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Thread: Thief vs real life stealth

  1. #1
    New Member
    Registered: Nov 2017
    Location: New Zealand

    Thief vs real life stealth

    I'm fascinated by the concept of stealth. Of all stealth games I've played, I believe Thief has the most realistic approach to sneaking, in that it takes more things into account than most games with a stealth system. Most stealth I see in games is simple line of sight or hide-in-a-bush stealth, while Thief uses light levels, sound levels based on how fast you move and the material you're moving across, visibility in relation to an enemy's proximity to you, and enemies who don't just forget about you if you disappear long enough and actually communicate with their allies.

    The Thief games may be the best "stealth simulator" games we have, but my question to you is, are they? Has anyone attempted to sneak, Thief style, in real life? What are some things that would translate from Thief into real life stealth? What are some aspects of real life sneaking that aren't covered by Thief, or any other stealth game? Is it possible for a "stealth simulator" game that is even more realistic than Thief to exist, or is real life stealth too complex (or too frustrating for players) to ever be replicated accurately in a game?
    Last edited by The Black Cat; 17th Nov 2017 at 02:53.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2015
    Location: Wisconsin
    Well, the first thing that jumps into my mind is silhouettes. Even if I'm in the darkest shadow possible when a guard is looking in my direction, if there's a light source behind me and I'm blocking at least part of that light, the guard could easily realize someone is standing there.

    However, I've never seen Thief, or any other stealth games (to my knowledge), take silhouettes into account. But that's a good thing, IMO, because otherwise, it'd be too frustrating and unfair for players. Imagine how difficult the games would become if light sources could give you away even without directly illuminating you! Even the first tutorial in "A Keeper's Training" would probably be impossible if the Keeper instructor acknowledged your silhouette.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: Sheffield, UK
    As I remember the army has seven S's for stealth

    • Shine - don't wear reflective things & watch for reflections
    • Shape - if it's got a recognisable outline as a human or human part it probably is so break it up with decoration
    • Shadow - if there's a shadow that shouldn't be there or it moves or it's recognisably human it's an issue, be aware of your shadow
    • Spacing - avoid making regular patterns where there aren't any or breaking regular patterns where there are some
    • Silhouette - don't get between a light source & a viewer
    • Speed - fast movement is a dead giveaway
    • Sound - don't make any, also be aware that animals may fall silent when they sense a predator and the sudden silence may give you away


    I'd also throw in smell, if you're in a clean place & smell like you crawled out of a sewer that's an issue as is being in a smelly place & wearing cologne, aim for a neutral smell if possible & if not try to smell like the location you're in & be aware that whatever you do you won't confuse a dog they'll sniff you out

    I'd say Thief covers sound fairly well & I reckon the other major factor approximates to shape if a AI sees any part of you for long enough they recognise it's you, but as long as you are standing in a dark enough shadow, even if it only covers your feet, you won't be seen, don't think Thief even attempts the others

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2016
    Thief indeed has advanced stealth mechanics, but it's utterly non-realistic. In addition what Grandmauden said about silhouettes, let's not forget that Garrett can hide in "perfect shadows," making AIs oblivious that he is there even if they are bumping into him! Similarly, bumping into AIs does nothing.

    There is an in-game justification for the former. Garrett does not simply become "darker" in shadows. He becomes trasnparent, blending in with the darkness. In the briefing to the Keeper's Training, he says, "folks walked past him [the keeper] like he wasn't there," which means they didn't see him or his silhouette. If you want to get an experience of how enemy AIs see you, the player, play Equilibrium FM.

    Nevertheless, there is no justification for the bumps, but some other FMs take that into accound by implementing a bump mechanic (A Job Well Done, Behind Closed Doors).

  5. #5
    New Member
    Registered: Feb 2017
    Location: Jupiter
    Unless you and the room alike are made up of 'vantablack' material. Odds are, you'll be pretty easy to spot as the pupils adjusts to the darkness. Anything but the aforementioned vantablack material would be easy to spot in the dark in due time. I guess the name of the game in this case would be to stand by an object that absorbs as much light as possible, while you yourself also garnishing clothes that would emulate the same thing.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    I always figured the keepers in Thief used a SEP field for stealth. That way you can stand in plain sight and still be hidden. Or, alternatively, you just fade into the foreground like in Discworld.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    Problem with implementing silhouette is that it's angle dependent and most of the time you couldn't really tell if your silhouette is visible or not, cause you would have to constantly be looking around you. And you don't even need a source of light behind you - just a bit of ambient light in a room with bright walls.
    But potentially, this could be made into a working game mechanics using some HUD element. Just like the light gem is an abstract generalization of your visibility, there should be a way of indicating how visible your silhouette is from different directions (maybe just four directions, for simplicity). It's not a trivial thing, but might be worth thinking about if anyone goes about an idea of designing a next gen stealth game. Using a third person perspective camera would probably make it more feasible.

    Another interesting stealth feature could be hiding behind/under some objects. For example inside wardrobes, under the bed, inside a pile of rubbish or fallen leaves, behind the curtains etc... This would probably require a lot of preparation work on a per asset basis, to define those areas of cover and how does that affect player's movements ability etc...

    And another one I'd like to see is the player's shadow detection. It could be done by calculating visibility of projection of number of points in the body from the nearby source of light onto level geometry. But then handling when and where these shadows actually trigger suspicious reactions would be another thing...
    Last edited by PinkDot; 22nd Nov 2017 at 20:41.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2016
    Quote Originally Posted by PinkDot View Post
    And another one I'd like to see is the player's shadow detection. It could be done by calculating visibility of projection of number of points in the body from the nearby source of light onto level geometry. But then handling when and where these shadows actually trigger suspicious reactions would be another thing...
    This has been done at least in Splinter Cell Chaos Theory but maybe in some other stealth games too. You can still irrealistically hide in shadows Thief-style, but enemy AIs do notice your shadow.

    Quote Originally Posted by PinkDot View Post
    Another interesting stealth feature could be hiding behind/under some objects. For example inside wardrobes, under the bed, inside a pile of rubbish or fallen leaves, behind the curtains etc... This would probably require a lot of preparation work on a per asset basis, to define those areas of cover and how does that affect player's movements ability etc...
    This I have also seen in many games, but it's usually very simplistic: here's a wardrobe, you can enter it and be hidden unless of course enemies saw you do it.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    I didn't know about the shadow detection in Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, but I think I did see hiding in wardrobe somewhere before. Still - would be good to be able to do it in our favourite game. Hiding in certain spots, combined with some AI activities (like some lady looking into wardrobe from time to time etc...) could be an interesting gameplay addition.

    Also - leaving footprints inside houses (dirt, snow etc...) should be a part of the system. And some cloths to clean them up...

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2015
    Location: Wisconsin
    The Thief reboot let you hide inside lockers. In fact, doing so was mandatory to complete one of Basso's sidequests, as the combination of a safe was written inside a locker.

  11. #11
    Desperately dodgy geezer
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: The Wailing Keep
    Quote Originally Posted by PinkDot View Post
    Also - leaving footprints inside houses (dirt, snow etc...) should be a part of the system. And some cloths to clean them up...
    I think this is the point where gameplay design has to trump realism.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2017
    Location: Germany
    I can't add anything to the question, because everything I wanted to say has already been said. (silhouettes, light reflection from surfaces, human eyes can adapt to the darkness)
    ... maybe one other thing: In real life the surface you walk on doesn't make that much of a difference. Especially not marble.
    And a wooden floor can be incredible loud if it's old creaky wood. I think Thief would be far more realistically if running would be far more punished but marble and iron floors would be less noisy if you sneak on them. But I definitely see the game design decision behind this. There is even an "Ultimate Difficulty Mod" that rewrote the whole floor tile noise aspect of the game, punishes running even on stone or wooden floor. Good stuff, but sadly underused.

    Additionally I do want to hit on the lore assumption thing written by marbleman:
    Quote Originally Posted by marbleman View Post
    In addition, what Grandmauden said about silhouettes, let's not forget that Garrett can hide in "perfect shadows," making AIs oblivious that he is there even if they are bumping into him! Similarly, bumping into AIs does nothing.

    There is an in-game justification for the former. Garrett does not simply become "darker" in shadows. He becomes transparent, blending in with the darkness.
    As far as I know the guards will spot you in pitch black when you stay directly in front of them (even if you don't move). I always thought of a game design bug that the AI couldn't see you directly in front if you crouch down. And (maybe I'm wrong) I always thought this "behavior" was only in T2 and newdark, but never in T1/TG (without newdark). But I could be wrong.

    But it's an interesting theory with the keepers and you also get an additional invisible boost if you stay or crouch down at a wall. (Maybe that was meant with blend with the shadows)

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    Quote Originally Posted by Yandros View Post
    I think this is the point where gameplay design has to trump realism.
    Depends how a level uses this game mechanics.
    When I play FMs these days, I really can't believe how oblivious the guards are to what is happening in the surrounding environment. Unlocked doors, opened doors, windows, misplaced objects, missing people, broken stuff all around etc. etc... And even if a character ignores one of these things, that might be OK. But if one ignores dozens of these manifestations of a burglary, then there's something wrong with the person for sure. Oh, and also they never turn their heads towards the source of the noise!
    I understand that turning a game into a life-simulator is never a great idea, but I believe it's possible to incorporate more real life phenomenons into gameplay qualities. Just everything has to be balanced and used appropriately in the actual level.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: Sheffield, UK
    The AI can notice missing items and will alert on them, but I think it's got to be built in to the level by the designer, doesn't happen by default as far as I know

    I think Ropes from rope arrows have tags that raise AI alert level by default, but after they see it a few times they stop being triggered, like with dead or unconscious bodies that you don't manage to hide

    Perhaps this "suspicious" tag could be added to more elements, say if you climb out of water you leave a trail of wet footsteps which slowly evaporate but lead AI to you while they are there or the moss from a moss arrow suddenly appearing on a marble floor makes an AI alert & start searching

    The moss thing might make the game harder by making the AI alert, but it could also be used to decoy AI away by shooting mossies in a path leading away from you, so swings and roundabouts

    These would still have to be added by the level designer though, not sure how much work they'd be or if it was worth the effort

  15. #15
    New Member
    Registered: Nov 2017
    Location: New Zealand
    The discussion about guards noticing missing items makes me think of Undercover. I know the hammerites notice if you steal treasures right in front of them, but do they notice missing items if they're not there when you steal them, but they're patrolling the area? I'm not sure how many parts of the mission this applies to considering that it's quite small, but I think there's a hammerite patrolling the graveyard area, where there are a few treasures lying around. Are there any missions in Thief 2 or 3 (I've only played Thief Gold) or any FMs where enemies notice if things have been stolen?

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2016
    NPCs notice missing loot in Thief 3, and it's annoying. Guards should not react to missing loot in Thief. It's not realistic, but it ruins the game otherwise making all AIs constantly alert.
    On the other hand, I'd be all for them reacting more fiercely to the player's carelessness: moss patches, open doors, doused torches, hanging ropes etc.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    I once built an AI suspiciousness system for a campaign (that never got far), where guards would notice all manner of suspicious things, from rope/moss arrows and flares, to doors left open, to loot missing, to guards missing, etc., and each time they would make note of it and gain "suspicion points". Once they had noticed enough suspicious things, they would not only go on alert, but would head to the guardroom and organise a room-to-room search of the entire building, including specifically searching obvious hiding-places such as inside cupboards and inside fireplaces.

    This system was never used in an actual mission, though.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    @Nameless Voice - sounds like a lot of work to script all that. Did the system work well? Or was this actually the reason why the campaign never got finished....?
    I really like the idea of a greater change of AI behaviour upon a serious intrusion to the place. It bothers me when they may see a dead body of their colleagues, but get OK with that after a few moments. Surely, the body won't start to stink before the end of their shift, right...?

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    The system was only put into a demo mission. It was mostly set up in a systematic manner, the only things that the level designer would have had to place were the search points (and markers for behaviours such as opening cupboard doors.)
    I was only the technical / scripting person on the project, the overall cancellation of the project didn't really have that much to do with me.

    DromEd-savvy people can check out the demo mission here: Abandoned project: The City Project (~2005)

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Ireland/Poland
    Thanks for the link - I'll defo have a look at it.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2017
    Location: Germany
    Quote Originally Posted by Nameless Voice View Post
    I once built an AI suspiciousness system for a campaign (that never got far), where guards would notice all manner of suspicious things, from rope/moss arrows and flares, to doors left open, to loot missing, to guards missing, etc., and each time they would make note of it and gain "suspicion points". Once they had noticed enough suspicious things, they would not only go on alert, but would head to the guardroom and organise a room-to-room search of the entire building, including specifically searching obvious hiding-places such as inside cupboards and inside fireplaces.
    Interesting. I always love seeing advanced stuff with the Thief AI. Thanks for the link, I really need to look at your awesome work!

    Though I never scripted in Thief myself I heavily modified my T2 gamesys to make the guards smarter and tougher - and in turn a bit more realistic. Guards can see you from further away and your footsteps makes louder sound when you run (regardless of the underground - thanks to the Ultimate Difficulty Mod)
    Also, I heavily experienced with the sword fighting capabilities from the guards. Seriously, the melee AIs in general are weak as hell and can't swing with the sword when they don't stand directly in front of you. It's another point being less realistic. You can run around guards or run past them if they caught you, but if you don't stand still they won't even attempt to swing at you with their weapon. I wish the guards can tackle you down like in real life if you try to run past them. Stay away and hide is the idea, but the punishment is if far too weak.

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