It’s Not Just A Mod Anymore…

It’s Not Just A Mod Anymore… after the break…

It’s Not Just A Mod Anymore…

Humans are not blessed with living in an era where people may live for as long as they desire. Our cells degrade over time. Bones become brittle. Our memories fade. Internal organs fail for a multitude of reasons. And that’s not including accidents and other unfortunate incidents that could kill you long before you die. As of now, even the best amongst us don’t last too long past 110 years old, so what are your chances of cracking 120? 130? Beyond? Most of us won’t make it past 90 years old and those last few decades are not your healthiest.

If humans don’t live long, game companies are mayflies compared to humans. Some game companies are created, exist, and close without making any games at all. The longevity of a game company can often be measured in months, not years.

Often, a game company does not survive because they are the best or the most popular or the wealthiest; Gaming history is strewn with former giants of the industry who have fallen into the trash heap of history. LucasArts was once a titan in the classic point-and-click adventure genre; Origin was synonymous with role-playing games, it’s Ultima series was second-to-none; 3D Realms owned the first-person shooter genre; Infocom was King of the text adventure. Even current popular companies have become shadows of their former selves – iD software, makers of Doom & Quake, was bought out by Bethesda; Valve is now more publisher then developer, more “Steam” then Half-Life (Don’t believe me? Just ask them where Half-Life 2: Episode 3 has been for the past 7 years or so…); Sierra is now just a name on a box.

Poetic justice rarely occurs, in real life or in any aspect of our lives. The people who ran over your family pet are never found; The people who vandalized the local ballpark are never prosecuted; Your jerk of a boss is promoted while you are laid off (or fired); The person who roars past you on the highway is never caught for speeding; The person who lied through their teeth at the job interview gets the offer while you don’t even get a rejection letter, but just silence. Injustice occurs so often in our society that it becomes invisible, that when a modicum of justice does occur it becomes a headline.

Like so many game companies, Looking Glass Technologies was created, existed and closed. Yet LGT was different then most other game companies; LGT was successful. LGT made Ultima Underworld I & II, assisted in making System Shock II and made Thief I & II. Most game companies would be honored to have one of those titles on their resumes – LGT had all five and more. Yet, like so many game companies, LGT lived a hand-to-mouth existence when it came to finances. Without constant external funding, the company, like so many other game companies, couldn’t exist. Eventually, that funding dried up. LGT was gone and, with LGT gone, the last hope for a third authentic game in the Thief series died with it.

Thief, the franchise, was too popular to fade away with the game company that created it. Thief III would eventually be made but by different people, by a different company and with different standards. When Thief I & II were made, the personal computer was king; When Thief III finally arrived, consoles had dethroned the PC and the game reflected that reality. Thief III had to fit within the confines of a console – Levels were smaller (remember the “blue mist”?); A console-friendlier third-person option was added; The combat option was beefed up; Loot glint; The “City Hub” level; The lockpick mini-game… Non-console bumbling of the title eventually emerged as well – Gone were rope arrows because of poor programming decisions as well as the ability to swim.

For awhile, it seemed as though the Thief franchise was truly going to die. Thief III was a thinly-received title amongst the console consumers; PC gamers were entertained by the game even less, preferring the first two titles. Thief I & II were aging poorly with each new Windows operating system. The source code for the first two titles were seemingly lost forever, a victim of insufficient back-up procedures so common with even robust game companies. Thief IV, a distant possibility, had been whispered about but never confirmed or even hinted at.

Then, as so rarely happens in real life, poetic justice occurred.

The Dark Mod happened.

Using the Doom III engine, TDM was Thief without the now quirky engine constraints of the originals or the intellectual property. It had rope arrows. It had swimming. It didn’t have blue mist or climbing gloves. TDM brought the graphics up to a reasonably modern level.

And TDM improved over time – Levels were loaded faster and save game sizes shrunk exponentially. The artificial intelligence that guided the enemies grew smarter and more capable. The game became more efficient – Slower computers could run the game faster and more reliably.

Yet, behind all of the changes, TDM was still a “mod,” a modification of a game, more specifically, Doom III. A person needed a full copy of Doom III installed on their computer in order to play The Dark Mod.

Not anymore.

As of version 2.0, The Dark Mod isn’t a “mod” anymore. Now, it is it’s own game.

Now, The Dark Mod IS the “Thief III” that players always wished for but never received. It is more Thief III then “Thief: Deadly Shadows,” the official ‘Thief III.’ It is more Thief then Thief IV (the soon-to-be-released, very consolized, reboot of the Thief franchise).

Some may contend that The Dark Mod is not the only contender for the continuation of the Thief franchise. Since the start of The Dark Mod development, the source code for the first two titles in the franchise has leaked, likely resulting in the unofficial patches that brings both Thief II and System Shock II radically up-to-date. Yet until the source code is truly released to the public by the company that owns the Thief franchise and not in the private hands of enthusiastic programmers, it is hard to say that the future of Thief lies in the hands of Thief I or II.

Thief IV (“Thief,” as it is known) has not been forthcoming in it’s plans to release a level editor and, in all likelihood, will never release such an editor now that business models such as Steam (which is a form of Internet-based copy protection) and DLCs (DownLoadable Content, the successor of expansion packs) are popular in stretching out revenue streams. Even if such an editor were released, the gameplay mechanics of Thief IV has been so drastically altered from the first two titles (for instance, the freedom of jumping has been limited, the “focus” ability and the increased emphasis on combat even more so then in Thief III) as to be it’s own independent model, a stealth game that just so happens to use the Thief name and intellectual property.

So often, people do not live to see poetic justice occur. Obviously, people eventually bear witness to large political or sporting events who’s outcomes are poetic justice to someone. Yet poetic justice so often does not occur at this level, where enthusiasts get to experience the joy and rapture of their wildest wishes.

We are now blessed to live in a world with a true “Thief III.” It is called “The Dark Mod.” A free game that is built on a now open-source engine, the game is in little danger of ever becoming obsolete. The source code is available to anyone to modify. There are no needs to hunt down the source code or pray that a private company makes such code public to modify.

Thief IV will be released. People are bound to play it. Some may even like it. DLC will inevitably be made for it, regardless of it’s financial success or failure.

Thief I & II will continue to be played by the die-hard, hard-core Thief community. Levels will continue to be made for that. Additional unofficial patches may be released to make it compatible with future operating systems.

Yet the future of the Thief franchise is with “The Dark Mod.” It may not have Stephen Russell’s voice with it; It may not come in a box on a shelf at your local gaming store; It may not use words like “Hammerites” to describe the fanatically religious enemies in it’s game.

The journey is over; The Thief Community has the “Thief III” that they have waited so long for. It is called “The Dark Mod.”

Congratulations to everyone involved. They deserve it.

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