Stealth: The Phantom ControversyApril 7, 2008
Two of the unofficial rules of this here WAAAGH! blog is that (1) I try not to jump right on the bandwagon of what every other site/forum/blog is discussing vis-à-vis the Hot Topic Of The Week, and (2) I don’t want to continually fall into the trap of getting too worked up over potentially nothing at all, particularly pre-release. We’re in beta, stuff changes, info is spotty and fed to us almost exclusively through the dev marketing machine. If this site were Ghostbusters, I’d want to retain the cool head of Egon, the sarcastic wit of Venkman, and the puppy like enthusiasm of Ray. Plus we’d have that token other guy who didn’t even appear on the DVD cover of Ghostbusters 2. Did you know there were four Ghostbusters? Hint: one of the four didn’t get top billing.
Therefore, it’s with a little reluctance that I dabble my foot into the current Hot Topic, the apparent emergence of the stealth mechanic in WAR and the small-to-moderate fan frenzy surrounding it. If you don’t want to read my notes and thoughts below, let it suffice to say that I feel it’s just another thing that people want to leap on as this week’s big issue and it’s gotten out of hand due to a lack of complete information and rabid minds. As I’ve been saying, people need to calm the heck down during the beta phase.
A little background to those who don’t see why this might be a big deal — after all, don’t most all MMOs have stealth in them? Hasn’t it become an accepted game mechanic that appeals to roguey types dating all the way back to good ol’ D&D?
If you’re like me, then you’ve grown to despise stealth in games, which seems to appeal to the cowardly griefers in the community. Give them a tool to bypass dangerous content and stab you in the back without warning, and it’s a foregone conclusion that jerks will flock to that like morons to the Insane Clown Posse. In a PvP-centric game like WAR, stealth has the very serious potential for driving away flocks of would-be players who, oddly enough, greatly dislike having someone they can’t see hit and/or kill them before they get a chance to respond. Apparently, Mark Jacobs agreed with that thought, and for the longest time in WAR development, he declared that this mechanic would be null and void from the WAR universe. Some kvetched and complained, but I and others rejoiced.
Enter the recent Paris Event, where journalists got their hands (and video cameras) on the game, where the Witch Hunter and Witch Elves were shown to have stealth-like abilities. Armed with a clear (to them) contradiction in Vision, fans flocked to the internet and started burning several Mythic effigies.
As with any “controversy”, a good journalist pushes away heated emotion and digs for facts. Here are the facts so far:
- WAR is in beta, and subject to changes, having new systems and mechanics tested, and things tweaked considerably before release.
- Mark Jacobs still hates stealth as it appears and functions in most other MMO games.
- I like cheese and egg sandwiches.
- Jacobs on IGN VN boards: “What they have seen is a system that allows for two of the lightly armored classes to close quickly with a target. There will be no combination of stealth + long-range damage dealing in the game. Two quick FYIs for ya. Some of the leaks regarding stealth have been, quite frankly, BS. During our last phase of testing there were some bugs in the implementation (“Gee, really Mr. Wizard, you had bugs in a Beta Test? I’m surprised!”) of the classes closing/survival ability. Second, as our beta testers know, I have said that I will take out any system or sub-system that I believe is a net negative in terms of RvR enjoyment.”
- I added ham to the egg and cheese sandwich I had at lunch, on rye bread, and it was delicious.
So what we’re seeing is a lot of people getting in a tizzy for something they (yet again) know little about and lack the full scoop on the topic to make an informed opinion. Granted, Mythic should’ve probably anticipated this as a hot button issue and preemptively talked about it to the community before letting journalists “find” it as they played.
Trust me — If you hate traditional stealth, you have no better friend and trusted confidant than I. If WAR launches and a Witch Elf can just tippity-toe up behind me and stunlock me into meek submission before I have a chance to hit my “1” key, then I’ll be yelling the loudest in the crowd. But I don’t see a huge cause for worry here, or even a massive contradiction; Mark still adamantly hates stealth, and they’re being pretty honest as to what it is and that there will be pretty strict limitations on how it is used. If a weaker melee class needs a helping hand to get close to a fight without getting slaughtered 200 yards away by a rampaging mountain of steel, then I think it’s not a bad idea to give it to them — as long as they can’t initiate combat in that mode. As long as there are drawbacks and checks and balances for other classes to spot the invader.
A recent great example of stealth is in Team Fortress 2, where the Spy class can “disguise” themselves as a member of the opposite team in order to get close and make a strike. Instead of going the light-bendy Predator route, they tried something different and I think they were rewarded for it. The Spy is still pretty vulnerable and is subject to losing his disguise at any moment. It just evens the playing field for a guy who has less killing power than others. I’m cool with that.
[Edit: I was reminded that the Spy does have the “invisibility cloak” stealth as well, but its use rests on a very limited timer. D’oh.]
Keen has some passionate thoughts as to the topic as well, and I recommend you checking them out.