“So, we set up some distractions in Building 1 (B1), where we spawn, and then all climb down the back vines outside of T. Harris’ office. We all jump in the water – slowly we make our way over to and below Building 2 (B2).”
Rob and I met many months ago when he was showing me Project Stormos, his “anti-platformer” that he still hasn’t fully finished. He works on both Stormos and Intruder intermittently – the former by himself, and the latter with Austin Roush.
“We make our way into the hallway and hear a little bit of talking on the floors above us. The bottom package (Server Room) has an L-shaped hallway – one to the lab, one back to the stairs. Mike hid by the boxes in the hallway, slightly inside the Sample Room, and looked back to the stairs.“
He and Austin are mates from college, and Intruder is the game they made together in UDK back then. Recently they remade it all, and have expanded upon it in Unity. It’s a tactical online multiplayer first-person shooter. But not like the rest. You can rush the other team, but that’s likely to end in a quick death, and is only fun for a single round. After that, your opposition will be ready for it, crawling into vent systems, laying plastic explosives on walls that are hidden alongside an adjacent motion sensor, a pole camera pointing around a corner while facing a team mate who’s waiting for the signal, gun in hand.
“I snapped my fingers and pointed at Tank (the newbie), instructing him to go into the server room and get the package. I turn around and cover the lab entrance down the other way. Tank mirrors the door to make sure there are no traps, goes in and retrieves. He excitedly whispers, “I’ve got it!”
Pressing tab causes you to snap your fingers so as to grab the attention of your team mates, and then you have a selection of silent hand signals you can gesture to them so you don’t have to raise your voice. Sound is very important in Intruder – it’s probably the only game in which whispering is vital at times. You’re inside a vent, the enemies are overhead and you can hear them discussing a flanking maneuver. You want to tell the rest of your team, but that would mean having to talk audibly into the walkie-talkie, and you don’t even know if they’re alive anyway, and as the enemy is right above you, they’d easily hear even the quietest of utterances. Best to keep moving and wait until they’ve passed. Eavesdropping is perhaps the sneakiest of all the tactics you can employ in Intruder.
“I snap to Mike and he comes and turns around; then we all go through the lab to the back garage of B2. I crawl out first and hop in the tree nearest to the exit. From there I radio to Tank to go first, and I’ll look out from here. So tank starts crawling up through the bushes near the water up to the truck. Just then I see someone on the far rocks by the truck pop up and start shooting, and also someone shooting from the 2nd floor B1 work area. It was an ambush.”
Rob believes in backwards engineering. You come up with a gameplay scenario, break it down into the various parts and then work backwards from the working idea into the most minuscule of details until you have each component laid out. Intruder fuses parts of the Rainbow Six series and the SWAT games with further inspiration from the tactics that SWAT teams use in real breach and entry missions. It’s a game that uses all of the number keys, and then uses a few more, packed with gadgets that players have at their immediate disposal in limited supply, including grenades, decoys, guns, handcuffs, plastic explosives, sensors, walkie talkies, pole cameras and lockpicks. Some of these tools are used in direct combat, others to set traps or to allow for navigation across the map.
“I try to lay some fire on the guy on the rocks, but I can’t see the guy in the work area. It looks like Tank got hit. I run up through the bushes to try to grab the package, yelling through the microphone to tell Mike what I’m doing. Austin and I collide face-to-face in the bushes – luckily, I shoot him first. But then submachine gun fire comes at me from the bridge. I duck down in the bush and yell through my microphone: “MIKE, put some cover on the bridge; I’m getting shot!”
Currently, Intruder only has one map, and it’s not entirely complete either. But the game has been playable for many months now, with each update simply tightening each feature, adding extra tension and navigation options, ensuring for a smoother match. There are two buildings overhanging a steep cliff that falls into a river; a bridge connects them. You can tempt fate and crawl across the bridge, or pass underneath it via the ventilation system. Better options may be to head outside into the mud and crawl among the bushes, or dive into the water and climb up the vines, ladders or risk the elevator shaft (or actually use the elevator) provided on the other side. If you’re really crafty then you can get onto the roofs and use the advantage of being at the highest point. There are lots of routes to cover, and even more hiding spots. The Intruders attempt to sneak into B2 and steal one of two packages they then have to bring back to their capture points, or they can win by eliminating the opposition. They are the Guards (many Team America references have been joked), and they attempt to defend the packages and kill the Intruders – a manhunt.
“I look back and see Mike climbing up the rocks, and he manages to get to the corner of the 2nd floor on B2. He says, “Roger!” and starts firing at the bridge. He keeps putting fire down while I frantically grab the package on the ground next to Tank’s body. Mike and the guy on the bridge are firing back and forth at each other. I’m running to the beat of their bullets that are hitting the walls, and manage to return the package to the capture point next to the truck.”
“It was insaaaane,” he concludes. I knew that feeling well.
As should be obvious, Intruder is made up of many different parts, and that can lead to noticeable diversity in how each match is played. You may have a slow, stealthy team or a really fast, explosive team, or maybe a team that just hides and waits with baited traps. Anything goes, and there’s so much wiggle room to find your preferred playing style, and if you get bored or desperately need to adapt to your enemy, you can just change it up on the fly. Importantly, this is a game in which team work is vital and highly encouraged by the game’s design. At all times you can communicate with your team to find out where they are and inform of enemy positions. There are lots of routes to cover, and so traps can be laid in critical points, but you’ll still need to hunt out certain areas by yourself.
Talented individuals can shine if they are quiet, organized and are prepared to take risks. Knowing the quirks of the map – how the buildings are laid out, where the security cameras are placed, what corners to prioritize upon entry – all play into a player’s skill. A match is rarely decided by one person’s accuracy, but instead by surprise and patience. To really explore Intruder’s potential, it’s easiest to simply go through the various tools the player’s have at their disposal and discuss what each of them adds. It can be broken down into categories fairly easily.
Your standard weapon in Intruder is the submachine gun. You have three rates of fire – full auto, 3-shot burst and semi-automatic – and how accurate you need to be and how deft you perceive yourself to be with the mouse will decide on which mode you roll out with. I tend to go with full auto, but often fire bullets one at a time, or in short bursts, as the kickback knocks you off target pretty easy. There are no reticules here, and so if you get the sneak up on someone who’s slightly in the distance from your current position, you usually have to make the choice as to whether you want to blow your cover and probably miss your shots, or get in closer for a more certain hit. Or better still – let your team mates know where they are and find out if they can get a better shot on them. You don’t have to blow your cover upon firing, however, as you do have the silenced pistol with you at all times. Its best use is when you are up close and have flanked someone, but if you’re waiting in a room for an enemy to enter, or just around a corner, it can be used to get a quick headshot without letting anyone know about it.
Those two guns you have to hand at all times, but there’s also a PSG-1 for each team to collect if they should choose to. The Intruders have to do a little more work to acquire it than the Guards, though. In the Security room, which is just down the hall from the Intruder’s spawn point, lies the PSG1, next to the CCTV cameras. To get inside, a player has to find the piece of paper in one of the nearby offices, and upon reading this note from one of the colleagues at these fictional offices, they’ll discover a four-digit passcode. Either they can go and open the Security room themselves or radio the code over to a team mate in waiting. Once in, one team mate usually takes the sniper rifle, while another may watch the CCTV footage and call out any enemy positions they spot. The Guards don’t get the help of CCTV cameras, but they do get ready access to the PSG-1 and an open window from a high-up vantage point. Deadly. There’s a problem with firing the sniper, though. Kickback is a bitch. You need to at least be crouched to have any accuracy with it at all, ideally prone if you want the bullet to match your reticle. And if the enemy is really far away, you then have to take into account the bullet drop too. Not to mention that you can hear that thing blasting away from the other side of the map – your position is blown instantly.
The last weapon in this category is a bit of a joke, but it’s also the most rewarding, hardest to use and most hilarious “weapon” in Intruder. By pressing the Tilde key, you’ll go unarmed. From here you can push other players over. Hiding in cover and then sneaking up behind an opponent to then push them over them over a bannister so that they fall and break their neck is only for the hardcore stealth ninjas out there. And oh, my word, how you’ll receive raucous laughter from everyone in the match for such a move – even the victim. You don’t have to push them over a drop, either; you can push them over, and then press the left mouse button again, and you’ll turn them blue, arresting them. It’s game over for them. You can also use this method to check bodies to see if they’re actually dead or not. That’s right; in Intruder, if you fall over from a blast, a shot to the leg or are pushed, you can then remain on the ground and feign death. To the newbies, it’s enough to convince them you’re dead, and they leave you be. Veterans will make sure of it with a couple of extra shots. But to be really sure you go in unarmed, click on the body, and if it comes up red, they’re dead – if blue, they were feigning, and you just arrested them anyway. But while you’re doing this, you’re left open and unarmed, and they could whack the Space bar, jump up and shoot you in the face. You’ve got to think straight at all times.
Duping out your enemy and playing mind tricks on them is a common occurrence in Intruder. It’s what separates good players from those who have sunk into the repetitive gun battles of many other first-person shooters and don’t know of any other way of gaining tactical advantage than shooting more bullets. First up in this category is the concussion grenade, which is a highly explosive device that is heard by everyone upon destruction. It’s especially effective at clearing a room before you enter. Opening doors in Intruder is handled via the mouse wheel; you simply scroll it back and forth, and the door matches the speed and direction. You can open doors in increments, peek through and aim a concussion grenade right in. Enemies who are in direct path of the blast will be knocked off their feet, giving you the chance to run in and shoot them when they’re down. There are two timers on the grenade that you can make use of – a normal throw gives you a four second delay, while pressing the right mouse button, as if to aim down the sights, reduces that to just one-and-a-half seconds. Handy to know when an enemy is pursuing you. Another trick people have been using is the grenade headshot, as that results in an insta-kill, at least at the moment, and when you’re out of ammo, it can save your ass. Did I put this under Distractions? Well, by throwing a concussion grenade into an empty room and causing all the glass to shatter, you’ll catch a lot of eyes.
Keeping with the grenades, we also have a smoke grenade, and that does as you’d expect. Chuck one of these and the entire room is filled with smoke. You can you these outside even more effectively and make a quick getaway. The smoke cloud is huge! As well as covering your own position and tracks, I’ve also thrown smoke grenades to simply cause the enemy to look that way under the impression that we were running through that way, when really we were coming from the opposite side. Sneaky. A good tool to use in conjunction with the smoke grenade is the decoy. This is a lifesize cardboard cut out of yourself that even has the gun aiming ahead of itself. It’s easily recognized by anyone with some experience, but it still catches everyone out on occasion, causing them to shoot at it which a) reveals their position and b) can hold them in a certain area or keep them looking a particular way. The problem is that if you don’t take time to place it properly, it will topple; then you have this comedic situation arise in which you’re left trying to prop a cardboard cutout of yourself out.
Distractions are child’s play! When you start actually setting up effective traps, you’ll be able to dominate at least one of the buildings by yourself. If you’re smart, know when to move and take time to plan your set-up, then traps will turn one player into the force of a team of three. I’ve been in positions where I’ve been the last man alive on my team against a team of four, and using the tools in this category has enabled me to take them all out without firing a shot. I also remember a match when I sneaked in, grabbed the package and captured it without killing a single person. They were shocked, to say the least. Perhaps the most valuable tool for the careful, forward-thinking player is the pole camera. As it suggests, this is just a camera on the end of a pole. You can hold in the left mouse button to rotate the camera to any angle you wish, and you can see its feedback in the top right corner of the screen. The best use of the pole camera is to look around corners or through windows without exposing yourself at all. Using it gives you that extra advantage upon the enemy as you can spot them if they’re approaching your position and ready yourself for a quick gun fight, call their position out without any risk, or you can decide to hold back and set up a trap for them.
With what would you set up a trap? Well, you’re going to want to kill them outright, ideally. And the plastic explosives are pretty good at doing that. You can place these on any surface, and can lay as many as you have on you, which is only a few. Once you’ve placed them, though, they’ll all detonate upon hitting that button, so you may want to reserve some. These explosives really pack a punch, and won’t just knock a player off their feet, but into the air too. Sometimes players can die just from the fall or hitting another surface too hard after feeling the blowout from a well-placed explosive. And you will need to place them sneakily too; otherwise, wise players will spot them and disarm them. It’s the same with the motion sensors that can be placed on any surface also. Anyone crossing the line of your motion sensor will alert you, and only you, with a beeping sound. That will give away an enemy position, providing you’ve told your team mates about your sensor and it’s not one of them running across it. Sensors are best used with a plastic explosive nearby, as you can then detonate them into the nearest wall upon alerting you. If you’re being a bit more of a rat, then you can eliminate the need for a sensor and hide around a corner with a pole camera, keeping an eye on a doorway where you’ve placed an explosive just above, out of reach. Handily, you can just tap the right mouse button with the pole camera out, and that detonates any explosives you’ve placed. I’ve performed this particular trick on the bridge’s doorways many of times and sent people flying as they came through hastily. It’s probably my favorite thing to do in Intruder, actually.
An odd categorization, you might think, but here is where we come across what makes Intruder so intense at times. No, really! Throughout the buildings in the one map in Intruder there are many rooms, and the vast majority of these have doorways. Some of these will be locked, and this is randomized every match. To unlock these doors, you’ll need to crack out your lockpick and line up the tumblers. You’ll be given each tumbler to fiddle with in order, and if you click one into the wrong place, you’ll just come back to it on the second cycle. Now imagine doing this as you’ve just spotted the enemies charging your way and the only place to get any cover is inside the room on the other side of this locked door. Suddenly, every second counts and you make a mistake. The lock rattles. You better hurry up – they’re right on your ass, and you know this because you can hear them approaching, discussing their plan moving forward.
Which brings us nicely on to how sound is used in Intruder. I mentioned it briefly before, but let’s really divulge on this most important factor, and one that really sets Intruder apart from any other online multiplayer shooter. You’ll be encouraged to use a microphone when entering into Intruder. You don’t need one to play, but you do need one for effective teamwork and added tension. You can have it auto-detect when you speak, which is ideal, or you can set it to push-to-talk, which is a lot more hassle, but safer as well (also not as exciting). Rather than talking to your team mates across a shared channel, all voices are emitted into the game from the avatar, and how well they can be heard depends on your spatial relationship with them. If you’re far away, you can shout and still be heard by team mates, but the enemy will also hear it. Likewise, if you’re really close to each other and the enemy is near you, it’s optimal to whisper so that you can hear each other and go unnoticed by your unwelcome eavesdroppers.
To better communicate with your team mates, though, you can press F to bring out a walkie talkie. Holding down the left mouse button with the walkie talkie will transmit your voice to your team mates, but talking will also emit your voice in your local, spatial area still. So you have to be careful. The radio also makes a distinct fuzzing sound in your team mates’ radios when the button is pressed to talk, and I’ve used this to let others know that I’m still alive while not talking. Some have even used morse code using this sound to send messages to each other, and others have come up with their own slang when talking over walkie talkies so that enemies don’t know what they’re saying, even if they can hear them. And don’t forget the use of hand signals in the game as well – you can use these to instruct your team when you’re breaching a room or sneaking around an area together, just like a proper SWAT team.
Another aspect of the sound in Intruder that let’s out all of the tension and turns it into relief is the chat room for those who have been killed. When you’ve been had, you go into a separate channel with the other deceased, and you flick between each of the players who are still alive and fly around the map as you wish too, while laughing at some of the intense situations some players encounter, watching as enemies just miss each other’s eye lines. There’s a great sense of friendly competition caused by this talk between the dead, a camaraderie you don’t get in other shooters and a discussing of events of what happened prior to your death and what you’re currently watching. And honestly, how many times have you wanted to jump out on a player, shout boo, and then shoot them dead? You can do that in Intruder due to the sound design.
Breach And Clear
Would you believe me if I said we’re just scratching the surface of Intruder? Think about it. Most of these screenshots contain plenty of assets that still need texturing. There are still tweaks to be done to the gameplay. We only have one game mode and one map. There’s a lot more to come. But there are only two developers. And after nearly two years work, Intruder is just getting into its first real alpha stage, and when that does come, it will be opened up steadily to more and more people who want to jump in. Right now, the game requires a fair amount of explanation (just look above), and if players are to be coming in on their own accord without the assistance of Rob, Austin or a few others who have been testing and playing the game for months now, it’s likely they just won’t grasp how it can be played, but also how it should be played.
Outside of getting that introductory stage implanted and getting a community growing who will help each other, discussing tactics and coming up with new ways to combine the game’s many tools, there are new maps to create after this initial one is complete. There are already other game modes being worked on. Plenty of other ideas are milling around in their heads, too. It’s just a case of getting the game’s core features in place so that they can then concentrate on branching it out in new ways. But as far as an online multiplayer first-person shooter goes, potentially, Intruder is already the most interesting in its genre for years.
If you want to be among the first to be invited into Intruder’s open alpha, then you should sign up to the forums and become active in the discussions.