"Shinobi Stealth is a third person platforming stealth game. With the goal of making the player feel like a ninja."
Developed in Unreal Engine 4, with four weeks of development time.
Implementation of visual/audio feedback.
(pretty much everything you see...)
As my goal was to achieve a shinobi fantasy I started off by listing all the things I felt were intergyral to the fantasy. These were based on tropes from games and movies. (I watched a bunch of martial arts movies as preparation)
Trops such as
Running on roof tops
I've divided the experience into two states.
In the anticipation phase the player is devising the rout to their next vantage point, while in the realization phase the player is executing their plan.
These two states can be felt in both the game and map design. The map is divided into rooftop and ground areas. Rooftops act as safe spaces where anticipation takes place, while the ground is dangerous and is where realization occurs.
When the player is behind a guard who is not in Chasing state they can perform a stealth kill this is the only way to “remove“ the guards.
There are two types of guards: Standing and Moving. Guards have three states:
Idle: If the player is in the yellow region for too long the guards enter alert state.
Alert: During alert state the guard will go and investigate what's wrong.
Chasing: The player has been seen, guards start chasing the player.
Guards would also enter alert state if they heard a pot being smashed.
Ironing out design flaws
When I got to the map designing part of this project I ran into a problem.
The player could stand on a roof and the AI didn’t have a way to approach the player.
My solution was for the guards to throw something at the player, to get them moving. I eventually decided on fireworks/bombs.
The guards would throw the bomb, the bomb would land and then detonate after a few seconds giving the player time to move to the next house.
I went with bombs as the purpose was to get the player to move and not actually kill the player.
There are golden frog collectables across the map. These are rewards for player exploration and other trials.
I wanted the map to be open, if two players played the same map I wanted their experiences to differ as much as possible.
When designing the map I started by making a list of various locations I thought a remote village would need.
Village - larger area of houses
Bridge - works as a good divider between areas
Tower - the ultimate rooftop
Governor's villa - final goal Later became castle
Farm - guards need to eat something
Water Mill - villagers need to grind the wheat.
River - To tie the areas together using the river
INN - Visitors need to stay somewhere...
Torii gates - These would repeat and act as goal posts
The player starts of in an enclosure where you can see the top of the goal with the rest being obscured by the fence. Players learn their movement and jump height in a safe area.
The player then lands into some bushes triggering the vignette effect and sounds.
Lastly the player has to act out their first kill and then sneak past the first guard.
The first kill is sitting on a bench looking at the view.
Having the encounter in front of an overview composition shot of the map gives the player a reason to stop and see the view.
After the first encounter the player has to sneak past their first guard.
Leading the player
I wanted take the player down from the roof and onto the ground for an extended period of time. In this instance i'm communicating to the player to leave the rooftops by use of danger from above. The idea is to tip the balance of danger from the ground to the above with the use of bridges and guards on rooftops
This approach worked however I felt that the user had to trust the level designer more than I personally would like as there wasn't a clear goal past the bridge.
Golden frog challenge
Throughout the level there are golden frogs. These are used for both exploration and other challenges that the player can chose to engage in.
In this example there is a guard walking back and forth and another sitting in front of the golden frog. The player needs to chose the right moment to strike in order to collect the frog without being detected.
Towards the middle of the level the player needs to make a choice between going up into the tower or over/under the bridge. The map eventually converges again after a while.
Players can sneak under the bridge or kill the patrolling guard
The crops are used as cover for the player. Guards are patrolling the fields.
The tower is the tallest point of the map and gives an overview to the player. Leads to the water wheel.
The player can sneak through the river and use the wheel to elevate themselves.
Blocking the axis
There is an area that wraps around to give an overview of the previous area you explored. This is nice.
The problem with this view in particular was that there was to strong of a leading line back in the direction the player came from.
Going under the bridge is one of the main paths the player hasn't experienced the top of the bridge more often than not, so this is something I decided to cover up.
Insights and closing thoughts
My biggest take away from this project was how players tend to set their own boundaries.
Early on in development I had a section where I was discreetly leading the player onto the rooftop. There were a few instances where players wouldn't go up there because running on rooftops wasn't something that occurred to them.
I was really happy to see the game in action. Testers would edge their way to the goal but made sure to go out of their way to get kills even if they knew it was counterproductive to their goal. I succeeded with making the stealth kill and traversing rooftops fun.
That being said I would have liked to make more gameplay moments for a pacifist route.
The feedback and enjoyment of the murder route heavily outweighed that of the pacifist. If players set their own goals to accomplish the pacifist route it would potentially be enjoyable. however I would like to see this become a choice the player considers in their first play-through.