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It appears that I can't make any progress before I complete some simple tutorial quests, which should presumably teach me how to control my character. The last quest teaches how to use sneak mode. It has an NPC, Jan, place an object on the ground, which I have to pick up without being seen.

The problem is, even after I successfully half-run/half-sneak up that object, pick it up, and wait for the NPC to turn around and see me standing there gloriously, he still then goes all "I have seen you, PC, you have failed the quest" on me. What am I doing wrong?

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Have you tried moving away after picking it up, so that when the NPC turns around you remain unseen? I haven't played this game, but that's what I'd suggest trying. –  Grace Note Dec 17 '10 at 16:17
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Hmm, I just recently played Outcast for the first time. Not sure I'm a real help, though. While my initial thought on that task was "that's never going to work well on this engine", I actually completed it after the third try or so.

I don't think you're doing anything wrong in particular, so maybe it's a small glitch and you should just keep trying a few more times.

IIRC, there was a crate on the left, a stone on the right and a longer stone on the far right. I waited for him to turn around, then ran to the first crate. Waited again, ran to and ducked behind the first stone. Same with the second, then picked it up.

Maybe he spots you while picking up the object (on the last step)? Maybe you're running there and that makes more noise so he can hear you? (I don't remember if sounds are taken into account regarding detection in Outcast.)

While Grace Note's idea sure is worth a try, I don't remember having to hide again after grabbing the object. I might be mistaken, though.

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Well, now that I know that it's actually doable, I'll try again on my next playthrough. After 10 or so failed attempts, the NPC told me that it's all right and "it'll be our little secret that you failed". Arrogant twit. Let's see what the rest of the game brings. –  Mihai Dec 17 '10 at 20:58
    
Heh, funny that they thought of that 'backdoor'. I didn't expect that. –  Cort Dec 17 '10 at 22:35
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