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Antonio Freyre on the art of stealth game design

Antonio Freyre on the art of stealth game design

This article is part of INTERLINKED, a series where we speak with industry experts who influence the making of games like our sci-fi RTS CHAOTIC ERA.

The stealth genre is one of the toughest to get right in game development, requiring countless factors acting in perfect balance to create the ideal experience of creeping through an enemy camp undetected.

Enemies need to act rationally; the pace has to be slow and purposeful, but not banal. Since the watershed release of Metal Gear Solid, the genre has also been one that revels in atmosphere. Whether the moodiness of Metal Gear or the dark interplay of shadow and light in titles like Syphon Filter.

Antonio Freyre, founder of Merlino Games, has more than a little experience crafting games in the stealth genre. Based out of Mexico, Antonio has released several stealth games, including the recent launched Under A Star Long Cold (available on Steam here): a beautiful love letter to retro games with a brooding atmosphere reminiscent of classic sci-fi like Alien (1979).

We sat down with Antonio to talk about his work and how he thinks about stealth in gamedev. 

1. Antonio, your games tend to have this great PS2-era ethereal quality to them; almost like demos off an unreleased early 00s PlayStation Magazine demo disc. How would you describe your style?

Depending on the game, I call it either PS1+ or N64+. The games are not accurate to the limitations of the time and they use modern features (hence the "+"). I am not trying to replicate any specific style but more to transmit a feeling of familiarity. Like you said, that feeling of an unreleased demo or a game you vaguely remember playing at your friend's house.

2. What would you say were the most influential or impactful games on you growing up?

Shadows of the Empire and Ocarina of Time on the N64, then the Metal Gear Solid games (1,2,3). I also played a crazy amount of Starcraft/Brood War and Half Life 1.

3. One of your most recent games No Sun to Worship is an incredible homage to early 3D stealth-action titles, evoking games like Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter. What were some of the biggest challenges of working in the stealth genre?

I've made a couple of stealth games before No Sun, so I had some experience already. Still, it is always a challenge to balance the game to make sure it's challenging but not frustrating, fun but not too easy.

This partly depends on the AI and partly on the level design. The enemies have to appear smart but actually have to be kind of dumb. It just has to be the appearance of intelligence. The levels have to give you just the right amount of information to plan your route, but not hold your hand. It's very tricky.

4. Is there a game genre you haven't yet explored that you would like to?

Many! I also have a few ideas of things that wouldn't fit a specific genre. I would like to get more adventurous now that I have more experience.

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  2. Buy Under A Star Long Cold by Merlino Games.
  3. Wishlist Chaotic Era on Steam.
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