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Fan Mission: Blackgrove Manor by ddaazzaa (2021/03/14)


ddaazzaa

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I just finished this mission. My feedback:

  • Very nice architecture and creepy atmosphere.
  • I enjoyed the puzzle of trying to find a way in to the manor. Not difficult, but more interesting than "pick the first frobable door you find".
  • The background music is nice and atmospheric, and well balanced in terms of volume. Good job.
  • Lighting is very flat and uninteresting. It looks like the whole mission is lit by a single ambient with no bright or dark areas, giving the impression that I am walking around with night-vision goggles or something. The architecture would be brought to life by some more varied and realistic light sources, even if it was just moonlight shining through windows.
  • Several local sound effects are too loud and with too small a radius. The crickets chirping outside sound like a smoke alarm going off in my ear. It would be more realistic to make them quieter and larger in size, so they gradually fade in and out as you walk around.
  • I had no performance issues outside, but I did see the LoD hedge models popping in as I approached them. I second the suggestion someone else made to just use brushes for these. If brush-based hedges don't look good, just make them walls or decorative balusters instead.
  • There is audible background noise on some of the spontaneous sound effects. It does detract from the creepiness somewhat, because it makes it obvious that it's just an audio file being played behind you, rather than a ghostly happening in the world.
  • The jump scares were effective, but would be made better if the "visible thing" appeared for longer. It seemed like only a fraction of a second before it was gone, which is not really enough time for the brain to process the image.
  • I'm not a big fan of one-way valves in missions. There were parts of the mansion I hadn't seen, but once the "climax" was reached it was no longer possible to do anything but escape, and I hadn't reached the loot goal.

Some of this may seem like nitpicking but I'm only raising such things because I think this mission has the potential to be something great, like the next Shalebridge Cradle or Rose Cottage, and smoothing off some of the rough edges might help to get closer to that level of quality.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/2/2021 at 11:40 PM, OrbWeaver said:

I just finished this mission. My feedback:

  • Very nice architecture and creepy atmosphere.
  • I enjoyed the puzzle of trying to find a way in to the manor. Not difficult, but more interesting than "pick the first frobable door you find".
  • The background music is nice and atmospheric, and well balanced in terms of volume. Good job.
  • Lighting is very flat and uninteresting. It looks like the whole mission is lit by a single ambient with no bright or dark areas, giving the impression that I am walking around with night-vision goggles or something. The architecture would be brought to life by some more varied and realistic light sources, even if it was just moonlight shining through windows.
  • Several local sound effects are too loud and with too small a radius. The crickets chirping outside sound like a smoke alarm going off in my ear. It would be more realistic to make them quieter and larger in size, so they gradually fade in and out as you walk around.
  • I had no performance issues outside, but I did see the LoD hedge models popping in as I approached them. I second the suggestion someone else made to just use brushes for these. If brush-based hedges don't look good, just make them walls or decorative balusters instead.
  • There is audible background noise on some of the spontaneous sound effects. It does detract from the creepiness somewhat, because it makes it obvious that it's just an audio file being played behind you, rather than a ghostly happening in the world.
  • The jump scares were effective, but would be made better if the "visible thing" appeared for longer. It seemed like only a fraction of a second before it was gone, which is not really enough time for the brain to process the image.
  • I'm not a big fan of one-way valves in missions. There were parts of the mansion I hadn't seen, but once the "climax" was reached it was no longer possible to do anything but escape, and I hadn't reached the loot goal.

Some of this may seem like nitpicking but I'm only raising such things because I think this mission has the potential to be something great, like the next Shalebridge Cradle or Rose Cottage, and smoothing off some of the rough edges might help to get closer to that level of quality.

* I'll look at adding some faint light around the windows to add a bit of diversity to the lighting

* I noticed the crickets are very loud. I'll probably tweak the volume and radius.

* I didn't really want to have LODs for the hedges but due to the poly count on them I ended up having to for performance. I didn't want to have to fall back to a brush based hedge. I have requested in the art assets forum if someone is able to create a lower poly hedge, that way I might be able to remove LODs for the hedges.

* All of the audio except for the voices are from the core assets. Maybe some of those assets were poorly recorded, although I didn't notice any issues with any of those sounds.

* I tried to warn players with the voice saying "beyond that door there is no turning back". Tapewolf experimented with jamming a box in the doorway to prevent the door from shutting and was able to get back into the mansion. This obviously wouldn't be possible on a first playthrough without prior knowledge of the door shutting.

Thanks for the feedback.

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1 hour ago, ddaazzaa said:

* I'll look at adding some faint light around the windows to add a bit of diversity to the lighting

That's not exactly what I mean — I am referring to the fact the the whole mansion interior seems to be lit at a fairly constant level, even without any visible light sources. The line about "I need to get the lights on" falls a little flat when I can already see perfectly fine with the lights off. Maybe I'm just playing with a much higher brightness/gamma than expected, although I haven't noticed this appearance in other missions.

I wonder if it would be creepier if the interior was almost pitch-black, except around windows? Perhaps those weird noises would be even weirder if you can barely see anything outside the radius of your own hooded lantern (which in turn makes you visible and vulnerable). There would then be a more significant difference (and sense of relief) when you finally get the lights on. Of course this would be a dramatic change from the mission as it currently is, but might be worth experimenting with.

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On 5/11/2021 at 8:11 PM, OrbWeaver said:

That's not exactly what I mean — I am referring to the fact the the whole mansion interior seems to be lit at a fairly constant level, even without any visible light sources. The line about "I need to get the lights on" falls a little flat when I can already see perfectly fine with the lights off. Maybe I'm just playing with a much higher brightness/gamma than expected, although I haven't noticed this appearance in other missions.

I wonder if it would be creepier if the interior was almost pitch-black, except around windows? Perhaps those weird noises would be even weirder if you can barely see anything outside the radius of your own hooded lantern (which in turn makes you visible and vulnerable). There would then be a more significant difference (and sense of relief) when you finally get the lights on. Of course this would be a dramatic change from the mission as it currently is, but might be worth experimenting with.

I was never really sure whether the map was too bright or too dark as everyone has a different display and TDM brightness and gamma settings. Since the first half of the FM has no lights I tried to lean on the side of having it a little brighter as I didn't want players complaining that the map is just too dark for too long. I can look at reducing the ambient light a little. Reducing to almost pitch black would potentially create a better atmosphere for some players but others might get frusted by how dark it would be

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 4/4/2021 at 3:33 PM, Zerg Rush said:

Disabling indexing only has the consequence that the search for files on the disk take a little longer.

If you still want indexed search than you could use software Index Your Files . This software indexes your files in a database very fast and searches are also very fast. I see now that is multiplatform (Windows, Linux and Macos), so I could actually use it myself in Linux.

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Yes, I know, but I use also Double Commander (FOSS), which has also a very fast search function. Besides, I do not use the function to search for files more than only in leap years and therefore it is not worth using an app specifically for this.
Besides, I know where my files are.

Sys Specs Laptop Lenovo V145 15AST, AMD A9- 9425 Radeon R5 - 5 cores 3,1 GHz  RAM 8Gb, GPU 1+2 Gb -Win10 64 v21H2

Favorite online apps you may like too 😉

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think this is the best haunted mission released, though I'm having some trouble finding the location of the attic. Found pretty much everything else.

 

  

On 5/11/2021 at 6:11 PM, OrbWeaver said:

That's not exactly what I mean — I am referring to the fact the the whole mansion interior seems to be lit at a fairly constant level, even without any visible light sources. The line about "I need to get the lights on" falls a little flat when I can already see perfectly fine with the lights off. Maybe I'm just playing with a much higher brightness/gamma than expected, although I haven't noticed this appearance in other missions.

I wonder if it would be creepier if the interior was almost pitch-black, except around windows? Perhaps those weird noises would be even weirder if you can barely see anything outside the radius of your own hooded lantern (which in turn makes you visible and vulnerable). There would then be a more significant difference (and sense of relief) when you finally get the lights on. Of course this would be a dramatic change from the mission as it currently is, but might be worth experimenting with.

Its not just you, I can also see pretty much fine and I actually lowered the brightness to compensate.

Edited by TheUnbeholden
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  • 4 weeks later...

I've updated a few things.
1.03
* Tweaked lighting. Ambient world lighting is a little darker. When the manor interior is dark, I added some low brightness lights around the windows.
* Performance should be better around the hedges. Thanks to HMart for the modified hedge model.
* Fixed a small "invisible barrier" issue in the Grand Hall. Also fixed some dining room loot falling through the table when bumped. Thanks to SuaveSteve for pointing out those issues.
* Cricket volume has been lowered.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wZc_nqHoX7kQvzfg08EpoRy2hyuH7mw3/view?usp=sharing

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Amazing little mission thick with atmosphere, thank you. Loved the visuals, sound design, layout. Pretty good scares, too. The chapel one got me good.

 

Spoiler

The corpse legit creeped me out when I returned to the main hall and found it missing, then it turned out to be a normal zombie. I was kinda hoping for it to remain dead and 'teleport' around the house as you complete various objectives. Just to add to the feeling of something evil stalking you and having you know it follows your every step. 

 

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On 7/11/2021 at 2:11 PM, nbohr1more said:

Thank you! The lighting improvements are great!

I have updated the mission database.

Thanks.

On 7/14/2021 at 4:10 AM, Kopfrkingl said:

Amazing little mission thick with atmosphere, thank you. Loved the visuals, sound design, layout. Pretty good scares, too. The chapel one got me good.

Thanks for the feedback.

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  • 3 months later...

This was amazing, absolutely loved it! The atmosphere was very pleasant and well established, for such a large mansion map it's well detailed at every point. Scary as it gets too, you definitely play this one nervously and in a good way! I also like how progressive it is in what you discover and where you must go, I'm sure there are more secrets to find. Unfortunately I couldn't complete many of the optional objectives on my first try so I should get back to this and do another run eventually.

Spoiler

The final objective says "escape with or without the artifact": I was wondering if it makes a difference whether you put it back after the door closes and take the secret passage without carrying it. Any multiple endings?

Spoiler

I was also curious if the doll you find in the sewer at the end does anything. Does placing it somewhere complete a secret objective, or is it purely decorational?

 

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  • 1 month later...
On 10/21/2021 at 1:04 PM, MirceaKitsune said:

This was amazing, absolutely loved it! The atmosphere was very pleasant and well established, for such a large mansion map it's well detailed at every point. Scary as it gets too, you definitely play this one nervously and in a good way! I also like how progressive it is in what you discover and where you must go, I'm sure there are more secrets to find. Unfortunately I couldn't complete many of the optional objectives on my first try so I should get back to this and do another run eventually.

  Reveal hidden contents

The final objective says "escape with or without the artifact": I was wondering if it makes a difference whether you put it back after the door closes and take the secret passage without carrying it. Any multiple endings?

  Reveal hidden contents

I was also curious if the doll you find in the sewer at the end does anything. Does placing it somewhere complete a secret objective, or is it purely decorational?

 

Thanks for the feedback.

Spoiler

There aren't multiple endings, however if you block the door before it closes you can make your way back to the boat to end the mission.

The doll is purely decorational.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Another really good mission. I liked the progressive unlocking of the map as the story advanced- ordinarily I don't like key hunts so much but here it worked nicely because it was bound up in unravelling the mystery as well.

The malevolent presence that occasionally makes trouble for you was a nice touch as well. I'm looking forward to seeing how the story ends, if there are going to be more missions.

I didn't end up completing the loot goal or one of the other optional objectives.

My missions:           Stand-alone                                                      Duncan Lynch series                              

                                      Down and Out on Newford Road              the Factory Heist

                                                                                                  A House Call

                                                                                                  The House of deLisle                                                                                                  

                              

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  • 1 year later...

After some years I just reinstalled TDM again and this was the first map I played.

I had fun. The map is a good example of many of the core gameplay strength of the Thief series.

Detailed review:

Spoiler

I appreciate the existence of the intro, though the voice acting is terrible. At no part does the narrator seem to actually mean what he is saying, it sounds like somebody trying to read a text that he does not understand himself. There is just zero transport of emotion here. Luckily, this is by far the worst part of the mission.

I love maps, where initially everything is vague and through exploration and gameplay progression the story advances. What I appreciated most was the way how story and gameplay are intertwined, you have to explore and understand the story in order to know what to do. This is exactly the gameplay I want to see.

Then, I really like the non-linearity. There are multiple ways across the wall (at least 2) and also multiple ones to get into the house (2 for sure, but I think there is maybe even a third or even a fourth one?). I have to solve a riddle that has no clues, but since there are multiple ways of doing so, I had not to wait for too long to stumble upon some solution and I felt smart doing so, since there were no clues. This is exactly what I want.

There is no clue what is to be expected inside the house, but horror is strongly suggested by the premise. Everything was very dark, I walked around slowly and anxiously; great atmosphere. Something bad is about to happen, you just don't know where and when, but there is already no escape from it anymore. Yet, having played to many games, I was not fully immersed, since I figured that I would be reasonably save until the point I trigger a major story point, at which time I expected the horror to start. Consequently I explored everything in darkness and left all the interesting rooms (crypt, chapel, attic and observatory) until I explored and investigated everything else. And sure enough, once the light was switched on, the Zombie awoke.

Now, there is a lot to collect here. For me, the difficulty was spot on, I found all important items and never was annoyed by the searching. I particularly liked getting into the study. I found out, that Arthur should have the key, but not knowing which room is his, my only clue was, that he obviously is some type of servant and looking at the map revealed that the butlers sleeping room is the only one where the key could be. And of course it was there. No explicit clues and yet I figured everything out without frustration. Very good.

 

Now, overall the first half was the stronger one. The suspension of not knowing what to expect was thoroughly enjoyed by me. Slowly piecing together the story was great, too.

Though at the end, everything was a bit disappointing. There is very little conclusion to the story, it kind of just ends awkwardly. The daughters grave is a very good example of this, at first I did not find it (I was looking for some special tree, it turned out to be a super generic one, so that was lame), and then there was zero reward. Nothing to interact, no comment, no additional story piece, just nothing. One feels cheated for the effort of searching it.

Also whatever fucked up thing happened in the chapel is never touched again. It would have been so great to have some sort of story here, ideally something that translates directly into some additional gameplay tasks. It was a great moment to enter the chapel (though performance is really poor in that room), and my intuition was right, that there is something really significant about this room (or perhaps this was just clever subtle hints ;) ), but then that is just it. What did the father do? Where are the others? Why is the previous thief suddenly a Zombie, who are the undead? What are the consequences of steeling the artifact? Any way to stop the evil? A lot could have been done with this, both in terms of gameplay and story.

I also was making sure, that I unlock all doors leading outside the mansion. I almost expected something bad to happen so I would be trapped inside and would have to find my way out again. Having to search for that switch in the last room and finally finding it was rewarding, but then you just somehow run off and everything is over. Not returning to the boat was disappointing. In the end, there is very little in the mansion to be afraid of, just 3 monsters that you can easily sneak by. No climax towards the end.

 

On the technical side, I have no complains. The map looks nice, there are a few minor things, but I don't even care enough to list them here. Biggest thing was perhaps that you can follow the ventilation shaft in the basement for a very long time until you end up in a room seemingly below the stairs next to the chapel. That room did just not make any sense at all, I expected it almost to be the exit when leaving the chapel later on, but no. Just a super weird room that would never exist in any remotely real house.

Maybe the outside could have used a bit more details, it is somehow just an awkwardly large rectangle with a few keypoints, rather than a proper garden. On the other hand, the many white statues inside had great effect, as I said I played mostly in the dark and having them slowly appear from complete darkness was always spooky. The jump scares work much better in the beginning, towards the end I almost expected something in every room, so I did not care so much anymore. But since it is supposed to be a haunted house, I am ok with a couple "cheap" tricks gameplay wise, they kind of fit and definitely did add something to the atmosphere.

 

But yeah, all in all I had about 2 hours first class gameplay. The end was the most disappointing part, but since it was then quickly over, it did not matter much. I probably wont play this mission again any time soon, it very much lives of the suspense and the not knowing what to expect; the actual sneaking was pretty simple and you basically have no use for any of your equipment except the lockpicks and the lamp. But that first-time exploration gameplay was absolutely prime, I felt intrigued, smart and not frustrated. No guidance yet I always had a clear idea what to do next in an open level. Astonishing quality for a free-time fun project map, and the addition to the official TDM maps is more than deserved.

 

 

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Interesting, I was not aware of this review section.

However I am unsure. Are the reviews meant for people trying to decide which mission to play? I feel like my review contains so many spoilers that after reading it, there is little point in playing this mission. Most of its quality comes from the unknown, once you know that you can freely walk around everywhere without fearing any enemies for most of the mission, it is quite dull to play it.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for this mission. I had a real blast playing it. I loved the fact that there was minimal enemies and in my opinion it was more enjoyable as a result. It is actually the first mission I got a 0 stealth score in! Not hard with this mission I know, but still.

I loved the darkness and atmosphere. I play on a CRT with the brightness way down and had to use my lantern for the most part. When I stepped into the library for the first time from the tunnel it was absolutely gorgeous looking at the moon rays coming in through the window. If there were more enemies like others suggest I would not have been able to use the lantern as much and it would probably be fairly annoying. So it was perfect mission in that respect!

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  • 5 months later...

This is a 10/10 mission for me, I love exploring large mansions in Darkmod and honestly, not having ten maids wandering around while constantly muttering to themselves was a nice change of pace. The creepy atmosphere ensured that it was still a very tense experience. Great level design and well written lore.

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On 2/7/2023 at 11:55 AM, datiswous said:

Very detailed review. I thought it would be nice if your review would be posted here:

https://www.thiefguild.com/fanmissions/26150/

But up to you.

 A rating of 6.83 lol, no wonder the guy never made another mission. Sorry but that´s just rude for a mission this good. That´s why voting systems on a 1-10 scale are a bad idea for such sites. Nexus has it right, either "endorse" it or don´t but no negative ratings.

Edited by blaa
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  • 6 months later...

Sound design - 10 out of 10. The building tension was amazing, I loved it. My first thought when I finished the mission was that you've been inspired by Scratches... =D
The nibbles were great, but I feel like the lure "Come closer" didn't have as much payoff as it should've been IMO (I honestly expected a ghost right there, so when the message on the wall popped up later I wasn't spooked)
Wish there was an indication of where they came from, but I also liked the missing body moment.

Great mission. Thank you.

PS: You can climb the roof in that one spot, I assume it's not supposed to happen.
 

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