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zergrush

Doing away with torches indoors: an appeal to mission designers

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The torch. To most players this simple light-emitting object is the staple inanimate foe in both TDM and the original Thief games. It represents what any half-decent sneak artist must avoid in order to stay alive, an icon that has been seared into the minds of stealth game players ever since they took their first steps into the Metal Age.

 

Outside of Thief, torches are also frequently depicted as the most common light source in both pre-modern fantasy and historical fiction settings alike, and can be found as permanent fixtures on the walls of every fictional palace, castle or peasant hut, from the Lord of the Rings film series to the Gladiator.

 

But what does history actually say about the usage of torches before the invention of gas and electrical lights, and how sensible and commonplace was their usage? I've debated this matter on the thread of a recently released FM, and I thought it would be worthy to further put this into deeper discussion.

 

 

Not as bright as you think

 

What happens is that contrary to popular perception torches are an impractical and unreliable source of light, and their usage indoors is a particularly poor idea. While still being used around the world today in ritualistic ceremonies, such as processions, torches primarily served either as offensive weapons to set buildings ablaze, or as beacons to temporarily signal a location or send a message from afar.

 

The reasons for why torches were simply not used as a portable or wall-mounted light source become pretty self-evident if one has ever been close to an indoors wood fed fire source without any direct ventilation: torches do not burn cleanly without making lots of smoke, their light is unstable and obfuscating at close to medium range, and their primarily fuel source lasts for half an hour at best. In fact most movie prop torches are generally cleverly disguised gas torches, burning without any smoke. Moreover, placing a torch near a wooden structure, or any other generally flammable material, such as wallpaper, would present a serious fire hazard at its worse, and a source of soot, stink, and burned spots at its best. As personal light sources, torches are far from being handy objects either, starting by the fact their sheer size and amount of heat produced make for a fairly uncomfortable object to carry around, added to the previous general disadvantages of smoke and stink.

 

History researcher and youtuber Lindybeige further describes the problem with torches in the following video series.

 

 

So what was used instead?

 

In ancient times the light sources were actually plenty, very accessible and quite easy to carry. People would build their houses to maximize the use of natural light by default, but for night time there was a wide variety of decently lasting clean light sources available, both expensive and very very cheap. Commoners would mostly use pieces of rush weed embedded in fat, which could burn cleanly sometimes for more than hour. Richer households would be able to afford tallow candles or even beeswax candles, which would become cheaper and eventually ubiquitous in the centuries past the middle ages. If you're curious about details I would recommend you reading this article on medieval light sources.

 

 

So what does this mean for TDM?

 

As of the moment there is an unholy amount of torches on plenty of TDM fan missions as part of this misconception, and my goal with this thread would be precisely to change that. While TDM is a fantasy franchise it is important to notice people are incidentally educated of many historical notions through fantasy representations, and as such I feel it is important to keep at least some aspects of daily live grounded in actual reality for this purpose. This does not mean you should rush to delete all the torches from your current mission, but maybe be more wary of their placement in the future missions you create.

 

 

And what are the alternatives?

 

Fortunately TDM already has plenty of alternatives to torches, from oil lamps to lanterns, which produce a similar effect. To have a model consistent with the larger light radius of a torch, perhaps an oil lamp with several flame ends could be added, as well as diversifying the amount of candelabra both for oil and candles. Some mappers already well-aware of this notion. A good example of proper use of candles and lamps replacing torches can be seen on the Wm. Steele series.

 

 

In what situations would it still make sense for me to use a torch?

 

In every situation where it would either make sense to have a beacon meant to be seen far away (such as tower) or as an impromptu flame source on outdoors locations such as encampments. Although not truly historical, this usage can at least be justified by common sense through some extent.

 

One good example of allowed indoor torches would be magical flames created by paranormal events or entities. These flames generally take a unusual color (such as green or blue) to signal their unnatural source.

 

 

What about dungeons?

 

On another example of a classic misconception, dungeons were never lit in ancient times, precisely for safety reasons. If a prisoner could not see where he was going, there would be little chance he could find his way out in the event of escape. For this purpose, only guards and visitors would carry light sources. In fact the absence of light in dungeons was such that it would not be uncommon for prisoners to go completely blind overtime.

Edited by zergrush
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While TDM is a fantasy franchise it is important to notice people are incidentally educated of many historical notions through fantasy representations

 

 

I would think anyone worried about the historical accuracy of TDM would find dozens of things more egregious than the overuse of torches.

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I would think anyone worried about the historical accuracy of TDM would find dozens of things more egregious than the overuse of torches.

 

This has little to do with the aspects that are not based in reality (such as steam machines and robots) and more with the ones that are (such as how fire and smoke behaves in real life). Naturally there always aspects of gameplay that are adapted or streamlined to make things fun, such as hiding in minimal shadow rendering you near invisible. Torches on the other hand, serve no such purpose with all the alternatives already available. Being aware of this is something that can even help mappers add some nice details to flesh out missions. For example, if you still want to use indoor torches, placing them in a surface that is not flammable and with an air vent right above.

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Torches are mostly there so you can shoot them with water arrows and modify the environment to your advantage. I'd love to hear about good counterpart that could be used in tandem with water arrows, especially since making open fire sources requires using particle system, and in general it has bigger impact on performance than e.g. electric lights (or gas lights inside a bulb/tube etc.).

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Torches on the other hand, serve no such purpose with all the alternatives already available.

 

 

You could make the same argument about the game's use of steam power or electricity. They're not used in ways that are realistic or historically accurate, but to evoke a particular mood. Torches serve the same purpose.

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I can see the argument on both sides. I also feel that burning torches inside peoples houses or other establishments is kind of immersion breaking, more so than the fantastical steampunk contraptions somehow. I guess I find it harder to suspend my disbelief.

However I have also fallen for the temptation to use torches as a gameplay element, even indoors, due to their threatening light radius being balanced with the ease of extinguishing it for an equipment penalty. There really are few alternatives for mappers at the moment, as fireplaces can not be placed at will, they have their place and that's that. A candle light that shone as bright as a torch would be even more immersion breaking than using a torch in its place. Open, extinguishable gas flame lights seem to be the closest approximation to a torch but they certainly provide a more upscale feeling wherever they are placed, and are not appropriate sources of lights in dungeons, stables, back alleys or what have you. I would love to find an alternative that makes sense, while also retaining it's in-game function.

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You could make the same argument about the game's use of steam power or electricity. They're not used in ways that are realistic or historically accurate, but to evoke a particular mood. Torches serve the same purpose.

 

Btw. I have a theory that in Thief 2 they used Tesla-like wireless electricity instead of cables so they could save up on polygon count, but with today's CPUs and GPUs we can easily get back to cables, as they look awesome ;)

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Btw. I have a theory that in Thief 2 they used Tesla-like wireless electricity instead of cables so they could save up on polygon count, but with today's CPUs and GPUs we can easily get back to cables, as they look awesome ;)

Gameplay-wise it would be tremendous to unplug the security robots off their sockets.

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...

 

One good example of allowed indoor torches would be magical flames created by paranormal events or entities. These flames generally take a unusual color (such as green or blue) to signal their unnatural source.

 

...

 

green and blue flames are totally able to be made by natural means. :P But I get what you are saying.

 

I was thinking more about stuff like power generators, but yeah, I wonder if we could have some of that Half-Life 2 power cable fun (IIRC).

 

I've asked for this same ability for DR before, remember what you said about it? ;)

 

 

 

Today while working on a map i realized this was something DR could some day provide, the ability to create cables/ ropes in the editor, no need for them to be dynamic, just something like the func_beam, connect two points and it automatically creates a shape between the two points but instead of creating a straight line between two points, you add the ability to give it more points and make it bend.

Another desire somewhat connected with the one above, DR already supports splines, unfortunately and as far has i know, the only thing you can currently do with splines is attach cameras to them for cinematics, would love to have a way to extrude a shape along a spline or create a chain of quads along the spline, also to make cables or ropes with complex curves. A man can dream...

http://forums.thedarkmod.com/topic/3499-wishlist-for-darkradiant/page-26?hl=%2Bcable+%2Bsystem&do=findComment&comment=418958

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One thing that always bothers me about lanterns in movies and TV shows is that when people want to see where they are going, they hold the lantern up in front of their face.

 

I used to have an oil-fired lantern and if you hold it in front of your face in darkness, you can't see anything else except the lantern. You are holding up a bright light source in your field of vision when everything else around you is dark. If you actually want to see where you are going you have to hold the flame off to one side so that you can't see it directly. But I suppose if they do this in the movies you won't be able to see the actor's face any more.

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Splines can also be used to move objects other than cameras.

 

Certain doors in The Warrens move using splines.

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I've asked for this same ability for DR before, remember what you said about it? ;)

 

Yeah, that you're asking for a function in DR that is already available in most/all modeling software :)

 

IIRC, in HL2 though there were some kind of "ragdoll" cables you could play with, with a see-through cable plug carried in front of you.

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Yes, I was about to note the same thing:

 

I have some static metal cables in my w.i.p. that are either cylinders or reskinned rope models, but as far as I know our ragdoll system doesn't give mappers a way of binding both ends of an MD5 rope to the world while letting the remaining joints move with physics impulses: as someone once pointed out in relation to hanging ragdolls by the neck, we have bindToJoint but not bindFromJoint. (I'm guessing from the grabber's ability to move individual limbs that there's some kind of internal support for manipulating joints independently, but I don't know whether it's accessible to scripting...)

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Some things I'm repeatedly thinking about...

 

- louder scream when you're dying

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Open, extinguishable gas flame lights seem to be the closest approximation to a torch but they certainly provide a more upscale feeling wherever they are placed, and are not appropriate sources of lights in dungeons, stables, back alleys or what have you. I would love to find an alternative that makes sense, while also retaining it's in-game function.

 

We can either do open gas lamps with a larger flame or create a model for a wall mounted oil lamp with a wider radius. There were plenty of ancient lamps with more than one wick for this purpose. Here's an example:

 

lamp-lightinguptheancientworld.jpg

Edited by zergrush
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Yeah, that you're asking for a function in DR that is already available in most/all modeling software :)

 

IIRC, in HL2 though there were some kind of "ragdoll" cables you could play with, with a see-through cable plug carried in front of you.

 

Yes but not in DR that was my point, you can create a straight line right now in DR with the func_beam this would just be a extension. It would do more or less what HL2 does minus the physics ability, that IMO with current idtech 4 physics, is just very improbable that it will look and function well. And your idea for a HL2 type rope system is to be implemented how if not on DR?

 

Yes, I was about to note the same thing:

 

I have some static metal cables in my w.i.p. that are either cylinders or reskinned rope models, but as far as I know our ragdoll system doesn't give mappers a way of binding both ends of an MD5 rope to the world while letting the remaining joints move with physics impulses: as someone once pointed out in relation to hanging ragdolls by the neck, we have bindToJoint but not bindFromJoint. (I'm guessing from the grabber's ability to move individual limbs that there's some kind of internal support for manipulating joints independently, but I don't know whether it's accessible to scripting...)

The last time I messed with ragdolls was a year or so ago, so sorry if this is not totally right, but I seem to remember that you can bind a bone to the "world" when making a ragdoll and I think you could do that to more than one bone, but again i'm not sure.

Edited by HMart

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You can use the saveRagdolls command to save a pose but it poses the entire ragdoll. It might be worth experimenting with selectively deleting the spawnargs it creates in the map file... Posed ragdolls still drop when exposed to physics, though. Edit: someone here mentions trying to use bindRagdolls per joint and apparently running into difficulties... And apparently Ishtvan had experimental code related to binding two parts of the same ragdoll together (and maybe altering a rope's AF is worth investigating...?).

 

Apparently HL2 rope sections are rendered similarly to id Tech 4 beams, but after a subdivision process based on splines. In theory you could already set up a load of _BEAMs and even manipulate them dynamically via a script, but I'm not sure the result would look plausible. (I'm not even sure offhand whether beam models can receive light.)

 

It appears id looked into dynamically generating a chain-type entity at some point:

/***************************************************
chain
***************************************************/

entityDef env_chain {
	"editor_color"					"1 .5 .3"
	"editor_mins"					"?"
	"editor_maxs"					"?"

	"editor_usage1"					"A chain hanging down from the ceiling."
	"editor_usage2"					"Do not use in game. For testing only."
	
	"editor_var links"				"Number of links in the chain."
	"editor_var length"				"Length of the chain. (default: number of links times 32)."
	"editor_var width"				"Width of a link."
	"editor_var drop"				"Set to 1 to not bind to world."
	"editor_var density"			"Density of each link in the chain."
	
	"spawnclass"					"idChain"
	"links"							"3"
	"width"							"8"
	"density"						"0.2"
	"drop"							"0"
}
Edited by VanishedOne

Some things I'm repeatedly thinking about...

 

- louder scream when you're dying

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The rope should be modeled, textured, and rigged in modeling software, and then exported to MD5 and used with AF.

 

Ok fine enough but that is not what the HL2 system is.

 

Plus have you ever tried to do a ragdoll for TDM? I did and let me tell you is not that straightforward and the AF tool is very finicky, tends to crash, but is possible to use it.

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Thief used torches so we use torches. People are familiar and comfortable with them whether they make sense or not.

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I always assumed I'd taste like boot leather.

 

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Thief used torches so we use torches. People are familiar and comfortable with them whether they make sense or not.

 

I'm not entirely against the use of torches, like I explained, but this is just about the worst argument to use them. If everything TDM can do is to copy Thief for the sake of familiarity, one might as well just play Thief instead. It's a slippery slope that can easily justify turning TDM into nothing else but a Thief clone.

 

This not to mention that there are already plenty of fantastic maps that do not use indoor torches whatsoever.

Edited by zergrush

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The problem is, when you take torches out of the picture, you do the same with water arrows. Maybe you can use them to douse gas lights, but, since you're all for realism, what about the leaking gas? ;)

 

You could have lightbulbs/electric lights destroyed by broadhead arrows, but you'd have to make all the models with their broken counterparts, and it would probably change the whole player equipment economy (arrows would have to be more sparse and expensive, so the player can't destroy all the lights in the map). And you'll have to teach players all of this, so that's also a question of tutorials within your map.

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TDM is not only a thief clone, I know that and we all know that, it is also a game, so realism should not go above fun, if not this ends like some of the Stalker mods, some have so much "realism" and so much inventory management in them that to me, they are pretty much impossible to enjoy.

 

For example in one Stalker mod before you can pick up any anomalies, you need to buy a expensive tool and a expensive metal box (this means is impossible to pick up them before you play 20 hours making pennies to buy the tools), then you need to use the tool to pick up the anomaly and put it on the metal box, then before you can sell it, you need to use the tool to take it out of the metal box.

 

The original Stalker add you pick up automatically the anomaly and stored it on the inventory, no need to buy anything or to do anything to sell them, which do you people think is more fun?

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If everything TDM can do is to copy Thief for the sake of familiarity, one might as well just play Thief instead. It's a slippery slope that can easily justify turning TDM into nothing else but a Thief clone.

 

This game started as a Thief clone, but it has evolved into it's own game/universe.

There's magic in this world that can easily explain why they use torches the way they do. Using magical oil soaked into the wood of the torches could explain why they aren't killing people with smoke and too much light.


I always assumed I'd taste like boot leather.

 

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