedback we got, but soon...

    Changes from the previous build include: the item system has had a complete overhaul (it's much simpler now), we've added support for XBox 360 controllers, and made a number of other changes across the board. This build also features a mix of audio from @MCA and @Mexicanopiumdog from their sound challenge entries. I'm sure I've forgotten some changes we've made, 'cause the game feels very different at this stage, so the best thing to do is just try out the new build :)

    It's currently pretty difficult (but doable) - you only need to beat 5 missions to beat the game. Can you complete the Agent Unseen challenge? Good luck!
  • MCAMCA

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    "pretty difficult"??? You've given the guards guns!

    Are the guards on pre-determined movement paths? I found I could wait for them to complete a circuit of their route and pounce when they stopped to look around, which made things a bit easier - perhaps a time limit to complete some missions so that you can't just wait indefinitely?

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    Hehe yeah, "pretty difficult" is a bit of a euphemism ;P

    Yip, the guards have patrols, and guns :)

    I feel like waiting should be interesting in a stealth game. That could be because you are using the time to make plans or absorbing information, like guard patrols. In fact, I'd like to make waiting in the shadows and planning your future actions where most of the interesting player decisions are. IMHO, the difficulty and interesting part of the game should be about deciding what to do, not about executing your actions.

    Do you feel like waiting is currently a bit boring?
  • MCAMCA

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    I feel like waiting should be interesting in a stealth game. That could be because you are using the time to make plans or absorbing information, like guard patrols. In fact, I'd like to make waiting in the shadows and planning your future actions where most of the interesting player decisions are. IMHO, the difficulty and interesting part of the game should be about deciding what to do, not about executing your actions.
    That makes sense. In the first couple of levels, it can be a bit boring, but that's because there's only a couple of guards around. In the later levels it's more strategic, as you say.

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    Wow, so I gave the new version a swing and I found that its soooo much more difficult! I have to say that waiting at this stage is a bit boring...and sometimes the Ai patrolling path just doesn't allow you to pass or at least its very difficult...Maybe we need some more features? I definitely like the new look though - the way the edges glow up with a blue colour is really cool.

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    edited
    Just played this version. They new look is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better! I have a sense of space and can actually plan my movement now. Picking off a gaurd from the shadows is now a super rewarding loop and as my flatmate would say "I'm batman".

    Some stream of consciousness thoughts
    • Your melee weapon needs to have and arc of attack. This is more fair on the player in the top down perspective. Trying to hit in the direction of a guard is a very fiddly maneuver, missing the guy "right in front of you" feels pretty lame. Also reference a lot of other games, and notice there will be an arc on the melee weapon (hotline miami, last of us, etc)
    • Some situations are impossible, particular two guards patrolling a choke point in full light before the player has any items. Maybe the player needs to start with a free item?
    • The game is way harder, but actually more fun because we're closer to a more coherent "model" of how this game's universe works - Hotline Miami is tough as bloody nails, but it feels fair because all the players actions have very obvious and meaningful consequences. The questions are what can we do to improve this further?

      Perhaps you could model what a lot of AAA games do (detective mode in Batman, Listening mode in Last of us, also in deus ex i believe). In these games you can enter a mode where enemies are highlighted (within a radius) even if they're not visible but the price you pay is that movement is clamped or severely limited. Yeah it's "cheating" but it enables many of those "I'm batman" moments which feel awesome and are kinda the whole point.

      So maybe you can bind "hearing" to a button, and means you can't move when activated, but you can hear around corners as it were. This allows you to build a model and form a plan (this is important) before you run into engagement in difficult scenarios. This would have to better than the current "hearing" abilities in that it would have to highlight enemies as if they were in plain sight.

      An ability like that would also make a great addition on a skill tree. "levelling" in the old version was a nice concept, but it didn't quite jibe. I think it was because items were confused with abilities. Something like "hearing distance increased" would be an awesome upgrade that would make not dying meaningful.

      Other "abilities": invisibility, running quietly, run speed etc


    • Items as pickups was way better :)
    • They inventory system is a bit junk though. You're going to have to rethink this ;) Possible solution: Hotline Miami only had one weapon slot, and whatever you choose to pick up would replace the currently activated weapon. This of course you need graphics to differentiate items/weapons
    • Throwing distance on grenade weapons seems important. Simple hold to throw further could work.
    • Let me restart with fire/enter/whatever. Exit to menu wasn't the best
    • Maybe the positions of lights should be visible for all rooms. Found a lot of time I wouldn't know if going around a corner was lit up or not. This made it random rather than tactical.
    • I think the interestingness of the game really shines when dealing with strategies for taking out guards. Amp that up. Have static guards standing near mission objects (suddenly distractors get more interesting) etc. Also patrolling guards are a bit hyper- makes things like getting a gun less meaningful that it should be because they are hard to hit.
    • Also I know this goes against the "roguelike" convention, but I'd kind of like to play failed missions again. There were quite a few that felt interesting, but then I screwed up. Being presented with a completely different situation after that felt disengaging. The penalty of this could be the fact you lose your abilities and start with no items, so you still maintain some of the "unforgivingness"
    • This also helps for narrative purposes. I enjoyed some of your missions, in particular "file taxes". Would be cool if we could link this over few levels to build narratives. Eg lift print lvl 1, plant evidence lvl 2 ... kill the right guy lvl 5. These narratives could be a bit more prebaked, whilst still allowing you to random gen levels and maintain the roguelike feel.
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/home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/library/core/functions.render.php line 338.
/home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/themes/mgsa/class.mgsathemehooks.php line 715.