Catacombs of Knoss now available

It’s been a while since I updated my site, but better late than never! Last year, the Thief fan community ran a contest for Thief: The Dark Project’s 20th Anniversary. The idea was to create a mission in the style of the original game, using only the stock content the game shipped with – so no custom textures, objects or anything like that!

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The Hammerite cathedral from Mission 1.

The contest made allowances for modifying the game’s original content, but I decided to challenge myself to literally use only what the game came with (the only exceptions are the player’s map of the level which obviously needs some custom artwork, the readable text files that tell the story, and a fixed/better-looking starfield for the sky).

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The city section was built to have a lot of verticality.

Apart from that, I spent my time digging for unused objects in the game’s files, studying textures to see how I might repurpose them, constructing Frankenstein hybrids of different objects, and remixing sound schemas to make new voice sets out of existing sounds.

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Many rooms in the city can be broken into via windows and vents.

The result is two missions that hopefully capture the feeling of first playing Thief all those years ago,  while simultaneously throwing a few interesting surprises in.

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A cosy kitchen, complete with some tasty food to steal…

The first mission takes part in a small city block area, with a large Hammerite cathedral and many enterable rooms high up within buildings. I aimed to make it very free-flowing with very open-ended vertical gameplay. Most places you can see, you can get to.

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The Hammerite church contains a small courtyard. Even here, my design philosophy was that every area should have multiple routes in and out of it (see the missing bar in the window in the top left).

The second mission is, by contrast, a descent into a vast, sprawling catacomb complex, filled with undead and even worse beasts and traps.

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The catacombs have some dark and spooky sights buried deep beneath the earth.

The missions were well-received, with some criticism of how dark the level was (though I stand by it – this was a design choice intended to evoke the fear of the unknown that the original tapped into so well), and was voted 4th place out of 23 entries.

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This dusty library tower holds a few long forgotten secrets.

I released the mission anonymously for the contest, and it was fun seeing if people could guess who made it. Not many figured it out!

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A Hammerite classroom in the back of the cathedral.

The mission can be downloaded from the release thread about it, where you can also find discussion and help if you get stuck. If you want to play it, you’ll need a copy of Thief: The Dark Project, which is available for not much on Steam or GOG. Have fun!

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I tried to make the Catacombs flow well, and have a sense of awe by breaking it into areas of cramped, claustrophobic tunnels followed by vast underground vistas.

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The area was designed to deliberately evoke memories of the Bonehoard mission from the original game. I designed these tombs in the same interconnected octagonal fashion.

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