Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lady Lomat's Flute: My Thief 2 Fan Mission Sketchbook

Greetings Thief fans & level design enthusiasts!  

Welcome to my remembrances... a casual flick through my old notebooks, within which I was designing a challenge for the sneaky, curious Garrett in all of us.

I have scanned a swathe of pages from my old sketchbooks circa 2001.  

I had been in the game industry for around a year, working at Bluetongue Software since 2000.

I'd made Ancient Art of War maps as a kid around 1987 with it's built in editor, and later made Quake & Quake 2 maps around 1996.

When Thief came out, I loved how it focussed on a deeper simulation of sight and sound, light and dark, and the AI guards having more resolution in their alertness systems.

"The Master of the house, Lord Lomat, has obtained evidence to put away the friend of your current employer."  I ended up changing all of this, but it was a starting point, and the name "Lord Lomat" stuck.  The name is supposed to evoke the word Diplomat.  The final story ended up being about Lady Lomat's Flute.

Later when Thief 2 came out, I decide to dive into the Level Editor that shipped with the game called DromEd, to build my own mission.  And this time, unlike with my earlier Quake levels, I wanted this mission to have a coherent experience, within the Thief universe, that made sense as a whole, and had some narrative and drama imbued into the environment.  

I initially built the level during 2001, and these sketches all come from that period.  Later, I came back to the level in 2013 and finished it off with the updated NewDark version of the editor.

You can see that final version of the mission here (it's a non-complete playthru of the mission, so contains some spoilers, but not everything)...

Follow on to see the thinking behind the making of the level!

I started with the concept of a house surrounded by a sort of moat, with a bridge to it, so there was a choke point to getting to the house, where you could see the pretty view of the front of the mansion, several patrolling guards in view, to set the scene.  

I listed various rooms and furniture objects I thought would work in the scene, just to get a good idea of what it would be made up of.

The basic layout of the house didn't change that much.  It got simpler, and I removed many rooms.  But the basic concept kind of staid the same from the start, with ground floor, first floor, and an attic.

I got started off just doing a test some tests with guards, patrol paths, lights, and mission objectives.  

There is mission early on of using windows, and I think I used windows quite well in the final level.  I liked that AI could see through, and even shoot arrows at you through windows, thus breaking the windows, which feels quite intentional and action packed, almost light a scene from Die Hard.  :)

I list a lot of things here that I wanted in the mission... feelings, moments, dynamics.  

I mention rope arrows here, too, and I think I included rope arrow potential quite well, with the overhanging gargoyle beams providing opportunities to access the 2nd story up directly on numerous sides.

A real emphasis for me was to provide a small space with a rich possibility space, giving the player lots of ways in and out, but each with it's own tension.  There's a believable organic feel to the mission space, with guards spaced around and behaving logically, and carrying appropriate keys based on the scenario and narrative, etc.

The player can get in the front door, the back door, rope arrow up to the second floor through windows, or sneak in the side kitchen door.

If discovered and chased, the player can always get back out of the house fairly easily - and often dramatically, especially if leaping from the second floor down into the moat below - thus defusing the situation, but then having to work again to get back inside!

This set of floor sketches ended up being basically exactly how the level was made, and is today in the final version.  I look on these with great fondness, as it really was the middle step between imagination and reality!  :D

I searched out and printed a bunch of old mansion floor plans and images while at work.  :)

The layout of the gardens took more shape here.

Planning out the ground floor layout, and the ambient sounds around the external areas.

Planning the patrol routes for the ground floor guards. 

Planning out objectives, goal states, techy level stuff and some ambient sounds.

Choosing some of my favorite looking doors.

Changing ideas for the story.

A sketch of the main entrance bridge over the moat.

Thinking about how the various locked doors should feel in the level, where to build tension, where the drama and suspense should be.

The overall shape of the level, including the external vistas that you can't reach, and being tinkered out here.

Musings on how a successful Thief story should weave around concepts of locks, keys, guards, light and shadow, as these are the core tenets of the game.

The original 2001 release of the game (entitled "Lord Lomat's Flute") didn't actually include an intro cutscene at all.  But when I revisited the level in 2013, I was delighted to work with my good friend Brendan Barnett on an intro movie for Lady Lomat's Flute. Brendan provided the illustrations and great voice over!

A core list of "things to do"!

I was obviously excited about the announcement of Thief 3!  And I was indeed pleased with the game when it came out.  Maybe one day we'll get another great Thief game.  :D

Good thoughts, Muz.  Good thoughts.  :)

Ideas for another level concept, where tall towers are interconnected with overhead bridges.  Something I'd still like to make one day.

Thinking about other architectural details and mission ideas.

Massive tower!  :D

The idea of a mission / scenario where you put in a bunch of AI and have them "fight each other".  "Kill all the haunts.  Protect the civilians from the zombies."

Kinda like "Left for Dead"!  :)

Another list of all the features and ideas to leverage in the level.

Coaxing guards from the bar to go fight the zombies!  
(An idea for another mission I never made!)

Well!  Our little trip down memory lane has come to an end.

If you're a Thief fan, please do check out my level, and give it a play using DarkLoader for Thief 2!  :D  

You can download the mission here!

There's a thread about Lady Lomat's Flute here on Through The Looking Glass:

Keep on taffin'.

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