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Thread: Why city missions are so popular?

  1. #1
    Registered: Mar 2018

    Why city missions are so popular?

    Not gonna lie, city missions is my least favorite theme. No matter how interesting it is later, I always start them with resigned voice: "sigh... another city mission?" I played few hundreds of FMs and I noticed that city theme appears most of the time. Like for example in 2005 there was Novice Contest with bank robbery as a theme. I was really excited. First City Bank and Trust is my favorite mission in Thief 2. Unfortunately all these missions were just city missions with small bank inside them. I was really disappointed.

    So my question is: why is there so many city missions? Are they easier to do than other type of the mission? Or maybe there is some other aspect I am missing.

  2. #2
    Registered: Apr 2016
    I was asking myself similar questions a couple of years ago.

  3. #3
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Germany
    As far as design goes I suspect that a really well-made city mission is as difficult to design as a mansion mission, if not more complicated.
    But I can't really judge this as I'm not a mission author.

    As a player, however, I can only say: City missions are BY FAR my favorite missions. Always have been.

    Now, this doesn't mean that I don't enjoy other mission types like "mansion", "prison escape", "pagan woods" etc. - far from it - but a nice city mission always gets a higher priority.

    Maybe this type of mission is simply a combination of characterstics that resonate with me?

    You often have to find a certain building. Think needle in a haystack - but usually easier. Cities and towns have character whereas the hay stack is more uniform. Even if you have a map the exploration aspect is always a strong ingredient.

    Spatial gameplay:
    Buildings often have cellars, roofs and various levels inbetween. Rope arrows (my favorite type of tool) are often useful, if not a necessity - especially to get into that single open window high above ground. While mansion missions often have secret ways you can also find them in city missions - and sometimes they span different buildings.
    And then you discover that the quarter has a sewer system that you can use to sneakily enter buildings that are otherwise unreachable.

    Most buildings are separate from each other. Sometimes they are connected, but most of the time they are not. You could plunder one building and then climb into the next one. This is very satisfying for players as you (usually) get quick rewards. City missions are often offering more loot. Every building is a new chance (like a lucky bag) - and you can stumble on either a motherlode or a garbage dump. Perhaps even a dangerous one...

    And especially in a Thief FM: Everything can happen!
    First you are on the street, then you enter some inconspicuous small building, which leads into a bigger structure with a dank cellar. In that cellar you find a secret door or fake wall and behind that a portal into a another dimension - perhaps a small wood level with some beasties!
    Some absolutely stunning accomplishments have been created with this kind of freedom and variety that only the classic Thief games offer.
    A prime example is the now old Calendra's Legacy with its (optional) tomb in the first mission. I still love this campaign to death and replay it every few years.

    And there are other advantages:
    Like in a mansion mission you can advance methodically, one building after the other.
    You can also often easily make breaks, at least while in the exploration stage and continue later.

    And finally: I simply love the architectural style of medieval or steampunk towns.
    This isn't a necessity, though, as I also love the Deus Ex or Dishonored games for their locations.

  4. #4
    Registered: May 2008
    Location: Southern,California
    city missions = lots of exploration

  5. #5
    Registered: Mar 2018
    I have few problems with city missions:

    1. It gives too much choices to explore. If city is big and there is no map, then city exploration looks like I get a choice of few paths, after making a choice I get another choice of few paths and it repeats and repeats and repeats until I get lost. I really want to get everywhere. For that I want to explore cities methodically, but with all these choices it's very hard.

    2. City missions often have very similarly looking streets. When everything looks the same it's hard for me to notice where I was and where I wasn't. There was one Thief 2 FM that forced me to use apples to indicate places that I explored.

    3. Background buildings. I want to check everything. So it's really lame when I see building with background door that I can't open because creator decided that this building is just acts as a wall. And that's all. Also if you enter building then most of the time you can only explore 1 tiny room and the rest of house is separated by background door.

    4. Loot is scattered everywhere. This means that if you have problem with getting loot requirement, you will be forced to explore the whole city again. And city missions are mostly bigger than any other type of the missions.

    5. Because cities are bigger there is also a lot more walking. Sometimes you are forced to backtrack and you lose many minutes for that just because streets are longer to give illusion of the real city.

    6. Sometimes there are optional paths that leads to bigger areas. And they end in a completely different part of the city. For example sewers that can bring to a completely different district. This means it is even easier to get lost. And sometimes they are a paths of no return. You never know if you return to unexplored optional paths that you missed by taking this path of no return. And that's really annoying.

    I'm fully aware that there are some city missions without this kind of problems. And also I'm fully aware that these are the problems probably only for me.

  6. #6
    Registered: May 2008
    Location: Southern,California
    i have enjoyed city's a bit more recently,the life with in them/readables/art/etc

  7. #7
    Registered: Mar 2017
    Quote Originally Posted by downwinder View Post
    i have enjoyed city's a bit more recently,the life with in them/readables/art/etc
    They are certainly more enjoyable than cities in real life. I too enjoy sneaking throughout the city streets.

  8. #8
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: US
    As a player, however, I can only say: City missions are BY FAR my favorite missions. Always have been.
    I agree with this 100% for reasons already mentioned here in this thread. City missions are beyond intriguing to me also because the immersion factor is so high. I love to feel like I have explored a real city and have actually broken into a luxurious mansion where I must sneak around the numerous opulent rooms in search of my quest. On the other hand, it makes me sigh when I come upon a mission with a pagan theme or that is set entirely in some underground labyrinth of mines and caves filled with spiders and undead. Those types of missions tend to bore me personally.
    Last edited by cavador_8; 2nd Dec 2018 at 11:17.

  9. #9
    Registered: Jan 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Calibrator View Post
    As a player, however, I can only say: City missions are BY FAR my favorite missions. Always have been.
    Yeah, this. Give me verticality and rooftops and diverse approaches with lots of exploration.

    A personal favorite is the city map that eventually leads to huge, detailed and delightfully designed target manors (or banks or whatnot).

  10. #10
    Registered: Jan 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Aemanyl View Post
    They are certainly more enjoyable than cities in real life. I too enjoy sneaking throughout the city streets.
    Well, they are games, but I've had a ton of fun just exploring cities I visit in real life, too. Dublin was great to just wonder about for a few days. I want to do the same in Prague at some point.

  11. #11
    New Member
    Registered: Aug 2015
    Location: Rouen, France
    City missions seems also often less linear. I mean, a mansion or a building is frequently hall/right wing/left wing/ 2nd floor etc... and it can get boring, whereas in a city you never know what will stand at the next corner. There are exceptions evidently, First City bank is great because it is convoluted but it still feels like a real bank.

  12. #12
    Registered: Aug 2009
    I love medieval cities, so city missions are one of my favourite categories because of that I think. Also because one of the first OM's I ever played was Assassins (the demo initially), and it left a soft spot in me from my early days of Thief.
    Interestingly, I just finished replaying Melan's Bad Debts, a lovely experience, and great design; though simple, it's one of the best city missions out there.

    Skacky also makes some stunning city missions, gorgeous architecture

    Last edited by Azaran; 30th Nov 2018 at 20:34.

  13. #13
    Registered: May 2001
    Location: Boston MA
    I love city missions and wish I could build city missions like Melan and Skacky. I love to explore, I love height and rope arrows, love rooftops, love lots of loot, love getting lost, and love basements. If the mission is nonlinear, all the better. If you throw in a canal or sewer, even better.

    As an author, I must say building city missions that are interesting is very difficult. If you want to add height, it is even more challenging.

    Parting thought. We all have our favorite mission types, but with the large number of missions, there is plenty to choose from. I play every mission and with a few exceptions, I enjoy each one.


  14. #14
    New Member
    Registered: Oct 2018
    Quote Originally Posted by bbb View Post
    I love city missions and wish I could build city missions like Melan and Skacky. I love to explore, I love height and rope arrows, love rooftops, love lots of loot, love getting lost, and love basements. If the mission is nonlinear, all the better. If you throw in a canal or sewer, even better.

    As an author, I must say building city missions that are interesting is very difficult. If you want to add height, it is even more challenging.

    Parting thought. We all have our favorite mission types, but with the large number of missions, there is plenty to choose from. I play every mission and with a few exceptions, I enjoy each one.

    I cannot speak for anyone else, but I definitely consider A Short Night's Work and even Augustine's Revenge to be on-par with Melan and Skacky. You have an uncanny ability to lay out rooftops and buildings with lots of nooks and crannies, filled with rewarding loot placement, while keeping the experience focused and linear. I don't think I ever got lost or confused in these missions, but it still felt challenging to find all the places to explore. That's a difficult balance to strike.

  15. #15
    Registered: May 2008
    Location: Southern,California
    i also love the missions where you travel to a small city/town,travel some more to yet another city/town etc ,so each town/city you hit it not massive to search and you not just stuck in some squared city like a rat in a maze

    that is why i like bbb's missions so much the traveling is so much fun

  16. #16
    Registered: Jan 2011
    Location: Planet Crazy Pants
    My 2 cents is

    City missions are familiar to us humans since we live in, visit and build them as a species. The immersion is greater in a setting we already know. I suspect FM authors are drawn to designing them for this (and other) reasons, including where general inspiration comes from (castles, cathedrals, villages, squares, etc.)

    Yes, FM Cities are in a fantasy land but we are able to be instinctive within them. I already know that there's a possibility of a switch or passage near the fireplace, under the elevator, in the bookcase or behind the wall. I can be guileful and sneak/hide where I would go and look for open windows, wall breaches, basement doors, drainpipes and ledges; I'd find loot and secret items where I would hide them and understand & believe character development much better than I might in a Maw mission.

    I'll stop rambling now, hope you get the idea

  17. #17
    Registered: Jan 2006
    Location: On the tip of your tongue.
    I totally agree with those complaints about city missions from a player's point of view - I often find that a city mission has a steeper learning curve and requires a lot more investment to keep my interest. If I'm not completely in the mood to immerse myself and really think about what I'm doing, I'm more likely to give up on a city mission as soon as I get a bit lost.

    They are the antithesis of a methodical layout - you can often play a mansion mission and zone out a bit while you just make sure you've methodically covered every room in the mansion. If I get stuck in a mansion mission, it's usually because of an obscure puzzle or a well-hidden key. If I get stuck in a city mission, it's usually because I don't know which part of the maze I need to head towards next.

    That said, when I have the time and energy to allow myself to get invested in a city mission, they're often the most rewarding.

    As an author, they are definitely the hardest to make. A mansion, despite being larger, is still just one building, so certain design choices only need doing once. A city mission has dozens of buildings, each needing individual design and creation.

  18. #18
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: The Inverted Manse
    For me, nothing beats a well-built crypt!

  19. #19
    Registered: Apr 2011
    City missions are great—and also they're not so great.

    They promise gobs of exploration, with sometimes incredibly layered intertwined layouts, with opportunities on every doorstep and windowsill. Every new building to explore with its own story, and the strands of story forming a web across the whole mission.

    But often they're so wide open that they're unfocused, or so intertwined that they're disorienting; all the opportunities can become a paradox of choice, and bring the burden of needing to explore every path.

    A true city mission is the closest Thief gets to a sandbox game.

  20. #20
    Registered: Sep 2003
    Location: Cambridgeshire UK
    I don't have a preference for city or mansion as long as there is plenty of variety in both.

    For me, mansion/hotel/crypt missions are often spoilt by too much use of the mutibrush. Area after area and floor after floor have the same layout, and that is boring. This repetition sometimes applies to cave/tunnel areas as well.

    It's not necessary - First City Bank and Trust is an example of a large building with an interesting interior. So I'll go with either city or mansion provided that the author hasn't been a bit lazy.

  21. #21
    DromEd Archmage
    Registered: Nov 2010
    Location: Returned to the eternal labor
    City mission are always cool since there are so many ways to create a quarter and gives it an identity, a personnality. And it is a good kind of mission where you can setup some secret, side sorties, cool random stuff happening.
    But there are also things that I don't really enjoy with it as well.

    The thing I don't like the most with city mission is the next one : when you can't see if the npcs are hostile or friendly. If in some missions it's told to the player pretty quickly, in other it's not that obvious unless you meet the first guard who will attack or not attack you on sight.

    Anyway, aside this thing, I oftenly enjoy most of them since city missions are those who offers the numberest different path to reach your goal like Front Door, back door, windows, rooftops, sewers... so many possibilites that makes the game very enjoyable when it's well done.

  22. #22
    Registered: Aug 2009
    Location: Cracow, Poland
    For me, it's hard to give a general like or dislike on the city genre. I think it's doable to create a city fan mission which does not have all negative factors you all mention. It's up to the author to release a playable mission.

    But I accept the fact that someone might just don't like city type missions. That's okay, everybody is free to have their own taste and favourite themes.

    However, if I need to share my humble personal opinion, some of problems mentioned above are a bit ... self-made. It's both author's problem and your problem if the number of possible tracks in the mission is to big for you. First, the author is responsible for creating a ongoing gameplay, meaning it should not be a repetative gameplay, where you visit the same street for the 5th time and you have no idea where you should head to. Second, its your own problem if you really need to check every single corner and every roof you see makes you think about it and visualise the building content.

    I think there are different kinds of players. Some of them like to get every single loot and read all texts, the other are okay with just ticking objective list and getting the general plot. The first group often includes ghost players.

    To sum up, I think we have some really good city missions, but it's relatively easy to make a city mission that has weak gameplay. On the other hand it's really hard to resist from the need of checking every location. There always is a possibility to miss some interesting plot or other valuable content. Fortunatelly, at least for me, it's easy to decide what to do Those are fan-made products, so I can not throw them away easily - usually when I play I try to maximize the exploration factor as much as possible and other missions are sitting there and waiting in a long queue... I wonder if I would need to learn a new approach for our pack of contest missions.

  23. #23
    Registered: May 2002
    Location: Texas
    I wrote a long post but then Google Play decided to shut down Chrome before I could submit my post.

    To summarize, I agree with bbb and nicked in that city missions are hard to make considering how varied the buildings have to be to keep them from being boring. Mansion missions can use the same motif throughout though. Personally I'm not an architect and I don't live in or near a city that would give me inspiration for my city missions, so I basically have to use other missions including OMs for direction on how to design buildings.

    Sometimes authors choose to have buildings act as walls because a walk itself would be boring, and there might be limited resources that are needed elsewhere. There might also be technical issues where the author had no choice but to leave some buildings very simple. Also getting too far off track can cause confusion or cause the player to forget what he/she was doing before going on a tangent.

    When I design city missions I start with the least amount of detail on each building across the map just to a feel for how big the map is going to be, and then increase the detail equally across the map in each building so that the detail work is consistent from one building to the next. Balancing resources in this respect makes building city missions even more difficult, and sometimes leads to buildings or entire sections of the map being scraped in favor of less complicated architecture.

    One last thing I would like to point out is that pretty much every city missions is placed with the confines of a wall or a perimeter of buildings. This is because in the Thief video game world there is no way to implement infinite horizons that look convincing nor is there loading terrain as you move like some newer games.

  24. #24
    Registered: Sep 2011

  25. #25
    It's hard to design a city mission with personality. In most games this is a filler, designed to make you busy. I see that in missions too, with generic places to explore, and lockpicking made longer without any real source of tension, just to bump up the time statistics. But, designing mansions or other certain places (banks, houses, churches, castles) is even harder, because you need to have access to floor plans, or at least you need a vague idea how to build a place that will resemble such location in meaningful way. It's a place where architectural knowledge and level design meet. On the other hand, cityscapes can be more abstract and incoherent, and the real life references are easier to come by.

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