205: Robbing Gods

Robbing Gods

The Thief series is well known for its convincing and immersive gaming world. To achieve this feat the developers hinged the series on a religious conflict that plays no small part in driving players forward in the game. One thing's for sure, religious fanatics have never been more interesting.

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I must admit, the Thief series' religions are impressive and the way they are shown in the first 2 games sounds great (I've only played Thief 2 and 3, so can't comment on 1).

In 3, they also seemed to be quite well written, although the 3rd faction (the keepers) where more the focus of the story.

Sadly, I think Thief 4 won't be anything like as good as the previous games, or more the first 2 games in terms of the world building.

While the pagans were indeed well portrayed I wasn't that interested in what they had to say, but the fanatic zeal with which the hammerites mutter their prayers are pure genious. I'd almost be prepared to buy a book with the tenets of the builder. A made up religion true, but so are all religions as far as I'm concerned.

Let's hope that the fourth game in the series is even bettr than the first three. (I actually liked the third game and have no clue as to why some fans didn't enjoy it.)

If I'd had space, I'd have gone more into how the religions influenced the gameplay of each game, especially how the Keepers' inherent neutrality (or pretense of it) and sense of balance informed the faction-tending elements of DEADLY SHADOWS. In short, the ruling faction tended to dictate the tone of the rules, from the organically flowing quasi-medieval thief's tale in DARK PROJECT to the more formal, structured deco noir of METAL AGE. Such great games.

They did do a pretty good job, and that's a huge part of why I like the story in them. It definitely reminds me of the pagan vs. Christian church rivalry of old (I'm sure very much by design.) The Pagans are influenced by nature but not in the sanitized Disney perspective; they're feral and capricious, not cute and fluffy. The Tenets of the Master Builder harken towards a darker idea of religion than is common now: One of undeniable brutality beneath the control of unyielding rules. The feel is far more medieval than the majority of analogous organizations in other games, which is still pretty damn unique 10 years or so after release.

And I'm surprised that the article didn't mention the religious schism with the Mechanists in the second game. It seemed to be pretty significant to the tone.

I still need to play the third game, though. The engine change and the host of other alterations make it feel less like proper Thief (TM), but it is still worth it from everything else I've heard. Anyone else care to weep over the demise of Looking Glass Studios with me?

There's lots I would've liked to cover, but we had limited space. Someday I'd like to write a book on these games.

An excellent read.

Excellent article on an excellent game. The Dark Project is probably the greatest and most influential media experience of my life, partly because of the way it handles these institutions and authorities. I would really love to see this article in twenty pages.

Kilo24:
They did do a pretty good job, and that's a huge part of why I like the story in them. It definitely reminds me of the pagan vs. Christian church rivalry of old (I'm sure very much by design.) The Pagans are influenced by nature but not in the sanitized Disney perspective; they're feral and capricious, not cute and fluffy. The Tenets of the Master Builder harken towards a darker idea of religion than is common now: One of undeniable brutality beneath the control of unyielding rules. The feel is far more medieval than the majority of analogous organizations in other games, which is still pretty damn unique 10 years or so after release.

And I'm surprised that the article didn't mention the religious schism with the Mechanists in the second game. It seemed to be pretty significant to the tone.

I still need to play the third game, though. The engine change and the host of other alterations make it feel less like proper Thief (TM), but it is still worth it from everything else I've heard. Anyone else care to weep over the demise of Looking Glass Studios with me?

I weep with you, believe me. My hopes picked up on hearing of a fourth one in this article, and hopefully Eidos will correct themselves. Thief 1-2 were linear from mission to mission. Any items you picked up were lost after the mission, which is where Thief 3 lost me. (I had max arrows and mines halfway through.) There were things that annoyed the heck out of me in Deadly Shadows, and things that amazed me (the asylum level to this day gives me nightmares.) The ending could of gone better, but it could be that I wasn't "ready" for Garett to walk to the actual mission destination. Plus the mission areas felt smaller then in 1-2.
Could be me.
But back on thread topic, I definitely agree that the religions aspect of the Thief series added to the background and the Ai chatter. Granted not all games can pull off the religion card, but those that do successfully become good games. (Jade Empire is an example of using Asian culture/religion well.)
my 2 cents.

Thief:TDP definitely had me awed, especially as it was one of the first games I bought after I got my first ever graphics upgrade. For me it was actually a lot of firsts in gaming. First time a computer game evoked such a visceral fear of sound and light (as opposed to their opposites). First time I actually felt I was 'overhearing' an NPC conversation. First time I felt that in-game gods (via their unholy minions) had dark designs for my entrails. Oh yeah, and first time I shat myself at the sight of polygonal zombies... Holy water arrows are great, really - but anything less than about ten of them had my drawing finger quivering on the RMB.

Religion as it is used in most games (and is in particular abused by fantasy RPGs, which continually seem to suffer from poor-man's-LOTR-slash-D&D-clone syndrome) is often about creating a stark divide between factions without having to pay attention to ideological or ethical subtleties. But any game that seeks to genuinely compel (rather than merely justify) gameplay through its narrative needs to acknowledge that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, gamers register and respond to such subtleties. I agree Thief did a fantastic job of reflecting and communicating through its religions what was accepted and unacceptable in different parts of its exquisitely dark world, and set the perfect tone for its innovative gameplay style.

Part of what I see holding a lot of other games back is mismatching between game/mechanic design and narrative tone/themes. The best games are the ones that can respect where the two facets mesh - how they subtly combine, and in the process clarify a player's sense of purpose, or illuminate the nature of the choices they will make. I think the following paper pretty much nails it:

http://www.digra.org/dl/db/07311.40380.pdf

In this (arguably most important) respect, Thief:TDP has it right on the money.

This is an article I wish I'd written myself. The interplay of the three different main factions in the City (Hammerite, Pagan, Keeper) set an excellent backdrop for Garrett's antics, since- despite his bitter protests to not give a whit for the Keepers' balance-favoring priorities- it was in his own best interests as well not to let either the Hammerites nor the Pagans get the upper hand over the other, as that would disrupt his comfortable status quo. The Hammerite/Mechanist schism in Metal Age brought all sorts of problems to our favorite taffer, and signalled the end of his self-interested bystander role with his partnership with Viktoria. And then there was Karras....

Deadly Shadows pretty much put the Keepers in the spotlight and relegated the Hammerite/Pagan feud to a plot point. In fact, in that game it was entirely possible to become buddy-buddy with both factions, and lemme tell you, hearing a Hammerite utter the words "Builder bless thee, Garrett" was like a sledgehammer to the forehead in terms of shock.

Also, because it is one of the most awesome quotes in the game, prefacing one of the most awesome missions in the game ("The Sword"):

"Builds your roofs of dead wood.
Builds your walls of dead stone.
Builds your dreams of dead thoughts.
Comes crying laughing singing back to life, takes what you steal,
and pulls the skins from your dead bones shrieking."

-Clay tablet in an abandoned Trickster temple

Kilo24:
They did do a pretty good job, and that's a huge part of why I like the story in them. It definitely reminds me of the pagan vs. Christian church rivalry of old (I'm sure very much by design.) The Pagans are influenced by nature but not in the sanitized Disney perspective; they're feral and capricious, not cute and fluffy. The Tenets of the Master Builder harken towards a darker idea of religion than is common now: One of undeniable brutality beneath the control of unyielding rules. The feel is far more medieval than the majority of analogous organizations in other games, which is still pretty damn unique 10 years or so after release.

And I'm surprised that the article didn't mention the religious schism with the Mechanists in the second game. It seemed to be pretty significant to the tone.

I still need to play the third game, though. The engine change and the host of other alterations make it feel less like proper Thief (TM), but it is still worth it from everything else I've heard. Anyone else care to weep over the demise of Looking Glass Studios with me?

To this day I weep when I think of it. Ion Storm did an acceptable job, but they didn't do the job LGS would have.

Deadly Shadows is worth playing, it really is. My only problem with it is the same problem I had with Invisible War - it's not (respective game) + 1.

The role of the religions however ... I'd never quite considered that. Most informative.

Finally, Rogue Wolf, I must disagree - I'm pretty sure that quote is from "Down in the Bonehoard"

The Rogue Wolf:

Also, because it is one of the most awesome quotes in the game, prefacing one of the most awesome missions in the game ("The Sword"):

"Builds your roofs of dead wood.
Builds your walls of dead stone.
Builds your dreams of dead thoughts.
Comes crying laughing singing back to life, takes what you steal,
and pulls the skins from your dead bones shrieking."

-Clay tablet in an abandoned Trickster temple

"The stone cannot know why the chisel cleaves it; the iron cannot know why the fire scorches it. When thy life is cleft and scorched, when death and despair leap at thee, beat not thy breast and curse thy evil fate, but thank the Builder for the trials that shape thee." -The Hammer Book of Tenets

This is my favourite quote, but they're all pretty good.

BlueMage:
0
Finally, Rogue Wolf, I must disagree - I'm pretty sure that quote is from "Down in the Bonehoard"

Well he's most probably ripped it like I have from Wikiquote which is fairly accurate. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thief

Love the avatar btw. ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uR8pcqV_HY - One of my favourite intro's
& http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AAzkPkiImo - damn Trickster
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GooB0cRRe2c&feature=related - not Thief, but made me chuckle

The Thief series was fantastic for many reasons, and the brilliant work done on the lore and backstory element just brought everything together.

BlueMage:
Finally, Rogue Wolf, I must disagree - I'm pretty sure that quote is from "Down in the Bonehoard"

Nay, sire, I am certain I speak aright.

(Man, do I love the music in the middle of that cutscene. Was it EVER fitting for the theme of Constantine's mansion.)

And I like the avatar too. Keeper glyphs for the win.

A riveting read and an excellent use of that opening quote. I'd love to read that book someday.

The Thief series is one of the few where you can sensibly deconstruct it and analyse themes like Religion. Each game analysis the three factions' motivations and structures in turn while using the others to compare them again.

As has been said, particularly with the Keepers, you can really see the attraction in their philosophy. A promise of a warm bed and predictable lighting, the surety that comes from creating formidable structures and sturdy weapons... in a world like the City its an enticing option, especially for those not lucky enough to be born into wealth.

That's a great quote, Rogue Wolf!

I wanted to use that one in my longer piece, but it ate up such precious head count. It demonstrates, though, the curiosity that both of the key religions in THIEF are about creators - there is no easily villainous religion-of-destruction for bad guys to hide inside. That's essential to THIEF's complexity, in my opinion.

One of the best parts of this assignment, though, was rewatching all the mission briefings for THIEF and THIEF II on YouTube. :)

Anoctris:

BlueMage:
0
Finally, Rogue Wolf, I must disagree - I'm pretty sure that quote is from "Down in the Bonehoard"

Well he's most probably ripped it like I have from Wikiquote which is fairly accurate. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Thief

The Rogue Wolf:

BlueMage:
Finally, Rogue Wolf, I must disagree - I'm pretty sure that quote is from "Down in the Bonehoard"

Nay, sire, I am certain I speak aright.

(Man, do I love the music in the middle of that cutscene. Was it EVER fitting for the theme of Constantine's mansion.)

And I like the avatar too. Keeper glyphs for the win.

Aye gents, I concede this one - it's been too long since I played Thief :( I do have Thief Gold around somewhere, and recently re-acquired (for the third time!) Thief 2.

Did someone call on Yahtzee to write an article?

lol...

 

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