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The goal to move and perform actions while remaining undetected.

Sometimes favorable conditions in a game can be achieved by not having one's actions noticed by other players. When this is the case, players have Stealth goals that make them to plan actions that minimize the risks of being noticed while still completing the required actions. Naturally, this can also be made into explicit design goals so that games are lost or penalties received for failing to be stealthy.


Some Childrens' Games, e.g. Burken, are based on one person trying to find the other players while at the same time trying to guard an area that is a safe zone for the other players. If the other players, by a combination of Stealth and running, make it to the safe zone they are home free and do not have to be the player guarding the safe zone in the next game.

Many First-Person Shooters or third-person action games replace combat challenges with Stealth challenges, or let players choose which way to play. The Assassin's Creed, Metal Gear Solid, and Thief series are examples of games which emphasis Stealth gameplay while the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series have them as options for players.

Using the pattern

Stealth is a compound goal pattern most often based on combining Conceal goals and Traverse. While these two patterns are necessary for Stealth to appear, other patterns often provide the motivation for the traversal. Making a Delivery or Surprise Attack, Rescue somebody that others are Guarding, achieving Area Control, covertly gaining knowledge from others' Information Passing, or avoiding or hiding in Sniper Locations and Strongholds are all examples of such motivations. Other patterns can create Stealth by encouraging the combination of Conceal and Traverse goals. Flanking Routes explicitly provide ways Stealth can be achieved and thereby motivate the goal to be adopted. Using Line of Sight for motion detectors or other sensors can give players concrete gameplay areas to avoid (especially if these are visualized, e.g. as laser beams). Enemies can indirectly create Stealth goals since they can give players Conceal goals to players already having Traverse goals. Combining Stealth and Reconnaissance goals make players engage in Scouting. Designing Stealth goal consist not only of choosing between the different design options of these patterns, but also determining what player actions can reveal the players and what the Trade-Offs are between the various Risk/Reward relations for each action in a given context.

While Stealth is typically assumed to be related to keeping Avatars, Units, or Tokens undetected, games which use Physical Navigation can instead make the Stealth relate to the players themselves. Games which want to differentiate between parts where Stealth is focused upon and other parts can do this through having other Agents (potentially with Guard goals) have Context Dependent Reactions related to this.

The difficulty of Stealth goals can be modulated by many different types of patterns. Hiding Places, which is a necessity for Stealth due to enabling Conceal goals, can also modify the difficulty of Stealth goals by how common and how good the Hiding Places are. No-Ops are in many cases taken for granted as possible actions for Stealth goals, so removing these can make them significantly more difficult. Similarly, succeeding with Stealth often requires Camping activities but these are not always intentionally supported; doing so can make Stealth goals easier to achieve. Stealth goals do actually not need Enemies, but providing such with Guard or Reconnaissance goals making the Stealth goals more difficult. Alarms and Choke Points can make them more difficult since players may more easily be discovered while Flanking Routes can make them easier by providing options (besides making them possible to begin with). Strategic Knowledge about the gameplay area to be traversed is nearly always beneficial for Stealth goals, so letting players have this or have the possibility to have this can also ease the challenge. Giving players Stealth goals combined with Herd goals increases the chances of failure and thereby provide more Challenging Gameplay.

In games which uses technologies to achieve Player-Location or Player-Player Proximity, Seamful Gameplay can allow players to use Stealth by moving out of the coverage areas of those technologies.

Sanctioned Cheating provides a different type of Stealth goals to players in Multiplayer Games: they can try to perform various Extra-Game Actions without other players noticing these.

Interface Aspects

Stealth goals can sometimes be difficult to succeed because it can be difficult to judge how noticeable one's Focus Loci is. Game State Indicators, e.g. the "visibility" gem in the Thief series, can be added to a game to provide this information to players to increase their situational awareness. Games in which players need to themselves be stealthy, i.e. through the use of Physical Navigation or at least physical Movement, avoids this.


Stealth is the Continuous Goal of trying to Conceal one's location while having to do some Movement. This typically creates Tension since being discovered bring clear Penalties. These types of goals may require players to pace themselves as quick or effective Movement may have too high risks, and sometimes any action or Movement may cause the goal to fail. Stealth can thus create Risk/Reward situations and sometimes require players to perform No-Op actions if these are at all possible. For Real-Time Games, performing the actions required to complete Stealth goals are likely to be Dexterity-Based Actions.

Many cases of Stealth rely on opponents having Guard or Reconnaissance as Preventing Goals, making Stealth and these goals Excluding Goals. Other cases rely on players wanting to engage in Stealth to commit Surprise Attacks. Both types of cases can be used as the basis for Quests but also for creating Loyalty goals if players need to perform actions that would break their - possibly only perceived - Loyalty if they were observed. If these Stealth goals are Optional Goals, e.g. Stealing game items only for monetary gains while wanting to appear an honest citizen, this is an example of a Risk/Reward possibility.

The slow tempo and possible pauses in completing Stealth goals give players a chance to make use of Strategic Knowledge, e.g. the locations of Alarms, to do Strategic Planning although this often needs to be modified by Tactical Planning due to unplanned situation, e.g. noticing Enemies with Guard or Reconnaissance goals. Both these aspects of planning make Stealth provide Stimulated Planning, and in many cases these depend on how perception works in the games which often makes Line of Sight important.


Can Instantiate

Continuous Goals, Loyalty, No-Op, Quests, Risk/Reward, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Planning, Surprise Attacks, Tactical Planning, Tension

with Reconnaissance

Excluding Goals, Scouting

with Guard

Excluding Goals, Rescue

with Herd

Challenging Gameplay

with Line of Sight

Stimulated Planning

with Loyalty


with Real-Time Games

Dexterity-Based Actions

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Area Control, Delivery, Flanking Routes, Hiding Places, Information Passing, Sniper Locations, Strongholds

Conceal together with Traverse

Multiplayer Games with Sanctioned Cheating

Seamful Gameplay in games with Player-Location Proximity or Player-Player Proximity

Can Be Modulated By

Alarms, Camping, Choke Points, Context Dependent Reactions, Flanking Routes, Game State Indicators, Guard, Hiding Places, Line of Sight, No-Ops, Physical Navigation, Reconnaissance, Risk/Reward, Strategic Knowledge, Trade-Offs

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Stealth that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.