About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Stolen Pixels #122: Right Behind You

By Shamus
on Friday Sep 4, 2009
Filed under:


I wonder how many people will read the title of this comic and immediately assume it’s about Team Fortress 2. I would.

It’s amazing. Those shorts featuring the TF2 characters aren’t even part of the game proper. You never see them while playing. Yet their effects permeate the game. In particular the Spy movie is quoted at near “the cake is a lie” levels.

Oh. The comic. Right, right. It’s about a completely different game with spies in it. Velvet Assassin has guards with behavior that should look familiar to anyone who just got done playing a ten year old stealth game.

Comments (21)

  1. Martin Annadale says:

    I miss Thief.

  2. Martin Annadale says:

    Stealth games seems doomed. The only real area of improvement in stealth games that will make any difference to fans of the genre is in the AI, and it seems that’s the least popular thing to spend time and money on for game developers.

  3. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Recall that when you said you paid $3 for it, I mentioned you’d overpaid. ;)

    Have you investigated the whole connection to a real event piece?

  4. Tuck says:

    You may enjoy the German guards in this (part 2 of 3) Goodies Episode:

  5. Jeremiah says:

    Anyone know how the stealth aspects of Batman Arkham Asylum are? I’ve only played the demo on the 360 and the little bit of stealth in the demo seemed pretty reasonably done.

  6. AceCalhoon says:

    @Jeremiah — They’re pretty well done. Most of the stealth sequences are set pieces… You’ll enter a room with seven people and need to take them all down without being spotted.

    The guards initial state is probably scripted. They’ll be in some combination of patrolling the area and talking to each other.

    As you pick them off, they start to search the room for you. They’ll act surprised the first time they see a body, and call others to their location. If you are seen (and being seen isn’t an instant-loss condition in that particular room), you can lose their pursuit by turning corners and ducking into vents.

    As more and more thugs are eliminated, they’ll become increasingly agitated (moving faster, turning more frequently, even choosing a buddy and going back-to-back with him).

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Well,thief 3 was a bit disappointing,yet it brought us the shalebridge cradle,thus I exuse it for all the bad things it did.I guess something similar will happen in the 4.

    Oh,and I didnt think about team fortress.Probably because I still remain strictly single player gamer.*coughselloutcough*

  8. Rutskarn says:

    Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory has some good AI, such that I actually have some interesting stories.

    There’s two guys in a guard station, each watching monitors (well, actually, there WAS two guys and a supervisor, but the supervisor made the mistake of standing with his back to the door). I learned through trial and error that I couldn’t get into nonlethal striking position (my method of choice) without alerting one or the other. And so, I started playing around with variables until I got the result I wanted.

    Step One: I turned off the lightswitch (AI Response: “Hey! What happened to the lights!” One got up to turn the lights back on.

    Step Two: I intentionally make a noise outside the door. The following conversation ensues:

    “I thought I heard something…”

    “What, like, an intruder? You’re just paranoid.”

    “Shh! Maybe, who knows!”

    “Whatever. There’s nothing there.”

    “Oh, we’ll see…”

    Paranoid then walks into the lit doorway–but not beyond into the darkness, away from the safety of his comrade.

    Finally, he says, “I guess it really was nothing.” He turns around to re-take his seat. I immediately move into grab him noiselessly from behind.

    As I’m dragging him, terrified (and probably wetting his pants) away, the other guard finishes his dialogue of “See? I told you.” and comes in with “Hey…where did you go?”

    This is in contrast to the stealth in Dark Messiah, wherein I waited for a guy to walk past, stabbed him in the neck, stepped back, waited for a guard to run up and examine the body, stabbed him in the neck, waited for a guard to run up to the body, stabbed him in the neck, so I can work harder, so I can do more coke, so I can work harder, so I can etc.

  9. Mari says:

    Personally I would be screwed if designers improved the AI in stealth games. I really am quite terrible at “press X to tip toe” type things. Remember that section of Fable where you had to sneak up to the gate to get into the bandit camp? Yeah, after 45 minutes of trying to tipee toe past the stupid guards, getting busted, and doing it all over again I gave up and lightninged them to death from cover then strolled up to the gate. This is probably the reason I don’t play stealth games.

  10. WILL says:

    This is nothing Shamus. Rent Prototype, the AI is beyond stupid.

    Alex: *drops from 500 feet, absorbs a soldier, runs up the side of a building and hijacks a helicopter*
    15 soldiers staring directly at Alex: “MUST HAVE BEEN THE WIND”

  11. chabuhi says:

    As beautiful as Batman: Arkham Asylum is (speaking of games as art, or artistic games), it is – for me – quickly turning into Assassin’s Creed in terms of gameplay. I loved Assassin’s Creed for it’s novelty, and I certainly think BAA is a far cry better, but I just have this sinking feeling that halfway through (if I’m not already there) it will become very repetitive. I agree that the stealth gameplay is really well done, though. (My stepson and I were cracking up as Batman choked out bad guys and we’d go “Shhh … shhh … it’s okay – sleep now …”) Already, though, the fun of stealth play is wearing thin. I also still don’t feel that I have all that much control over what Batman is doing.

    Anyway – I don’t know how many different ways you can actually do stealth play. At least, to have it be the core gameplay “method”. Seems like Thief and Splinter Cell have covered most of the bases. I think stealth can certainly continue to work well where it’s an option and not the focus of play style. But, although I am also looking forward to Thief 4, I don’t see much of a future for “stealth-centric” games.

  12. Hzurr says:

    Oh man, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was amazing. The co-op missions are fantastic. I was playing with a friend, and we snick into a room where two guys were watching a football/soccer game on a tv. My partner turned off the tv with the EMP gun, I snuck up and grabbed the guy who was still on the couch while his buddy went to go bang on the tv and figure out why it wasn’t working. In the 1/2 second it took the guy to hit the tv, and turn back around, his buddy was gone, and he started freaking out. It was fantastic.

    By far the best Stealth game there is.

    (Also, the part where you grab a guy and he gets excited because he thinks that they were just attacked by ninjas is pretty fantastic)

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Yeah,but its hilarious.Land from the top of a skyscraper inside a base,consume a soldier,accuse his buddy of being you,watch the rest shoot him,hijack a tank,then blow the rest of the squad into gazillion pieces.And during that,listen to alex ranting how he fears hes becoming a monster.

  14. That comic was hilarious. But it was also oddly . . . touching, or something. I sort of felt for the guard, in a surreal, “Waiting for Godot” kind of way. Or maybe Charlie Brown–This time, I’m not going to fall for it. This time, I’m not going to try to kick the football . . .
    Made me wonder what *my* limitations of habit might be.

  15. Valaqil says:

    @Rutskarn: Sounds like the bank level to me. I loved that level.

    Another vote for SC:CT. From the sheer variety of methods for completing a level to the hilarious responses, it remains my favorite stealth game to date. The co-op portion had its annoying moments, and could have been longer, but I replayed that portion of the game innumerable times.

    I really should grab Arkham Asylum. I need some new, good stealth missions.

  16. BarGamer says:

    Hey Shamus, what’s your opinion on the whole TF2 Halo-hat thing? Also, the tendency for people to ban or not ban based on the wearing of such?

    • Shamus says:

      BarGamer: I have a post I’ve been meaning to write about that. Short version: Valve is creating artificial (yet random) scarcity which doesn’t lead to interesting gameplay, and so the have-nots are resenting the system. It would be much better to have a deterministic system. Or if they rolled out the trade system. Even though I hate the trade system idea.

      I guess that wasn’t all that short.

  17. Schneebrunser says:

    “Dummkopf” not “Dummkoph”


    Super Spell-checker guy

    • Shamus says:

      Ah. The downside of having two theads for one comic: Everyone points out my spelling mistakes twice.

      Yeah, my bad. I obviously don’t know the language. I typed it in to Google as best as I could remember, and the first result was: Did you mean “Dummkoph”?

      So I figured that would be the right spelling. It wasn’t. It was just the closest common mis-spelling. Heh.

  18. Hotsauce says:

    I don’t know, maybe they’re smarter than you think. I mean, if I saw someone do that, I think I’d try to come up with a reason why I didn’t have to jump in and be the next victim.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>