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Thread: Behind The Builder Volume 1: Interview And Q & A With DrK (Feb. 22nd 2009)

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: May 2008

    Behind The Builder Volume 1: Interview And Q & A With DrK (Feb. 22nd 2009)



    Welcome everyone to the very first edition of a feature I've dubbed "Behind The Builder" - obviously a name meant to play on thief lore and also represent the folks that put all the time and hard work into creating the worlds inside which we sneak and steal.

    Every couple weeks or so I'll be posting a new Q & A session with a different fan mission creator until I run out of subjects willing to answer my silly questions. Hopefully with the questions I've chosen it helps you learn about the people behind the amazing missions - and gives us all some insight into the creation process or some fun trivia bits to take with us the next time we replay one of the authors releases.

    I hope you enjoy this project - I know in the past The-Circle has done interviews of sort but I have no idea how long its been since something like this has been done. I do believe this may also turn into a front page feature - so here is to hoping! So sit back, read about your favorite authors and hopefully you enjoy.

    Behind The Builder Volume 1: Q & A with DrK - Creator of The Night In Rocksbourg Series
    Vitals:
    Missions Released: 4
    Mission Names: A Night In Rocksbourg Part 1: A New Beginning, A Night In Rocksbourg Part 2: Discovery, A Night In Rocksbourg 3: Ink And Dust, Greenbay.
    Missions Currently Being Developed: A Night In Rocksbourg Part 4

    DrK is the creator of the beautiful and sometimes frightening Night In Rocksbourg series - often hailed as one of the greatest fan mission series of all time. His work with sounds, textures and visual frights are some of the best that the fan mission community has ever experienced - and he shows no signs of slowing down - recently released screenshots have shown that part four of the Rocksbourg series is sure to be a crowd pleaser as well.

    Q & A Interview Session:

    (Interviewer questions are in bold, answers from DrK are in italics)

    Thank you very much DrK for taking the time to answer some questions about yourself and about your missions - it is appreciated. First, what can you tell us about yourself and what you do when you aren't building amazing creations in dromed?


    My name is Eric Bigou, I'm 25, and I live in a town near Narbonne in the south of France. I'm an architect.

    Your background in architecture certainly shows in the amazing layouts that you present to us in your missions! What are your hobbies, and how did you get into Thief?

    I've played video games since my childhood, and I've loved the thief series since I discovered the first game in 1999. I liked Thief 1, but it's when I discovered Thief 2 that I became a real fan of the series. And believe it or not - I discovered fan-missions way later, near the end of 2002...


    For someone who took a few years to discover the fan mission scene, you certainly broke into it with a bang. Your amazing work on the Rocksbourg series has produced some all time greats, that much is certain. If you had to choose a favorite project of yours - which would you choose and why?

    "CoSaS Mission X" by Digital nightfall and his team. I took part in the project by working on the briefing video and that gave me a peek into its making, and it was awesome. The amount of effort and passion involved was just stunning and influenced me for "Ink and dust".

    With everyone involved in the Mission X process being top notch fan mission talent from the community - there is no doubt that you were a great fit in that team. What do you think is the most important aspect of creating a fan mission that people will enjoy?

    Atmosphere. This is what made me love the original game - the atmosphere was so strong compared to other games back then, so immersive. At moments I felt I wasn't playing a game anymore - I was inside the game. Even if it's far from being realistic, it was believable. The game made me feel that if the elements were put into real life, they could actually work (the city, the life of its citizens, its religions...).

    Atmosphere is certainly what Thief is all about - one of the many pieces of the puzzle that fit together to make Thief a unique experience. You certainly showed us what atmosphere could do in "Ink And Dust" - it could scare the pants off us! I imagine all the Rocksbourg missions take a very long time to develop - does having spent so much time intimately with a mission cause you to avoid playing your own releases?

    Yes. I know them by heart, so it's not really fun - and I can finish each of them in less than 20 minutes with no surprises while playing it. However - I often take a tour into them to remember things, to stay coherent with what I already built and to regain inspiration about the atmosphere.

    That has to be one of the disappointing things about developing such a great fan mission - you never truly get to "experience" it for the first time yourself. As for things even we have not experienced, please tell us about any content or ideas that were cut from your missions before release and why they were discarded.

    The first mission "A New Beginning" was supposed to be at least twice as big in size as it ended up being. And The Order compound you visit in the third mission was supposed to be at the end of the second mission. Dromed's limits forced me to split each mission in half.



    That may have ended up being a blessing - everything in "Ink And Dust" seemed perfectly paced and everything just seemed right about that mission - the introduction of The Order's compound may have felt out of place at the end of the second mission. Speaking of dromed limitations - Are there any things beyond your current dromed skill set that you hope to someday accomplish in a mission?

    Complex scripted events. I've always had a horrible time with scripts - I never managed to do what I really wanted. When I see a mission like "Mission X", the amount of scripts involved is unbelievable. I always found solutions and compromises to my problems however, and as long as it works I'll keep doing it that way. When you take a closer look at my missions, they are always quite simple. The architecture, the story, many thing look complex, but technically my missions are basic in their nature (steal things, get out alive...).


    To someone like yourself that is versed in dromed they may seem technically simple - but to those of us who just play the missions what you accomplish and show us certainly isn't. Were there any missions you've released that you were disappointed with? What caused you to feel this way about it?


    I'm not really disappointed with the missions I released. Still - when I look back at my first and second missions, I'm kinda disappointed by the textures which I think lack in harmony. And mostly by the dubbing that I did myself, for the new characters and conversations, it's awful (the french versions). And I should have done an english version of both their briefing videos, not just have subtitles. But hey I had to start somewhere, and I hope that I keep improving myself.

    You certainly have. The voice acting and actors chosen in "Ink And Dust" and the textures used were both incredible. On the opposite side - What mission are you most proud of, and why? Would you mind if this was the mission you were always remembered by?

    Clearly my third mission "Ink and Dust" with the graphics and architecture. I love the sound design - the voice work is fantastic and I managed to improve the quality of the custom sounds and musics. The story is something I've been thinking about since the beginning of the campaign. I wanted to do something similar to the rich universe of the original game - the old city, its religions... This mission allowed me to present the background of the Rocksbourg city and to introduce the Order. Most of all, I'm extremely proud of the atmosphere. From all the comments and feedback I received, the fear I wanted to create for the players worked beyond all my expectations. And I managed to make the Order believable.

    Indeed you did - I believe many would consider The Order one of the best factions to come from a fan mission creation and I'm sure more than a few of us would like to see them become part of the official Thief canon at this point! To switch gears a bit - Have you ever played a fan mission and thought "wow, I wish I would have built this one!" And if so, which one and why?

    Yep, "Escape from the planet of the robots" by Sliptip. It's so creative, so different - it looks like a new professional game. His previous work, "Ashen age" already impressed me.. But this one was just perfect. I really felt I wasn't playing thief anymore and it brought me back to System Shock 2. His next project looks even better!

    Sliptip really knows how to bend the limits of how a fan mission can look inside dromed - much like yourself. What, to you, is the most frustrating thing about the creation of a fan mission from start to finish?

    The tweaking. I love building the mission and creating its architecture, atmosphere, and everything... But before release I always spend time tweaking the mission while modifying a few things here and there to make it look perfect and work correctly. It's mostly technical details for conversations, scripted events, writing the books and fixing bugs - and it's endless. For "Ink and dust" I've spent at least 4 months doing this.

    Although in the end it does show and hopefully makes the four months worth it. Ink and Dust had a level of professional polish rarely seen in fan mission releases - it looked great, played great and sounded great. I assume all the tweaking time only helped the overall presentation. Who (if any) was your biggest influence on your own mission building style?

    Purah and Gaetane. It was after playing fan missions they had created that I decided to try dromed. With Purah - his "Calendra's legacy" campaign is my all time favorite. Even if it's not perfect, the atmosphere was so strong, The city looked so dark and different from the original game, and yet it was still in the same universe as the original games. Also it showed me it was possible to use tons of custom resources in a FM and that I could do something different. With Gaetane it was her "L'Arsene" mission that was the first french fm I've ever played. The story was so good that I felt I was really fighting/competing with another thief, and it showed me that there was a french community too.

    Two excellent choices - I myself find Gaetane's missions unforgettable as well. What was the most memorable comment that was given to you about one of your missions?

    There are 2 of them in particular and I've read them many times - but it's always a pleasure. First it's the fact that my fms look like Thief 3. It shocked me at first, it was totally unexpected. I knew it was something different than the original game - but come on, it's still the same engine!
    And second, it's the fact The Order is a believable faction which could have been in the original games - and a faction that is even more interesting than the keepers. Looks like I didn't work on the story for nothing.




    I know that the comment about the order is one that I myself thought after playing Ink And Dust - I found The Order much more mysterious, scary and interesting than The Keepers. From the readables to the lines of dialog they would mutter to themselves while walking around - they seemed much more fleshed out than any previous Thief faction (save for maybe the Hammerites) to more than just me I'm sure. Hopefully we get to see much more of them in your future missions. To throw a more lighthearted question at you - what percentage of the total time spent in dromed for you was used shouting curse words and waving your fist at your monitor?

    0%. When I'm stuck I try to find a compromise and if I really can't go any further I just close dromed and do something else. Then I think about it whenever I can - when I'm driving, when I'm cleaning the house or whatever. Sometimes I just take a break from dromed, playing fms or other games to change ideas. It's a way of working I got during my studies. When you're stuck on a project you have to do something else, and eventually you'll find a solution by yourself when you come back on the project later.

    That's a great method - I think I spent about two hours in dromed before giving up and leaving it to more patient folks like yourself. Here is another lighthearted one: You're on an island with a PC and only one fan mission - which one do you bring?

    Hard one to answer.. I would say "Calendra's legacy" but I know it almost by heart so it wouldn't be fun to play it. I think I would just take dromed with me, so I can create the mission I want to play.


    I didn't expect the dromed answer - well played! If you were given a minute or two to give pearls of wisdom to a group of up-and-coming fan mission authors - what few short bits of wisdom would you give them?


    No matter if a mission looks good or bad just work on the story and the atmosphere. Create a world which would be believable. Think about a strong background which makes the player feel like he actually is in a town or a manor, not in empty corridors - And create an atmosphere good enough so the player wants to continue playing. It's all about attention to details, to sounds, and to books.

    For example, when you design the interior of a house, imagine the people who live in it. Are they rich or poor? How many of them? What is their job? Are they smart or dumb? Nice or bad? Why are they at this place? What do they like to do? what are they doing right now? How would they decorate their house? Just imagine a little story for each character in the mission, even if he's just a guard who will be Ko'ed in 2 seconds. Only you know why this character is here, but when players encounter him - he's not considered as a standing puppet.. he's alive somehow. At least that's how I bring life into my missions. And one little thing about gameplay - always give to the players a few different possibilities so they can have the choice.


    Excellent advice - giving reasons why things are where they are is something often neglected in fan missions. Like you said, little details add so much to immersion and really grab the player and keep them inside the Thief world. What are your fan mission pet peeves? (things that frustrate you when you come across them in missions made by others)

    Revenge objectives such as "he tried to kill you, so kill this man in return". God I hate this - the Thief series is about a thief, not a killer. If someone has to pay, just be clever than that and don't necessarily kill him. It's more interesting to trap him for example. And if you really have to kill him, it has to make sense and to be the ultimate solution. Also I hate to be forced to ghost a mission, I want to have the choice to do what I like.

    I couldn't agree more with your choices there. To go the opposite direction: What things would you like to see more of in future fan mission releases?

    Missions with strong and believable atmospheres. These are the only ones I play nowadays. If after 5 or 10 minutes I don't feel anything playing the mission I stop playing because it's more like I'm wasting time.


    I'd imagine with your personal life and so much time spent with dromed - you would indeed have to pick and choose which missions you complete and devote your time to. Going back to your own creations - If you could go back and change a thing or two about missions you've released after seeing them in release for a while now - which missions and what would you change?

    The first 2 Rocksbourg missions : I would lower the sounds, redo the dubbing with the same team I had with "Ink and dust", and maybe rework a little the textures to create a harmony between them. And eventually lower the difficulty.




    Perhaps a special edition of the first two missions may be in order for the future? I know that would certainly be a crowd pleasing decision. How about the same question flipped a bit - If you could change anything about a popular mission that someone else has released - which missions and what would you change?

    "Calendra's legacy", I would modify its story. It's just too much black and white for me - good Garrett kills bad demon because the demon wants to destroy the world or whatever. It's kinda disappointing - things are never that simple. Also I didn't feel anything in the relationship between Garrett and Mercedes.. it was supposed to be a love story or something but I felt it was just pointless.


    Well I think I've sapped enough of your spare time - I know that you have much to do with the new installment to the Rocksbourg series - I know we're all looking forward to that. One final question before you go: Any exclusive information about your upcoming projects (including Rocksbourg 4) that you can give in this interview?


    There will be a thread with screenshots from Rocksbourg 4 - But I can tell that I'm seriously considering making it a 2 mission pack.

    You heard it here first folks - Rocksbourg 4 could be a two mission pack! My sincere thanks to DrK for taking the time to answer all of my questions and to you the reader for taking the time to join us for the interview.

    Please join us again in around two weeks time for the next volume of Behind The Builder!


    Credits: Artwork borrowed for use in the Behind The Builder logo originally created by Benjamin Horak
    Last edited by SneakyJack; 24th Mar 2009 at 19:56.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    It was a pleasure speaking with DrK as I've always admired his work - and hopefully it provided for a good read.

    If any of you have specific questions you'd like to ask or thoughts about the interview in general - please post those in here and perhaps DrK will be able to give answers to anything that hasn't been covered.

    I find behind-the-scenes stuff like this fascinating, and hopefully some of you do as well!

  3. #3
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I enjoy reading this kind of stuff too. Fun interview.

    If I were to give any advice, I'd say in addition to the threads, be sure to also get these mirrored at a more permanent home, like on Southquarter or something, or even make your own blog for them. Then they won't disappear into the sea of threads over time, and people can browse through them easily. You can have the threads and the blog and get the best of both worlds.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    I enjoy reading this kind of stuff too. Fun interview.

    If I were to give any advice, I'd say in addition to the threads, be sure to also get these posted to a more permanent home, like on Southquarter or something, or even make your own blogpage for it and give the link. Then they won't disappear into the sea of threads over time.
    I've already gotten with Pavlovscat who wanted to make them a frontpage feature for thief-thecircle.com, so thats probably where they will be housed

    I'm sure they'll be added to the archives there for later reference purposes

  5. #5
    L'architecte de Rocksbourg
    Registered: Nov 2005
    Location: Narbonne, France
    It should be hosted on the circle later, I think... doh SJ beat me to it.

    Anyway, at first I didn't really want to do this interview, I'm not really a showoff. But I thought it would be fun and interesting afterward, so here it is.

    If you have complementary questions you want to ask me, don't hesitate

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: May 2008


    You are a respected author of very popular missions - Your work speaks for itself! I understand your desire to be humble, and I don't think answering a few questions to give people better insight into your creative process will ever harm that image

  7. #7
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Excellent work SneakyJack - and many thanks to Drk for sharing his thoughts and really glad you had a change of heart. Fascinating stuff, though I've only managed a quick read through so far. I'm sure some thoughts will come to me when I've mulled it over a bit more.

  8. #8
    Archivist
    Registered: Sep 2002
    Location: Museum of the Ancients
    +1 for another succesful thread idea, SneakyJack
    And thank you DrK for participating. Interesting read.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2002
    Location: Georgia
    Thanks for the interview, both of you. Great tips on adding atmosphere to the story, Dr. K!

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Toronto
    I always love reading these things too. A lot of us Dromeders spend sooooo much time on Dromed, so in a weird way we have a lot in common - yet ultimately we know so little about each other.

    It's nice to learn a little more about the authors!

    Great idea Sneaky Jack! and DRK bring on Rocksborough 4! I can't wait to experience that seething jealousy I get when I play your missions

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lurking
    Appreciate the effort with the beautiful screen shots and now this interview SneakyJack.

    DRK is among one of my top 3 favorite FM makers and it's always fun and informative to get in depth understanding in his twisted mind

  12. #12
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    Once every few weeks? Unacceptable! I demand several a week!

    I am very very happy to see this type of thing, and hope that many other authors will cooperate with you!

  13. #13
    jtr7
    Guest
    Agreed, Digi! Thanks Sneaky and DrK! This is exactly the kind of thing TTLG needs.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Thank you everyone for the kind words - I was hoping there would be interest for me to continue something like this

    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Nightfall View Post
    Once every few weeks? Unacceptable! I demand several a week!

    I am very very happy to see this type of thing, and hope that many other authors will cooperate with you!
    I've already got around five more incredible authors lined up that have agreed to be subjected to my silly interview questions, so it'll be something I'll be doing for at least a few months!

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: here in the USA
    Very professional and most enjoyable to read. Thank you SneakyJack!

  16. #16
    Moderator
    Registered: Jul 2008
    Another great job SneakyJack! And thank you DrK very much for sharing your thoughts with us. I've loved all of your missions and greatly appreciate your willingness to let us see behind the scenes a bit.

  17. #17
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    You could also interview first time authors who haven't released their mission yet. That could be interesting. It doesn't always have to be seasoned vets.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Nightfall View Post
    You could also interview first time authors who haven't released their mission yet. That could be interesting. It doesn't always have to be seasoned vets.
    This is a great idea as well - I will make this a part of the process

  19. #19
    Moderator
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: Wales
    Originally posted by DrK
    For example, when you design the interior of a house, imagine the people who live in it. Are they rich or poor? How many of them? What is their job? Are they smart or dumb? Nice or bad? Why are they at this place? What do they like to do? what are they doing right now? How would they decorate their house? Just imagine a little story for each character in the mission, even if he's just a guard who will be Ko'ed in 2 seconds.
    And now I realise why I get fixated on people when I'm testing. I've just been pondering in a test why a couple appear to have a single bed. Now I want to know if the woman is just visiting the man, she's not exactly being discreet about it (), whether they're a couple, and if they are, then they don't look like teenagers who don't mind squashing up! So what's the story behind them. They're not even principal characters.

    And when this characterization is done well, then I do get totally involved in their stories.

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: May 2005
    Location: Full on Kevel's mom
    Cool interview!

    I gained some ideas by reading it.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    Interesting interview. I'd like to see more of these.

  22. #22
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU
    This sort of thing is a superb idea - and the first installment is already done with your regular attention to quality. Well done!

    For future interviews, would you consider hunting down some of the people who have released some of the past greats? I am thinking of Purah, frobber, or how about Saturnine... It might also be interesting to know what they think of all this now that they are kinda "retired" from the development scene. That sort of perspective would be very interesting, and perhaps informative.

  23. #23
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Melan View Post
    This sort of thing is a superb idea - and the first installment is already done with your regular attention to quality. Well done!

    For future interviews, would you consider hunting down some of the people who have released some of the past greats? I am thinking of Purah, frobber, or how about Saturnine... It might also be interesting to know what they think of all this now that they are kinda "retired" from the development scene. That sort of perspective would be very interesting, and perhaps informative.
    Those three have been added to my list and I will do my best to track them down if I am able. If anyone has a way to contact the bast fan mission greats please send me a PM with an email address or whatever you have and I'll try to get the questions to them if they no longer frequent the forum. I know there are a few that I would like to contact in particular that have not been seen for years here - but I wouldn't even know where to begin to get in contact with them.

    So far I've got current greats, past greats and new mission makers added to my pool of who I'll ask to let me interview them so hopefully I wont run out of subjects for quite some time

    Interesting interview. I'd like to see more of these.
    Glad you enjoyed it - there are many more coming.

  24. #24
    The Architect
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Lyon
    Saturnine is still around and still communicates with the likes of Slyfoxx and Yandros regularly. I can get in touch with Purah easily enough. I just had a chat with Mokkis the other day.

  25. #25
    bikerdude
    Guest
    Sneaky, a very nice post, I like the pictures in amongst the test, its like reading a mag..

    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Nightfall View Post
    Once every few weeks? Unacceptable! I demand several a week!
    I am very very happy to see this type of thing, and hope that many other authors will cooperate with you!
    Could these be mad into a stcky of some sort, or they own section etc..?

    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Nightfall View Post
    Saturnine is still around and still communicates with the likes of Slyfoxx and Yandros regularly. I can get in touch with Purah easily enough. I just had a chat with Mokkis the other day.
    Additionally, he maybe coming to the Thief UK meet

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