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ChronA

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    Narrative Craft, Science Fiction, Game Modding

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  1. I think without clear character development, the player avatar defaults to almost a pure ludic abstraction. They are a sort of experienced, hyper-competent, obsessive-compulsive, entirely amoral kleptomaniac. They exist to flawlessly execute whatever plan is set out for them by the objectives, steal ever single piece of loot that has the slightest value, and to see or interact with every unique set-piece and interactable the mission maker went to the trouble of including. They have no real wants of their own besides accomplishing their objectives and not getting detected. The real danger though for the mission-maker is that if their character writing is not interesting and self-consistent enough to overcome this bias towards ludic abstraction then players will default to just ignore the story entirely: supposing that it is meaningless set dressing. For some missions this works. E.g. In Volta and the Stone, we do not care why the thief wants to steal the stone, or how the course of his career brought him to that point. (We don't actually care about who the Voltas are either for that matter.) It is all just an excuse to explore a cool manor as a half-invisible cat-burglar-man. For missions though where the characters and story is supposed to be one of the draws this means there are a lot of stakes for the effectiveness of the mission resting on the strength of the narrative hook. There needs to be a clear and ever-present narrative arc from moment one, to draw the player into the role playing experience and keep them in that frame of mind. Every event needs to logically connect to the next. For your missions described so far, to do that successfully, here's how the essential flow that I see: Mission 1: the PC is an inexperienced pretender at being a gentleman thief, (he probably has never actually stolen anything of value before,) who in his eagerness to prove himself plans a dangerous and unprofitable heist. The job goes badly wrong, and it is only by a lot of luck and a little bit of natural talent that he escapes with his life and barely enough loot to afford to make another expedition. However being a natural thrill seeker he is undeterred, and considers the adventure a great success. Mission 2: using the lessons learned in mission 1, the PC plans a more sensible second job and takes away a tidy haul. However being sobered by success (and perhaps, being less overcome by adrenaline and having paid more attention to the somber circumstances of his surrounding this time), he decides that it's time to quit while he is ahead and return home with his fortune. Mission 3: with home in danger, the PC must now use his skills not for his own naïve dreams of adventure but in defense of family. (He has truly grown as a person.) and maybe Mission 4-5: the PC recognizes that he cannot return to the farming life just yet. There is other business he must handle before it will be safe to return to his old way of living... and perhaps in the process he recognizes that his skills as a sneak are more valuable to himself, and the life he imagines returning to, than is the purer calling of being a simple farm hand.
  2. My reaction too, but thinking on it there are some legitimate reason to want >60. For one, I've noticed since I've started configuring all my games to be locked as much as possible at 60 that if I have the frame rate drop down to 30 it causes me immediate motion sickness. But when I was playing at 30 fps on the regular it did not bother me at all. I think my brain has become accustomed to the higher framerate and now interprets anything lower as uncanny. If Aluminum is used to playing at ultra high fps it might be uncomfortable for them to play at a lower rate. Also higher frame rates legitimately add to the fidelity of the image even if they are not strictly necessary to play the game. The eye can better pick up extra details on moving objects or when panning. Fast moving objects are visible without distortions. And don't forget it makes feedback from any control inputs more responsive (regardless of whether that is necessary to play the game well).
  3. Ok! Your intentions become clearer. That is not the direction I thought this story might take, but I still like it; better even than the more cynical or ribald interpretations I was imagining. There is an element of Stoic wisdom (in the sense of the formal philosophy of antiquity) in the character fully dedicating himself to something he know is dangerous and unproductive because it expands and gratifies his spirit. (The Big Lebowski is a popular film that explores similar territory, although maybe you intend a less cynical resolution for your protagonist than befell The Dude.) That being the case, I think it is even more important to strongly set up that theme in the first level. As you can see, I missed some of the hints in your write up that pointed in that direction. The key to making this work is setting up a clear cycle of the protagonist's grandiose expectations, those expectations being crushed, and then the character adapting and coming out (slightly) ahead anyway. E.g. in your mission 1, Eric descends into "the underworld" only to become trapped, and then discovering the place has already been looted of anything majorly valuable, but never-the-less managing to meet his very modest loot goal off the scraps alone, before escaping. That I think should be the real core of that level's narrative, more-so than overworld capers that may proceed it. I think my comments above reveal where my sympathies reside concerning that matter. Ultimately all the evidence of our works in this world will be utterly erased by the inexorable march of time, down to the very last atom. That is the nature of being alive. If there is any value for us to find during this farce, then it is in enjoying the journey. Time spent in a pursuit that gives you fulfillment is never wasted. If anything I commend you for having the courage to share the products of your imagination out here where we can all nit-pick them!
  4. I think that is (unfortunately?) extremely unlikely. I'd wager that for every mission that gets released for TDM the author has a ideas for another 5 packed away in their brain-closet that will never see the light of day (usually because they are too ambitious or run up against some practical limitation, like needing to recruit a voice actor). Realistically there are only two ways to midwife an idea like this into actuality: 1. you must first complete about 2/3rds of the work yourself, and then people will come together to help you across the finish line, or 2. substantial amounts of money must be involved. Otherwise prepare to be ignored. However, even if you have no way of bringing your idea into reality, it is still commendable to share it. You might give someone else the inspiration they need to develop a project of their own, or overcome some hurdle that is holding their work back. Just be reconciled that the fruit of your labors are unlikely to be recognizable as a derivative work. Alternatively you may realize that your own project is not so impossible for you to follow-through-on as you thought, in which case any critique your preview attracts may save you a great deal of time and frustration. In that spirit, here's a bit of feedback from me about what you have shared so far:
  5. (I say this as someone with no relevant experience at all...) @Nort you might also want to take a 30 minute walk and ask yourself what about your artistic vision and/or workflow is making this deficiency of your medium so problematic for you. Then ask yourself whether there is anything you could do to get around the issue. Maybe you can adjust your vision, or approach the problem differently. That's not to say the problems you bring up aren't valid, but there may be more effective ways for you to remedy your own problem than to jump on a forum and demand changes that probably won't be coming in a hurry, if at all. The most important any artist must learn is how to keep working despite adverse conditions, because if you are only capable of creating when everything is perfect, chances are that you will simply never create anything.
  6. @LifthrasilI'm playing The Painter's Wife currently and was stumped for a while by that same chest not too long ago. A hint: A big hint:
  7. Does this need to happen? Title: The Hot Spring of Chaos Description: And lo, the master perv shal'th pass unseen into the fertility temple of the Pagan women, and he descend'th into the very Hot-Spring of Chaos where Succubi bathe without the modesty of the Builder, and he shall shame'th them as it was fore'written! Content Warnings: suggestive themes, sexual innuendos, and whole new connotations for the "Mission Complete" chime
  8. This is true. On pretty much any mansion or city level, chances are you will be pilfering some impoverished servant's or trades-person's life savings in order to meet the loot goal; money they probably need to feed their families. But it is treated no differently than stealing some oligarch's silverware or finding some gems in a cave. There is a bit of a moral double standard at work, considering how much Thief and all its derivatives revolve around themes of retributive justice and avoiding indiscriminate carnage. It would be interesting if more FMs played with the concept of moral forbearance. Maybe have an optional objective on expert to not harm any innocents, and stealing the wrong bits of loot would make you fail it (until you uncover evidence of wrongdoing). Anyway, I personally appreciate missions that aims to be like Myst but with stealth. (Although, for my money, Riven is the one to emulate in terms of sublime puzzle walking simulators). To me, knockouts and ticking up the loot counter aren't that rewarding compared to the pure joy of exploration and discoverable storytelling. It might actually be easier to make a really fun level without having to worry about loot placement or combat balancing. Plot-wise there is a lot of well trodden ground for detective scenarios and escape-the-house/cave type thrillers in that mold. A rom-com (or ero-com) would actually be a really different and interesting framing device for such an FM. (But it would have to be released on Valentines day! That's just the law.) Of course you should just do what you want to do. Take the ideas and advice of the community for what you can get out of them, but in the end always make your FM (or any other hobby project) for yourself first. That way at minimum one person will always be happy with it (even if it is never finished).
  9. This made me imagine a mission where the player character is a perv trying to sneak into a bath house. Thanks . Also now that I think about it, that exact FM almost certainly already exists...
  10. ChronA

    Play to Earn

    This stuff is basically just resume bling... like an unpaid internship at a prestigious law firm... or a college diploma. Jumping on dumb "cutting edge" trends like this is a way for the people involved to establish themselves as "movers and shakers" in the tech world, which will make them a hot commodity for a) clueless corporate hiring managers who don't actually know anything about the business, b) tech illiterate con-artists "tech" entrepreneurs looking to make a lot of money by inventing the next dumb cutting-edge trend, and c) other would-be "movers and shakers" in need of some extra legitimacy for their own cutting-edge project (usually meant to pull the same trick). None of these project need to make any money, or even deliver a product to pay off for the people behind them. Ultimately they will collect at some point down the road thanks to the the generosity of lazy/elitist corporations and fraud victims. It's an entire global industry of wearing and selling the emperor's new clothes, continuously playing out on multiple layers. And it is one of the pillars of our entire modern technological civilization...
  11. I sometimes wonder how much hearing/vision-impairment accessibility considerations factor into some of these choices.... Of course we all understand the main reasons developers (or rather their pay masters) cut corners like this or try to shoehorn in trendy features in their place. (E.g. using detective vision and awareness flags instead of audio cues as the primary way to track enemies' locations and awareness states.) Greed and ignorance are certainly the major driving forces here, not magnanimity and egalitarianism. But if you follow any current discussions about disability friendly game design, you will notice a trend that calls for the homogenizing of UX designs and removing any sensory skill checks imposed upon the player. It's hard not to see the move away from analog material noise and alarm barks in modern stealth games as an extension of this mentality. Personally I am in two minds about this. One the one hand, it is not nice to arbitrarily exclude people from experiences they would otherwise enjoy just because they can't see, or hear, or perform quick/dexterous control inputs, or orient themselves in simulated environments as well as other audience members. Indeed, I myself have advocated for improving accessibility options for players with motion sensitivity in TDM. But on the other hand it is equally unjust to keep people from accessing unique experiences or discovering stories that they would enjoy, just because other people exist who are not so fortunate. Thief and its progeny are fundamentally niche products. The demands they place on the player's skills of sight, hearing, and spatial orientation are the core of what make them appealing. They defy the idealistic motto that games should be for everyone, and that is just one more reason they have been pushed out of the mainstream market.
  12. Yes! Written in Stone is/was one of the missions I am currently playing, and this was the conclusion I came to as well. I think the story (what I have found of it) even supports this course of action. These are clearly not happy people. Killing them is a mercy. However it seems I am just not good enough at combat to kill all the enemies with the resources I had collected to that point, so I ended up putting Written in Stone on the back burner in favor of other FMs. At some point I'll return to it and most likely finish it up using notarget. The world geometry itself is lovely and I want to take my time to admire it without having to worry about enemies. In terms of trying to diagnose what made the balance between exploration, puzzle solving, and enemy presence not work for me in this mission I'd draw a comparison to Iris and Hazard Pay, which presented similar challenges for exploration and puzzles but did not make me want to genocide the entire map. The first useful thing they did was prominently signpost important locations for the player, often with actual sign posts in the game world, and in Iris's case with markers on the map. Secondly they provided lots of safe corridors (that were easy to find) for efficient traversal between key locations. These safe spaces also often included overlooks or vantage points with clear views of the hostile areas so they player can get an understanding of the layout and plan their next moves without time pressure. And lastly in places where the player does not have the benefit of signage, maps, or prior visual scouting, these FMs revert to a much more linear level design. (Like a vine with side branches, instead of a spider's web or tree like labyrinth.) Now that I think of it, a lot of my most favorite TDM FMs follow these rules: Requiem, William Steel In the North and Home Again, Volta 1 and 2... That's not to say I think being lost or needing to make your own safety (Rambo style) have no place in TDM. (Perversely, Down in the Bonehoard has become my favorite T:TDP mission, and it breaks almost all these rules at various points.) But in those cases where being lost or ultra-violent is the intent, I believe the change in playstyle should be supported by tailored story beats and a generous equipment loadout.
  13. Also... An interesting thing about the existence of TDM, and the contrast between it and the relative misfire of Thi4f, is that it should make a perfect road map for Embracer Group if they have any interest in properly reviving the Thief franchise: The first lesson is to go small. Second, understand that the star of the show is actually the levels’ navigation and lighting geometries. Third, we do not need to play as Garrett. And the fourth lesson: innovation is not bad, but it needs to be driven by the needs of the gameplay environment and story, not by market trends.
  14. Personally I think Moonbo's Requiem FM is about as good as one could wish for in terms of a spiritual successor to the Thief trilogy. The story hits all the important notes, and the level design is uniformly top notch across all the expected axes of stealth gameplay. And there is even a sequel that trailblazes entirely new territory from its predecessor in gameplay, story, and tone. That's just icing on the cake. Indeed there several FMs for TDM that I believe equal or even surpass the quality of the original games' levels. The trouble is how do you discover them in that giant downloader list? Are there other great missions in there that I have yet to find? That is undoubtedly the greatest current weakness of this project. The ability to sort FMs in the game client (i.e. both the downloader and the mission launcher) by date, size, and author would be a great help. Search by keywords or tags and support for grouping missions into collections would also be very useful.
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