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The incompetent thief

Posted on 4th Sep 2012 at 07:22 by David Hing with 26 comments

David Hing
When Adam Jensen's first act as a freshly augmented trans-human super-spy was to nonchalantly squat-walk into the storage area of a building site and knock over a pile of construction supplies, alerting the nearby patrolling guards to his location, I realised I'd been here before.

As he hopped around with one foot lodged in a bucket proclaiming "I never asked for this" at the bemused mercenary who had come to investigate, the pattern unravelled itself before my eyes. In every game that gives me the chance, I always end up playing the stealthy option. Badly.

It's not that I'm impatient, it's just that my patience gets exhausted really quickly. I can see how the game wants me to dart from one shadow to the next whilst avoiding detection, but if there's a more direct route, I will always try and take it, even if there is something vigilant, armoured and irritable in the way.

The incompetent thief
Oops.

As a result, my swordplay became exceptionally good in the Thief series, I have trailed guardsmen across Morrowind, Cyrrodil and Skyrim and I wouldn't be able to describe any of the levels in the original Deus Ex as I saw most of them fly past in a blur, constantly running away from and into heavily armoured platoons and robots with little more than an empty tranquilliser gun and a packet of crisps.

Even with the Assassin's Creed series where all you really need to do to recover from being spotted is jump into a convenient pile of hay or pull a couple of your posters off implausibly high walls, I frequently found myself leading an Italy/Middle East-wide marathon consisting of Ezio/Altair and the entirety of the Templar's payroll.

In a lot of cases you'd be surprised by how far you can get by just running as fast as you can until you trigger the next part of the level.

My theory is that my personality leads me to be drawn towards persisting at things that I'm intrinsically bad at. It's either delusion or stubbornness, but when it comes to games, I've realised I'm not the only one that this one-play-style-fits-all approach applies to.

Another game-playing colleague will always play their given character as a tank, regardless of game, genre or the particular avatar's capabilities. They have an innate ability to aggravate every single piece of AI on the level, including scripts that control doors and lifts, into attacking them. Their response to this is to wade in deeper and hope it sorts itself out.

I've seen them take the same approach in MMOs where the class they're playing really shouldn't be able to get away with it, I've seen them do it in Half-Life with an apparent medical aversion to anything that could remotely classify as 'cover', they have encouraged the police in Saints Row 2 to request backup from Liberty City's precincts in Grand Theft Auto IV and I've never seen so many goblins attack in Dwarf Fortress.

Another companion will always play the awkward class. They will always pick that fiddly character that requires a delicate and thoughtful skill selection, or artful and precise manoeuvres, and they will find a way to make everything they do more complicated than it has to be. Even if the particular title just doesn't allow for that sort of gameplay, they will find a way to make it so and manage to play the standard game in an awkward and fiddly manner.

They will make playing a bland cover-based-shooter look like an art form. They will make the knife in Counterstrike look overpowered. They will be able to murder you through a game of three dimensional air snooker that they play with items lobbed around by the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 Deathmatch. They will always, without fail, find ways to do things that you hadn't even thought about considering.

There will be something that you take with you from game to game and it will be more profound than "a competitive desire to be at the top of the leaderboard in everything I play online". It will be a quirk unique to you.

The way we are built as people drives us every day and we can't stop our personalities leaking out to taint everything we touch. I am doomed to play the incompetent thief forever, but the few times I've tried to break away from this, things just haven't felt right. Somehow, I can only feel satisfied with completing a game if there's a part of me that thinks I did it by accident.

26 Comments

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Fizzban 4th September 2012, 08:41 Quote
I have a tendency to rush headlong into the thick of it with little regard for the consequences. If I die, I adapt and approach it more carefully. If not I continue to wade in.

I have to curb this urge in mmo's when grouping. Though while I'm soloing I will tend to just get stuck in there with my squishy Mage, taking more abuse than my character should be able to survive. I only kite if I'm going to die, and sometimes not even then. Hold The Line!
Sarakon 4th September 2012, 09:08 Quote
I always end up building those awkward classes and am constantly changing them. Somehow I manage to make it work, but in those situations where you attract hordes of enemies it can get tricky. When first playing a game, for some reason, I just have to try out all the options, instead of sticking to one and then making a separate character.
Draksis 4th September 2012, 09:11 Quote
When I got my hands on Thief 2 ages ago, I also had the tendency to launch head long. However that game (more so than others) taught me to sit, wait and watch. Now I spend anywhere up to an hour and a half per level on Deus Ex.

I've gotten to the stage in Thief 3 now, that recently I played a full play through without knocking out any guards, and only using about 2 dozen water arrows for the whole game.

Why you ask? there is something about it that I find extremely relaxing (and I'm not just refering to the siting and waiting part). Like sittting in a park and watching everyone around you. It's a bit zen, I agree, but then again, thats me :)

I always have to play stealth character types. Even If I start a heavy armor, 2 handed battle axe type, I either start to develop my sneak skills, or I get unhappy with the character and scrap it.
Tris 4th September 2012, 09:38 Quote
Yeah, it's definitely true that certain play styles do carry across between games, often even in totally different game genres.
In any game with character customisation I always end up with a glass cannon. Highest damage I can possibly get and rely on movement/cover/reflexes instead of things like health/armour/defence.

The result is normally a character that can crush opponents skulls with a single blow, or wipe out legions in a fiery hellstorm. As an added bonus you are always on the verge of dying, which adds to the excitement. :)
Griffter 4th September 2012, 09:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hing
I am doomed to play the incompetent thief forever, but the few times I've tried to break away from this, things just haven't felt right. Somehow, I can only feel satisfied with completing a game if there's a part of me that thinks I did it by accident.

my god! why oh why do i play like this? at least now i have words to go with the feelings when i do play/complete a stage.
runadumb 4th September 2012, 09:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tris
Yeah, it's definitely true that certain play styles do carry across between games, often even in totally different game genres.
In any game with character customisation I always end up with a glass cannon. Highest damage I can possibly get and rely on movement/cover/reflexes instead of things like health/armour/defence.

The result is normally a character that can crush opponents skulls with a single blow, or wipe out legions in a fiery hellstorm. As an added bonus you are always on the verge of dying, which adds to the excitement. :)

Hahah I often do the same. Maximum damage, limited health. I only change it up if the game gets too hard.

My Alpha Protocol playthrough was stealth and maxed out hand to hand. One boss was almost impossible to beat but the game is general was easy as pie like that.
Shayper09 4th September 2012, 10:02 Quote
I usually try and finish any game that involves guns using only sniper rifles and hand guns, the former at any range that enemies are. I now have stupid reactions, and get called a hacker whenever I even think about opening MW2. I don't know why, but this skill won't transfer to any other FPs. I'm terrible at BF3.
MjFrosty 4th September 2012, 10:14 Quote
Quote:
It's not that I'm impatient, it's just that my patience gets exhausted really quickly.


lol! Man from my own heart.

Can totally relate, stealth is always the thinking mans choice, even if you're completely rubbish at it. I lost count the amount of times I used the quick load function on Human Revolution. Even if I did what had to be done, sometimes if it was even remotely sloppy I'd think to myself "That was sh*t. Let's go again."

Lame.

I do like to mix it up when it comes to class based MP though. Just because you're good as a light 'stealth' based class in one game, doesn't necessarily mean you'll be great in another. I played Spy constantly in TF2, yet in Tribes Ascend the Brute is my class of choice
Pliqu3011 4th September 2012, 10:32 Quote
I always want to play stealth in these kind of games, but after a few minutes it gets so nerve-wrecking for me that I end up to just killing everyone in the room (reasonably stealthily though) - abusing their limited AI capabilities ("two of my pals just died in this exact spot, but I'll stay here nonetheless" etc.) - and only then advance to the next area.
Griffter 4th September 2012, 10:51 Quote
im thinking if players who are like me do the stealth route and avoid everything, or try to. (crysis 1 or farcry, cant remember, i ran miles through the jungle to avoid the beach patrols in on area and it did not bother me as much)

that we all play more for the story and want to know the ending like me? or do we all have different views on play style link with story or gameplay?
Bauul 4th September 2012, 11:02 Quote
Nice blog! I totally agree.

I play every single game as if it's a mangament sim or tower defence game. I look for systems, a way to control the level as if I was some onimpotent dungeon keeper. I always try to avoid combat if I can - I'd much rather manipulate the level in such a way that the enemies are killed off indirectly without me having to lift a finger.

If there is AI to hack to my side, that's my first objective. If there are traps to set, I'll set them. If I can clear a level entirely, I will do, regardless of whether I need to. I want to own a level, be it's total and complete master.

In RPGs, I always end up playing a sneaky long-range type, with a side in summoning magical creatures to do the fighting for me. In TF2, I'm an engineer (naturally). In playing games like Bioshock, not a single turrent or droid died - every single one was hacked.

I'm guessing in Dishonored, I'll be the one player who attempts to complete the entire game using nothing but rats as an offensive weapon.
Bloody_Pete 4th September 2012, 11:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shayper09
I usually try and finish any game that involves guns using only sniper rifles and hand guns, the former at any range that enemies are. I now have stupid reactions, and get called a hacker whenever I even think about opening MW2. I don't know why, but this skill won't transfer to any other FPs. I'm terrible at BF3.

Laser bullets...
ashchap 4th September 2012, 14:01 Quote
I couldn't play the charge in/ sprint through a level style of play because I always have to explore every single room and open every single drawer in a level or I feel I might have missed something really important or interesting.

For some reason whenever I go into someone's appartment in Deus Ex I just can't resist picking up their fridge and throwing it out the front door - the concept always seems hillarious to me. Alternatively, swapping the fridge with another appartment is even better, although this takes quite a bit more effort!
abezors 4th September 2012, 14:55 Quote
Stealth all the way :) It is the thinking mans play-style as others have said. I don't sit and wait forever but I love the adrenaline build-up as you are waiting for the right second to move. Plus the feeling of stalking and slitting the throats of oblivious enemies is satisfying indeed (the stealthy dagger executions in Skyrim - mmmm).

Having said that, I spammed the Quick-save/load functions on Skyrim, Fallout and Deus Ex in order to get every section *just* perfectly right. If a planned shot went wide then its back to F9.

Though I went crazy-fast through MW3 since SP was so bad - I just wanted it to be over. No reloading either, just picking up guns every few seconds...
tad2008 4th September 2012, 16:03 Quote
I tend to try and explore as much of a game as possible on the first run through, see the sites and absorb the atmosphere. If it has any reply value then I will take what I have learned to get the character through as fast and efficiently as possible with maximum gain.
liratheal 4th September 2012, 16:08 Quote
As many guns as possible.

Fire enough and eventually you'll win, because everything that could oppose you, is riddled with bullets.
Eiffie 4th September 2012, 21:10 Quote
Does hording count as a play style? If so that's me, I play each game like I'm a merchant who got caught up in something too big for him and once I finish "the game" I wanna be able to sell every single bullet I didn't end up shooting or having a massive stockpile of ink ribbons, first-aid sprays and herbs by the end of of a resident evil game, free to do with as I please!
hughwi 4th September 2012, 21:31 Quote
I tend to have to explore every single room or area of a level as I grew up with games that didn't let you revisit areas once completed, and if you missed out on some goodies, so be it!

I tend not to have the patience for pure stealth, so tend to do long range.
Star*Dagger 4th September 2012, 23:43 Quote
Author, please stay in single player games.
Elton 6th September 2012, 03:49 Quote
I love doing both. Sometimes a stealthy approach is masterfully fun. (Not to mention incredibly effective). But there are times when I honestly think to myself: **** it and I just wade in the danger zone and carve a bloody path. I'll be honest though, it really depends on the game.

For example, Crysis and Resident Evil 4? Max difficulty. Stalker? Same. And I'll find a way to somehow survive the hellishness. (Mind you RE4 wasn't bad, I just had a bunch of revival items in the end because I had taken deliberate lengths to explore literally every corner).

Sometimes it's just massive amounts of fun to vary your playstyle. I can't say I'm massively patient though, but I will learn to be patient if I need to. So everyone, lesson here is. If you want a lesson in patience: play STALKER.
Sloth 6th September 2012, 21:22 Quote
After roughly 6 years of playing with the same group of about 5 others (with some coming and going depending on the "game of the month") we can typically pick out what each other will play with striking accuracy. For example, there was little question what each person was playing in Borderlands.

My gameplay strategy can be best described as "efficiency". This compares time, effort and resources to find the simplest option. This often ends up in a stealthy style simply because taking out enemies usually takes resources and alerting more enemies takes more resources and time. Of course, sometimes if you can take out that lone guard for good when no one's looking it'll save the time and effort of sneaking by. And sometimes you can trigger an event simply by reaching a certain location and running past the NPCs like an idiot is best.

This is typically all ruined in multiplayer by one of my typical gaming companions: the one who always plays the quirky odd-ball character and messes up everything while somehow managing to come out okay. Imagine BF3: I'll be carefully assaulting a control point, identifying enemies and planning how best to combat them in optimal conditions, then he comes falling out of the sky in an upside-down helicopter covered in C4 and kills everyone while somehow remaining alive.
Journeyer 7th September 2012, 08:42 Quote
I tend to mean well when playing stealth games; I tend to have a genuine desire to be that unstoppable shadow killer. I also tend to be able to make it work - until everything goes horribly wrong and I am forced to gun down everything that moves. As a result my experiences with stealth games usually ends up with me drenched in blood, standing in the center of a vast pile of corpses maimed to varying degrees.

Somehow it usually works out, and this is particularly true with the Hitman series. I will carefully read the mission briefings, study the maps to find all the weak points and to identify good points of entry. Then I will patiently walk around the level being as inconspicuous as possible when your character is a tall bald man in a suit with a bar code tattoed to his neck. Then I will make my entry, start taking out guards and scoping for the target. During this process I will inevitably screw up badly, and I am thus forced to shoot my way through everyone.
Elton 7th September 2012, 09:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Journeyer
I tend to mean well when playing stealth games; I tend to have a genuine desire to be that unstoppable shadow killer. I also tend to be able to make it work - until everything goes horribly wrong and I am forced to gun down everything that moves. As a result my experiences with stealth games usually ends up with me drenched in blood, standing in the center of a vast pile of corpses maimed to varying degrees.

Somehow it usually works out, and this is particularly true with the Hitman series. I will carefully read the mission briefings, study the maps to find all the weak points and to identify good points of entry. Then I will patiently walk around the level being as inconspicuous as possible when your character is a tall bald man in a suit with a bar code tattoed to his neck. Then I will make my entry, start taking out guards and scoping for the target. During this process I will inevitably screw up badly, and I am thus forced to shoot my way through everyone.

To sum it up. It's pretty much: "what have i done??!!" by the time you're done huh?
Kovoet 7th September 2012, 10:19 Quote
Spam reported
Journeyer 8th September 2012, 19:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elton
To sum it up. It's pretty much: "what have i done??!!" by the time you're done huh?

Ah yes, that certainly is a nice way of summarising it. Thanks. ;)

Commonly I am happy with the result ... happy with having completed the mission at least, but a part of me is always going; "The horror ... the horror!"
Jacob-86 19th September 2012, 21:41 Quote
I definitely prefer having all of the guns. Mass Effect, Diablo, Elder Scrolls, etc. I am always the warrior or the soldier. If it's a game with multiplayer or AI teammates then I will find someone who does the stealth/magic/range attacks while I take the brunt of the damage. I guess I prefer not to worry too much about the details in the games I play? It's funny I say that when I'm obsessive about exploring all of my surroundings and gathering as much inventory as possible.

Another thought, but I find it really neat when games that are traditionally considered hack n' slash (Call of Duty) will have random levels that require you to be stealthy. Sniper levels in COD games come to mind.
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