So two things: One, welcome back! We’ve been absent the last 4-5 weeks because not a whole lot has happened in Crowfall. Second, we are going to caveat this entire article, as is our norm, by saying upfront that this is the second known implementation of Stealth in Crowfall and more changes are likely to happen.
This new version presents a different approach and one that has its own challenges. At first glance, this redesign addresses several important concerns I had with the original stealth system. In theorizing on this proposed system, I found the changes to be both reasonable and warranted. It acknowledges the key changes with the Race/Class split and the unfortunate departure of the Stalker archetype (which was originally intended to be the anti-stealth “class”).
Regardless of your thoughts on this new system versus its predecessor, it doesn’t seem as if this system is fully implemented yet; most of this article will stem specifically from the Q&A session when Blair graciously fielded my questions on the subject. He later clarified any misunderstandings after examining our draft post at Stealthed.
The Old Stealth Approach
In describing the old system, we found that much of our assumptions on how it operated were incorrect (thanks for taking the time to correct us, Blair!). In the old stealth system, stealthed players could be found passively. Just by walking around you could uncover a stealthed player. In essence, everyone was technically anti-stealth. The potential for you to actually find someone, however, required a few specific things to occur.
The anti-stealth stat, Perception, increased the size of the player’s stealth-detection bubble in a 180-degree arc in front of them. This forward-looking arc was intended to represent that players couldn’t see out of the back of their head! Increasing the Perception stat caused the player to have a longer range at revealing stealthers.
Similarly, stealthers started with their own radius. Increasing their primary Stealth skill shrank this radius.
If the two player radiuses ever met, the stealther became visible (no roll required).
One last note, this old system would have led to a game of cat and mouse, but it suffered from one big drawback: the skill system. The previously proposed version of stealth was loosely based on the original Shadowbane version of stealth and anti-stealth. This was a good framework, however, the two games have wildly different systems for building a character. In Shadowbane, you had a limited pool of points to put towards skills, and thus players who went anti-stealth were committed to that role in the game. Similarly, stealth players were equally committed, creating a balanced situation.
In Crowfall, however, a future state could have existed where players have maxed out all stats. As a result of the permanency of skills, the stealth and anti-stealth cat and mouse game would have become reduced to minor differences in stats received during itemization, and also primarily from disciplines. It failed to reward players who wanted to specialize in stealth or in anti-stealth (eventually everyone would become “masters”).
In effect, the old system largely depended on stats derived from skills, but similarly suffered from the fact that eventually, everyone would become “masters” in these two areas. Skill points alone failed to create a lasting, impactful choice for either side.
The New Stealth Approach
Crowfall‘s latest proposed system seemingly solves the concerns of the former system, still accounts for some deviations in player skill, but still gives players an opportunity to do the cat and mouse dance. While considering this new system, we also thought up of several new ways to interact with this system that would give it even more depth. A good sign for any system redesign.
The new stealth system includes what can be best described as two musical bells (like the kind that go up in clock towers, in case you’re confused!). The stealthed player is one bell, the anti-stealth another bell. If both bells touch each other they’ll ring, signaling the removal of the stealthed player from stealth.
The anti-stealth player, however, doesn’t run around with his bell “active”. To do so, the player must commit to taking a discipline and slotting an actively-used power. These actively used anti-stealth powers will soon feature a small animation; a warning to nearby skilled stealthers to stay away. The activation of this power turns on the anti-stealther’s “bell” and effectively un-mutes it.
If the anti-stealth player does not have this power slotted on his action bar and does not use it, then his bell will never ring (i.e: “discover” a stealthed player). No more passive detection in this system! But now anti-stealth works in a full 360-degree arc around the player. Anti-stealthers do have eyes on the back of their head!
The anti-stealth player can increase the chance of his finding stealthed players by increasing an anti-stealth stat (still called Perception). The higher this stat, the larger the anti-stealth player’s “bell” becomes. Blair described during the recent Q&A livestream that a maxed anti-stealther would have a 25m radius detection range around himself.
On the other side of the equation is the stealthed player. Similar to the anti-stealth player, he too gets a skill/stat, aptly named “Stealth”. This stat when increased causes an inverse effect for the stealth player; the stealthed player’s “bell” gets smaller as the stealth stat goes up. This effectively makes him harder to find. Be warned, if a stealthed player makes a choice like equipping Plate armor; his bell radius could increase, making him easier to find!
Remember that any overlap in the bells, and the stealthed player gets revealed. To give an idea of detection range, imagine a stealthed player with no skill (unclear, but let’s assume 25m radius) and a maxed anti-stealther (25m radius). In theory, if these overlap, you’d have the potential to detect stealthed players
Any players whose bells touch (“ring”) are immediately removed from stealth.
The things we do know of this system, seem to have adequately adjusted for Crowfall‘s differences from the adjustable skill point allocations Shadowbane featured. As a result, the system is certainly better for the environment being designed. The idea of a cat and mouse game still exists, and it still requires both sides of the game to become experts and focus on that role should they want to win out over the other. Choice matters.
We still do not know what exactly will be in the “Stealth” skill tree (or if it even still exists). Nor do we have any ideas on how Stealth will interact with the forthcoming “Tracking” system (if this still exists). The list of things we do not know could take up an entire article, so we’ll skip past the rest of that routine.
What I do like about this system is best reserved for bullet points:
- Stealth requires a class choice (or to a lesser effective degree a racial choice).
- Anti-stealth requires a discipline and a power choice.
- Stealth will not require an active power slot to be toggled anymore.
- Anti-stealth will require an active power slot and will require activation.
- Stealth isn’t just countered by training skill points in a tree.
- Anti-stealth does not have a random chance of success, it just works if someone in stealth got too close to you.
- You can’t be revealed in the world unless someone is actively pinging for you (true ambush potential).
- Armor impacts the effectiveness of Stealth (Plate armor is bad for stealthing! Duh!)
There is definitely a lot of potential for expanding the Stealth system in the future. Yet Blair did make a comment when reviewing this story that I felt was important to share:
We will see how much stealth capability we give out through disciplines, currently, wood elves get a limited Hide called Camouflage , and Guinecean’s get a racial burrow power. As we get the full stealth system in-game we will certainly look at adding powers and skills that interact with it and add new gameplay features. We are waiting to see how the base gameplay works with lots of players using it.
Clearly a practical approach we can see mirrored across the Crowfall spectrum.
Let’s hope as Assassin comes online in the near future that we get answers to some of the mysteries still surrounding Stealth! It certainly has been a long time in coming. As our site name might hint to readers, we have a vested interest in this topic. Stay tuned for more!
Source: Q&A Live Stream from 7-11-17
Check out the video (directly linked to correct timestamp) for Blair’s description of Stealth.