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What is Thief really about?


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#26 Springheel

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 06:19 PM

telling a lovestory basso's brother and the flower girl from the sector 7 slums as they go to slay a magic wielding eviloverlord™ destined to destroy offmiddleearth doesn't exactly belong in a thief mission,


I don't see why not. Is that so different than sneaking into a magic tunnel to destroy an evil god in the middle of a magic ritual bent on plunging the land into magical chaos? Or running through the city putting magic relics into slots A-F as an evil multi-headed monster goes on a killing rampage?

They wouldn't be my favourite missions and I certainly wouldn't encourage them, but I'm not sure you can argue they don't belong.
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#27 firoso

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 06:35 PM

*snickers* congrats you just hit the weakest parts of the thief series and bitch slapped them for me :-P
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#28 Crispy

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 07:38 PM

Or running through the city putting magic relics into slots A-F as an evil multi-headed monster goes on a killing rampage?

Least satisfying sequence in a Thief game ever. :( It was pretty easy to just run through that whole bit clicking frob A, frob B, frob C while the monster was distracted by screaming townsfolk. The most time-consuming bit was the loading screens between sections.

If only the Cradle, or something equal to it, had been placed as the grand finale...
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#29 Mr Retarded

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 07:43 PM

At least they made an effort to make The City a part of the game insted of just making it a stop off in between missions and game-length increaser...

That's not to say it was done well, but at least they tried.

#30 Crispy

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 08:01 PM

I'm not convinced that it needed to be "part of the real game" in that way. Even if The City was just a stopover between missions, that would have been fine with me as long as it was atmospheric/engaging enough. And had fewer loading screens.

Anyway, it already was, thanks to the Enforcers sequence (which also could have been done a lot better - I thought these guys were supposed to be stealthy and targeted, not glyph-wielding civilian-slaughtering homicidal maniacs).
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#31 Outlooker

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 08:06 PM

Stories should be no total crap. This can taint an otherwise good mission.
Playing thief, I always wanted to be a naughty character. No worldsaver. Primarily, you steal ordinary protected valuables.
It's that simple. Luckily a good enough thief story is about nothing more than that.

From whom or why only really matters in a good way if one manages to build a more complex story/mission _during_ which the player can build an affection to one group or individual. Such missions may be more enjoyable, though. But to make a story really important, beneficial to gameplay, motivating to achieve something, it has to be carefully build up. If a story is supposed to emotionally touch/motivate the player, readables will probably not be enough; something must be _experienced_ in-game; like the execution of a friend or possible future mating partner.
If done well, such things can actually build up a good chunk of atmosphere by themself.
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#32 bardic

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 02:19 AM

The more I think about my gameplay style, the more I think I lean towards oDDity's views (if I am interpreting them correctly). The story leads me and lets me know what I need to do, but doesn't shape my experience as much as my own imagination.

For me it's all about immersion. The cutscenes are usually more about how they set the tone using graphics, music, and the character's voice, and less about what is being said. The textures and shadows in the level set the mood more than a readable. And the gameplay makes you feel like you are the character whether you are playing as Garrett or playing an FM as some other hero.

Like others have said, one of the main problems with Thief 3 was the gameplay in general. Thief 1 and 2 were smooth while running and jumping, mantling, turning while crossing a beam, and fighting. That really goes such a long way in keeping you enthralled by the world around you. Thief 3, on the other hand, is clunky. The control is terrible and breaks the immersion.

Part of the problem with Thief 3 is just the way the unreal engine was re-programmed. Even on a fairly decent system the gameplay had tiny speed issues. Like microscopic freezes while running or when attacking. Barely noticable, but enough to spoil the effect. I've loaded it on my new system, and while it still has control problems, it runs smoother and is more enjoyable because those tiny little annoyances are gone. I played through several FMs like "The Bridge" and "Cabot" and there was an amazing difference.

I'm getting off topic, but basically I think the level and gameplay make the mission. Even without a storyline, or a very small backstory, people develop their own perceptions as they play. Almost all of us have played thief and have that common background. If someone who has never played thief sits down at a computer running a fan mission or the dark mod, would they mold the story around something they knew, like Dragonlance or Lord of the Rings? The author can guide the reader with a story, but people will still surround that with the imagery they have in their minds.

For me that will probably mean that when I play missions in TDM, I will still be myself as a thief, and instead of people calling me by the nickname Garrett, they will call me by some other nickname (for some odd reason).

#33 sparhawk

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 03:14 AM

I'm not sure we're all using the same terminology here, since I thought HL2 had only the most rudimentary plot imaginable--Find person A, then find person B then find person C then kill the big bad guy to save the day.

Terms like "story" "atmosphere" and even "plot" are pretty abstract when describing video games, so it might help if we had a common set of definitions.


HL2 had a pretty good atmosphere, but plotwise it was the average shooter story.

My definition of atmosphere is how the game looks as a whole to me. This includes graphics and sounds and to some extent the interface. HL2 was pretty good in that regard, because the gameworld looks believable, so that I can get easily immersed without constantly thinking that this is just a game. Especially the canal was pretty good. It always reminded me of the canal in Vienna, where I was once running around with a few friends and I could believe that I was back there again. :)
Maybe my definition of atmosphere is mostly what is called immersion though. It's hard to define properly.
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#34 sparhawk

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 03:18 AM

I don't think a complete lack of story hurts an otherwise good game much at all, nor does a great story help an otherwise bad game. I'm not trying to convince you--it's just my personal view on the matter.


Same here. When I play Painkiller, then the game itself has so much atmosphere. Looking at the plot is really dumb though. Especially in shooters, I usually don't even notice that stuff, because all it is about is the shooting part. :)
With adventures it's a bit different. I think that you might not notice the story so much if it is good. I wonder if you would play a game with the classic adventure puzzles, and keep playing if there would be no story at all. Also the story can also provide hints, so that you know what to do, or even may give some hints as to how to solve some puzzles.
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#35 oDDity

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 08:11 AM

Story does become a lot more important in FMs though.
By the time you've played the OMs several times and a lot of FMs, the gameworld and gameplay has become so repetitive and boring that all you're left with to spice it up is the individual story/plot of the FM.
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#36 Subjective Effect

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 11:09 AM

And TDM is all about making FMs. Even if someone makes a campaign the fact that the users are FM players, and thus fairly hardcore fans who DO think plot is quite important, failure on plot/story construction will not go down well.
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#37 Springheel

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 11:40 AM

failure on plot/story construction will not go down well.


Well, again...what do you mean by "plot/story"?

We've already established that creating an immersive atmosphere is important, as well as a sense that the world exists independently of your character; creating believable motivations for your character's actions is important, and having clear objectives is important. Other than that, what would you consider necessary for a FM?

For me, I'm happy with generic "Break into Mansion A and steal Object B" missions, as long as the gameplay is good, without needing to find extensive readables about the owner's life story.
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#38 Subjective Effect

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 12:30 PM

Spoilers for 7th Crystal to illustrate what I mean by plot/story.

You're Garrett in this FM and you are asked to steal this crystal thing. So off you go. But the crystal is in a mansion and when you get inside a child's ghost occasionally communicates with you. It's pretty spooky (and precedes The Cradle, natch). From the readables you discover that the lord of the manor and his wife have suffered a terrible tragedy - the accidental death of their daughter, and furthermore it has torn their marriage apart because neither of them really knows how to come to terms with this and neither is communicating with or comforting the other. The ghost tells you how sad her mother is these days and you find out, from readables, that the mother has found comfort in the arms of one of the guards. The lord of the manor, meanwhile, has avoided facing his grief by focusing on a hidden chamber he has found, which leads to all sorts of occult hidden areas underground and, of course, loot for you.

This is a "Steal A" mission, but the way it all unfolds makes it so much more. Even if you do no like the mission if you cannot see how and why these extras might make it more enjoyable or memorable then you and I are never, ever going to see eye to eye.

I really enjoy a good story, and I really like the way it can be told through readables or logs. It fits so well in a Thief mission because it's all about sneaking and doing or seeing things you shouldn't. Whilst I think that the map and gameplay is of utmost importance in an FM, a good map combined with a good story is so much more. The Cradle isn't just about the map, it's about what happened there.
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#39 firoso

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 12:58 PM

The Cradle isn't just about the map, it's about what happened there.


Couldn't have said it better myself.
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#40 Nyarlathotep

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 01:27 PM

but telling a lovestory basso's brother and the flower girl from the sector 7 slums as they go to slay a magic wielding eviloverlord™ destined to destroy offmiddleearth doesn't exactly belong in a thief mission

If I ever see an FM full of long-haired bishounen wielding unrealistically oversized weaponry and trying to destroy the planet, I think I will go an hero myself. I couldn't stomach a retelling of the nth iteration of a fantasy that proclaims itself to be the last.

#41 firoso

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 01:44 PM

If I ever see an FM full of long-haired bishounen wielding unrealistically oversized weaponry and trying to destroy the planet, I think I will go an hero myself. I couldn't stomach a retelling of the nth iteration of a fantasy that proclaims itself to be the last.


Well the title was appropriate for the first game, Square was going bankrupt :-P.
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#42 Springheel

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 02:24 PM

The ghost tells you how sad her mother is these days and you find out, from readables, that the mother has found comfort in the arms of one of the guards. The lord of the manor, meanwhile, has avoided facing his grief by focusing on a hidden chamber he has found, which leads to all sorts of occult hidden areas underground and, of course, loot for you.


Ok, I think I see what you're getting at. I certainly wouldn't call that "plot" at all. I think I would file that under "a sense that the world exists independently of your character." But whatever we're going to call it, I agree that it can add to a mission, as long as it isn't overdone.
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#43 firoso

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 02:31 PM

well I think that goes without saying, that's part of immersion, balancing the mundane of the real world with the fantastical of the thief's world. It's part of what keeps you as the player, anchored into the game, a sense that it COULD be real, completely disregarding all the evidence to the contrary (water arrows for instance :-) )
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#44 Subjective Effect

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 02:43 PM

But it is plot Sping, it's the story of the house and is directly consequential to your mission because, iirc, the 7th Crystal is in that hidden chamber. It's an expansive way of revealing this but how is just knowing where to go any better? I think easy directions are dull. Of course things shouldn't be over done but it's all tasty filling and icing.
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#45 Arcturus

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 02:50 PM

Story is important in my opinion. I enjoyed original missions more than any fan mission because they were linked together. In Thief 2 in the second mission your goal is a classic "find a certain amount of loot". But as an addition you overhear conversations about mechanists new inventions, one man is talking about the Angelwatch casting shadow over his house and that all trees and birds are gone of his neighbourhood. In next missions you learn more about Karras and what badass he is. You meet the frozen pagan saying something like: "you have to stop them". In the final I really wanted to see Karras dead. Last mission wouldn't be such fun without the story it was preceded by.

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#46 bardic

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 11:02 PM

Maybe a separation needs to be made between the story of an individual mission, and the back story. Thief has a huge back story. We know the history and dozens of factoids about hammers, pagans, mechanists, keepers, nobles and the city watch, but it is because we have been fed small amounts of history as we played through three thief games, and a multitude of FMs.

We shouldn't expect TDM to have that story in place already. We can have a basic idea, but the world will take shape as we play FMs and especially large campaigns. Also, we don't want missions that try to give us the back story all by themselves. A mission about the inventors guild could have messy workshops with objects that roll off tables at the slightest touch, wild haired inventors that are always misplacing things and won't notice stolen objects, and random midnight runs through the halls yelling about how they have figured out some difficult problem. Add some conversations and inner dialog and you have told the player all about inventors without a single readable. It's like a story that can't be transferred to a book, and yet everyone knows who the characters are.

By the way, I'm really enjoying this thread.

#47 firoso

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 01:41 PM

By the way, I'm really enjoying this thread.


Now look what I started, another collaborative ideas turned debate thread :P
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#48 oDDity

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 03:11 PM

Story is important in my opinion. I enjoyed original missions more than any fan mission because they were linked together. In Thief 2 in the second mission your goal is a classic "find a certain amount of loot". But as an addition you overhear conversations about mechanists new inventions, one man is talking about the Angelwatch casting shadow over his house and that all trees and birds are gone of his neighbourhood. In next missions you learn more about Karras and what badass he is. You meet the frozen pagan saying something like: "you have to stop them". In the final I really wanted to see Karras dead. Last mission wouldn't be such fun without the story it was preceded by.


Yes it would.
The plot was stupid in the last mission, since Karras turned so dumb that he didn't even guess what you were up to, sends a couple of bots after you at the start, and then just gives up and lets you wander around, and ends up gassing himself. As if he hasn't the whole palce rigged with watchers and would know where the rust gas servants were.
Pathetic.
That's the problem with games, the plot has to be stupid just so you can manufacture gameplay from it.
It wouldn't be much use the if the boss and his minions were so clever and on the case that you couldn't beat them.
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#49 Forsaken

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 03:21 PM

You are speaking for yourself, oDDity.

And that's true for many things besides games. Doesn't mean it should stay that way. One of the main issues I see with storylines is the necessity to have a climax, and ending, instead of making the whole story interesting and blurring the ending.
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#50 Springheel

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Posted 12 April 2008 - 03:34 PM

The final "boss" missions were the worst of all three Thief games. The ending missions were horribly contrived, mainly because Thief isn't supposed to be a game where you go head to head with your opponent, yet the developers felt the need to do so to complete "the story".
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