This guide is aiming to help, not to set rules. I try to list arguments for and against certain elements of contracts so you are aware of them and are more able to make well-liked contracts.
There are different players out there. The more you please, the more liked you contract is. Note though you cannot please all and making it too easy or too hard can result in general criticism.
- Speedrunners try to get the best contract score and do that by trying to be as fast as possible. They replay contracts very often.
- They dislike forced waiting times, like when a target is just impossible to kill and they have nothing to fill that time.
- They dislike long contracts in general and try to avoid running around too much.
- They dislike randomness, as this increases the amount of restarts.
Suit Only Players
- They like to be able to finish a contract with only in their suit
- They dislike disguise requirements, unless they are all Suit.
- Additionally some try to do no KO’s. Try to make that possible too if you want to please them.
Specific Kill Players
- Some like the Fiber Wire, some like sniping, some like other stuff.
- They dislike kill method requirements, though they can live with having at least some targets who can be killed in any way.
- They like to do a lot of additional stuff that is not really needed to finish your contract. Like retrieving ICA gear or suits.
- They value good briefings and not full Any/Any contracts, as they seem to lack a good setting they can dive into.
- Contracts that are too restrictive can make it harder for them to play out their plans.
- They like hard tasks, sometimes even autofail conditions.
- They don’t mind investing much time into playing the contract.
- Many finish contracts without SA rating. Assuming they like to play this way, they dislike autofail conditions. But who can be sure of that?
- Some like to play your contract with no unlockables, meaning the default start and default gear (ICA19, Coins, Fiberwire).
- Keeping this style in mind makes it possible for every player to play you contract. Which is good in terms of accessibility. If that is not working in your case you can still favor items that are more commonly unlocked, like H2 gear over H2016 gear.
- Testing is not really a style for itself, but every player is a tester at the beginning, who tries to find out the best way to play your contract.
- Some things make testing harder, like autofail conditions, as they hinder the player to find out what they did wrong.
- Randomness makes it harder to find a reliable way to play too.
- The harder a contract is, the longer players are Testers. This can be frustrating for them because they miss a sense of achievement.
When someone checks out your contract, it can matter how overwhelming it is. If so, less people play it. And you don’t want that. That is why you should make your contract seem to be as open and easy as possible, even if that is not true actually. The following points can help you at archiving that.
- 5 targets can make it seem like a big task to play your contract. To attract more players, try to not make it 5 targets but less.
- 1 target surely attracts the most people to play your contract. But it is very hard to make a good 1 target contract, which is why you might wait with such things until you got more experienced with contract creation.
- The targets appear in the order you kill them at creation. Make the most iconic looking target your first one as it will be what sticks. Also group your targets that have the same kill restrictions or look similar. Having an order that is not fitting your intended approach can make it easier to hide the easiest solution for your contract.
- Choosing known, prominent targets as the first target can be good so players get first ideas how to play it even before the start. Note that designing a contract around this can make it harder to make a good contract.
- There are no general advices for method or disguise restrictions. Just try to make them as few as possible. Only require these which are really needed for your general concept.
- If you include many restrictions, try to make them not too different each target so players can focus on playing and not on checking what to pay attention to next.
- Contracts without restrictions are called Any/Any. They offer the most freedom but can also turn out bland. You can start with them to test what others are able to do with it.
- Some offer more freedom than others, like unspecific melee or unspecific accident kills. Pistol kills are also usable in many situations. Players know that and could be more eager to try them than they would at more specific conditions.
- Try to include only a few complications, if you do at all. Otherwise your contract seems bloated up.
- Complications without the [optional] tag can scare off players without giving your contract a chance.
- See below for detailed arguments regarding specific complications.
- Do not keep the default title and briefing!
- Invest time into a good title/briefing. It is not important for some, but for others. It also shows you invested time into your contract.
- It doesn’t have to be a long briefing, but include important information, like the location of required items if they are uncommon, or the required exit, if that complication is used.
- If you have trouble to get below the character limit, you can write a longer text in a textpad and shorten it until it fits.
- Write your briefing in English without grammar errors if you can.
- When adding line breaks to your briefing, try to make the briefing readable without having to expand it.
- You can’t include one ingame, but when posting your contract with a custom screenshot, it can attract more attention, including from IO staff.
- Also include a screenshot of all target conditions and complications so people see right there it is a potentially good contract.
There are many kinds of NPCs that affect how your contract is, even before restrictions for their death. A general advice is to make the player not run too far to their first target. That is especially true on maps with only one starting location.
PRO:They give your contract variation and potentially multiple ways to play your contract.
CON:If not chosen carefully they can interrupt the “flow” of your contract, meaning players getting to them might be forced to wait for their opportunity. To counter this pick targets that can be somewhat easily lured away in many situations. Another way is to make them Any Method so players can improvise more easily.
PRO:They can be more easily included into approaches without having to worry for time.
CON:They offer a smaller number of possible kills, which can make them boring.
PRO:Killing them with SA rating can give your contract more challenge.
CON:The more difficult they are or the longer it takes to be lured away, the more tedious your contract can turn out. Especially if you don’t allow accident kills.
PRO:Targets far away from each other can make routing more interesting and diverse.
PRO:The player is encouraged to try long-range kills like sniping or using explosions to only get there once.
PRO:They make choosing different starting locations a nice thing to experiment with.
Closely positioned Targets
PRO:It can be fun to organize kills and their aftermaths when you are able to jump forth and back and contain the situations.
CON:Randomness can ruin this effect once panic spreads.
CON:Contracts like these can turn out very short, which makes them fall behind other contracts.
PRO:Guards are easy to be lured. They investigate trouble, take away weapons and are the ones within NPC groups who investigate nearby noises. This makes the contract more versatile.
CON:Guards provide powerful disguises that can make things easier than you want them to be.
CON:Checkpoint guards and main mission target bodyguards have different behavior and are way harder to be lured away. Better don’t pick them unless you know what you are doing.
PRO:They are harder to be lured away compared to guards. This can make your contract a little harder.
CON:In extreme cases, like when stationary in broad public, they make very bad targets.
PRO:They provide less helpful disguises if they do at all, which less likely ruins your ideas. This is always true with female targets.
CON:They react more random on panics than guards, though you should not include panics into your ideas anyway.
Main Mission Targets
PRO:They are well known and very mobile. They also fit well as first targets to give your contract an interesting appearance.
PRO:They work very well as open targets, as they were designed as such.
PRO:They react without randomness on panics as they often have lock-down routes.
CON:If restricted too much, they can generate long waiting times, since they have long routes. Take into account they have several additional lures and react on distant actions to counter that. Like Rico Delgado reacts on the village band to play.
CON:Not every one of them is easily included into plays without too much trouble.
Mixture of the above
PRO:You can combine multiple kinds of targets. That usually is a great idea if you can make them fit to each other without degrading their individual benefits.
Complications make your contracts more tricky. Use them thoughtfully or else you overly restrict your contracts beyond what is really needed.
They should not be used to make your contract generally harder, but because you know quite well at which points in your contract these complications result in a nice twist.
Don’t be encouraged to add complications just because there are more arguments here which praise them. They don’t have the same weight and if in question you should not add them anyway.
Non-optional complications are not giving your contract more depth, they only make it harder to complete it. There is a large group of players disliking them, so consider to never use them until you got better at contract creation.
PRO:Use it if you want that the intended, fast solution be the only way to achieve SA.
PRO:Create your contract with the mission timer turned on. Do no exit immediately but at a nice number, usually with 0 or 30 seconds after the minute count. That gives the complication a less random look. Better wait for another 30 seconds than making the limit too tight.
CON:It will hinder everyone else to get SA who use slower strats, it is more inclusive to say a better time score is enough to reward those who did what you wanted them to do.
CON:If you just want to use it to generate time pressure, you will only succeed at these players who are slow enough to get into problems, but still fast enough to be able to overcome it. Most players will have either no trouble or no chance.
PRO:If you offer multiple routes as a solution, but one route is much faster because of an exit, you can balance these routes by forcing another exit.
PRO:Can be used for immersion reasons.
PRO:It can be used to make a fast exit impossible. That can make it harder to leave bodies out in the open.
PRO:It can force a tricky exfiltration if you force no disguise change after an infiltration. Note that this can result in an overly hard contract.
PRO:Some exits need items or can be destroyed. This can be a good puzzle element. Try to place the targets near the exit or needed item.
CON:They generate bottle necks and greatly restrict possible routes. So don’t use it without good reasons.
CON:It can be confusing what to do if you use Easter Egg exits. Be fair and at least give strong hints in the briefing or don’t use them.
CON:Even without this, the player loses SA at non-target kills. There is no practical use for it.
PRO:You can add it for immersion reasons.
Do Not Get Spotted
PRO:Targets are allowed to spot you. If you want that to void SA, add this complication.
CON:Players already have to deal with recordings to get SA. There is no practical use to add it.
PRO:You can add it for immersion reasons.
No Bodies Found
PRO:Targets are allowed to see bodies in certain cases. To disallow this, add this complication.
PRO:Non-targets are allowed to see bodies in certain cases. To disallow this, add this complication. Does not work on bodies from accident or poison kills.
Hide All Bodies
PRO:It has a great impact on how to play your contract and can turn out to be a good puzzle element.
CON:It becomes a great issue the more targets or minimum KO’s your contract requires.
CON:If added as non-optional, players cannot exit before fulfilling it. This is an issue for casual players.
No Disguise Changes
PRO:It has a great impact on how to play your contract and can turn out to be a good puzzle element.
PRO:On maps without starting locations as guards, this complication results in a civil-disguise-only.
PRO:Utilizing big parts of the map plus Any-Disguise are good situations to add this. It makes the starting location selection more important.
PRO:Some techniques make use of shooting NPCs in a non-lethal way. With this complication you disallow this.
PRO:It can be used to make Sniping approaches harder. But note that not always when a lethal hit is possible, the head is visible too. So it can happen that this complication makes some skilled shots impossible.
PRO:Can be added to stop bullet distractions, shooting explosive items and cameras and causing panic with loud shots.
CON:Since it is affecting many aspects, using it to stop one specific thing should be justified as really needed.
PRO:It can be a big puzzle element to make KO’s impossible, as non-targets are harder to deal with. Like with emetic poison or carrying away items. Which is a “Time-Limit”-light complication, as that is not keeping them away forever.
PRO:If there are no free guard disguises, the player needs to stay in civil clothes when combined with a Suit restriction.
PRO:It can be a “No Disguise Changes”-light complication, as the player can only use starting disguises, free disguises and the ones from dead targets.
- Every contract has to be doable with SA rating. Play your contract multiple times before spreading it.
- Give the player some freedom to play differently than you want them to play. A good outcome is when your solution results in a better score than others you can imagine. See it as a good thing if you are proven otherwise.
- Intended strats should not contain random elements. If they do, they should only exists in the beginning, so there is no bad luck ruining a lengthy run.
- If intended strats contain waiting times (happens often at drowning or consumed poison kill requirements), give the player work to do in between, like getting a needed disguise or item. Or give the player freedom to do something completely different.
- You don’t need an intended strat if you think the individual targets for themselves are interesting enough, or the possible routes between them.
- If you make a very open Any/Any contract, start from a Suit start and try to get a good flow with your targets while keeping on your suit. It is very possible that other strats, like these which use disguises, happen to fit into it as well.
- Your intended strat should be at least 1:30mins long, but not longer than 4:30mins. That is a good time span of medium times. If you expect strats to exist that are easily shorter than yours, it can be much longer. In any way it is good to test how long your idea takes to be executed.
- Wildly specific solutions are almost guaranteed to not to be guessed by players. So better don’t do that. If there are very hard aspects to guess, hint on them in your briefing.
- The poison syringe or propane flasks are usually last-resorts if all fails. Don’t have this as the intended strat of your contract unless it has an interesting twist that stands out.
- Long lures should also work without planting coins. If they don’t, better don’t make that an element of your intended strat.