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Thread: Behind The Builder Volume Four: Interview With Digital Nightfall (Dec. 11th 2009)

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: May 2008

    Behind The Builder Volume Four: Interview With Digital Nightfall (Dec. 11th 2009)



    Vitals
    Name: Digital Nightfall; Daniel Todd
    Missions Released: 2; Gathering at the Inn (Director), Mission X (Director, Designer)
    Missions Currently Being Developed: CoSaS: The Nine Year Sleep

    For this edition of Behind The Builder ladies and gentlemen, you are in for quite a treat - I've secured the time and wisdom of The Architect himself.. Digital Nightfall. Responsible for TTLG, Thief-thecircle.com and others - we're all here mostly thanks to this cornerstone of the Thief community and his hard work. Serving as Director on two of the community's finest works thus far (along with the rest of team CoSaS) Gathering At The Inn and Mission X (as well as the upcoming The Nine Year Sleep, the third entry in the series) Mr. Todd has given us an amazing look into the mind of a fan mission creator and the inner workings of dealing with an entire team of creative minds.

    Did you know? (Some information tidbits on this volume's featured builder)

    He has a UDK project in progress? You can see that here.

    He's co-authored a children's book? You can see (and purchase!) that here.

    He's involved with a six novel series based on a Thief: The Dark Project e-play? Read about that here.



    First and foremost Mr. Todd I'd like to thank you for creating TTLG and for maintaining the forums - your website helped me discover my first fan mission and led to my participation in the community - without TTLG I may have never known fan missions existed for the thief games! That being said, lets get down to business. What can you tell us about yourself?

    I don't like to eat mushrooms. I never have. On the other hand, I will still eat them if they are cooked into something very good, and cut up small enough so that they don't have that mushroom shape. I’ve never been offered ‘shroom tea, but if I was I would probably turn it down. Mushrooms… ick.

    Thats certainly an interesting direction to take the "about me section" indeed! If you had to choose - which mission would be your favorite project, and why?

    The Nine Year Sleep, which is the one I am working on right now. It has to be that way... if I work on it thinking that something I did in the past is my favorite, then the current project will never become something I can be passionate about. So it's nothing personal - I am not saying that the current project is better than a past one, only that the past is the past, and I am totally focused on the present and future.

    That makes sense - being completely focused on the current project is definitely a good thing. When creating a mission, what would you say is the most important aspect?


    Have a core theme or concept and stick with it in everything that's designed. A mission, no matter how simple, needs to be about something, and have some central idea that informs the author and therefore the player of why they are in this place and what they must do - even if it's hidden. It can be a story element, either a classic one or one with a strange twist, a type of mission objective, a unique or iconic location, or even simply an atmosphere you wish to attain.

    "The mission needs to be about something" seems so simple when you say it - but we've all seen times when authors miss that completely. As for your own projects, does having spent so much time intimately with a mission cause you to avoid playing your own releases?

    I can never play my own work. I can only test it. Sure, I can load up MX into darkloader and give the mission a spin, but it's impossible to let go of the design aspect - the entire time I will be studying it, analyzing what was done and what could be changed or fixed. So if I tried to play right now, it wouldn't be playing - it would be a test run to explore concepts for a possible future patches.

    You sound like a perfectionist when it comes to your own work - sometimes we're our own worst enemy! As far as CoSaS, where did you get the idea for the CoSaS Project?

    Back in the old days before anyone even knew what dromed was, taffers would amuse themselves by roleplaying on the forum. Loose scenarios were created, and anyone was free to join in so long as they stayed in character and kept their posts consistent with what had been posted before. This activity spilled over into the news posts of The Circle, where James Sterrett, Dashjianta (then Jyre) and I would post news as if we were the characters we played on the forum. This quickly evolved into the fan-novel Correspondence of Thieves, which was written the same way as the forum roleplay, but with fixed set of authors (we asked Ghost and Lytha to join in) and done over email and internet-relay-chat (IRC). (I later dubbed this COT-O, the e-play, to help differentiate it from the current rewrite project.) Thus, when dromed went public and FMs started to fly, I knew I wanted to do a mission based on the old roleplays and the fan-novel. Trimfect was also involved in the roleplays (he did use the characters Master Nightfall and Lytha in Gathering at the Bar), so it was only natural that he be involved. Of course, the CoSaS Project evolved and revolved many times before it reached its current nature, but that was the origin. Considering that community spirit and scenarios which always involved many “main characters” rather than a solitary protagonist were at the core to the original concept, it didn’t take very long for the idea of Mission X to come to the forefront.



    With such a complicated and packed mission (and story!) there has bound to be bits that didn't make it into the final cut. Please tell us about any content or ideas that were cut from your missions before release and why they were discarded.

    At one point MX had a dense city area where the courtyard is now, with a home base for the agents, complete with a camera set up in a window to watch the Ivory Rose. It was removed* when we began fighting the brush limit, along with the hotel rooms in the north hall, and the indoor swimming pool. A sixth agent was in the design docs, but he never made it past that stage. (*notice I raid removed, not deleted. I try to never throw anything away.)

    Interesting.. perhaps we'll see those removed portions in future missions! Along the same lines of cut content, do you have any stories about humorous or amusing bugs that have shown up in your missions unexpectedly?

    Not much seemed funny at the time. There was an interesting episode involving the discovery that AIs will turn light switches on and off without you telling them, an attempt to control this behavior, and ultimately an attempt to prevent them from ever doing it. It was a very frustrating process involving an AI behavior no one really understood. I am sure the team would be disappointed if I didn’t mention the gender confused guards, which simply involved a bearded male skin being applied to a female mesh, the problem being that no-one noticed it for several years. There’s a funny story about a solution, though – a scripted sequence was looping improperly when the player loaded a saved game during it. The object controlling the sequence was actually a small table inside one of the restrooms. In order to fix it, we actually designed the towel rack to “kill” (as literally kill as is possible in the game, as if it were a guard killed by the player) the table and then instantly replace it with an identical copy. So somewhere in the Ivory Rose there’s a murdering towel rack which replaces its victims with doppelgangers.

    That has to be one of the funniest stories I've read about a mission's history by far. Expanding on the "why is it doing THAT?" subject, are there any things beyond your current Dromed skill set that you hope to someday accomplish in a mission?

    That's a strange question for me. I feel like my current dromed skill set is fairly irrelevant, because no matter what I want to do I know I will be able to find someone who can help me do it. Of course, I would like to be more self reliant, but that will come in time. Oh, and jointed objects. I still need to figure out how to do those right.

    On the subject of being more self reliant, is there anything that you feel will be forever beyond your reach?

    I can’t imagine I will ever write my own scripts. Programming is just something that my brain won’t allow. But I don’t think I need to… I think the community’s script writers have pretty much created and will create any script that anyone could ever imagine or need, so I am not too worried about it!

    The depth of the Thief community's skill is pretty incredible, indeed. On a bit of a side note to the previous question - Is there anything you regret about or feel you could have done better in the missions you’ve released?

    Gathering at the Inn was allowed to be far more silly than was appropriate, and by that I mean that the team allowed me to be far more silly with it than they should have tolerated! It would have helped if the silliness was actually funny, but I think in most cases it was just absurd with no value. Mission X was released with some scary bugs in it, so bad that a quick patch turned into a nearly two month affair.



    To head in the opposite direction of the last question, what are you the most proud of?

    I am very pleased and somewhat astonished that somehow, Mission X was the true realization of its initial vision. Some of the plot details changed and the mission objectives went through a gauntlet of alterations, but that initial spark of inspiration that served as the fountainhead was realized perfectly in the final product.

    And it will be a measuring stick for missions to come for many years, I'm sure. Speaking of 'measuring stick missions', 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?

    No, no, not at all, but I sometimes play one and think, "wow, I need to get this author to give me advice / help me with some things / work on a CoSaS mission with me."


    I suppose that's definitely a more productive way to look at it. Some things on the other hand will hinder production.. What, to you, is the most frustrating thing about the creation of a fan mission from start to finish?

    In many places in the current project I’ve created false ceilings out of static meshes (objects). These often have to be broken into pieces, but they refuse to light evenly. The engine will calculate the lighting for each object as an independent process, so two side-by-side ceiling panels are often very unevenly lit. Also, the dromed 3D view window can't take nearly as many polygons as you can view in-game (by this I mean BSP plus from the objects), which makes editing some areas tricky unless you set all objects to “not rendered” in the hierarchy. Other than that, it's easily the brush limit, object limit, and the pathfinding limit (which is the silent killer), and all of the other limits, though those are like teddy bears compared to the three I mentioned.

    Musicians have "B-sides", Directors have "cut scenes" and mission authors have "abandoned projects". Do you have any abandoned or unfinished projects that you've began but will never see the light of day? If so, why were they discarded?

    Yes and no. There's many CoSaS missions that are quite far along, but I have no idea if I'll be able to finish them all. I truly want to – I owe it to Mokkis and CRC and Finial and Purah to get those missions finished some day. I mean, doesn’t everyone want a new FM from one of those guys? There’s also a handful of CoSaS missions that have been cut from the project with their unfinished mis files sitting quietly on my harddrive waiting for the inevitable day when I decide what to do with them. In particular there’s a very impressive Hammerite mission that Mokkis, Finial, and I worked together on which I hope to someday see as an FM, but can’t be worked into the current draft of the CoSaS plot.

    I certainly hope all that hard work will see the light of day in one form or another. You've mentioned alot of community members names thus far - Who (if any) was your biggest influence on your own mission building style?

    In the early days, Finial and Mokkis, because I worked so much with them and on their work itself. Mokkis had an excellent sense of the ordinary, the every day, the intricate real-world middle aged village. Finial on the other hand was always creating bold, soaring, magnificent environments. The community hasn’t even seen half of what he’s done in the dark engine, and I hope to share it someday. At present, due to the nature of my current work, I mostly draw from my experience at architecture school, my various books, and many years of daydreams which I now feel I have the skills to realize.



    A background in architecture seems to lead to beautiful mission creations and layouts indeed. DrK can be cited as another great example of this as well. Moving back toward community involvement - What was the most memorable comment that was given to you about one of your missions?

    It was along the lines of, "Mission X was an interesting technical experiment, but ultimately a failure." That one really lodged itself in my mind.


    Its a shame that sometimes the negative comments are the ones that are the stickiest. What percentage of the total time spent in Dromed for you was used shouting curse words and waving your fist at your monitor?

    During the final days of MX, probably around 95% of the time. That mission’s bugs had bugs, which in turn had parasites and those parasites occasionally had a virus in them somewhere. The best part was, with so many interacting systems, a cataclysmic failure could easily happen in a perfectly functioning system due to the way another perfectly functional system interacts with it in an unanticipated way. I still have nightmares. On my current work, however, I usually only uttered a silent curse when it crashed from having too many polygons in the 3d window.


    As you described, Dromed can be an absolute bear - what kept you going when you felt like giving up?

    On the contrary, I believe dromed is actually one of the most sensible and easy to use programs I design with. Though other programs give the outward appearance of user-friendliness that dromed lacks, under the surface dromed is a very powerful and intuitive and even dare I say reliable application, whereas software like AutoCAD or UnrealEd make me want to throw my computer out of the window.

    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?

    Design for yourself, not what you think the community wants. Never be afraid to try something strange, new, or off the wall. Register at TTLG, join the TEG community and ask a ton of questions – it’s one of the best places on the internet. Always have someone proofread your text. On the other hand, don't mess with how the blackjack works unless you’re ready to make a lot of taffers mad.

    We all have things that bother us in one mission or another - What are your fan mission pet peeves?

    Loot objectives. I hated these in the OMs and I continue to in FMs. If it makes sense for the plot, fine, but often they are just tacked on arbitrary requirements to artificially require the player to visit a certain number of rooms before they can finish the game, often completely contradicting the spirit, mood, or story of the mission. It makes me feel like I am playing pac-man. Rooms with fifty pieces of loot in them also make me sigh. Ten page long readables that have important quest information on page eight. Readables are very important to the plot and puzzles of a mission, but I want to be playing the mission, not reading page after page of stuff. I think that if the author can’t get the information they want across on one or two pages, then they need to find a different way of telling that aspect of the story.

    Great points. What things would you like to see more of in future fan mission releases?

    Missions that take place outside of the Thief universe. It’s very difficult, because so many basic assets need to be recreated, but whenever it’s attempted it catches my interest as something special. Also, I like to see authors make events out of their mission releases. FMs are the community’s bread and butter, and thoughts or news about Thief 4 often brings out cynicism and negativity. People like to be excited about things and look forward to them. It can be a double edged sword – too-high expectations can kill first impressions – but the benefit is for the community as a whole.



    Shifting gears back to missions you've participated in - If you could go back and change something about missions you've released - which missions and what would you change?

    I'd make a version of MX with Easy, Normal, and Hard as the difficulty levels and release it as an optional patch. It would not be a change, but a new way for less experienced players to enjoy that mission. I’d rewrite the readable texts in GatI to be far, far less silly and absurd, and much, much shorter.

    Taffers in the community are always clamoring for the next bit of information on the incredible CoSaS series.. Any exclusive information about your upcoming projects that you can give in this interview?

    We’ve recently decided to drop the “Mission 3” from the title of The Nine Year Sleep because we felt it was misrepresentative of the campaign structure. If we use any type of identifying moniker at all, it will be something like “Byron’s Prelude.” This will be the first of many missions featuring Byron, our second player character who was vaguely introduced in the Mission X briefing and ending quotes. Dante’s next outing, often referred to as WFFF, will bear the title of “Mission 3” as previously indicated before 9YS’s announcement. On the one hand you can think of 9YS as a mission set within the CoSaS/COT universe that it not part of the main campaign sequence. On the other, it can be thought of as the first mission of the “Second Act” of the project, completed and released prior to the first act being completed. Other than that I’ll just say that things have been going very well, and that we plan on silent running for a while.

    This is not chiefly FM related, but the rewrite of Correspondence of Thieves (COT-R, some may recall talk earlier this year of it being printed as a six-volume set) is very close to being finished. I'm currently working day and night on a 3rd draft, taking the notes from my editor along with some of my own ideas for changes and implementing them, as well as trimming some fat and doing some continuity alterations. It's been in the works for nearly five years so it's good to be able to go over the entire story in about a week and make sure everything is in agreement. Once that's done there will be a final grammar pass and then... finished! COT2 has been extensively outlined, with most of the previous attempt (written before I started on COT-R) thrown out.

    Very interesting stuff! Earlier in the interview you had mentioned that the core theme is your more important design aspect - what were the core themes of your missions?

    In the case of GatI, it was an FM that harkens back to the classic adventure games of Infocom, Sierra, or Lucasarts, with puzzles that involve the logical application of a found object on a scenario, with multiple solutions. A secondary theme was the creation of a location that was completely porous, where the mission did not have a beginning, middle, and end, but had all areas accessible immediately and it was the player’s choice how to proceed. With MX, it was the creation of a team-play scenario where you were on a mission with NPCs filling the roles of virtual player-characters and completing objectives alongside you, with the ability to chose some of your objectives and allow other team members to do the ones you do not want. As for Nine Year Sleep, suffice it to say that it is heavily inspired by nostalgia of Ultima Underworld.

    Further expanding on your overall process - What is your modus operandi when creating a mission?

    After the core concept is determined, a great deal of time is spent “on paper” creating outlines and flowcharts and diagrams detailing the plot, objectives, puzzles, and locations. A strong emphasis is placed on creating areas and locations that exist independently from the theme, story, or objectives, so it does not feel like this place was created just for the player’s experience, but rather that it exists in the world and the player is simply visiting it on one night (or day) in its history. Though I don’t properly rough out the entire mission space before adding any detail, I don’t, as a rule, ever finish anything before moving on. I will design each area until I am satisfied that I have created something good, and then move on. I won’t return to that area until the entire map has been created in this way (unless I have a really urgent idea I just have to try.) This seems to be a good balance that keeps the brush count of the mission from getting out of control, but still lets me feel like I’ve created good things every time I work on it. After a few detail passes, adding final textures, objects, and lighting, I’ll roombrush the map, and then get to work on patrols, objectives, puzzles, and other scripting and scripted events. The final touches are usually the map, adding ambient sounds, readable texts, key and loot placement.



    Definitely an interesting battle plan.. Why would you save such important things for last?


    Because they are so important, and need to be created with the entire mission in mind. So much can change during development, it’s easy for feature lag when obsolete parts of something still exist in spite of the things that required or inspired them in the first place having been removed or a lack of an understanding of the big picture to corrupt the balance and the flow. So, as much as loot and readable texts are a part of the designed environment, it’s even a bigger part of the overall gameplay balance and flow.

    All of your fan missions have been team projects. Why do you like working on a team?


    Because I see mission design as less of a personal art and more of a social hobby. We have a big, talented, generous community, so I like to involve many people in my work to share in their talents and ideas. It’s more rewarding for me to work on a project with a group of friends than it would be to just plod away every day on my own thing that is all about me and my ideas. It also lets artists and musicians and writers who otherwise would never have been able to contribute to the FM scene have their part in the creation of a project as a part of a team. Working with such talented people inspires me to constantly reach farther and work harder to improve my own work so that it’s up to par with theirs, and also to inspire the team members to do work beyond their best, doing things far more ambitious and demanding than they would have attempted had they been working on their own. I think in a way every FM is a team project, since the beta testers are so important. I like to get others involved from square one, however, and also get the testers involved far earlier than normal so that their input can have a real impact on the way the mission is designed.

    You seem to act as the glue that keeps the team together - What do you look for the most in potential team members?

    I value attitude and group chemistry more than talent or experience – I think a novice with a great attitude who works well with the team is far better for a project than a seasoned veteran who no-one can get along with. When Yametha, Anarchic Fox, and I began work on Mission X, the three of us had practically no experience for the task ahead. But because we worked so well together and were so determined and persistent, it made the project possible. This is a far cry from a tiny portion of team members, and they shall remain nameless*, who in spite of their experience and skill, only managed to frustrate me and waste my time. (*this is in no way meant to allude to Nameless Voice, who helped me tremendously.) In fact, I would say that inexperience sometimes is an asset, as it allows someone to reach for something that someone who knows-it-all would say is impossible.

    Being mostly cast into the Director role you seem to usually be in a position of power - Have you ever worked on someone else’s team?

    I’ve pitched in a few times with odd jobs for a friend. I did some small contributions to Rose Cottage early in its development while it was still a horror contest mission. Hipbreaker enlisted my advice steadily for about a year prior to Eclipsed’s release. I drew the map for Slyfoxx’s Unnecessary Risk. I created the briefing movies for both Dashjianta’s Ranstall Keep and much more recently kfort’s Wicked Relics. I don’t get asked for help very often, though. I’ve beta tested a few times, but honestly, I think I am a terrible beta tester. The other testers on the team always find ten times as many bugs as I do!

    Now that my mind is boggled, lets get back to mission creation - what tools other than dromed do you use for mission design?

    Normally I have dromed, 3ds max, and Photoshop all open at the same time (which makes the computer come to its knees after a little while). I try to think of them not as distinct separate activities, but as all part of the design process. I can’t ever seem to go very long without having to use either PS or Max, so now I just start them all up whenever I get ready to dromed. For some modeling tasks I will still use Sketchup and import to Max, mostly when I need to extrude a shape along a complex path, since Sketchup seems to do that better than Max can. Of course this also means that NV’s 3ds-to-bin is almost always open, and occasionally the alpha conversion tool. I use it much less often, but Binskins has to be one of my favorite community-made applications. I couldn’t have done the cosas release packs without it, and the Mission X zip file could have been many megs larger if I didn’t have it to help me sort through my files. I use Goldwave to edit audio files, and editpadlite for the str and schema files. To a more peripheral extent, my scanner, digital camera, a trusty notebook, coffee pot, and the perpetually running winamp playing Ambient Nights in the background. Another big help is the normal human sleep schedule, which provides me with six to eight hours of quiet dromeding time while the world slumbers.

    When working on your mission, do you ever worry that people simply won’t like it?

    I try not to worry anymore about people not liking my mission because I know that people won’t like it. It’s just an eventuality. I just know that I can only do what I do if I am enjoying it, so that’s that. Mission design is a hobby, not a product or service… there’s no supply and demand. How awful would it be if mission authors were limited in what they could make by the community’s willingness to fund their efforts?

    Another great point. And now for an easier question to lead us out - How do you personally pronounce Dromed?

    One syllable, with the E silent.

    My thanks again go to Digital Nightfall for his time (and patience) and for all of you who sent messages asking when the next BTB would see the light of day. Due to incredibly bleak personal issues that I'd rather not bring up again its been a long time coming - but I hope this edition was worth the wait, and more will follow!
    Last edited by SneakyJack; 11th Dec 2009 at 21:28.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: May 2008
    Bonus Part 2!

    As a special treat for those of you who are like me and are clamoring for more screens of The Nine Year Sleep - I've got some screens to share with you from the man himself, along with this bit of information on the screens that I found funny and interesting:

    Two of these I am releasing because Sliptip accidentally spilled the beans on them. He had them in his photobucket under the name LoFrm and clearing found them, posted them asking about an FM named "LoFrm" ... we quickly pointed out that they were actually mine and that LoFrm stood for Low Framerate! Sliptip was checking my work out and showed those shots to me as examples of areas where the framerate got too low. Both of these areas probably won't look this fancy in the released mission, so people may as well see them now.
    So without further teasing, lets see the eye candy:









    Beautiful, atmospheric and detailed! The Nine Year Sleep is sure to please when it is finally released just as the previous missions in the series have.

  3. #3
    Master Builder 2018
    Registered: Jul 2008
    Great interview! Thanks Digi, that was very enlightening, very enjoyable and much appreciated. And thanks for bringing us another great entry SneakyJack.

    I'll disagree with you on one thing though, Digi. I think you're a very good tester.

  4. #4
    jtr7
    Guest
    Nice! Thanks for taking the time!

  5. #5
    Clearinghouse
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Siberia, Russia

    Cool. Another great work
    Thanks for the interview, both of you

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2009
    Location: Situation's changed, Tom.
    Very informing and a joy to read! Thank you both!

  7. #7
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU
    A thorough and interesting interview. Thank you!

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2007
    Location: Germany
    This has to be an early christmas present! Thanks!

  9. #9
    L'architecte de Rocksbourg
    Registered: Nov 2005
    Location: Narbonne, France
    Great work, thanks SJ and Dan

    Quote Originally Posted by SneakyJack View Post
    On the contrary, I believe dromed is actually one of the most sensible and easy to use programs I design with. Though other programs give the outward appearance of user-friendliness that dromed lacks, under the surface dromed is a very powerful and intuitive and even dare I say reliable application, whereas software like AutoCAD or UnrealEd make me want to throw my computer out of the window.

    Design for yourself, not what you think the community wants. Never be afraid to try something strange, new, or off the wall.
    Absolutely spot on !

    Two of these I am releasing because Sliptip accidentally spilled the beans on them. He had them in his photobucket under the name LoFrm and clearing found them, posted them asking about an FM named "LoFrm" ...

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: May 2003
    Location: Normally I'm in the batcave.
    That interview had me glued to my monitor; really well done! Digital Nightfall is a genius man, why does it seem like all of the best game designers are working for free nowadays? Not that I'm complaining, being as I barely have enough money for the McDonalds dollar menu these days.

    Also, those screens for CoSaS 3 (or prelude part 2 act one or whatever the hell it is)....GOOD...LORD. ****ing AMAZING.


  11. #11
    Keeper of FMs
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Rio Rancho, NM
    Great interview!

    Having worked extensively with Digi pre-beta on Mission X, I can say that he is truly dedicated to producing the best mission possible. Digi's strongest point is the ability to use all available resources...people, programs, ideas, whatever...to create a cohesive whole which far surpasses the sum of its parts. No matter how serious the problem was, he managed either to fix it himself or to find the right person to fix it. He has amazing drive and patience and the ability to infect one with his enthusiasm for his current project. Yes, there were the swearing moments, but those were always followed by a feverish determination to overcome all obstacles. And, he never asked more effort than he himself was willing to give.

    I feel very privileged to have worked so closely with him. I gained a new and boundless respect for those who create FMs. It is surely a labor of love. I can't wait to see what The Nine Year Sleep will bring us!

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2009
    Location: Riverside,CA USA

    HAH Cat!

    From what I understand:

    Dromed moments are AKA "Swearing moments"!

    And Digi is something else, I am really having a very hard time believing what I am seeing! Movie quality visuals from such an an ancient engine and editor!

    Every dev that worked on T1 and T2 and even T3, if not sufficiently embarrassed by the FM making community yet, are definitely gonna go "WTF,THAT was possible?"

    Hell, all devs in the industry should see this when it's finished! They really need to see just how far a bar can be raised if they don't make sure to squeeze out every drop of whatever capabilities the engine/editor of whatever they are currently working on has!
    Last edited by Garrett's Shadow; 12th Dec 2009 at 14:39.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2001
    Location: Moscow
    On the contrary, I believe dromed is actually one of the most sensible and easy to use programs I design with. Though other programs give the outward appearance of user-friendliness that dromed lacks, under the surface dromed is a very powerful and intuitive and even dare I say reliable application, whereas software like AutoCAD or UnrealEd make me want to throw my computer out of the window.
    That's absolutely true.

    However, this bugs me:

    Missions that take place outside of the Thief universe.
    As a person who approaches Thief fan-missions in the same way as Thief fan-art, I simply can't understand how non-Thief universe fan-missions can make anyone happy.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2009
    Location: Riverside,CA USA

    Well if Dromed is so easy, then why have so many given up after trying to work with it?
    (Just cuz there's worse editors out there does'nt mean Dromed is easy!)

    And as for "out of universe" type stuff, well man, if EVERY FM was "true-to-form", then peeps would get the dreaded ole "Burn Out" quite easily!
    A change of pace makes coming back even nicer! Why do you think people take vacations fer cripes sake?
    And It can be argued that T2X, Rose Cottage, COSaS, 4th Planet, and quite a few others are "outside the envelope", (ie: not Garrett and/or not in the realm of what has been presented by the OMs) and all are freakin great FMs!
    By your statement it can be implied that all those wonderful mission/campaigns I mentioned should never have been created!

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2001
    Location: Moscow
    Quote Originally Posted by Garrett's Shadow View Post
    Well if Dromed is so easy, then why have so many given up after trying to work with it?
    (Just cuz there's worse editors out there does'nt mean Dromed is easy!)
    It's never been said that DromEd is easy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Garrett's Shadow View Post
    And as for "out of universe" type stuff, well man, if EVERY FM was "true-to-form", then peeps would get the dreaded ole "Burn Out" quite easily!
    A change of pace makes coming back even nicer! Why do you think people take vacations fer cripes sake?
    And It can be argued that T2X, Rose Cottage, COSaS, 4th Planet, and quite a few others are "outside the envelope", (ie: not Garrett and/or not in the realm of what has been presented by the OMs) and all are freakin great FMs!
    By your statement it can be implied that all those wonderful mission/campaigns I mentioned should never have been created!
    When it comes to robbing some distant castle on Saturn, it's way off.

  16. #16
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU
    Quote Originally Posted by Garrett's Shadow View Post
    Well if Dromed is so easy, then why have so many given up after trying to work with it?
    (Just cuz there's worse editors out there does'nt mean Dromed is easy!)
    That's not very relevant since people give up on editors for all sorts of reasons. Building a level is not always an easy thing to do if you aren't into it. Dromed, while in some corners counterintuitive and bound by arbitrary limits (e.g. the total number orf brushes), is remarkably versatile for its age. Even without custom scripts, if you understand its basics, you can accomplish a lot with it.
    • No transparent windows? Take a default reskinnable secret door object, assign to it a window texture and add transparency.
    • Want a sequence of timed events? Create a trigger that drops a servant in an off-world corridor, who slowly patrols to a sequence of switches, frobbing them one after the other.
    • Want a door that breaks when you touch it? Turn it into a button that triggers a teleport, whitching the door for a broken one and playing a sound.
    • Want a machine that blows up when operated unless you first remove a crucial component? Again, a few teleporters and an emitter that fires off a lethal explosion will do the trick.

    That so many people have built so many missions with Dromed, and often missions way outside the game's default assumptions, is proof of its powerful nature (in comparison, the number of Thief 3 missions is much more meagre). The trick is just to think in terms of functions and treat Dromed's functionality as some sort of programming language.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2008
    Location: behind your second eyelids
    Quote Originally Posted by d'Spair View Post
    When it comes to robbing some distant castle on Saturn, it's way off.
    Oh, right, cause there are so many FMs with robbing some distant castle on Saturn and MARS too!

    Quote Originally Posted by d'Spair View Post
    As a person who approaches Thief fan-missions in the same way as Thief fan-art, I simply can't understand how non-Thief universe fan-missions can make anyone happy.
    Not like the authors try to make an interesting plot or just making it out of sheer love for Thief engine. Bloody bastards... we should exterminate those FMs from the face of this community. All hail d'Spair!

  18. #18
    Keeper of FMs
    Registered: Oct 2004
    Location: Rio Rancho, NM
    I think missions like MX and other 'non-typical' missions show just how versatile old Dromed is. I think Digi said it best:
    Design for yourself, not what you think the community wants. Never be afraid to try something strange, new, or off the wall. Register at TTLG, join the TEG community and ask a ton of questions – it’s one of the best places on the internet. Always have someone proofread your text. On the other hand, don't mess with how the blackjack works unless you’re ready to make a lot of taffers mad.
    Making a mission is something the author does first & foremost for him/herself, not for money but for the pleasure (and pain) of it. Stretching your limits & the limits of the editor are admirable, especially given that any non-Thiefy mission is bound to have critics no matter how well-constructed.

  19. #19
    Archivist
    Registered: Sep 2002
    Location: Museum of the Ancients
    Great insight and some lovely screens The lightning and texturing is astonishing!

    Thank you SneakyJack and Digi for the interview!

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2009
    Location: Riverside,CA USA

    Some peeps REALLY need to read what they are qouting compared to what they then say:

    From this post of yours d'spair:
    you quoted:
    On the contrary, I believe dromed is actually one of the most sensible and easy to use programs......
    [QUOTE=d'Spair;1941876]That's absolutely true.
    QUOTE]

    How odd, sure seems to me you are quoting someone who is saying that Dromed is easy and that you agree with him/her. But then contradict yourself with:
    Quote Originally Posted by d'Spair View Post
    It's never been said that DromEd is easy.

    Quote Originally Posted by d'Spair View Post
    When it comes to robbing some distant castle on Saturn, it's way off.
    Uh huh. So you DO think "4th Planet" and it's inspiration "Walking on Mars" don't deserve to exist!


    Quote Originally Posted by Melan View Post
    .......Dromed, while in some corners counterintuitive......
    And there's someone who disagrees with this part of the quote you posted d'spair:
    ......dromed is a very powerful and intuitive...

    Now I know that it's all a matter of perspective, and that some people have experience with other even harder to use editors, as has been mentioned (so Dromed is easy IN COMPARISON), but like I said:
    B being harder to use than A does NOT mitigate however hard A is to use!

    And although some people may quit Dromed for other reasons, most of the time it's prolly because they don't know how to do a work-around like the ones you listed Melan, or keep encountering one the many bugs in it, or for some other reason akin to those, all of which still add up to the perception by that person of Dromed being a hard to use program!
    Thank god for great people like you Melan and all the rest at TEG who know that gobledy gook and are willing to clue in a Dromeder who does'nt - that willingness to share has most likely saved many a worthy FM from the round filing cabinet!
    (and prevented many eventually great creators from just saying screw this early on in the process!)

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2006
    Location: The BoneHoard
    Cool interview. Thanks!

  22. #22
    Member
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Toronto
    Great interview Sneaky! I've been looking forward to this one awhile now.

    Digi's volunteered to help me on many occasions and. . . well, I don't think I could have put it better than Pav's did - suffice to say it's been a real pleasure! (and a huge asset).

    From what I've seen of 9YS the community's in for something great. Next time Digi hears an off remark I hope he realizes that his work is simply being held to a much higher standard than most others.

  23. #23
    Classical Master 2008
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Civitas Quinque Ecclesiae HU
    BTW, Dromed was the first game editor I tried, ever, and after all the horror stories I heard about it, it was a remarkably painless learning experience. Really. And if you do read the documentation and go through Komag's tutorial, you will have the basics down. The rest is a process of discovery and finding answers to "now how would I do that with these tools" kind of questions.

    Back to the interview, what struck me is how disciplined DN appears to be. Very methodical; I could never start an FM with flowcharts and relationship diagrams, I just have something like a map, a mood and a few sketches of architecture I want to build. But then I didn't direct Mission X either, so...

  24. #24
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2001
    Location: Alabama
    "Programming is just something that my brain won’t allow."

    This was the standout quote for me. I just recently arrived at that reality with regards to several items I just can't seem to crack, and it makes no sense. I have enough prerequisite skills and talents to surround certain subjects, but when I attempt them, it is as if I'm on my own and completely lost - my brain won't allow it!

  25. #25
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2001
    Location: Moscow
    Quote Originally Posted by Thor02 View Post
    Oh, right, cause there are so many FMs with robbing some distant castle on Saturn and MARS too!
    There tend to be more and more of them since the community is running out of worthy ideas alarmingly fast.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thor02 View Post
    Not like the authors try to make an interesting plot or just making it out of sheer love for Thief engine. Bloody bastards... we should exterminate those FMs from the face of this community.
    Making something crazy with the Dark Engine (i.e. fighting with robots, walking around spaceships, driving carts etc) has nothing to do with Thief fan-missions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thor02 View Post
    All hail d'Spair!
    Thanks.

    How odd, sure seems to me you are quoting someone who is saying that Dromed is easy and that you agree with him/her. But then contradict yourself with:
    Notice I put the word easy in italics. DromEd is definitely easier than some of the editors out there, but it's still remamrkably hard for non-experienced people who are not willing to fight through it. By comparision with UnrealEd, when something wrong is going on with UnrealEd (you get invisible walls, BSP holes and so on), sometimes it is almost impossible to trace what exactly is causing the error and what on earth must be done to fix it. In DromEd and Dark Engine, errors and weird things are frequent, but if you know the editor good enough, you always can find what's the problem.

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