Real Name: Ken Ramsley
Forum Identity: frobber
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

What first attracted you to Thief, and when was that?
In 1998 I worked with Jon Maiara who’d recently left Looking Glass Studios to try his hand at designing “real” hardware. In those days I rarely played games at all, but Jon kept telling me about something I might like… something about sneaking around old buildings while hiding from the guards. Except for Jon’s prodding, it’s very unlikely that I’d ever have played Thief… or heard about it … or even cared to look.

The Enterprise (T1) - (T2)

Repair and Rework Department


Town Square

The Insurrection

Cathedral Interior

Oracle of the Prophets

Somewhere Far from Home

Why did you start designing missions, and when was that?
At first it seemed equally unlikely that I’d ever design anything for this game. When Looking Glass first released DromEd, I opened a few of the original missions and was completely astounded by the bizarre world of this editor. I’ve made lots of 3D models over the years, but DromEd included all sorts of structures and hierarchies which made little sense. After an evening or two of this, I moved on to other things. By early 2000, though, it was clear that other fans hadn’t given up. And after playing a few of those early fan missions, I realized that maybe DromEd wasn’t so bizarre after all. Since I design for a living, I figured that maybe it was worth another shot.

Give us a brief summary of all your currently released missions. Tell us the idea behind them, what you are proud of, and what you regret about them.

I’ve released four missions so far – all part of a larger series called A Keeper of the Prophecies. The series takes place between the time of Thief 1 and 2, and besides telling my own story, I’m taking a crack at filling the storyline gaps between the two games.

I enjoy the attempt at proving my own premise… that Garrett is much more the master of his own destiny than he keeps hearing in those Keeper “prophecies.” Others simply need his extraordinary talents and they’ll do whatever they must to control him (an idea which greatly pre-dates a certain newer Thief game).

Besides storytelling, I like how the missions themselves evolve as they are played. Time is often short, new challenges arrive which are unconnected to player actions and the more the player fights, the more these places tend to fight back.

If I have any regrets it’s how the series is being released one chapter at a time. Although this creates interest as players await the next episode, it also means that game play is piecemeal, which certainly disrupts the continuity of the story. Until the whole series can be played together, it may not work so well – or at least not as well as I am hoping. But there’s nothing I can do about it, except to finish the series.

What inspiration outside of Thief 1/Gold, Thief 2, and Deadly Shadows influenced the content of your fan mission?
I –really– wanted to write about this notion of “destiny,” so I tapped into my own experiences working for powerful people and the games they’ll play to dominate others. After all, power is very much about trying to control other people, and Garrett would never have faced many of his own problems with destiny had nobody been trying to use him. Besides this, the original Myst game, Systems Shock 2, DeusEx, and stories from the television shows Star Trek, Stargate SG1, and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey also provide grist for the mill.

What do you feel is your strongest suit in mission design? Architecture? Story? Atmosphere? Scripting? Gameplay? Something else?
My favorite aspect is audio design, both the creative and engineering aspects. Intriguing ambient sound design begins with realistic source material, which is one reason why I’ve periodically wandered around Boston and other places with open microphones. Most of these recordings are useless for my mission designs, but some have made a big difference in bringing a unique feeling to the series. The geometric and texture-mapping limitations of the dark engine are pretty obvious, but voice work and sounds from the real world can be totally authentic, and this can add a layer of believability that would not be there without these sounds.

Have you ever worked with other people on an FM project? If so, who were they, and what did they do? I’ve chipped in some consulting effort on other people’s missions, but the people I’ve really worked with are mostly those who have contributed to my own project. 45 people have helped out so far, and without their contributions of material, critiques, and testing, I would not have made the missions I’ve wanted to make. Although this interview is about my efforts, the following people are the unsung heroes…

Voice Acting:
SlyFoxx – Garrett, Franticius, Harroleous, Listus, Kevel, Arcelious, The Guardian, Karras.
Lizanneh – Alisha, Little Girl.
Saturnine – Cavador, Vicar Feluxis, High Priest Encellon, The Evil Mechanist.
MsLedd - The Missies (Kevel’s wife).
frobber – Keeper Orlet, Crastus, Nobleman 2, Solustice, Pontis, Cog, Karras (on Victrolla).
Komag - Keeper Calif.
Broken Arts - Aida, Medifney.
The Thief – Timitus.

Design Elements:
Shadowspawn – clocks, pocket watch, and other custom objects (including animated AI).
Lazarus – AVI briefings and cutscenes.
Thorin Oakenshield - AVI 'movie' animations.
Purah - with permission, many textures borrowed from the Calendra's series.
Saturnine – "CamVator" invention (as first seen in the "7th Crystal").
Cyberblutch – custom AI models
SilentSleep – fade-up from black technology.
David Gurrea Hernandez - many textures greatly reduced in detail to fit the dark engine.
Schwaa - custom AI, objects, and textures.
Thumper - custom script (cl.osm -- from the "Calendra's Legacy" series).
von.Eins - custom objects (from his release-pack into the public domain).
Daemonite - enhanced Thief 1 AI skins (from his public release-pack).
GOB and MOG - wood texture borrowed and altered, from their Contest 4 mission The Bar.
MsLedd - AI “skin” for Alisha.
Tomi - custom map base texture (from his public release-pack)
Goober - lots of comments and suggestions

Story Consultants: Lizanneh, Freddy Fox, Gloria Creep, rastas (aka Anthony Walker), theBlackman, Gumdrop, Moghedian, Brad Pfouts

Play Testers: Nightwalker, SlyFoxx, Lizanneh, MsLedd, Shadowspawn, Hawklette, Peter Smith, Vanguard, Peter Smith, Jericho, Dennis Nixon, Griffin, Madwolf, Goober, Dafydd ab Hugh, ffox, Renanse, Albert R. Conklin, Daedalus, Spitter, Suttytx, diana50322, SilentSleep

If you could rebuild any OM from Thief 1/Gold or 2 from scratch (as a T2 FM), which one would it be, and why?
An interesting project would be to combine two missions in Thief 1 that are almost combined already – The Haunted Cathedral and Return to the Cathedral. In Thief 2 there are enough resources to do this, and combining those two maps could offer a chance to create the ultimate retro-undead thieving mission.

What's your favorite FM(s) from other authors?
I’ve enjoyed Gingerbread Man’s Benny’s Dead the most, not just because of the wonderful twist to the story and creepy atmosphere, but also for how even the most minor scraps of writing are utterly entertaining. In addition, I like everything by Gonchong because of how his attention to detail virtually eliminates distractions, and I can just relax knowing that I won’t very often be reminded that I’m playing in a virtual world.

Tell us about that first mission you made in dromed, back when you were first learning the editor, which never saw the light of day.
Well… I didn’t exactly do it that way. I actually released the very first thing I built – The Enterprise for Thief 1. And if nothing else, this bit of foolishness should validate my own advice about first building something small – which I did not do. It took seven months to construct and recently nearly five months more to port this to Thief 2 – with a fair amount of that porting effort devoted to fixing my earlier newbie bugs and mistakes. If it hadn’t been so buggy, I might have left it alone as a Thief 1 mission. But it crashed a lot and I got tired of making apologies. The conversion was a royal pain, but I think it was worth the effort, and today it’s probably the most detailed and polished setting of the series.

Tell us about the mission you currently have in production.
I’m currently working on the last chapter in A Keeper of the Prophecies. But saying “last chapter” may sound like I’m almost done. Episode 5 itself has five parts, and I’m only somewhat through the second section right now – and this segment is more complicated and dicey than anything I’ve ever tried before. The whole thing should be done within a year, and at that point I can –finally– release the entire series as one continuous mission pack. Right now, Garrett is very far from home, but he finally has a notion about what he must do to save himself, and when he arrives at his next destination, these ideas will start to become clear – but that’s about all I can say for now.

Links for more screenshots…
enter2_promo.html / kotp_promo.html / kotp_promo2.html / kotp_promo3.html / oraclescreens.html

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