The One Purposely Broken Stealth Mechanic

ninjaOnce upon a time, at Update 20, a stealthy character could lure enemies hither and yon by cracking breakables close to them.

See exhibit #1: A video of Kiricletica using this mechanic in “The Kobold’s New Ringleader” with Update 20.

And the stealthy players and the devs saw that this was good.

Then, Update 22 made another change that took away the favorite tactic of ranged characters everywhere. The change, shall we say, had unfortunate implications:

  • Monsters will now aggro when players shoot their nearby friends at long range.
  • Monster AI has been adjusted to improve the ability of enemies to detect players, and to improve game performance (particularly in regard to aggro and when damaged.)

This meant that, if you shot an enemy’s buddy, he and his friends would notice and pursue you, no matter how far you were away when you shot them. This often caused a serious aggro problem because the enemies would often call for reinforcements though impossible sources, such as halfway across the a minotaur city, verging often into Dungeon Alert issues and the game performance issues that happen when dozens of enemies attack you at once.

And, lo, the players lamented and were filled with rage–especially Assassins.

It’s one thing to assassinate, but to broadcast it without the opportunity to escape detection of the fact, even with stealth and invisibility in effect, caused great anguish.

But something changed again by the time we reach Update 23. The Release Notes text that points to that something says thus:

Monster AI has been improved to make them more efficient at filtering out things that they are not interested in to improve performance in densely populated areas.

And again, the masses were pleased.

But it took me some time in gameplay, right into Update 24, to realize what the Developers did.

As you know, Update 19 provided a revamp of the stealth mechanics in the game. It was, in my opinion, quite beneficial. Among other player adjustments (being able to jump, clearer rules on what Hide, Move Silently and invisibility did) monsters were given consistent rules to find you, and you as the player had a generally consistent options of hiding as well as escaping from them–with some study.

No longer could monsters endlessly chase you. If you were able to break out of their line of sight and then go silent and out of view, the enemies would stop and search around the last spot they thought you were. After a time they may go back, or they might stick around to patrol your last revealed spot. No more “sliding” monsters.

In related benefits, the Ninja Spies got upgraded enhancements that also helped them effectively “smoke bomb” a group, blinding and dazing them for 6 seconds to allow a window of escape. Flash Bangs are awesome.

Either way, Update 19 made stealth operations, if not just the use of invisibility for some, far more consistent.

But Update 22 swung the pendulum too far, and the devs wanted to correct it with Update 23’s change in what monsters tended to notice.

The problem, as the Assassins and Rangers and many others learned, is that it was too easy–way too easy–for too many monsters to notice you and your party. As noted, sometimes the result was a Dungeon Alert as enemies began a cascading series of alerts to each other that activated much of the dungeonspace. Or, seriously weird reinforcements came out of nowhere. Some reported hellish behavior in “Frame Work,” where the chieftain’s call essentially aggroed the city, calling over every minotaur left into his tiny fortress against your much tinier party.

So Update 23 revved back that monster-sense mechanic way back, so way back that ranging characters could once again, plug an enemy in the back and only attract the ire of that enemy most of the time.

But in the course of that needed adjustment, the monsters became deaf. Not to players; you can still Sneak with a weak Hide or Move Silently and you’ll see enemy Spot check bonuses quickly escalate or the telltale red footfall blobs around your character that tell you that monsters can hear you coming.

Monsters now no longer react to the sound of any objects breaking. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Now, that same developer sorcery still allowed monsters to hear other items, such as Noisemaker traps and verbal spells being cast too closely to them. Monsters simply don’t hear vases, crates and barrels, even exploding ones, or other quest objects when they are destroyed. I’m not even sure if monsters react to the sound of broken doors now.

Am I grousing about Update 23? Heck, no. I know the developers have to adjust the game mechanics to compensate the most common (albeit stupid) tendency for some players to treat every quest as if they entered Hazadil’s Warehouse (“Time to start smashing”) and broke everything they say without regard to the notion that breaking things create sound in most universes.

So, without the adjustment to monsters overreacting to their allies, Assassins would continue to have a far harder time doing what they are designed to do.

I only lament the loss of a crucial piece of the environment that worked great for stealth tactics. I would have really enjoyed using breakables to move about the large mobs that tend to congregate in corners and corridors in the latest super-dungeon, “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I would likely get a Devious bonus out of a place where there are thousands of things to kill. I did manage a Discreet bonus.

But that’s just how I play. Stealth does not require (nor do quest objectives often allow you to express outright) pacifism.

I’m already making some updates in the stealth guide.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Saekee
    May 01, 2015 @ 16:34:35

    Broken is good! If stealth were easy, it wouldn’t require cunning and would not be fun. I remember Geoff Hanna criticizing stealth mechanics in the DDO cast with an example in ToEE in which groups of mobs prevented stealth movement from proceeding due to their blocking the passageway. Experienced stealth people know to use noisemakers, flaming spheres, invisiwalks etc. to move them out of the way (Chai was great in his comments there about this).

    No, it is precisely the challenge of navigating a game designed for bruntsmashing that makes stealthing it so fun (as you well know!). You subvert the intentions of the designers. Epics are also unique in that one does not need to run every quest designed by some twenty-something unimaginative programmer–you can pick and choose what is fun and challenging. Zergers do not repeat certain quests like the Xoriat ones whereas Temple of Vol or Devil’s Assault (which are all about zerging) appeal to them.

    • teachersyn
      May 01, 2015 @ 19:54:15

      Chai was a great guest. He often noted points I would know to say in a blog post but came up short in speaking. I write well, but I have slightly miswired voice centers. I ran into those blocking mobs often. One Abundant Step and/Jump and I was through often enough.

  2. DDOCentral
    May 02, 2015 @ 12:34:00

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  3. mernom
    May 09, 2015 @ 16:54:24

    Listening to A7x: nightmare while watching the vid about stealth: the ultimate SWAG!

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