Creatively Improve Stealth, Don’t Remove It

tf2 blue spyStealth is an interesting mechanic; some people despise it in all forms, and others won’t play without a class that can stealth and sneak around.  I’ve had those moments where I hate stealth and the people at the controls.  I can remember as far back as DAoC (the first game I truly got into PvP) when I would be straggling behind the herd and suddenly I’m dead.  I was killed by a stealth character.  Being stun-locked in WoW sucked.  I also have memories of being a stealth Scout archer and being the player who reports enemy movements, and being able to move into position and shoot arrows at unsuspecting targets.

I think stealth is a positive addition.  Stealth adds depth to combat, and provides alternative ways to play.  Those are ‘good’ things that MMOs need more of instead of this massive homogenization of roles and play-styles.

There are three things that I personally think are wrong with stealth or that should not be allowed:

  • No one should be able to “1 shot” someone else, especially if that person can sneak up and do it without being seen.
  • Stun-lock should be non-existent.
  • Getting out of combat instantly and being able to escape a fight has to go.

MMO RogueTo improve stealth, I would make it more of a recon tool or a positioning tool, and preserve the ‘coolness’ and ‘style’ it brings (See TF2 Spy or the cool guy on the left).  A ranger should be able to traverse through a forest and be less visible than other classes.  That makes sense to me.  So why not let ranger-like characters get a form of stealth or invisibility near trees until someone gets close?  Holding still could make them harder to detect, and moving makes it easier.  A similar system can be implemented for sneaky rogue characters.  When stationary, let them have a form of stealth — let it be permanent.  For stealth while moving, have it be temporary and easy to reveal if they get too close.  For all of the classes that use stealth, their core abilities should be usable when breaking stealth.

Even though I rarely play stealthers, and I end up hating them because they often counter my play-style, it’s a feature that belongs.  That’s a pretty big change from my opinion on the subject back in 2008, but I’ve really learned a lesson about how important it is to preserve good ideas and improve them.  Stealth is a classic, and the ‘coolness’ of a rogue should be preserved.  I would like to see creative ideas used to improve stealth instead of just losing the feature entirely because it has issues in its current, traditional implementation.

  • I agree with your first point that “1 shot” should be taken out completely. The problem for a lot of games is that the notion of “1shot” happens because of a gear difference rather than just the class. Not every game cough* gw2 has this problem sometimes classes r just over powered and should be dealt with in a better manner.

    On point 2 I do agree pure stun lock should be taken out but not completely. A rogue/stealth based class needs forms of stuns and counters because the whole style of play is to be sneaky enough to not be hit etc etc. As for fairness of PvP its hard to balance because they will either have too much control or be completely gimped without enough control. To fix this problem there could be more forms of interrupts such as say WoW’s “kick” which need to be skillfully used and have a somewhat arduous CD. But no matter how we cut it rogues tend to have too much control or too little and people will always complain about them in PvP forums. The ideal of the rogue class is flawed really damned if you damned if you don’t. I like the idea of positioning and your ideas about how stealth will be improved but to play devils advocate how will rogue classes really be able to compete with other classes without a strong ambush ability? The whole point of attacking from stealth is for that high reward attack and with this comes the inedible “1shot” which again happens a lot because of gear differences in a mass PvP setting. Or some sort of control ability etc.

    On point 3 yes. A big yes stealth classes should not have a get away free card unless every other class has something similar like a warrior invincible button mage ice block etc. One way to fix this is that a stealth class could have a moment of 100 percent dodge not for long but something of the sort since stealth classes will most likely be squishy and rightfully so thats the whole idea of a theif/rogue/whatever. I think the big problem with the stealth is that they can get away and heal up etc but with the dodge you can keep track of your enemy and eventually defeat them. You don’t just sit there spamming AoE abilities praying you will hit them.

    Ranger idea is awesome I really hope someone implements this. Not much more to say on stealth mechanics though I try to come up with more ideas but then I think back and see how they could go horribly wrong it all goes back to the damned if you do damned if you don’t logic. If you make stealth too strong it becomes unfair to weak no one will want to play or enjoy the class. But the whole idea of playing a assassin/stealth class is to manipulate your enemy and deliver devastating attacks and having a lot of strategical planning before making your first deadly move if we could make stealth to be all about set up like you described with high risk/high reward then I believe that is a start. We just need to keep into perspective both sides of the story the assassin and players playing against stealth classes.

  • so you think stealth should exist in game but take out all benefits of stealth and essentially make it a vanity utility. I also hear this “1 shot” argument very much the last 6 years but all I can say is that I enjoyed the pvp much more back in vanilla wow than now that arena much is 20-30 minutes and all pvp is about stun, silence, snare, slow, stun, polymorph, disarm, e.t.c. Yes I could 1 shot people and they could 1 shot me and it was fun…but it seems some people when they lose something must be wrong and they cannot show their “magnificent skills”.

    Also I never understood why pvp had to be balanced 1v1. Take the real battles back then…imagine a cavarly QQ because they cannot charge on spearmen. We play MMO here. Stealth is an op mechanic and it should be, because it is a signature ability not a vanity tool to look awesome.

  • There’s also nothing wrong with adding in classes whose special ability is to see through stealth. One thing that was cool in Shadowbane was a scout’s ability to instantly find groups because of their ability to see thieves from far away.

  • @John: Nothing vanity about giving stealth classes abilities out of stealth, giving them the ability to recon, allowing them to move in enemy lines, and keeping the playstyle of the classes close to what they were (minus 1 shots, perma stealth, stunlocks)

    None of what I said changes 1v1 balance — except for taking away a rogue’s ability to 1 shot someone.

    @Gringar: Yeah, adding hard counters to stealth is an option.

  • 1-shotting: That shouldn’t happen to an equal “level” opponent with reasonable health left – I can still see it happening to “lowbies” but that is another discussion (do we even need a character strength difference between new and old characters in an RVR type of game – or is the addition of skills enough for character progression? – maybe the times where 20 lowbies cannot harm a high level characters should be a thing of the past)

    Stun Lock: This isn’t a mechanic that needs to be in the game. While there were short stuns in DAOC, it certainly didnt have stun locks like we saw in WOW. Playing a stealther has two parts to it: (a) playing the stealth style and (b) the actual combat. Stun locks and one shots are related to (b) and changing the power of the stealther doesn’t affect (a) almost at all it simply means that thanks to (b) a stealther has either more or less viable targets to choose from.

    Get away: Expensive – long cool down get aways should be optional if the stealther chooses to specialize in this at the expense of other important abilities or even combat strength. However, this doesnt have to be an absolute getaway but rather a decent chance of a get away. For instance, throw down a smoke bomb or a flash grenade, which ends combat, and you can try to make a get away. Only characters affected by the effects will have trouble seeing what is going on (the lonley warrior off to the side can still see you fine)…if you manage to get out of sight of the affected players, you can restealth, if not, your normal out of combat stealth timer is in effect (or, without line of sight, the smoke bomb could reset your after combat stealth timer from, for example, 30 seconds to 10 seconds and direct damage taken resets the timer). That would involve more planning and perhaps a chance at a getaway.

  • I actually don’t have a problem with 1 shotting (or otherwise ridiculously low TTK) from stealth… but only if stealth as a mechanic is heavily changed. IMO stealth should take serious work like it does in many action games. You should not simply be able to hide in plain sight. A player should need to use shadows, terrain etc. to stealth effectively. This would serve the purpose of making stealth a much more skillful mechanic (rather than the easy mode mechanic it is in most MMOs) while also forcing non-stealthers to pay attention to things like terrain and lighting. Step into the shadows at your own peril!

  • As I posted on forum problem is asymmetry of information, if you have stealth in open world environment with the person being able to be invisible in the middle of the field. This WILL kill soloing with any other class.

    Scouting in DAOC, you could do it with any other class. It was a matter of being selfless and knowing zone layout, well played speed class could do it much better then a stealther.

    I do not think stunlock was an issue on WoW either, it was the very high damage output couple with surprise and limited stunlock. When I played a rogue there were only few situations where I stunlocked in most cases simple DPS dump took care of a person in open world. Battlegrounds and arena are different obviously

  • I think the biggest problem with Stealth is that it is not usually implemented as Stealth. Instead it is implemented as invisibility. I think Stealth would be much better if you had to be in cover, in darkness etc for it to work. Something more along the lines of Thief. But in most MMO, it is just a magic invisibility.

  • If we define stealth as just camouflage then it could be like what they got in Planetside 2 camo paint jobs, those are really effective. I would also prefer if you could just dye the gear or wear stuff that makes you look like something else

  • Stealth classes tend to frustrate me as well, and I can clearly think of examples of where a system was poorly setup or where it was massively overpowered. GW2, and periods of WoW fall into the latter.

    When it comes to a balanced stealth system I think the best I’ve encountered is WAR before the CC normalization.

    It was not perfect but the limited duration, stealth breaking on damage, lack of continual restealths, and the nice damage bonus from stealth worked nicely. You could also detect stealthed players which the right stat stacking or good timing. It was not a 100% get out of jail free card.

    But they’ve somewhat mucked it up in recent patches with increase stun durations that let the stealth classes kill within a stun duration on a lot of the other classes.

    But I’ve found it is much more enjoyable to play against than the stealth system in GW2, and a few others.

    Rift also has a pretty good system with souls like nightblade. Where you get situational stealth but not perma stealth.

  • Situational or limited stealth seems kind of cheap to me too. I think it would be much better to handle it like a lot of other mechanics. Give players tools to stealth and to improve their stealth and also give them tools to detect stealth and be able to improve greatly upon that stealth detection.

    I know what would happen though. People would complain that their dps is a little too low because they’ve specced all the way into stealth detection.

  • @Gringar: That’s why stealth should be built into tactical and stylistic gameplay, and reward players for using it well. Making it something that must be hard countered means you devote an entire class to hard countering it, or build in requirements to account for it in every situation.

    I’d much rather creatively improve stealth’s functionality while making it less of an ‘in your face’ mechanic you have to design around as a dev, or deal with as a player.

  • Someone mentioned that stealth is almost always an invisibility mechanic and it’s either seen or not. Anyone that’s played EQ might, or might not, remember hiding in the bushes to evade or ambush an enemy. Ideally that is stealth. That’s how it should work. Bushes should be able to be entered and shadows should darken your character and wearing dark armor should help. All that’s needed is a mechanic to allow you to be hidden this way from mobs and not just players. No matter how big that bush was in EQ the mobs could see right through it.

    The trouble is with all of the progress they’ve made in graphics we still seem to be using mechanics that work exactly as they did in the first MMOs with the same limitations.

  • In team based pvp stealth classes are needed to take down healers and ranged nukers. Stealth classes add much to tactics. I would say it is important to put stealth heavy burst dps on cd’s but this is generally the case.

    You need to be a solid stealth class to take down a healer in most games I’ve played, conversely you need to be an excellent rdps to avoid dying to even an average rogue.

    The balance works for me. What fun would group play be if the back line had nothing to worry about?

  • The thing is though stealth is rarely a mechanic on it’s own.

    A lot of stealth classes get double mechanics. Stealth and then an additional system. So often they end up better off or worse off than a class that only has a lone mechanic like the typical warrior / fighter arch-types.

    A few abilities may or may not be locked into stealth, but they’ll have an additional combo point, initiative, xxx mechanic as well.

    Rarely is stealth the core of the mechanic, or the mechanic itself. It becomes a super powerful ability that is limited to one or a few classes.

  • A player should need to use shadows, terrain etc. to stealth effectively.

    in most MMO, it is just a magic invisibility.

    Exactly what I was thinking. Games generally implement stealth in a very artificial manner. I.e. it’s just an on-off invisibility ability that’s handed out to a specific class. It has nothing to do with real stealth, which would involve skill and equipment that aids with blending into foliage, terrain, shadows, etc.; using objects for concealment; moving slowly/carefully to minimize noise; etc. (Which any character should be capable of achieving, regardless of class.)

    Regarding stunlock: I think this is a completely valid mechanic, having done PvP with the WoW druid. Sure, it’s annoying to the victim, but it serves a two-fold purpose: 1) He just got his kidneys ripped out; he should be surprised and slow to respond. 2) Most stealth classes are weak otherwise, with lower HP, armor, weapon damage, etc. They should get some additional benefit from an attack, to lessen the chance that counter-attacks will kill them.

    No 1-shot kills, however; that’s never fair. The victim should always have a chance to recover, and retaliate or escape.

  • Hmm, after re-reading my post, I realized I was talking about only the stun from say, an initial backstab; that’s valid. Stun *lock* is never good. Like I said, the victim should always be able to recover and retaliate or escape.

  • I haven’t had that much experience with Planetside 2 Infiltrators, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. They get a Predator-style recharging cloak, but the distortions are visible if you move. In addition, they can get an upgrade to hide their radar signature when they fire their gun (usually a sniper rifle).

    That said, everyone can be stealthy by just being careful; If you don’t fire your weapon, you will not show up on radar and you will not have a nametag hovering above your head. If you need to trek across open terrain, you’ll have access to camo if you have a high enough rank. Vehicles will show up in radar by default, but they can be upgraded to prevent that. But nothing can counteract the fact that you can be seen and shot. This makes ranger-style players valuable even if they don’t have much firepower. Spotted enemies show up on allies’ radar and HUD, so you can direct your allies’ fire to remote targets and help thwart surprise attacks. You even get an experience point bonus for doing so.