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What makes mission fun to play?


madtaffer

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Good logical layout of the map for the sequence of objectives. Nice atmosphere, that includes the design of the map and the background music for me. Difficulty, meaning it should be fun to play, and don't overwhelm you with loads of elite guards. Variety. There should be different tasks which make sense in the context.

Regarding the last point, I like city hubs in missions, like in Goldwell's Shadows of Northdale part 1, which also add optional side quests. Speaking of Goldwell's missions, I think they're perfect in terms of difficulty as well.

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A fun mission for me requires a few things:

  • I prefer smaller, more densely-packed environments instead of larger city blocks. That's not to say city missions can't be fun, but they run the risk of being exhausting, confusing labyrinths. From my perspective missions with smaller environments provided an increased chance of me finding all the loot, secrets, readables and other content. I've missed major areas in city levels purely because it's so easy to skip areas without realising it.
  • I'm not a fan of undead and spiders because they can be difficult to kill, or at least, to kill without making a whole lot of noise. I like missions with human enemies because for the most part I can deal with them quietly, and as such it provides an opportunity to clear out areas first and then look carefully for loot and/or secrets.
  • I really enjoy missions that have some sort of mystery, either as a starting goal to resolve, or when a seemingly straight-forward mission is designed to go badly and the mystery presents itself mid-mission. Keeps me engaged.
  • I don't like KO or kill limits. I can tolerate kill limits more but I really hate having to limit the KOs I can make in a mission. I know some missions only have these limits on the higher difficulties, but sometimes those difficulties also have higher loot and even extra objectives that I want, but I have to deal with the KO limits alongside them. The best missions either don't have limits at all, or they are optional objectives that don't cause a mission failure if breached.
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A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving.

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I always enjoyed missions that had some detective work in, apart from the classic "grab the item and gather some loot".

Also had alot of fun in missions with multiple entry points or getting out.

Maybe not so gameplayinsh but I enjoy alot of sarcastic comments during a mission from the player just like the good old G.

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I think the most basic requirement for a good mission is a tight weave of safe and dangerous locations. The player needs to cross through areas where they have a non-negligible risk of being spotted by enemies in order for the mission to have tension, but it can’t be constant or it will become monotonous at best and frustrating at worst. There need to be safe locations where the player can stop and observe the environment for as long as they need to.

I think a good rule of thumb is that every dangerous point on the map should have a direct line of sight to at least one safe point that is no more than 20 meters away (as the thief moves). Additionally in a good mission about 60-80% of the loot, read-ables, and other interact-able stuff should be in safe locations. It is a reward to navigating through the hard bits. The remaining 20-40% is what gives the mission challenge and should be used very deliberately to build tension and atmosphere.

Within these rules there is a lot of freedom for map makers. In many really good, exploration-focused missions upwards of 95% of the entire navigable area is safe. That makes it really easy to follow the 20m line on sight rule, and that could be why these types of missions are so highly regarded. But equally there are some infiltration focused missions where safe zones might be less than 20% or even 10% of the map.

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14 minutes ago, ChronA said:

I think the most basic requirement for a good mission is a tight weave of safe and dangerous locations. The player needs to cross through areas where they have a non-negligible risk of being spotted by enemies in order for the mission to have tension, but it can’t be constant or it will become monotonous at best and frustrating at worst. There need to be safe locations where the player can stop and observe the environment for as long as they need to.

Oh yeah, I should second this as well. A mission is not fun if it's designed to be painfully tedious in terms of dodging the visibility of the AI. I can't remember which mission it was, but the mapper must have been in a bad mood that day since too much of the interior of an important building was lit very brightly with non-dousable light sources, with few if any viable hiding areas to obverse patrol routes. I don't know what the intent was, maybe it was a challenge for elite players or something, but it wasn't fun and I resorted to my power move of the "notarget" command just to make it bearable. Forget even looking for loot in such environments.

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A word of warning, Agent Denton. This was a simulated experience; real LAMs will not be so forgiving.

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3 hours ago, madtaffer said:

Do you mean objectives should not be randomly scattered and reclusively hidden but on the main well known path ?

I guess. There are some missions which simply seem to have a very logical structure. You don't have to backtrack too much in them. Goldwell is very good in that regard.

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4 hours ago, Xolvix said:

I don't like KO or kill limits. 

Yep. In fact, they're absolutely horrible, because, they force a certain play style onto the player (almost as horrible as restricting the player to only save in safe rooms 😉). From a logical point of view, I do understand why clients could insist on a no kill break in, as it won't cause as much attention as a break in where you just ghost or knock out guards, but, the restriction to not K.O. anyone doesn't make sense at all. Unless you're just snooping out the place. But then, it also doesn't make sense to steal anything.

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I've been enjoying TDM for a few years now, precisely because there isn't a certain style of playing it depending on the missions, which are very different from each other with different objectives. It is not a certain style with more or less strategy, as is usual in normal FPS, which in broad strokes are limited to getting from point A to point B and killing everything that moves in between.
It is this variety with great replayability,  without getting boring that makes TDM special. Covering practically all genres of video games, from Tetris to survival horror there is everything, stealth is only one of these and not even necessary in some missions

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For me:

 

* A mixture of well-hidden and obvious loot. Give me a reward for exploring, but don't make me turn over every leaf to meet a heinous loot goal.

* Guard patrols that reward careful observation. Solving a well-made guard patrol route puzzle is satisfying, so long as it's not just a bunch of watchmen constantly parading up and down in front of you.

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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Personally I can't quite pin-point what makes missions fun for me, but I can pin-point things that have ruined the fun for me. 

The biggest is unpredictable AI. If the AI isn't predictable, then a player can't strategize and the gameplay is merely a gamble where you just quicksave and blindly press forward hoping randomness is on your side. For example:

  • Random AI paths/waits. When I see a guard go left, and then I strategize based on that, and when I'm ready to apply my strategy... the guard goes right. Or when I got caught by an AI that started patrolling, and I quickloaded thinking of waiting for the AI to pass by, but... the AI decides to wait in its post for an extra 10 seconds this time...
  • Random head turns. I really get thrown off when I'm sneaking behind a guard and he randomly looks behind and catches me. This also ruins strategic planning. 

Another thing that throws me off is when you have to step into complete light to open a door, and there's a guard on the other side looking at it every 5 seconds. I just lose trust in that mission's sense of fairness.

Edited by Skaruts
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My FMs: By The Cookbook

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/13/2023 at 6:47 PM, Skaruts said:
  • Random AI paths/waits. When I see a guard go left, and then I strategize based on that, and when I'm ready to apply my strategy... the guard goes right. Or when I got caught by an AI that started patrolling, and I quickloaded thinking of waiting for the AI to pass by, but... the AI decides to wait in its post for an extra 10 seconds this time...
  • Random head turns. I really get thrown off when I'm sneaking behind a guard and he randomly looks behind and catches me. This also ruins strategic planning. 

I dislike this as well, especially if the path to the main objective is very linear.

On the flip side, my FM's do have random AI paths depending on the area difficulty, ie: Armory with a ton of loot will have some guards that are unpredictable (high risk, high reward). Medium difficulty will have at least one, easy will have guards that are all predictable.

All my objectives are optional, the FM can be completed without taking the risk. 

I find this method helps the FM's replayability.

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On 6/14/2023 at 1:47 AM, Skaruts said:

Personally I can't quite pin-point what makes missions fun for me, but I can pin-point things that have ruined the fun for me. 

The biggest is unpredictable AI. If the AI isn't predictable, then a player can't strategize and the gameplay is merely a gamble where you just quicksave and blindly press forward hoping randomness is on your side.

Finally, someone who says it. 

Especially in stealth games, the A.I. has to be predictable to a certain degree, otherwise you really can scratch your planning and approach. Plus, it's more realistic for guards to have fixed paths anyway. No point in letting them guard places where 3 or 4 of them stack up, and leave the other areas unguarded.

That said, the A.I. in most missions works predictably (fortunately).

Edited by chakkman
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There's a good middle ground as well. You can have consistent patrol routes with minor variations. Say a watchman walks into a large courtyard. Maybe on the way through he stops to warm his hands by the fire cage; on the next pass he detours to have a brief word with another watchman; on the next he just carries on without dawdling. It just adds some interest and variety to a patrol route without making it too unpredictable.

And part of planning involves deducing how guards will behave even when you can't observe their whole patrol route, or watch him go through it enough times to discover all the variations in it. You've got to be able to say things like:

That's a watchman, he's likely to have a long, fixed patrol route with few if any deviations. She's a servant, she'll be bustling around randomly in a handful of rooms. That's a zombie, it'll be wandering around the whole crypt slowly along a few familiar well-trodden paths that it selects randomly.

It's up to the mapper to respect common sense this way but I don't think it's correct to say that only fixed and unvarying patrol routes are fair.

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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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Since we're still on the subject of randomness... just a few days ago randomness got me caught by a guard. This is in my own mission that I'm making. The guard is sitting, and every once in a while he walks to a furnace to warm his hands. When he does that, as soon as he faces the furnace and starts warming his hands, you can sneak behind him to the other side of the room. 

Except this one time, he stopped at the furnace, and before he started to warm his hands, the game decided he should stretch his arms first. Because of that, he didn't turn to face the furnace as I was expecting, and he caught me sneaking...

 

On 6/30/2023 at 12:42 AM, thebigh said:

There's a good middle ground as well. You can have consistent patrol routes with minor variations. Say a watchman walks into a large courtyard. Maybe on the way through he stops to warm his hands by the fire cage; on the next pass he detours to have a brief word with another watchman; on the next he just carries on without dawdling. It just adds some interest and variety to a patrol route without making it too unpredictable.

Indeed. I think random variations can be great, but imo one should be careful with varying the patrol time too much. Depending on the length of the patrol. In the mission I'm making myself, I almost made that mistake on an NPC with a very short patrol. I ended up preferring to swap one action for another randomly, so there's always an action, and the patrol time is always the same. For longer patrols I personally think maybe a variation of up to 5 seconds can be ok.

Because there's also another thing to keep in mind: the player may have to wait for the AI. So I think it's better if the AI isn't randomly deciding to take its sweet time coming back or going away.

Another one I think it's fine is random patrol ends: one of the guards in my mission, on one end of his patrol, will randomly stop at one of two places reading papers on the wall. But those two places are very close to each other, so the difference is minimal, but he's he's facing different directions, so there's a slight trap there. I think it's fine because it's something the player can easily pick up on.

 

On 6/29/2023 at 4:03 PM, refl3ks said:

On the flip side, my FM's do have random AI paths depending on the area difficulty, ie: Armory with a ton of loot will have some guards that are unpredictable (high risk, high reward). Medium difficulty will have at least one, easy will have guards that are all predictable.

I don't mean to fully discourage the usage of randomness. Whether or not randomness is good, really depends on how you answer this question: is the player limited to just gambling forward and quickloading (bad), or is it still possible for the player to reliably anticipate the AI (good)?

Keep in mind, you can make a fully predictable AI be really hard to work around, through thoughtful placement of sentinels and patrols. The goal of guard placement is to create a puzzle the player must solve. And, imo, the difficulty should be in the puzzle.

Also keep in mind that certain randomness will affect what happens after the player quickloads. It's annoying as hell when it's not what the player is expecting. Thief 1 and 2 did that a lot too...

Edited by Skaruts
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My FMs: By The Cookbook

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On 6/30/2023 at 1:42 AM, thebigh said:

There's a good middle ground as well. You can have consistent patrol routes with minor variations. Say a watchman walks into a large courtyard. Maybe on the way through he stops to warm his hands by the fire cage; on the next pass he detours to have a brief word with another watchman; on the next he just carries on without dawdling. It just adds some interest and variety to a patrol route without making it too unpredictable.

Nothing wrong with that. What's bad is if A.I. changes their patrol route, and something like I've encountered in a few missions happens: 3 A.I.'s in the same room at the same time, even though they all have their general patrol route. That makes no sense at all.

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7 hours ago, chakkman said:

3 A.I.'s in the same room at the same time, even though they all have their general patrol route.

That's bound to happen occasionally in areas where different patrol routes intersect.

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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If there are no overlapping routes of different AIs, then the whole "knock out guard and hide" routine is no longer a game element, because knocked out guards would not be found anymore. I dare say that would then also be criticized again, as it would probably make the game easier in general.

Alternatively, it would be necessary to arrange the routes in such a way that the guards at a distance only see each other at certain points, but sound the alarm if one suddenly doesn't show up anymore. The latter is not possible with the current mod version and I'm not sure if it would be technically feasible.

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2 hours ago, JackFarmer said:

If there are no overlapping routes of different AIs, then the whole "knock out guard and hide" routine is no longer a game element, because knocked out guards would not be found anymore.

I didn't say that they don't have to overlap at all. I said that 3 guards at the same time in the same place, potentially even blocking the doorway is a bad thing, and has happened to me in TDM in the past. I don't remember such occasions being that much of an issue in the original Thief's. In general, obviously, TDM was created to be much harder. The A.I.'s senses are more sensitive, in most missions there is more A.I., in most missions there is at least 1 or 2 elite guards (which really should only be the highest ranked watch officers, guarding things like safes, or the primary loot object in missions), blackjacking is harder, and pretty random (I noticed that again yesterday, when some guards simply couldn't be knocked out in the first 4 or 5 tries, and then somehow got knocked out easily where I didn't even think I could knock them out. The blackjack indicator also only helps a bit, there can be times where it indicates that you can knock a guard out, and then when you press the key, the knockout is already off again. It's really weird, and I don't think I will find out how blackjacking works in TDM in this life.).

Especially for people who blackjack every living thing, predictability is a critical thing, also in regards of hiding bodies. Again, I don't expect everything to me completely predictable, and, of course a guard can sometimes stop by the fire, or chat with another stationary guard. But, 3 or 4 variations of a route are bad. 

Edited by chakkman
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9 hours ago, chakkman said:

[...] blackjacking is harder, and pretty random (I noticed that again yesterday, when some guards simply couldn't be knocked out in the first 4 or 5 tries, and then somehow got knocked out easily where I didn't even think I could knock them out. The blackjack indicator also only helps a bit, there can be times where it indicates that you can knock a guard out, and then when you press the key, the knockout is already off again. It's really weird, and I don't think I will find out how blackjacking works in TDM in this life.).

You can try the "Classic Blackjack", available in the TDM Modpack as a standalone mod. KO guaranteed, no indicator required.

TDM Modpack 4.0

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