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Thread: Scientific Paper - Why do you Create Thief Levels in 2019?

  1. #1
    New Member
    Registered: Jun 2013

    Scientific Paper - Why do you Create Thief Levels in 2019?

    Hey guys.

    I'm so impressed that so many excellent level designers create such astounding fan levels for a game that got released 20 years ago.

    I am studying for a masterís degree and I'm currently writing a scientific paper about the dark engine, dromed and why creators still make games with it.

    I'm fascinated by the game too, but I can't describe what it is in particular, why I rather play thief, compared to modern (stealth) games.

    What does Thief (Dark Project and Metal Age) offer, that modern games don't?

    What is it for you. Why do you still love playing it?

    Dromed has a steep learning curve and is difficult to master (at least from my perspective).
    Why do you still create levels for it?

    I would be very grateful if you could answer some of those questions. I would also like to include it in my scientific paper if you agree with it.

    For a more in-depth discussion, feel free to contact me directly:
    alexander.johr@gmail.com

    Thank you guys!

  2. #2
    New Member
    Registered: Mar 2015
    While I wish I had the skills to create levels, I can honestly say that there is just something about these games that never gets old. As you posted this, I realized that I have been playing Thief for more than half my life. I am 35 and started playing it when it first came out. I never get tired of it. And everytime a new mission comes out, I canít wait to start playing it. I just have a feeling that when Iím 70 Iíll still he playing it lol. A true masterwork that will never be duplicated. Canít wait for the Thief 2 20th anniversary missions to come out!!!

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2017
    All FMs are good because they exist, and adding more to the pile is always a good thing to do

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2006
    Location: On the tip of your tongue.
    Many, many reasons...

    • Dromed may have a learning curve, but it's not as steep as it may appear from an outside perspective, and it's countered in the sheer flexibility. Thief is perhaps the only immersive sim to feature a level editor with the amount of flexibility and control Dromed allows.
    • The game design lends itself very well to small, contained gaming/story experiences - designing a mansion in Thief with ~1 hour's gameplay is a far easier task than, say, building an hour's worth of content in a linear first person shooter.
    • It has a backdrop/setting constructed from a wide variety of broad archetypes, giving a solid foundation to allow authors to tell almost any kind of story they want to.
    • The game's 1998 graphics and wide existing pool of object and texture resources means that creating something with the visual fidelity of the original game is very easy. Even if an easy-to-use level editor was released for, let's say, Dishonored, the skill level required to match the visual fidelity of the base game would be far higher.
    • The systemic design of Thief allows mission authors to easily make almost any changes they want to the objects and systems of the game, without any requirement for complex scripting.
    • It's got a very good ratio between low barrier to entry and high level of freedom, making it still a very valid choice for someone wanting to tell an interactive story. Compare the learning curve of Dromed to the learning curve required to produce a gameplay experience of matching quality in any other engine or game dev platform and you'll soon find that Dromed is way, way easier.
    • The community is welcoming, inclusive and supportive in ways that a lot of games' communities aren't. There's a collaborative spirit that leads to things like the community's shared pool of custom level design resources.
    • The game itself has a strong atmosphere, a surreality, and a complexity of setting and story that are very rare in modern AAA games.
    • The game has very simple gameplay rules; all of its systems are easily understandable and accessible and are tutorialised well in the original games, meaning the game is more accessible to new players that many other games from the same time period. Even compared to similar games, it has very simple rules - there's no convoluted RPG elements to figure out for example.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Dec 2012
    Location: Sweden.
    Fundamentally the same reason why I grew to love these games in first place, it does not feel like a game but rather like an experience in 3D formate, where you look through the lenses of a character where you quickly forget and feel like its you in the game, the minimalistic approach to user interface improves the sense of immersion it lends you into that it quickly gets unforgettable.

    With its steep learning curve comes naturally because you as the user have to learn the skill of navigating this world created by DromEd, it's like an engine that simulates real life properties into a game context nt a believable way for me personally, modern games feel too gamey for me and less simulated.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Dec 2001
    Location: OldDark Detox Clinic
    Quote Originally Posted by FastGarrett View Post
    Dromed has a steep learning curve and is difficult to master (at least from my perspective).
    Why do you still create levels for it?
    Two reasons.

    I am an idiot, and I am a glutton for punishment.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by nicked View Post
    The game design lends itself very well to small, contained gaming/story experiences - designing a mansion in Thief with ~1 hour's gameplay is a far easier task than, say, building an hour's worth of content in a linear first person shooter.
    Damn straight, I never thought about this. It must be the main reason why Unreal is almost dead and had many fan campaigns started and never finished. It's a shame, I was waiting for a campaign called The Chosen One for years and years, the authors were promising RPG elements.

  8. #8
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by Psych0sis View Post
    All FMs are good because they exist...
    This is some hippy-dippy bullshit right here.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Oct 2012
    Psych0sis is right and ZB is being ZB as usual.

    All FM's are good because they exist. Thief having been around for 20 years, 1000+ FM's and 100's of authors. Of course not every mission is going to be a gem, with such a collection of missions some are going to be turkeys whilst others will be staggeringly good, thankfully we have been blessed in recent years of having a small army of really talented author who keep producing top quality missions.

    Psych0sis point is clearly demonstrated by the number of entries for the T1 20th anniversary contest, which was very much the better because there were a number of lesser quality missions.

    Roll on the T2 anniversary, I welcome all entries regardless of standard.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: Argentina
    Quote Originally Posted by Psych0sis View Post
    All FMs are good because they exist, and adding more to the pile is always a good thing to do
    I agree 100%. If we didn't have bad FMs, we wouldn't distinguish between utter trash from work where real effort and dedication exist. Every FM serves its purpose, all go to heaven

  11. #11
    New Member
    Registered: Mar 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by ZylonBane View Post
    This is some hippy-dippy bullshit right here.
    ZB you need to get that stick out of your ass

  12. #12
    New Member
    Registered: Jun 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by nicked View Post
    Many, many reasons...

    • Dromed may have a learning curve, but it's not as steep as it may appear from an outside perspective, and it's countered in the sheer flexibility. Thief is perhaps the only immersive sim to feature a level editor with the amount of flexibility and control Dromed allows.
    • The game design lends itself very well to small, contained gaming/story experiences - designing a mansion in Thief with ~1 hour's gameplay is a far easier task than, say, building an hour's worth of content in a linear first person shooter.
    • It has a backdrop/setting constructed from a wide variety of broad archetypes, giving a solid foundation to allow authors to tell almost any kind of story they want to.
    • The game's 1998 graphics and wide existing pool of object and texture resources means that creating something with the visual fidelity of the original game is very easy. Even if an easy-to-use level editor was released for, let's say, Dishonored, the skill level required to match the visual fidelity of the base game would be far higher.
    • The systemic design of Thief allows mission authors to easily make almost any changes they want to the objects and systems of the game, without any requirement for complex scripting.
    • It's got a very good ratio between low barrier to entry and high level of freedom, making it still a very valid choice for someone wanting to tell an interactive story. Compare the learning curve of Dromed to the learning curve required to produce a gameplay experience of matching quality in any other engine or game dev platform and you'll soon find that Dromed is way, way easier.
    • The community is welcoming, inclusive and supportive in ways that a lot of games' communities aren't. There's a collaborative spirit that leads to things like the community's shared pool of custom level design resources.
    • The game itself has a strong atmosphere, a surreality, and a complexity of setting and story that are very rare in modern AAA games.
    • The game has very simple gameplay rules; all of its systems are easily understandable and accessible and are tutorialised well in the original games, meaning the game is more accessible to new players that many other games from the same time period. Even compared to similar games, it has very simple rules - there's no convoluted RPG elements to figure out for example.
    Wow! Thats a lot of great information. Didn't see it that way before. Thanks a lot!

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2001
    Location: Pushing my luck with Dromed
    It looks like nicked has covered everything, or the vast majority, but I think this thread would be better in the Editors' Guild. There are more Dromed users there so there may be other things to add.

  14. #14
    ZylonBane
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: ZylonBane
    Quote Originally Posted by fortuni View Post
    Psych0sis is right and ZB is being ZB as usual.
    No, the psycho is not right. An FM is not a precious baby. FMs do not get a gold star for participation. An FM is a technical product with the goal of being fun to play. If it is not fun to play (or in extreme cases, not even playable), then it's bad. This is not a complicated concept. Blithering that "all FMs are good" thoughtlessly devalues the hundreds of hours of hard work that many FM authors have put into making FMs that are actually good.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2007
    I agree with Psychosis. Fms take time and effort to put into it. Some might not be as good as other ones but it shows the person is trying and pumping life blood in to the Thief community. I respect and can appreciate all FMs. I don't think I ever played a FM I didn't like just some that were a bit frustrating at times.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2017
    I also agree with Psych0sis. Please look at this from the perspective of a new player. Someone who has never played FMs before will probably look for the most popular titles such as the Rocksbourg Series, Death's Cold Embrace, Black Frog, The Scarlet Cascabel, Calendra's Legacy, etc. In 2000, at the dawn of DromED, there were only a few complex and well-polished productions, whereas the majority was rather basic or bugged. Now we have hundreds of good or very good missions and this number is increasing every year! Sure, every once in a while someone makes a mediocre or poor fan mission, but they all contribute to the wonderful Thief community we have here. For instance, I didn't mind Dewinder Manor. It is true that I've seen much better mansion missions, yet I welcome Psychosis' contribution. I appreciate his time and effort he put into creating this small and simple, but correctly designed level. As long as people learn and improve their skills, it's all fine. Last but not least, we shouldn't take Thief too seriously. We may love it, but in the end it's just a game, not real life. Thank you for reading.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Jan 2006
    Location: On the tip of your tongue.
    ^ This is the problem with trying to get honest, constructive feedback around here.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2016
    Quote Originally Posted by Aemanyl View Post
    As long as people learn and improve their skills, it's all fine.
    And if they don't... it's also fine!

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: Sheffield, UK
    Quote Originally Posted by uncadonego View Post
    Two reasons.

    I am an idiot, and I am a glutton for punishment.
    Because this guy I quoted ran a competition once, once I'd dealt with the basic learning curve it was quite fun though, still got a hell of a long way to go before I'd be any good though

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2005
    Location: Kent, UK
    I think back in the days of thief and a few others to, developers actually tried to make a good game and tried to break some new ground. Now most just want summit with plenty of loot boxes and micro buys to milk silly kids out of there money and who gives a f**k if the game is s**t and buggy as hell, its making money.

    People still make fan mission as they love the game and what it did. It was so dam good at the time and is still better than most the stuff that is coming out these days that you pay over the top prices for. Rather DL fan mission for free which are bloody good fun to be frank.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2009
    Location: Cracow, Poland
    Scientific paper? That's impressive. Please share it with us, when you finish

    The reason behind why we are still producing fan missions is because we still enjoy the gameplay. From scientific perspective, the gameplay is a highly interesting topic. I will link here one of my favorite articles in the topic: Beyond Pacing: Games Aren't Hollywood.

    The author describes emergent pacing of Thief gameplay on the 4th page of the article, with a nicely drawn graph that explains the uniqueness of the gameplay very well. Thought you might like to be inspired by it in your paper.

  22. #22
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2000
    Location: Paris, France
    I'd like to wish you good luck on your paper. Could you tell us what field you're majoring in? I'd also like to share my thoughts on why I create Thief levels in 2019.

    Firstly, I suspect the nature of the Dark Engine's subtractive CSG contributes to create a very unique feeling within in-game environments. I've never felt as much satisfaction with any additive game engine (whether designing or playing). To me, the rendering of subtractive geometry in the Dark Engine provides a much more concrete and "tangible" feeling. Other keywords would include: solid, reliable, involving, impervious, cosy, homely... if that makes sense. Kind of like a burrow.

    Specifically in my case, I currently prefer using DromEd 1.33 for my work. Understandably, I've been asked why I prefer to use DromEd 1.33 (T1) rather than DromEd 1.18 or 1.19 (T2) or whatever (this however is in my opinion a false debate given that all of these engines are technically passť). Granted, Thief 2 has an objectively better engine. But following this logic, one may argue: so does the latest instalment of Unreal or Doom.

    But why Thief 1? Content-wise, I find TDP to be an overall much more polished game (despite using an inferior engine): everything from the engrossing narrative and character arcs that deploy themselves from one OM to the next (sometimes through the brilliant and meaningful cutscenes, cf. the article referred to in Marzec's post), to the far-fetched variety of its AI fauna (spanning from gritty and mundane to holy and religious to mythological and dionysiac), to the fascinatingly uncanny environments and setting (medieval magical steampunk? isn't that an oxymoron?), to the peculiar speech of its characters -- accents (what accent is it exactly? Cambridgeshire? East Midlands?), idioms, dialects, expressions, etc. It's really it's own thing, as Grimbeard recently put it, as there's nothing else quite like it. As such, it's a fictional universe which I find one can easily expand upon.

    More specifically still, I so far exclusively create content for "Old Dark". Why? This choice is very personal, as PinkDot helped me realise: I've recently justified this choice in another thread, and for the sake of scientific research I've included my answer below. Perhaps this could also account for why some still create for Thief today:

    Quote Originally Posted by Sperry View Post
    If justification is needed, I've been through quite enough changes in real life to feel justified in wanting something old and familiar, such as DromEd (and this includes the challenge of going beyond it's limits, as absurd as it may seem since New Dark).

    To me, DromEd is kind of like an old security blanket, a teddy bear, old pyjamas, a dogs old chew toy, or even a doormat: its familiarity must be undisputed and absolute, and one can be fond of it despite its imperfections or shortcomings. Also, I find there can be intimate value to it because of how it secretly retains significance and value to me, while appearing old and useless to others. I enjoy working with familiar Old Dark.

    Also, there's the practical dimensions which I've mentioned above (having DromEd on a ten year old computer, without any internet connection).

    Finally, since it takes me so long to release FMs these days, I fear that getting into something new at this point will only further complicate and delay any project. If I'm to make a mission in New Dark, I'd ideally want it to utilise the improvements of what New Dark has to offer (not just avoid some limitations -- such as cell count or object max -- which can be surpassed anyway with some problem solving and a bit of compromise). I like the ideas of "the discipline of building" and "optimized building style" . I know the rules and am properly disciplined with Old Dark, getting back up to date with new software would require a certain amount work with unfamiliar tools which to me today is undesirable. Too much hassle.

    If that makes me a dinosaur, I'm fine with that! Either way, my missions will be playable on both Old Dark and New Dark, so no one is hurt in the process, right?
    On a more general note: regarding pacing in gameplay as opposed to pacing in narrative, I find Wesołowski's article to be thought provoking indeed. I'd like to further suggest that: rather than comparing computer games to a cinematic experience, one can also find inspiration in music, inasmuch as a symphony, opera, or even a jazz piece is composed of sounds, harmonies, rhythms, melodies, light-motives, movements, etc. A multitude of streams of information running in parallel. Can Thief's emergent gameplay be seen as an opportunity for the user (player or designer) to interpret/improvise an ephemeral opus?

    To me, DromEd is less about performance and more about experience and experimentation. But it's a complex question. And of course, there is some nostalgia.

    Also, a "precious baby" isn't necessarily "fun".
    Last edited by Sperry; 8th Feb 2020 at 18:13.

  23. #23
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004
    Location: City Of The Angels

    Perspective from a long time user (since game launches):

    The thing that keeps me always coming back for more is this:

    To see the creativity of the mission designers and that they always seem to create something new and exciting to try. It is a fresh perspective on a familiar platform.

    They are really many very talented and creative authors who make these levels and great puzzles to solve them.

    This platform never seems to get old, especially with all the creative minds out there refreshing the experience.

    It is always engaging whether it is a very difficult or relatively easy mission to complete.

    Keep up the good work for all mission creators and your work is highly appreciated.

  24. #24
    Member
    Registered: May 2001
    Location: Boston MA

    3 Short Reasons

    Late in posting this.

    There are three reasons why I build missions:

    1. It is a great alternative to sitting in the family room with the family where there are nothing but foolish shows on TV.
    2. This is an incredible community and the work authors put in to build missions is very much appreciated.
    3. Building missions is fun and makes an analytical person like me feel creative.

    Back to tryin got finish the TG mission I started to submit to the 20th anniversary contest. I am a really slow builder.

    bbb

    ps: Another reason is I love playing Thief and it is a way to give back to the community.

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