Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP4: Shh! I’m an Assassin.

By Shamus
on Mar 8, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

How many games use “Detective Vision” these days? The Arkham series is the first usage I know of, but now we also have Witcher, Tomb Raider, and Dishonored. It’s been years since I played Assassins Creed, but I seem to remember some sort of alternate vision in that game. I think one of the Far Cry games used it?

So then the developer comes to the problem: We want the player to be able to use “detective mode” (or whatever it’s called in this game) but we don’t want them to leave it on all the time.

I like the Tomb Raider solution best: It takes a second for the vision to fade in, and it gets canceled when you move. This makes it something you do to survey the space before you act, not something you toggle at will.

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  1. el_b says:

    splinter cell chaos theory had 3 different alternate vision modes, does that count as detective vision? you could see enemies through doors and hidden bugs in walls. thats the earliest game i can think of with any other vision modes outside of the avp games from the jaguar on.

    • Ander says:

      SC games were good for this because they game you reasons to switch around; you could see different things on different modes. With, say, Detective Vision, there’s no reason game-wise to change

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Dont know jaguar,but avp games for pc did it great.First,it fit the theme,because its only the two extra terrestrials that got to use it.But more importantly,it was very limited.For example,the thermal vision of the predator highlighted humans,but it made xenomorphs practically invisible.Same for his other two modes.And the aliens night vision was really crappy in brightly lit rooms.

  2. wswordsmen says:

    Unless it was Far Cry 1, it is almost certainly AC1’s eagle vision. It came out in 2007. Wikipedia doesn’t mention anything like that in FC1’s article which makes me lean towards it is AC.

    AC’s way to stop people from playing with it all the time was making the game look really bad with it on and having all the things it showed you look visually distinct enough that you could know everything it showed you without having it on.

    Of course Batman was the first game to do it “well enough” for others to bother copying it.

    • Mousazz says:

      From what I recall, AC1’s Eagle vision only worked when Altaïr used the head button at full synchronization (self-recharging health). Normally, the head button turned on a first-person look-around view, which made Altaïr immobile. Eagle vision also turned the skybox black, made each building grey and made different characters glow in different colors. The glow would stay for a while after the first-person view was turned off. This inconvenience would then be just as Shamus described Tomb Raider’s detective vision (weirdly enough, I don’t remember that thing at all). This inconvenience would also prevent many players from intuiting to use Eagle vision during the last boss fight in the game against Al-Mualim, who creates many clones of himself at one point (which are all marked with a red glow for a standard mook, while the original, the one whose “killing” ends that part of the battle, glows yellow like every other assassination target).

      It wasn’t until Assassin’s Creed 2 that walking around with Eagle Vision became possible. Not coincidentally, I disliked the change, as it cheapened the “secret alien Assassin superpower” somewhat.

  3. gunther says:

    From trailers, it looks like Mass Effect Andromeda is going to have it.

    Gotta say, not a fan unless it’s used for stealth. Otherwise it doesn’t ever seem to have any purpose other than breaking up combat by making you look at stuff with an instagram filter on your camera for a couple minutes. It’s like they knew they needed a puzzle for the game’s pacing but didn’t want to have to go to the effort of making one.

    • el_b says:

      now im imagining batmans vision giving all the enemies cartoon dog faces lol

    • Christopher says:

      The X-Men Origins Wolverine game had it, which is bizarre. That game’s a completely linear beat ’em up, and I remember only using it to highlight ledges to climb. I believe they called it “instinct” or something.

      The actual first Detective Vision is probably something like the Night Vision Goggles/Infrared Goggles/Solid Eye in the Metal Gears?

      • Abnaxis says:

        If we’re just counting vision abilities that highlight stuff there are a ton of games that had that. From my memory, the Legacy of Kain games had it (at least Soul Reaver, didn’t play Blood Omen), pretty sure Deus Ex had it. Did System Shock have anything like it? I never played any of the SS’s, but the cyber-punk-hackeriness of the series makes me bet it did.

        My assumption here was that “detective vision” was meant for “vision that you use to scan stuff and find information on objectives,” instead of just x-ray vision, though in retrospect I guess that Assassin’s Creed wouldn’t really count then…

        • Christopher says:

          Yeah, if it has to be scanning, I can think of rather few other games. I think of detective vision as either highlighting objects/characters or revealing stuff like footprints, which is what made my thoughts drift to MGS. Even in MGS1 you could use them to see lasers, though I don’t remember if they showed you footprints or the dudes wearing stealth camo.

          • Abnaxis says:

            It’s weird, my first thought on that is “I’ve totally seen that all over the place,” for the scanning vision, but as soon as I try to think of specific games I blank out. Like, I swear there are a bunch of games out there with a “scan the enemies to find its weakness” mechanic, tucked away in the edges of my brain somewhere…

      • Spirit Bear says:

        In their defense it is one of Wolverine’s actual comic mutant powers that the movies never use outside of Mystique.

    • Thomas says:

      In 90% of games its used in, its when there a lootable and interactable objects in the environment. Our eyes aren’t very good at picking out objects on screens in cluttered realistic HD environments.

      I wonder if you don’t need it in VR?

  4. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Would the Listening mode in The Last of Us count in this trope? It’s pretty similar, and like Tomb Raider only works while staying still.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Listening mode probably counts, but it’s more downplayed than some other examples, since it only highlighted enemies and had a limited range.

    • Felblood says:

      Call it one of the better examples.

      • Felblood says:

        Another example I found really impressive was… Yandere Simulator, of all things.

        There’s a collection minigame tied to sending photos of each character’s face to your hacker sidekick, so she’ll track their position for you. Once you’ve done that, you can activate Yandere Vision to see their silhouette through walls.

        In a stealth game with no minimap, that’s pretty useful, if you want to avoid stumbling into a classmate in the hallway with a bloody torso you can’t readily explain. However, Yandere Vision is tied to the same button as some of your other Yan abilities, and it usually gives information on things happening in other rooms, and you’ll want to turn it off so you can see the current room more clearly, most of the time.

        It’s one of the few parts of that game that feels tuned and responsive, without being overpowered.

  5. Abnaxis says:

    I think the Metroid Prime scan visor (the first “detective vision” mechanic I can think of) has Batman beat by a fair margin, and I’m sure it wasn’t the first of its kind either.

    I actually thought the original Metroid Prime had an interesting take on the concept overall–there were a bunch of different visors that could see different things, but they all either disabled your weapons or made it virtually impossible to navigate the environment while you used them (especially the xray visor–it actually xrayed EVERYTHING, making it hard to figure out where you were in space since you could see through the floor, walls, etc).

  6. dp says:

    The recent Deus Ex games have something like this, useful for finding enemies, hidden passages, and beer.

  7. Steve C says:

    The original Doom (1993) had this effect. I assume the light amp visor counts. Unless you mean something that was impossible to see without turning on an effect. Then I’d have to think about it. Splinter Cell had it but I bet there was something earlier than that.

    Seems like it wouldn’t be hard for developers to put into a game. Probably it was added by accident most times: “This is a really cool effect but looks like garbage. Let’s leave it in as a toggle.”

    • Abnaxis says:

      That totally gives me flashbacks to the night vision in the old Jurassic Park SNES game. That’s enhanced vision (and elevators!) before FPSes were even a big thing. Not really detective vision though…

  8. Benjamin Hilton says:

    The first encounter with the Flood in the original Halo had the same effect on me as the Cradle. “I thought I was playing a scifi space shooter, and now zombies?” That is until they continued on putting them bloody everywhere for the rest of that game as well as the next two.

  9. Ander says:

    Wherefore in Random?

  10. Christopher says:

    I remember Kamiya talking about reused assets during his Bayonetta developer playthrough, specifically a chapter where Bayonetta falls into a hole into heaven suddenly, full of floating debris.

    “Chapter 9, “Remembrance of time”. In the story, this is where the angels live. Times that have had a significant impact on the Trinity of Realities are remembered here, where they are collected and linger floating through the air.

    But to be completely honest this is a stage made from reused assets. This area uses parts from the very beginning, during the falling clock Climax Scene.” It’s a method we use to reduce workloads. We’ve done this on other games as well. For example, in Devil May Cry you return to the castle after getting through the coliseum. Another is the stage inside the mirror. We’re just flipping the original data right to left. Also(…) Stage 5 of Viewtiful Joe is a nighttime version of the Stage 2 Town. There is a branching path that leads to an all-new area, however. What else… It’s pretty obvious, but in Okami we flipped the Hana Valley and used it inside the Water Dragon. Also, the collision data for the Sasa Sanctuary was used as-is inside the Dragon Palace. The visuals are totally different so it’s tough to notice, but reusing collision data did reduce workload a bit.

    Workload is always a factor, but simply using assets as-is is boring for the player and we always have to consider how to avoid harming the game’s worldview. Re-use is something that often troubles me, so the least we can do is mix it up a little. For Bayonetta, as I explained earlier, we came up with the idea of earlier areas as “memories” and used the concept to connect sections and fragments of other stages to create this chapter. We tried to link the world of the game as much as possible to this stage, and build an area that retains the appearance and feel of the stages made from scratch.

    Personally, I don’t mind reusing assets, especially with a different time of day or something like that. It’s unavoidable for even the greatest developers if they want to make a game of reasonable length. Super Mario Bros. reuses assets constantly. However, I think reusing entire stages is a bore and should only be done for cool story reasons, like an enemy raid on a location that has been friendly to you, or traveling through time to see the events from a different perspective. And of course, I don’t mind returning if it’s a story that takes place in one location a la Persona 4. But when Devil May Cry 4 had you go back the stages you just beat in reverse, or Mass Effect 1 reused the same three or four side quest locations over and over, that was a huge pain.

    I have found that this problem is lessened if the game plays great, though. Dragon’s Crown essentially has 9 different stages. I probably played each of them at least ten times. If you’re basically replaying the game within the confines of a single file, then it’s fine as long as it’s good. It doesn’t have to constantly be a new vista for me to have fun with it, I’m not a tourist. Certain genres, like beat ’em ups, often reuse bosses constantly, and that’s fine because the fighting is the whole point and it allows you to fight a cool enemy again. Perhaps even with a new move or two.

    • Viktor says:

      Original Halo did this. The latter half of the game is mostly the same areas from the first half, but overrun with Flood and partially exploded. I don’t know how much workload they saved, since the routes through are fairly different and a decent chunk of the art assets have changed, but it actually helps the story to a degree so I can’t complain.

  11. Adrian Burt says:

    Horizon Zero Dawn has “detective vision” too as Focus Mode and it’s probably some of the best implementation. Rather than washing out the color of the game world or make everyone look like neon skeletons, it’s basically just augmented reality, overlaying additional information over the game world and making plot important items stand out with floating purple triangles. Next, it solves the problem of “why can’t players be in it all the time” by making Aloy walk really, really, slowly while in Focus Mode.

    • Ringwraith says:

      But also, it doesn’t interrupt your sprint toggle, so if you tap the Focus button while sprinting, she slowly walks, and when you tap it again she immediately resumes sprinting.

      There’s a bunch of really nice control things in it like that.

  12. Henson says:

    Detective Vision? Hitman: Absolution…

  13. Dragon Age: Inquisition had it, sort of. Instead of “hold Tab to highlight everything you can use” it was “hit the Search button to highlight everything within this radius briefly”

    It was slightly more interesting in the sense that you had to look around a bit.

    It’s dealing with an ancient problem of video games: Not everything is something you can interact with. If you can’t interact with it, it’s not important. However, if they just highlight everything that you can interact with, any concept of “searching” or “finding” anything becomes idiotic. But if they don’t highlight it, the game rapidly becomes idiotic because you have to click on every pixel to find out what you can interact with.

    Solution: Selective highlighting strategies.

    • Decius says:

      Unless finding the stuff to click on is part of the gameplay, making it nontrivial to know what to click on is bad design.

      Sometimes though the idea IS that part of the intended gameplay is to make it nontrivial to know what things are interactable. There’s a fine line between pixel hunts and exploration.

      • Tizzy says:

        Making a too stark distinction between interactive and not can be bad from the artistic and immersion point.

      • Thomas says:

        That was true 10 years ago, its not true now.

        If you want to make room look like a room, then that’s all it takes to make objects hard to find. Games haven’t had this problem only because computing power was low enough that rooms _had_ to be featureless boxes with simple textures.

    • Mike S. says:

      I really wish it were possible to just have search on all the time as an option. As it is, in DAI I’m constantly spamming search (because I’m obsessive like that), which is just annoying (and probably not great for the controller’s lifespan).

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I can’t remember which key it was (maybe “z” or something) but Baldur’s Gate had an object highlighting button all the way back in 1998.

        It was especially important, because even though you could be in a room filled with chests, boxes, sacks and bookcases, only some of them would be objects you could interact with.

  14. Warclam says:

    So, I missed the Outsider’s speech because I was listening to the commentary. I was about to rewind to read what he was saying, but then I asked myself… why?

  15. ehlijen says:

    Baldur’s Gate 2 had a toggle to highlight traps and containers (it didn’t highlight all interactive objects).

    For full on vision modes, the first I encountered was in Aliens vs Predator (the Half Life engine one).

    • IFS says:

      A lot of isometric RPGs have that functionality, Divinity Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity also have that for example (I’m pretty sure the old Icewind Dale games also did that but it’s been a while). In Pillars it also displays character’s names over them which is helpful since it prevents having to mouse over every NPC in the tavern to figure out which one might have a quest, without having to resort to the ! mark over their head. Personally I’m really glad they have that mode since some interactables and containers are rather small and thus easy to miss if you aren’t waving your mouse over everything.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        It doesn’t help that what was and wans’t interactable was often fairly arbitrary. Like, there are about 20 barrels in the room, about 5 of them are interactable, only 2 of them actually contain something.

  16. Spirit Bear says:

    Shamus “How many people in this game world that aren’t jerks?”

    Chris “Maybe Corvo”

    Did you guys forget Josh throwing bottles at people’s heads?

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If I remember correctly,I think discworld noir had something like this,because you were a werewolf,thus you could see smells.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    On the subject of detective vision,why dont they want you to use it all the time?Why not simply make an upgrade that will give you useful info if you get it,and then you can just have that over your regular vision.Then,make challenges that take into account the fact that everyone will have it.You know,like they did will blink.Since everyone has blink,some places are very high up,or have bars over entrances,etc.

    • Thomas says:

      I don’t think it would be a question of upgrading. If designers had a way of highlighting objects without detracting from the games environments, they’d all just give you that from the start.

      I think this is where games have to go though. With something dynamic that highlights objects if you focus your view on them or something. And then stealth games can have markers as an unlock, like MGS5 has

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The good one

    Thief 3

    I still remember when thief 3 was the bad one.But now that we have thiaf,its really hard to call any thief bad.Even though 3 was worse than both its predecessors,it still WAAY better than thiaf.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wavers between brilliance and brilliant bullshit

    Fixed.

  21. Isaac says:

    Dishonored 2 solved this problem by making A.I. footsteps more audible than they were in the last game. Now, doing a stealth run w/o Dark Vision is totally viable!

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    No Rutskarn this time?So we have a fully adult crew then.

  23. Phantos says:

    The Last of Us had Detective Vision as well, although I forget if it was more like the Tomb Raider kind where it goes away when you move.

  24. Phantos says:

    This is my first encounter with any content on this site with Baychel in it.

    My first impression from her commentary is that she is Shamus: The Next Generation.

  25. Thomas says:

    Its quicker to list modern games that don’t have detective vision than ones that do. Of the games in front of me now, almost all of them have detective vision: The Witcher 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Uncharted 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Assassins Creed: Syndicate, Rise of the Tomb Raider.

    The ones that don’t either don’t have many objects to pick up, or need detective vision (Final Fantasy XV makes you navigate with the minimap to find herbs)

    Its the problem I’d most like games to solve. Detective vision is a bad solution that is disruptive to games, but the problem it solves does need solving.

    Life is Strange and Uncharted 4 have the best ways of highlighting objects in recent times. Uncharted 4 does detective vision well enough that I thought it didn’t have it – but U4 isn’t an object heavy game

  26. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I’m just going to say that I had a lot of fun with this level and the multiple points of entry into the house, I liked how it opened up if you thought in terms of vertical mobility (which the game should have taught you to by now).

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