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In the past few years, CoSaS has dragged on and on (and on) with very little sign of an end. Approximately six months ago, Digi sent an e-mail to a voice actor about some lines that needed recording. The voice actor in question responded that whilst he would do it, he doesn’t like recording lines that never see the light of day.

This came as a surprise to many of us, as none of us had any doubt that Mission X (MX) would be released. However, it did act as a wakeup call (to quote said voice actor). Outside our team, there was doubt that MX would be finished. As Robert Burns once said, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!”

We realised that things were going to have to be done differently; we could no longer just take it as it came. We started prioritising problems, and came up with what seemed to be a realistic release date… the end of this year.

In January, we released a selection of sights sounds and story from MX. Now, we’re halfway through the year, and though we have no new things to show, we do have new things to tell. Without further ado, here is what we’re all doing (in alphabetical order).

Anarchic Fox
The old guard of MX is still present and accounted for, and though he hasn’t the time any longer to directly contribute, he knows the mission as best anyone could, and stands by to aid the new team members in the trials they face.

Digital Nightfall
Some of you may know that Digi is currently working on a master’s degree in architecture. In his (little) spare time he skews the area of his research in the direction of CoSaS-pertinent styles, for both MX and the next few CoSaS missions. Though MX itself won’t benefit as much from his education, the following missions should.

The Briefing Team
DrK is the animator, Julia and Mari are the artists, and Sogax is on Foley and music. The planned briefing for MX is as groundbreaking as the mission itself, and these four talented artists should be capable of pulling it off.

Skinning the AIs to create subtle nuances, making the AIs more varied falls in redleaf’s purview. For those who look closely, there will be significations of rank and social status on some of the guards’ uniforms.

What would a mission be without sound propagation? Selah is responsible for the separate but intrinsically linked tasks of bringing the mission audibly alive and allowing the map to mark your exploration progress. It is through her work that you shall never get lost, and that the cup you just dropped makes a dull thud when it comes into contact with the wooden desk. And the ears of the deaf shall be unstoppered!

Too many missions have AIs just standing around, not actually doing anything. In a casino, AIs should be gambling, not standing. With his motion editing skills, Shadowspawn is making the craps tables come to life!

There are many new textures in CoSaS, and some of them require new sounds; thankfully Sogax is more than just a musician, but our Foley artist as well. You have heard his work before; the music playing in the background of the panoramic screenshots of the January Media Release.

Scripting is needed to make MX more than a picturesque locale. As Dante works his way through the mission, many things change. How Dante receives his orders, and how the people and objects react when he carries out those orders come under the blanket title ‘The Main Quest’. With the invaluable help of telliamed, this is now 2/3rds complete.

There is more to scripting in MX than the main quest. There are a number of other things going on in the Ivory Rose. Yandros, with the help of Nameless Voice, took charge of a particularly complex scripted event and has done an astonishing job.

So, that is what we’re doing. I’m sure many of you still have a nagging question in your minds… when will it be finished? Are these just empty promises? Here’s an honest answer.

Scripting is almost over, and when it’s over, Alpha testing begins.

During alpha testing, cosmetic effects will be finalised (such as object models, textures and sounds) and bugs will be ironed out. This will probably take a while. A mission this complex with linear and nonlinear plot elements interwoven through multiple paths is bound to be as buggy as a five day old slab of meat in the summertime. No one wants that, so extra time must be taken.

The better job we do during alpha, the easier it will be for those who help out for the beta.

Now for the bad news: most of us are students. We have managed to make substantial progress, even during term time, however when exams approach, work almost stops completely. This means that we have less available time to finish it.

If MX reaches Beta before we reach our end of year exams, it will very probably be released the same year.

‘Til next press release,
~ Yametha

I feel a monologe coming along... I don't allow myself to talk about MX much, so maybe this time I should given in. :)

I hope that MX will be gleeful for ghosters and other such power-gamers. If you remember in GatI there were more than a half dozen discrete ways into the building (and a few not so discrete ones). It wasn't about getting in and getting past the guards, it was about darting in and out many times in many different ways to bypass the guards completely. While I can't vouch for the community's likes or dislikes for this concept, I personally find it much more preferable to more static approaches.

(And I encourage anyone who has an opinion on the subject to speak up about it.)

Mission X uses the same concept but in a much different way. (You can't use the same trick twice... not in a row anyway... not usually... well you shouldn't...) Sure, you're still given multiple ways into The Ivory Rose, but the focus on the mission is never really on breaking into the building at all, it's about what happens once you are in. The IR is huge, (makes Anglewatch into a shack, really) so it becomes all about finding ways to move from one floor to another. Sure, you can stick to the hallways and the stair towers, but that's where all the patrols and locked doors are.

Now, let me be frank; there's alot of tile... alot of tile. Maybe too much tile. We'll have to see. But seriously, the wide open marble clad brightly lit halls filled with the sounds of echoing patrol footfalls is part of the nerve-wracking pandemonium of it all, isn't it?

It becomes not about finding a way through, it becomes finding a way around. (Of course if you really want to go straight through, good luck...)

Similarly, moving from floor to floor. Sure, you can take the stair tower, but wouldn't you rather rope-arrow your way from the first floor straight up to the third, placing yourself discerely behind the 'loot' side of a locked door? Of course you would.

So that's what I'm saying. I'm not saying that this is a bold brave new way of doing things, never before seen! ... *cough* ... I'm saying that this is what you'll be able to expect. The irony is that most of the prettiest parts of the place are the places you'll want to spend the least time in.

This is the bold brave new part, never before seen. If I may quote...

From what I hear, Mission X has really gone beyond the call of duty. - demagogue

You have NO idea how much so. It's going to really knock the socks off of everyone. I don't see any other mission, now or in the future, ever surpassing it in this respect. - Yandros

Of course this isn't because LOL our toilets flush SCRPTNG... (they don't, by the way...)

GatI and MX are in many ways sister-missions. They're both experiments in breaking the mold for Thief missions, doing things unexpected and unique, and generally trying to deliver an experience worthy of a new Thief game over just another FM (though there's nothing ever wrong with just another FM...)

In GatI we brought in classic adventure style quest elements (sorely lacking from today's adventure games I may add) into play with mixed (though I think mostly) success. MX is another experiment in adding something new and different to a Thief mission, though I am not ready yet to say what that is. We do have the adventure game elements ala GatI in play, though those are all relegated to optional and bonus objectives and are hopefully an improvement over what we had in GatI (though I am not sure you can compare the two sets, as MX's puzzle quests are very different...)

What I can say is that MX has a cast of seven important characters in addition to Dante, and these are not characters that you meet along the way and then move on from. Who they are and what they're up to has a constant play on what's going on in the building, far above and beyond what the cast of merry misfits from GatI had to offer.

~ Dan

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