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What Makes A Good Fan Mission?


JulioTheDanks
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I've seen a lot of people debating on what makes a good fan mission and the opinions vary from what I've seen. I'm hoping that by the end of this topic the community can help establish some "golden guidelines" to make a good fan mission. So I ask, what makes a well executed fan mission?

The only limits your imagination has are the ones you set.

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I'll bite, but I'll try to keep it short. There are many things but they need broken down into categories, and from there you can continue to break them down into the smallest of details.

 

Probably number 1 is game play. A mission has to be fun. Hard to describe as everyone enjoys different things. But mainly in Thief it comes down to tension and smarts.

The author wants to force the player to make tough choices, scary choices and be rewarded for doing so, while telling a good story.

Should I run through that light after the guard walks away? Will he turn around and see me? Or should I go through the shadow across that loud metal instead, will he hear me?

Should I use one of my few water arrows on that light? Or save it because I might be in a tougher spot later?

It really has to do with pulling and pushing the player through tough spots and climaxes.

 

That's the ephemeral part of the map. A player can't place a finger on it specifically. It builds excitement, makes them want to play more, or replay.

 

It's a combination of everything below, but more. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole kind of thing.

 

It has nothing to do with the game engine, or if it is TDM or T1. It has nothing to do with real time lighting and hi poly counts. it doesn't matter if it's photorealistic or cartoony. If the same map was made in T1 or TDm it would have the same quality (though in TDM it COULD have better visuals, or exactly the same)

 

 

Everything else is secondary but equally important to each other imo. If one is lacking the whole map is lacking. And lacking one of them can break the gameplay.

 

Visuals, sounds, story, patrols. These are the meat of the map. the grounding. This is the stuff the player notices. They can touch it, feel it.

They can see the beautiful graphics. Tons of polys, hi def textures... But if there are no sounds, then it feels empty, dead. If all the Ai just stand there it is boring. You know that guard will always be looking straight ahead. But if you are in the shadow, waiting, observing,, trying to time that attack and a guard comes around the corner then BAM, you have to rethink. If the objectives are to just break into a manor and steal the loot it can be fun or boring, But if there is a rich underlying story and characters it draws you in, you feel like you are involved in their life somehow. It brings the map alive.

Seeing a guard walking a circle while another stands ground is better than seeing two guards stand ground. Having 20 ai doing completely different things is better. But that alone, without good ambient sound or visuals doesn't do much either.

 

A good mission imo has some of everything. The author has covered all grounds on some level. I admit I can have fun with a pretty simple story, fairly simple graphics and sound, etc... Guards don't have to be on super complex do a million things patrols. But I have to see some effort in all areas. Even if it's a bad story it needs to be there. A mission with absolutely no story at all doesn't work, that's multi-player territory.

 

A perfect mission of course just hits all those points to the Nth degree. Nothing is lacking, it completely envelopes the player. That's when they truly forget about playing a game and will play until 4 in the morning when they have to work the next day.

This probably represents about 5% of total missions made. It is probably a 'good studio' quality. (even if it has flaws). The problem is, this is very hard to do with one person, it's very hard to do with multiple persons, and this is why we will always hear complaints about TDM missions.

 

T1 was this, then T2 echoed that pretty damn well. Then FM's built upon that foundation for years and many gems were made with tons of work and help from a lot of people.

TDM doesn't have the T1 base. TDM doesn't have the T2 base. TDM is only a foundation that people are now trying to build that base upon. While great things are in the works including the campaign, there still isn't that base, that loyalty, that feeling players had after they played T1 and T2. Maybe the campaign will fill that void. Maybe not. But that shouldn't diminish what it's capable of in the right hands. And people shouldn't judge it based on that lack of a solid base.

Instead they should accept that and take it for what it is.

Dark is the sway that mows like a harvest

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I think non-linear missions are the best, particularly where the player can break in using different routes or where he is free to explore the world. Graphics aren't that important for me, except when I see jarring flaws (like lights that aren't actually there). Even the original Thief game had this problem. This detracted from one of the best missions (Return to the Cathedral). It may not technically be game-play, but it is a flaw that stands out and screams "You are playing a game".

 

Clear objectives are also important, as is a reasonable loot requirement. I can't stand roaming a map where I've KO'd everybody and opened every door to find one piece of loot. You really shouldn't force "complete stealth" on the player either. I know, it is part of some plots in games, but it discourages experimentation. On the other hand, I love, LOVE being able to cause AIs to fight one another. I used to lead zombies and haunts to Hammers in the Thief games and then hide and watch the fun. :) I don't think we've seen any TDM missions with AI-AI fights yet.

--- War does not decide who is right, war decides who is left.

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BC & lost put it out quite well.

 

I'll just add my personal preference. It has been formed by my mapping and playing experience. You should see this philosophy in all my missions, but with different emphasis. There could be some deviations since I've experimented different things.

 

My focus:

A mission has to be fun, challenging and interesting. It is difficult to balance between all these factors. If it is too hard, it is not fun. If there is no challenge, it is boring. If it is not interesting (why would the player undertake the mission), why bother?

 

Objectives:

The main character risks his life in the heist. The objectives should be clear and since his life is on the line, he should know what he is stepping into. Vague briefings are terrible. The briefing should be made by a thief who has prepped for the mission well. (Of course things do not always go the way it was planned, that's okay.)

 

Gameplay:

In my vision a mission is a sea of light, with some islands of shadow. There are areas of different security: low (dark places), medium (dark areas with AI's), high (light areas with AI's) and ultra-high (nonswitchable lights, AI's, locks, extra security.) The mission balances between these security areas. The player makes his way forward and has to sometimes use equipment cleverly to make stealthy progress. There should be many decisions to make, but the decisions should have consequences.

 

The player should have some kind of information to use in order to make decisions. It may be the briefing. It may be a found readable or a eavesdropped conversation. Usually it is as simple as giving the player a map which shows multiple entrances "many guards here but more loot," "less guards here, but I'll get trapped if the alarm sounds." "Which way to enter? Front door? Back door? Sewers and risk drowning?"

 

There could even be tanglible moral choices in the mission like in "somewhere above the city." Basically gameplay is about choices and their consequences. The mapper should make sure the player has plenty of them both.

 

Visuals:

Plain visuals do not matter that much to me, as long as they are not mapping mistakes that stand out. Like BC said: sounds, atmosphere, lights are the most important things.

 

The Plot:

The mission does not necessarily need a grand plot, it can just be a break and entering without any great turns or twists: every mansion does not hide grand secret with stuffed bodies. The location should, however, tell a story. Maybe the servants discuss about the horrible noble or notes on the doors give hints about the daily lives of the inhabitants. The flavour texts should be brief, though! What is the story of the ancient temple hidden beneath the earth? If you map it, be prepared to explain it, or give creepy vague hints. Why is a female rogue guarding the entrance to the plague ward? Maybe their previous looting trip went to hell and her friend was left behind and she's staying there and waiting for him? Maybe there is a tragic romance story for the thief to discover?

 

The Flow:

The mission should flow smoothly. Key hunts are a pain and should be avoided at all costs. Usually things that completely halt the mission flow if the player misses something are really bad ideas. The mapper should give the player choices and NOT force the player to play the missions like they dictate. Give options. Keyhunts are grave mapper failure if the key is easily missed. It is okay if the mapper makes sure the key is in a logical place, the player gets info where it is and it is easy to spot. Keys should be convenience factors. Finding the key is a quick, safe way to get forward. The player should have the option of forgetting the key and forcing to enter, but it will be more difficult and risks alarm. Key hunts are okay if they lead to an optional objective. In fact a good mission probably has an optional -or even hidden- objective to reward the players who have been paying attention or otherwise deserve more.

 

Current Problems:

The problem in many of our current missions, in my view, is the lack of information the player has to base his decisions: often a vague briefing sends the player, without a map, to an unknown location to do something. The player is expected to explore a town or a building. How stupid is that, since it wouldn't be difficult to get a floor plan or a map? Also sometimes there aren't many decisions to make after all: missions are linear and do not have branching points or the mapper wishes to constrict the player to visit the mission in the order the mapper dictates. More free form missions with a map would be great. I personally hate blind exploration missions, but I love it when I can examine a map and decide where to go next. It is even more fun if I can make good or bad choices, ie. I know the key to the cellar is in the study. Both are marked on my map. Then I can decide whether to try to pick the cellar door or should I first visit the study. I'm robbed of all the decision making fun if there is no map, no information and if the cellar door is not pickable.

Clipper

-The mapper's best friend.

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As for plot & story, what I care about, my approach would be to build the plot in individual pieces and scenes -- through readables, visual scenes, conversations, etc -- and then rather than laying them out linearly in time like a movie, you spread them out in space, basically have each room add another piece to the story. Then if your map is drawn to be non-linear (as it should be), the player will get the pieces in a different order depending on how they go through it, but you ensure that they have to see all the pieces before they can get to the next level, so they still get the full story one way or another. It's a good way to do storytelling IMO.

 

I also like it when the story is very nested or like a web, where every room or character connects to each other... You can do that by taking each character or room and mentally drawing a line to the other characters & scenes and ask how they can connect to that part of the story. So by the end you get this tight web that all connects to each other & the center core of the story, but you get it in bits and pieces so the process of discovery is itself fun.

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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I don't like it when mappers lock EVERYTHING.

 

I don't like it when mappers make every light electric and inextinguishable.

 

I do like it when mappers leave letters and notes for the gamer to read. Provides a better feel for the atmosphere that is The DarkMod.

 

Key hunts and overuse of hiding safes or critical mission loot are frustrating.

The only limits your imagination has are the ones you set.

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I like a suspenseful mission where events unfold in entertaining ways. A patrol has to surprise me yet give me enough leeway to make a quick

correction before being busted.

 

---

 

When I enter a space, I like to look around and think "this'll be fun to navigate".

 

A perfect example is the interior tavern style space in the upper story of the main building from HappyCheeze's "Awaiting the Storm"

 

AtS_06448.jpg

 

The arrangement of torches and shadows is so portent with gameplay choices that you know it will be fun to get around in the shadows

or douse them. I just about laughed out loud with glee at the sight. Perhaps this is not an "immersive" area that will draw you in

as "being the player" but like they say "gameplay trumps realism"... and this was indeed a game area. An arcade of TDM mechanics.

 

If the spacing is too cramped and there are no alternate routes I feel that the mapper is not catering to the player but instead is funneling them along.

Biker's "Business as Usual" was sorta guilty of this before he revised it to it's glory in the V2 version.

 

It's particularly frustrating to find only one method will allow you to progress through a mission when it looks like an alternate path is the correct one.

Make both paths viable, just increase the danger of one (etc).

 

The mission should provide subtle cues to say, "try this way" without beating you over the head with it. I hate to sound cliche but HL2 is how I idealize this

design philosophy. You are given some freedom to roam but the correct path is so enticing that you are virtually assured to follow it.

 

I must admit that one of Greebo's maps for the Crucible campaign gave me exactly that feel. I felt like I was playing something from Valve or that had adhered to their QA

methods.

 

Give the player the opportunity to use many of the different tools during the mission.

 

Baddcog's "The Rift" has a steep drop from a window at the start that is perfect for the Moss Arrow to conceal the noise. It's rare that the Moss Arrow

would be required to navigate a mission. Add that to the Rope Arrow dependent areas and this mission offers a nice variety of options.

 

NHAT 1 (Politics) in a very short span requires Breath potion, then Broadhead Arrows, then Holy Water.

 

Intimidate the player.

 

If the Guards look relaxed and their patrols are spaced-out enough, the thrill of evasion can evaporate.

 

In Fieldmedic's "Betrayal" the Revnant guards are on the prowl vigalently seeking intruders from the get-go.

Your nerves will be frayed. You will be sucked-in to the story by fearing the creatures as your avatar would.

Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:

 

http://www.indiedb.com/mods/the-dark-mod

 

(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

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I don't like it when mappers lock EVERYTHING.

 

That is so true! In most missions everything is locked and you have to be patient everytime you just want to see if there's something valuable in this chest, because you lockpicked even 4 other chests before in this room which was locked by the door too when there even isn't a guard IN this room that makes the lockpicking suspenseful.

"Einen giftigen Trank aus Kräutern und Wurzeln für die närrischen Städter wollen wir brauen." - Text aus einem verlassenen Heidenlager

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In most missions everything is locked and you have to be patient everytime you just want to see if there's something valuable in this chest.

 

I know!!! Like on Knighton Manor the only the only thing that bothered me was EVERYTHING was locked. I like the lockpicking system. I do. I know I will be ridiculed, but I liked the TDS lockpicking system ALOT. I could pick locks relatively quickly and it made more sense to me then sitting in DM and listening to clicking.

The only limits your imagination has are the ones you set.

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I agree with a lot of what others have said.

 

For me, a clear briefing with reasonable motivation is key. If the mission starts loading and I don't really know why I'm doing the objectives, that's an immediate barrier to enjoyment.

 

Campy humour is also an immediate immersion-breaker for me.

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Campy humour is also an immediate immersion-breaker for me.

 

Clarify this, please.

 

I've read a few comments on this forum about people's distaste for humor in FMs. ( "campy humor", "any humor")

 

Humor is an accepted counterbalance to horror and tension in fiction. And in real life, as well.

 

Benny the Guard is an accepted foil in the Thief games, and TDM's voice sets include several instances of humor. I.e. "Better show yourself before I give up." The existence of these suggests that perhaps it's just certain types of humor that are frowned upon.

 

What are some examples of humor that people have a problem with?

 

(That will give me a better sense of whether I need to rip out the humor I've built into my WIPs.)

 

Thanks.

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Well first, I'm not sure that I reflect the prevailing opinion on this, but my take:

 

Humorous things that might naturally occur are fine. Some guards are dumb, so having a guard say something a little humorous is fine. Readables that say things like "Illiteracy is no excuse" are fine...it's the kind of thing a domineering, not-so-bright nobleman might actually say.

 

But wink-wink nudge-nudge humour, where it is obviously the mapper talking to the player, bug me. Things in readables that talk directly to the player ("Why are you still reading this?") Things where characters act unbelievably in order to make a joke (like a readable written in a Jamaican accent); silly names; most of the humour attempts in TDS...these are all things I consider "campy".

 

It's not always an easy distinction to make...in some cases it might just come down to how hard the author seems to be "trying" to make a joke.

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I really loved the notes written by peasant who can't spell or use a bunch of slang XD. "THIS HERE IS MY BREAD! ANYONE WHO EATS THIS BREAD IS GONNA GET DIS DAGGER IN DER GUT! MAGGOTS!" hilarious.

The only limits your imagination has are the ones you set.

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Added to what Springheel said above, I hate when authors make reference to things in popular culture or use any proper names common to the real world, such as "I just saw Led Zeppelin last week" (there's actually a T2 FM with that reference), or "I'm traveling to England this week." Talk about an immersion killer.

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I don't like it when mappers make every light electric and inextinguishable.

 

O' course, mappers can use button/switch activated electric lights or more complex systems.

 

I hate when authors make reference to things in popular culture or use any proper names common to the real world, such as "I just saw Led Zeppelin last week"

 

Change it to: Leden von Zeppelin, famous proprietor of flying devices.

Edited by jaxa
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I know I will be ridiculed, but I liked the TDS lockpicking system ALOT. I could pick locks relatively quickly and it made more sense to me then sitting in DM and listening to clicking.

 

Probably not. But typically the team likes the non-mini game lockpicking of T1/2 better, and that's why we took a similar approach for the mod. But it is improved, In T2 you had the visual jiggle, but all that was required was the correct pick to be used. And if you set your lockpicking adjuster to simple that's what you get, automatic pick on first try with correct pick. I actually enjoy watching the lever movement and listening to the sounds, I think it's very realistic, so I have my picking set to difficult.

 

However I did like the T3 picking for what it was, it looked pretty good, functioned well. But was weird to have this huge lock on all doors and chests, and the mini game does break immmersion.

Skyrim has had the best mini game picking in any game to date, Really cool to see your picks in the lock working (though they clip through each other (lol).

But still, I think TDM's tops all.

 

-------

 

I think pretty much everyone agrees now days that only critical doors/chests need locked for the most part. doesn't mean an author shouldn't throw an occassional empty locked door/chest in the mix. They just need to focus on on making the critical locked pieces be more tense. I have to get in this door, but a guard walks by every 10 seconds, I gotta move fast, or no when to give up, hide, and try again...

Then you aren't punished with tedious lock picking, but when you do lock pick it's very tense and exciting.

Dark is the sway that mows like a harvest

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Little extras, like a unique loading screen, an animated briefing, and proofing for spelling mistakes, also go a long way.

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I like it when the places look believable, when patches and decor blends into each other and I can feel my "mapping blindness" fade away and I see the world as a world and not textures...

 

I also agree with Springheel that humour is destroying immersion; In my sense the thief world is cynical, depressing and distant and I've never thought that humour had a place in it.

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Well first, I'm not sure that I reflect the prevailing opinion on this, but my take:

 

Humorous things that might naturally occur are fine. Some guards are dumb, so having a guard say something a little humorous is fine. Readables that say things like "Illiteracy is no excuse" are fine...it's the kind of thing a domineering, not-so-bright nobleman might actually say.

 

But wink-wink nudge-nudge humour, where it is obviously the mapper talking to the player, bug me. Things in readables that talk directly to the player ("Why are you still reading this?") Things where characters act unbelievably in order to make a joke (like a readable written in a Jamaican accent); silly names; most of the humour attempts in TDS...these are all things I consider "campy".

 

It's not always an easy distinction to make...in some cases it might just come down to how hard the author seems to be "trying" to make a joke.

 

For what it is worth, I agree with all of this. That sort of humor destroys immersion.

 

The only place it has for me when it is really really over the top - then I break out the popcorn and immensily enjoy the show. But I don't think we had such an FM yet.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

 

"Remember: If the game lets you do it, it's not cheating." -- Xarax

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You can have great humor without breaking immersion. My favorite was Heist Society for T2. There were some guards talking about the atmosphere, and one of them says "Oh... my utmost fear is spiders". That cracked me up.

--- War does not decide who is right, war decides who is left.

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After rereading the "Tone" section on the "Universe" Wiki, I became severely depressed and finished off my bottle of Alprazolam. :unsure:

 

Later, in better spirits and fortified against the gloom, I reviewed my readables and shifted them more toward the depressing world of Bridgeport. Now you'll never know what a charming humorist I can be. :rolleyes: I did, however, reach the conclusion that the denizens of this world will provide us with humorous moments all on their own. They don't need my help. In a long tale of death, revenge, corruption, greed, and deceit, the actors are best left to find humor where they can.

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(Fretts over lost charm and unique presentation... :unsure: Reminds himself that it's a Grayman mission and it'll be awesome anyway... B) )

 

Before you start removing kilobytes of humor, why not make it a little sardonic . :ph34r:

 

Or have a couple of sardonic wise-cracks from a player narrator to make up for the loss?

Please visit TDM's IndieDB site and help promote the mod:

 

http://www.indiedb.com/mods/the-dark-mod

 

(Yeah, shameless promotion... but traffic is traffic folks...)

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Although the thief atmosphere has always been grim and DM takes after it in the same way I recall some very humorous moments in TDP. Why just in the beginning at Lord Bafford's manor listening to the conversation between the gate guards is hysterical. "Hey you wanna go to the bear pits tomorrow?" XD

The only limits your imagination has are the ones you set.

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