GDC 2013: Why Mark of the Ninja Wasn't Always a Stealth Game
Written Monday, March 25, 2013 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
It's hard to imagine now, but during one spell in Mark of the Ninja's creation, it wasn't a stealth title.
Speaking at the Game Developers Conference in a session called 'How We Created Mark of the Ninja Without (Totally) Losing Our Minds', founder Jamie Cheng outlined Klei Entertainment's struggles while developing the hit XBLA title.
Apparently, finding a balance for Mark of the Ninja's mechanics was so difficult that the game's stealth focus was temporarily abandoned.
“Even when we started the game, we had a clear vision,” said Cheng. “We knew that it would be stealth game, we knew that you would stick to the shadows, we already had that written down.
“But the problem was we had no idea how to actually get there. And so we had all these assumptions that we were building on that we thought would work, but none of them were working.
“We actually had all the elements, like stealth kills and shurikens, but it felt all mushy and kinda sucked. In fact it was so bad, that at one point we actually thought this isn't going to work at all, we can't build a stealth game.
“So at one stage, for a couple of months, we decided that Mark of the Ninja wasn't going to be a stealth game any more and that it was going to be an action game with stealth elements. And of course that made the game even worse.”
According to Cheng, the key to getting back on track was stripping back, refining and in some cases abandoning many of the game's mechanics.
One example given was a counter-attack system that originally appeared in the game, similar to that of the Assassin's Creed series. “It was cool,” said Cheng, but it just made players want to engage in open combat more often, which detracted from the focus of the game.
Only after ripping out or simplifying many systems like this could Klei make Mark of the Ninja work as a stealth tile. Cheng described the finished product as a “finely sharpened blade.”