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Flash arrow: Yay or nay?


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This is a thing I've thought about for a while now, and I really wanted to know if others would like to see it as well. I for one would really love to have this! Especially since it's so easy to implement, I did it myself just by changing one line in a def and already tested the idea in practice.

So in TDM you have two items that can act as weapons: The flashbomb and the flashmine. When they go off they create this bright flash which temporarily blinds every AI who sees it, including the player if they don't look away in time. It's a fun concept though I was never big into having a mine or a bomb doing it.

I always wondered: Why do we not have an arrow version of this as well?! Wouldn't it be fun if TDM had a flash arrow too? You shoot it and when it hits a wall, it creates the same flash that blinds every AI who sees it! The arrow is slow enough for the player to have time to look away after firing it.

Like I said I already achieved this and tested just such an arrow. My cyberpunk conversion The Dark Module (screenshots available in this thread) has an arrow rifle that offers an equivalent for each arrow type in vanilla TDM, with the exception that the vine arrow isn't included and instead you have a flash arrow. The way I remember doing it was by defining an arrow like all others, with the one difference that the effect defined for hitting a surface calls the same function as the flashbomb / flashmine. At first I didn't know if it would work but when I did this the arrow behaved just as expected, spawning the blinding flash upon hitting a wall and making the AI rub their eyes. Implementing this is thus ridiculously easy and I can probably do it myself in a few hours and post a pk4 here.

I'm curious if others like the idea though. Would you use such an arrow in your FM if it was available? Do you think it would make the gameplay more fun to have it? I only tested it in a simple cubic map designed to see the custom assets I ported, no complex walls or AI's actually patrolling. It definitely felt like the behavior would be useful though, such as when you need to run through a bright area and temporarily have to blind an AI at a distance without harming them. If the devs accept the idea I'll go ahead and do it.

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A few extra thoughts on this: I know an argument may be that such an arrow would be very similar to the noisemaker in functionality. I thought about this too and although that's the case in some ways it would still be different in others. Here's how I envision it:

The noisemaker distracts the AI and makes them walk to a certain position. If you're not careful, you can still alert them while you're sneaking behind. The effect lasts for a moderate amount of time, as the arrow makes noise for quite a bit and even after it stops the AI still looks around and wonders what happened before returning to their position. The alert level is itself a low one (I believe 2): The AI doesn't conclude it's being attacked and will not draw its sword, only preform a basic search.

The flash arrow doesn't make the AI move but instead incapacitates them for a temporary amount of time. You're guaranteed that while the AI is blinded they will not chase after you, meaning the player can run loudly and through lit areas without any concern during this time. The effect is instead short as the AI will wake up from blindness much more quickly. So is the alert level (which I think is a 3): For a flash the AI will draw its sword and look specifically for an intruder and for a longer amount of time.

All in all I can see the two being used for different approaches, with the flash arrow acting as a more expensive version of the noisemaker for when you need to be extra safe. While a noisemaker is useful to pull a guard aside in a dark environment then sneak past them without much fear of being caught, the flash arrow is useful when the guard is defending a bright area where the noisemaker could still distract them but you'd be caught the moment they turned around (there's no darkness to hide in along the way). In a different order of thoughts, the noisemaker is useful if your approach is to sneak past the guard slowly, whereas the flash arrow is useful if you're planning to run past the guard loud and quick instead... I can see players picking between those two scenarios based on different factors and the nature of the area they need to move through.

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I think it sounds like a cool idea. Like all proposals, lots of playtesting is what matters. You can have an intuition about what's good for gameplay, but you can never know until you make up a prototype and people play it and give their input over a lot of iterations. So I recommend making a prototype first, and maybe a quick video of it in action to get people interested in trying it out.

Currently you can already throw flash bombs, so I think the main issue is how using an arrow changes the mechanic vs. just throwing it. Of course it can go further and you can aim better. In theory, I think having it as an arrow, as one option, makes sense, just because, if you were a professional, wouldn't you want a little better control than just throwing the thing?

This reminds me of another kind of 'contraption arrow' that's come up before (I think T2X had it, and maybe some other FMs), which was EMP arrows that short circuit out electrical lights. That might be pushing a bit far though, as it's starting to look too far out of the tech of our world.

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I don't know if something like this would be needed. If guards are so far away that you need a flash arrow instead of a flash bomb, I would assume I could sneak by without them noticing anyway. Also as an emergency weapon the flash bomb is thrown much faster than the arrow can be shot. But I really like the idea of the EMP arrow! Because at the moment there is absolutely no way to kill electric lights. I could see it having a sparkling crystal in the front and thus it seems not at all out of the tech of the world.

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Kind of funny to see wesp5 being the one saying now hold back a second on a crazy feature proposal. 😆

I think he's saying about the same thing I was. Not sure it's necessary, but I don't think there's any hard reason not to have it as another option if a mapper wants it except a general rule against feature bloat, which is admittedly a respectable reason too as we have a kind of minimalist approach. I actually wasn't meaning to argue in favor of it per se (yet), just that it'd be interesting to see in action and think about it from there.

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2 hours ago, demagogue said:

Kind of funny to see wesp5 being the one saying now hold back a second on a crazy feature proposal. 😆

I'm all for new stuff, but I think we agree that we already have two flash items. Your EMP idea on the hand would offer some new gameplay possibilities :)!

Edited by wesp5
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5 hours ago, wesp5 said:

I don't know if something like this would be needed. If guards are so far away that you need a flash arrow instead of a flash bomb, I would assume I could sneak by without them noticing anyway. Also as an emergency weapon the flash bomb is thrown much faster than the arrow can be shot. But I really like the idea of the EMP arrow! Because at the moment there is absolutely no way to kill electric lights. I could see it having a sparkling crystal in the front and thus it seems not at all out of the tech of the world.

I was thinking about the aspect of having a 3rd flash item. Would that be too much? I think the flash arrow would be different enough from the mine and bomb.

The flash mine is an item you deposit by walking into an area first, in order to make a guard become blinded once they get too close. The flash bomb you drop at your current position too... it's not something you throw from a distance and using it likely implies the guards are already seeing you, IMO it's more of a getaway item when you're surrounded. The flash arrow instead would be used while the player is still hiding, as a planned action before they make their move.

It's also important to remember that the idea isn't so much "are we adding a new weapon to TDM's arsenal which everyone is going to collect" but rather "are we making available a new item that mappers can readily use if they find it appropriate". Given that to my knowledge there are no plans to add more arrow types and fill the engine's limitation of 16 weapon definitions, I further see no harm in this... especially when we already have an arrow so rarely used that in 6 years of playing TDM I never once picked it up and don't fully understand what it does to this day :D (I'm referring to the vine arrow).

As for an EMP arrow, heck yes I'd love that too! That functionality could be given to this flash arrow at a later stage so it also makes electrical lights go out for a while... or it could instead be put on the water arrow in combination with a potion like the holy water does? Note that this isn't something I can implement though: I only know how to define a new arrow item and reference the effect defined for the flash bomb / mine to it... I can additionally do the texture variation too.

Edited by MirceaKitsune
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1 hour ago, MirceaKitsune said:

As for an EMP arrow, heck yes I'd love that too! That functionality could be given to this flash arrow at a later stage so it also makes electrical lights go out for a while...

I like that idea. Make this arrow emitt powerful electrical flashes burning out electrical lamps and stunning enemies! Maybe actually drop them like with a tazer.

Edited by wesp5
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I hate to be the devil's advocate, but I think the EMP-arrow is unnecessary. It's purpose is to extinguish electical lights. However, electical lights are meant to be not-extinguishable. If the map designer would have wanted a light source to be extinguishable in a specific place, he/she would have put a flame-based light source there. It would only make designing maps more diffcult as map authors would have to consider the possibilty that any electrica light source could be extinguished. The way it is right now is quite clear: if there is a flame-based light source it can be extinguished, if it is electrical you will have to find another way around or time it correctly so guards don't see you. The only thing the EMP-arrow would achieve is to blurr this definition.

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Yes, I was about to post something similar. Not everywhere suits glowing crystals or bioluminescent fungi, which are the other usual nonextinguishable options. Still, like the choice of whether to include rope arrows or vine arrows or lots of stackable crates, it's something a mapper could work with if s/he so chose. Possibly more interesting if it had other uses like disabling bots or cameras.

Shouldn't be hard to set up with S/R: give the electric lights a response that changes the light shader (I should think a slight flicker would be best for conveying that the light is broken, not off). Maybe release some spark particles.

It's simpler than the 'smashing the bulb' idea, where engine support for breaking lights exists but you'd need 'broken' models to switch to and would have to explain to players that this nonstandard feature is available in the mission.

However, you'd still have either to design the mission with the expectation that every electric light could be disabled, or somehow convey to the player which ones are vulnerable.

I have a test map that replicates the 'lights flicker when a specific entity is near' effect from TDS's Cradle. (In my unfinished mission, it's intended to be for a section where a pagan shaman is up to something in the little-visited depths of an industrial area, and his proximity is making the machines go haywire.) Basically it relies on the lights' being set up to flicker with their sound, then S/R is used to play an extra buzzing sound on them.

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56 minutes ago, Destined said:

I hate to be the devil's advocate, but I think the EMP-arrow is unnecessary. It's purpose is to extinguish electical lights. However, electical lights are meant to be not-extinguishable. If the map designer would have wanted a light source to be extinguishable in a specific place, he/she would have put a flame-based light source there. It would only make designing maps more diffcult as map authors would have to consider the possibilty that any electrica light source could be extinguished. The way it is right now is quite clear: if there is a flame-based light source it can be extinguished, if it is electrical you will have to find another way around or time it correctly so guards don't see you. The only thing the EMP-arrow would achieve is to blurr this definition.

I'd argue that if mappers want a light to be extinguishable they must use torches; Sometimes an electric light simply fits the theme better and makes more sense.

An EMP arrow turning off electric lights could also have a slightly different functionality: The light only goes down for a limited amount of time, unlike a torch which is extinguished forever unless an AI relights it. I think that would be a lot better and add some difference to the mix.

Needless to say that in any existing FM the default functionality would not change; For the EMP arrow to work, the mapper would have to add it in their FM once this were implemented, which means they want this functionality. Old maps will not allow electric lights to be extinguished unless edited to add such arrows.

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As mappers have to add it on purpose and existing maps as well as future map design aren't affected, as you correctly point out, I don't see a reason for you to not create it and upload the requiered files here. Mappers can than choose on whether they want to use it or not. My experience is, though, that it will most likely be forgotten. So it probably makes more sense to either implement it in an own mission or, if you ain't going to do this, simple do nothing until someday someone may stepup to you and say: "Hey Mircy, didn't you had that proposal with the emp back in the day, would be cool to have this in my mission." ;)

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You are right, nothing would change in old missions unless we swap an already available item, but I really like the idea of disabling robots. Is there an easy way to turn the flash mine into a tazer mine to kill robots and stun guards? Because I never ever used a flash mine, it makes hardly sense compare to a flash bomb, and I think it's the only tool available twice already...

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23 hours ago, MirceaKitsune said:

This is a thing I've thought about for a while now, and I really wanted to know if others would like to see it as well. I for one would really love to have this! Especially since it's so easy to implement, I did it myself just by changing one line in a def and already tested the idea in practice.

So in TDM you have two items that can act as weapons: The flashbomb and the flashmine. When they go off they create this bright flash which temporarily blinds every AI who sees it, including the player if they don't look away in time. It's a fun concept though I was never big into having a mine or a bomb doing it.

I always wondered: Why do we not have an arrow version of this as well?! Wouldn't it be fun if TDM had a flash arrow too? You shoot it and when it hits a wall, it creates the same flash that blinds every AI who sees it! The arrow is slow enough for the player to have time to look away after firing it.

...

I, for one, would then definitely start using them.
I am never using bombs neither mines in any of my playthroughs.

I think it is also more coherent with the gameworld concept - having arrows as a viable means of solution. This, and only this, out of all the other objects at player´s disposal should have been remade to an arrow in the former Thief games as well.

Bombs and mines should definitely stay in and it should be up to designers whether they would want to use it in their missions.

Similarly, I would also welcome keychain as an optional purchasable object at the beginning of the mission for those of us, who does not want to scroll through many keys in their inventory and are afraid of dropping them in case they might need them.
Keychain would act as 1 object which you can use on the doors, and if you have the key to the right doors, they would open after the use - it has already been implemented the Thief COSAS fanmissions - it´s neat little thing.

All the keys should stack on the keyring and not take place in the inventory, if the player had purchased it, with the exception of special keys (ancient runes/non-typical shaped keys).

 

These two Quality of Life improvements I would welcome with the open arms :)

Edited by Tarhiel
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1 minute ago, Tarhiel said:

I, for one, would then definitely start using them.
I am never using bombs neither mines in any of my playthroughs.

I'll be honest: I never once used either the Flashbomb or Flashmine, always saw them as pretty much useless. Nothing's ever motivated me to use them, I just pick them up and forget them in my inventory. A flash arrow on the other hand I would definitely use, it's an item I can see myself making practical usage of.

My idea is combining this EMP arrow with the flash arrow; When the arrow hits a surface, it will blind any AI looking, while also making electrical lights go out for a limited time. We could also disable the ability of the player blinding themselves as they can do with the flash mine / bomb, if it's proven that this is an annoyance. Which BTW I remember didn't work anyway when I tested this... the arrow made the AI rub their eyes, however the player didn't get blinded when seeing it explode.

Anyway turning off electric lights will likely require gamecode / script changes which I don't know how to do. What I think I will do in the end, because it's so simple, is adding the new arrow definition with the same effect as the flash bomb: Anyone with a FM can download my pk4 and temporarily add it to test its practical effects before we make those funky variations. I'm currently working on another little asset addition I'm thinking of proposing so perhaps after I finish that.

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6 minutes ago, MirceaKitsune said:

I'll be honest: I never once used either the Flashbomb or Flashmine, always saw them as pretty much useless. Nothing's ever motivated me to use them, I just pick them up and forget them in my inventory. A flash arrow on the other hand I would definitely use, it's an item I can see myself making practical usage of.

My idea is combining this EMP arrow with the flash arrow; When the arrow hits a surface, it will blind any AI looking, while also making electrical lights go out for a limited time. We could also disable the ability of the player blinding themselves as they can do with the flash mine / bomb, if it's proven that this is an annoyance. Which BTW I remember didn't work anyway when I tested this... the arrow made the AI rub their eyes, however the player didn't get blinded when seeing it explode.

Anyway turning off electric lights will likely require gamecode / script changes which I don't know how to do. What I think I will do in the end, because it's so simple, is adding the new arrow definition with the same effect as the flash bomb: Anyone with a FM can download my pk4 and temporarily add it to test its practical effects before we make those funky variations. I'm currently working on another little asset addition I'm thinking of proposing so perhaps after I finish that.

I wouldn´t go as far as making the flahbomb arrow capable of disabling electricity (practically, an EMP grenade), but the other capabilites sounds fine.

Besides, many lights in the missions are prebaked, it would be impossible to disable them and players might find it confusing, why this light was disabled, but the other one at the other side of the level could not.

Edited by Tarhiel
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@Destined, others have said this, but I think your point works the opposite way. It's not the role of the core game to dictate what a mapper does (I mean within reason; it shouldn't help mappers make a completely different game). It's the role of the core game to give options to the mapper to make the map they want. Some may want to also make electric lights & robots disable-able and some may not. Even though I brought it up, I don't have a strong opinion about it though. It'd be a kind of gimmick arrow for special case FMs, not for normal use anyway.

In line with that, I think actually the best way to have it is for a mapper to just rig a normal broadhead arrow with a new model and put an S/R on it that triggers a particle, short circuit sound, and turning off whatever it touches. I mean, I think it's something a mapper could make for their own FM without needing source code support. So there's nothing stopping a mapper from making it now. For that matter, I think a flash arrow could also be made by a mapper, since we already have a function for the flash effect; all the mapper would need to do is have a script or S/R trigger it in the right place when the arrow hits.

I'm switching to a different point which is I think the debate here isn't about whether these novelty arrows should be in the core mod, but whether & how mappers can make their own for their own FMs, and then if any turn out to be wildly popular, we can talk about wider use of them further down the road. And if a mapper doesn't want to go to the effort to make them for an FM, now that we've floated the idea*, that kind of answers the debate by itself.

* Now that we've floated the idea again. I think most players don't appreciate that maybe 99.5% of ideas they have, the team already thought about it and had a 6+ page discussion on it back in 2005~2009 going over all the pros and cons in exhausting detail, and then 15+ years later a player thinks about it, and the whole debate replays itself.  XD  But sometimes some things are still new.

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Here’s my $0.02: 

Flash Arrow YAY

EMP Arrow NAY

Could the Flash Arrow be used as an alternate holy water arrow against undead?

I’d like to argue the Inventors’ Guild has built a grounding cable into electric lights to prevent overload, as to why the EMP arrow shouldn’t work. Besides mapping concerns already stated.

Just one taffer’s opinion. 
This is a fun discussion to follow.

As my father used to say, "A grenade a day keeps the enemy at bay!"

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In regards to how implement custom arrows:

It's old and lengthy but may still be useful.

Regarding the useful/lessness of flash bombs and mines: I don't think that those items are useless per se, but that those, similar to many other items the player has at his disposal, aren't as useful as they could be due to the way most missions are designed. Almost all of them are ghostable, or relatively close to that. There is rarely a situation, where using an item really gives you an advantage, especially for advanced players who are familiar with stealth games. Flash arrows, emp arrows or whatever else will suffer the same issue if mappers using them won't create their missions in a way that encourages their usage. I hardly see this happening, but I may be proven wrong.

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12 hours ago, MirceaKitsune said:

I'd argue that if mappers want a light to be extinguishable they must use torches; Sometimes an electric light simply fits the theme better and makes more sense.

An EMP arrow turning off electric lights could also have a slightly different functionality: The light only goes down for a limited amount of time, unlike a torch which is extinguished forever unless an AI relights it. I think that would be a lot better and add some difference to the mix.

Needless to say that in any existing FM the default functionality would not change; For the EMP arrow to work, the mapper would have to add it in their FM once this were implemented, which means they want this functionality. Old maps will not allow electric lights to be extinguished unless edited to add such arrows.

7 hours ago, demagogue said:

@Destined, others have said this, but I think your point works the opposite way. It's not the role of the core game to dictate what a mapper does (I mean within reason; it shouldn't help mappers make a completely different game). It's the role of the core game to give options to the mapper to make the map they want. Some may want to also make electric lights & robots disable-able and some may not. Even though I brought it up, I don't have a strong opinion about it though. It'd be a kind of gimmick arrow for special case FMs, not for normal use anyway.

I admit, I have been a bit narrow minded reagarding these arrows. And I agree: it will not have influence on any older missions and if mappers want to use them, they can do so. If I don't like them, I don't have to use them. Btw. there are also other flame based lamps, that are not torches, which could be used (e.g. oil lamps, candles), but I get the gist. And the timed turning off lights might actually be quite interesting.

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12 hours ago, Tarhiel said:

Similarly, I would also welcome keychain as an optional purchasable object at the beginning of the mission for those of us, who does not want to scroll through many keys in their inventory and are afraid of dropping them in case they might need them.

Keychain would act as 1 object which you can use on the doors, and if you have the key to the right doors, they would open after the use - it has already been implemented the Thief COSAS fanmissions - it´s neat little thing.

All the keys should stack on the keyring and not take place in the inventory, if the player had purchased it, with the exception of special keys (ancient runes/non-typical shaped keys).

 

These two Quality of Life improvements I would welcome with the open arms :)

I like this idea and it is not that difficult to implement in new missions. You would have to remove the respective key, when it is taken by the player and have to change the value "used_by" on the door to the keychain. If I remember correctly, AIs do not have to have a key in order to open locked doors, so this would make no difference for them. Making it optional would take some more effort, but should also be doable with a bit of scripting.

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6 minutes ago, Destined said:

I like this idea and it is not that difficult to implement in new missions. You would have to remove the respective key, when it is taken by the player and have to change the value "used_by" on the door to the keychain. If I remember correctly, AIs do not have to have a key in order to open locked doors, so this would make no difference for them. Making it optional would take some more effort, but should also be doable with a bit of scripting.

Any chance to make this a global feature that I could add to my Unofficial Patch or does this need to be written into each mission itself?

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13 hours ago, wesp5 said:

... Is there an easy way to turn the flash mine into a tazer mine to kill robots and stun guards? Because I never ever used a flash mine, it makes hardly sense compare to a flash bomb, and I think it's the only tool available twice already...

That's possible. The only issue is the lack of a proper animation and bark for the ai. You could use the "blinded" animation and letting the ai say "ugh", but it may appear a bit silly.

45 minutes ago, wesp5 said:

Any chance to make this a global feature that I could add to my Unofficial Patch or does this need to be written into each mission itself?

Seems to be doable.

FM's: Builder Roads, Old Habits, Old Habits Rebuild

WIP's: Several. Although after playing Thief 4 I really wanna make a city mission.

Mapping and Scripting: Apples and Peaches

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IMO temporary EMP arrows will be tricky to justify. Lore-wise, they should be scarce and expensive. I'd either make their effect permanent, like in case of water arrows or the rewire tool in Dishonored, or make it temporary but infinitely reusable, with properly long cooldown time, like the EMP mode for pistol in SC: Chaos Theory. This would have to be a separate gadget instead.

Edited by peter_spy
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@Obsttorte: If you have already done this, can you give me the script or def files for the patch? Or should this even be considered for the core mod? I guess you don't even need a special item like a keychain, but the game will automatically use the correct key if the player has it, like e.g. in my favorite game Bloodlines, yes?

 

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