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Wavinator

Invisibility? Yeah, so what? Everybody's got that!

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"...even my gunrunnin' granny's freakin' genetically enhanced puma has it..." Scientific plausibility aside, what's your core reaction to a game (open ended RPG-like) where most intelligent enemies, including genetically modded creatures/animals, have limited-duration invisibility gear? I've been thinking about how a tiered invisibility system might work. It would allow NPC enemies and player / NPC allies (in coop situations) to become optically invisible for limited stretches of time. It would be a widespread wearable tech (saucer sized and somewhat heavy), and all warriors save rank & file or the weak would have it by default. The Principle The tech would be pure mumbo-jumbo involving something called an "electron shunt." E-shunts, in principle, would have the power to absorb most forms of visible spectrum radiation (infrared, UV, thermal, visible). The Catch The catch would be that, depending on quality, this shunting would have side effects. Chief among them would be that every electron shunt has a limited number of uses that last seconds, or days. (Depending on quality, there'd be other effects like lethal readiation buildup or thermal damage). Once depleted, the shunt would then be dead weight. Shunts would also voraciously consume power (not detectable while operating). This, combined with limited durability, would make them a highly tactical item not to be used constantly (in theory). A player could carry multiple, but that would be less inventory for something else. The shunt's invisibility would be separate from other forms of stealth/detection, such as tracking noise or seeing footprints or the opening of a door. The Counter By default, non-synchronized electron shunts disrupt each other. This makes every emitter a counter. The range and duration of the counter would depend on quality. This would, in theory, create a tiered system of measure / countermeasure. Allies would not disrupt allies, but invisibility would fail as they approached disrupters. Depending on quality, you'd also get a vague telltale indicating that you're about to be disrupted. This would give players time to take cover. Also, for the sake of balance there would be a hard visibility rule: No matter how high the stealth, at a default proximity to a jammer failure would be 100% failure for a minimum of a few seconds. The minimum proximity would be something like hand to hand range, giving everyone a last ditch chance to fight. Vehicles and buildings, in the beginning, would be too large to cloak. But over time, the tech would advance and spread.
Ultimately, I think games where you face down enemies on open terrain, or in a base/"dungeon" would play out like this: Your Jammer >= Enemy's Invisibility: Enemies generally begin "warping in" at a distance commensurate with the quality of your jammer. Once disrupted, they'd begin taking cover and standard gunplay takes over. Your Jammer < Enemies Invisibility: Given inference software as part of your armor or optical implants, you track enemies based on triangulation evidence. Or you employ tricks such as luring them into water (wake appears), activating sprinklers, or using smokebombs and watching for disruption. Stealthed Dungeon Parts: Traps, deadfalls and autoguns could pop out of nowhere. This is really no different from traps being a part of geometry. That's the general picture. Any thoughts on how this sytem might be abused, or whether it would be more frustrating than fun? If you've seen Ghost in the Shell, btw, invisibility is a default technology (but it somehow doesn't dominate).

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Unfortunately, I can't really consider whether your invisibility system will be good or bad isolation from the rest of your combat design. It will ultimately depend on all the other little details, particuarly the ways of detecting invisible enemies which you've hinted at in your post (footprints etc.)

One thing I'm not sure about is the wide-spread use of invisibility. If everyone has the ability to be invisible, wouldn't most battles go a bit like this:
- two opposing sides spot each other
- everyone turns on their invisibility
- everyone randomly walks about in order to try and find an enemy, or to escape
In gameplay terms, isn't this the same as if they were fighting in pitch black darkness?

I'm usually more interested in gameplay dynamics rather than the logical justifications for them here in the design forums, but how would dungeon parts or buildings stay stealthed using your electron shunt technology, if the shunts burn out? Wouldn't they be too difficult to replace?

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It sounds very, very cool. You seem to have covered most of the angles it's just a matter of balancing them.

But I wouldn't want every battle within the game to involve invisibility and counter measures, I think I'd get sick of that. If it's not completely prevalent and was balanced with other types of combat it would be good. Only a few races have the technology, so if you went into their space you know that you're going to have to deal with invisibility. Also some freelance mercenaries may get their hands on the device. I would want it balanced with other forms of combat.

It works well in the Aliens vs Predator and Star Trek universes.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
The Principle
The tech would be pure mumbo-jumbo involving something called an "electron shunt." E-shunts, in principle, would have the power to absorb most forms of visible spectrum radiation (infrared, UV, thermal, visible).


That would make it appear black. It would be useful for hiding in shadows, but you'd stick out like a sore thumb in broad daylight. To be invisible, you need to be able to transmit light straight through.

Quote:

The Counter
By default, non-synchronized electron shunts disrupt each other. This makes every emitter a counter. The range and duration of the counter would depend on quality. This would, in theory, create a tiered system of measure / countermeasure. Allies would not disrupt allies, but invisibility would fail as they approached disrupters.

Depending on quality, you'd also get a vague telltale indicating that you're about to be disrupted. This would give players time to take cover.

Also, for the sake of balance there would be a hard visibility rule: No matter how high the stealth, at a default proximity to a jammer failure would be 100% failure for a minimum of a few seconds. The minimum proximity would be something like hand to hand range, giving everyone a last ditch chance to fight.

Vehicles and buildings, in the beginning, would be too large to cloak. But over time, the tech would advance and spread.


If the tech is as ubiquitous as you say, counters will be common. They don't even have to be particularly hi tech, which massively limits the usefulness of the invisibility device.

It would not be hard to develop a device capable of spraying the ground with dust, or filling the air with some kind of powder or gas that interferes with the devices operation. This would reveal all invisible creatures in that area in one fell swoop, either by ruining the invisibility effect or by making it impossible to avoid leaving footprints behind. You mention sprinklers and smoke bombs etc, but if the invisibility tech is widespread then specialist anti-invisibility devices are likely to be developed along similar lines, but more effective.

Sonar and other non-EM detection methods would also work, limiting the effectiveness of the tech in avoiding intrusion detection systems and so on. Furthermore if the wearer is only invisible to a range of wavelengths of light, then other wavelengths will become more useful for detectors and countermeasures.

Also, a truly invisible creature is also a blind creature - eyes, cameras and any other form of visible detection system have to be able to absorb light to detect it, and any light that's being absorbed is light that isn't being transmitted. You'd either need some other way of seeing where you're going (sonar, some form of vision goggles that operate on non-visible wavelengths that aren't covered by the cloak, etc) or the dark spots of the eyes would provide a clue that an invisible creature is nearby. (it would still be quite hard to spot though)

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Quote:

Trapper Zoid:

One thing I'm not sure about is the wide-spread use of invisibility. If everyone has the ability to be invisible, wouldn't most battles go a bit like this:
- two opposing sides spot each other
- everyone turns on their invisibility
- everyone randomly walks about in order to try and find an enemy, or to escape
In gameplay terms, isn't this the same as if they were fighting in pitch black darkness?


I was playing an RTS game recently (Populous:The Beginning) where you could cast a spell and make about 6 or so of your units invisible. Even though there weren't any counter measures to invisibility, it didn't really seem to create any real advantage in combat. Like most times invisibility seems to come into a game, when you engage your enemy your unit becomes visible. As soon as the unit becomes visible, they get rushed by all the near by units that are just sitting there waiting for something to happen. Any other invisible units in the area quickly get bumped into, discovered, and engaged. The invisibility would in theory give me a slight advantage in gaining position, but there were always other ways to get it. It might've been useful occasionally for exploring or to send in a spy, but in this particular game, I didn't really ever bother with invisibility.

On the other hand, in Fallout Tactics, I kept my characters in stealth mode whenever I could. Great for exploring and reconissance when you're just trying to see what's ahead of you using one guy. And occasionally if you have just one NPC standing by himself guarding something you need dealt with, it'd be useful. But having the entire unit in stealth mode trying to sneak up or around someone, never seemed to work. And it never seemed to be an advantage when taking on a large group of opponents unless you were going for a hit and run sort of thing.

I think invisibility can be a fun element to include in a game and could certainly be spread widely through the game. But personally, I don't think it's much of an advantage in larger battles. For defense, I'd make my guards on patrol invisible and keep the soldiers standing by without the shunt so that they move faster or could carry heavier weapons. For attack, I'd make a transport invisible and again, keep soldiers without the shunt and outfit them with other gear.

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I like ught your design would incorporate this, but I imagined it being ships in space with "cloaking devices". The mechanics work out to be just about the same.

I'd add that most actions, like firing or communicating or operating a vehicle, would give away your position rather quickly, so there's a sort of continuum between visible technowarrior and invisible zulu warrior. Both can get kills, but neither is always the right choice.

You have to good fortune to be fudging the technology, so you can play around with ranges and triggers and types of interference without worrying about feasibility. Good choice.

If you decide to introduce some kind of detection gear, you might want to look at the visor system the mercenaries use in Splinter Cell's multiplayer mode. You have one filter that detects body heat, one that detects electronic signatures, and one that tracks movement. I think. SInce the spies have clever ways to hide and some active camo like what you describe, these have to be cycled through almost constantly to catch the little buggers.

If a detection visor was the anti-invisibility loadout, and there was some way to transmit enemy locations to allies, then one guy with detection could spot for all the shooters. Now that I think of it, it would be like a Science Vessel in StarCraft when you're fighting Dark Templars. Of course, the guy with the big glasses would be the natural target, and the tactical consequences progress from there. Just a thought. You don't seem to be going the route of detection.

But... if you do, you might want to also look at the system used in Deus Ex. There was a camoflage upgrade and a vision upgrade. If your camo was higher than another guy's vision, you could vanish completely. If you vision was equal to or great than that guy's camo, you could turn on your super-eyes to spot him even when he was cloaked. Both were prohibitively expensive, energy-wise, which made it an underused tech.

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Hmmm... so "invisibility fields" counter eachother depending on their power?

When I read this, it sounded kind of like invisible people can see eachother because they are invisible except the more invisible you are the harder it is for other people to see you.

===

Red (with Level 1 invisibility): Haha... now that I'm invisible I can just sneak into the blue teams base and steal their flag... I am Soo l33t!

Red walks about ten feet while invisible and hears the clicking of a rifle loading.

Blue (with Level 3 invisibility): Hands up sucker.

Red: What? How did you sneak up on me like that?

Blue: Because I'm invisible too! I can see you just fine.

Red: But... why can't I see you?

Blue: Obviously because I'm more invisible than you are!

Just then two sniper shots ring out and both Red and Blue drop dead.

Purple (standing on a nearbye hill with a sniper rifle): Noobs... they never learn. Why bother with invisibility when I can just use a sniper scope to follow their footprints?

===

Anyway, when I saw the title of the post I got a crazy idea for invisibility.

What if the cloaking devise is basically a wall or a disk-shaped shield like thing where, on one side is a holographic display that shows the other side without the hidden object?

So if a player goes into battle and wants to stay hidden, he can carry a device which looks kind of like a gladiator shield. Then, when he activates it, it projects a large ultra-realistic holographic screen in front of him that shows the area behind him.

Basically, it provides complete and unfailable invisibility... as long as you are pointing it at whoever you want to be invisible to... and don't have any reflective surfaces behind you that are out of the cloaking shields range.

The good thing about this is that multiple people can hide behind a "cloaking shield". And you can also set up larger ones that basically act as camoflage-like walls where tanks and infantry can hide behind.

I also think it would look kind of cool. Imagine looking at a perfectly pristine field and then noticing a foot sticking out of thin air. You move silently to the side and see the edge of the invisibility field slowly recede until you see the intruder crouched behind his cloaking shield.

Also, you could sneak into an area and set up a large cloaking shield (or cloaking wall) to provide cover for others. And since it's a flat hologram then you can have characters moving in and out of it, becoming visible and invisible.

And with the holographic thing... you could have the hologram replace certain objects with illusions. For example, when invading an enemy area you could make it disguise you as a regualar soldier (as long as you face the camera or person you are trying to fool) or you could set one next to a box of valuables, set the shield to "record", set it to "repeat play", then steal the box and the shield will keep displaying a hologram of the box.

===

Anyway, this would be a pain to implement and I'm not sure if it would be any fun... but there's an idea if you want it ;)

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Original post by The Shadow Nose
Hmmm... so "invisibility fields" counter eachother depending on their power?

When I read this, it sounded kind of like invisible people can see eachother because they are invisible except the more invisible you are the harder it is for other people to see you.


I think he means that they interfear with eachother when they get too close. I.e. both invisable people are 50 feet away, neither can see the other one. The get within 10 feet and suddenly the invisibility shields distort and they (as well as everyone else) can now see the two now visable people.

I like the shield idea, it could double as a real shield when they go into hand to hand combat.

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Well, if 2 shunts can't get near each other because they will be disrupted, it means that anyone with invisibility will *always* have to work solo!

Or at least with all the other stealth operatives in different places of the infiltrated base.


The argument that if you're invisible, you're blind because no light can get to you is valid. Your eyes will have to remain visible so that they can be hit by light. But this can give you a new, insanely cool form of gameplay!
If you have in place a "hide in the shadows" system similar to the ones in Thief or Splinter Cell, consider this:

When invisible, your eyes can still be seen floating in the air. So from any angle except your front, you're effectively invisible; from the front, you're considered "barely visible". This means that in this situation, you can be easily spotted from a medium to short distance, especially if you're moving.

But wait - your invisibility device can detect when you close your eyes, so since you don't need to see, it can render you *completely* invisible! There's a special key that does exactly this, it fades the screen to black while you hold it, and then back to normal when you release it.

You can use it to cross a corridor full of guards, which would be impossible in any other way. The catch is that you can't see anything, so you have to do it sparingly and with a lot of planning! I think it would definitely create interesting gameplay and moments of tension during base infiltrations and in many combat situations.

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
One thing I'm not sure about is the wide-spread use of invisibility. If everyone has the ability to be invisible, wouldn't most battles go a bit like this:
- two opposing sides spot each other
- everyone turns on their invisibility
- everyone randomly walks about in order to try and find an enemy, or to escape
In gameplay terms, isn't this the same as if they were fighting in pitch black darkness?


It's not what I had in mind, but didn't this work for just fine for Doom 3? [grin]

You're right that two opposing sides would activate their invisibility on sight, but I think the difference would be made by inference and countermeasures. I see you trying to deploy defensive screens of nanofog ("popping smoke"), watching for the activation of doors, and using things like sonar or spread fire. IOW, you fighting becomes a little more tactical, like submarines duking it out.

Because the units are power hungry, balance wise I see two scenarios: One is defending against hit and run attackers. I think it would be like some of the missions in Half-Life or Return to Castle Wolfenstein, both of which having you battling fast moving ninja-like enemies (both females, oddly enough). As the slower player, you'd be forced to use traps, area of effect weapons and dispersal fire. (I found this to be really intense and really fun because I had to infer where the enemy was.)

OTOH, another scenario is the standard gunfight with lots of surprises. Units would tend to position themselves then turn off the unit (because their fire would give them away anyway). Giveaways would be things like blood trails or footfalls, but invisibility would only be a part of the opening phase of the game.

Quote:

I'm usually more interested in gameplay dynamics rather than the logical justifications for them here in the design forums, but how would dungeon parts or buildings stay stealthed using your electron shunt technology, if the shunts burn out? Wouldn't they be too difficult to replace?


I'd thought bases would cloak a deadfall or gun or whatever when they detected an intrusion. It would be expensive over time, but the concern for defense often outweighs price unless it's a constant, ongoing situation (like deploying troops in the field)

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