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Thief 4 is trash.


Mystry

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Dishonored I thought did a much better job of holistic level design.

 

Although even there you had regular pipes and ledges, and constant screens that had no purpose but to provide the player with cover.

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Am I a bad person for it? Does it in some way offend you? Do you think all games are art? Is art not able to be critiqued? Do commercial games not count as art? Should commercial games be treated differently?

 

No, no, no, yes, depends, no.

 

I just don't think it is as much of a problem as you claim. Taken apart, it is a very unsound design philosophy that I borderline hate, however - that does not mean that the experience only consists of the mechanics that bring it about. I'm highly forgiving of bad mechanics if the game has a solid aesthetic design and tells a good story, which I think DX:HR has (when I say it has "pretty amazing writing" I of course don't mean Planescape: Torment levels of amazement, I just mean a cut above the majority of games). To me, what distinguishes a good game from a mediocre one is not the amount of limitations it has, but how it turns those limitations into advantages. Call me a romantic for paying more attention to the intangibles rather than the tangibles, but my experience just doesn't resonate with your opinions. In less capable hands, the very same design would have become wholly transparent because it would no longer be a means to an end, it would be an end in and of itself, and then I would have complained.

 

Do you guys also hate the Splinter Cell series? Because it is even more linear, with each room being a puzzle as you say. Often there is only a stealth path and a suicide path - yet it is one of the hallmarks of the stealth genre. Thief will always be the peak of stealth to me, otherwise I probably wouldn't be here, but I don't automatically write off other approaches as bad if they can accomplish what they seek to do in a consistent manner. Just my two cents.

 

EDIT: Which is not to say games shouldn't be analyzed in detail. It's a great way to get a profound insight into how mechanics and aesthetics are intertwined (simple dichotomy for this purpose - don't take it too seriously). But, and this may be where we disagree, you can not examine each half separately. They are like an azeotrope, on some core level they form a unit. If you delve too deep and lose perspective the benefits of analysis go away. Simple obfuscation for example can turn a limited set of transparent rules into an organic experience. However if you compare such a game to bad one that doesn't succeed in ambiguating its premises then they would appear exactly equal. Don't misinterpret this as lecturing by the way, I have no grounds for that, I'm just trying to elucidate my thoughts.

Edited by Bridge
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Err, I'm not sure anyone is hating on DX:HR (or splinter cell). There's a world of difference between hating and gushing.

 

Although even there you had regular pipes and ledges, and constant screens that had no purpose but to provide the player with cover.

 

blatant sign posting seems to be a thing. I suspect there's at least some method behind the madness. In a world where game controllers having pretty much killed off z-axis play you probably need to scream 'look at the great big pipe! perhaps you can go up there'

 

I remember the Dishonored devs saying that one of the issues that arose from focus testing was that when they had a guard tell players they're not allowed go upstairs in Lady Boyles' mansion, players assumed they couldn't go up stairs. Games have been telling players that they can't deviate from the linear predetermined path for the best part of a decade.

Edited by jay pettitt
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Err, I'm not sure anyone is hating on DX:HR (or splinter cell). There's a world of difference between hating and gushing.

 

This whole discussion came about when skacky said the stealth in DX:HR was abysmal and I asked him why. I didn't find the reason given to be very objective so I objected (lol). I don't think it is possible to only casually take issue with something and still call it abysmal - do you? Regarding hating on the games - it is a poor choice of words on my part. I was referring exclusively to the level design. I wasn't accusing anybody here of actually hating either Deus Ex or SC.

 

EDIT: But point taken, maybe I misinterpreted the nature of the discussion a little bit.

 

Not really. The game is primarily rooted in English, it would make little sense to hire a non English speaker to write it, translate it poorly into English and then not even have a native English speaker say "this is pretty bad". That would be ridiculous if true.

 

That would indeed be ridiculous. I was just commenting on the obvious reason why it may have been written in French and translated into English, because the guy I quoted said something like: "It would have made sense if they were in France". Considering Quebec is 60-70% French speaking I don't think there is a big difference. A French company making a game in English would also hire someone with superior command of the English language to do the writing.

 

Also, I cannot name many older games that had horrible level design, but I'd be curious to know which ones you think had bad level design.

 

What do you consider "older"?

Edited by Bridge
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Not really. The game is primarily rooted in English, it would make little sense to hire a non English speaker to write it, translate it poorly into English and then not even have a native English speaker say "this is pretty bad". That would be ridiculous if true.

 

Believe me, in my professional career as a translator I have seen such things, and not just once. Huge American mega-corporations who can't seem to find a native English speaker to proof-read what the non-native English colleague wrote. This is one of the things that really sour my day.

 

DXHR was fine. But I didn't like the ending.

 

I have to agree completely. The ending was just lazy and atrocious.

 

The worst part was the encapsulated gameplay:

each room is an encapsulated gameplay element. AI run on their rails of few waypoints never deviating from it. AI,

on patrol, never travel out from their area. You kill everyone in an area and an AI from other area never bumps into that area to discover the bodies.

 

Actually, that is addressed in the Developer's Commantary in the Director's Cut. The AI is actually not able to cross the boundaries between rooms. Yes, even something that good old Thief AI could do was too much for the next-gen AI that they cooked up. Shame that DX:HR is not moddable, I'd love to have decent AI and pathfinding in this game.

My Eigenvalue is bigger than your Eigenvalue.

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I didn't know that, but it figures.

 

Granted, this seems to be a common feature in DX games. The AI in the original were atrocious (although at least they had functional pathfinding).

Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

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As I said I like DX:HR, but I think the level design relied way too much on repeated setpieces/puzzles and that didn't make stealth worthwhile at all in my eyes, since once you get used to these setpieces you see them everywhere. I really like Splinter Cell too (especially Chaos Theory, the rest not so much), but the stealth in Chaos Theory is a lot more strict and difficult. The game can punish you very quickly for your mistakes and the AI can be diabolical, which isn't the case in HR.

 

What do you consider "older"?

 

Games that were released before 2000.

Edited by skacky
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As I said I like DX:HR, but I think the level design relied way too much on repeated setpieces/puzzles and that didn't make stealth worthwhile at all in my eyes, since once you get used to these setpieces you see them everywhere. I really like Splinter Cell too (especially Chaos Theory, the rest not so much), but the stealth in Chaos Theory is a lot more strict and difficult. The game can punish you very quickly for your mistakes and the AI can be diabolical, which isn't the case in HR.

 

 

 

Games that were released before 2000.

 

Silent Hill

Doom 1 (haven't played 2)

Blood

Fallout 1 and 2

Rayman

Alone in the Dark

King's Quest series

Quest for Glory (at least the first one)

Resident Evil

 

These are some examples I can find. There are some others that I played a long time ago that I don't remember the name of (or barely remember at all). Bear in mind that I like some of these games a lot, for example Fallout and Rayman, but the level design is poor IMO.

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Doom has bad level design? :blink:

If you'd said Doom 2 I'd agree (because it felt uninspired and was a mess, even if the last few levels are brilliant), but Doom is excellence in level design even today, especially Knee Deep in the Dead and Thy Flesh Consumed. The amount of stuff they managed to squeeze in an engine that couldn't stack rooms is truly mind-boggling and most of the levels are non-linear and encourage exploration a lot. Quake has even better level design in that regard with some really original layouts (Ziggurat Vertigo anyone?).

 

Blood, yeah. I can agree more or less. The rest I don't know, I really like how the levels are in Fallout 1/2 and Silent Hill, but the mechanics of the latter are a lot more of a problem than the level design in my opinion (the camera angles for instance).

Edited by skacky
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Just to get back on track, just found this website while looking for some dark wallpapers for my phone -

 

http://ru.riotpixels...14/screenshots/

 

screenshot.thief-2014.1920x1080.2013-01-12.21.jpg

 

screenshot.thief-2014.1799x1012.2013-01-12.6.jpg

 

screenshot.thief-2014.1920x1080.2013-10-10.53.jpg

 

screenshot.thief-2014.1920x1080.2013-01-12.23.jpg

 

And what do we take from those screenshots, TDM will need softshadows in the near future and particle effects that dont clip on brushes. That said those screenshots do look bloody gorgeous and its likely I will buy the game.

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Those are very early beta screenshots. I recall some early screen shots of T3 looking much nicer than the final product back in 2003 as well. The final game had to be optimized for xbox, so textures and polys were massively cut. Now that the game is going to be on previous gen systems, I wonder if we'll see the same thing.

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Those are very early beta screenshots.  I recall some early screen shots of T3 looking much nicer than the final product back in 2003 as well.  The final game had to be optimized for xbox, so textures and polys were massively cut.  Now that the game is going to be on previous gen systems, I wonder if we'll see the same thing.

The first shot there is a pure external render. Pretty sure the others are too.The future of TDM might have soft shadows, but... yeah that's going to be an incredibly difficult topic. It's also why T4 doesnt use a real light gem, it's basically using something similar to our weak-lg approach, but with most of the data baked and completely non-dynamic afaik.
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I'd be happy if we could snag some of those objects & func_stats.

Good looking assets, along with textures, go a long way to making an area look cool.

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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jtr7, I suppose Biker wants to take a look at the locations and graphics from a mapper point of view.

 

If you look at the wood panel modules I presented in the other thread, and look at some Dishonored screenshots from the Boyle mansion, you will see how inspiration was drawn from DH.

Clipper

-The mapper's best friend.

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Yeah, Bioshock Infinite is a gorgeous looking game too, but not very interesting to play.

From what I know of it, Bioshock Infinite should have been an adventure game, but since that genre is deader than dead, they built a shooter around it.

Come the time of peril, did the ground gape, and did the dead rest unquiet 'gainst us. Our bands of iron and hammers of stone prevailed not, and some did doubt the Builder's plan. But the seals held strong, and the few did triumph, and the doubters were lain into the foundations of the new sanctum. -- Collected letters of the Smith-in-Exile, Civitas Approved

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Doom has bad level design? :blink:

If you'd said Doom 2 I'd agree (because it felt uninspired and was a mess, even if the last few levels are brilliant), but Doom is excellence in level design even today, especially Knee Deep in the Dead and Thy Flesh Consumed. The amount of stuff they managed to squeeze in an engine that couldn't stack rooms is truly mind-boggling and most of the levels are non-linear and encourage exploration a lot. Quake has even better level design in that regard with some really original layouts (Ziggurat Vertigo anyone?).

 

Blood, yeah. I can agree more or less. The rest I don't know, I really like how the levels are in Fallout 1/2 and Silent Hill, but the mechanics of the latter are a lot more of a problem than the level design in my opinion (the camera angles for instance).

 

Not sure if we are defining level design in the exact same way. Here by "terrible" design (none of this is really insufferable as such) I mean levels that are contrived and don't feel organic. Doom makes little sense to me - I like the game, but the levels are confusing and unnatural at best and unappealing at worst. Just my opinion of course.

 

Regarding Fallout 1/2 - I will admit that the poorly realized isometric perspective contributes greatly to the reason the levels are unappealing to me. Regardless, I found them to be a little too empty for my taste - there is a lot of bloat which wouldn't be much of a problem if the visuals were appealing but in Fallout everything looks the same. It's not just that though, I found the way the various areas are divided strange (it doesn't feel like you are walking around in real places) and sometimes it's not straightforward which level boundary leads to where. Can't really fully explain it - it just leaves me a little unsatisfied.

 

Silent Hill is actually somewhat complex. When I made that post I was thinking more about the macro level design rather than the actual levels themselves (I should have put a note), which I actually do like. Some of them are a little weird but in general a lot of the areas are amazing (like the school). But the game's approach to pacing is mystifying to me. I have always found Silent Hill (at least 1 and 2) to be in this weird state of limbo between being open-world and just completely linear. So the result is something of a combination of the two. The maps themselves, if it were fully open world, would be great. However, because the game tells a focused story and the developers need to have complete control over the pacing, you are prevented from accessing certain areas until the game *lets* you. Truth be told I'm hesitant to call this bad design since almost every linear game is designed exactly like this. It's just something you have to accept in order to be able to enjoy the game. For some reason though I always found this distracting and contrived when playing.

 

There is something to be said about all of the doors in Silent Hill mysteriously rusting shut though. I would accept a few of those, even a 50/50 proportion to locked vs open doors (obviously the levels cannot be fully open or it would take infinite resources), but the ratio to locked/open doors is probably around 6:1 or more. This is a genuine problem to me, I mean a lot of games have invisible walls or just obstructions that wouldn't be a problem in real life, but Silent Hill goes way overboard. I generally prefer levels that are denser rather than wide open levels that have comparatively little in them - you might not, I guess opinions on that are varied.

Edited by Bridge
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The future of TDM might have soft shadows, but... yeah that's going to be an incredibly difficult topic.

I must admit that I'm no expert on this matter, but I'm not quite sure what is actually the problem with soft shadows. Wouldn't it be enough to tell the render to draw a bit of the light at the corners of the shadows? (Don't know if this makes sense to you, though). I mean the calculation does not necessary has to be realistic, it just has to look like it is.

 

Depending on the actual scene and light source this soft shadows effect could maybe faked. I'm thinking of displaced light sources (a bit performance hungry once you have overlapping lights) or additional non-shadowcasting light sources with the same color but a lower brightness (difficult in indoor areas where the light can clip through walls).

 

As I've just mentioned it, it would be cool to have semi-shadowcasting lights, that only cast shadows due to worldspawn but nothing else. This would make the usage of nsc lights in indoor levels much more easier and beneficial.

 

=============================================

 

post-11230-0-72592600-1383578566_thumb.jpgpost-11230-0-09700800-1383578588_thumb.jpg

 

Allright. So here is an example for the "use a second nsc light". The left picture is with just the torch entity casting the light. In the right picture there is a second light (light_torchflame_small as used by the torch) which does not cast shadows. Its radius is 50% larger and its brightness is one thrd of the torchflames'. Not as good as the soft shadows in the shots above, but I guess if this is used wisely it may creates a similar effect.

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