Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Introduction to Part II

Welcome to Part II of “Evangelizing Thief”. In this part, I continue what I did in Part 1: analyze Thief missions, both official and fan-made, in light of my argument that Thief’s design is a prime foundation for narrative experience, as well as for exploration and discovery. The difference for Part II is that it is more diluted. In Part I, I looked at a broad swathe of Thief I and II official and fan missions. In this part, I look at three Thief fan-missions and one Thief III mission.

Two of the Thief fan missions here are ‘campaigns’: that is, there is more than one mission in them. And in setting up the Thief III mission I analyze, I introduce the game by briefly looking at a few other missions in it. But the main focus of this blog will be on four different creations, rather than several, and each of them is some of the best material from Thief. A couple of them are haunted-house missions, so I'll also argue in this Part II more specifically on Thief's potential for great horror experiences.

At the end, I’ll wrap up this project with a ‘Thief in Context’ post, and along the way throw in a few more mini-essays.

            So, then, let’s dive into this more focused, more narrow Part II.

Broken Triad, by Eshaktaar

(Broken Triad was originally uploaded on May 28, 2008)

~Thief II Fan-mission: “Broken Triad”, by ‘Eshaktaar’

            Any superlative I use in these write-ups could be used on any of the missions I cover, but some of them are most appropriate at describing one specific mission, with the goal of making it stand out from the others. The most appropriate term for Eshaktaar’s “Broken Triad” is ‘genius’. Its design is like some intricate, complex puzzle, or some small, detailed carving, that one loves to hold in the hand and admire.

            The characteristic that most stood out to me as I replayed this mission for this project was its use of items. Like a classic adventure game, “Broken Triad” has many items—and I mean non-standard Thief items, that you don’t usually see in missions—that each have some specific use somewhere in the mission, but where and how you don’t usually know when you first pick up the item. You put the pieces together as you go, everything falling into place as you progress through the mission, as you find out where all the items are used.

“Broken Triad” is like a small, weighty, intricate puzzle box you’d buy at a curio shop. The genius behind it is thrilling. I can’t think of other circumstances where I’d squeal with excitement when I found a sewer-grate key, or put a tree-root through a wood-chipper. It’s all part of the puzzle-solving and the satisfaction that comes with putting the items to their proper uses, and then figuring out where to go next based on that.

            But the genius doesn’t stop with the items. They’re just a part of a grander magnum opus. The atmosphere, visuals, and ambiance in “Broken Triad” meet the high standard set by great Thief fan-missions. The story is very well-done and well-integrated into the mission, continuing on plot points from Eshaktaar’s first mission “Ominous Bequest” (also excellent, though a much earlier fan-mission). I don’t think you need to have played the first one to follow the story, but the author does encourage it in his readme file. Either way, the story in “Triad” is a treat, with a few twists near the end. It starts out well enough: Garrett, staying in a town called Arkford, plans to steal a sculpture called “The Sleeper” from a local museum. The sculptor of this is rumored to have died of fright when he saw his finished creation; Garrett’s replica of it certainly looks creepy. And, the town’s been having trouble with a serial killer, the “mad beheader”, who leaves his victims headless. All that, and the mission takes place on a cold, snowy night; and Garrett gets a surprise as soon as he opens his door. Between all this and the piano ambiance that begins as you first start exploring the town, when I first played “Broken Triad”, I knew I was in for a great mission.

            This mission is also a “multi-mission” campaign, kind of like “The Seventh Crystal”, and is composed of two missions. I cover both here.

            And if you don’t commit the time to watching all of my playthrough, I encourage you to watch at least the first few minutes of the first video, and to scan through the rest.


-Broken Triad, Part 1: The City of Arkford-

            Part 1 takes place in the aforementioned city, or town, of Arkford. What is so well done by designer Eshaktaar is what any of the great “city” missions do: create a feeling of ‘interconnectedness’, or a sense of ‘looping’, throughout the city. This means that the player incrementally opens up new areas to explore (usually via the acquisition of items) and reconnects them with places-already-explored, usually by opening up previously closed gates. To use an analogy I used above again: it’s like putting all the pieces of a puzzle into place, and experiencing the joy of seeing the picture gradually complete, while more and more puzzle pieces are eliminated.

            (An aside: I think a great comparison to make to great city missions like this is to the Nintendo classic Super Metroid. This isn’t one out of left-field; core to Metroid’s gameplay is opening new areas using items one acquires, backtracking and ‘looping’ all the way. It’s the same sort of incremental exploration of a large area.)

            There’s a lot of fun side-stories going on in Arkford, too. This is Thief, so on top of the addictive puzzle aspect Triad has, there are readables, conversations, and plenty of other, clever narrative caches. One of these side-stories involves the dear old ghost of Brother Reginald.

            After getting a key for the sewer-grates in the city, players can enter into an old, crumbled catacomb by way of one of the sewer passages. From this, players come up into a crypt of a Lord Raglan. In here, players can pull a rope to ring a bell. The bell awakens the ghost of Brother Reginald, who had been trapped in the cemetery this crypt is in, waiting to see if Lord Raglan had really died, or had been buried alive.

            So Reginald opens the crypt door and explains, in a great old-Hammerite-ghost voice (better than Brother Murus’, I say) the reason for his waiting, and that he’s thankful he can leave now. Of course, Garrett isn’t really the Lord Raglan calling to be let out; but no matter. Now players have access to the cemetery, which is at the back of the museum, which gives them access to a back door of the museum. The player can also flip a switch to open the gate to the cemetery that connects it to the rest of the town, so the player can go between the cemetery and the town easily now. So we see here the fun connection of a side story with a gameplay purpose: getting access to the museum gives players a new place to explore, and opening the gate allows players to ‘loop’ back into the town and have a new shortcut open.

            But why would a cemetery be at the back of the museum, you ask? That’s another fun story bit. The museum was converted out of an old Hammerite temple. So in the museum you see Hammer glyphs, stained-glass windows, and the such. The player may also come across readables that reveal a letter of the museum’s director demanding that a Hammerite priest bless the spirit of Brother Reginald. Reginald haunts the museum by night, and the director would rather this not come up in inspections. There’s also correspondence between two of the secretaries, one of them noting that now the director wants to get rid of Reginald. (So apparently the museum staff are used to the old priest and his hauntings!)

            One of the secretaries is Sheila, a woman the player is tasked to meet so they can a key to the museum from her. A correspondence between two of the staff notes that Sheila had looked frightened lately, and wonders what might be scaring her. This is after the player has discovered Sheila, in her apartment, with her…well, there is a “mad beheader” on the run, remember!

            Another great looping moment comes with a warehouse for a ‘Hewitt and Sons Transports’ company. The player can see the sign for this building through an iron gate—but it’s impassable. Turns out that the player can get into the yard just outside the warehouse from the sewers, and from the warehouse yard open this gate up to connect a path back to the city. As for the warehouse building itself, here the player discovers a ‘wood chipper’ machine. In this, the player can place a tree root, which they nabbed from some roots growing into the local tavern’s basement. This root can be turned into sawdust. Where will this be used? Later in the mission! For now, it’s just another cool item.

            One of the funnier moments occurs in this warehouse. To get the key for the wood-chipper, players need to climb up some boxes, and open the window into one of the offices, where the key is. But, there’s someone in this office, looking at a bulletin board. His back is to the window, though. I thought I might knock him out with Garrett’s blackjack once I opened the window (this is a tactic I try to avoid. As you may see from my videos, I tend not to use the blackjack to knock guards out). But no need! When I opened the window, it opened into the office, and *bonk*! Down the guy fell. Things like this never happened in the official Thief missions, and it’s one of the charming things that can surprise one in the midst of a fan-mission.

            (Turns out this guy was “Friend Turbine”. A readable indicates he’s part of a new up-and-coming religious order. Another readable describes Arkford as being a perfect ground for spreading a new religion. Sounds like references to the Mechanists!)

            In the course of the mission, players can get into the museum director’s house, and in here discover a secret area, and in this, a viktrola. It plays a nice little tune. But what’s it for? When the player is exploring the museum, they discover that the museum director’s office is locked with on ‘audio’ lock. It’s a panel of buttons, each with a note (six of them), and a certain sequence unlocks his office door. Of course, this sequence is what the viktrola plays. A careful listening and reproduction of the tune will open the director’s office.

            Inside his office, the player notices a series of books, that highlight when looked at—meaning they can be ‘used’ by the player—and that on each of these books is a big letter. The player may also have read a note written by the museum director where he writes that he must memorize his wife’s name. The player also picked up a ‘flower-card’ from the museum director’s house, addressed to his wife. The letters necessary to spell the name on this flower-card are each on the books. And so the pieces fall together, and the player can open up a hidden room, in which a switch to deactivate the museum’s security system lies. Once again, a couple seemingly useless items—a viktrola and a flower-card—are both used in fun, unexpected ways, in order to satisfy an objective.

            One more neat sequence I want to highlight here—all of them being in my videos, if you wish to see them all—involves a bottle of lamp oil and a lantern. Sheila had set up a signal for a guard in the city-watch station. She would light up a lantern, and the guard would then go open the door to the city watch, so Garrett could get in. Well, Sheila being…disabled, Garrett must make this signal. While in the museum, near Sheila’s desk, the player sees a lantern. The player may have the oil flask, and may think to pour this oil flask in the lantern—after all, the lantern highlights, so it can be used, and oil and a lantern go together. So players pour the oil in, light the lantern, and then—in one of the coolest moments of detail in any Thief mission—a guard may be seen, in a window across the street, stand up, with a start, and head away somewhere. Sure enough, when players go down to the side of the city-watch station…the side door is open now!

The player can then go into the station, go to the cells, go into one of the cells, find and hit a hidden switch, go into a secret passage that leads to a catacomb area, from here go up into a locksmith’s office, and in here get a “green skeleton key.” The player now leaps for joy, knowing that all the green-handled doors, that so far had denied any lockpicking, can now be opened! It’s all addictive looping, and part of the theme of ‘pieces-falling-together’, so key in this mission.

            Now I’ll highlight a few more story bits. One is seeing the ‘Sleeper’ sculpture for the first time, in the museum. The player has a replica of it in their inventory, so they know what it looks like. But seeing it up on the pedestal, with the hum of the security machine’s rays around it, is an example of a great use of a visual and an ambiance to create atmosphere.

            In the museum galleries are many interesting things to look at, with references to other Thief missions. One item on display is the good ol’ Horn of Quintus.

            There are also a few foreshadows of the second mission in Broken Triad. In the museum the player may see a painting of ‘Tempest Isle’, and also come across an old book that journals the voyages of a sea-captain who came upon Tempest Isle.

            My ‘Part 5’ video shows the story as it takes a few twists near the end of the mission. There’s more going on in Arkford than originally seemed to be, especially for poor Garrett. The story twists lead to a new gameplay segment, which includes exploration of previously inaccessible areas: the White Cathedral and the Crematorium. The town takes a slight change as well, and in the Crematorium the player may encounter one of the most unique enemies in a Thief mission.

            “Broken Triad” is a very complex mission, with lots of items, puzzles, and story bits and twists. But at its base level its operating on the same Thief design principles as all the other missions looked at here are. There are story caches—readables—, there’s non-linear exploration, there’s thick atmosphere, there’s a well-done story that gradually emerges, and, despite all the complexity, there’s still the basic ‘sneak and don’t get caught’ gameplay that most Thief missions must have.

            “Broken Triad”, then, is a complicated representation, or an advanced execution, of Thief design. It’s like “Bonehoard” or “Life of the Party”, squared. Or, maybe even cubed.

Broken Triad, Part 2

-Broken Triad, Part 2: Tempest Isle-

The second mission of Eshaktaar’s “Broken Triad” is just as good as the first one, and with a different aesthetic. You’re in the ruins of an ancient civilization now, and much of the style compares with our world’s Egypt (there’s even Anubis statues!). There also are not many AI combatants in the early part, which gives the mission a different pace. (In the later stages of the mission, though, there will be plenty of patrolling AI.)

Similar elements drive this mission as the first one. There are not as many items to get and use on Tempest Isle, but there are some, and the analogy of this mission to a weighty puzzle-cube still holds. There are lots of paths to take, lots of locked doors and gates with alternate paths around these, lots of ‘unlocking gates from the other side’ and looping, and a few really good puzzles. One of them involves learning of and deciphering the name of the civilizations’ first emperor, which involves a few readables scattered across the mission, and a translation sheet for hieroglyphs.

A memorable story-scene comes soon after the mission’s start. First walking into the heart of the ruins, the player comes into a large opening of some temple area, cylindrical in shape, with a lava pit in it. Across the fiery chasm is a large platform rising up, and on it, a throne, with a skeleton sitting on it, with a sword thrust in its skull. It piqued my curiosity as to the story behind it. The player may learn of this in a readable lying somewhere, a scroll detailing the assassination of one of Caerul’s, the civilization’s, emperors. It’s rewarding when, much later in the mission, players come out on the other side of this area, and can walk onto the platform, getting up close to the throne and the remains of the murdered emperor. This is also a great example of looping.


Like in the first mission, there are moments where you see something, wonder what it’s for, and then have a ‘lightbulb’ moment later about it. One example in this part is the fire elemental—a stationary, fiery globe. The player may wonder what it’s for. Hopefully the player remembers this later in the mission when obtaining a hallowed candle. Again, it’s a process of discovering disparate pieces, and then having them fall together.

A key component of this mission is a central hub, to and from which the player transports. The hub is a Keeper library compound, familiar scenery for a Thief player, and it can be accessed by using a few Keeper glyph symbols throughout the mission. These were put there by Keeper Aleph, who, like Garrett, is working to stop the demon Nyarasal (if you’re not, don’t worry about keeping up with all of the story details like these whenever I cite them; it isn’t necessary for the purpose of this write-up). In the Keeper library hub, Aleph leaves messages for Garrett. These serve as a story-drive, as he gives Garrett steps for what he must do to defeat the demon. They aren’t hand-holders, though; it’s still up to players to explore, find items, and put all the pieces together, though Aleph may give some overall, long-term guidance.

The Keeper hub serves as a way to transport between areas of the mission, as each glyph in it links with a different area of Tempest Isle. The player also picks up a Keeper medallion left behind by Aleph, which can be used to transport oneself to the Keeper hub from any point on the isle. This is equivalent to the fast-travel option in many open-world games, and is a nice design addition on Eshaktaar’s part. Transporting in this world is also used in one of the mission’s puzzles.

The ‘core’ area of Tempest Isle is the Necropolis. The first main objective is to access this area. Once at the Necropolis’ doorway, which takes some time to get to, the player may pull a lever that opens a gate leading to an earlier area of the mission. This is another great looping moment.

Once in the Necropolis, the mission becomes more challenging. For one, many AI combatants, all some form of undead, roam the halls. For another, the main goal in this section is to access the Inner Chambers. To do this, the player must obtain a number of items, and notice a number of well-hidden passageways. The items are few: a handful of Star Gems, a couple piles of incense ash, a Hallowed candle, and old Brother Reginald’s rosary beads—which come in use in this mission.


It’s very fun and satisfying exploring all of the Necropolis. I’ll let my playthroughs speak to this experience. Here I’ll note that summoning the spirit of Brother Reginald, for him to aid one in crossing a chasm to the Inner Chamber, is one of the most memorable moments in this mission. I loved summoning him, and also the way that this loops back to something in the prior mission. Personally, I thought when Brother Reginald first handed me his rosary, back in Arkford’s cemetery, it was just a token. In mission two, it is an integral piece of the puzzle.

The finale portion of the mission is brilliant, and it uses earlier elements, such as the Keeper hub world, and Brother Reginald (again!). Once the demon Nyarasal has been felled, walking around Tempest Isle, with all unlocked and accomplished, is very satisfying. Seeing it all finished, though, makes me want to do it again.

The very end has a reference for Thief players. After teleporting away from Tempest Isle, the player finds themselves in “the Lost City”, which is the location of a mission from Thief I. The people on Tempest Isle came to that place from the Lost City. It’s a surprising, fun end to what is one of the top, greatest Thief II fan-missions.  


The Ideal Horror Experience

           When I was a kid, a friend of mine and I would run around the neighborhood he lived in and go into empty houses that were being built. I was the more cautious of us both, and so always hesitated and felt a little afraid of doing this. But my friend, the bold adventurer, ran right into these empty shells of homes, up the banister-less stairs, into the deepest closets…I marveled at his bravery.

            I always feared being trapped alone in such empty houses. I remember when my family and I toured Hearst Castle, also when I was a kid, that all I could do was fear at the thought of waking up, in the middle of the night, and being on the floor somewhere in a room in this large castle. I thought of the fear and anxiety that would descend as I realized I was in the middle of a maze of an abode, all alone, surrounded by darkness. Escape becomes the primary desire, but seems so unobtainable as the vastness of the house looms out all around.

            Needless to say, I never liked being home alone.

            This has always been the ideal horror experience for me. Trapped in a spacious, empty house, in the dark, all alone, with no certain escape, and no certain idea of what might be lingering in the shadows.

            Haunted-house movies have always been my favorite type of horror film. Scary monsters? Masked killers? Viscous aliens? Ah, I’ll pass. Give me a haunted house, and some unfortunate souls who have to spend the night in it, and I’m in. Cautiously so, of course; at the same time I want to quit watching a haunted-house movie, I can’t tear myself away. Even though I know, eventually, the movie will end, and I’ll then need, somehow, to go to my empty, dark bedroom…open my closet…get ready for bed…get in the bed…turn out the lights…

            But even haunted-house movies can go wrong. They can go overboard with jump scares, ghostly voices, other frights, etc. My horror needs to be subtle. There needs to be more dread than abject fear. Fear wears off once the cause of the fear goes away, but the gut-wrenching feel of dread lingers. The ideal horror experience needs dread, minimal and only well-justified jump scares, thick atmosphere, and all this in a large, empty, dark house.

            Enter Thief.

            Here we have a perfect platform for my ideal horror experience. Because, unlike haunted-house movies, haunted houses in games require that you explore them. You can shout at the person in the movie not to open the door, but this has no effect. In games, you have to open the door. Or you could just sit there. Go to the pause menu. Hit Alt+Tab.

            Thief’s design principles that I’ve highlighted so far—the atmosphere of intimidation, the emphasis on ambiance, the narrative caches, the non-linear exploration—indeed are an ideal match for my kind of horror experience. I’ve already looked at some great horror missions from Thief, namely Thief I’s “Return to the Cathedral” and the Thief II fan-mission “The Inverted Manse”. But, great as these two missions are, in terms of horror, they are only the tip of the iceberg. There are two Thief missions, one fan-made and one official, that execute brilliantly my ideal horror experience. (And, given other gamers’ reactions to them, it’s not just my ideal horror experience).

            One of them, Thief III’s “Robbing the Cradle”, I’ll look at later, and is the last mission I cover in this project. The other, the Thief II fan-mission “Rose Cottage”, by Saturnine, I cover next. So, shut the door, turn down the lights, and get ready for a great haunted house experience.

Rose Cottage, by Saturnine

(Rose Cottage was originally uploaded on October 31st, 2009)

~Rose Cottage, by Saturnine

            Playing through “Rose Cottage” for the first time is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is, I think, the greatest haunted house experience in gaming. As I said in the previous post, when it comes to horror or haunted movies, I prefer those that emphasize atmosphere and fear of the unknown. The 1960s version of The Haunting is a favorite of mine. It gives me what I want from a haunted-house movie. “Rose Cottage” is the 1960s The Haunting of game experiences.

Of course, here we’re dealing with a different plane—interactivity, exploring a virtual environment—and on that note, “Rose Cottage” operates on a horror-design philosophy that runs parallel with mine. Atmosphere is established and maintained, and none of the jump scares are cheap. The dread when exploring the Hollow Lane Mortuary, setting of “Rose Cottage”, is real. (I mean, look at the video below. If you were behind the mouse and keyboard, could you explore that house?)

Unlike the other fan-mission videos, I only include gameplay recording from the beginning of “Rose Cottage”. It also only has one ‘take'.

I don’t include footage of the whole mission because I think it would defile the experience. I don’t think the “Rose Cottage” experience can be captured in video. Of course, that could be said for any mission I’ve covered (hah!). Indeed, the nuance of playing a Thief mission can only be experienced and enjoyed by…playing it. But, this is especially true for those with a horror atmosphere. And even more especially true for “Rose Cottage”.

In this mission, you do not play as Garrett, but as a paranormal investigator, and you've been hired by a mortician to discover why his home and adjacent morgue have become haunted. 
If you haven't been watching all the videos so far, I encourage you to watch this one. So turn out the lights, put on the headphones, make it full screen, and enjoy a taste of "Rose Cottage":

“Rose Cottage” isn’t just great for its horror atmosphere. It also has a clever, adventure-style ‘object hunt’ type of gameplay. For example: the mortician’s daughter has a special UV light, but it needs batteries. You need to find the batteries, put them in the light, and then use it. Using the light will reveal arrows drawn on the floor by the little girl with a special kind of crayon. These lead to a secret she’s hidden, and that is also essential to the completion of the mission.

Finding keys, finding and figuring out how to use items, and opening up gateways from the other side are a few designs that make “Rose Cottage” a great experience all around, atmosphere and gameplay included.

“Rose Cottage” is an example of how Thief’s emphasis on unguided exploration in an atmosphere-of-intimidation makes a great recipe for a horror experience. I’m too jaded to be wowed by today’s horror-themed games; I play Thief missions.

~ (Do note that “Rose Cottage” is not the last look at a horror level in this project. The last mission I look at, Thief III’s “Robbing the Cradle”, is another brilliant horror experience.)

*Also: if you'd like to read the words of one of the fan-mission authors, read through this interview that one TTLG member conducted with Saturnine.

The Directness of the Experience, and a Note on the First-Person Perspective

One element I love about the original Thief games is the directness of the play experience in them. This is an element of many older games, when cinematics and highly-detailed visual graphics were not an expected part of the experience. Low-polygon, or ‘blocky’ visual graphics allowed for the construction of larger, more intricate environments—without any ‘load zones’ breaking the experience—and also for a more direct connection between the player and the game environment.

            Look at recent games such as Dishonored (2012) or even the Thief reboot from 2014: the highly-detailed, cinematic scenery of the gameworld looks nice, but most of it is blocked off from the player, by either “invisible walls” or constructs such as large fences or stone walls. And if it isn’t blocked off, it can only be connected to at certain, predetermined points.

            This isn’t always the case. Dishonored did a good job of allowing the player to “blink”—or, fly forward, in the air, towards a ledge or platform—to most surfaces or ledges in the gameworld. But it doesn’t match to Thief and Thief II’s allowance for the player to climb or mantle up onto every surface in the game environment, whether it leads to anything or not. The 2014 Thief reboot is worse. Navigating its environment feel very clunky, and the connection with the buildings in the game world, as the player climbs about them, is indirect. Also, in Thief and Thief II, you can attach a rope arrow to any wooden surface. In the 2014 Thief, a rope arrow can only be attached to wooden beams predetermined, by the designer, to be ‘rope-arrow-attachable.’

Not just in the 2014 Thief, but in many new games, most of the game environment is just scenery that can’t be explored or interacted with. A pile of highly detailed barrels and boxes on the side of the street is, in feel, no different than a pile of solid cement would be. In Thief and Thief II, the player can jump on, touch, mantle, and, in general, interact with just about anything in the gameworld. Such freedom may lead to more easily being able to break the game, and it does depend on low-polygon, simple graphics. But these tradeoffs are worth the more direct experience, and make the game more fun.

A point to go along with this is that the first-person perspective in the Thief games is very important. (Though Thief III offers an optional third-person perspective, the game begins, by default, from the first-person view.) First-person gives the player a direct visual connection to the game environment. For a game like Thief, where atmosphere and non-linear exploration are important, the first-person perspective is key. It eliminates a barrier, and thus allows the player to get ‘straight’ to the experience.

This ‘barrier’ is the additional layer the player must deal with in third-person games of manipulating a polygonal character on the screen. For platformers like Rayman 2, third-person is key—playing platform game from the first-person perspective would not work well. Jumping across several platforms, as they move and so forth, requires a far-back, distant perspective. But Thief, an immersive sim, needs the first-person; controlling a camera, essentially what first-person is, allows for a more direct connection to the environment, key for a game where the exploration thereof is so vital.

(A third variant in more current games are first-person games where, though the player sees through the main character’s eyes, there is a still a body being manipulated; and so the camera, rather than being free floating, is like on the face of a person. Thief III itself is like this, which gives that more clunky movement, and less a sense of direct connection to the game environment, as the first two Thief games have.)

The Black Frog, Mission 1

(The Black Frog was originally uploaded on March 12, 2012, and as such is the most recent fan-mission covered in this project.)

-"The Black Frog":
            Designed by TTLG user Gaetane, "The Black Frog" is a five-mission long campaign. It is an excellent collection of missions, each one of them, especially the last two, attesting strongly to Thief's design potentials. Gaetane also made other great fan-missions before this one, such as "Emilie Victor".

-The Black Frog, Mission 1: Songs and Laughter

            Gaetane’s grand epic begins with a simple, small, and, mostly, cheery mission. There is no need to sneak—the whole coastal town is celebrating! It’s the eleventh annual “Sea Songs” festival, and Garrett is in town on a job.

Gaetane’s little touches of detail, which appear in her first four missions as well, are all here, and delightful. Lovers chase each other through the streets. An old man hobbles on a walking-stick (and, if you pay attention to a readable, you know to follow him to where he keeps a treasure hidden). Townspeople dance and make music. The sun is even shining—this is a rare Thief mission that takes place during the day.

            But a dark story is brewing, and the player gets a glimpse of this when going to meet a contact. Garrett is meeting a contact, someone named Irvin, who is working for a Sir Belmont, and is going to give Garrett information on the job Belmont is hiring him for. This job is to steal a painting from a Sir Garivaldi, whose estate is near this town.  

As soon as the contact starts talking, he’s struck by an arrow through the open window. A rush to the window is too late—the assassin is nowhere to be seen. But the mission must go on. The player now must look for information elsewhere

            Returning to his apartment, Garrett discovers a note from the Keepers, specifically, Keeper Gerald. They’re warning Garrett about going after this Portrait. But this is a lucrative opportunity that Garrett is not going to pass up.