15 Questions with Eshaktaar

June 26, 2008 at 2:51 am

Well, given the recent monumental release of Broken Triad, it seems appropriate that we should tap the brain of one of the premier FM makers around. He was kind enough to reply, so I give you…15 questions with Eshaktaar – creator of not only Broken Triad, but the classic fan mission Ominous Bequest and the SSR contest winner Keyhunt.

1. Broken Triad has been released. Huge sigh of relief?

Certainly. It took me way longer than expected, especially because I had to split up the mission into two parts.

2. Ominous Bequest was released in 2003, and now Broken Triad in 2008. Please don’t take offense to this, but what took so long?

I had to create Broken Triad with many breaks in between because Real Life(tm) always found its way to interrupt me for several months. The second mission required a lot of custom content to be made, because I wanted the island’s culture to be similar but still different to Thief’s Precursors. That took some time, too.
I could’ve released mission 1 separately about a year ago, but I agreed with my beta-testers that it was better to finish mission 2 first.

3. Right, Broken Triad was originally Unholy Alliance, and was only one mission. After playing BT, I can’t see how you could get it done in a single level. Did the project change that much over the past few years?

The story changed quite a bit from the initial stages. At first it wasn’t even related to Ominous Bequest but contained a weird crossover between Thief and System Shock where Shodan suddenly got stranded in the Thief universe. Luckily (I suppose), I didn’t pursue this idea much further but went for a continuation of OB’s story instead.

4. So, what’s next? Will we see anything else from you for Thief2? Or are you moving on to The Dark Mod, TDS editing, and/or other things, or nothing at all? Anything at all in the works as we speak?

I’ve been working on a non-Thief related game since the beginning of this year, and it’s almost finished by now. It’s a 2.5D point’n’click adventure, and it’ll be out later this year. I doubt I’ll be making another Thief mission anytime soon, and if I do, it certainly won’t be anything as big as OB or BT. Those huge missions just take too much time to finish.

5. Are any game developers knocking on your door? Or isn’t that a direction you want to go in professionally?

I’m going to be a 3D-modeller for a small game company, starting next July.

(Edit: Big congrats to Eshaktaar on that one! I think it would be a crime if he weren’t in the gaming biz.)

6. OB and BT were big, huge, epic missions. So why did you decide to enter the SSR contest with Keyhunt, especially considering the restrictions on custom materials?

This was a very spontaneous decision where I had two weeks of free time at hand and not much motivation to work on Broken Triad. The restrictions appealed to me because I had been producing so much custom content for BT that I needed a break.

7. All your FMs seem very puzzle oriented. Where does this aspect of your level design come from, did you play a lot of those types of games growing up?

Yes, I grew up with games like Zak McKracken and Fate of Atlantis, and I made several small adventures (for the C64 and good ol’ MS-DOS) before I came to Thief. I like the blend of storytelling and puzzle-solving adventures have to offer, and I think their decline is unfortunate (though they seem to be on a rise again, at least here in Europe). I found Thief to be an ideal platform where puzzles can be integrated into a very dynamic world.

8. Your missions often have complicated camvator sequences, but you’ve never taken a shot at one of the Thief standards – the mission briefing. How come?

I actually had an intro movie for Ominous Bequest in the style of a typical mission briefing, but ultimately it didn’t add anything essential to what a text couldn’t purvey, so I decided not to blow up the mission’s size any more than necessary. One of the pictures I made for the video can be seen in the mission: It’s the painting of Robert Farrington posing with his burricks. To keep “in style” with its prequel, Broken Triad was also released without a briefing video.

9. Your levels are top notch in most areas, but the architecture is especially of note. Where do you get your inspiration and ideas in this area?

Mostly photographs of buildings, or paintings from various concept artists. The museum’s exterior in Broken Triad was inspired by the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, for example, and some of the White Cathedral’s textures are based on photos I made of a church in Biel, Switzerland. I also gathered a lot of photos of Egyptian ruins as inspiration for the second mission.

10. Right out of the gate, your first mission (OB) was a classic. That’s pretty rare, did you consciously decide from the start that you weren’t messing around and wanted to produce something substantial?
Ominous Bequest could be called an accident of sorts. It started as a mere test map where I just wanted to experiment a bit, but soon I had the entryway of a mansion and the idea for a simple break-steal-leave mission. One thing lead to the other, and the mission and its story got much bigger that I had initially planned.

11. Seems as if there are several designers in the Thief community put all their time into mission creation. Do you still play the original games and/or the levels released within the community?

To refresh my memory on the Precursors I played the original Lost City level quite a bit. I used to play a lot of FMs, but during the last few months I had to dedicate my entire time to finishing Broken Triad. On the bright side, I now have a large backlog of FMs I can play.

12. Name some of your favorite Thief FMs (top 5 or less).

There are too many to mention, but here are some just off the top of my head:

Banshee’s The Vigil. It was one of the first FMs I played and when I figured out what I had to do in the graveyard, I realized how much Thief could be designed to work like an adventure game.

Doaal’s Mystery Man, because of the shock moments and the excellent buildup of suspense until you finally meet the bad guy. And, again, the puzzles.

Lady Rowena’s Rowena’s Curse. It came out shortly before Ominous Bequest, and the similarities between both missions made some people (jokingly) speculate that Lady Rowena and I were the same person. I loved the plot and the way the main villain had a motive one could relate to.

Ramirez’s Old Fat Burrick’s The Curse. I found the architecture in this one very inspiring, and I still manage to get lost in the large building.

13. What do you think of the state of the Thief editing community – will authors soon abandon Dromed and move on to TDM and/or the TDS editor?

Looking at the missions that are currently in production (CoSaS’ Mission X, a new mission by Saturnine, Gaëtane’s Black Frog campaign, just to name a few), it’s hard to say when this flood of missions will ultimately die down. Maybe we’ve reached the final peak this year, or maybe Thief will be abandoned no sooner than 2038 when DromEd stops working.

14. There’s lots of rumors about Thief4 floating around, what’s your take? Another game focusing on Garrett? Or maybe someone else? Or should they just leave well enough alone?

The ending of the third instalment suggested that Garrett’s story has come to an end, so maybe a new protagonist is in order. One strength of Thief’s gameplay has always been the freedom how you could approach each mission, and so far no other game has done it quite so well. If there’s a Thief 4 I hope the new team manages to avoid the technical difficulties that plagued the creation process of Deadly Shadows.

15. Why did you recently decide to redo/update OB?

Yandros gave me the idea while beta testing Broken Triad. BT’s story is closely related to Ominous Bequest’s, even though it might not seem like that at first. The updated version is a potential reason for players to revisit the mission and refresh their memory on OB’s story.

Thanks to Esh for answering what was probably way too many questions. And if you haven’t played Broken Triad,get to it. You won’t be sorry.



author: brethren

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