Contract Creation Guide

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. :slight_smile:


tl;dr

  • Between 2 and 4 targets
  • Mix target types (mobile/static ones, guard/civil ones)
  • As few restrictions/complications as possible
  • No non-optional complications if possible
  • Make sure you can finish it with Silent Assassin without luck
  • The more ways people can achieve Silent Assassin the better

Play Styles

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
  • 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.
Roleplayers
  • 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.
Difficulty Seekers
  • They like hard tasks, sometimes even autofail conditions.
  • They don’t mind investing much time into playing the contract.
Casual Players
  • Many finish contracts without SA rating. Assuming they like to play this way, they dislike autofail conditions. But who can be sure of that?
No-Mastery Players
  • 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.
Testers
  • 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.

Contract Appearance

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.

Targets
  • 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.
Kill Restrictions
  • 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.
Complications
  • 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.
Briefing/Title
  • 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.
Custom Image
  • 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.

Target Selection

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.

Mobile Targets
  • 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.
Static Targets
  • 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.
Public Targets
  • 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.
Widespread Targets
  • 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.
Guard Targets
  • 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.
Civil Targets
  • 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

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.

:warning: 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.

Time Limit
  • 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.
  • PRO: Time limits can encourage people to do speedruns who never did that before. Competitions with other people’s time can be addicting and so they can stick to your contract in the same way.
  • 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.
Required Exit
  • 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.
Targets Only
  • 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.
No Recordings
  • 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.
Headshots Only
  • 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.
  • CON: Automatic weapons or shotguns will be useless for players. If the kill restriction allows them, consider to not use this complication.
Perfect Shooter
  • 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.
No Pacifications
  • 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.

Intended Strategies

  • 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.


META: This guide is a very early version. I hope for much input to make it better, more complete and not too bloated up. I probably also have many typos in here now, I appreciate you pointing them out too.

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A personal recomendation I have from me creating contracts is to see how fluid they work from a starting location that begins wearing your suit, because if you can complete (not forcefully Suit Only) your contract in a good time from one of these starting locations, then it’s pretty fair to say that it only gets better when trying out the undercover options, wich caters to various play styles. I applied this principle for my first 3 Featured back in H2016.

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Jesus fuck, how long did it take you to think of and write this?

I disagree with long descriptions i cringe when players roleplay as diana

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Well, to each his own but seeing contracts that have a sh*tty description instantly turns me off from playing them.
If the description is well written, I can enjoy that and it shows that the creator put effort into his / her contract.

Same with all those “Easy for Achievement” contracts. shivers

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gOoD aFtErnOoN fOrTySeVeN

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I vill liev ju to pröpér

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I prefer briefings which just give you the required info to play it (Particularly as someone who makes sniper contracts and therefore needs to tell players what location in the map they’re meant to be going to), but so many damn people on Reddit only upvote contracts that have some whole story thing to them, even though it’s usually something lame and not believable -_-

So I put in some dumb story thing for the sake of it now

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When I made a practice contract to aid the community in prepping for The Appraiser ET in Sgail, I took the liberty of writing a little dumb story for it too.

In the story, Vincent P. Wilkins, the so called Vice-Appraiser, was supposed to confirm that Sgail was safe for her arrival…

Wilkins is actually located inside the security room of the Warehouse and his dialogue reveals that he is indeed double checking security systems… so the story fit. :slight_smile:

Ironically soon after this went live and I presume people started killing the Vice-Appraiser, the Appraiser was delayed… :laughing:

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This shit right here.
This!

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Great initiative, Urben, you really put thought and experience into this and it shows.

Some small suggestions, if I may:

  • Required Exit Restriction:
    I think required exits are generally a bad idea. They constrain routing towards a certain bottle neck, thus effectively hampering different approaches without adding a real additional challenge. It’s not more difficult to run to the bus stop than it is to run to a paddle and then to a little raft.
    The only exception I can think of is that when it effectively does add to the challenge and if it fits into the “story” of the mission. An example could be that you have to use the Crows Hideout exit (extra challenge) because one of the story objectives is to uncover their smuggle routes (story).
    I guess rephrased in your format this would be:

Required Exit Restriction:

  • Can add an additional challenge which fits with the general story of your contract
  • Can be needlessly constraining in terms of routing

With Playstyles I would add the Zero Mastery playstyle. People who play contracts without using any advanced unlocks. I think testing your mission for this kind of playstyle can work in your favor, because it effectively makes your mission playable for everyone. If your mission relies on a Magnesium Pouch for succesful completion, this might be problematic. I say “might”, because players are sometimes more inventful in completing the contract than the contract creator.

I don’t know if you had this in mind, but maybe this could be a place, for those who like, where missions that would be put up for featured contracts could be put up for review first. I don’t know who the jury would be, but it would have the added benefit to have this theory be accompanied by some concrete examples of what works and what doesn’t. Reviews of contracts that already got featured could also be an option.

And I would rename the thread by removing the word “beginner”. People will feel less inclined to use it because few like to consider themselves beginners, and I think this guide has got something in it that everybody can learn from.

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Thanks for the input so far! I will fix alot of typos next so don’t mind that for now.

The other ideas will be included too.

To shorten the briefing discussion let’s settle it this way:

  • Long briefings (with story) are better
  • Short briefings (with only needed info) are better
  • Briefings don’t matter

0 voters

Some of my first contracts… While I feel I did get creative with the briefings (poems and/or haikus), I think I left them the way I did them. This way there’s typically a ‘one-way only’ way to beat them, and that can restrict creativity -I suppose. It’s like saying; “Can you copy the way I did this?” Which is usually less fun. Or the kills would be so obvious… And I really don’t like contracts that give you a blatantly obvious way to kill a target (like the guys at the end of piers in sapienza). This guy smokes by an oil-drum. I suppose (in hindsight) making kill conditions to ‘any method’ are better than requiring an obvious (boring) kill method.

Then again, (as an example) one could make a contract where you’re required to dump Roco’s body into a vat of acid. That’s when things can get real divisive. Pro’s might think it’s brilliant, and cas… er, players of a lesser skill level might think it’s the stupidest contract ever.

I can think of at least 2 contracts I’ve made in the past that were trending. And it seems like they were set to ‘Any Method’ for kills. Even if they were spread out a little bit on the maps.

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Just wanted to say that I really appreciate the time you took to write all of that down. It’s perfect.

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I sort of feel like this is missing a middle option. I usually go for somewhat short and (hopefully) humorous in my briefings. So I don’t do long briefings , nor do I do short ones with only needed info.

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Nice and comprehensive beginners guide for contract creation.

One thing that might still be worthy of discussion, and a slightly more esoteric art, and one I find the most difficult, is ‘target composition’. What I mean by this is how routing/contract flow is affected by having multiple targets. I mean in the sense of: ‘having 5 difficult targets in a row is usually not a good idea’, or ‘1 easy target and 1 trickier one with a variety of methods generally makes a nice contract’. That kind of stuff.

Another thing about this I think can make a nicer contract is if certain techniques/methods work consistently, but preferably with a slight new factor between them. For instance, if I can lure one target using a peek-a-boo technique, and can do so for another target, but now the situation is slightly more complicated, then your contract gains a bigger sense of coherence and identity.

However, this can be complicated stuff, especially if you want to keep other methods viable (and mostly you should). Honestly sticking to the basics for a nice contract is probably a better idea in general :smile:

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Play the contract multiple times before publishing. Especially if luck/RNG is involved.

Aim to test once with Suit only, Coins and Fiber Wire. (If possible) and also try from different starting locations, loadouts and playstyles.

Use the mission timer when making contracts and discard and restart a few times to see an average of how long it takes. You may have a specific contract in mind but in practice takes way longer than you expected it to.

These are things I do when I make my own.

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@Urben Your guide seems to miss the most important part of what makes a great contract: picking the closest NPC to the default starting position as a target :wink:

Also, I like how you say to basically never use mandatory complications; it reminds me of first year of film school, the first thing the tutor said was “Don’t try and make a comedy film… first year student comedy films are always terrible and awful, just don’t”. It’s true, but maybe you should add that a well thought out complication as part of a puzzle can be creative, and add an example about how adding No Pacifications can make a contract look difficult, but this just means the solution will involve emetic poison or luring or distractions etc. Just to get them thinking for the future about what they might do (I know this is a beginner’s guide, but I’m assuming you’re not going to be making an ‘intermediate’ guide, so may as well just quickly explain the logic behind it).

Also, it should probably deserve its own section, but contract creators must MAKE SURE THEIR CONTRACT CAN ACHIEVE SILENT ASSASSIN RATING, unless they have a DAMN good reason not to. And no they don’t need to put on every complication just to ‘prove’ that it’s possible… just so long as you know it is, do it, then play it so people can see on the leaderboard that SA is possible. I was saddened when someone was ‘inspired’ by my Sniper Assassin contracts and decided to do one for Whittleton Creek, but they had silly complications on (No bullet luring, no accidents allowed) and targets right in the middle of a full crowd, that it’s impossible to get SA on; I played it then asked “Wait, so can you get SA?” and they said “No, just shoot them in the middle of the party”. And then when it was time for me to make an actual sniper contract at WC I couldn’t use the name “Sniper Assassin: Whittleton Creek” in case people came across this dud of a contract, very sad.

Also I second what the guy above me said, make sure you recreate it a couple times before publishing, in case the first time was dumb luck and can’t be replicated.

And if they want a time limit, they MUST have the mission timer on and wait for the nearest 30 second interval before exiting, otherwise they’ll have a random time limit like 7:12 and it will just look and feel sloppy

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I made changes in the first post that include all feedback given so far. Check the post history of the past edits. I gave briefings a bit differently focus for example.

Also which position does the forced exit complication have? I try to keep the order like in the game.

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This guy ranting about Miami did give me an idea about a small addition to this guide in the “required exit” segment: “avoid obscure, easter egg related obligatory exits as they can be too confusing for a majority of the players”.

“Required exit” comes before the “targets only” requirement. Just looked up a video of Ghost Party to make sure. Don’t know where it stands compared to “time limit”.

I got the first post after Clemens in the official submissions thread. I’ll add a link to this guide there with some accompanying lines. Feel free to suggest adaptations to these in order to ensure maximum visibility.

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