It took me a couple of decades, but today, I finally joined the ranks of the Guild of Thieves. Just saying…
I’ve been working on material for a possible Guild of Thieves 2. Here is a synopsis and a couple of early ideas for scenes & puzzles.
I’m interested in people’s feedback, also remember these are very early ideas…
Guild of Thieves 2
It’s been 30 years since you proved yourself worthy of The Guild of Thieves.
Over the years, your abilities have only improved, almost to an artform. You climbed the ladder and the greasy pole to finally dethrone and become the Guildmaster - The most senior Master Thief!
But now an upstart aspiring thief wants your head. You’ve been challenged to prove you’ve still got what it takes. The usual rules - Winner takes all, and may the worst one win!
Robbing, stealing and cheating - all far too easy for a Master. No, no, you’ve been challenged to “unsteal” things!
Remember those things you took, all those years ago in the Guild Test? No? Well, now you have to put them back. To “Unsteal” them, so that nobody notices. Get caught or found out and you’re finished!
Think you can do it? Got what it takes? Let’s find out…
This game will not have a deeply complicated overall plot. It will be a “collect the treasures” style game, same as the original. The entertainment will come from the activities and detail elements.
Unlike the old games, it will not be predominantly puzzle oriented. Instead you will “flow” through the game and enjoy the journey.
Challenges will come from interacting with characters, learning things and doing things.
Of course, you can mess up; get caught, found out, set off alarms etc. The game will handle this by allowing limited consequential play, some amusing text to describe your terrible fate etc., then automatically “rewind” the game to put you back to attempt the endeavour again.
The challenges should be straightforward once the requisite information is uncovered. This is done by talking to people and manipulating objects.
A big feature compared to the original game technology will be character interaction. Not so much talking to them, but having them talk to you - even asking you questions.
You’ll be able to ask and tell things, and the characters will have extensive back stories. some elements possibly auto-generated. Many of the backstories will be amusing (scope for comedy etc.).
Scene Ideas for Guild2
I’ve been collecting ideas, here are two;
The Countess’ Banquet
You have to return the diamond necklace to the Countess, without being discovered;
The real diamond necklace was stolen many years ago. The one currently worn by the countess is fake. she knows the diamonds are fake, but this is has been carefully kept a secret to save her reputation. Naturally, you can’t just turn up and hand them over, since how could you possibly know?
There is to be a lavish banquet at the castle, many important guests are to attend, and the Countess will have to wear her diamond necklace to impress and express her apparent wealth.
One of your skills as a Master Thief is impersonation. You have to get into the banquet disguised as the Duke. To do this you have to sabotage the Duke’s carriage, so it breaks a wheel, and also pickpocket the Duke’s invitation. That’s the easy bit!
Your plan is to (somehow) swap the real diamond necklace for the fake one.
At the banquet, you have to make your way past various guests, talking to them. We expand on the usual “ask about” or “tell about” by having characters in the game ask you questions, in which the appropriate response is expected.
For example, if asked “how’s Timmy’s progress at the school?”, you’d better know who Timmy is. Your response, “he’s the teacher’s pet” might not work when it transpires that Timmy is, in fact, a dog.
In order to make parser conversation work without magically having to understand everything that could be said, we’ll use a “fill in the blanks” style of response (or a choice-based one if that idea isn’t workable). Fill in the blanks responses will have a varying amount of blanks (depending), but where you can type, you should be able to type what you like and it should work.
So a lot of the game mechanic when impersonating is knowing the facts for the response. therein are the puzzles.
As an extra twist for this puzzle, it turns out that there’s also a junior thief at the banquet, who’s aspiring idea it is to steal the Countess’ diamond necklace. He has a fake version in his swag bag and plans to switch it with the “real” one and has no idea the “real” one is a sophisticated fake!
You have to switch your real “real” one with his fake “real” one and arrange for his, somewhat more amateur thievery attempt to work so that unbeknown to everyone including himself, he actually switches back the genuine diamonds for you!
The Famous Painting
There’s an oil painting in a famous art gallery that you must legally obtain. Years ago (The Guild of Thieves original), you stole this painting from a castle, but it was never returned to its original owner. Instead, it passed through many hands and eventually ended up being somehow acquired by the art gallery. The art gallery won’t part with it for money, or at least for the amount that you can legally afford. Stealing it is out of the question because, since it’s now believed to be owned by the gallery, the rightful owner could not openly keep it.
It so happens that there’s another painting, that’s the prized possession of the art gallery. This painting is so famous that it brings in many, many viewers and makes the gallery a considerable sum of money each year and the gallery couldn’t possibly afford to lose it. In fact, They’re so scared of losing it (a lot of thieves around you know!), that they’ve replaced the version on display inside the gallery by a fake! Of course, it’s a very good fake, kept behind glass and also behind a barrier so that even an art expert could not tell the difference.
A bit like this:
But no one knows, that what they’re actually viewing is a fake. Except, that is, you. You know it’s a copy because the forger was a member of The Guild of Thieves!
You have to steal the fake famous painting, then, through anonymous intermediates, offer it for auction sale to both private collectors and the art gallery. The gallery will be forced to outbid all the other parties, since otherwise the fact that the gallery hosts fake paintings will become public and shred their reputation. The only way the gallery can save face (and future revenue) is by buying the painting back - even though they know it’s a fake!
By subterfuge, you push the bidding price to a level the gallery cannot possibly afford. When they panic, you make it known that you’re prepared to “art launder” it for less. In exchange for, let’s say, a not so famous painting of your choice, providing they make it appear, in a totally unrelated way, that they wish to publicly and legally donate the other painting to a third party, say for example, the Kerovnian castle, whence it finally restored to its original proper owner.
I really like these ideas! Especially the rewind function, which you described to me in the Duke of York pub earlier this year. A lot of early IF games could only be solved by trial and error. You’d fail, and then try again, this time armed with foreknowledge. IF players these days don’t have the patience for this, by and large, and thus there’s an expectation for games to ‘merciful’, in that you can’t make them unwinnable. The rewind idea gives us a nice alternative by incorporating the trial and error factor into the fabric of the game. I’d be very interested to know more about how the “fill in the blanks” conversation model might work.
I like the notion that the game characters ask you questions, as it means the game drives the conversation narrative. This makes it a bit easier to manage and control the plot thread - which is always a problem if the player can type arbitrary parser input for character conversation.
So, there is an idea to mix parser input for doing things with choice input for saying things. I think some form of choice input lends itself much better to character interaction than raw parser input (given its limitations).
The other idea is the “fill in the blanks” idea, in which you’re presented with various response “templates” and have to fill in the details. This format will control the grammar of the response and therefore the overall meaning but not the detail. For example;
“The Baron is most passionate about horticulture, are you keen on gardening per-chance, Mr. Montefiore?”
- yes, my ____ is full of ____.
- indeed, i run the botanical gardens at ____.
- quite so, my speciality is the ____ of the ____.
- no, i hate it!
can fill in two nouns, free form not chosen, can be anything;
can fill in a location;
the local pub
in the Duke’s smoking room
arbitrary verb and noun;
study/Blue Morpho butterfly
Not sure if this idea would work, but it’s not as constrained as a choice list, and gives a lot of scope for funnies.
The idea is to allow people to mess up and enjoy at least a small amount of “tangent” consequence without too much work being expended. Usually this technique allows for a certain amount of comedy in an otherwise serious game.
For example, Here’s how you can lose in Corruption in just one move;
“Derek, that Scott Electronics deal did brilliantly.” That’s what David Rogers said. “I’m offering you a partnership in Rogers and Rogers, starting next month. What do you say?” Obviously you accepted. I mean you’ve been working towards this for years. And that deal was a touch of genius if you do say so yourself. Of course, moving into senior management does have its benefits - like the BMW you are driving. Very nice. Then there’s the salary rise and the new offices. Things are looking good. You turn into the office car park and head up to reception, briefcase at the ready. “Bang on time Derek,” says David as he shakes your hand. “Nice to see you. First things first, I’ll show you your office.” He takes you up to the second floor and introduces you to Margaret Stubbs, your new secretary, before showing you into your office.
CORRUPTION. Version 1.11.
Copyright © 1988 Magnetic Scrolls Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Compared to your old office this isn’t much of an improvement. You wonder whether it was worth accepting the partnership when you still have the same chair, the same filing cabinet, the same desk and still no phone. Margaret has her office next door and, on first impressions, she isn’t much of an improvement either. The only consolation is the splendid view of the square out of your window.
David notices your distinct lack of enthusiasm. “Sorry it’s not up to much,” he says. “We should be moving soon anyway. Oh, when you’ve got a minute, would you take these early bookings down to the dealing room at the end of the corridor. I’d do it myself but I really must rush off to a meeting.” He hands you the list. “If there’s anything you want to ask about, fire away.”
You hit David full in the stomach. He clutches himself and doubles up with an “Ooofff.” “You bastard,” he screams and goes berserk; arms and legs flailing and punching. You try to cover your face but he succeeds in knocking you over. As you hit the floor your head bangs against something hard and you pass out.
Your eyes start to focus as you wake up, showing you are in a cell. A blurred policeman is standing over you. “He’s woken up inspector,” he shouts through the haze. Detective Inspector Goddard arrives. “Information has come into our possession,” he says, “which implies that your personal dealings in Scott Electronics shares were made with the benefit of unpublished price sensitive information. In short, Mr. Rogers, these three items,” he produces a cassette, a share certificate and an affidavit, “provide enough evidence to convict you of insider dealing”. “Mr. Rogers, you are under arrest for insider dealing. I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you.” He looks at you mischievously. The inspector puts your belongings on the table. “Take him to the cells sergeant,” he says. “Put him in solitary, that should sort him out.” Sergeant Russell marches you down to the cells. “Here you are Mr. Rogers,” he says. “Your new home.” He pushes you inside the grotty, stinking cell and slams the door.
The big day of the trial finally arrives. You are taken out into the cold morning air and dumped in the back of a police van with a cheerful, “See you soon,” from Sergeant Russell. As you stand in the dock, you nervously look up to the public gallery. David Rogers is there, sitting next to Jenny, smiling and joking. They are surrounded by members of the press, eager as ever for a juicy scandal.
The proceedings begin with Sir Reginald Botting-Meade QC taking the chair. The prosecuting counsel slowly takes the jury through your crimes, weaving a story that even you start to believe. Next, your barrister attempts to discredit his adversary’s story as mere speculation, based on reading too many spy thrillers. Sir Reginald orders the jury to retire to consider their verdict on your crimes : insider dealing, and wasting police time.
You are taken down to the cells. You can hear the policemen outside betting on the verdict. “They’re ready,” someone shouts. The policemen take you back up to the dock. Sir Reginald looks at you sternly from the other side of the court room as the jury file in. The murmurings from the public gallery die down. “Members of the jury,” Sir Reginald says, “have you reached a verdict?” The foreman stands. “We have,” he says. “We find the defendant guilty on all counts.” As the foreman sits down you notice David and Jenny smiling at each other. Sir Reginald looks across the room at you. “Mr. Rogers,” he says, “you have callously abused your position of authority and the trust others have placed in you. Unfortunately, crimes such as these are becoming more frequent in a place where good faith is of the utmost importance. I therefore propose, as a deterrent to others, to sentence you to a period of two years in prison. Take him down.” The only good thing about being dragged down to the cells is that you manage to avoid the press interviews. The bad side, however, is that your life and career are in ruins.
But worse than that, you were beaten by Corruption. Better luck next time.
Your score is 0 from a possible 200.
Do you want to quit or restart (q/r)? R
“My nipples explode with delight!”
The “fill-in-the-blanks” approach sounds really cool! Like you said, one might get (part of) the feeling of freedom associated with parser input, without producing a feeling of directionlessness and without having to deal with all the complications of natural language processing.
I think it might also work well even with a fixed, large list of given terms to choose from, such as you gave as examples.
And the thieving scenarios you described above are great! I haven’t played the original Guild of Thieves (yet), so I can’t comment from the perspective of a “guild member”, but I’d be happy to play such a game.
It seems that it would lend itself very well to a good mix of object-handling puzzles and conversational puzzles.
The “rewind” idea sounds good too, I think. I’m sure I’m not the only player who enjoys doing some stupid or reckless things on purpose just to see what happens (usually with several save-files up my sleeve, of course).
I guess you would have to communicate this directly at the beginning, to get the players into the right mindset.
Hi @ StJohnLimbo
Thanks for the positive comments.
Not sure if anyone has ever tried this “fill in the blanks” approach. I’m going to have to try a prototype to see if it works.
Hopefully it will give a sense of being between “choice” and “parser”, which might suit certain situations (like conversation).