Hide

The air vents and backalleys of Deus Ex: Human Revolution have given me a new appreciation for stealth games. Very few stealth games get it right, and DX:HR manages this with aplomb. One of the essential ingredients is atmosphere — that tension where a guard could spot you at any minute is essential to bringing the feeling of stealth to a player.

Hide is a game that has the stealth atmosphere in spades. You start in a field with no explanation, but you hear sirens in the background. You can see searchlights in the distance, and it’s safe to say they’re searching for you. So you start running. But it’s snowing and you can’t see very clearly. Where do you go? How can you hide? Meanwhile, the searchlights and flashlights keep getting closer and closer.

There are 5 hidden locations about the map to search for, but largely this game is about soaking in the feeling of hiding from someone who is pursuing you. In that, the game succeeds. Every step and shallow breath is fully felt, while the pressure of a flashlight beam suffocates your options.

It’s also a great contrast to so many stealth games. There are no objectives, no ability to disable anyone, there’s no real way to win at all actually. It still feels great though, every bit as tense and suspenseful as the most complicated high-tech video game heist.

Talking Points: How does this simple, bare-bones stealth game pull off such a great atmosphere? How could more AAA titles take clues from a game like Hide? Would this work as well in something like DX:HR?

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Comments

Hooray, a FB I can actually play!

Check the comments on Road of Peace. ClockworkHouse found a Zune app so you can load it up!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled thread.

Very cool. Wish there had been a bit more explanation on the controls screen, like how sprinting actually works or that you can use the mouse to look around (yes, I spent the first several minutes walking around looking straight up at the sky).

How does this simple, bare-bones stealth game pull off such a great atmosphere?

Sound design is an important part of it. The breathing and crunching of the snow are all you get, and each make sense in execution. That my breathing could show me how fast I was able to run at the time was a nice little touch, even if it became obvious that there were just a few loops of the breathing running over again, which did break immersion a bit.

But I would say, more importantly, it does very much the same thing that made Amnesia so successful: it leans on your fear of the unknown. The best horror has always been (and probably always will be) psychological, and the extremely low-fi nature of the general look of the game, coupled with the grainy overlay and the lack of perspective allow your mind to fill in most of the blanks. The last one is particularly interesting, as it adds to the tension. You can walk towards something for a while and not really tell if you're getting any closer until you're actually up on the object and can walk around it, which adds to some of the feeling of helplessness.

Spoiler:

Also, when you get caught, you never really get a good glimpse of...whatever it is that pursues you; just enough to tell that it ain't exactly in the shape of a human (and does it hover across the ground?). Combined with the tinting of the screen when your pursuers close in, it's a very nice effect.

The other way it leans on that fear of vagueness is the general "plot": you have no idea why you're there, who/what chases you, how to get out, etc. The signs you can find don't really help matters: are these crimes you've committed? Are they what's going to happen to you when you get caught? It gives you little glimpses of many things but never comes close to explaining anything, again leaving your mind to wonder.

How could more AAA titles take clues from a game like Hide?

I feel the aforementioned Amnesia did many of the things that this does, and is possibly an easier study for AAA developers. 1) sound design is king 2) it can be very effective to leave things unexplained, if you're trying to create a certain atmosphere (it can also be very douche-y if you want to be a FF-esque "visual novel", but I digress) 3) This game would probably not have been improved by having Sean Bean voice the breathing effects.

Would this work as well in something like DX:HR?

Maybe there could be sections where you did this sort of thing, but I think that's tougher. This game had a lot of lessons for the survival horror genre, but it's more difficult to fit into a narrative where you're some highly-skilled undercover operative. Honestly I wouldn't really call this a "stealth" game at all. And can you imagine a AAA game where you will lose, it's just a matter of how long you hold out? Oh, the internet rage would be mighty... (although maybe NIER did this. :-))

Minarchist wrote:
Would this work as well in something like DX:HR?

Maybe there could be sections where you did this sort of thing, but I think that's tougher. This game had a lot of lessons for the survival horror genre, but it's more difficult to fit into a narrative where you're some highly-skilled undercover operative. Honestly I wouldn't really call this a "stealth" game at all. And can you imagine a AAA game where you will lose, it's just a matter of how long you hold out? Oh, the internet rage would be mighty... (although maybe NIER did this. :-))

Also arcade games.

Yeah, I almost mentioned that, but it didn't feel particularly applicable to modern games.

Minarchist wrote:

Yeah, I almost mentioned that, but it didn't feel particularly applicable to modern games.

I think that, between multiplayer and the resurgence of survival modes, it's relevant.

I showed this to my game design class today and got some interesting reactions from: "What is this pixellated garbage, give me Call of Duty" to "That was terrifying!"

For me it is effective at evoking a mood. With everything at loose focus, and the sounds being so personal, it gives a sense of tension because you can never quite tell what's going on. Unfortunately, it's very easy to lose that mood when I can easily outmaneuver the things following me and go to a safe distance. This doesn't work in the narrative sense as they are mostly guarding the spots you need to locate. Has anyone found all the locations? We did and managed to get a downbeat ending, but we did them out of order. I'm curious if anyone found them in order and if it changed the outcome?

what's wrong with the links? anyone able to post a mirror?
I found the link on some blog and it was broken too.

Slupczynski wrote:

what's wrong with the links? anyone able to post a mirror?
I found the link on some blog and it was broken too.

Their server is down.

Seeing as I've fully upgraded my cloaking device and have an inventory full of candy bars in DX:HR, I'm going to say it wouldn't work as well for me.

Sephirotic wrote:

I showed this to my game design class today and got some interesting reactions from: "What is this pixellated garbage, give me Call of Duty" to "That was terrifying!"

Kids these days!