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Stolen Designer Diary Part 3

Fresh screens and the latest word on Blue52's stealth 'em up

Hello! My name is Rudolf Kremers. I am a game designer at Blue52 where my colleagues and I are very busy putting the finishing touches to Stolen our soon to be released Stealth action game. We are about to go gold any time now, so these are exciting times indeed! (If slightly mad, busy, and sleep deprived).

I will try not to bore you too much but still give you an impression of what it is like for people like me who work on a game.

Working as a designer on a game like Stolen means that you get very involved in almost every aspect of the game.

Due to the type of game we are making even the smallest changes can have big consequences. Seemingly small decisions regarding sound or art implementation tend to have far reaching consequences. This means that almost everything needs to have some kind of design spec attached to it to make sure that we don't have to redo work later on in the project.

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A very nice side effect of this is that you gain a much deeper understanding of other people's jobs. For example, you find out what makes an artist passionate about things you never thought of or discover certain similarities as to how programmers approach their job and the important the work of the QA department. It certainly has given me a lot of respect for all those people who are very good at their own jobs, and what that means to the game as a whole.

In Stolen you are constantly confronted with systems affecting systems and because of that things can get very complex very quickly. For example, we allow the player to use all kinds of different solutions to gameplay situations. You can use stealth, all kinds of interesting gadgets, athletic capability and combat in most situations.

This is designed in such a way that the player has freedom to use the gameplay style they prefer, instead of trying to figure out how to find the single solution to progress to the next area. When I take a peek over the shoulder of somebody playing the game I am always pleasantly surprised that people take advantage of this freedom, and come up with their own unique ways of progressing through the environments - which is great!

One of the main challenges from a design point of view is the knock on effect this has on balancing specific areas. It has been quite a juggling act to maximise player choice, without breaking other mechanics. This has made Stolen fascinating to work on from a pure design point of view. Because Anya, the character you play, is so incredibly capable it has produced quite a few conundrums. It is very exciting to use athleticism to get to areas that other people can't reach, hack your way past security systems, or, if in a clinch, fight your way out of trouble, but it is very challenging to design levels in such a way that this freedom can be enjoyed. It is very easy to make progress too simple or too hard when there are so many things to take into account.

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We have tried to avoid limiting the gameplay areas as much as possible which, although tempting, would severely cheapen the experience. Why give the player all these things to use only to put artificial constraints on the area of play?

I am very excited by the fact that so far the press coverage has been excellent.
This has been a very positive thing for the entire team, as sometimes when you are too close to a project you need a reminder of the fact that other people will see the game with fresh eyes.

People seem genuinely excited about our take on the genre, which is positive in terms of feed back on the people working on it. I am especially happy about the fact that reactions have been positive to our decision to prohibit the player from killing opponents. It sets our game apart from many others and hopefully will draw people in that otherwise would not consider playing it.

I guess we will find out rather soon how successful we have been in fulfilling our ambitions. Personally I am very proud of what we have achieved so far so I cannot wait to see what people think. I am also quite pleased with having written this without resorting to cheap jokes all the way through - like some of my colleagues have in previous instalments. It is important to keep a sense of dignity in these matters, not unlike the gibbon, the noblest of all primates.

Anyway, if you decide to play this game I sincerely hope you will enjoy the experience. Let people around you know if you do.

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