What's the difference between 'fun' and 'boring' assassinations (or kills) in games?

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#1 Posted by LaunchCode (2 posts) -

Good morning, y'all. Me and a few people are making a game, and it focuses around our main character, Max, rolling around ad-hoc Hitman style. However, we're trying to tune out the gameplay, and it made us realize there's a lot of difference between a 'fun' assassination and a 'boring' one. And everyone seems to have a different opinion on what makes an assassination, or any kill, fun.

For me, it's both how punchy it feels, and the effort I put in. I feel like a lot of games hand you the kill on a silver platter, especially ones with scripted kills (looking at you, AC). I much prefer things like Hitman: Blood Money or way over-modded Fallout 4. Or even Rainbow 6 would be a good example. I feel like every kill matters because I worked for it. I had to throw that grenade, I had to send my companion to distract them so I could get a kill.

War Thunder is another good example. If I get a really good penetration, it's because, all on the fly, I estimated distance, angle, drop and penetration metrics, and for once, for once I got it right and it slammed through that T34.

So anyways, I'm here thinking to myself, what does everyone else think makes a 'kill' fun? And what makes one unfun? What examples of each do you have? Do any kills you've made in games really stick in your memory?

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#2 Posted by inevpatoria (7469 posts) -

Jeez, without context, this is a really morbid discussion. I'm probably getting put on some list for responding to it. But it's actually a good question, and I hope more people respond to help you gather some perspective on your game!

Without going into excruciating detail, I think my favorite assassinations in games nail the punch and sense of being "earned" that you mention, but also traffic in some element of irony or comedy. To put a fine point on it, Hitman is essentially the idealized version of this. When you follow threads the right way, there's almost a character arc that you're bringing to an end. A fitting conclusion. It's not just about disconnectedly sniping some target from city blocks away (though, you certainly can do this). Played perfectly, you're exploiting the target's character flaws and twisting them into the very weapon that ends the their life.

I also love the brush with blown cover. There's a line in Leon: The Professional that, to paraphrase, says the better the hitman is, the closer they get to the target before executing the contract. It's a really good feeling to know you're a wolf in sheep's clothing in a room full of sheep. It's a better feeling to make it out of that room with no one any the wiser. Whether your character is a master of disguise or simply a master of stealth, the feeling of "earning" a kill often results as a function of how much effort and forethought went into putting yourself in the right place to make a move.

Anyhow. Good luck with the game!

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#3 Posted by yourbrain (46 posts) -

There are lots of good types of kills/assassinations. Skill based/hard earned ones, over the top "cool guy" ones, stealth that leaves a pile of bodies with no one the wiser, etc. But I think the thing that they all have in common are they fit the style/tone of the game they are in.

Hitman has a ton of cool ones for a ton of people because however you interpret/play the game (serious, semi-serious, utterly goofy) there is a type of kill for you - sniper from afar, opportunist spy, maker of Rube Goldberg plans, etc. Dishonored had dirty, sneaky stealth kills (well, sometimes) befitting a disgraced and desperate man. MGS V's tactically planned and executed (well, sometimes) camp cleanouts by a military man. Etc. I enjoyed all of those, even when they didn't necessarily involve a ton of skill. And the "well, sometimes" failures made the successes even better, so that ties into your "worked for it" instinct.

It applies to fights and battles as well - I love, and find extremely satisfying, Yakuza's heat actions because they fit the over-the-top Yakuza action film vibe of the games. Oh, and making the target someone you really hate - that's bound to make the fight or assassination 10x more satisfying.

So I guess I'm suggesting to drill down on the design behind what makes the rest of your game fun, feel and style-wise, and apply the same principles to the feel/style/method of the kills. Whether it be danger, planning, skill, spectacle, etc.. :] That will hopefully make the players feel even more involved in the game and happier with both the assassinations and the game as a whole.

Unfun ones? When the skill necessary to do them suddenly escalates from previous gameplay and I'm stuck on something forever. Or overly repetitive ones (usually tied into bad level design). Anti-climactic ones where it took a ton of effort to get to that point and then, pop!, it was over.

Good luck!

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#4 Posted by cikame (2911 posts) -

For me the kill is almost the least important part, i'm partial to a simple silenced pistol across the room or a sniper rifle from afar, but the problem i have with every level in the new Hitman games is that the targets are always overly protected.
Maybe the missions require that the targets be killed when they're at their least vulnerable, but i spend most of my time in those games trying to do things i want to do and being denied, i think i shot one person with a sniper rifle in 71 hours of playtime, and didn't shoot a single person with a pistol (lock on soup cans/knives are more effective).
After replaying Hitman 2 and Contracts recently i remember what i love about those games, getting to the targets and killing them isn't really difficult, the levels aren't puzzle boxes and your options are actually fairly limited to 3 or 4 costume/path choices, instead the appeal to me is simply playing the part, finishing a level and seeing the next one. Hong Kong one moment, France the next, finding the unique moments designed for each level, making regular progress and witnessing a variety of content, killing people isn't hard in video games we do it all the time, but the new Hitman games go out of their way to make it the most difficult part of the game.
I get that they wanted to sandbox it up more than ever and increase replayability, but if i'm stuck in a level for hours making minimal progress i get bored, the spies and assassins in movies infiltrate like nobodies business, Agent 47 is a turtle by comparison.
In that respect i prefer the old Assassin's Creed approach, traversing the level is fun and the kill is pretty simple, i'm currently replaying Deus Ex: Human Revolution which is similar, i'm 100% stealth with minimal kills, traversing the level, hacking, having conversations is the fun part, with short thrilling moments of knocking people out.

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If a target needs to die i have a silenced pistol, if there's a way to do it long range i left a sniper rifle at the apartment.

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#5 Posted by nutter (2292 posts) -

I find stealth gameplay less satisfying when I don’t have to hide bodies. Granted, that’s a bad mechanic for a stealth kill in Halo, but for a stealth-ass stealth game, it should be as much about planning, isolating, and hiding evidence as it is killing.

Quiet and loud variants (or alternately non-kill and deadly), that reward you for the quiet/non-lethal path are good too.

Creativity is cool too. Whether it’s the context in which you can score a stealth kill or the animations themselves. Splinter Cell had some great hanging and wall-split options. Meanwhile, a game with a simple “press A” mechanic can make-up for simple execution with a cool and unique animation.