Monday, November 24, 2008

... electricity in a fantasy world

I just realised that there was still alot about the The City which I take for granted and readers who have never heard of the games won't be expecting, or realise. For example - I am not sure where or if I ever actually make it clear that The City has electricity. I need to find somewhere I can slide that in. Is there anything else like that? What am I forgetting? Post ideas to the comments!

Edit: I added one word to Jyre's introduction segment, where I describe the city's lights as electrical. I think that will be enough. I'm still interested in thoughts on the matter, especially issues that may be assumptions on the part of fantasy readers who are not familiar with Thief.


ehcmier said...

The sealed area of the Old Quarter had a power grid with stations 50 years prior to Garrett's missions there.

There are all the Tesla coils and free electricity devices, as well as my favorite Collector Towers near nobles' homes and crazier ones near businesses.

The increased use of light switches and gas lamps.
Turbines and junction boxes.
Boilers and big gears (before Karras).
Will o' the wisps in all three games.
Water towers.
Backlit stained glass windows, not illuminated by the light of the sun or moon, some pulsing gently.
Jackhammers, like the one in the mines of Cragscleft.
Railcar tracks.
Holy water and healing fonts.
Pressure plates.
The use of lye on corpses.
Eternal flames.
There's more, of course.

Dan said...

Right, but I wonder how those types of things can be worked into the early chapters without being tacked on? I am only a little concerned that people will assume too much and then when they find that the assumptions are wrong, it will be jarring. One could easily fall into the trap of expecting a LOTR style fantasy, and then suddenly running into turbines and tesla coils would produce a WTT. (What the taff?)

ehcmier said...

For sure. You can't put in front of somebody and have them stumble over it. It has to be treated as natural and unremarkable. These things make noises, too, and add to the ambiance and form, as well as having a function.

These things may make sounds and smells, and may vibrate the walls and floors, as well as illuminate, all of which can be sensed before entering the area they are in, without ever seeing the tech itself. Much of it is familiar, thus identifiable. A sound may do what many of us wished happened in-game: mask our sounds, yet it also means we may not hear another entity's approach.

The characters could have a little more sensory input and reaction. Entering a dark space in a building could create the automatic response of fumbling for a light switch, translated to whatever equivalent people would have with torch light. A piece of machinery kicking on startles me nearly every night, here.

These characters are living beings with habits grown out of needs and desires, so they just use devices without thinking about it too much. It wouldn't seem tacked on, if it's simply what anyone on those circumstances would experience. Make nothing special of it, and choose wording that avoids that expository tone. Be brief. Don't linger. If the reader blinks, the reader misses it. As a starting point.

This whole first chapter provides three very different perspectives on the setting. The Keeper perspective of no barriers to anything in The City but the self-imposed kind. Nightfall's high education in physical and seemingly metaphysical matters, yet an outsider. Jyre's basic education and youthful naivete, seeing much, but not knowing how it works. The City has much industrial tech in and around it, inside homes or nearby. One may not travel too far without a sight, sound, smell of it, even as a landmark to get one's bearings. "Where am I?"

The end of TDP/Gold has a welder working around midnight. "Assassins!" has a smelting cauldron glowing hot on a dark abandoned street in an industrial area outside the great wall separating city sections.

Lights flicker and make shadows dance. Hmm. Keep it casual.

Anarchic Fox said...

It may be too late for a suggestion, but people most notice their civilization's infrastructure when it goes wrong. Surely you don't think that the sparking, dodgy electronics in Thief were purely aesthetic. :)