Mark of the ninja lead designer nels anderson talks about how 2d helped his stealth game

     
How the "Mark of the Ninja" designer stayed true to the darkart

When creating a core stealth game in 2D, certain problems can arise. The team behind Mark of the Ninja saw them all.

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By RussFrushtiông chồng on September 6, 2012 08:00 am 4Comments



Nels Anderson did not want another Ninja Gaiden.

"That"s kind of weird," the lead designer of Mark of the Ninja explained in an interview with Polygon. "The ninja as a fictional pop-culture construct affords things lượt thích being sneaky and undetected & agile & fast. But, in games, aside from Tenchu, anything with a ninja is just, "Fucking murder all the dudes, blood, gore, cutting helicopters with giant swords.""

It wasn"t a denigration of those games as much as a level of surprise. Ninjas are trained not khổng lồ be seen, so why bởi most ninja games involve creating as much chaos as possible?

"If you want to make a stealth game, you don"t want khổng lồ vomit out some long, complicated exposition like, "Oh, you"re commandos with psychic power, blah blah blah." You just want to say, "You"re a ninja." It feels like it should calibrate people"s expectations appropriately, being stealthy & all that. But, for some reason that never really happened in games. So I was lượt thích, "Fuchồng it, let"s just bởi that.""


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The Dark Project


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While there is a surprising laông xã of truly stealthy ninja games, there are plenty of core stealth games that don"t star ninjas.

Anderson"s inspiration was Thief, the classic first-person stealth series originally created by Looking Glass Studtiện ích ios. In place of a ninja, Thief starred Garret, a lock-picking ne"er-do-well in the Middle Ages. Despite the setting, the core gameplay tenets were all about the power of being unseen. Anderson wanted to recreate that same feeling... but in 2 chiều.

"The thiết kế process involved looking at 3 chiều stealth games, figuring out why they worked the way they did, & then deconstructing that and finding a way to translate it back down inlớn 2 chiều. You can"t just port the notion straight across," he said.

Bringing a stealth game into side-scrolling 2D, và not the top-down 2D of the original Metal Gear games, is far trickier than it first might seem. Anderson gave sầu the example of the classic stealth gameplay moment where a guard is walking down a hallway and you are hiding around the corner. But in 2 chiều, there are no corners lớn hide around. Everyone is on the same plane. So how vày you get around that? The team struggled lớn make it work.

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"There was definitely a point of time where we were not sure if the game was ever going khổng lồ be good or if Microsoft would pull the plug," said Anderson. "We had a lot to figure out & the bits weren"t fitting together."


"There was definitely a point of time where we were not sure if the game was ever going to lớn be good or if Microsoft would pull the plug."
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Much of the trouble was with stealth games in general. Anderson pointed to lớn a postmortem done by the Thief team wherein they mentioned that the game wasn"t feeling right until just a few months before launch. They explained that, unlike other genres, in stealth games, everything has khổng lồ be working before the game starts to lớn feel good.

"In any other action game, if a character"s flanking behavior isn"t working, it"s pretty easy khổng lồ imagine through what it"d be like when it"s good," explained Anderson. "But if the AI in a stealth game behave sầu consistently? The game is basically unplayable. It just sucks. If you"re not able to lớn know whether you"ll be able to be perceived by an enemy because you can"t tell if you"re in darkness or not, the game is basically unplayable. You have sầu to have sầu all of those components more or less working."

Before everything was working, though, the team began to have doubts about sticking to its stealth iđơn hàng and started to experiment elsewhere.

"When things weren"t working, we didn"t totally underst& why. Like the sneaking around isn"t very fun. So we need khổng lồ have sầu more stuff that"s not sneaking! Like, "Let"s add a more robust combat system và more direct combat with the enemies." That was totally the wrong thing lớn bởi."

The result was that playtesters would just run through the levels, beating up everyone they came across. Not exactly the sort of unseen ninja Anderson had imagined.

But, once the team doubled down on making Mark of the Ninja a core stealth game, Anderson said they could "see things lifting from the trough. We could figure out what"s working & what"s not. Until we got to that point where all the components were working, it was lượt thích, "Oh god, is this game ever going to be fun? Because right now, it sure as shit ain"t.""


One of the things that worked particularly well was giving the player as much information as possible, a shift from most 3D stealth games that Anderson hoped would bring in core stealth players as well as newcomers.

"The core stealth mechanics are really important lớn underst&, but in a lot of stealth games, they"re totally opaque. Like, if you"re walking down a hallway and there"s some guard up ahead and you make a noise, is he going to turn và hear it? You have no idea. You just try a thing và, Oh, he saw you & shoots you in the face. "Oh, next time I should be a bit further away.""

In Mark of the Nin-Ja, every sound you make radiates a visible ring around your character. If a guard is inside that ring, he"ll hear the noise. If not, you"ll pass by unnoticed. Some stealth games, like Deus Ex, have attempted something similar with the use of radar, but Mark of the Nin-Ja shows you this information right there in the environment so there can be no confusion about whether you"ll be heard.

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"We were lượt thích, "Let"s just get people past that whole experimentation phase and just provide that information so it"s another tool at their disposal,"" said Anderson. "Basically accelerate how quickly people can get khổng lồ that level of intentional planning và deliberate play that stealth games different from normal character-based action-adventure games — but without doing it in a way of making the game simpler or providing less systems. It was just about the transparency of those systems."

The important part of all of this: Mark of the Ninja never sold its soul. It made it through development as a stealth gamer"s stealth game, letting you complete entire levels without being spotted or killing a single guard. You"re a ninja, after all. It"s what you do.


"Let"s just get people past that whole experimentation phase and just provide that information so it"s another tool at their disposal."

Chuyên mục: Tin Tức