I See You: Returning To The Hidden

By Craig Pearson on May 15th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

At this point, I'd be glad to be dead.
Somewhere in a warehouse there’s a monster. It is being hunted by men with laser-sighted shotguns and pistols. They have movement sensors and flashlights, and the monster is doing all it can to keep away from them. Plot twist: It’s me! I have a knife and some bombs. I can see through the boxes, I can cling to walls and ceilings, and I’m invisible. In fact, it’s the team below me that are terrified. They’re shooting at things that aren’t there, pumping rounds into shadows, and one of them just died from friendly fire. At this rate, I could wait out the panic and let them kill off one other.

The Hidden is an old Source engine multiplayer mod. At least once a year I remember it exists and get utterly hooked. It’s a violent game of hide and seek, with one player vs an entire team. Depending on the players, that could be a monster vs its prey, or one team systematically hunting down a panicked, skittery, overwhelmed animal. I’ve been playing after accidentally reminding myself about it last week.

I can sympathise with the players who end up firing at nothing. If there’s a game that drives the players paranoid, it’s The Hidden. It’s taken its inspiration from Predator and not Aliens. You’ll spend most of your time as a member of team IRIS knowing that you can barely see what you’re hunting, and that it can come at you from any angle. A monster that finds strength in its isolation, that’s at most an indistinct movement of the air. Hunting something that might be watching your every movement fosters a different mindset from being the target of a horde of usual game villains. You have to train yourself to take in your surroundings, to move while you keep your eyes slightly unfocused, so any peripheral movement is absorbed. Levels are cunningly decorated to make you think innocent items could be coming RIGHT FOR YOU!

Things that look like the monster:

Laser dots
Debris.
Gas vents.
Plants.
Vertical tearing.
A smear stuff on your monitor.
A crack on some glass.
Other players.

Holy crap, I screenshotted The Hidden!

I’ve shot at all those in a blind panic. But those are only fleeting allusions, your brain and the game trolling you (and let me tell you, on the game’s part it is utterly deliberate). It’s worse when The Hidden makes its presence felt. You only ever see the result of its action, never the monster itself. I was with another player, we’d stuck around and decided to tour the Highrise level together, looping around in the corridors beneath the map. They’re actually easier places to control: well lit, and the enclosed space reduces the monster’s movement range. My partner was a player that understood the necessity of that, and we formed a tight unit. He stopped and turned to me, his character frozen on screen as he was typing something. I hope it wasn’t anything important, because he never finished: he exploded, showering me in bits and revealing a shimmer of air. There’s something odd about shooting at something you can barely see: your brain is always a few microseconds behind it needs to be, paralysed by it’s attempt to focus. The Hidden was in a corridor in front of me, and he managed to escape.

While that was a pathetic show on my part, but it turned out he was quite a good Hidden. I have a few metrics: if you can single-out players, if you can escape a group alive, and if you can cause mass panic without doing anything, then you’re a good Hidden.

Also, if you can do this.

This is so so wrong.

That takes determination to the cause. You’re giving up your main advantage of being unseen to shit up the other team. I’ve been caught more than once while pinning a body to the wall, but then I am a show-off.

It’s a completely different mindset playing as the monster (and I do play as a monster, as you’ll see): he’s faster, stronger, and more maneuverable, but mostly it’s because you’re being hunted. It’s unfair, and it brings out something a little bit dark in your soul. A lot of it’s internalised: I turn into a stalker, reveling in secret little games that I play with those that can’t see me. Because I can see through walls and leap, my favourite thing is to wait at the opening to a corridor and leap across it as someone’s approaching. There’s no finer noise than the shotgun blast that follows.

The Stalkyard map has a hero closet. It’s where the Hidden spawns, and it has a door, a vent, and a floor covering that can be smashed, which opens up hole to a corridor beneath. As a matter of course I break that last covering before leaving the room. Boring players will hole up in the vent, which can be defended easily as an IRIS solider, but others can use the room’s one doorway to try and funnel you into fire.

They’ll often forget about the floor covering.

I had pushed two players into that room. They kept taunting me, and in turn I’d dash in front of the doorway to remind them I knew where they were. They were so intent on killing me as I passed the doorway, they missed me leaping into the room from beneath. I clung to the roof for a short while, watching as they dashed around the doorway. Then I dialed up a demonic laugh in The Hidden’s chat options and watched them panic. A terrorising tee-hee.

Of course, there are times when it just doesn’t work. The Hidden has a knife, and if the server’s umodded he has a main slash and a timed stab (modder servers turn the stab into a push: ugh!). The timed stab will instakill if it makes contact, but if you miss you’re left up close to a player while your most powerful move recharges. It’s not a good place to be. But that’s a penalty that’s worth the risk. The mess it makes when it connects is explosive. A dead body is a dead body, but a pile of parts is unsettling for other players to come across, and as I mentioned before, seeing another player come apart can be enough to turn a calm, collected soldier into a panicky, paranoid wreck.

You can even mess them up subtly: stand behind a pane of cracked glass, stand still in a clump of plants or over a gas vent so smart player will dismiss it as a trick of the light. It’s tough, and you’ll die a lot to people who’re rightly paranoid, but it’s worth twenty deaths for the one time it all comes together.

There’s still a community of players that keep the servers busy, and it’s not a game that needs dedication or a clan to enjoy. Do yourself a favour: set your Google calendar to remind you once a year that The Hidden is out there.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

38 Comments »

  1. Cerzi says:

    Probably my most played HL2 mod alongside Dystopia. Mastering it was pretty glorious, taking out rooms full of IRIS in a matter of seconds. But always leaving one, just to play with…

    • mr.ioes says:

      Wow. I’m totally with you there. Dystopia and Hidden:Source where my go-to mods of the past. IIRC Dystopia has no active playerbase anymore though, and coding has stopped for both mods.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        1.4 is actually coming out for Dys, eventually. You’d have to ask twincannon when, though- it’s been in the works for quite a while. And yeah, I miss Dys. There are still pickup games that happen, but it’s just not the same as it used to be.

    • KindredPhantom says:

      Much love to you three for mentioning and remembering Dystopia! Twincannon is doing a great job on 1.4, it will be well worth the wait!

  2. President Weasel says:

    I know it’s not important to you one way or the other, Craig Pearson, but I rather approve of you. Good article.

  3. GallonOfAlan says:

    This sounds like being the Alien in the original AVP game.

  4. MrLebanon says:

    need to give this a try again, haven’t played in a year or two

  5. Anthile says:

    I imagine all these poor men comically slipped on banana peels.

  6. Wauffles says:

    Oh man, this game.

    I remember playing it back in, 2005 maybe? The community was pretty small even then, but this has inspired me to see if anyone’s still playing it and maybe give it a blast tonight if so. One of the most unique, interesting and tense multiplayer games I’ve ever played.

  7. Ging says:

    It’s things like this that make me want to crack on and do some more work on the Hidden, though there’s always the fear we’ll break things horribly.

    I have to say though that those server modders who have disabled the pigstick are merely following our grand plan, future releases will not include the pigstick by default (at least, not unless 617 is at less than 20 health).

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      Be a hero, continue development & I’ll finally finish the couple of maps I’ve been working on for years :D

      Btw If you do continue working PLEASE don’t remove bunny-hopping. It’s one of the reasons I still play your damn mod.

  8. SelfEsteemFund says:

    The ‘timed stab’ as you call it (aka pig-sticking) is disabled on a lot of servers because it makes playing the hidden ridiculously easy, while if pig-sticking is disabled you have to be a little more tactical about your actions and point of attack.

    Don’t go in expecting amazing gunplay, it’s really not at all special. You play because you want to scare the shit out of people or be constantly shitting yourself.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      I understand the reason for it (though disagree), I just don’t think the multiple slashes slash attack particularly tactical.

      • Zanpa says:

        The problem is that playing against any decent Hidden when the pigstick is active is a lost cause. Even if you’re a veteran player, you can’t do anything to stop it. It brings frustration and not much else.
        Most servers are configured to allow it when the hidden is nearly dead (<20 health), which is fair-ish, since he would die in one bullet.
        Oh, and people very often panic when slashed, which can end up in friendly fire. Much more fun than exploding a guy to bits!

        Killing people by throwing objects at them remains possible on every server, and it is quite possibly the best part of it all. You omitted this in your article, but throwing random objects in a crowd of players and watching them fire wildly at everything but you is one of the most fun things you can do as 617.

        Edit: loved this article by the way.

        • Craig Pearson says:

          Indeed, though a well-placed shotgun blast solves a fair few problems. The weakened Hidden/auto-pigstick is an interesting concession, but I think it’s too reductive.

          I’d rather Iris had a hard-counter, or maybe performing the move was more complicated.

          • Mr. Bottomhat says:

            I was an incredibly avid Hidden player back in 2006 and that screenshot almost put a tear in my eye. I used to play so much I’d see the blur approach me in school.

            The pigstick is ridiculous. In the hands of a skilled player who knows how to leap well and time his stab it’s like a silent AWP fired by an invisible sniper.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            My attempt to like The Hidden was basically ended by one guy who knew how to time the pig-stick. And since he was stupidly good at the soldiers too (at one point he spotted me standing stationary on the outer wall of the map) he was always the hidden. He emptied out every server he joined and moved on to another, so he kept showing up where I was playing. After a while of this I just gave up and uninstalled it.

            Never could see the damn thing, even in the tutorial level.

  9. Duke of Chutney says:

    i used to play this a lot about 5 years ago.

    I always much prefered being a soldier to the hidden, especially when the hidden player was really good. This game does being hunted better than any official predator game ever has. It requires a lot of getting inside the mind of your opponent to get good at it, which for me is one of the more fun parts of FPS games.

    good article

  10. sinister agent says:

    How have I never heard of this? Reading about it reminds me of that mission in Arma 2 (multi only, obv) where one team of four with night vision and silencers parachute in and try to blow up parked helicopters at night, which are being guarded by the other team, who outnumber them by three to one, but who have no night vision or silencers, and only common assault rifles with torches.

    Sitting around waiting for them is terrifying, as you don’t know when they’ll come, where from, how many, which chopper they’ll start with, nor even if they’re watching you right now.

    First time I played it, I saw one of them creeping around near where I was hiding, took careful aim, and fired, for I think the first time, a perfect first time headshot.

    Obviously, it wasn’t one of them. And then of course, when you do see one of them, you hesitate. Bastard mission. I love it.

  11. JFS says:

    Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but I believe I remember reading about a very similar game just a few days ago, though I don’t know where exactly. Is it possible that there’s other games like this, where one player is the “monster” and the rest is a sort-of-SWAT team trying to take him/her out?

  12. ShowMeTheMonkey says:

    Just to say that a few of us ARPS guys played this a lot last year and had a blast.
    Here is the DW Lets Play of us:

  13. Flammablezeus says:

    Damn it RPS, today you had enough interesting articles for me to finally become actively frustrated at there being too many good games in this day and age.

  14. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    There’s a really nice video by EvilDaedalus of some skilful Hidden play.

  15. Johnny Law says:

    I’ve played this a few times with my LAN group. It looked really promising, but our gameplay converged pretty quickly to the soldiers always setting up a stationary defense in some spot — not crowded too tightly because of grenades, but still just set up in one position guarding outward. This wasn’t a super fun way for the game to go, but it’s hard to require the soldiers to play suboptimally to “fun things up”.

    I wouldn’t be surprised though if we’re just missing something in our groupthink.

    • Ging says:

      If they’re spaced out, they should be relatively easy pickings for a hit and run attack or two. Just pounce through and slash as you go. Or pick up a couple of barrels and lob them at those folk stood still for too long.

  16. ColdAsIce says:

    No idea how I missed this mod on release but thanks to your article I am hoping to play this at the weekend. I help admin/run a small gaming community that play Wasteland for Arma 2 and some RO2.

    A bunch of us regulars will hopefully be playing this mod on friday at 7:30pm UK time. Going to get the server files put onto our dedicated box.

    Would be cool to see some new faces, our Team Speak 3 IP is: 94.76.250.72 (no port)

  17. Sc0r says:

    Was madly in love with the gmod version “stalker”.
    Basically the same, but the hidden was some sort of mutant with no weapons, all it had was claws and 4 psychic abilities.

  18. LuNatic says:

    Hidden: Source is brilliant fun. The best way to cause havoc is to drop into the middle of several guys, slash one and leap back out again. Laughing yourself silly as they proceed to TK each other in wild panic is optional.

    Unfortunately, it is broke on my computer – it ran fine the first 4-5 times after I installed it, but now it quits as soon as it launches, and reinstalling it hasn’t fixed the issue. Definitely needs more updates.

  19. Wombats says:

    Try right clicking on Steam Library, go to Tools, install Source SKD 2006. Worked for me.

  20. Soldancer says:

    I’m really happy to read this article as I was intrigued by the premise of Damned. I love asymmetrical gameplay in tabletop (i.e. every RPG ever, Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Netrunner) and having more games that bring this to PC seems like a good time. I’m also still waiting for the WiiU to deliver something compelling on these lines.

  21. Rakysh says:

    Ha! That’s me having a breakdown in the video. Still one of my most vivid gaming memories, walking around with DW as Monkey fucked with us. Marvelous.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>