argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Thief - Artemis)
The new Thief game (Thiaf, Thief 4, Thief (2014), etc.) came out the end of February to mixed but overall mediocre reviews from what I've seen. I don't have any intention of buying or playing it, though I'll probably watch a Let's Play at some point. It's unfortunate Fen's had health problems the past few months; I hope he's been feeling better, but I do miss his frequent Thief Let's Plays and he made my favourite comment about the new Thief in his, thus far, only Thief 4 video: "Is this a parody?" I also eagerly await Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation review, which should be out tomorrow.

The most bizarre thing about Thief 4 is that Square Enix (Thief 4's publisher) and Amazon are hosting a Thief Mod Competition. The catch? You have to mod using the Thief 1-3 level editors or The Dark Mod, a completely fan-built total conversion mod, because the new Thief isn't releasing a level editor. You also have to enter with videos of your mod, or an idea for a mod, as opposed to an actual fan mission for others to play. (Basically, you have to do a Let's Play for your own fan mission.) When I heard the news, I was sure it must be a hoax. But no, it is apparently legitimate. On one hand, it's a nice effort to reach out to the very mod-active Thief community, but how weird is it to have to rely on past games and fan efforts to promote your current game? The contest is also limited to US citizens, which is unfortunate given Thief's multinational - especially European - fanbase.

My current Thief kicks are part two of Grayman's William Steele series for The Dark Mod, which features lots of enjoyable rooftop exploration, and the hope that DrK will finally release part four of his phenomenal Night in Rocksburg series this year. I recently updated my Dark Mod mission list and there are more mission I haven't played than I realised, about 50. There's also the current 10 Rooms contest for Thief 2; sad to say I haven't played as many Thief 2 fan missions since The Dark Mod, though I downloaded all the missions.


At the end of last year, I started re-reading Stormwatch and The Authority from Warren Ellis' first Stormwatch issues. I'm currently at the end of the third Authority trade (Earth Inferno and Other Stories). To my surprise, I enjoyed the Stormwatch issues more than Ellis' Authority run. I never realised my first time through just how much Ellis focused on his own (future Authority) characters. I wonder how prior Stormwatch readers felt about that. That said, I think all the Stormwatch members Ellis retained had a chance to shine, and I still have a special fondness for Winter. It's unfortunate the series ended the way it did, and the last trade was my least favourite. (I also never cared much for the WildC.A.T.S. no matter how hard I tried.)

I disliked Mark Millar's Authority run even more than I did on prior readings and feel he negatively changed aspects of most of the characters, usually with throw-away snarky lines like Midnighter beating AIDS or Shen having a boob job. And, of course, there's the Doctor being a drug addict and general screw-up. Characters, especially antagonists, seem to have more knowledge than I feel like they should, even though The Authority interacting more with the media was a theme of Millar's run. Frank Quietly's art is not to my taste at all. One of the only redeeming factors of the third Authority trade is the excellent Angie one-shot story. The art on the first two issues of Earth Inferno is also pretty good, though it doesn't send my blood singing like Bryan Hitch's art.

I actually don't own the next Authority trade (Transfer of Power) as I hated the arc so much. I don't have any of the Robbie Morrison trades, either. His run was one of the first I read (a mistake) and I thought all but the Jenny Quantum story arc were garbage. (I still kind of want the second trade of his run just to re-read that story.)

After volume three, I've got a few single issues and Millar's Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority. After that, it's The Authority: Revolution by Ed Brubaker and Dustin Nguyen. I'm looking forward to this run as it's been a while since I've read it, but remember the writing, story, and character design being good, not to mention emotionally compelling.
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
The Dark Mod, a Thief-inspired Doom 3 total conversion mod, recently updated and is now stand-alone! In other words, all you need to play is a computer that meets the system requirements (which aren't very high -- my 2005 laptop can run it on low settings) and the ability to download and save at least ~3 GB, which includes the Mod itself plus several fan missions. You don't need a copy of Doom 3 or any of the Thief games. You don't even need to have played Thief before, though I think it helps and am sure the vast majority of The Dark Mod players and mission authors are Thief fans.

You can download The Dark Mod 2.0 here. Windows, Linux, and Mac are all supported, though the Mac version is back at 1.08 and so requires Doom 3. The Dark Mod has a built-in mission downloader, but you can also check out the complete mission list and download missions manually here. If you're interested in building missions yourself, you can download The Dark Mod's level editor, DarkRadiant, here. For more information, there's an introductory video on YouTube (and you can always search for Let's Plays), plus a Wiki, among many other resources.

Though I was a bit late playing The Dark Mod - I waited until 2012 to buy a used copy of Doom 3 - and had several problems on my older laptop, The Dark Mod's run flawlessly on my newest laptop and I really love the mod. To be honest, it's somewhat hard going back to the older Thief games and fan missions -- I haven't even tried NewDark much yet [the newest patch for Thief: The Dark Project/Gold and Thief II: The Metal Age] as I've been playing The Dark Mod missions or other games. I'm not completely sure why -- I definitely like mantling and object interaction more in The Dark Mod, and there are a few things I miss from the older games, such as the original Haunt design (graphics and sound). The only things I've wanted while playing through The Dark Mod missions are more and higher quality voice acting (which I believe has been updated in 2.0) and a dedicated run forward key, as in the first two Thiefs.

I haven't updated to 2.0 yet as I don't want to redownload all the missions I currently have. I've played about 30 missions, and there are about 45 I've yet to start.

Below are my mission recommendations based on what I've played so far. Like most fan missions, the difficulty varies by author and mission, so if you're just starting out, trying a few missions on the easiest setting would be my suggestion. (If you've played Thief before, you can start at any setting -- whatever you usually play the game at. [For what it's worth, I haven't played any The Dark Mod missions that are more difficult than some of the Thief 2 fan missions.]) I also played these under older Dark Mod versions, and you should be aware that The Dark Mod comes with a training mission.

-Sound Alert & Blackjack Trainer by The Dark Mod Team. Not a mission per se, but an easy way to get a feel for the loudness of different surfaces are and the AI's sensitivity level.

-Pandora's Box by Jesps. I think this would be a nice introductory mission as it's fairly short (I finished in less than 30 minutes) and set in a unique location (an airship).

-Too Late by Nielsen74. A smallish warehouse mission that would be nice for a quick play. Plenty of boxes, crates, etc. to mantle on and some neat places for loot.

-William Steele 1: In the North by grayman. My favourite The Dark Mod mission to date. A fairly large mansion-type mission, beautifully decorated, designed, and textured. There are some puzzles and optional objectives, plus plenty to explore and read.

-Flakebridge Monastery by Jesps. A large undead mission in an abandomed Builder monastery. Lots to do, including some optional objectives -- I spent about 4 hours playing and still had one bonus objective and quite a bit of loot left. Some good characterisation, especially for the guest wings, and several different routes.

-Swing by Komag. I had to include this one because it was so different! This is mostly a jumping and climbing mission, and the only time I've felt vertigo while playing a computer game.

-House in Blackbog Hollow by stumpy. I debated over including this mission as I haven't finished it yet, but I've been impressed with the design, especially the sound, and it's great for Halloween. One of the reasons I really like this mission is it's horror-themed, but with minimal undead use. (I don't mind undead, but have to be in a certain mood to play missions with them, which comes into conflict with the fact that I do enjoy [certain types of] horror.)
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
Even though I hardly look at Tumblr anymore, it is so easy to post photos instead of doing more in-depth updating. I hope to do the latter at some point, but for now I hope you will indulge me in the former.

The Dark Mod missions pictured are A Night to Remember by Fieldmedic, WS1: In the North by grayman, and Tears of St. Lucia, which is included in the initial TDM install as a demo of sorts. I've only finished WS1: In the North, which I had a fantastic time with and is likely my favourite TDM mission to date.

Screencaps under cut. )
argurotoxos: a scene from System Shock 2 with a ghost crewmember (System Shock 2 | by plant_boy)
I've been watching more Let's Plays* during meals than playing any games. Though I upgraded to the latest Thief II patch, I hadn't even been playing any Thief fan missions.

This past weekend I started up The Dark Mod on my newest laptop to finish a mission, "The Transaction" by Sotha, that I started months ago. It wasn't a very clean playthrough, but coming back to stealth play was a lovely experience. I've been playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl about once a month and slowly making progress. While I quite like the atmosphere and environments, sometimes the gameplay wears on me and I tend to run away from enemies as often as I confront them. The strangest thing about that game, however, is the NPC interface, which is so rudimentary that it feels misplaced, like it came out of the 1990s, when everything else is clearly 2000s.

*FenPhoenix's Thief II: The Metal Age, shadyparadox's Myst III: Exile, and Dilandau3000's Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity (which I played years ago and is much less exciting than I remember).

Some screencaps. )
argurotoxos: Midnighter holding balloons, waiting for his husband (Lizard)
I'll hopefully have a longer post on The Dark Mod later. The short version: The Dark Mod doesn't feel exactly like Thief: The Dark Project or Thief II: The Metal Age, but it's undeniably Thief and I quite like it. For now, some screencaps with small commentary. I'm playing on an older computer using the smallest resolution, so this isn't the best The Dark Mod can look. I did touch the images up a bit in Photoshop to increase sharpness and brightness/contrast.

Missions pictured: Thief's Den by Fidcal, Rake-off by Jesps, and Flakebridge Monastery, also by Jesps. ("Flakebridge Monastery" is an undead mission and there are some corpse and horror images once you get past the stained glass screencap.)

Images below cut. )

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