The Architect of Challenge

Welcome to the FM Author Spotlight, a series of interviews that provides an exclusive peek into the world of fan mission creators. In this episode, we are talking to GORT, a legendary author primarily known for his ambitious and technically complex Rebellion of the Builder campaigns.

Aemanyl: Please introduce yourself and tell us how you discovered the Thief games.

GORT: Well, my name’s Shaun. Most on the Internet know me as GORT. Born in California and lived mostly in San Jose. Moved to Missoula, Montana in 1996. Been there since. For quite a while, I was pretty much playing only console video games until about 1999 - 2000. It was around 2002 when I found out about the Thief games. I found out by buying the Sound Blaster Live! sound card. Thief 2 came with it! Although, I did hear someone in high school vaguely talk about Thief in 1999 but I didn’t have my own PC at that time.

Aemanyl: Most of your missions are known for their challenging nature, often leading some players to opt for lower difficulty levels or consult a walkthrough. Could you share the rationale behind designing the missions this way?

GORT: Ah, yes. My fan missions can be quite brutal and unforgiving on the hardest difficulty. This is why I encourage players to start on the easiest first and work their way up to be ready for it. In my mind, there’s no shame in that. As for why I went this route, well… The way I was looking at it, I was expecting the player to be able to know the Thief games in-side and out before trying fan missions. However, I do think that I’ve taken it down a notch or two in my latest fan mission, The Pursuance of an Inscrutable Reciprocity (Post-contest version). I will admit here, The Rebellion of the Builder 1 was quite an intended troller. But here’s the reason for that. Might not be a good one, but here it is. When I was making this, it really wasn’t going out for everyone at first. This was mainly for my youngest brother when we were making a few small fan missions for each other. It wasn’t until I discovered TTLG later on in my college years.

Aemanyl: An Enigmatic Treasure with a Recondite Discovery is your only mission for Thief Gold released so far. I found it to be a truly unique level, with the atmosphere in the warehouse being my favourite highlight. I'm curious: what do you appreciate most about the first game in the Thief series, and how did you aim to reflect your appreciation in An Enigmatic Treasure?

GORT: In the first Thief game, I did like the mystical aspect and wanted to add a bit more to that. However, I was trying to see if I could blend in some of Thief 2 into it, but not too much. I also wanted to pay homage to the original missions like Assassins and Song of the Caverns. However, it was too bad I couldn’t do more to the city part of the mission. I’ve almost maxed out the cell count (32758/32760) with everything else in the mission. So most of the focus was sadly taken away from the city area.

Aemanyl: Moving on to Thief 2, both instalments in your Rebellion of the Builder series explore technological, futuristic, and sometimes dystopian themes. What inspired you to delve into these themes, and how do they enhance the narrative of the Thief universe?

GORT: Well, as I said before, the first one was mostly for trolling. But it was also curious experimentation on my part. I wanted to see what I could actually do in the editor and know my limits. Part 1 was going to be the only one of its kind with Garrett going back to his usual time and familiar surroundings, but one of my brothers said that I should have a cliff-hanger to make the players want more. In part 2 however, this is where more experimentation came in due to having NewDark around. Also, I was toning down the trolling. As for the themes, I’d figured that even though the Mechanists have fallen they would eventually have a group that would want to see Karras' vision to be a reality, but it would be quite altered through time. Also, I still wanted to keep some of the mystical and undead aspects in. I was going to get a bit deeper in part 2 in order to get a stronger link for the Christine family, but I was starting to get a bit burned out from making TROTB 2. I’m sure it shows when players play it. There’s quite a bit that I was happy about when making it.

Aemanyl: It appears you have a strong affinity for the faction of the Mages, a preference that is evident in An Enigmatic Treasure and your most recent mini-campaign, The Pursuance of an Inscrutable Reciprocity. Themes of magic are also present in your earlier fan missions. Could you elaborate on this?

GORT: I wanted to make the mages to have a good role in the series. I’m sure that mages like the ones in Thief 1 couldn’t just stay in one area (at least not some of them). I thought that having them use the opera house in An Enigmatic Treasure with a Recondite Discovery was a good way to show that they have a way to adapt to certain locations and acquire new apprentices. As I was finishing up the first contest and saw that there was going to be one for Thief 2, I thought it would be best to have both contest missions be linked. The challenging part was how to have it set well with Thief 2’s time-frame. It wasn’t very creative, but oh well.

Aemanyl: Your missions feature numerous impressive technical experiments. Which one are you most proud of?

GORT: I’m quite happy with quite a few of them. But if I have to pick one of them right now, it would have to be the second to the last mission in TROTB 2. That one was pretty tricky to make. I don’t know if anybody else made anything similar to that. One of these days, I may make a more advanced version of that in another fan mission.

Aemanyl: Can you walk us through your typical DromEd workflow? Where do you typically begin, and how do you approach the different stages of mission development?

GORT: Well, if I have my mind set about it, mostly I start by focusing on the most important event/location of the mission. Once I’ve got that, things seem to start coming along well. But that's not always the case. I’ll sometimes have to start building a few things to start seeing if it’ll make me come up with ideas. Most of the city missions I’ve made went through this route. But I really should start brainstorming on paper to get better ideas and workflow for my fan missions.

Aemanyl: Are you currently working on any new levels?

GORT: Sadly, at this time I am not. I was at first working on TROTB 3, but some real-life events are putting a big snag into the works. So, TROTB 3 is currently scrapped.

Aemanyl: What are some of your other interests, pastimes, or hobbies that you enjoy in your free time?

GORT: Well, I do like to draw, create some models in anim8or, do some audio editing/ MIDI music, watch movies, and gaming (when I have time).


Thank you for reading! We hope that you've enjoyed this insightful interview with GORT. Every Thursday you can look forward to a fresh interview with fan mission authors, featuring both the rising stars and the seasoned veterans of our beloved community.

Stay tuned and see you in the next issue of FM Author Spotlight series!