Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Characters: The Thief Kings

Some of you followers may be wondering why I've been writing up some of the smaller plot-centric characters lately, and the reasons pretty simply actually. There are a lot of hedgehogs, and I was feeling that it was a little tiring when I did all three in a row. They were similar characters in  lot of respects, which is not a bad thing, but I wanted to stretch out the other characters and not get caught up in similarity of design with the hedgehog characters. Which is why today I'm tackling the most complex (programming and animation-wise) of the characters, The three-in-one character known as The Thief Kings. I'll be dead honest, no matter how "cool" they turn out, if any characters are given the axe (and it will happen) I'd give this "character" the highest likelihood of going, as they aren't heavily needed in the game and represent a high level of development complexity. Still, nothing like rounding out the character log with some really wild ideas.

Jet, Wave and Storm: The Thief Kings of Atlantis

Personality and History: (This is one area where the personalities will be fairly similar) Jet, Wave and Storm are known as the most successful thieves in all of Atlantis, not for their thieving skills alone, but because they control the only organization that has ever managed to smuggle illicit goods through the Atlantian gate network. How this is done has never been figured out by any other organization, and the Thief Kings themselves (along with their group, the Babylon Rouges) are so elusive that no one has ever managed to get the secret out of them. Those few members of the Babylon Rouges that have been captured have in every instance been rescued or lifted from Atlantian jails before any information could be obtained.

As far as history goes, all three of the Thief Kings grew up in a nation known as Babylonia (which by chance, is near the nation Shadow was prince of). Jet the Hawk, the leader of the group, grew up on the streets of Babylon as an orphan and displayed an aptitude for quick thinking, planning and shrewdness that he used to his advantage, thieving, robbing and doing whatever it took to survive. By the time he was ten, he was discovered poaching the territories of the second largest street gang and taken before their leader. Impressed by Jet's skill, the leader gave Jet one choice, he could join on to the gang, or he could starve out in the uncontested areas of the city. Jet, seeing potential agreed, and in three years had worked his way to top adviser to the gangs leader. Along the way he met his right hand man and soon to be partner, Storm.

Storm the Albatross was in many ways similar to Jet. He had also grown up on the streets, relying on his strength and power in addition to a bright intellect to stay on top of the small street gangs. Eventually he came to the attention of the major gangs. Jet, hearing about Storm, undertook his own studies of Storm and carefully observed him for the next few days. Realizing that a like mind lay behind Storms already impressive physical shape, Jet collaborated with him to get him recruited into the same gang he was working for, and requested him as a partner. Unknown to the rest of the gang however, both Jet and Storm agreed that neither of them would be content to stay in the gang for long.

Working together, Jet and Storm began to set their thieving goals higher and higher, higher than any marks the gang had made before. Then one night, while pursuing a particularly lucrative set of items, they ran into the third of their soon to be crew, Wave.

Wave the Swallow was not a product of the streets like they both had been. Instead, she was the rich daughter of a powerful ruling family in the city. However, the constant rules, regulations of court and expected behaviors of a lady had only chaffed her, the only real thing she had ever enjoyed was her lessons in magic. Then two years prior to her meeting Jet and Storm, she had stolen an expensive jewel from the home of a noble her family had been visiting with her magic. After such a controlled life, her new-found use of her powers appealed to her and she began using her status as a means to an end: Thievery. Over the next few years she carefully stole high-quality items that she concealed in her home, planning on selling them for her own profit the moment she left home, which she knew should would do before an arranged marriage occurred. The night she met Jet and Storm was going to be that night, she was planning to steal a very rare and elusive flying carpet owned by an extremely rich noble.

Something clicked at the first meeting. Maybe it was something they saw in each other, a kinship love of theft, a disregard for rules, or the heights they could reach if they stuck together. Regardless, the three banded together that night, stealing all three of the flying carpets in the collection and escaping into the city. Before they left however, Jet had Wave burn a message from "The Babylon Rouges" into the wall. Splitting with Wave, whom he asked to lay low, Jet and Storm returned to report to their gang that they had been beaten to the target by "some group calling themselves the Babylon Rouges".

From that point on, Jet lead the entire team in a careful double life, stealing targets right out from under the nose of all three of the major gangs. As the gangs became more cautious, he instructed Wave to use magic to alter their looks, fooling the gangs into each thinking that it's rival gangs were intruding on their turf. In one summer the tense peace boiled over and all three gangs turned on each other. Those that didn't flee the city either vanished or were captured by the city guard in open melee. When the dust cleared, the cities criminal power structure was wide open for the true Babylon Rouges to make their appearance, and Jet, Storm and Wave soon controlled the only criminal thieving elements in the city. They soon became known for their daring open air thefts, perpetrated with the assistance of the stolen flying carpets (which more hover then fly).

Eventually their crime grew so brazen that Babylonia's leaders turned its own military to hunt them and the trio was forced to flee. Looking for a new location to set up shop, Storm suggested they try Atlantis. After some time, the trio apparently discovered a way to smuggle contraband through the gate network, and immediately built a successful smuggling ring that has remained untouched in Atlantis for the last three years.

[Side Note: This vast backstory is one of the reasons I would cut the Thief Kings. Yes, it's cool but its far too long and detailed for their impact in the game. Even if its easily condensed, a backstory of this length could almost be better used in giving them their own game. On the other hand, if they made the cut, it'd be great bonus material for an unlock.]

Game Plot: The Thief Kings plot is all about maintaining control over their smuggling and thieving operations. Next to Espio and Rouge, theirs would be the most exploration type gameplay, as many missions would revolve around locating contraband, stealing a particular item, or tracking Espio and Rouge to steal/stop information from getting into their hands about their operations.

Play Style and Movement: The Thief Kings are much different then most of the other characters. First of all, the three act as one, and their moves and abilities can change based on who is currently in the lead. While this may seem similar to Sonic Heroes, it is not. Rather, the three act as one character. They jump in sequence, following the lead of the current character and do not act on their own, but all three respond to the player inputs. Pressing left will make all three move left as a group. Due to some special bracelets the crew stole, any place that one member can get the rest of them can warp to. So if the lead character is Wave and uses her flight ability to reach an out of the way area, as soon as she touches down the other two members will warp to her side.

As far as movement and control goes, when in Slow-Movement, the entire team is similar the other characters. Jet is much like Sonic, Storm much like Knuckles and Wave much like Tails in the sense of jump height and special abilities. In High Speed, the entire group rides their carpets (think hoverboards) making their control loose. In High Speed, each has a particular skill. Jet can create short term speed boosts and "wall ride" for a short time, Storm will damage any enemy he runs into, and Wave can do a long range "gliding jump".

Combat-Wise: Non of the three use a weapon, but each uses their native skill when in combat. They each use the exact same moves regardless of who is in the lead, and some moves will use more then one member. Each move is modified slightly based on the lead character. Jet for example, has the longest dash range and can most easily combo and opponent. Storm has the shortest dash and no combo ability with his hits, but deals the most damage. Wave deals the least damage at the longest range, but freezes her opponents, slowing them or stopping them altogether.

Physical Description: Not much to say here, outside of the ornate rugs each should have rolled on their back and some period era clothing, they don't need much to stand out.

Alright, so that's the Thief Kings. It's easy to see why I would cut them. As much work as I put into them, there is not a great need for their position in the game, and I would cut them first without hesitation.



  1. I really like it, and don't see why you would cut them. Okay sure it would be kind of pointless to have them in the game, but like you said, it would make a great unlock. Which would be a better idea instead of just scrapping it altogether. Perhaps you can unlock the playing of their backstory as a secret thing (not required of course).

  2. It's a question of value in the game VS development time and constraints. Sure, they would make a nice addition (and would likely feature, if in passing, in the story even if they were cut) but the difference between the Thief Kings and the "ordinary" characters in the game in animation, coding and complexity would be severe enough that when push came to shove, they would be cut first. Their impact on the story is insignificant overall, serving only as a side element, therefore their importance is low. Since several characters would likely be cut for various reasons, I would have to recommend this character for the cut first and foremost at any trouble due to the large amount of extra work involved.

    I still like the concept, but for as little impact as the character has in the overall scheme of plot and core of the game...chop chop goes the axe.

  3. I understand your reasoning for cutting them, however as insignificant as they are, I would still save cutting them for if push comes to shove. Which brings up the next question. If these guys were already cut and more cuts had to be made, who would be cut next?

  4. Rouge and Espio could both be axed rather easily. However, so could either of the bonus characters with no story/mission mode. I would cut the Thief Kings before them simply because their character creation would require a lot more development time. If it came down to the wire and I had to choose Thief Kings over 3 other characters, I'd take the three others.

    Effectively it would come down to the time required and the abilities of the development team. Thief Kings first, because of development complexity and the larger amount of time, and then either Rouge or a no story character depending on the constraints.

    Disc space also becomes a consideration as well as the capacity of the graphics engine. Three characters as one plus whatever the game throws out normally is a steeper graphic requirement then one character plus normal events, and thereby reduces the amount of on screen action available for that character.