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Thread: Behind The Builder Volume Five: Interview With Saturnine (Aug. 19th, 2011)

  1. #1
    Registered: May 2008

    Behind The Builder Volume Five: Interview With Saturnine (Aug. 19th, 2011)

    Name: Saturnine, David Tonkinson
    Missions Released: 2; The Seventh Crystal, Rose Cottage

    Interviewer's Note:
    Here, ladies and gentlemen, we have an interview done with Saturnine quite a long time ago that until now had not seen the light of day due to many issues - chief among them is the fact that due to real life issues there was a need to take a step back from games completely and I had forgotten that I hadn't posted it at any point. During a recent bout with hard drive space issues and needing to delete a ton of stuff I no longer needed I came across it and felt that it needed to be shared before my terrible memory buries it again. Unfortunately it was also done before the fantastic "Rose Cottage" was even announced (I think that the few times Rose Cottage was mentioned it might have been an exclusive up to that point) - so keep that in mind when reading it. I will hopefully be sending out questions to a few authors I've asked in the past for interviews and I hope with all the time that has elapsed they'll still be interested in answering them. Thank you all for taking the time to read these and to the authors that took the time to answer my silly questions.

    Greetings Saturnine, and thank you for taking the time to do an interview for the TTLG community. To get the ball rolling - what can you tell us about yourself?

    My name is David Tonkinson, I live on the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England and I'm an Artist and 3D designer at a game studio.

    Great, thank you. Now that we know a little about your background, let's head into some questions about your Thief fan mission building experiences. If you had to choose - which fan mission project would be your favorite to work on and why?

    My favorite project was never completed unfortunately, it was my version of Thief Gold's awesome 'Mage Towers', but I kind of ran out of steam with that one, but the concept was all there and I think it would have been cool.

    Sounds like one we would have all really enjoyed. Next up, what would you say is the most important aspect of creating a fan mission that people will enjoy?

    I think atmosphere is definitely one of the most important aspects of any mission, completely regardless of graphics it's the atmosphere that initially draws you in, and as with some FMs I've played, if it's done well it can stay with you, in some cases long after you finish playing.

    Agreed, and your opening squence for The Seventh Crystal perfectly sets up the mood and atmosphere for the following missions. Does having spent so much time intimately with a mission cause you to avoid playing your own missions once released?

    I've played The Seventh Crystal 'properly' a couple of times but the main problem with building a mission a tiny piece by piece is that you never get to experience it as someone else would, nothing is a surprise, so in the end you don't really experience you own creation as a full mission, it just seems like lots of separate areas joined together with headaches and swearing.

    Now we're at the question a lot of readers really enjoy - What can you tell us about any additional content cut from your missions before they were released and why they were removed?

    The Seventh Crystal had a LOT of content cut, in fact it was originally made in Thief Gold, I still remember how the library looked with it's Ramirez carpet. I decided to port it over to T2 because I knew I would eventually need coloured light for the ending of the whole thing: a tower room with a beam of white light shining down from above and splitting seven ways through a huge suspended crystal then separate beams shining through each of the coloured crystals (the cerulean sapphire being one) each directing coloured beams onto seven books that all begin writing visions of the future.......but that part never happened in the end

    The house originally had an indoor swimming pool, if you went out of the kitchen into the hallway and headed toward the guards area there was a doorway on the right wall as you pass some stairs. It was nice, it had a glass roof but it had to go unfortunately due to the brush count.

    Another room that was cut was a tower in the library with charts and astronomy equipment, this was at the back of the library through the little room where the safe is, there was another room through there with an elevator up to the tower.

    I built some of the outside of the house too, you could see it from the tower windows and there was also a courtyard outside the double doors of the room through the back of the kitchen. There was also an epilogue camvator scene which showed what happened after Garrett left and what was outside the conservatory gates, it led out into a snowy valley which ended in a sort of frozen glade with a folly like castle with fairy tale towers and stained glass windows. The original entrance point to the mission was the rooftop, there was a glass dome skylight in the entrance hall with a smashed pane, and there was roped off wooden scaffolding inside with some toolboxes and some more scaffolding outside against the front wall.

    But the biggest changes were the underground sections which were originally enormous caves with a long mine car ride through caverns of stalactites down to the hammer crypt which had haunts in it. At one point the mine car came out of a tunnel that opened up below you into a huge cavern with water at the bottom and you were crossing an Indiana Jones style rickety wooden bridge, but I think the only person who ever saw that was Apache. But in the end it was just an elevator, again because of the brush count limit.

    Great answers, thank you. Definitely some of the best insights we've had so far into cut content. Have any stories about humorous or amusing bugs that have shown up in your missions unexpectedly?

    I'm still very proud of my 'index 50bazillion' error that was immortalized on a t-shirt.

    Are there any things beyond your current dromed skill set that you hope to someday accomplish in a mission?

    I really don't think I will be doing anything in dromed again, but I do regret never making a rooftop mission, I always wanted to. (Interviewer's note: Rose Cottage was the eventual answer to that question!)

    With your incredible sense of mission design a rooftop mission from you would probably be a fan favorite. Were there any missions you've released that you were disappointed with? What caused you to feel this way about it?

    There are parts of T7C that make me cringe, it looks so basic now! misaligned textures and some bad sound propagation in some areas, and the fact that the bridge conversation now breaks for people more and more often I probably should fix it properly, It would be really hard not to tweak a few other things while I was doing it though!

    The gameplay itself still holds up really well regardless. Next up, what mission are you most proud of, and why? Would you mind if this was the mission you were always remembered by?

    I think I would still be remembered for T7C no matter what I do now, as it's been far too long without releasing anything else, but I certainly hope people like the new one.

    Being remembered for a mission that good can't be a bad thing. Speaking of memorable 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?

    'Down among dead men', because it was virtually perfect. I loved every second of it but I was very VERY jealous! Actually I was originally asked to make that mission, I can't remember why I didn't in the end, I guess I was too busy working on the movies. I definitely started it though because I remember that somebody set up the sky for me, I wanted it to match the cover of 'Midian'. I think it was Apache. I still wish I had made one of the missions for T2X, maybe T2X2.

    What, to you, is the most frustrating thing about the creation of a fan mission from start to finish?

    The path-finding frustrates me more than anything, I used to find the poly count limits frustrating but now I really appreciate how dromed designers have adapted to it and become really quite clever and resourceful, I've seen more impressive scenes in dromed lately than most modern games that just throw a lot of over the top normal maps and bloom at everything

    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?

    I have a lot of things that were never finished, T7C 2 was never actually put together into one mission it was built in sections, the courthouse where Garrett was put in a holding cell was going to be the starting point for that one, I never finished it but the base went to a good home and might just show up in some form one day. Other areas would have included a train station, a snowy cemetery and a museum.

    I made the beginnings of a pirate mission once, you could use a tinderbox to fire a cannon into a cliff face revealing a cave, the massive boom triggered the sound of tropical birds suddenly taking off in fright. I also started a Pyramid mission, that one was going to be a T2X FM, but I was told that some of my storyline ideas had already been done so I gave up on that mission too.

    And just for myself I built part of the town from Melee Island in dromed.

    It sounds like I made a lot of stuff but really it was just me starting on something new each year or so and only working on it for about a month then most likely being distracted by real life. But the one I liked the most and wish I had finished was my Mage mission, it had a night-time castle scene in the snow with four towers that were MUCH larger inside than outside and each one led to a themed land, the fire tower contained a fortress on a lake of lava with walls of fire surrounding it, the air tower contained a temple on a floating island of rock in the sky, the earth tower contained an Aztec step pyramid in a tropical jungle during a thunder storm and finally the water tower contained a beach with a pirate ship at a wooden dock with towering cliffs all around and a sunset. All the lands were linked together by one big Riven style puzzle of association between sounds, colours and shapes.

    All of those sound like really entertaining projects. Who was your biggest influence on your own mission building style?

    Purah and Silentsleep.

    It's obvious you have a lot of fans in the Thief fan mission community. What was the most memorable comment that was given to you about one of your missions?

    A guy once emailed me about the T7C nursery scene, I can't remember his name, it was years ago but he wrote to complain about how he heard the baby and actually, literally fell off his chair in terror and that it was all my fault that he looked really uncool in front of his girlfriend.

    We've all had embarrassing but later humorous fright moments like that from great Thief missions - though some might not admit it! Back to the actual building of missions for a moment - What percentage of the total time spent in dromed for you was used shouting curse words and waving your fist at your monitor?

    At first it was a lot because I was learning, but I'd keep going back for more because back then I had more patience. Eventually I got better and had a few months of nice easy productive dromedding, but these days if it crashes I just turn it off and don't go back to it for days or even weeks, so I guess for that reason I no longer have the staying power it takes to be a good FM author, best to just retire I think. Although having said that the last few months of Rose Cottage was a breeze! Dromed was good to me for once. (except path-finding)

    You're on an island with a PC and only one fan mission - which one do you bring?

    T2X! all of it, it's awesome.

    Shifting gears a bit, what are your fan mission pet peeves? (things that frustrate you when you come across them in missions made by others)

    Well this is about Thief in general, over the years I've grown to really hate lockpicking! I mean I *hate* it, and in some missions, everything is locked! so that's one, My other pet peeve is when a door opens towards you, even if there's only one way through so the author must know from which side the door will be approached, combine that with it being locked and you have my ultimate pet peeve in Thief. You have to crouch and get right up close to a door, you begin to lockpick it *sigh* theres only one way up to the door, yet it still opens outwards right in your face so you have to step back, but then it's only opened a crack because it hit you, so you put away your lockpicks and frob the door to open it further but that closes it again, rarrr!

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

    Mage missions! They are just so cool, I love their echoing voices and the cool things they say, "You cannot hide from the inevitable!" Awesome. Also their themed areas can get away with being pretty surreal, I'm really surprised there aren't more Mage FMs.

    If you could go back and change a thing or two about missions you've released - which missions and what would you change?

    I would make a lot of the terrain brushes of T7C into objects and free up the cell count enough to re-attach the crypt to the main mission, in the original version (before it was split into 'acts') you could do anything in any order, go all the way down to the crypt and get the book and then come back up into the house and continue exploring, would have been a much better game I think, dromed limits again.

    I would also re-texture it a bit, make some more nice models for it and fix the end cut-scene, and I'd also take the swearing out, now I'm a bit older and wiser I can see how that wasn't needed. As for Rose Cottage, there were a couple of bugs in it that I will be addressing in a re-release soon, in the mean time stop jumping over the wall you bastards!

    If you could change anything about a popular mission that someone else has released - which missions and what would you change?

    Of course everyone's mission is released pretty much when they are happy with it, but one thing I would have liked to see is a non zombie version of Calendra's Legacy, there's nothing wrong with it 'as is' of course! But it did and still does put a lot of people off playing this masterpiece.

    I respect and admire Purah greatly and consider him a good friend, but just to see what a different kind of mission it would have been, and to really make the most of that amazing city. CL lite!

    My thanks to you Saturnine for answering the questions with such great answers and for the missions you've given us and will give us in the future. Additional thanks go to Nickie who acted as my contact (and possibly as translator) so that I could get in touch with Saturnine for this interview.
    Last edited by SneakyJack; 19th Aug 2011 at 13:42.

  2. #2
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Bohn Museum
    Jack, it's truly wonderful to have you drop in, and deliver to us this great interview. Thank you! I hope you have more time in the future for other interviews, playing more missions, and other Thiefy things. Wishing you all the best.

  3. #3
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: France
    Thanks, very interesting!

  4. #4
    NewDark 64 Contest Winner
    Registered: Jul 2005
    Location: Locked Inside Dromed
    My favorite part of these interviews is reading what the author initially intended for their mission, and then see how it evolved through the process of dealing with dromed's limits. Sometimes, the mission can become better, but other times it'd be nice to see the original vision in all its glory.

  5. #5
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: Siberia, Russia
    This was an excellent read. Thanks

  6. #6
    Registered: May 2005
    Location: Shenzhen, China.
    Awesome !
    Now, what about all the other interviews languishing on your hard disk ?

  7. #7
    Glad you rediscovered it and took the time to share it in full SJ style! Thanks to Dave and SneakyJ!

  8. #8
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Bohn Museum
    Malau, in the other thread, he's already indicated there are no more interviews languishing on his HD. This was the only one he found - the other interviews were never conducted yet.

  9. #9
    Registered: Aug 2001
    Thanks for this interview!

  10. #10
    Registered: Sep 2002
    Location: Texas
    Thanks a bunch for this interview!

  11. #11
    Registered: Dec 2004
    Location: Germany
    Thank you for giving us a little view of the interior of another author's head. Too bad the Seventh Crystal remains the only one in a never-completed series. So much to do, so little time... the modern world's curse, I believe.

  12. #12
    Registered: Aug 2002
    Location: England
    What a great interview, SneakyJack! I liked reading about the creative ideas for other missions and what he would have liked to have added to T7C.

    I'm happy that D found success in a field he was definitely meant to be in. Well done.

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