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Thread: General Fan Mission Review And Discussion Megathread

  1. #1601
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Return To The City By Melan
    Released: Jan. 2010 For The Dark Mod

    If you've played any of the past Thief missions created by Melan, you know that there are alot of things that the author does very well - one of those things being incredible city design. Return To The City is no exception, and other than one area in particular that will more than likely slow down your machine quite a bit, this mission is a particularly stunning display of what can be accomplished with The Dark Mod. This mission is the city mission that we've all been waiting for, and the mission that will probably be cited in future lists as game changers in the way that a few of the more popular Thief fan missions are today.

    Front and center in this mission from the get-go is game play and exploration. Sure, we've got a solid story at work here that has you recovering an item from The Builders - but the true meat and potatoes here is simply thrusting the player into a masterfully designed city area and letting them loose to find their own way... and the mission definitely delivers.

    You'll scale rooftops, you'll discover tucked away rooms in hard to reach places and most importantly - you'll give the incredible mantling mechanics of The Dark Mod quite the workout. Gone are the days of failed mantling that leads to cheap deaths, and thankfully so. Each and every time I attempted a heroic jump across any sort of gap TDM kicked into gear and allowed me to grab on to the intended object when I landed and pull myself to safety.. a revelation after having to deal with the Dark Engine's spotty handling.

    The mission is also very strong visually. The way the city is laid out leads to a very nice looking but ultimately linked together feeling. The best way to describe it really is "if you can see it - with a little work you can probably reach it" and that kind of freedom is essential to the open city experience of the past Thief games. Not only does everything look great, but the design work itself feels as though all the areas make sense.

    RTTC will also surprise you with its sound design - the author has paid particular attention to detail with the sounds that you hear when you get close to non-frobbable doors and to gated areas. This adds quite a bit to not only immersion but to the sense of scale of the city, and is one of the first Dark Mod missions to do so this effectively.

    No mission is perfect, however - and there are a few issues here that may hinder enjoyment for some. The previously mentioned performance issues are very apparent and for most will bring the open area at the start of the mission into slideshow territory regardless of the strength of your machine. I myself only experienced one instance of this happening in one area - so your mileage may vary depending on your computer setup. Hopefully the mission can be tweaked for a future release that fixes some of these optimization issues, it would be a shame for a future classic to be marred by poor performance.

    The only other area that I felt could have been improved a bit was the feeling of emptiness from the only presence of life being guards or Builders. A noble or two scattered here or there (preferably neutral AI) would have definitely made the city feel more alive, but again - a minor issue that does not take away from the overall experience. With a mission this strong it really is hard to find any issues at all.

    Large open spaces, a Builder cathedral complete with a dungeon, thieves highway gameplay - this mission has a little of something for everyone and its most definitely capturing the feel of the Thief games of the past. If you've ever played one of Melan's excellent city missions in the previous games and wondered how they would translate to a new engine, you will get a very satisfying answer here. Return To The City indeed, and thanks to Melan - it feels great to be back. Highly Recommended!

    Screens:



    Welcome to the city. Enjoy your stay, and I hope you've got a bitchin' computer setup - you're going to need it.




    The design of the city feels very thief-like and definitely captures some of the magic of the past games.




    "Some mother****ers are always tryin' to iceskate uphill" - Blade




    Had to balance the uphill guard with a shot of one walking downhill.




    A Builder cathedral. Beautiful. Drink it in.




    I loved the detail put into the different areas.




    A Builder dungeon is not the place to be.




    I really enjoy the design of the Builder faction and how it seamlessly merges elements from the two previous Thief factions to create something that feels fresh and new.
    Last edited by SneakyJack; 11th Jan 2010 at 16:51.

  2. #1602
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Bonus shot from Return To The City:



    This fellow apparently decided at the last minute to join the Ministry Of Silly Walks.

    A final thought on Return To The City - I really think this is the mission alot of us were waiting for to use as an example against the folks who refuse to give The Dark Mod a chance or have written it off without playing it.. This mission truly shows what TDM can be used to capture exactly what most are expecting out of it. So for the haters - its time to return to the city

  3. #1603
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Normally I'm in the batcave.
    Quote Originally Posted by SneakyJack View Post

    "Some mother****ers are always tryin' to iceskate uphill" - Blade
    Hahahaha , dammit...I hate you for referencing that line before I could!

    Anyway, love the Dark Mod reviews man! I apologize for not commenting on them earlier but I really enjoyed reading them. Just for the author's reference, I had lag exclusively in the exact same spot while playing "Return to the City", which is odd, since graphically it's one of the less impressive places in the mission (and yes, the mission kicked ass).

  4. #1604
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: UK
    Just a personal note - judging from a lot of The Dark Mod screens, the general lighting is usually far too dark at times and sometimes a little tacky; I'd personally blame idTech4/Doom3 for that. [1 Top of the screen]

    Though I'm pretty sure something can be done to brighten up the place, with some ambient light/more light entities. It's been a long time since I last messed with Radiant for Doom3, I forgot what's possible.

    I will mention that I think the normal maps / specular maps (are there any speculars?) are probably too sharp/shiney at times. It really makes a lot of the textures and in some cases, the lighting, look really fake. [2 I think the grey stone wall sheen is over done [2b] Infact, even this door. ] Too much information in the texture is very distraction from a visual point of view. [3 It's pretty obvious here, especially due to the darkness.]

    By no means am I trying to discourage or offend, but I'm just looking at this from an honest view point - something that should be looked into. Of course, I've yet to play the fan missions themselves.

    ================

    In other news, I might be getting back on track with reviewing again. It all depends, but I'm likely it'll be soon. I've been having concerns with the score system on my site, going as far as considering to trash it completely. I haven't decided yet but I have specific reasons why. I won't talk about those yet though.

  5. #1605
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Do remember that what you are looking at are screenshots that I've heavily tweaked in photoshop to make them show up better on the forums and that your actual mileage with looks in-game may vary. You should never make a final decision about a mission or TDM for that matter based on my screens alone - play it for yourself. I just try to bring the mission forward with the best looking screens that I can produce in hopes that folks will give the missions a shot based on what they see and that it will eventually win them over. The same thing goes for my Thief screenshots. Just teasers to get you to try the real thing!

    And thanks for the kind words Mike! Glad you've enjoyed the Dark Mod reviews and I'm looking forward to reading your future reviews. (hopefully there will be future reviews?)

  6. #1606
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2003
    Location: Rome, Italy

    Quote Originally Posted by SneakyJack View Post
    Glad you've enjoyed the Dark Mod reviews
    Me too i like a lot your reviews!

    Just to say it
    Try -= TDM | The Dark Mod =- The new Thief Experience!
    I'm playing TDM with Ubuntu Linux and an ATI HD2600Pro Graphic card

  7. #1607
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Normally I'm in the batcave.
    Quote Originally Posted by SneakyJack View Post
    And thanks for the kind words Mike! Glad you've enjoyed the Dark Mod reviews and I'm looking forward to reading your future reviews. (hopefully there will be future reviews?)
    I admit- I was distracted by Modern Warfare 2 for a while (I'm a closet X-box live junkie...don't tell nobody), but I'm working on a few different things at the moment. I'm aiming to crank out a new Top 10 by the end of the week.
    And now that I've said it out loud, I'll have to do it...or I'll be thrown into a volcano for lying.
    Last edited by The Mike; 23rd Jan 2010 at 13:59.

  8. #1608
    Member
    Registered: May 2005
    Location: Full on Kevel's mom
    I'm seriously considering making a 'Top 10 Reviews by The Mike' review.

  9. #1609
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Normally I'm in the batcave.
    You're my new best friend. From now on, if anyone has a problem with Random Taffer they're gonna have to go through DIS GUY. *Points both thumbs at self and flexes*

  10. #1610
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Fields of bluegrass
    Heh, well I for one am betting on getting to throw you into that volcano!

  11. #1611
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2004
    Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada
    Quote Originally Posted by Ottoj55 View Post
    not trying to sound snide or snippy, its not the authors, they are doing work and putting out missions, its the limited tool kit, which i think needs expanding. i think my comment was intended to say that we are seeing the same kinds of things in early tdm missions that we did in early tdp missions. but we are so skilled now by years of dromed that it looks retro. i feel like a new engine like this shouldn't look so classic i guess. schwaa is adapting some models i made for use in tdm, and i'm willing to help with new textures as well.
    We did our best with the time and resources available to us.

    I don't think the toolkit is so limited as you think. These are the first missions, in a completely different engine, and a completely different way of building for a lot of mappers. (additive vs. subtractive) Yet, we're seeing really great results from people with limited mapping experience...after only a few weeks. I think that says a lot about the usability of the toolset. We've added a lot of flexibility to the editor. Dark Radiant was made by mappers, for mappers. TDM is made by fans, for the fans.

    We wanted the mod to look classic, but I don't think it's really fair to write it off based on the screen shots alone. You have to see it in motion, on your own monitor, to really appreciate the differences.

    People are still learning how to map with Dark Radiant, so it's going to be a little while yet before we start seeing ultra detailed missions...and believe me, Dark Radiant is powerful enough to assemble some nicely detailed missions.

    TDM has been released in Beta now but is fully usable. Its' time for the team to take a step back and let the community start to contribute. We need to focus on completing and fixing features for the next update. As I've said many times, we're tired and we're burned out. The weight of keeping the mod alive is now on all our shoulders, it's not the TDM team's alone to carry anymore.

    If people see places that could use improvement, do something about it. Make some dirty textures, or some detailed models and donate them. We would appreciate the help....but don't just sit there and complain. Our team wasn't happy about the state of affairs when T3 was released, so we did something about it.

  12. #1612
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU
    Quote Originally Posted by New Horizon View Post
    If people see places that could use improvement, do something about it. Make some dirty textures, or some detailed models and donate them.
    This had to be repeated in bold red type. For example, how about some of the stuff here? Or some electrics? We really need more electrics. Old switchboards, brass gauges, a transformer with thos antenna things, whatever.

  13. #1613
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: UK
    Quote Originally Posted by SneakyJack View Post
    You should never make a final decision about a mission or TDM for that matter based on my screens alone - play it for yourself.
    Wasn't really making any final decisions, but rather, pointing out something that stuck out for me from the shots. I've been planning to play them sometime down the road, so I'm reserving my opinions about the missions themselves until then.

  14. #1614
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by New Horizon View Post
    If people see places that could use improvement, do something about it. Make some dirty textures, or some detailed models and donate them. We would appreciate the help....but don't just sit there and complain. Our team wasn't happy about the state of affairs when T3 was released, so we did something about it.
    This is exactly what I've been trying to get across in my posts as well - the tools have been given to us, now it is our responsibility to do something with them. Its strange to see some authors who have done so much with so little (using the incredibly unstable and buggy dromed) writing off TDM while it is still taking its first baby steps.

  15. #1615
    Ministry Of Silly Walks... that was really silly thanks for reviews and screenshots sneakyjack. I read all of your tdm reviews up to now

  16. #1616
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by swordbreaker View Post
    Ministry Of Silly Walks... that was really silly
    If you see it in action, it is very silly and almost as exaggerated as in that clip from Python.

    That you for your kind words and for commenting, swordbreaker. I'm glad you enjoy them and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know they aren't complete rubbish, haha.

  17. #1617
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Business As Usual By Bikerdude
    Released: Jan. 2010 For The Dark Mod

    Story-wise Business As Usual is exactly that - business as usual. I've read on the Dark Mod forums that the author plans to do an updated version with a more fleshed out story, and I really think it will benefit the mission greatly for some more readables and more explanation as to why we are after what we are after in the mission. After reading the mission summary before loading the mission and the objectives, it felt like the author was bored with his own mission before I've even played it. I look forward to playing the new version with an enhanced story, as it will definitely bring the mission to a higher level in plot and motivation.

    On the subject of objectives, it really pains me to see a few of the authors throwing in the "you are a thief not a murderer" objective on even the lowest difficulties. Granted - this mission has very few AI that are awake and roaming around, but with The Dark Mod's blackjack mechanic being a bit spotty for some of us as it is currently a no kill objective leads to alot of frustrating reloads or unneeded deaths. Hopefully in the future authors will leave that handicap out of the lowest difficulty and use it only on higher settings or if the story absolutely calls for it to further the plot.

    Upon starting the mission and being greeted with a "get your stash back" objective I immediately feared that I'd be left with no gear or blackjack - but I enjoyed the use of the traditional "begin in the player character's apartment and grab your things before you leave" delivery method. It always seems to put me in the mindset of starting out on a large mission, and here it was very welcome to see. Oh, and thankfully I had no reason to pull my hair out from being left without a blackjack once again - so that started things off on the right foot as well.

    The gameplay in the mission is quite excellent. There aren't many guards and AI to avoid and that may make the mission too easy for some, but I found it a great mission to try your hand at a first time ghost. Many AI you will encounter will be asleep in a bed, and with minimal skill will stay that way as you loot and plunder the surroundings. There are a few areas where you'll be mantling your way nearly to the rooftops, and one tower area in particular was alot of fun climbing and sneaking through its various levels to a target at the top. Overall the mission is alot of fun, and the varied areas set it apart from the rest of the pack. If I had to choose one design choice that confused me about the gameplay - it would have to be the self closing doors. Sure I may be sloppy and leave one open once in a while that gets me caught.. but there is something very odd about doors in that time period that just close themselves, and every time I hear one behind me I get the "a guard is following me" scare that gets tiresome after the fifth or sixth false alarm.

    The sound design was also pretty well done - and the sewer area with the water wheel and gears particularly caught my attention. The sound effect used for the sound of the machines had a fantastic 'weight' and rumble to them and really sounded great. I also noticed a bit of dripping water when I got near a sink faucet and little sounds like that add quite a bit to keep you immersed in the surroundings. Overall the sounds for the mission are fitting and atmospheric - and it was good to see that level attention given for a first time mission author.

    Visually the mission is really well built, and for this particular creation the details really set it apart. Some areas feel as if they were multiple rooms created by the same brush, but the areas that feel unique are very well done. Fireplaces crackle, bookshelves line walls accented by statues and most of the interior areas are very detailed and filled with objects that give them a very lived in feel. Exterior areas had a few nice details as well, as you'll find glowing plant life near trees and bugs hovering around lampposts. And of course we can't forget the great looking snowfall - though you wont find it accumulating on the ground, so it must be a light dusting.

    There were a few effect choices that I'd have to question not only for this mission but for The Dark Mod as a whole.. The first one being the body shadow that is not only very 'front and center' every time you look just a bit downward, but can become quite distracting after a while. I can't say that I am a fan of this effect being used - this sort of "body awareness" normally hampers gameplay more than it helps. Accompanying the player character shadows was a at-first-sight nifty reflective effect in mirrors placed at various locations in the mission. Upon first noticing the effect I was quite impressed as I remember Doom 3 had reflections as well, but here it really seemed out of place. Perhaps it was my nostalgia for folks never being able to pull it off quite right in the Thief fan missions - or perhaps it was the lack of stock animations in TDM to pull it off without looking awkward.. but something about it was unsettling and did more to hamper my immersion than help it. Bonus points for trying new things, however.

    Overall the mission is a very detailed and well built city mission that is sure to please, and is definitely a great foot forward for a first time fan mission author. You can tell alot of time and care has gone into the creation of it, and everyone should at least give it a try. Recommended!

    Screens (Disclaimer: Because of the bright orange window and lamp textures in the city that caused the screens to appear crazy-dark, you'll have to play the mission to see the city for yourself)



    I really enjoyed the look and feel of that tavern area.




    Most interiors are very detailed and have a warm lived in atmosphere.




    This guy, like most of the AI in the mission, seems to have stayed out a bit too late at the previously mentioned local tavern.




    More sleeping citizens.




    The dark and ominous hotel.




    Perhaps I'll steal, eat and drink everything from this table before I'm noticed. Or perhaps not. Wait.. is he looking at me? *runs*
    Last edited by SneakyJack; 15th Jan 2010 at 16:26.

  18. #1618
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2002
    Location: ColoRADo
    Quote Originally Posted by quakis View Post
    Just a personal note - judging from a lot of The Dark Mod screens, the general lighting is usually far too dark at times and sometimes a little tacky; I'd personally blame idTech4/Doom3 for that. [1 Top of the screen]

    Though I'm pretty sure something can be done to brighten up the place, with some ambient light/more light entities. It's been a long time since I last messed with Radiant for Doom3, I forgot what's possible.

    I will mention that I think the normal maps / specular maps (are there any speculars?) are probably too sharp/shiney at times. It really makes a lot of the textures and in some cases, the lighting, look really fake. [2 I think the grey stone wall sheen is over done [2b] Infact, even this door. ] Too much information in the texture is very distraction from a visual point of view. [3 It's pretty obvious here, especially due to the darkness.]

    By no means am I trying to discourage or offend, but I'm just looking at this from an honest view point - something that should be looked into. Of course, I've yet to play the fan missions themselves.
    I just wanted to quote this specifically becuase imo it is probably one of the largest complaints I have against people who want to 'not like TDM'.

    1-complaint about lack of ambient lighting. This is NOT a TDM thing, this is a map by map thing. The ambient world light in TDM can be used or not, it can be bright as sunlight, it can be green, orange, whatever.
    But this isn't limited to TDM maps, I know of T2 maps that use NO ambient lighting, it's very dark and hard to find your way around and I don't like it. But that's not an issue with T2, it's an issue with certian maps.

    2-I agree, not all the textures are perfect, some can and will be adjusted. When people make specific complaints it's alot easier for the team to take a look at that specific asset and think 'yeah, they're right, that one does need work' or 'nah, we like that as is'. Alot of people have worked on alot of stuff so not everything was done exactly the same way.
    But as good as T1 and T2 are, they weren't perfect either. Really, play T1 and look at the crappy low res textures for what they are. (low res and crappy). But the game was classic and we all love it and except the textures for what they are. Many people have contributed to the community and have improved on the base content (NV's Upgrade pack for instance).
    The same can be done to TDM, improved, changed, added to...

    3-screenshots are never the best representation of a game. It's always hard for me to pick the best shot to take in any engine, because one static shot loses so much from actually being in said enviroment. I always feel I'm cutting something out. Don't knock it til you try it, I know we've all heard that but it's true, judging the mod on screens alone is a very narrow/shallow way to go about it imo.
    And like said above, screens are generally brightned from all thief games so they are easy to see on a forum.
    ---------------
    As far as other stuff. We sure could use more assets, the more contributers the better. I'm stoked that Otto let me port his buildings, the one's I've got ported so far look great in game and we needed them badly.
    But overall I think we do have about as much content as T2 had really.The spots we are lacking in are getting filled in more all the time.

    It's true also that most of the released missions don't compare to the best of the T2 missions. But the T2 missions that are at the top of everyones list were made by authors with experience and ALOT of community support. How many custom objects and textures are out there now for T2. ALOT.
    Anyway, I've had fun in all the released missions so far and think all the authors have done a great job with the assets and it proves that people with limited time using Dark Radiant can already make fun quality missions in a short period of time (most of them in about a month).
    Wait til we see missions that someone has put 6 months into instead of a month. They WILL be great.

  19. #1619
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Schwaa2 View Post
    3-screenshots are never the best representation of a game. It's always hard for me to pick the best shot to take in any engine, because one static shot loses so much from actually being in said enviroment. I always feel I'm cutting something out. Don't knock it til you try it, I know we've all heard that but it's true, judging the mod on screens alone is a very narrow/shallow way to go about it imo.
    And like said above, screens are generally brightned from all thief games so they are easy to see on a forum.
    ---------------
    Exactly, and I try to express that though I try to make my screens look enticing for people to try a mission out - you really need to play the mission for yourself and see it in motion before forming a final opinion. There are so many variables.. adjustments I've made to make the image more visible, monitor and graphics card differences and so on.

    I also agree with the rest of what you said. I see the huge potential in TDM if its adopted by those who can take it above and beyond just like they've done with the Dark Engine and dromed. The Dark Mod is only getting started but needs the help of those who enjoy creating missions to really soar to new heights.

  20. #1620
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2008
    Location: in your second eyelids
    Ah, reviewing a mission 68 after the release? Aiming for a record, eh?

    Nice to see you covering every TDM mission so quickly, though.

  21. #1621
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by Thor02 View Post
    Ah, reviewing a mission 68 after the release? Aiming for a record, eh?
    I reviewed one like 40 minutes after its release, and chances are this one was posted on the Dark Mod forums before it was posted here Seems to be a lag time between when its posted there and when its posted here.

  22. #1622
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2002
    Location: UK
    Nice reviews - keep 'em coming - but just to set the record straight: The Dark Mod does not provide or support player shadow or player model for either reflection or body awareness. Any sight of either is a mapper or player option. In fact the player shadow is strictly a player choice and not even an official setting. The mapper should never set it on (but we can't stop them )

  23. #1623
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Thank you for the kind words Fidcal! I don't fault Bikerdude for trying something different, and for a first mission implementing things like that with it having never really been done before in a fan mission probably takes work and is bound to be a little clunky - I just found it really distracting and not in a good way. The reflection was fun, but the body shadow was a bit much. Body awareness doesn't really cause a positive effect in a Thief style gameplay setting in my opinion.

  24. #1624
    Southquarter.com/fms
    Registered: Apr 2000
    Location: The Akkala Highlands
    Weird, I was wondering to myself if I just hadn't noticed the body shadows before in other missions. I also found this extremely distracting, especially when the player performs certain actions and the shadow does not reflect the action (i.e. blackjacking).

    Also - wanted to mention that I'm having a really hard time getting into TDM missions, simply because I'm not Garrett. It feels sort of empty playing an anonymous thief - is anyone else getting this? I sort of assumed that the TDM team was taking a hard stance on not using official Thief names and places because they wanted to go "by the book," especially on their web site. But in the end, I thought FM authors would go ahead and do it anyway, and the TDM team almost expected it. After Melan's TDM missions changes though, this appears to not be the case.

    I guess it'll just take getting used to...

  25. #1625
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Location: Toronto, Canada
    Also - wanted to mention that I'm having a really hard time getting into TDM missions, simply because I'm not Garrett.
    How would the existing missions be any different if you were playing Garrett?

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