Hey everyone! Your friendly neighborhood AI designer here! During the next Lamannia update parts of upcoming stealth system changes will be visible. I’m still getting stealth ready for actual previewing at a later time. However, since parts of it will be showing up on Lamannia prematurely during the Enhancements second look, now is a great time to tell you more about what I’ve been working on. I guess the best place to start is the beginning…
This all started months ago when I started fixing AI bugs and AI-related "lag" (yes I am working on the "lag bug"1 and have been since November… lag of course has multiple sources and symptoms, but this was one possible source.) As I worked, I started implementing triggers for myself to understand what was going on behind the scenes, and eventually implemented my debug cues as player-facing icons we could share with y'all.
We took a good long look at stealth, invisibility, detection, blind attacks, noises, and the visual/audio cues you get from all of these systems. Major work was done to repair long-outstanding inconsistencies, correct bad monster behavior, and rework visual feedback that was misleading on when you were actually being “stealthy” or not.
We also looked into why the “eye level” vs lighting influences wasn’t always matching up with the actual lighting placement/visuals in quests. In the end, I revamped the system in order to achieve some significant performance gains as well as fix many of the (now visible with icon cues) bugs.
So what does that mean specifically? Here are some of our goals:
Most critically, we’ve made some performance improvements that should SIGNIFICANTLY reduce AI-related lag and framerate issues, especially in large group and raid situations.
So when the enhancement preview opens up, you’ll also see that these stealth features are being worked on – some of these are in later stages of development than others:
- We want to make red footsteps only appear when a monster actually hears you while you’re sneaking. If you see the red splash, your position has been given away! (It used to play any time you might be heard, but weren’t necessarily actually being heard.)
- We also want to make the footsteps show when more monsters hear you, such as by making it darker and redder!
- Invisible characters should also display red footsteps to indicate when a monster can hear them as well. This is only a visual change - monsters could always hear you when you were running around invisible... We're just extending the visual feedback to more situations!
- White footsteps still indicate that you are sneaking near a monster who might hear you if you get closer, and will still play only if sneaking. That's one of the benefits of trying to be sneaky : )
- Monsters should no longer slide around when they are searching for a hidden enemy. Instead, we’re going to be adding a visual cue that doesn’t look like an animation bug.
- We’re going to try giving them a “searching” icon to indicate that they haven’t found a target yet.
- Similarly, we want to give monsters a “red ear” icon whenever they hear a suspicious noise.
- We now have the ability to give your character the awareness to know when you have aggro from something. This will allow us to do things like putting you into combat stance rather than standing around idly until you’re getting punched in the head.
We’re also sending our monsters back to Dungeon Monster 101 class to learn to play by the rules better:
- We’ve been looking into the ways that monsters could “improperly” detect you. .. They currently cheat and get their target's location every 6 seconds or less even if the target is hidden or invisible, as well as essentially echo-locating players using the sounds of their own ranged attacks. This also has an unintended side effect of being a performance hog. Bad monsters! We want to replace these with fairer ways for the monsters to find players, as well as bring a big performance improvement.
- We’ve improved the search attack algorithms. They’ll expand their search radius when making blind attacks, hate the target less after a few whiffs, and eventually give up after a number of fruitless attacks where they’re unable to hit anything. If they manage to get a relevant clue on their enemy’s whereabouts, then they’ll resume their search.
- I’ve begun updating monsters to fire at your most recent known position when they can’t see you, where they used to cheat and fire directly to you when they aren’t supposed to know where you are.
- We’ve also improved how monsters handle being blind, bringing it more in line with how they handle invisibility.
- With the updated AI awareness, we’d like it to be possible for a sufficiently skilled player to use sneak to lose monsters after they spot you! This is something that was never possible in combat before because monsters had too many ways to “cheat” and see/hear you if you attempted it.
- Here are some other “monster vs stealth” behaviors we’re working on:
- We don’t want scorpions to burrow directly to you when they aren’t supposed to know where you are.
- We don’t want minotaurs to charge directly to you when they aren’t supposed to know where you are.
Generally speaking, these changes should have the effect of:
- Making casual use of sneak actually valid, especially combined with other upcoming changes to how sneak works.
- Trained use of sneak should be much more effective, and a valid build path/gameplay style that can be enjoyed by many more people.
Obviously people will have questions about how this brave new world of sneakiness will impact invisibility. One of our goals was to add more value to using stealth in combat even if you are running with a party that does not want to wait for you to sneak ahead. We'd like to support a stealth character as a more viable build path, which can do more stuff that any random character who can slurp an invis potion.
Stealth should have the following advantages over mere invisibility:
- With sufficiently high skill, monsters won’t hear you, allowing you to avoid detection completely as you sneak by (go go move silently!)
- Escaping combat using sneak - this largely hasn’t been possible before, but we’d like skilled players with appropriate skills to be able to escape completely by activating sneak and escaping the area where their opponents last saw them. When monsters search the area they lost you in making blind attacks, they should lose aggro over time and eventually give up if they receive no additional clues to your location. I’ve been spending a lot of time on this, as it was the most requested fix by stealth enthusiasts on the forums, and from my testing I think it'll be quite fun : )
- Assassinate! Still finalizing the application here but the goal is making sure our Assassins can … you know… assassinate things!
We’ll go into more detail about the way stealth will work, particularly for you aspiring Shadar-kai Assassins. For now just be aware that there is a LOT going on with the stealth system at the moment, and the version that first appears on Lamannia is not ready for the spotlight yet. Once we’re closer to a playable test of the new stealth features, we will let you know!