Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 7.

“To serve the nobility is the highest privilege in life of course but slavery is just so… distasteful.”

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The fourth floor of Angelwatch is both more ostentatious and better illuminated than those below.

Annotated Walkthrough, 6:

Without the option to read the books sitting upon the shelves there is little to determine if the library of Angelwatch was created to serve a functional purpose or whether it exists merely as ornamentation for visitors. At least one Mechanist appears interested in reading the collected works, he might just be easily distracted but the Mechanists have already shown themselves to be more professional than the household guards regularly encountered throughout the City.

Regardless of his motivations the single Mechanist on this floor is easily avoided. Entering the library from the third floor the more obviously safe route lies to the west keeping to the shadows against the wall and away from the Mechanist. Staying in darkness and moving pass the bookcases in the southwestern corner of the Library will lead you to the foot of the stairs and your means of access to the fourth floor. Despite the shadows it is sensible to move slowly through this part of the library as a Worker Bot can frequently be encountered amongst the shelves at the bottom of the stairs. Detectable by the mutterings it makes to itself the Worker Bot is a smaller companion to the Combat Bot. Unarmed and blind until they have heard a noise Worker Bots will immediately flee to sound the alarm upon confirmation of a threat. Fortunately there is not always enough space for the Bot to maneuver through this part of the Library and it can frequently be found stuck on the geometry, and is thus easily avoided. When it is not getting stuck the Bot walks a patrol that in general takes it through the third floor, down the stairs to the second floor and back again. When and where its patrol crosses paths with that of other wandering NPCs will determine where it is likely to get stuck on walls and steps. The jostling two NPCs partake in when attempting to move through the same narrow space can often be enough to nudge the Worker Bot into a position from which it cannot free itself. Unfortunately when it is stuck in such a way it cannot be deactivated with a Water Arrow to the boiler, it will also still react to noise and if it detects anything the change of AI state has the effect of breaking its paralysis and it will merrily stomp away to raise the alarm.

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Unless you are cautious, or find an alternate route, the Mechanist will hear you ascending the stairs.

Carved from stone, and partially illuminated, the stairs to the second floor of the library, (the fourth floor of Angelwatch) don’t immediately present the most inviting route, thankfully there are other options. As with any hard surface, Moss Arrows or moving slowing will enable you to reach the floor above undetected, though looking up presents additional possibilities. Paneled in wood the library ceiling is a perfect target for a Vine Arrow, or two, bringing the walls of the upper level within reach.

The next gramophone recording can be found on a table against the west wall, along with yet another portrait of Karras. By this stage you’d be forgiven for sensing a degree of narcissism from the head of the Mechanists. It’s possible, and likely, those portraits were hung exclusively for the night’s festivities yet they do seem to have been given just as much prominence as any of the many religious icons on display inside Angelwatch. It doesn’t seem like happenstance that there is a portrait of Karras hanging in the Mechanist Chapel, the Library and as the first thing visitors will seen upon entering the main concourse. Karras’ elevation of himself to a position of equality with the Master Builder is a theme that will become more noticeable in subsequent levels as the Mechanists take on the role of primary antagonist over the now deceased Sherrif Truart.

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Another recording, another portrait of Karras.

The bookcase adjacent to the gramophone table will allow you to initiate the recording while remaining hidden from the noblewoman and her strange companion; and as with the other recordings neither of them react to it starting again apparently of its own accord. The fourth recording you will have heard, this is actually the second recording of six and will shed some light on the “Servants” Karras mentioned in the recording found in the Chapel on the second floor. While describing the various tasks the Servants are suited for there is a noteworthy pause before the final task “gardening”, at this stage it is meaningless and may well go unnoticed. Only in the final few levels of the game will the relevance of his pause become significant. It is also not the only time the Servants ability to serve as gardeners will be referenced during your visit to Angelwatch.

Scant feet from where you are standing the noblewoman’s strange companion is one of the very Servants Karras is referring to, Servants he has provided as a gift to his guests the very richest citizens in the City.

These Servants lie at the heart of Karras’ grand plan, and his apparently generous act of gifting them to the noble houses of the City is merely a means of ensuring they have access to the extensive gardens likely kept by the City’s richest. Installed within the body of each Servant is a device called The Cultivator which, when triggered by a signal from Karras, will emit a substance known variously as either Rust Gas, Necrotic Mutox or The Breath of The Builder. This substance consumes all organic matter it comes into contact with creating a rust like compound and more of itself. By seeding these Servants within the large gardens of the City Karras hopes to start a chain reaction that will produce a cloud large enough to destroy all organic life, thereby converting the City into the Builder’s Paradise.

Events witnessed by Garrett within Angelwatch foreshadow a plot reveal that will not occur for a further four levels.

Even without this foreknowledge the Servants themselves are unsettling, having already listened to the recording in the Chapel you will know that they are not entirely mechanical in nature and were once members of society, those deemed troublemakers and vagabonds but still, humans not machines and certainly not whatever they are now. When they speak the dual nature of the Servants is unmistakable, there are clearly two separate voices, two distinct identities existing under that single immobile mask. A subdued voice, often of a girl or young man can be heard begging for help, for forgiveness, this entreaty is then echoed by a second more composed, more artificial voice. Whether the first voice is meant to indicate that something of what the Servants once were remains, or whether it is simply a remnant, a ghost, is not clear though the second voice clearly belongs to the dominant identity as this is the one that takes over when the Servant becomes suspicious or alerted.

Exit from the library can be found in the northern wall, almost directly above the door on the floor below. This door opens onto a brightly lit corridor running east to west. The library side of the doorway is in shadow though not enough to entirely conceal you from the noblewoman and her companion so it may be necessary to make a decision between potentially arousing their suspicion or moving through before you are certain of the safety of such an act. Of course, there is always the option to lean into the door and listen for the footsteps of any NPCs that might be moving around this corner of Angelwatch’s fourth floor.

Having already encountered one on the floor below, and considering the party supposed to be taking place tonight, it should come as little surprise that there are more civilians on this floor, and they are move active. In fact there are more people on this floor than on any of the those you will have previously visited.

In the wall opposite a door opens onto a room containing the western fireplace. Its carpeted floor and the shadows cast by the fireplace make this a good place to pause for a moment, especially if you have timed your exit from the library badly and nearly walked into either one or both of the patrolling guards on this floor.

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Margaret is easily distracted from her concern for the well being of the Servants.

Opening the door will have triggered a conversation between the two nobles standing to the north of the fireplace, though the dialogue has been written as if you have interrupted them mid-conversation. What initially sounds like a conversation about the morality of creating such Servants, quickly goes awry as whatever compassion Margaret may have is quickly eroded by Christopher, and the thought that the Servants might make good gardeners.

When the conversation is concluded the woman will leave via the door to the north and proceed up the main staircase to the sixth floor. It is possible that the man will also leave, though this is a much less frequent occurrence, one I’ve been unable to recreate. This scenario is seen on several occasions throughout Thief. Once triggered two or more NPCs will engage in a scripted conversation, their discussion including some information useful to the completion of your current objectives, or simply providing some contextual grounding to events, upon conclusion one or more of them will begin moving. Keeping these NPCs in a fixed position until their conversation is triggered means that whatever they have to say is less likely to be missed by the player, this is particularly useful if they are discussing events relevant to the current level, as is often the case. Additionally it encourages patience in players who do trigger these conversations as moving away before they are completed will limited their knowledge of where the NPCs elect to go afterward. As with any scripted event foreknowledge can be used to exploit this behaviour, which is a form of player behaviour few games have attempted to compensate for.

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The corridors and rooms on the fourth floor of Angelwatch can all look very similar making it easy to lose your bearings.

Aligned east to west the main corridor on this floor runs the width of the building, and depending on the timing of their patrol routes can be patrolled by either one or both of the Mechanist guards on this floor.

The male mechanist patrols between the fourth floor landing and the elevator at the end of the main corridor, while his female companion walks a route that overlaps with his, taking her from the northeastern tower to the landing and back. Overlapping patrol routes are common in the more challenging areas of Thief, they have the benefit of appearing to be more secure while in fact providing an easily readable security loophole for players to exploit. Two guards patrolling through the same space creates a redundancy, they can no longer be guarding multiple places at once. When they are both in one area the rest of their patrol route will be left unprotected, and when they both leave that area they will not return until they have completed their patrol. If you think back to the main rooms on the previous two floors they were both at a point where the patrols of multiple NPCs overlapped. On the second floor the entrance to the Chapel was a point where the patrols of the Combat Bot and the Mechanist guard overlapped, while the third floor gallery marked a point on the patrol route of both Mechanist Guards on that floor. When both NPCs are in the same room, it presents a challenge but observation of their movements will allow you to find a point in time at which neither of them are in that room and it becomes all but unguarded, a perfect security loophole. This is one of the core principles of level design for stealth games the creation of spaces that appear secure but on examination prove to be terrible examples of security.

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The shadows in this hallway make it a good place from which to observe the patrolling guards on this floor.

East of the library the main corridor is joined by parallel corridor leading to the fourth floor landing. A small metal machine sits quietly in the centre of a darkened alcove to the east. This is one of several areas like this on the fourth floor that several little function beyond being places in which to hide either yourself or the bodies of guards you may have killed or otherwise incapacitated. The position of this alcove makes it a superb position from which to observe the patrol routes of the Mechanists on this floor or from which to ambush the male guard as he rounds the corner on his way to the fourth floor landing.

Unlike the previous floors the main corridors here lead directly onto the landing and the wandering civilians that are a frequent hazard throughout Angelwatch’s upper stories. Fortunately the shadows cast by the lights inset into the walls extend further across the width of the corridor than the similar ones on the third floor. Not only does this allow a cautious player to traverse the length of the corridor undetected, even by a guard bare feet away, it also allows them to open the door in the western wall without revealing their presence. The reaction provoked by a door apparently opening of its own volition is inconsistent but usually the most you will need to deal with is a single reaction line from any NPCs that observe it.

The landing of the fourth floor can easily be one of the busiest areas in the whole of Angelwatch. Triggered upon reaching the third floor landing a young man walks an extended route which may take him from the second floor and the bedroom in the south centre of this floor and back again. At the same time, and triggered by reaching the fourth floor landing itself, a woman in a red dress walks between the library and the second floor  There is also the possibility that there will be a third Mechanist Guard on patrol, his route occasionally taking him between the library and the northwestern tower. It can be difficult to ascertain the exact routes these NPCs take as they are extended, include numerous pauses and might in fact change over time. The relative unpredictability of their movements means making assumptions about who will be in a particular area at a given time can prove dangerous. It’s not uncommon for these wandering NPCs to come across hastily stashed bodies, either dead or unconscious, and sound the alarm. As with most hazards in Thief the only consistent solutions are direct intervention, which often leads to an escalation of problems and might not even be viable, or excessive caution. (Note: I studied the patrol routes for these three NPCs and the Worker Bot over the course of hours and I’m was still not convinced I could say for certain what their exact patrol routes were. It was only later that I found out that there are no fixed paths for these particular NPCs they are meant to be unpredictable.)

To the east the balcony extends out over the atrium, opening as it does directly onto the landing, and with a Crossbow Mechanist standing watching on the southern balcony the acrobatic route to the other side of the atrium is less useful it may have been on the third floor.

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Unless and until you deal with the Crossbow wielding Mechanist the acrobatic route across the balconies isn’t a sensible option.

The optimal time to traverse the main corridor is when the both Mechanists are in the corridor leading to the fourth floor landing, it’s a trivial task to wait in the alcove at the south end of the corridor until it’s time to move. If you decide not to wait there are still ways of avoiding detection. Half way down the length of the corridor an archway to the north opens onto the first of two small rooms which eventually connect to the southern balcony, where the Crossbow Mechanist will be standing with her back to you.

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Apparently in the City Health Potions are worth locking in chests.

On the opposite side of the corridor an unlocked doorway opens into an empty carpeted room. Directly in front of you is the fireplace against the southern wall, while flanking you on either side a single beds with expensive blue chests at their feet. Both locked these chests contain a health potion and a small stack of gold coins. With the door closed behind you this is a relatively safe room, but leaving it can be a problem if you don’t take the time to find out the position of the guards in the corridor beyond; possibly either through listening at the door or by using a Scouting Orb.

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There’s a strange noise coming from beyond these archways.

Through the archway a small closet to the east serves as a good place from which to observe this stretch of the main corridor. At the same time its darkened interior, door and position off any patrol routes make it a great place to hide the bodies of dead or incapacitated NPCs.

Faint chanting or choral music can be heard through a further archway to the north, beyond two angel statues stand in alcoves flanking the doorway to the southern balcony. Bathed in light from above the sound seems to emanate from the statues themselves. Whether it is actually chanting or the noise of wind moving through myriad pipes and ducts above is difficult to make out. Directly above is the office of Karras himself where the noise is hard to make out if it is present at all, but on the level above a large fountain dominates the ballroom on the sixth floor where the sound is as strong as it is here. It’s possible ducts connect from the roof of Angelwatch to here and the sound is simply the wind moving through them, or that music is being piped in as part of some religious display, either way the sound is difficult to make out and unsettling for it.

The sound is similar to the industrial droning that can be heard throughout Thief and with no discernible source it can be difficult to ascertain why the sound exists at all. One effect it does have however subtle, is to make the statues and the area around them uncomfortable as if there’s more than simply the sound that is unexplainable.

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Even without the eerie sound surrounding them the angel statues are far from comforting.

The patrol routes of the two Mechanist guards diverge at the end of the main corridor just north of the the elevator shaft. As on most other floors the area directly ahead of it is well illuminated with electric lamps, though there are shadows at the end of the main corridor that provide enough concealment to wait out its arrival if you opt to use it.

Following the patrol route of the female Mechanist leads into the northwestern tower with its guest bedrooms, all of which are currently unoccupied. Before reaching them you need to pass the fireplace set into the eastern wall, in the shadows to the south of which is an entry point into the air ducts.

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Fire… Exit…

Entering or exiting the ducts on the fourth floor presents the greatest risk, the means of access is scant feet away from an area patrolled by two Mechanists and there is neither a door nor walls to obscure the sound of your footsteps on the metal plating. In an emergency, or when you have already been detected, this still provide a good means of escape from Angelwatch, though there is a more dramatic means of escape just around the corner.

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There are no double beds anywhere in Angelwatch, maybe the Mechanists are a chaste order.

Much like it does on the third floor, the corridor leading into the northeastern tower makes a pair of sharp turns, first to the west and then back to the north where a doorway leads onto the atrium balcony; best avoided if you’ve not dealt with the Mechanict Crossbow guard as the it provides little in the way of concealment. A closed door to the north opens into a modestly furnished bedroom. There’s little of interest within beyond a small coin purse that one of Karras’ guests has apparently left on the table.

Opposite the entrance to the balcony the corridor continues again to the east, before turning north when it runs alongside the external wall, doorways to the west led into a pair of bedrooms, again modestly furnished compared to the likes of Lady Louisa’s suite. The first of these rooms contains a locked blue chest holding the paltry sum of five gold coins, less even that can be obtained from the purse on the table in the other bedroom.

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Glass that thick explains why it’s so difficult to see though it.

Where the corridor meets the eastern wall of Angelwatch a window has been opened, looking out as it does over a number of deserted buildings this window is not notable for the view; though it does offer a better look at the fate of the drunkard’s companion who you may have spotted earlier. Beyond the window a narrow a ledge runs along the side of the building to a point above the original hatch through which you entered.

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Going outside again just reinforces the claustrophobic atmosphere inside Angelwatch.

Extending out from the wall, atop an angled metal platform, is the giant angel statue that you will have first seen when approaching Angelwatch. With no Slowfall Potions anywhere in the level (Likely to prevent players attempting to reach the streets of Dayport), the drop to the metal below is fatal. It isn’t be until Thief: Deadly Shadows that players have the option of creating their own means of cushioning their falls; shooting a Water Arrow into a patch of Moss causes the Moss to rapidly expand creating a soft carpet which mitigates falling damage. Fortunately there are still options, the metal side of the platform on which the angel stands is made up of a metal grating, into which Vine Arrows will gain purchase. The ability to hold fast on this surface is the single difference between Vine Arrows and the Rope Arrows you will have come across in prior levels. By shooting a Vine Arrow into the grating and taking a leap of faith from the ledge, you can jump the gap, grab onto the Vine and descent it safely to the ground. It’s even possible to perform the same action in reverse, by using the Vine Arrow to climb onto the platform before leaping across to the ledge. Doing so is difficult to and will almost certainly result in you taking damage as you land on the ledge.

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A gift from Viktoria, the Vine Arrows make their first appearance as default equipment in Life Of The Party.

It’s likely this is the first example of a grated surface you will have come across in this level so its connection to Vine Arrows might not be obvious, this and the risky acrobatics involved make it doubtful that this will be the primary means of entering Angelwatch for most players.

Back through the window it’s time to continue upwards. Instead of heading straight to the fifth floor we will instead use the main stairs to ascend to the sixth, as visiting the floors in this order provides some benefits that will make things easier when we reach Karras’ office.

Design on the Brink.

To coincide with QuakeCon, last week saw a number of Bethesda published games receiving discounts on Steam, part of that promotion was a ‘Free Weekend’ for Brink. Having heard mixed things about Splash Damage’s “mingleplayer” title, I took this opportunity to investigate for myself. I play Team Fortress 2 and occasionally Halo Reach when the mood strikes and I’ve spent time playing and designing levels for Unreal Tournament 3 however prior to that I hadn’t spent much time time playing online multiplayer games since Quake III Arena, though even now I can close my eyes and play a game of Q3DM17 ‘The Longest Yard’ in my head. So I started Brink not as a complete neophyte but also not as a veteran of Splash Damage’s Enemy Territory series; though I did spent several hours with the original multiplayer portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

Once through the menus and character customisation phase my first impressions of Brink were not favourable. The layout of the levels, combined with the UI, often made it difficult to find particular Objectives. Markers on the UI would point straight ahead even when it was frequently necessary to not only turn away from the Objective itself but then head either up or down in order to reach it. This was highly counter-intuitive the architecture of the levels guided my movement in a particular direction and the UI was confirming that I was nearing the Objective yet in all but a few instances I would run into a wall and have to turn almost ninety degrees to locate the way to progress. Once I reached them the Objectives were frequently in locations with few uniquely identifiable landmarks which made orientating myself with relation to the environment and other players a challenge.

I’ve no doubt that repeated play would have helped me learn the layout of each level, but for a player approaching Brink for the first time the damage had already been done. My first reaction was one of getting lost and frustrated.

Even for a new player this is rarely an issue in Team Fortress 2, or Halo Reach, and the big differences are in the use of environmental cues both obvious and subtle to guide the player through the level. Within Team Fortress 2 players are either BLU or RED and areas of the level occupied by one team or the other are coloured appropriately. In addition more blunt and obvious signposting directs players to ‘Capture Point A’ or the BLU ‘Flag Room’.

The two factions in conflict within Brink don’t really give themselves to the use of colour coded environments. The Rebels and the Security have individual colour schemes in the broadest sense but the variation within each can make it difficult to determine exactly which side is which. This is part of a larger problem with the visual design of Brink in that it is difficult to tell at a glance enough information about other players to make useful tactical decisions. Additionally the highly dynamic nature of the objectives within Brink creates further problems when considering colour coding the environment.

The use of direct signposting however would make a lot of sense. The Ark is an environment build for people to live and work in so human readable signs would not be out of place. Such signposting would require careful design to ensure that it remained readable in Brink‘s visually busy environments and also kept to the aesthetic style of the different parts of The Ark. In fact the Reactor level does feature such signposting in the form of coloured lines running along the floor guiding players to different areas of the level. These have two main problems, firstly the nature of the Objectives within the level mean it’s not always clear which of the named locations I wanted to be heading toward at any given moment, and secondly, and possibly more importantly, identifying where those lines are leading required that I find the point on those lines where the location is written on the floor. In order to know which direction to go in I needed to walk through the level looking down at the floor until I could work out which coloured line lead where, suffice to say that didn’t end too well.

Even when implemented superbly these measures are aids and shouldn’t be the only way to guide players through a level. Ideally the very structure, the architecture, or the level itself should do the heavy lifting. How would you go about designing a level for a game like Brink so that the architecture itself helped to guide players, in particular new players, through the space in the most efficient way for the given Objectives?

The difficulty comes in balancing the needs of new players with those of experienced players. The former need to understand where they are going and how to get their while the latter benefit from a more nonlinear layout where their skills and knowledge of the level can be put to use. Brink effectively caters to the second group of players, with levels that allow various opportunities to use knowledge and skill to gain a tactical advantage, but it is frequently unsuccessful at providing the type of guidance required by new players.

Brink_01

"Wait, was it left or right at the Security Check?"

With that in mind, if I were designing a Brink level this is the approach I would take.

With Objectives and Spawn points decided upon I would set each of the Primary Objectives in or near an identifiable and named landmark. Such locations will naturally become focal points of action by dint of them being Objective locations, additionally it is just as natural for the corridors and hallways leading to such locations to be designed from an architectural perspective to lead people toward them; offering different perspectives of them from different angles during the approach. Each Primary Objective location would then be linked by these logically constructed spaces, and since each location would be associated with a particular named landmark simple in-context signposting could be used to add an additional layer of guidance. Furthermore players could refer to these locations using their names in order to coordinate their movements with the rest of their team.

New players would be informed of their Objective and its position in reference to being near or at the specific landmark. They could then follow the obvious route to the Objective in order to rapidly enter combat. With approaches designed to offer glimpses of the final location these players would have the opportunity to survey their Objective before engaging the opposing team and if necessary push ahead or wait for support. From the defenders perspective these glimpses of the approaching team would allow them to estimate numbers and make preparations accordingly.

Consider the Boneyard level from Halo Reach, when played in ‘Invasion’, the attacking team approach the first Objective across an open area that provides both cover and a line of sight to the Objective and the area around it, allowing both attackers and defenders time to form plans and take preparatory actions before reaching engagement range. Pushing further through the level attacking players approach subsequent Objectives by moving through the half destroyed hulk of the USS Commonwealth. The ship again provides cover from attack while allowing glimpses of the area immediately around the next Objective. Compare this to the Security Tower level in Brink, where for either team it is all but impossible to even see the first Objective until you are on top of it, and there’s very little time for preparations before entering combat. Obviously Boneyard is a vast map, larger than any in Brink but the ability to catch a glimpse of what is going on before you enter a particular encounter is something common to all levels within Halo Reach, even ones as compact as Zealot. There are instances in Team Fortress 2 where you are not offered a sight of what lies ahead but these encounters almost exclusively occur as the climax of a level, the final Capture Point of the Second Stage of Dustbowl being a prime example. Still the area surrounding the first Control Points of each Stage of that level are visible from the the Spawn location and players are never asked to enter these first Stages unprepared.

With the majority of new or inexperienced players taking these direct routes it would be easy for an experienced team to lay an ambush for them, this is countered by the ability of attacking players to observe the Objective before committing to any engagement. Giving them the opportunity to wait for support before pressing ahead, encouraging teamwork by making it feel like a choice on the part of the players rather than a stricture imposed by the game.

With this basic layout in place I would now start to layer in additional pathways between the Objectives, along with shortcuts through these direct routes. Indirect, and often requiring the use of SMART to navigate, these additional routes could take experienced players over, under, or through the routes used by newer players. This would allow experienced players to access Objective locations from different directions. Moving via access corridors, across roof spaces or through basement rooms these paths by their very nature would not be as obviously signposted and would allow experienced players to exploit their skill and knowledge of the map to gain an advantage. A well coordinated team could them time an attack so that the defending team were hit from multiple directions simultaneously.

Newer player could even be encouraged to seek out these alternate routes by placing Secondary Objectives along them, or simply by electing to follow the more experienced members of their team.

From the perspective of the defending team, newer player would see the obvious routes for attack and know where to expect the likely attack from whereas experiences players would know to cover the additional entry vectors or to actively enter these secondary routes to engage the attacking team directly.

More complex map layouts could make greater use of secondary routes and non-linear approaches to Objectives, but there’s no reason to abandon the obvious paths, having a navigational safety net to fall back on helps to encourage exploration. The existence of such direct paths also adds to the authenticity of the levels themselves. Whether it’s a place of work, industry or accommodation areas of importance need to be accessible.

A direct route through the environment is not the mark of failure for a multiplayer level consider Team Fortress 2, it’s possible to walk from the Spawn point to each Objective in turn almost on autopilot so good are those levels at subtly directing movement with colour coding, signposting, and above all the physical structure of the level itself. Players who are invested in a game will spend hours mastering the intricacies of each level, but if their first experience is getting lost and frustrated it’s unlikely they will stick around long enough to develop that investment.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 6.

“Take some time to appreciate our gallery…”

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Karras has a unique interpretation of what a gallery should contain.

Annotated Walkthrough, 5:

Mounting the stairs of Angelwatch is an ascent into light. Climbing out of the basement like claustrophobia of the second floor the gas lamps are replaced with electric lights, the bare brickwork hidden behind paint and paper while small balconies, extending into the incongruously well lit atrium, face a large window looking out across Dayport. Initially this change in atmosphere is not apparent, a dimly lit hallway leads from the landing to the rest of the floor. South of the landing this hallway makes two right angled turns in quick succession. Turning first to the east the hallway connects to a balconies, then turns back to the south and continues past a number of doorways to terminate at the door to a small broom closet.

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The three balconies are just the right distance apart for a little acrobatics.

Opening onto rooms and hallways on three sides of the atrium the balconies provide a shortcut across this floor. It might be worth using some Moss Arrows on each of them as the patrol paths of the two Mechanists guards pass close to the entrance to each balcony. In additional, though she is concealed from this position, a Mechanist crossbow guard stands watch on the north facing balcony of the floor above.

To the north a large window looks out over Dayport, there’s not a great deal to see through this window, the large Angel statue obscuring any real view of the city beyond, regardless this single element helps to sell the idea that Angelwatch exists within the larger context of Dayport and the City itself. This is a marked contrast to the way locations are treated in other Thief II levels. First City Bank and Trust for example, is supposedly within the city limits yet it is presented as an entirely isolated construction with no connection to the streets and buildings that apparently neighbour it. The use of a series of city hubs in Thief: Deadly Shadows goes some way toward mitigating this sense of isolation. Locations are accessed directly from the streets of the city, yet the discrete mission based structure of Thief means this is something that cannot be entirely avoided.

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The play of light and shadow on the floor seems almost to mirror the pattern on the walls.

Patrolled by a pair of Mechanist guards Angelwatch’s third floor has little in the way of functional territory beyond providing access to one of the recording devices you will need to find. It exists because in a building such as Angelwatch it should exist, it marks a transition between the austere functionality of the previous floor and the ostentation of the upper storeys; more formal than the proceeding floor it is still less luxuriant than those above it. Much like the second floor the predominate colour throughout is grey, though here it is lightened by off white trim, and patterned wallpaper.

Turning south before your reach the balcony you will pass underneath a metal lintel supported by two beams. Visible throughout Angelwatch they serve the logical purpose of providing structural support while the shadows cast from them are deep enough to provide concealment in what are otherwise well lit corridors. On the upper floors these are covered with wooden paneling to conceal the metalwork within though their dual function remains.

The electric light inset into the east wall illuminates the doorway opposite while the shadow cast by the lip of its recess creates a patch of darkness at the base of the wall. Parts of this hallway are patrolled by both the Mechanists guards on this floor and if you wish to explore the room to the west you will need to leave the shadows to do so. The potential risk and reward dynamic created by this use of lighting seems wasted here. The room to the west holds nothing of interest, and its position on the illuminated side of the hallway means there is little benefit to using it to observe the guards’ patrol routes; this task can be performed just as easily from the safety of the shadows along the opposing wall.

This room does contain one object of note, within is the fireplace in the middle of the western wall, a simple element that can help you orientate yourself within Angelwatch.

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One of a number of rooms on this floor with little functional purpose.

Further south the next doorway opens to the east directly onto the gallery where another gramophone can be seen, once again on a table beneath a portrait of Karras. This area is referred to by Karras in the recording as the “gallery” though other than his own portrait and a statue of an angel the only objet d’art visible are a variety of cogs and gears. The implication is far from subtle, the Mechanist view of art and culture is myopic to say the least.

Entering from the western hallway, there is another entrance to the gallery on the wall opposite though this one is not directly in line, being instead a few feet further toward the south wall. In the middle of that curving wall a closed door leads into a further room. A female Mechanist guard patrols between this room and the entrance to the Library in the southwestern corner of this floor. The path of her companion also takes him through this room as he patrols between the third floor landing and the bedrooms in the northeastern tower. Next to the gramophone, in the north wall, a fourth doorway leads onto the balcony which looks out directly on to the large atrium window.

With four different entry points, metal flooring and lighting provided solely by electric lamps hanging from the roof, the gallery is immediately readable as a dangerous location. You need to listen to the gramophone recording, but how are you to go about it? The lights cannot be doused so there will be few places of darkness to hide in if the guards enter. The metal flooring will give you away if you move any faster than a crawl, noise that will alert the previously mentioned Crossbow guard currently hidden from view on the balcony above.

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The gallery, one of the most hostile areas in the whole of Angelwatch.

Again the options are manifold and depend on both your own preferences and the current difficulty level. With a few exceptions for specific level scenarios Thief II makes no explicit requirement that you maintain a low profile on any of its three difficulty settings, Normal, Hard or Expert. It is possible to directly confront guards and civilians regardless of the difficult selected however on Hard you will fail the mission if you kill any civillians, Expert adds the additional condition that you kill no human enemies of any kind. Though these restrictions limit some of the options available, the tools at your disposal can be used to deal with non-player character in non-lethal ways, either through distraction or incapacitation. Incongruously it is possible get away with indirectly killing NPCs even on Expert difficulty, within your inventory are Frogbeast Eggs, the creatures that hatch from which are effectively organic land mines that explode on contact with a NPC. Two Frogbeasts are enough to kill a Mechanist guard and any fatalities caused by them are not attributed to you therefore circumventing the restrictions of Hard and Expert.

Along with these limits on lethality, scaled increases in the quantity of loot required, and minor changes to the layout of each level, there is one other major change that occurs between Normal, Hard and Expert. Using a system influenced by GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, each mission requires the completion of certain objectives and as the difficulty increases the number and complexity of these objectives expands. Often completing these additional objectives will require exploration of more of the level, leading to more encounters and potentially requiring the expenditure of more resources. Unlike the other levels in Thief II changing the difficulty for Life Of The Party does not change the number of mission objectives, though the higher loot requirements and the restrictions on killing remain.

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A view of the gallery from the eastern entrance, the balcony can be seen beside the gramophone table.

Moving slowly and keeping the metal column in the centre of the room between you and any patrolling Mechanists will allow you to move through the gallery without drawing attention to yourself. Once again any NPCs within the level seem oblivious to the gramophone starting to play.

You can reach the balcony adjoining the gallery by jumping from either of the other balconies on this floor, or by descending a Vine Arrow from above if you are visiting the floors in a different order. This balcony provides little in the way of concealment, so if there are still Mechanists on patrol it would be advisable to stand back from the doorway once you have activated the recording, or find some other hiding place within audible range to partake Karras’ discourse on the beneficial nature of a “joyful spirit”. His proclamations on the power of aesthetic beauty finishes with a vague reference to the trustworthiness of the servants which he has gifted to each of his visitors.

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Staying out of their line of sight and moving quietly will allow you to bypass all but the most attentive guards.

South of the gallery is a carpeted room, where a woman in a red dress stands admiring the fireplace positioned in the middle of the south wall. There is nothing of value in this room, though it does mark a point on the patrol route of the female Mechanist guarding this floor. The carpeted floor allows you to move quickly without being detected, making this an ideal position to ambush her. The doorway to the east leads, via a short hallway, to the elevator.

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A carpeted floor and a number of dark corners make this rooms an ideal site for staging an ambush.

North of the elevator, inside a small room behind a closed door, is the third floor access to the ducts that run through the eastern wall. Directly to the north of this room, the hallway passes the fireplace on the east wall. Flanking this fireplace are two windows each recessed approximately two feet. Only textures these windows provide no view onto the City itself however the shadow formed in the corner of their recesses is enough to hide in. To the north of the fireplace the shadows surrounding the window are much deeper and extend further into the hallway, though reaching them from here will require moving through the section of hallway directly illuminated by the fireplace.

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A view back toward the gallery from the east wall, entry to the air ducts can be found behind the closed door to the left.

Past the fireplace the hallway makes a series of sharp turns to the west and then back to the north as it moves into the northeastern tower. The physical structure of Angelwatch is such that from the second floor two towers rise in the northwestern and northeastern corners flanking the atrium window and the Angel statue. These towers are only separated for two storeys after which the floor extends out again allowing the fifth and sixth stories to occupy a greater floor space than those immediately below.

While the northwestern tower is given over to the stairwell its counterpart is dedicated mainly to providing bedrooms, most of which are empty. The rooms on this floor are simply furnished and the initial assumption is that they are for what servants are needed to keep Angelwatch operating, of course this is unlikely as Karras’ has his own very specific servants who have little need for sleep. The other possibility is that these rooms are either for Karras’ less prestigious guests or the retinue of those guests who have their own rooms on the floor above.

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The northeastern tower, beyond the doorway to the left is the balcony, while behind each door is a spartan bedroom.

This point where the corridor opens slightly, a doorway to the west leading onto the atrium balcony, marks one of the end points of the male Mechanist guard. His patrol takes him from the third floor landing in the northwestern tower through the gallery to here then back again. From the opposing balcony it is possible to watch him reach this point and begin his return journey, the opportunity can then be taken to jump across the balconies from one side of the atrium to the other and get behind him.

Of the two bedrooms in this tower the one to the north which opens onto a well illuminated section of hallway is empty, while the room to the east with its door shrouded in shadow is occupied by a single female civilian. Another smart design decision, the placement of shadows around this eastern door allows you to observe the room beyond without having to reveal yourself until you choose to. Though with both doors closed the occupancy of each of the two rooms is initially unknown, the room to the north presenting the more risky proposition.

This northern bedroom is unoccupied and contains nothing of value. Despite their silver appearance the hand mirror and hair brush on the table do not constitute loot, though like all similar items in Thief you will need to pick them up before you can be certain whether they are valuable or not. Thief: Deadly Shadows would later implement a “loot glint” system to alleviate this issue with everything that was worth stealing signified by a glint. This single addition also has a number of useful secondary affects. By ensuring that all loot glinted it allows the game to reuse the same models for items like goblets and candlesticks while attaching a loot glint to only specific instances of each model as required. Allowing items to glint from a distance also enables their use as a means of drawing the attention of players to areas of the level they might not realise are accessible; if something is glinting on a distance balcony then there must be a way to reach that balcony. One of the downside to this loot glint is that by clearly indicating items of value it removes the sense of self discovery that comes from exploring a space at your own pace and developing a mental model of which items were likely to be worth stealing are which are merely props.

This problem isn’t present in the eastern bedroom, the bright blue and gold chest on the far side of the room obviously contains something of value, one hundred and twenty gold coins in fact. Avoiding detection by the woman standing at the foot of the bed seems like a challenge and it can be unless you are willing to take advantage of one of the quirks of the perception model used for NPCs in Thief.

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There is clearly something valuable in that chest, good for you that the woman isn’t the most perceptive person in the world.

As always there are a number of ways to draw her out of the bedroom or otherwise distract and dispatch her; Noisemaker Arrows or the application of a judiciously placed Broadhead. If you want to stay unobserved you can do so by sticking close to the wall of the room and moving around behind her, then over the bed to reach the chest. Of the various factors that make Garrett less visible one of them is keeping close to the wall and in this instance the benefit provided by doing so is enough to avoid detection.

Unsurprisingly the chest is locked, it will take both lockpicks in order to open it. Picking locks in Thief requires nothing more than the use one or both of Garrett’s lockpicks, Triangle tooth or Square tooth, and time. Audio feedback is provided by either a continuous clicking to signify unlocking, or a single duller click to indicate failure. Some of the more complex locks will require a change of lockpicks, possibly multiple times, until the lock has been completely picked. The status of a locked door or chest can be seen from the position of the handle, when it is pointing toward the floor the item is unlocked. For a locked door the handle is usually at the horizontal position, how much the handle will move with each second of picking is not consistent so there is no way to judge the relative difficulty of a pick before you start it. Fortunately it is possible to abandon a pick half way and resume at a later point if you are at risk of detection.

With the northeastern tower explored it’s time to move up to the fourth floor and from here there are multiple ways of doing so. There are the three obvious methods, the elevator and ducts can be found in the southeastern corner, while returning to the northwestern tower will allow you to mount the stairs to the fourth floor landing. In the southwestern corner of this floor, on the other side of the gallery is a door we have not yet explored. Beyond is the library of Angelwatch which occupies this corner of both the third and fourth floors, a set of stairs connecting them. There is even a fifth way to reach the fourth floor though it requires some skill, a Vine Arrow shot into the roof beams at the top of the atrium will allow you to climb from the balconies on this floor to those on the floor above. This is not necessarily an obvious route and it is not without risks, the Mechanist crossbow guard on the fourth floor balcony who will spot you should you attempt this route. With the tools at your disposal, Flashbombs and Noisemaker Arrows particularly, there are ways to distract her for long enough to reach the fourth floor balcony and find a hiding spot.

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The Angelwatch library, not very well lit.

We will avoid the more challenging means of reaching the fourth floor and instead, because it is still part of the third floor and has yet to be explored, return through the gallery to the Angelwatch library.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 5.

“The front doors are locked. Looks like Karras wants a captive audience.”

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From your single entry point it’s possible to reach any of the four main floors with little risk.

Annotated Walkthrough, 4:

Your entry to Angelwatch is through a hatch on the eastern side of the second floor. The air ducts you find yourself in branch after several feet where a ladder provides access to the higher floors. The safest way forward for the moment is to continue ahead until you reach the end of the ducts, in a small room in the southeastern corner of the second floor.

Directly ahead a note pinned to the wall provides information on the security arrangements for the evenings proceedings. Usefully the note reveals that the “watchers” (Mechanist security cameras) have been disabled to prevent the guests from “causing any mishaps”. It’s still possible to spot the mechanical faces of the Watchers at various points throughout the level though they are now inert and blind; this knowledge is unlikely to make you feel entirely comfortable around them however given how often they have been a problem in previous levels.

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Your first look at the interior of Angelwatch is rather inauspicious.

Footsteps can be heard beyond the door to this room, and it’s worth leaning into the door to better hear the movement on the other side. There is only a single Mechanist guard on patrol on this floor however her path takes her right up to this door, so stepping out without first being sure of her location is risky.

To your right when exiting this first room is the mechanical elevator that serves all floors of Angelwatch. The noise created when in motion, and your footsteps upon it’s metal surface, are both loud enough to alert nearby guards so care will be needed if you intend to make use of it. Fortunately it’s possible to navigate Angelwatch without making use of this elevator at all.

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It’s a long way down to the base of Angelwatch.

Descending toward the first (ground) floor the overwhelming initial impression is that of size. Several times higher than the upper stories, the walls of the main concourse reach nearly a third of the way up the interior of Angelwatch. The space beneath dominated by massive support structures made from what appears to be granite or some other igneous rock.

The floor below is bathed in light from what at first glance appears to be a giant skylight, however the fact you have come from the floor above, and that it’s still dark outside, mean this cannot be an actual skylight but is instead a powerful light source made to look like one. Set against a rich terracotta wall vertical gold strips accentuate the sensation of height and together with the exposed support beams and faux-skylight they exude a sense of power and industry. The Mechanists are almost Randian in their aesthetics, their architecture, their art, all are designed around a single purpose to make manifest a philosophy, and idea. In this case that of Karras and the Master Builder.

Once on the floor the intersecting shadows casts by the support beams provide an array of hiding places that can be used to avoid discovery by the patrolling Mechanist Combat Bot. Approximately five to six feet tall these steam powered contraptions stand on two large legs, a manipulable claw attached to their left side serves as an arm while a cannon makes them a formidable threat even at range. Unlike the metal Watchers, the glowing left eye of the Combat Bot does not change colour, so their current alert state will need to be determined by studying their behaviour and vocalisations. On the rear of the Combat Bot, red against the bronze and bottle green surface is the boiler that powers it. Due to a minor design flaw this boiler can be shut down if it gets too wet, and a single Water Arrow is enough to stop the Combat Bot in its tracks, while a second Water Arrow will disable it completely. There are other ways of disabling or the Combat Bots though they are either noisy, or require the expenditure of resources that are better used elsewhere; a single Gas Arrow can disable a Combat Bot but such a use would be a waste of such a rare item.

Arranged at the south end of the main concourse facing a portrait of Karras, are three rows of stone pews. In front of them stands a small pedestal, made from the same material as the support beams, upon which a gramophone has been placed. Listening to the gramophone recording initiates a change in your Mission Objectives for this level. Karras is not in attendance this evening, his work taking precedence, instead he has recorded six audio messages for those invited to this “fine and festive evening”. In order to understand Karras’ plans, a least those he is willing to divulge to the City’s nobility, you will need to locate and listen to all six gramophone recordings.

The presentation of the gramophone recording is an example of the attention to detail that is common throughout Thief but especially in regards to its audio design. Distorted by constant hisses and a variety of pops and crackles the recording starts with a faltering Karras unsure if his new device is even working. Throughout you can easily pick up the sounds of movement as he shifts in his chair and rearranges himself.

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The Mechanist security systems are on obvious display, but for tonight they have been deactivated.

To the north through a doorway beneath a large rotating cog the roof rises further still. Several floors above a large window provides light for this demi-atrium, though at the moment this space is somewhat unbelievably illuminated by a single lamp hanging from the roof beams high above. Balconies on the third and fourth floor extend out from three sides, facing the atrium window, and overlooking the gear pattern created by the floor tiles below.

Following the patrol route of the Combat Bot north a hallway connects the concourse to the front entrance which is guarded by a solitary Mechanist. A pair of Watchers can be seen attached to the roof of this hallway, one facing the main concourse, the other the front doors; as expected they have been deactivated for tonight’s proceedings. Alcoves along this hallway will allow you to avoid the Combat Bot however the Mechanist guard won’t move from his position unless provoked. On tables flanking the front door are two statues, they only provide fifteen gold each so it might not be worth attempting to acquire them. However this guard, like all others, cannot operate elevators so he will be unable to pursue you further than the first floor or alert any of his companions to your presence should you be detected.

So far you should have only have crossed paths with two Mechanist guards within Angelwatch, the female guard patrolling the second floor and this male guard inside the front doors. Though it is not uncommon for there to be guards of both genders in Thief II, (in fact the first guard you come across is female) the ratio is rarely one to one, guard forces are predominately male. This isn’t the case with the Mechanists, it is not uncommon to encounter more female than male guards in a given area. For example the commander of the Mechanist forces in Angelwatch, ‘Friend’ Vilnia, is a woman as are approximately half of those on patrol within. The Mechanists also seem more racially diverse than other groups within the city, the majority of those on patrol inside Anglwatch have noticeable darker skin tones than the guards on patrol in Dayport. Racial and sexual politics rarely get a mention in Thief and despite most named characters being male there are various examples of women in positions of power and authority within the nobility and the various factions, none of which are ever remarked upon as anything out of the ordinary.

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Karras has taken measure to ensure none of his guests leave before the party is concluded.

You can use the elevator to return to the upper floors or alternatively you can climb one of the sloping support beams and use a ladder in the northwestern corner of the room to reach the second floor. It may be necessary to wait on the ladder before ascending as the room above is patrolled not only by the lone Mechanist guard on this floor but also another Combat Bot.

This room is illuminated by a fireplace directly ahead of you as your climb up from the first floor. Positioned approximately twenty feet from the southern wall of Angelwatch this fireplace is set against the western exterior wall and as you ascend through the upper floors you will find a similar fireplace in the same position on each floor. This is paired with an identical fireplace in the same position along the eastern wall. From the third floor upward there is another fireplace set into the middle of the southern wall. On this floor that fireplace, if it existed, would be in the centre of the chapel; a wall that in a Christian church would be referred to as the “east wall” regardless of the actual facing of the building.

Subtle architectural touches like this help reinforce that Angelwatch is confined within the boundaries defined by its external walls, walls that you were able to see from the rooftops of Dayport. This is true of all buildings within Thief, with no loading between locations few tricks are available to make interior locations take up more space than that provided within their external walls. What makes Angelwatch unique in this regard is that during your approach you will have had the opportunity to see the building from at least three sides, western, southern and eastern, in that order.

After the relative freedom of the Thieves’ Highway the interior of Angelwatch can feel claustrophobic and constricting. There are fewer opportunities for you to gain an advantage by positioning yourself above the world, the majority of encounters play out on the same horizontal place; Angelwatch has literally leveled the playing field. Exploring a hostile environment recovering information from audio recording and notes left behind, there is a vaguely System Shock feel to the exploration of Angelwatch.

Angelwatch’s second floor is given over to the practicalities of maintaining a large Mechanist presence within the City. Electrical generators vie for space with sleeping quarters while a small chapel provides for the spiritual well being of those living and working within; the second gramophone recording is located within this chapel.

The Combat Bot follows a simple route from the northern entrance to the chapel, past the stairway in the northwestern corner, around the access ladder to the first floor and back again. This overlaps with the final part of the female Mechanist’s patrol route from the lift. Returning from the foot of the stairs her path takes her through the centre of the chapel where a solitary Mechanist priest stands vigil; this is your first encounter with a Mechanist priest.

To the left, through a room containing what appear to be some form of generators or capacitors, the southwestern corner of this floor is taken up by a barracks. Entirely empty, at the foot of each two level bunk is a footlocker. None of which contain anything useful, most are empty and the single locked footlocker only contains a Mechanist hammer.

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That lamp will need to be extinguished if you are to listen to the recording, though be careful as guards have a tendency to turn them on again once they realise they’ve gone out.

Accessible from either the north or the east, the chapel is the functional and logical focus of the second floor. Following the Combat Bot in its patrol will take you to the main entrance, three rows of benches are arranged on either side of a metal plated aisle leading to a simple altar; the two gold candles atop which would make a tempting target for any self respecting thief. His back to you the Mechanist priest goes about his business.

A portrait of Karras hangs against the eastern wall above another gramophone. Despite its position on the second floor this is not the second recording in the sequence of six. The tour through Angelwatch narrated by Karras takes the guests through all six floors of the building but in a non sequential order. There is no requirement to listen to each of the recordings in order but you will need to mentally reassemble the correct sequence if you are to understand the extent of Karras’ plans. This is a similar situation provided by the audio logs in a game like System Shock or BioShock, piecing together contextually connected audio logs into a meaningful order is a second order mechanic in such games. It is made a little easier in this regard by the inclusion of a “Recording x of x” that proceeds each of Karras’ recordings.

Care will need to be taken when approaching the gramophone. The benches are too close to the eastern wall for you to pass them that way. A Moss Arrow can soften your footfalls on the metal aisle or if your timing is good you can creep down it while the Mechanist guard and Combat Bot are at the furthest extremes of their patrol paths. With only two humans on this floor it’s easy to isolate and deal with them, and a pair of Water Arrows will deal with the Combat Bot. If you don’t feel comfortable getting within range, it’s best to avoid the Mechanist Priest if possible. Despite lacking obvious armaments they are able to conjure and launch flaming gears. These magical projectiles are slow moving and easy to dodge but will inflict heavy damage if they strike you.

Maybe the Mechanists are used to their equipment malfunctioning and starting itself at random, or maybe the constant drone of steam powered machines has made them all deaf, but initiating the recording doesn’t even elicit a response from the Mechanist Priest standing a few feet away.

Karras’ message provides little information but the undertones are unpleasant, he talks about metal servants and how the souls behind the masks were “lost and unproductive” exactly who or what these servants are will become clear in time.

Opposite the gramophone, on the western wall a heavily locked door leads to a small ante room, the key to this door can be found hanging from the belt of the Mechanist Priest. Like most keys you find in Thief it is unlabeled, however it’s a logical assumption to make that it would unlock the storage room for the chapel. Within a Scouting Orb can be recovered from amidst the various mechanist devices on the shelf, while a locked safe below contains a pair of golden chalices.

The door in the northern wall of this storage room opens up into a small annex off the chapel, this area is on the patrol route of the female Mechanist guard and provides patches of darkness in which to wait and allow her to pass by. West from here leads back into the chapel while east takes you to the hallway containing the elevator and access to the air ducts. To your north the eastern fireplace extends into the hallway and a door at the far end that opens into another barracks room in the northeastern corner.

Just before you reach this door a side passage branches off to the west, your left as you approach. This narrow passage runs behind the wall and exits directly north of the main chapel entrance. It isn’t on the patrol routes of either the Combat Bot or Mechanist guard, and provides a handy shortcut from the chapel to the relative safety of the northeastern barracks.

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Just as empty of Mechanists this northeastern barracks provides more opportunity to restock your supplies than its twin in southwestern corner of this floor.

Unlike the barracks in the southwestern corner the footlockers here contain a number of useful items to restock your inventory: Broadhead Arrows and a Mine.

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The note on Vilnia’s desk provides a cryptic hint of things to come, Garrett’s presence may not be entirely unexpected.

Off this barracks to the east is the room of Vilnia, the commander of the Mechanists forces in Angelwatch. Upon her table is a note from Karras himself listing the final locations of each of the “voice machines”. It ends with a cryptic reference to an additional machine for “our special guest”, the relevance of this will become clear in due course, though it would not be difficult to make an educated guess as to who this guest might be. Even if you haven’t found and activated the first of the gramophone recorders reading this note will have no affect on your original objective, as the importance of these voice recorders is unclear until listen to one of them and realise Karras is not in attendance at Angelwatch this evening.

The Vilnia’s footlocker holds a small Mechanist statue, it’s not worth a great deal but it would still be a waste to leave it behind.

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Unfortunately this Powderkeg cannot be moved, removing the potential to use it to destroy the patrolling Combat Bot.

A second door leads off the barracks to the north into a store room dominated by a large wooden shelving unit. Past this room, through a door in it’s eastern wall is another small storage area. Below  a pair of wine racks a locked cabinet can be picked, stored inside are a pair of golden chalices and two bottles of fine wine.

With this floor now fully explored it’s time to head up to the third floor, there are three methods of doing so at this point. Directly south of this barracks is the elevator and access to the ducts running through the eastern wall. The elevator provides the most directly route but it creates a lot of noise while in operation and the areas in front of the shaft on each floor are usually the most well illuminated and patrolled. Climbing through the ducts is a more subtle approach but they are entirely made of metal and this can also create a lot of noise. Fortunately on the third floor the air ducts open into a small room that is not on the patrol route of any guard.

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The stairs up to the third floor, they don’t remain as empty as this however.

The third means of reaching the higher floors is to move back to the northwestern corner and ascend the main staircase. Against the outer wall there are shadows that will provide concealment however this stairway is occasionally used by civilians and Mechanist Worker Bots, smaller companions to the Combat Bots, so care will still need to be taken if you choose this route.

For the purposes of this series I’m going to take this final route and reach the third floor by way of the main stairs.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 4.

“No need for alarm ladies, just passing through.”

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Running through the heart of Dayport The Baron’s Way stands between you and Angelwatch.

Annotated Walkthrough, 3:

From the roof outside Sir Cullen’s Keep there is still some distance to go before reaching the Mechanist tower at the heart of Dayport. From here at least two buildings need to be traversed before you can gain entry to Angelwatch itself, the Dayport Trader’s Bank occupying the upper floors of a building to the east, and beyond that the suite of Lady Louisa. There are additionally a number of diversions that if explored can help replenish your potentially dwindling inventory.

Directly north a narrow beam crosses The Baron’s Way and is you means of entry to Castle Carlysle. Despite being a physical dead end there is a greenhouse within the confines of the castle that contains a valuable stockpile of equipment include a rare Gas Arrow, that provides a means of subduing multiple guards from a distance. This is protected by Longdaddy, the affectionately named spider who appears to have been adopted as a pet and “gardener’s assistant” by Anna the horticulturalist responsible for the greenhouse.

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Beyond the open window on the top floor (unlit) lies the Carlysle Armoury, while Longdaddy is on guard within the Greenhouse.

If you purchased one of the hints available at the start of the level you will know that within the castle walls lies the Carlysle Armoury. Nothing comes for free however, and if you are to redistribute the weapons and items within you will need to use a Vine Arrow to gain access to the open window overlooking this rooftop. A single guard patrols inside, and if you have acquired the Sunburst device from the Astronomer’s room you can detonate it, with a Fire Arrow, to blast through the door. A more subtle manner of entry can be achieved if you have already located the key from Carlysle room inside Angelwatch. Once the door has been bypassed you can stock up on Broadhead Arrows, alongside acquiring a number of rare Fire and Noisemaker Arrows.

Returning to the south side of The Baron’s Way there is a skylight on the roof outside Sir Cullen’s Keep. The stacks of coins visible on the table below are inviting. As the most obvious display of wealth in the whole of Dayport, it might just be a little too inviting. The civilian servant standing by the table presents little threat, judicious use of Vine Arrows would allow you to grab the gold without even touching the floor.

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Those gold coins are maybe a little too blatantly displayed.

What’s not visible from this rooftop is the doorway behind the servant, and the guard waiting in the room beyond. Exploration will provide an alternate means of entry into that very room, and this one encounter is an example of Thief level design in microcosm: the obvious route if rife with concealed dangers, exploration is power.

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Avoiding the obvious route provided by the skylight will allow you to gain an advantageous position on this guard.

Moving through a room to the east, you can drop down onto the window ledge outside the Dayport Trader’s Bank, or double back along the south side of The Baron’s Way to find the alternate route into the room beneath the skylight.

Much smaller than the First City Bank and Trust that you will have previously infiltrated the Dayport Trader’s Bank occupies only a single floor of one of the buildings surmounting The Baron’s Way. If you’ve taken them up on their offer one of your informants will have provided information about a certain Valencia and the stash of uncut diamonds he’s entrusted to the bank.

There are only two guards on duty within the bank, with only one patrolling the interior, while the other remains stationed on a balcony on the far side of the building overlooking Grandmauden Road. The marble floors throughout do little to mask your footsteps and will make it difficult to approach the patrolling guard without being heard, though they also make it a lot easier to hear where he is and avoid him if necessary. Despite being internally consistent the idea that solid marble or metal plate floors would be louder to walk across than gravel or dirt is initially counter-intuitive. It makes sense from the perspective of the affluent buildings presenting more problems for stealthy navigation but it does bring up the question of whether Garrett’s chosen footwear is a pair of hobnailed boots.

The patrolling guard’s route through the bank makes it easy to bypass him.

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Only the office of the Supervisor is locked, but you’ll need to gain entry if you want to liberate the diamonds within the bank’s safe.

Valencia’s diamonds can be found inside a safe in the main room of the bank, a safe that can only be unlocked by finding the switch inside the office of the Supervisor, Mr. J. B. Tuttleshank. From the art on his walls Tuttleshank is a Hammerite, or at least a supporter. This, combined with the bank’s location on the top floor of an obviously prestigious building might go some way to explaining the lack of Mechanist security devices. All that’s necessary to uncover the switch to open the safe is to first pick the lock on the small panel beside Tuttleshank’s desk.

Moving east, a set of double doors open onto a balcony overlooking the intersection of The Baron’s Way and Grandmauden Road. To the south is a rooftop leading back to the Shemenov Estate, while the path to Angelwatch lies to the north through Lady Louisa’s Suite.

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With both guards able to see movement on the opposing balcony crossing this intersection from either direction presents a challenge. (Open doorway leads to the Dayport Trader’s Bank).

At this point The Baron’s Way runs east to west through Dayport while Grandmauden Road runs north to south. Two guards stand watch over the point at which they cross in the heart of one of the wealthiest districts of the The City. Both archers the first guard is on the balcony ahead of your while his companion is stationed on another balcony on the far side of Grandmauden Road. The positioning of these two guards is such that they can both, under certain circumstances, observe movement on the opposing balcony. There is a qualifier as it’s possible to incapacitate the guard on the balcony of the Dayport Trader’s Bank without alerting the other provided you do so quietly. The best option to remain undetected is to stay in the shadows provided by the canopy above, however doing this while avoiding the attention of the bank guard himself will require either extremely cautious movement or the use of Moss Arrows to deaden your footfalls.

Life Of The Party 36

Directly ahead is Lady Louisa’s Suite, while a brief detour leads to some evidence that the Keepers are still keeping an eye on your movements even now.

Across the roof to the north, an open window ahead leads to the suites of the Lady Louisa who is currently being entertained within Angelwatch.

Through the open window of the building to the east a hooded figure can be seen moving; a Keeper. It’s difficult to tell but it’s possible this Keeper is in fact the same one you saw at the start of the level, certain events that occur in Thief: Deadly Shadows serve to explain how he might have been able to get here ahead of you; this would also explain his otherwise inexplicable disappearance if you attempt to follow him. Through manipulation of the semi-sentient Glyphs the Keepers can gain access to various hidden passages that exist throughout the city. A note, decorated with the keyhole symbol of the Keepers, has been left on the desk inside the room and it is addressed to Garrett himself:

Garrett,

We hope the information we have provided you thus far has been useful. You do well to seek information at Angelwatch. But beware! All is not as it seems at the Mechanist tower, and Karras is more aware of your actions than you may think. Still, there are ways to outwit him.

Despite you having walked away from them when they first warned of the threat besieging the city the Keepers have clearly been monitoring your efforts. It is likely they know much more than they let on, or at least believe they do, but their dedication to maintaining the balance limits the information they are willing to divulge. It’s worth considering that despite their unwillingness to act directly everything they have told you is accurate, including this missive. That does not mean they are unwilling to provide more material support, in the hallway adjacent to this room an unlit torch can be tilted to open a hidden equipment cache. From this secret compartment you can recover a pair of Noisemaker Arrows along with a Gas Mine and an Invisibility Potion, the last of these makes little sense within the context of the game as it has previously been established that the Keepers can effectively hide in plain sight provided they “do not wish to be seen”. To complain too much would be foolhardy, as the functional usefulness of temporary invisibility should be obvious.

Life Of The Party 37

The obvious displays of wealth are a good indication of the riches that can be found with Lady Louisa’s Suites.

Climbing through the window into Lady Louisa’s Suite first appearances indicate this could be a difficult room to traverse. However Garrett’s blase attitude is a good indication that first appearances are not necessarily to be trusted. Well lit and with too much furniture for rapid movement it should be difficult to get past Lady Louisa’s two female servants without being detected, especially as one is looking out the window you will need to exit from. This assessment is not inaccurate, it is challenging to move through these suites undetected, however the need to avoid detection is not as high here as in other parts of the level. There are no guards within earshot so even if you alert one or both of the servants they have no means by which to impede your progress and their cries of distress cannot be heard by anybody else.

The intricate purple wallpaper, and abundance of gold framed portraits mark out Lady Louisa as one of the City’s richer residents, even in as illustrious a location as Dayport her ostentatious wealth is notable. A total of 200 in gold, split between a vase and a coin purse, can be found within the single room of hers you pass through. This is more unsecured gold in a single location than anywhere else in Dayport. It may be enough to enable you to complete one of your Mission Objectives before you even reach Angelwatch.

Life Of The Party 04

Angelwatch dominates the centre of Dayport, larger than most of the buildings you have already explored combined.

Through the window on the far side of Lady Louisa’s Suite your view of the way forward is obstructed by the upper floors of a large brick building. A ledge allows you to continue around the building in either direction. Rounding the corner you are presented with your first glimpse of Angelwatch.

So far Life Of The Party has inverted the traditional Thief II relationship between you, as Garrett, and the spaces you explore. For the majority of the game the buildings you need to infiltrate have been singular constructs, intricate continuous spaces enclosed within what can often feel like vaguely arbitrary boundaries. For the beginning Life Of The Party apparently throws off these prior restrictions, the level ahead of you is a sprawl of discrete encounters, fragments of buildings passed through in seconds never to be visited again. The boundaries are still present but their presentation is more organic, a gap between two buildings too wide to jump across, a castle wall impossible to climb, a guarded road with no bridging structures. This change is liberating, and then Angelwatch spoils everything. Even from your position several stories above the streets the Mechanist tower looms above you dominating the skyline; it’s sheer bulk physically intimidating.

Everything to this point has merely served as introduction, scene setting, to help sell the size of Angelwatch in comparison to the rest of Dayport. Angelwatch is too big for the City it’s presence an intrusion; the Mechanists are starting to take over, soon their technology will have reached every corner, converted it, consumed it. The Mechanists are coming and Angelwatch is merely their vanguard.

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Angelwatch is symbolic of the fears of a Mechanist takeover of the City.

In terms of it’s spatial footprint Angelwatch is smaller than a lot of the buildings you will have explored prior to this point, however in context it feels larger. Those other structures existed isolated from the rest of the City making it difficult to accurately judge their scale, Angelwatch stands in the centre of one of the City’s richest districts, and its size in relation to the buildings surrounding it is remarkable.

Before the final ascent to Angelwatch there’s one more occupied rooftop to traverse.

Life Of The Party 39

That might be a few too many bottles for just one person.

Obviously bored by his current assignment it seems Benny has been at the wine again. Even in his drunken state this guard can cause problems, his detection range appears significantly reduced so you can easily make it to the ladder to your east without being spotted. It can be worth the risk to move a little closer as Benny didn’t start the night drinking alone and the fate of his companion can be seen by looking over the edge of the roof. Whether he slipped in his drunken state and fell to his death, or whether there is a more malicious reason for his demise it’s clear than Benny will have some explaining to do once he sobers up.

To the north the density and fidelity of the buildings is markedly reduced, a sensible optimisation given that it’s impossible to progress further in this direction. Hopefully at this stage your attention is reserved exclusively for the vast bulk of Angelwatch looming above, so this clear level boundary is not as distracting as it could have be.

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From your entry point along the east wall it’s possible to reach any of the four main floors with little risk.

A small hatch on the eastern side opens onto a series of connected air ducts running through the walls of Angelwatch. From here it’s possible to access all but the first (ground) and sixth floors, care will need to be taken when dismounting the ladders within this ducts as if you fall you are liable to create a lot of noise on the metal floors. This will be most important when reaching the fourth floor as air ducts here open directly onto a well patrolled hallway.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 3.

“Well well… housebreakers. How quaint.”

Life Of The Party 16

These two pairs of guards seem much more interested in each other than anybody else who may be around.

Annotated Walkthrough, 2:

Offering a more circuitous route than that found by heading through the Shemenov Estate, the area of Dayport to the west of Grandmauden Road provides a look at the range of different buildings, both commercial and residential, to be found within this section of the City. It also highlights that while Life Of The Party provides a lot of freedom in the order  and means by which you can approach these buildings there are still some noticable restrictions.

Due of the layout of Life Of The Party and the need to “Get back to the safety of the bell tower” once all other objectives have been completed it is possible for each area on this side of Grandmauden Road to be approached from an alternate direction; this is also true of the Shemenov Estate however in that case it is simply a matter of reversing the direction of travel from The Baron’s Way back through the Astronomer’s room. The greater number of buildings to the west of Grandmauden Road and the lack of a fixed route between them means that large sections of this level can be either bypassed entirely or traversed in a different order from a different direction.

Life Of The Party 02

There are two entire screens of City streets before you even see your objective.

By either avoiding the first building (that grants access to the Astronomer’s room) or by exiting through the window half way up the stairs, you will reach a point where Grandmauden Road turns sharply northward before heading back to the west and passing between Master Willey’s Manor and Castle Van Vernon. The pair of guards on each side of the road are obviously familiar with one another, jibes and insults  are obviously often traded across the rooftops but tonight things take a turn for the violent, and also the comical.

Keeping to the shadows on the nearside of Grandmauden Road will allow you to remain hidden while witnessing the exchange, though for some reason no matter where you position yourself if a guard is left standing he will automatically being to look for you, and keeping completely out of his line of sight until he has calmed down is the only option to ensure he doesn’t actually locate you.

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The best outcome from your perspective is for all four guards to kill each other.

However as the outcome of the exchange is not scripted it’s entirely possibly than no guards will survive. Once the arrows begin to fly the simulation takes over and you could witness the final two guards launch their last arrow mere seconds before being killed themselves. If you have no compunctions about murder it’s possible to provoke the altercation by letting fly with your own arrows and in the confusion, the opposing guards naturally assume that one of the others got the drop on them; how that’s likely when they can all see each other is curious, but when such things work to your advantage it’s best not to question them. If you choose not to help things along the possibly outcomes are that either one of Master Willey’s guards (Purple tunics) or one of Lady Van Veron’s guards (Red tunics) remain alive, or that all guards are killed. With either of the former outcomes some care will need to be taken as the surviving guard is now in a in a permanent state of alert and will initiate search and combat behaviour much more rapidly than usual, bypassing the standard ramp up. Furthermore as it is likely he will have taken some damage it’s risky to attempt to knock him out as the one point of damage dealt by your blackjack can be enough to kill him outright; a problem if you are playing on Expert difficulty with it’s strict restrictions against murder.

Regardless of the outcome you will need to continue west if you are to reach Angelwatch. Depending on your playstyle it can be easier to keep moving while the guards are still trading insults as although it is difficult to get past entirely undetected they will usually remain more interested in each other until the fight is over. Any remaining guard will automatically enter a search state after the fight so there is little to be lost by being seen at this stage; by the time his search begins you will be several rooftops distant.

In the short term this is a standard video game encounter, you deal with it either by expending time or resources, or both and then you keep moving. Unusually because you will eventually need to return to the Bell Tower from whose roof you started the level the actions you take here will have repercussions later as you may find yourself having to pass the remaining guard once more from the opposite direction. This is true of many of the encounters throughout the Dayport sections of Life Of The Party and this need to return from whence you came is not uncommon in Thief levels. The levels are rarely a linear path and the decisions you make near the start can influence your actions minutes or even hours later.

The tools at your disposal are not infinite, and despite the possibility of finding additional arrows in various locations throughout the level, you will quickly find yourself running low if you are not careful about their use. With little information regarding the type of encounters you will face, and an understanding that tools will generally be reset upon starting the next level there is often a conflict between the desire to save your resources for the future and a sense of ‘use it or lose it’.

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Only the one guard, but the lack of shadow means avoiding him is a matter of careful timing.

Whatever method you use to continue following Grandmauden Road, you will soon be faced with another patrolling guard. Walking a short path between a wall and a locked door (In fact simply a texture of a door) at first glance he seems not to present any particular problem. The lack of shadows on this rooftop means that to avoid directly dealing with him you will need to move quickly and scale the sloped wall onto the upper roof during the brief period in which his back is turned. Of course given the likely need to return through this section at a later date it might just be simpler to incapacitate him now.

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The Fieldstone Estate, one of the older structures in Dayport it’s a crossroads of sorts on The Thieves’ Highway.

From the nearby roof it’s possible to climb over the crenels to the north and gain entry to the Fieldstone Estate. There are two guards patrolling the battlements here, each moving in different directions. Fortunately the large number of shadows provide natural conceal and whether you choose to avoid or subdue them you can do so with confidence that you will be able to remain unobserved. One of the guards is carrying a key, which will unlock the door on the western side of the central structure, obtaining this key will avoid the risk of having to spend time picking the lock.

Life Of The Party 20

The electric light over the doorway makes attempting to pick this lock a dangerous proposition.

Inside a single guard patrols the three accessible rooms, the timing of his route is such that you can hide in the shadows in the central room and wait, before darting quickly into the innermost room to grab the loot within once he has passed.

The aesthetics and construction of the Fieldstone Estate mark it out as one of the older buildings in Dayport, obviously newer constructions have been built up around it, in some cases right up against the walls, their wooden roofs butting up against the solid grey stone battlements. The Fieldstone Estate serves as a crossroads for The Thieves’ Highway, north leads to a series of newer apartments, east will take you to a pair of apparently abandoned and half collapsed buildings, while heading south will lead you back the way you have come.

Life Of The Party 21

Across the beam the ladder leads to shortcut that will allow you to bypass a portion of the level.

The apparently abandoned building to the east masks a wealth of loot, having been converted to the hideout for another thief. Beneath the collapsed roof you can find a two Moss Arrows hanging from the roof beams along with a pair of Vine Arrows in a small chest.

It can be difficult to infiltrate the thief’s hideout without being spotted as he seems to be naturally more alert than any of the guards in Dayport, a natural consequence of operating on the wrong side of the law? Fortunately he is armed only with a sword and lacks your acrobatic move set, so if you do alert him he can only stand and shout at you as you make your escape.

If you choose to cross the beam to the north and scale the ladder you will end up inside a water tank on the roof of a building to the north, a location that we’ll leave discussion of until later.

Life Of The Party 22

Garrett clearly sees himself as superior to these petty criminals.

To the north of the Fieldstone Estate is a modern apartment building which seem to have visitors of its own. A pair of housebreakers are also at work tonight. Garrett’s disdain for these other members of the criminal fraternity is clear, they are noisy, unsubtle and not very bright.

You can choose to completely ignore the pair of housebreakers and the entire apartment complex by keeping to the rooftop and heading straight for Sir Cullen’s Keep, the circular tower of which is just visible to the north.

Life Of The Party 23

The fire escape provides a way into the apartments avoiding the housebreakers.

If you decide to enter the apartments it’s still possible to avoid the housebreakers, by dropping down onto what appears to be a fire escape on the northern side of the building and entering through a window. The lone guard patrolling inside has a route that takes him from top floor landing just outside the room where the housebreakers are down two flights of stairs to a darkened landing where a hole in the wall is covered up by some crates. Moving these crates will allow you to continue on to the Necromancer’s Tower, though it might be beneficial to work your way upstairs and open the door on the top floor, causing the guard to confront the housebreakers when he returns. Though there are two of them they are a poor match for the guard and he will waste little time dispatching them, allowing you to make off with the loot they had been after. With the tools at your disposal there are other various options available, a Noisemaker through the window can cause the housebreakers to open the door themselves as they search for the source of the disturbance and they are unlikely to remember to shut it again.

Life Of The Party 24

This hole in the walls provides a means out of the lower floors of the Apartments.

Through the hole in the wall, and up a disused elevator shaft a window looks across into the nearby Necromancer’s Tower. Much like the Fieldstone Estate the Tower is one of the older buildings in Dayport and these newer apartments have been built so close you can quite literally step across from one window ledge to the other.

Crossing over from the Apartments you enter the The Necromancer’s Tower on the third floor, though only this and the upper floor can be reach initially. Gaining access to the bottom two floors requires locating pair of secret switches, one of which is in the centre of a fire-pit on the top (fourth) floor and the other is a secret book on the third floor.

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The Necromancer’s Tower is not as deserted as may appear.

The top two floors contain little that is unexpected, a small library on the third floor, and what looks like an alter of some description on the fourth; though if you decide to read the book on the alter be prepared for the consequences, the undead apparently have some outstanding issues they need resolved.

On the second floor you find what it is safe to assume is the body of the Necromancer himself, dead by his own hand. While the lower most floor had been made into a torture chamber containing a rack and an iron maiden, the red walls probably intended to mask the blood stains. A slightly gruesome diversion the Tower is worth exploring for the variety of potions and stack of coins that can be liberated from the lower floors and the two golden candlesticks that can be grabbed from the alter.

Unless you wish to return to the Apartments, escape from the Necromancer’s Tower is achieved by jumping from the fourth floor window onto a narrow ledge running around the building to your east. Ahead the ledge continues around the corner underneath a wooden balcony. To the north the ledge terminates just before Sir Cullen’s Keep.

Life Of The Party 26

The view east from the Necromancer’s Tower.

Proceeding east, the roof above you (to the south) contains a large metal water tank. If you took the shortcut above the thief’s hideout you will have ended up here, having dropped through a vent in the roof into the half full tank. With no way to raise the water level, this shortcut only works in one direction. If it had been possible to alter the water level in the tank this could have been an interesting environmental puzzle, however this is not the type of environmental manipulation the Dark Engine is particularly suited to. Though in the years since the release of Thief II designers within the community managed to figure out ways of doing just that.

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View back towards the Necromancer’s Tower showing the water tank on the roof to the south.

Underneath the balcony is an open window where you can witness the spoilt Frederick Juniper Rothchild III complaining petulantly to his wife about about their lack of an invitation to the Mechanist banquet at Angelwatch. Once you get to Angelwatch itself you’ll be able to find a record of all those invited and it turns out the Rothchilds were on the list so whatever happened to the invitation is a mystery.

The balcony above leads to a deserted rooftop and the alternate route into the Shemenov Estate, a shortcut it might be worth remembering for the return from Angelwatch.

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The view north from the Necromancer’s Tower, leading to Sir Cullen’s Keep.

For such a relatively small location Sir Cullen’s Keep presents a number of options and an interesting use of carefully timed patrol paths to evoke tension. Like the Shemenov Estate Sir Cullen’s Keep is split into two sections, outside and inside. Outside is a roof area dominated by a squat two story tower lit by torches with a large Powderkeg  and a pair of Fire Arrows on the upper level. Directly opposite the entrance to the tower is a darkened storage area under the stairs. At the top of the stairs a window ledge extends the length of the south facing wall, an open window at the very end granting entry. An archer patrols from the room beyond the window, to the base of the Tower and back.

Beyond this window is a small square room with a single door in the eastern wall. There are three rooms of this size running the length the building and instead of using the window you can enter the eastern most of these rooms through the door at top of the stairs. The room just inside the door is lit by a small electric light, while the other two are both entirely unlit. Two of these rooms open to the north onto a short corridor which is patrolled by a single guard.

If you enter through the window and move quickly you can pass through the centre room and out onto a rooftop beyond without being noticed. However the short path of the guard inside makes this risky as if he doesn’t spot you as you move through the well illuminated hallway he is still liable to hear you. You can wait in the centre room until the guard has passed unfortunately by focusing on him it is easy to forget the second guard. If you stay too long in the centre room where there is little space to avoid him; you will be detected. Even if you choose to actively remove the threat of this internal guard you will still need to remember that the second guard doesn’t remain outside.

Sir Cullen’s Keep is a very small encounter space but its layout and the timing of the guard patrols makes it a potentially fraught one.

Like most other locations on your route to Angelwatch it’s possible to enter Sir Cullen’s Keep from a different direction, in this case by climbing back through the window you’ve now left. This presents further problems as without some judicious use of Scouting Orbs it can be difficult to ascertain the location of both guards before you make a move.

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A view from The Baron’s Way, directly ahead is the window to Sir Cullen’s Keep.

The building to the north of Sir Cullen’s Keep, upon whose roof you will now find yourself opens onto a broad thoroughfare known as The Baron’s Way, which is being patrolled by a Mechanist Combat Bot, one of the first yet seen in the City itself. It would appear Dayport is a more illustrious district than some of those you may have previously visited such as Wayside, the location of Garrett’s home before certain events (Ambush!) forced him to relocate. A narrow beam supporting a number of banners crosses to the far side of The Baron’s Way, with care this can be traversed to reach Castle Carlysle and the armoury within.

To the east The Baron’s Way passes through an arch to eventually cross with Grandmauden Road on the far side of a large white stone building, the top floors of which have been converted to the Dayport Trader’s Bank.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 2.

“Hey, the City looks almost bearable from up here.”

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Somewhere to the north is your objective, Angelwatch.

Annotated Walkthrough, 1:

From the moment it starts Life Of The Party feels different from the rest of Thief II. Everything is brighter, the surrounding walls no longer tower above you, even the sky seems closer.

Some familiar elements remain, the constant industrial drone that pervades every level, the sounds of civilization layered over it. Somewhere to the right somebody is snoring heavily, while footsteps can be heard ahead of you though something is a little off, they sound close but there is nobody in sight. Those footsteps are indeed ahead of you, but also below you, several floors down, at street level.

For the first time you start a level with neither your objective in view nor the sound of Garrett musing over the task at hand. It isn’t until you’ve moved to the edge of the Bell Tower, upon who’s upper floor you start, that Garrett makes his opinions known and even then it’s more cynical commentary than meaningful advice. You will need to scale the pipework on the opposite roof before he will make any suggestions regarding the best way to proceed. The suggestion to “follow the road north” is an almost cryptic one as there is an inaccessible building to your north and the road in question is aligned east to west.

Life Of The Party 07

Grandmauden Road, your circuitous guide to Angelwatch.

Though initially confusing, the advice is good. It will be difficult to keep Grandmauden Road in view at all times on your way to Angelwatch but it will serve as a landmark by which to orientate yourself as you make your way along the Thieves’ Highway.

Looking down to the street below highlights this level’s inversion of the traditional relationships of space and height; no longer are the buildings of the City towering over you. It is a liberating view of what has until now been portrayed as a uniformly oppressive and restrictive environment. The buildings that once stood as obstacles during your flight from the Crippled Burrick (in Ambush!) are now the very means by which you’ll traverse the city.

Even before reaching this point there have been opportunities to stray from the path. To the left of the Bell Tower a ledge leads to a secret room containing a handful of gold coins and some Water Arrows. While following the snoring takes you to a small room where a liveried guard appears to be sleeping off the effects of a bottle of wine, some more loot can be retrieved from his unsecured footlocker. Heading in either direction very quickly leads to a dead end, but it won’t take long before the routes available will begin to diverge much more significantly.

Having used the pipes to cross Grandmauden Road there is another brief diversion available to you. A ladder on the left descends to a rooftop occupied by a pair of generators, the noise from which it is difficult to ignore. There is an open window in the building to the north, the guard within alternating between facing the roof and the room itself. The window ledge is just high enough to be climbed onto, though if you fail the sounds of your clumsy footsteps are certain to alert the guard even though the ambient noise from the two generators should have been enough to mask any sounds you may make.

Unfortunately the implementation of audio within the Dark Engine is such that even when you think they should background sounds are often not loud enough to completely drown out the noise you make. Occasionally frustrating this also works in your favour at times, as Noisemaker Arrows and other forms of audible distraction can still be employed in noisy areas. Any sound effects associated with the player or other functional elements within the world are always higher in the mix than ambient sound effects. This ensures they are always readable, even in circumstances where environmental sounds could realistically be expected to drown out all other noise.

Climbing, or mantling, is one of a number of secondary techniques within Thief II that extend the standard inputs to increase the scope of Garrett’s movement options. By approaching a low wall, or window ledge, and holding down the jump button while moving forward you can mantle up onto the wall. It’s not always straightforward, you will need to ensure that your view is centred correctly or you will miss the mantle attempt and inevitable make noise as you jump ineffectually against the wall. Extending this technique is the ‘running jump-mantle’, by running towards a wall and holding down jump at the last moment it is possible to grab the edge of the wall and pull yourself up. As well as being useful for reaching areas too high for the standard mantle it can also be used to scale walls on the other side of the gaps. A very useful skill in Life Of The Party, where a number of ledges can only be reached by leaping between buildings. The third of these secondary movement techniques is the ‘crouch-drop’ which is as simple as it sounds. By crouching and walking off a wall it is possible to land without making a sound, though care needs to be taken as when landing from a ‘crouch-drop’ you will automatically stand up again.

Development of these movement skills greatly increases the playable space of the level. Though the majority of locations can be reached through reliance on the standard move set, the directed graph that defines the relationship between accessible and inaccessible, safe and hostile, spaces is altered as each of the secondary movement mechanic are learnt. Two locations that were once only accessible via a third location can now be moved between directly, while routes that once restricted backtracking now become bidirectional.

The presence of these secondary movement mechanics highlights an often overlooked aspect of the Thief games. Despite their name the actual act of thievery is not where the focus of the game systems lie, what you do when you reach the loot is secondary to the means you employ to get there. Thief is a game about movement through space, and the manipulation of that space to increase its relative safety or hostility. As such in terms of its mechanical focus some of it’s closest modern contemporary are not the superficially similar Splinter Cell series which has a greater focus on the tools at your disposal, but rather Mirror’s Edge a game very explicitly about movement through, and therefore mastery of, space. The commonality of the mechanical and aesthetic experience between these two apparently disparate games will become clearer as your progress through Life Of The Party.

If you are unwilling or unable to climb onto the window ledge, there are other options. Positioned directly above the window is a wooden roof support, a good target for a Vine Arrow, and if you are willing to look for one there are plenty of crates and similar objects throughout the level. Whatever method your choose to gain access to the room, timing it to ensure the guard’s back is turned requires either judicious use of a scouting orb or a fair degree of luck. Whether the stack of coins within is worth the effort of attaining it depends on the difficulty setting and your own preferences regarding the acquisition of loot.

Watching over your actions, from a window in a building to the north is a hooded figure, a Keeper, who will have disappeared once more when your emerge from the room. This is not the only member of his Brotherhood to be found on this level though he does manage to be the more subtle of the two.

Moving west again you are soon presented with the first real opportunity to diverge from the straight ahead path. Climbing down a ladder onto a low roof two routes are now available, head inside the building directly east of you or jump across to a ledge on the wall of a building to the south and follow Grandmauden Road as it continues past the building and further east. It is worth noting at this point that the route of Grandmauden Road is not as straight forward as depicted on the map. Though the general direction is accurate the position of the buildings surrounding it often mean it has to go a short distance in a perpendicular direction before turning back on course. This can occasionally make it difficult to orientate yourself with relation to the map, however the road can be seen at enough points to allow you to ascertain which direction leads to Angelwatch.

Life Of The Party 09

Continue along this ledge to eventually cross Grandmauden Road or head through the building to stay to its east side.

Accessed through an open window the building to the east is the first of the self-contained encounter spaces. A corridor, two small rooms and a staircase with a single guard on a patrol route passing through each area. In Thief terms this is a trivial encounter, the corners of the room at the bottom of the staircase offer enough shadow to hide while the guard moves past. A window half way up the staircase will allow you to leave the building and keep heading west, however there is an alternate way out of this building and one that will allow you to bypass a large section of the Dayport streets.

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Access to the Astronomer’s room can be found directly above this position.

Entering from the hallway, it’s possible to spot a hole in the wall directly ahead. Accessible from the roof-beams and partially blocked off by wooden boards this grants access to a secret area and eventually the Shemenov Estate. A Vine Arrow is the most efficient means of reaching the roof-beams as it is noiseless and the Arrow itself can be retrieved and reused.

The wooden boards covering the hole need to be broken, though they take no obvious damage when initial struck. Unless you have encountered the few similarly breakable surfaces in previous levels, this can be a little disconcerting as there is no feedback to indicate attacking is the correct approach. If you are trying to maintain a low profile, it will be necessary to ensure that the patrolling guard has closed the door and started up the stairs before you attack the boards as the noise will easily alert him. The sound of the guard’s footsteps as he scales the stairs to the room at the top and then returns, can feel like a ticking clock creating a moment of tension in what is a very simple situation. There is more than enough time to break through before the guard returns but it doesn’t necessarily feel as safe as it actually is.

On the other side of the wall is the attic room of an Astronomer who clearly has a rather dubious concept of both the scientific method and the value of human life; not to mention a single-minded fascination with the moon. It is possible to steal the Sunburst Device described in the Astronomer’s journal and doing so might actually be one of the noblest things Garrett will ever do. A final curious note about the Astronomer’s room is that though it’s possible to switch the electric lights on it’s impossible to turn them off again, they simply flicker a little and remain illuminated. It can evoke a brief moment of worry that lasts only as long as it takes to realise nobody can reach you here.

Thief is rife with moments like this, players, especially first time players, can not always be certain if an area is safe and this knowledge gap between perception and reality can be exploited to imply hostility where none exists.

Moving past some stacked crates, a window in an empty room below leads to the Shemenov Estate and a perfect example of the isolated problem encounter spaces upon which the Dayport sections of Life Of The Party are built.

Life Of The Party 08

Shemenov Estate, a good case study for the different spatial layouts available for a stealth game.

Despite there being at least three ways to reach the Shemenov Estate each require exploration to find and as such this section of Life Of The Party can feel much more isolated than some of the locations to the west of Grandmauden Road. This isolation, along with the limited number of AI agents (Two patrolling guards, one static guard and a civilian) make it a good case study for the various ways in which the Thief series uses spatial layout to promote stealth gameplay.

Stripped of any interaction verbs beyond those concerned directly with movement there are three ways of moving unobserved through a space patrolled by a hostile AI.

  1. Watch and Wait: Find a location along the path of the AI from which you can remain unobserved and wait for the AI to pass you heading in the opposite direction, then proceed across the space.
  2. Bypass: Locate an alternate route through the space that avoids contact with the hostile AI completely.
  3. Follow: Trace the same path as the AI until you find a point that allows you to break contact.

Since method 3 is a variation and combination of the first two methods, there are essentially only two approaches to stealth movement. The tools available to the player can be used to change the environment to facilitate either of these approaches but within most Thief levels it is possible maintain unobserved movement without a reliance upon tools. In general there is a path that offers a near zero change of detection, of stealth failure.

The first and second (external and internal) sections of the Shemenov Estate are good examples of these two methods of stealth movement, and the level design needed to support them.

The external section of the Shemenov Estate, which you enter from the Astronomer’s room, consists of a lower and upper roof space, linked by steps, with two rooms off the lower roof, one accessible from a closed door on the lower roof itself and the other by a second set of steps rising to the same level as the upper roof. This upper room is lit by a torch and has an attached balcony upon which is a guard. The other guard patrols between this room and the upper roof, though he has a tendency to embellish his route with occasionally and apparently random loops that making following him a risky proposition. Arriving on the lower roof, it is initially impossible to see the static guard, while the patrolling guard could also be hidden from view in the upper room on on the upper roof, though as he never actually stops moving his footsteps will quickly give his position away.

The erratic behaviour of the patrolling guard combined with an unawareness of the layout of the upper roof make any attempt to follow him a risky option, with no apparent means of gaining access to the upper roof without taking the steps the only viable option is either to deal with the guard directly or adopt the Watch and Wait approach.

Life Of The Party 12

An example of a room that serves a logical and functional purpose.

The level design in the Thief series makes a lot of use of what appears on first glance to be purely logical territory. Each level is full of small rooms and little nooks that seem to exist simply because such locations would exist in a bank or a warehouse. However an understanding of the dynamics of Thief shows that these locations are in fact just as much functional territory as logical territory. They may contain little, or even nothing, in the way of loot, and are likely undisturbed by guards or other NPCs, but their very emptiness makes them prime locations from which to observe the behaviour of the NPCs and plan your next move.

The room behind the door on the lower roof is a prime example of such a space. Ostensibly it is a guard barracks, with a double bunk and a small foot locker, however its position makes it an ideal place from which to observe the movements of the patrolling guard. It is away from his standard route and though illuminated by an electric light there are enough dark corners to allow you to wait undetected.

Life Of The Party 13

An alternate view of the Shemenov Estate showing the upper roof, and chimney to the Kitchen.

Despite the multiple ways you can leave the Shemenov Estate the route that will keep you heading in the direction of Angelwatch requires heading inside the estate itself and finding another way out to the north. The only way to gain entry to the interior is via the chimney on the upper roof where a Water Arrow is needed to dowse the flames in the fireplace before you can descend.

Even with the fire out the kitchen still presents a hostile environment, a torch illuminates the floor ahead of you which is made up of hard stone that is difficult to cross inaudibly, while a servant performs her duties in the corner. Once alerted she will scream and run for help from the guard on patrol inside the Shemenov Estate. If you move slowly you can leave the kitchen without being seen, however opening the door to the hallway without first taking the time to listen for what is on the other side is a risky proposition.

On the counter opposite the fireplace and behind the servant is a scroll that contains the latest in a series of missives concerning an Alchemist’s and the arrangements of two people to meet therein. This minor subplot is detailed in various scrolls found within several of the previous levels, even as far back as the third level Framed.

Life Of The Party 14

Not only a good hiding place, this storage area contains what feels like an intentional trick.

The second patrolling guard can be found in the interior of the Shemenov Estate, his route taking him from a small storage area opposite the door to the kitchen up two flights of stairs and out onto another roof.

Within the storage area beneath the stairs there are two chests,of the kind within which loot or other useful items are usually found, however in this case one of them contains a bucket that you will automatically pick up. Putting this bucket down creates a lot of noise which may alert either the guard himself of the servant in the kitchen; assuming you haven’t closed the door behind you. Though it’s a simple task to wait until the guard has moved away before dropping the bucket, it is equally simply (and more likely) to discard the bucket as worthless, allowing it to clank nastily on the stone floor. The placement of his chest was not unintentional and it feels like a slight admonishment against not thinking things through, against acting too quickly. After all which is more likely to be found under the stairs, gold or cleaning supplies?

Though the storage area provides a good hiding place from which to avoid the AI, as it marks one of the end points of his patrol it will not be possible to wait here and then proceed past him. Because his entire route cannot be observed from any one location exit from the Shemenov Estate will require you to take a risk and follow him up the stairs.

Each of the two landings is lit by a single torch and once plunged into darkness either makes a good point at which to wait for the patrolling guard to move past. Continuing up brings you out onto an unguarded rooftop with a high wall to the north. Mantling this wall and moving across another roof leads to the intersection of Grandmauden Road and The Baron’s Way, a well guarded intersection and the point at which all paths through Dayport converge.

Groping The Map: Life Of The Party, Part 1.

“Angelwatch? Is this how our arrangement is gonna work, you coming up with ways for me to get myself killed?”
“Is this really Garrett the Master Thief I hear talking? If danger is going to be a problem for you, then…”
“Just– give me the details.”

Life Of The Party 06

Angelwatch, your stated objective but barely the halfway point of the level.

The third instalment of Groping The Map will be presented in the following parts:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Annotated Walkthrough, East of Grandmauden Road.
  3. Annotated Walkthrough, West Of Grandmauden Road.
  4. Annotated Walkthrough, The Baron’s Way and approach to Angelwatch.
  5. Annotated Walkthrough, Angelwatch, Floors 1 and 2.
  6. Annotated Walkthrough, Angelwatch, Floor 3.
  7. Annotated Walkthrough, Angelwatch, Floor 4.
  8. Annotated Walkthrough, Angelwatch, Floors 5 and 6.
  9. Conclusion and References.
  10. Additional: Life Of The Party and The Uninvited Guest.

Introduction:

The set up for the tenth level of Thief II: The Metal Age is mundane compared to what has already been asked of you: make your way across the wealthy Dayport district to infiltrate the Mechanist tower and find any information regarding the “Cetus Project”, and the “New Scripture of the Master Builder”. Already you will have guided Master Thief Garrett through an infiltration of a City Watch station to plant evidence against the Sheriff’s right hand man, escaped through the City streets after being betrayed and ambushed, and broken into First City Bank and Trust to obtain blackmail recordings from a safety deposit box. After all that infiltrating a Mechanist tower should be child’s play.

With the blackmail attempt a failure and Sheriff Truart lying dead on the floor of his bed chambers, you needed to tail the only suspect, his Lieutenant, to a contact with her co-conspirators and on through the Pagan woods to a reunion with an old foe the wood nymph Viktoria former companion to the Trickster who’s scheme, and life, you ended in the previous game. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, at least for the moment and with Viktoria’s help you start to unravel the ties between the deceased Sheriff and the enigmatic Karras, head of the Mechanists.

Fueled by a belief that all organic life is inherently flawed and holding that only those of mechanical construction are fit to fulfil the tasks of the Master Builder, Karras’ Mechanist are an insidious threat to the City and Garrett’s comfortable way of life.

In terms of gameplay and structure Life Of The Party is an exercise in carefully managed complexity. Starting on a bell tower some distance from your objective and with no defined path across the rooftops it would have been easy for the level to degenerate into a chaotic mess. With each level constructed as a series of unscripted problem encounters, and few explicit barriers between each one, a traditional Thief II level of the size and complexity of Life Of The Party would all too rapidly have snowballed beyond your ability to react to it; one accidentally alerted guard triggering sympathetic reactions from those within hearing range leading to a Benny Hill-esque chase across the rooftops.

To counter this Life Of The Party follows a structure that most Thief II levels avoid. Each building within Dayport is treated as a discrete encounter, those guards patrolling within unwilling and unable to follow you across the rooftops. The boundaries of the building serving as the boundaries for each encounter space. This approach serves the dual purposes of preventing an uncontrollable escalation and reinforcing the concept that each building is home to a different family with their own guard patrols.

Levels set amidst the streets and buildings of the City itself, rather than one isolated location, are not uncommon in the Thief series. The concept of exploring a part of the City in order to approach and gain access to one specific location is one that makes its first appearance in Assassin’s the fourth level of Thief: The Dark Project. Even within Thief II there have already been two levels that take place on the streets of the City, Ambush! and Trace The Courier. In all of these levels the buildings of the City mainly acted as barriers to progression, their interiors used either as shortcuts or brief detours to acquire loot. Thief: Deadly Shadows builds upon this use of the City, turning it into a multi-part hub linking each of the separate storyline levels. Whether this is the approach a Looking Glass Studios developed Thief III would have taken is unknown, though Life Of The Party seems like a good indicator of the direction they were heading and the type of location that the Siege Engine (Internal Looking Glass Studios name for the Dark Engine’s successor) was being created for.

As the tenth of fifteen levels Life Of The Party occurs at a point where players can be expected to have a strong understanding of the various game mechanics and the interactions between them. However, the structure of the Dayport sections means that despite featuring one of the least restricted and non-linear layouts of any Thief level it is also one of the most forgiving. Any mistakes can be rectified by making the leap to a different building where any guards will still be in their default patrol state. This holds true until you arrive at Angelwatch where you will be faced with some of the most challenging encounter spaces yet.

Life Of The Party marks the start of Thief II‘s third act, the true threat has been revealed and it’s time to take action. There are still some plot developments to come but those there are only clarify the nature of Karras’ schemes rather than presenting any truly revelatory information. This is also true of the game’s mechanics, some of the subsequent levels will present variations on existing concepts but nothing entirely new will be introduced. In preperation for these final levels, the Dayport sections of Life Of The Party allow for a last moment of experimentation in a relatively risk free environment. The discrete nature of the initial encounter spaces provide the opportunity to experiment with a reduced risk of absolute failure. It’s an opportunity that is worth taking as once inside Angelwatch the gap between partial and total failure will become much smaller.

Angelwatch is a beacon of Mechanist craftsmanship and hubris, a six story tower of metal, wood and marble with an artistic style bordering on Art Deco. While the majority of the City still relies heavily on torches for illumination Angelwatch features a much greater use of electric light sources which cannot be dowsed by Water Arrows. There are also several gas lamps which can be extinguished but unlike traditional torches are able to be relit by passing guards. In combination the hard floors, electric light sources, and sheer number of patrolling guards serve to make Angelwatch a difficult building to infiltrate, it is very clearly hostile territory. Get spotted within it’s chambers and it won’t take long before a half dozen Mechanists are hunting you.

The differences in aesthetics and structure between Angelwatch and the rest of Dayport highlight the contrast between the traditions of the City and its future as envisioned by Karras. Until now the threat posed by the Mechanists has been an abstract one, they were supporting the Sheriff and his attempts to crackdown on the City’s “unlawful”, and their security devices were appearing everywhere, but they themselves had been able to avoid public scrutiny. The Mechanists were a threat insofar as they were making life difficult for Garrett, however with Truart dead the true nature of their plans is starting to come to light, their impact on the City undeniable. Until his arrival at Angelwatch Garrett is the master of his domain, the Thieves’ Highway is where he is most comfortable, most powerful. The initial sight of Angelwatch towering over the surrounding buildings is the first sign that things are changing and that Garrett’s reign is under threat.

Ultimately Garrett doesn’t defeat Karras and the Mechanicsts out of some noble belief in his cause, he does it to survive because if their plans come to fruition there will be no room in the “Builder’s Paradise” for the likes of him. Life Of The Party is the point at which it becomes clear what the future might hold, and the point where Garrett’s actions change from those of guided by simple avarice to those motivated by survival.

An early version of this level entitled The Uninvited Guest was released as the demo for Thief II, and despite a generally similar layout there are a number of notable differences between this alpha version and the finished Life Of The Party; differences that I’ll be examining in a later post.

Originally Life Of The Party was to be shrouded in fog, as can be seen in The UninvitedGuest, however due to some problems with the release build of the Dark Engine and my current graphics card, it can be difficult to get the fog to display correctly at all times. Since it doesn’t have any direct impact on the perception levels of the AI I’ve made the decision to turn it off entirely for this playthrough.

Groping The Map: Liberty Island, Part 6.

“Don’t think you know something about the Lady I don’t. My dad did tours out here.”

Liberty Island 37

From tourist attraction to the Headquarters of the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition; Liberty takes on a whole new meaning.

Conclusion:

There’s one word whose use is all but unavoidable when discussing Deus Ex: ‘possible’. The path across Liberty Island I have described is only one of many available routes, though all players start and end their paths at the same point the possibilities for what occurs between are legion. Convince Harlen Filben to give you the key to the Statue entrance, or ignore him completely, free Agent Hermann or leave him for the UNATCO Troopers to rescue, arrest NSF Commander Leo Gold or exterminate with extreme prejudice. The choices are yours and by making those choices you are responsible for the consequences.

The themes and mechanics on display in this level are ones that you will become increasingly familiar with as your progress further into the world of Deus Ex. Though some of the later levels present a more limited possibility space the same basic concepts and interactions you first experience here remain consistent. Augmentations and upgraded skills change the range of tools at your disposal yet their interactions with the systemic foundation of Deus Ex rarely change.

Liberty Island is the first level of Deus Ex and compared to similar first levels there are some notable differences. Within moments of arriving you are given the opportunity to use one of the most powerful weapons in the game, the GEP Gun. Even if you are unaware of it’s position in the hierarchy of weaponry in Deus Ex, it is clear that it is an extremely powerful weapon and to be given it this early is a markedly different decision than would be made by the designers of a pure action game. It doesn’t take long to understand the reason why being given access to this incredibly powerful weapon doesn’t totally unbalance the game. Weapons in Deus Ex are merely another form of tool, and though many problems on Liberty Island can be solved through the direct application of violence that is rarely the ‘path of least resistence’ that it would be in a more traditional first person game.

The ‘onion’ like structure of Liberty Island is populated with problem encounters both large and small, this serves to create a possibility space both physical and mechanical that can be freely explored and approached from a variety of directions. With few strict barriers between each problem and no set point of entry you are free to examine each situation from various angles before making any decisions on how to act. This ability to analyse a problem before initiating action promotes intentionality. You are in control and when things don’t work out as planned the reasons are usually easy to understand. It’s possible for elements of one problem to spill over and affect another but this is never truly unpredictable. All elements within the broader problem of Liberty Island itself operate on a consistent set of systemic principles and when unexpected elements do appear their behaviour is predictable. Deus Ex puts you in control, but not always in power.

The flip-side of this freedom to form plans and act on your own schedule is that Liberty Island can suffer from some pacing issues. Some problems will naturally be overcome quicker than others and that is difficult to predict and account for. This can lead to certain routes across the Island feeling more sluggish and drawn out than others depending on your playstyle. An inherent weakness of a game like Deus Ex, when players are the initiators it’s very difficult to manage pacing for dramatic purposes without cutting against that very player intentionality that is a core principle.

Liberty Island 38

One of several areas of Liberty Island that was overlooked in my walkthrough.

As a member of UNATCO, your standing orders with regard to those affiliated with the National Secessionist Forces are “shoot on sight”. They are a ‘terrorist’ organisation who have shown little regard for human life are to be treated as such. This clear cut morality is put to the test very quickly on Liberty Island. The other UNATCO Troopers you meet, such as Tech Sergeant Kaplan and Corporal Collins seem far more ‘gung-ho’ than the NSF whose discussions you overheard. The NSF might not all be named as the UNATCO Troopers are, but they seem far more nuanced in their beliefs than those supposedly upholding the side of ‘law and order’. It’s possible that the reason one group is comprised of named individuals and the other isn’t is simply due to the fact that the player character, JC Denton, is assumed to have already met all the UNATCO Troopers stationed on Liberty Island.

Before you meet him the final ‘boss’, if such a video game centric term is appropriate, is given a name and a face by another unique individual, Harlen Filben. Leo Gold is not some terrorist archetype, he is a person with his own opinions and judgements regarding his actions. Though there is plenty of fodder to be found, especially when the Majestic 12 forces appear during the later stages of the game Deus Ex is possibly the closest we have yet come to surpassing Steve Gaynor’s metric for meaningful violence, and it was released over ten years ago.

Liberty Island is Deus Ex in microcosm, any analysis of the former is inherently also an analysis of the latter. The focus on problems built from systemic elements, the broad possibility space with room for creative solutions, even the problems with pacing, all these issues are as true of Deus Ex as a whole as they are of Liberty Island in isolation. This ability of Liberty Island to be representative of the game that will follow marks it out as a near perfect introductory level.

References:

  • Liberty Island is the work of Designer Harvey Smith.
  • Deus Ex is the work of Ion Storm Austin (Now closed). It was published by Eidos Interactive, now a subsidiary of Square-Enix.
  • A Postmortem of Deus Ex written by Project Director Warren Spector can be found at Gamasutra.
  • The entire script of Deus Ex can be found at GameFAQs.

Groping The Map: Liberty Island, Part 5.

“A shame, isn’t it? The French terrorist group Silhouette claims that France was wrong to give the U.S. the Statue. We think they planned the bombing.”

Liberty Island 26

Lady Liberty has seen better days.

Annotated Walkthrough, 4:

With two objectives and at least two separate entrances the Statue itself represents a higher level problem encounter than those you may have come across while exploring the exterior of Liberty Island. Though possible to break down each individual area within the Statue into it’s own discrete problem it can also be viewed as a single multilayered encounter space.

Opting for the subtle approach you can gain access via the shipping containers to the Statue base. Upon reaching the top you can take cover from the two patrolling NSF behind the crates positioned near the edge of the Statue base. These crates also grant access back onto the shipping containers if necessary. Aside from this initial position there is little cover from the three patrolling NSF on the first level of the Statue Base.

What remains of the head of the Statue of Liberty has been erected on the eastern side of the Statue base. The TNT Crate placed in front of it seems in slightly poor taste; though using it to kill the NSF, and possibly his Mercenary comrade too, does hold a certain ironic appeal.

The death toll from the attack on the Statue was likely small however the psychological affect on the citizens of an already conflicted United States must have been significant. Even with the World Trade Center towers already destroyed the symbolism of a decapitated Lady Liberty cannot be underestimated. Symbolism that appeared again eight years later when the poster of Cloverfield depicted a similar image of a headless Statue of Liberty.

Liberty Island 27

With a large area to cover these NSF can be easily avoided, if that's your wont.

Despite the limited cover the extended patrol paths of the NSF in this area make it easier to deal with each of them separately or, of course, avoid them entirely. A pair of NSF with much shorter paths mark out the western side of the Statue as important. Keeping close to the inner wall will allow you to can gain access to either the interior or, via a ramp, the unguarded upper levels of the Statue base.

If you choose to enter the Statue at this point, you won’t be able to take more than a few paces before hearing the footsteps of another NSF patrolling the central stairwell.  If the two NSF are still on patrol behind you some quick thinking is required to prevent being seen by either them or their approaching ally; on the other hand there is plenty of 10mm Ammo to be found on Liberty Island and at this range a headshot will be instantly fatal. If neither direct action nor avoidance appeal there is a large Poison Barrel the landing just above you, which will incapacitate anybody who inhales its fumes.

Liberty Island 28

Upstairs to your Primary Objective or downstairs to your Secondary Objective, the choice is yours.

Reaching the stairs the sound of a Camera can be heard from somewhere below, assuming that it hasn’t already been turned off via a Security Computer Terminals such as the one outside the main Statue entrance. Downstairs is the ground floor and the imprisoned Agent Gunther Hermann, while upstairs is your Primary Objective the NSF Commander, Leo Gold.

Liberty Island 29

By-passable Turret, Poison Barrel, patrolling NSF... Choices, choices.

When the ground floor of the Statue comes into view it appears to be poorly defended, a single NSF circling the torch in the centre of the lobby and another on the balcony above. The entire ground floor however is one large interconnected problem, even if the five NSF total that can be found on this floor of the Statue are not as dangerous in isolation as the Security Bot outside the Statue entrance together they represent a significant threat.

Unlike the rest of the NSF on Liberty Island instead of responding with gunfire, the first actions of those guarding Agent Hermann upon being alerted is to call for reinforcements. This change in behaviour gives you a few seconds leeway in which to respond to an alerted NSF as well as presenting it’s own opportunities for exploitation; Gas Grenade underneath the Alarm Sounder Panel perhaps?

The arrangement of the Statue lobby is a great example of systemic level design in action, there are several elements positioned throughout the area, some of which you will have seen before others you may not have but which have clear affordances. Reaching Agent Hermann is a multistage process that be approached in more ways that I could reasonably describe here.  Alarm Sounder Panel, Poison Barrel, Electric Control Panel, the interactions between these world objects and your available tools are easily parsable and depending on your personal preferences plans will be forming within the first moments of entering the lobby.

Approaching the laser grid protecting the doorway Alex Jacobson advises you that the security the NSF have in place is “strictly amateur stuff”, whether this matches your own assessment or not the implied message is that there is a way to bypass it and that even if the security initially looks imposing you have the tools available to deal with it. His further comment that the building is probably “riddled with ventilation shafts and maintenance tunnels” may seem a little cliched but it does help to indicate possibilities that may not yet have presented themselves. Indeed upon exploration a ventilation shaft can be found in the corner of the lobby in the shadow of a pillar.

At the end of this darkened shaft is a Multitool and access to a pair of rooms which are both currently sealed. Continuing on into a second leads to a small room the doorway to which has been barricaded by large, immovable, crates. On the desk within this room are a Datapad providing account and security details that will allow you to use the ATM machine in the lobby to acquire (Yes, steal) some credits; provided the ATM is working something the Datapad indicates might not always be the case. There is also a Medkit on the desk and a PS20, a device that looks like a futuristic lighter. Though cigarettes still exist in 2052 this is in fact the near future equivalent of a Derringer, a single shot, Plasma weapon that is 100%  accurate at close range. Rare throughout the rest of Deus Ex, it is possible to find three PS20s on Liberty Island.

Liberty Island 30

Don't be fooled by the apparent emptiness, this is possibly the single most heavily guaded area on the whole of Liberty Island.

Returning to the room where you found the Multitool a locked door provides access to the area behind the laser grid. With both a limited lock strength and door strength this door can be unlocked with a Lockpick or simply destroyed with explosives. Interestingly a Lockpick and a LAM can both be found on the desk back in the lobby, alongside a Datapad detailing the login details for the Security Computer Terminals in the Statue; details that can be found in several duplicate Datapads across the Island.

There are only a few meters between this doorway and the door to Agent Hermann’s ‘cell’ but there are three NSF between those two points, two on patrol in the small area directly ahead of you and only sitting at a table directly outside the ‘cell’ door.

Liberty Island 31

If you are willing to wait this room will be eventually be occupied by two of the three NSF guarding Agent Hermann.

The two NSF have patrol routes of different lengths and unless you are willing to wait it’s difficult to see any opportunity to get past them without confronting either or both of them. Patience is a virtue and if you do wait their patrol routes to sync up leading to both of them entering the room overlooking Agent Hermann’s ‘cell’ at the same time thus providing you with the means chance to avoid them, or to deal with them both at once possibly with a LAM or Gas Grenade.

Liberty Island 32

"Aren't you a little short for a member of the NSF?"

The final NSF in this area will remain seated unless alerted, and in this position he can be dispatched, either lethally or otherwise, fairly easily. In order to approach him you will need to be sure you take measures to deal with the Camera covering the ‘cell’ door. Positioned behind you as you enter it’s very easy to miss and the steps you take to avoid detection by it can lead to you giving yourself away to the seated NSF.

Gunther Hermann can only be freed by using the Security Computer Terminal next to his ‘cell’ door. In some fashion this serves as a form of gated progression. If you haven’t learnt to examine Datapads to find login details or keycodes then you will have difficulty in the future stages of Deus Ex. However it seems extremely unlikely that with at least three separate Datapads, containing duplication information, positioned throughout the level you will have failed to have read at least one of them. If you can’t remember the details they will have been automatically stored on the same interface screen as your Goals (Default F2).

Almost without preamble Gunther Hermann asks you to provide him with a weapon. Even if you wanted to give him your Pistol it could be problematic if you have equipped it with any Weapon Mods. You will never be able to get that Pistol back if you give it to Agent Hermann and those Weapon Mods are not as easy to find as they may have been on Liberty Island. You could drop your modified Pistol and grab a standard Pistol from the body of one of the NSF, however if you’ve already searched their bodies you will have taken some 10mm Ammo instead of the Pistol, and of course it’s entirely possible there will be no bodies to search. Suffice to say there is a way to arm Agent Hermann while keeping your potentially modified Pistol for yourself, but it requires foreknowledge regarding his request.

Either way, Hermann will leave his cell and make his own way back to UNATCO Headquarters attacking any NSF ‘Terrorists’ he comes across. If you have not supplied him with a weapon he will resort to using his Combat Knife, which can be a vaguely comical sight.

Liberty Island 33

Even unarmed Agent Hermann can look after himself once freed from his imprisonment.

As a Secondary Objective freeing Agent Hermann rewards you with the same 150 skill points as talking to Harlen Filben. Because it can also result in the lose of your Pistol in functional terms there is little benefit to freeing your imprisoned colleague. Upon returning to UNATCO Headquarters Agent Hermann will be more favourably disposed to you if you did choose to help him escape but beyond these narrative beats there is little long term functional advantage or disadvantage to completing this Secondary Objective; finding another Pistol is a trivia task after all.

Whether you’ve selected to free Agent Hermann or not, your final destination is the NSF Commander at the top of the Statue; technically the top of the Statue base as the interior of the Statue itself is inaccessible.

Regardless of your means of entry to the Statue interior all routes converge at the same point.

Liberty Island 34

Another example of two 'Terrorists' with differing viewpoints.

Approaching from the outside there is an entrance on each wall three of which are protected by Gas Grenades; fast reactions will allow you to disarm and retrieve them. The fourth, the North facing, is guarded by a NSF and a Mercenary, who can be heard discussing the shipment and the actions of somebody called JoJo. The Mercenary doesn’t seem to agree with his younger and more obviously indoctrinated companion regarding the composition of the NSF and specifically JoJo’s place within it. JoJo Fine is a character you may have the chance to meet later once you reach New York city, though it’s also entirely possible that you will never hear his name again. Whatever their other opinions neither of them appears particularly concerned about standing next to a large Barrel with a clear Explosive warning on it’s side. This is the type of carelessness that can easily cost lives.

Move forward up the stairs and Alex Jacobsen will contact you again either to confirm that “Gunther has reestablished contact” after you helped him escape, or reminding you that he “remains in captivity on the ground floor”. He will also provide another part of the puzzle regarding the NSF presence on Liberty Island, apparently the shipment they stole was the plague vaccine Ambrosia. There’s a further 150 skill points ‘Progress Bonus’ for reaching this point.

Climbing more stairs there’s one further encounter with two NSF ‘Terrorists’, at least one of whom seemed almost reserved about the possibility of death. Senior to the Private next to him he can be overheard telling him that: “If UNATCO breached the perimeter, then it’s already too late. Get ready to fight.” Preoccupied, these two NSF can be avoided if you are careful and move while they are still talking, otherwise the Gas Grenades you recovered downstairs may prove useful, that’s assuming you are not following standing UNATCO orders regarding the NSF threat.

A ladder now stands between you and your Primary Objective. Reaching the top of the Statue grants a ‘Critical Location Bonus’ of 750 skill points which are awarded regardless of your actions after this point; even if you choose to simply kill Leo Gold out of hand you will still be awarded the skill points for reaching the top of the Statue.

Liberty Island 35

Leo Gold seems almost to have been expecting you.

Surrendering the moment you speak to him Leo Gold seems resigned to his fate. If you choose not to kill him, he’s more than willing to talk to you as in his mind he has already won. The NSF have the Ambrosia and for the moment there’s little UNATCO can do about it. You can initiate conversation with Leo Gold three times, and the more you do the more the topics stray off into the world of conspiracy theories upon which the storyline of Deus Ex is built. There are reasons that will only become clear later as to why Leo might feel discussing his motivations with a Denton to be a worthwhile pursuit, but the manner in which they are presented feels rather blunt. The hand of the designer is a little too obvious in this instance. Little of the information or organisations mentioned in this exchange are referenced again and other than serving to show that Leo has heavily bought into the NSF rhetoric they come across as out of place and forced.

As you finish talking to the NSF Commander, footsteps behind you announce the presence of a UNATCO Trooper who informs you that they have now retaken control of the Statue. In a noteworthy decision on the part of the designer this UNATCO Trooper is the only one on this Island who is not invulnerable to damage. If you so desire you can shoot him and take his Assault Rifle; though it only contains a single bullet if you do. During you subsequent debriefing by Joesph Manderly you can even deny any knowledge of this act of cold blooded murder. Curiously Alex Jacobsen remains uncharacteristically quite about the death of this UNATCO Trooper.

No matter the matter you choose to deal with the NSF on the Island every single one of them is now dead, the UNATCO Troopers that finally stormed the Statue were operating under the “shoot on sight” orders that were initially given to you.

Liberty Island 36

It's not always possible to impress everybody.

Returning to the UNATCO Headquarters both Tech Sergeant Kaplan and your brother Paul will be waiting for you, and both have their own opinion of your actions. Even though every ‘Terrorist’ on Liberty Island is now dead your decisions have been noted and it seems everybody in UNATCO has their own opinion of what they indicate about your character.

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