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Thread: Tutorial: Books for briefings

  1. #1
    Registered: Apr 2011

    Tutorial: Books for briefings

    Thief has the ability to display a book instead of playing a movie, if the movie file cannot be found. This is very useful if you don't have a briefing movie, but would like players to have a chance to read your mission briefing text, even if they never open the readme.

    This book can also be made available in different languages, just like any other book. This feature works in TDP/TG and T2. I'm using NewDark in this tutorial because of the convenience of providing configuration options in fm.cfg, but the core feature works in OldDark too.

    Using a book for the mission briefing

    Decide which book art you want to use for the briefing. I'm going to use "parch" in this tutorial. If you use a different book art, just replace the name "parch" everywhere with the book art you chose.

    In this tutorial, my mission is number 20, i.e. miss20.mis. If your mission is a different number, you'll need to name the book accordingly.

    1. Create a book art folder books/parch/ in your mission's folder, and copy the book art file book.pcx (or book.png/, whatever the main art file is) into there. The main book art file must be in your mission's folder/zip, or the book will not be shown.
    2. Edit (or create) the config file fm.cfg in your mission folder, and add this line:
      default_text_bg parch
    3. Create the briefing book file in your mission's books folder, books/english/b20.str and put your briefing text into it. If your briefing has been translated into other languages, create additional book files in the appropriate folder for each language.

    That's it. When you launch the game with your mission, the book will be shown when you start the mission.

    If you later decide to make a briefing video, you don't need to change any of the above: if the game finds movies/b20.avi, it will always try to play that instead of showing the briefing book.

    Note: it is important not to copy the book art's fonts into your mission, or language patches that need custom fonts, such as Russian, will end up using the wrong font when showing the briefing book. However, if the book art is paletted, players with "enhancement" packs installed may end up with unreadable readables if the "enhanced" font's palette is different from the default palette; so stick with .png or other non-paletted book art for safety.

    Advanced options

    • Any video can have a book shown instead. If your missflag.str specifies "cutscene" for your mission, but you don't have a movies/cs20.avi, then the game will look for books/english/cs20.str, and show it if it can find it. If you have a campaign with multiple missions, this is an easy way to provide information between missions.
    • If you have more than one book, whether for briefings in a campaign, or in place of post-mission cutscenes, you can use a different book art for each movie if you want: you must add a line like this for each book with different art to your fm.cfg — replace "cs20" and "parch" here with the name of the book and the name of the art you want to use — and you must make sure you copy the art folder into your mission:
      cs20_text_bg parch

    This technique is not new, but as far as I can find has never been written up in a tutorial. I'm doing that now because I think it's really nice to have the mission briefing text shown in the game, and wish more FMs without briefing movies could have done so.
    Last edited by vfig; 8th May 2020 at 14:05.

  2. #2
    L'architecte de Rocksbourg
    Registered: Nov 2005
    Location: Narbonne, France
    Thanks a lot, this can be very useful! It may be an old trick but I never knew about it before.

  3. #3
    Registered: Jun 2016
    Location: The Frozen North
    Ahaha thanks vfig, this will truly help indeed

  4. #4
    Registered: Apr 2011
    Ran into some problems with this technique when I got a Russian translation of my mission, since the Russian Thief patch requires different fonts! I've updated the tutorial instructions to avoid this problem in future.

  5. #5
    Registered: May 2001
    Location: Boston MA
    I never knew about this but will definitely use it in my next mission as I have never learned to do real briefing clips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. #6
    Desperately Dodgy Moderator
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Dragonsreach
    This is cool, but how is it different from forcing the reading of a briefing scroll/book on mission start using a script? (recent example: Home Sweet Home)

  7. #7
    Registered: Apr 2011
    There's small differences: This way the book comes before the objectives list and the store (if you have one, of course). And if you're replacing the cs* movies, they can also come between missions in a campaign.

    This technique was also particularly useful when I was beta testing my mission: I'd always planned to make a briefing movie, but it quite naturally came late in the process. But all the beta testers got all the information in the briefing from the book version, and when the movie was ready I only had to add it to my FM without making any other changes (the briefing book is still there, but the movie overrides it).

  8. #8
    Registered: Apr 2011
    Out of curiosity: has anyone else tried using this technique in their missions? How did it go?

    Other thoughts: since NewDark adds new options for text and image decals in books, I think these should also work here, but haven't tested it. Imagine if you could just have a book with text and pictures in it that to introduce the mission!

    It would be really cool if a between-missions book (replacing cs* movies) could even use the qvar-driven decals, and so be different based on the player's actions in the mission! But definitely that would need more experimenting to see if it works. Imagine if upon completing a mission, a book was shown that gave you a "where are they now" epilogue for each of the important characters you encountered in a mission, but that could be dynamic depending on your actions during the mission; kinda like how the Fallout series does its epilogues.

  9. #9
    Registered: Sep 2008
    Location: Deutschland/Germany
    Quote Originally Posted by vfig View Post
    [...] since NewDark adds new options for text and image decals in books [...]
    Is there any description or tutorial for this issue? The thread troubles with placing decals in books mentions it but is not helpful.
    My FM campaigns Garrett's Young Years XTra, Reunion With Basso
    Want your upcoming FM translated in foreign languages?

  10. #10
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Between dreams and shadows...
    Have a look in the modders_notes.txt file that comes with NewDark (it may be in the 'doc' folder in your T2 install). In there, have a look for "Additions to Books/Readables" - that gives you instructions for including decals in book pages.

    Additions to Books/Readables (T2)

    Books can now have images on specific pages and locations, up to 32 images (aka decals) per page. The decals are
    specified in the same .STR files as the book text, using the format:

    page_<pnum>_decal_<dnum>: "<over text> <X> <Y> <image name>"

    .... etc...

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