Sidescrolling Stealth Sim: Wildfire

I saw a couple of animated gifs from an early build of Wildfire a few weeks ago, and found them far more exciting than any big budget super-trailer. From the mind of Daniel Hindes, creator of the stealth game collective Sneaky Bastards, the game blends Far Cry 2’s fire propagation system, Thief’s approach to stealth and AI, and the philosophy of immersive sims. It’s a game about outwitting AI and manipulating the environment, mostly through the use of fire and water. Now on Kickstarter, aiming for A$10,000, Wildfire looks like everything I hoped it might be when I first saw those tiny gifs.

Wildfire is the Thief to Broforce’s Duke Nukem 3D.

I’ve been a fan of Sneaky Bastards since reading a series of articles on Thief II: The Metal Age (only four of a proposed fifteen have been published to date), and I’m pleased to see Hindes and chums moving into development and design. Wildfire, as should be expected given the influences, appears to be built around a group of dynamic systems that bleed into one another while responding to the player’s actions.

The key ingredients are fire and things that react to fire. The latter group includes terrain, objects, people and animals.

Flames in Wildfire will spread across the environment. Objects caught in the blaze will catch on fire, melt, or detonate, which can create opportunities for you to exploit. But you can also lose control of the situation, and have to improvise a new way forward. Though fire can frighten enemies, it can also burn away the grass you otherwise hide in, or reveal you with its glow in darker environments.

As fires rage, enemies might make use of the light, flushing you from the shadows. Or they may panic and flee.

Enemies in Wildfire aren’t throwaway obstacles; they will intelligently work together to hunt you down. Guards respond to sound disturbances by investigating areas and will talk to each other, calling nearby comrades to their aid if they catch sight of you. Though you may be outnumbered, you have superior information: you can see further than the guards, as well as how far every sound will travel, allowing you to plan ahead and play with intent. Along with your superior movement abilities, such as sliding and climbing, getting past guards requires smarts, not strength.

There’s a playable alpha build available right now, but future versions will only be available to $20+ tier backers.

If you fancy digging deeper into Hindes’ thoughts on stealth mechanics (and more), you might want to take a look at the 100 page Sneaky Bastards magazine devoted to Dishonored.

Now, go to the Greenlight page and look at all the lovely animated scenes.

12 Comments

  1. LTK says:

    Wow! This is just two elements away from being an Avatar game.

    • Justin Keverne says:

      The Last Airbender, and Korra were big influences on Dan’s work. Earth manipulation (bending) is one of the stretch goals.

  2. padger says:

    Gosh this looks great! And Hindes seems like a lovely fellow.

  3. Messofanego says:

    I have that magazine, it’s pretty great! Been a fan of Daniel Hindes ever since. His comparison video on Thief (2014) vs Dishonored is worth watching.

    Yay for more systems heavy stealth games.

    • zentropy says:

      Indeed! It’s pretty much the only physical magazine I keep around anymore.

  4. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I wonder if too many people are interested in the royalty-free assets that make up most of the higher tier rewards. The music may be the easiest to make use of, but the rest probably require people to do something with computer programming.

  5. Wowbagger says:

    Backed this mother straight away. The playable alpha is more than some games can manage.

  6. Shadowcat says:

    I’m pleased to see that “Wild Fir” is getting an update to EGA!

  7. Shadowcat says:

    I also momentarily understood that it was a game about outknitting AI, and I wondered what the user interface for that would be like.

  8. Jakkar says:

    Strangely uninteresting. Something empty about the art style and atmosphere their visualisations are conveying. Something very Amiga-Era about the jumping, sound effects and enemies.

    If they’d gone the way of Mark of the Ninja with it, with the manipulation of enemy fear being a more dynamic (Ghost Master-esque) nuanced process, using animation and behaviour to convey AI mood rather than just binary states and popup indicators. Or perhaps incorporated Thief’s ‘you can kill people if you must, but it’s a bad idea, and simply… lacks class’ ethos into the alpha, rather than this sense that you’re a whole other species than the guards. The one-hit kills and absence of multiple methods make this feel more like puzzle-Canabalt.

    I hope they can do more with it, but if this is how they’re choosing to say “Hello, world.”, I’m not encouraged to think they’re going to either take this in interesting new directions OR pay a decent homage to a classic.

    Fire is a complex, beautiful, chaotic thing. Watching grass-entities very slowly combust in a line conveys none of these things. Fear is a complex, (beautiful? possible for those of us who played multiplayer AVP2), chaotic thing. Enemy guards robotically running back and forth between two pieces of burning grass bears none of these characteristics.

    Fire propagation in a two dimensional platformer cannot be complicated or interesting unless it makes use of complex objects and physics in both the horizontal and vertical plane.

    How about a game about a stealthy archer using a variety of elemental arrows to make his way through a nation at war in a left-right platformer combining high speed ‘Dino-Run’-esque fight-flights through multi-tiered interactive battles, and slower, more complex infiltrations into complex buildings several screens in height, which can collapse under physics assault or slowly crumble as fire spreads through them?

    Throw in some Thief-like zombies, walking ignorantly forward as they burn, carrying undying flame from the charred woodlands as their bodyfat spits and bubbles, bringing inevitable death to the people of the plains-lands in this time of drought and plague.

  9. Premium User Badge

    DantronLesotho says:

    While that game does look like a lot of fun and looks very slick, imagine my surprise when I saw it because I’ve been working on a similar game for about a month now. I’m sure it’s a coincidence-of-influence and them’s the breaks and I’m still going to work on my game, but yeah. Gamedev. Lol. Here’s the post for proof: link to twitter.com

    Good luck with the Kickstarter! If it gets funded then at least I know there is a market for people that want to play these kinds of games :)

  10. zentropy says:

    Thanks for reporting on this! My jaw literally dropped after reading the opening paragraphs. This might actually take my highly guarded Kickstarter virginity.