Chambers of mind.

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Impressions, told funny way (or old article on Thief: TDP).

Thief... this name is already settled by the age-old layer of dust. At least, due to the fact that it was released in the last century. One thind can’t be killed by time – in 1998 all gaming world was separated on two kinds of gamers – Thief fans and others. This two kinds differs by their perception of gaming process and… and dammit… the world itself! Nearly once in six monthes I get my CD with Thief distributive from shelf and get flying to another world...

Before Thief my knowledge of computer games was formed by Doom, Heretic, Sin, Quake II, Unreal и Warcraft. Excluding Orcs&Humans saga, they all are 3D-shooters. Yes, shey are milestones in 3D-action genre, but… Of course, I pay respect to Id Software and it’s legendary games, but I dreamed about other game. Kind of game, which can be called a Fine Art. Kind of game, which could create completely new gameplay and to drawn into dynamic plot, which will be something bigger, then text page during loading of game resources.

Truly, When I tried to predict it, I imagined something like Half-Life. Ski-fi environment, ugly monsters, interactivity, huge areas and a lot of stuff. But in March of 1999 I accidentally saw on TV review of Thief: The dark Project, shown in the long-deceased game telecasts. Looking a bit earlier, I want to say that after Thief I managed to play Half-Life. Gordon Freeman’s adventures took me just for one evening. And then, I leaved CD with Half-Life to lay on dusty shelf and returned to Thief – to play it again. It turns that I play it even in modern times.

What experience was then, in 1999? As game’s title says, gameplay involves a game of hide and seek with the guards of the richly furnished mansion or a castle; slaughter of the enemies on the sly, and for dessert - borrowing some jewerly from a wealthy estate owner. After watching the stunningly stylish introduction movie, I uploaded a training level. There I learned that in Thief any detail of the environment have importance – getting a character in the slightest ray of light illuminating the dark area, one misstep by echoing metal plate - and you will be discovered, get caught, stabbed, trampled or even eaten. By the way, in the later missions you will meet stronger enemies, so expression “eaten” is not far from true. Around the middle of the training level I got stuck - my wits were not enough even for such nonsense as a test mission.

Anxiously it was… Am I really so stupid? Leaving behind all doubts, I uploaded the level of number one. If I’ll die, then I’ll die. ;-)

After the unbearably long loading, which was like a lethargic sleep, I "woke up" on the dark little mediaeval street in the image of rather shorty, inconspicuous young man in a dark cloak and with a slightly cunning facial features, which has a handful of ammunition that can be called a weaponry only with large stretch. No, that was not Woody Allen. That was Garrett, a master thief.

A little later, I heard a hoarse voice from nearby arc. Coming closer, I discovered three medieval guards with insanely stupid mugs, talking on themes, which fit on the content of their very-very low level of intelligence. I realized – if game in which I am playing is called Thief, then my personage obviously is too weak to charge at на three strong and well-trained soldiers with only little knobstick   and short bad sword. Must find another way, the more so narrow dark medieval streets on this map is a mosaic, suggesting many alternative pathways to the mansion. But alas - this unconquerable human trait as curiosity forced me to go under the arch and stand in the face of the nearest guard. Something told me that was so shocking (for 1998) plausibility of the game environment may represent some more complex reaction from guards, than banal attack.

Indeed, all three guardians turned to me by their completely flat two-polygonal "faces", and froze for a moment. Then, one of them said in perfect English: "Go away, guile. This is not place for you". Choking with laughter, I stared at the monitor and waited a further response. Nervously shaking armor, chain mail sturdy said through teeth: "Are you deaf? Get away before you’ll face the consequences!". Bouncing in his chair with excitement, I waited tensely, holding hands away from your mouse. Let guys show what they can. In the end, here only three of them.

Furiously shaking his head, with loud curses, fellow attacked me with a sword hanging over his head. When medieval blade come in contact with the head of the poor main character, with great astonishment, I watched as a health bar has fallen by exactly two-thirds. Unheard of! After a commando John Blade of “Sin” rise seven feet easily shot down crowds of terrorists and paid with only few scratches, I suddenly learned that the very first (and weakest!) opponent in a computer game can kill main character at almost one single hit!

Instantly grabbing mouse and keyboard, I drove away from such inhospitable place. Never before in my memory, the main character in the game was running so slowly! Stomp of iron legs and thousands of dirty curses were heard behind my back. Just when I expected to turn around corner for salvation, then I heard something like "Taste this!". Then squeak of stretched bowstrings, the whistling of arrows, and long moan "Ah-ah-ah-uh-oh-oh-oh" by Garrett. Dammit! Archer was with them! Do not cry, my mother, I was not the best son. :-(

But wait! Blessed be the holy, in the heart of Garrett still exist a little hitpoint of life! Madly moving poor mouse, I drove a tortured hero through the gloomy streets, marveling at the same time by mysterious atmosphere, made by designers. Thank God, that computer games then could not (and still can’t) to made such trifles as streams of blood which can flood eyes. After all, head of the protagonist was heavily wounded by sword!

Running a little more, I stopped in, deeply breathing and looking around. Guards was already unable to caught me up. All is quiet, only old gas lamp quietly hissing, an ancient mechanism chatters gear... only I heard from afar, like someone whistling a merry tune. And the whistle is approaching! Even here they found me! Bastards!!! With trembling fingers, I clicked on "3". What kind of weapons? Whoa, the wooden bow, similar to those that my grandfather did for me, when I was a tot. Hopefully, the damage is a little more greater...

Pulling the string, I took aim to where the guard was supposed to appear. Second per second, stressing suspense! Hand of thief have begun to quiver, unable to keep arrow. And then guard appeared at least, but he was very strange, completely without armor, smallish in growth and with submissive animal look in his eyes, silly staring on road boulders. The devil, once again I mistaken! It's just some innocent home servant! But it was too late to hide bow – silly creature already raised his head, has seen me and my weapons yet. His eyes shone with genuine horror, and lips were whispering something like "Help me!". Then weary hands of Garrett slackened and released an arrow in free flight. The flight did not stay free - only as long as the arrow did not enter deeply into the tender flesh of servant. A few seconds later dummy stood still and looked at his arm with tail of arrow, sticking out from it. Meanwhile, the nerve impulses very slowly moved along servant’s nerves to send information about injury in a very rudimentary brain that brain could not bring itself just on the basis of visual range due to its impossibly simplified structure. Finally, servant felt a burning pain, bent over, threw his head back and strangely, as an animal, bellowing: "Auu-u-u-uu.". And although the servant was standing near saving corner of the building, he recklessly trotted past me toward memorable entrance of manor. Damn!

Of course, manslaughter is wrong way for such a maestro thief like Garrett. But on the other hand - the servant will come to the guards and tell them about where I am! Of course, if his low intelligence allows him to speak coherently. And then I’m dead. No, guys, I don’t want to die. Quickly and deftly pulling the arrow, I took aim at a cloth back. There was no point to hurry - dummy ran no faster than drunken three-legged pig. Singing in the air, sharp arrow spared this strange creature from unenviable life. Honestly, I did him the favor!

Even violating private code of honor, Garrett still a thief. Brushing scanty tears, I approached to the flagging corpse in order to investigate the contents of his pockets. I imagined how unpleasant is to roll dead body and to stir it’s medieval costume, saturated with the smelly sweat, grease and dust.. Thankfully, the creators of the game saved me from such a "fun". If character have anything, it hangs in his bag on the belt. And if there is no bag - then we know at once that character is poor. In the Middle Ages nobody hide bags of heroin under boot’s insoles yet. And this individual as easy to guess, has nothing at all, except for bugs and lice, abundantly inhabiting unwashed body.

It was time to move along. I made too much mistakes already and another one can cost me my life . With wounded head and shot in the back, Garrett can easily be killed by the weakest attack.

Turning into the next lane, I collided face to face with a guard - a hefty bull, armed with a solid sword. The sight of his armory made me wince and pull sharply, but fortunately, the younger brother of Tin Woodman was peaceful enough and quietly passed Garrett, inquiring with friendly voice, "As a gone?". Apparently, he was too far away from past two incidents, so he seen nothing and heard nothing.

As a gone, as a gone... dead-on! Face is mauled, forehead is cut, back is shot. And still no profit! That’s crappy job I have. Damn, what work I am speaking about, I have not yet penetrated into the building! Introductory video gently hinted that I should look for a well … Ah, that’s it! And nearby - a lonely guard, strangely staggering in the wind. The nearer I approached him, the more distinctly heard an amazing song. What was amazing? It has not a single word, but it was out of inarticulate sounds "Apa-pa-pa-pa" and "Pam-param-param". Finally, I realized that the perpetrator is a guard himself (the mechanism of lips synchronizing in 1998 was a luxury and was not used in Thief). Beneath guard’s feet lay four or five big empty wine bottles. Hm, the guy drank a weekly intake of the average guard. Since he practically understood nothing in this state, it was very simple to stun him. And no hatchet job, no killig! This time, I made my way by only one single hit of blackjack. Good way! This one hit is enough for most of enemies with only one condition – you must get behind. It is not always possible.

A strong blow to iron helmet made a guard to wince. Resounding metallic sound of helmet mingled with the muffled overtones coming from guardians head, which had the cavity inside incomparably greater than was necessary to accommodate his immature brain. Swaying and uttering his last "tra-la-la", fearless warrior fell to the cobblestones and snored very sweetly.

Picking his belt key, I unlocked the door of the shed. Well was very deep, as measured by total darkness in the depths of its vents. Yes, most of the suffering of the protagonist seems yet to come.

Jumping into the pit, I felt like Alice at the entrance to Wonderland. That is, flying in the dark for very-very long time. And when I plunged into the water, I realized that no other game have more believable underwater sounding. At the very moment of immersion speakers on my desktop rattled from a very natural bounce of water, typical for diving from great heights. Now, being the owner of a powerful floor- standing six-channel system, I like to repeat this trick again and again.

Coming up to water surface, I found myself in a stream of underground channel, whose walls were neatly lined with stones. Yes, in the Middle Ages water communications were not quite so primitive... If you believe the game designers. Even cooler was the fact that the walls adorned with real electric lights. Electricity in the Middle Ages! Hm, this world still is fantastic!

Swimming through tunnels was quite amusing, a sense of mystery came with the sound of falling drops and with the game of ominous shadows on the walls. Finally, I reached the fracture in the wall and brought poor guy Garrett on land. He probably feels cold! However, I had to abandon the sentimental arguments, because it was necessary to arrange for further action – it was impossible to climb back through the slimy mouth of the well, and also patrols in house probably does not sleep, even at this late hour.

I was surrounded by a pile of wine barrels - apparently, I was in the wine cellar. Peering out from behind the door, I found even bigger cellar. I noticed two guardians behind the corner, they had a very emotional talking about something. Damn, how much is light - several bright torches on the wall at once. If the guards will go here, they detected me. Since my attempts to hide behind barrels failed, I began to investigate my inventory frantically. That's it! Number 4 - water arrows. One arrow can safely put out remote torch, and it works at first try and at a great distance.

Omitting the details, except to say that at this evening number of peacefully sleeping security guards had increased by another couple.

The last thing that I want to tell you is my meeting with several servants, occupying the first floor of the mansion, located just above the wine cellar. Truly, I felt like Freddy Krueger, or even a Jason Voorhees, mocking fearful people. Imagine the following scene - a man sleeps on a wooden couch in a dark stone room. I went to the wall and beat hardly for extinct torch. Scared by deafening clang, the servant jumped as if stung by bee and begins to wail in terror. Overcoming his fear, he rushes to circle the room in search of troublemakers. Stumbling against a lurking thief, he runs his heels to the doorway, but only until a sharp arrow reaches him.

Of course, I am aware that in our time of maturity of stealth, such subtle features of gameplay are already commonplace. But do not forget that at that time was 1998, and if we do not take into account Half-Life, all other First-person-games were banal shooters where the only way to interact with the environment was a lucky shot from the shotgun in someone's head . At the time of this writing, the genre of stealth had already to get bored with people, and many wish to return to classics such as Unreal or Quake. Unreal II did not live up to expectations and all eyes are now turned to Doom 3. One reason for this - a scary, mysterious atmosphere of playing Doom 3, which allowed him to be popular even before the release. So I say to you - in Thief everything of this already was in 1998. True, technically poor graphics engine cannot create anything that affects the imagination by form and animation. But this is offset by the exceptional quality of drawing shadows (for 1998). Of course, Thief had no dynamic shadows, but static lightmap created on the walls such a plausible pattern of light and shadow, that the darkest and most hidden fantasies of my subconscious awakened. This is a game I can attribute to high art, the art of impact on the brain player. Even now, at the time of shaders, NURBS and many other goodies, I play Thief again and again, paying no attention to the technical imperfections.

... To be continued, when I'll finish translation.

18 March 2004