Lay Down Thy Hammer: Thief Hands-On Preview

Sneaky Bastards made its way to E3 for hands-on time with Eidos Montreal’s Thief and a conversation with Producer Stephane Roy.

October 17 Update: Thief’s XP System Removed

Eidos Montreal has removed Thief’s XP system, and clarified its reasoning in a community blog: “…the E3 reaction was right, rewarding killing like that was wrong for a Master Thief.”

Where to begin? Our first impressions of Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot, a tumultuous project that has spent years in some state of production and endured a number of resets, were positive. That was a hands-off affair, one in which Eidos Montreal walked us through a vertical slice; one in which we later learned the AI was apparently disabled.

This time, we played through a level ourselves, the AI definitely functioning. The mission played out in three distinct phases – distinct, by being separated by a loading zone masked first by mashing a button to jimmy open a window, and second by a third-person cutscene. The first phase took place in a manor courtyard, tasking Garrett with infiltrating the building to steal a large jewel. The second phase took place inside the manor, and was more puzzle-focused, with Garrett searching for secret rooms and switches. The third phase saw Garrett escaping the manor in the midst of a riot by crossing a bridge that itself was on fire – and collapsing. The above footage, courtesy of Machinima, is of the first phase infiltrating the manor. Publisher Square-Enix has not released any video of the burning bridge escape, so we’ve inserted a gameplay approximation below:

We are not exaggerating. The sequences is brimming with scripted events; first-person cutscenes in which something collapses in front of Garrett and then he makes a jump to safety in slow motion. At one point the camera cuts to third-person as Garrett climbs away from explosions along the side of a building. An explosion throws him free, he loses his grip and falls – when a quick-time event prompt appears to perform an “aerial save”, which sees Garrett throw is grappling hook at a grate, which finds purchase at the last second, so he can continue climbing. These are the “extreme situations; memorable scripted sequences with altered controls, camera and/or gameplay rules” that cropped up some time ago on a Thief developer’s now-edited CV.

Yes, there's even a moment where you must turn a valve to shut off the steam vents so you can progress.

Yes, there’s even a moment where you must turn a valve to shut off the steam vents so you can progress.

Our first question to Producer Stephane Roy was what this sequence was doing in this game, at this point in gameplay.

“You’re not the first talking about it,” he began. “So, the high level perspective, the gameplay is ‘infiltration, stealing, escaping’. This section, the burning bridge, is really the escaping moment. It’s a tool for us, and the level designer, to give a rhythm to the game. Infiltration is just fun, playing with them [the AI], driving them crazy, it’s just cool. But if I give you ice cream every day… you know. We want to change the rhythm. The escaping moment is really where we have this adrenaline rush, and now you have to escape, shit hits the fan, you just have to save your arse. “That said… it’s not always like that. Escaping, for us, it’s not always like that. Escaping could be very quiet. Just get out. Nobody should see you. It should be like… ghost. So, for this one, we’re at E3, there is explosion everywhere, it’s USA… so, you’re right, it’s more over the top because there’s a big revolution, a riot, but there are other escaping moments that are really, you’re a Thief, you’re a ghost.”

We’re at E3, there is explosion everywhere, it’s USA… so, you’re right, it’s more over the top

Yet we still found this philosophy contradictory. The mantra for Eidos Montreal’s Thief has, from even before its GDC reveal, to offer the player the tools and abilities to play the way they want – moreso than the previous Thief trilogy. It is possible to play Thief aggressively – difficult, but possible. It’s also possible to complete the game non-lethally, or as a ghost. This was all true of the previous titles, but the difference here is that Eidos Montreal is baking in mechanics that it feels further supports each type of approach. Where the contradiction arises is in the game itself beginning to dictate a playstyle for the sake of rhythm, when players have the ability to define the rhythm at all other points in time. “I have the feeling that you think that I’m going to hold your hand for all the game,” Roy replies. “That’s really not our intention. For this franchise, Thief, the narrative is really, really important. All the background story, all this documentation you can read, and stuff like that. It’s really a story-driven game. So I want to tell you an amazing story. Where we’re going, where we really want to give you a lot of freedom, is in all these opportunities.

Thief - Manor Exterior

The guards are on high alert – outside the gates are a rioting mob of the Craven faction.

“So, this demo. Go in the manor. Crystal clear, no frustration. You know what to do. You know where to go. How you do it – this is where we want your freedom. A lot of opportunities. A lot of ways to play. Aggressive. Non-lethally. It’s up to you… it’s your playground. You had a bad day, last night, you feel aggressive, perfect. Use your arrows and have fun. So this is where we really want to give you all the tools. We’re going to build these maps, this universe, to let you figure out – all the ingredients will be there – what type of fun I want to have today.” Yet this spoke to our major concern with the demo – one far greater than the insipid, dated nature of the burning bridge sequence. The “ingredients” that featured within the level did not feel general-purpose and consistent. They were not systems; they were hand-placed, hard-coded points of interest. Case in point (no pun intended): rope arrows. Previously, Garrett’s rope arrow stuck to any wooden surface, after which a climbable rope would unfurl from its point of impact. Here, rope arrows only attach to specifically marked anchor points that have been placed by level designers – anchor points that seemed to exist when the only way forward was through the use of a rope arrow. “It’s a question of production choice,” Roy explains. “If I give you the possibility to shoot the rope arrow everywhere, I will have to cut something. I will have to reduce our intention for the narrative. If it’s everywhere, the cost of it is to block your view, because it’s still a console. It’s still tech. By having a smart level design, by making sure that feels natural that here you can go – not scripted, but you check and if you feel that you should be able to do that and it’s there, the job is done. If it’s not frustrating, the job is done.”

“If I give you the possibility to shoot the rope arrow everywhere…. I will have to reduce our intention for the narrative”

What Roy is referring to is the amount of environmental geometry that can be rendered in the player’s field of view at once. Modern console games use very complex, tricky methods to block and obscure enough of the geometry that the frames-per-second target can be maintained. If the player is suddenly able to travel beyond the extent of those implemented blocks – if they are able to elevate themselves and observe a far greater portion of the environment than Eidos Montreal anticipated – the game would suffer frame drop.

Guards may re-light torches, making water arrows a temporary solution

Guards may re-light torches, making water arrows a temporary solution. Fire arrows can also ignite puddles of oil.

But this is something that worked fifteen years ago. Technology has advanced in the name of stunning visuals, which only translate to environmental density rather than scale – let alone the player’s freedom to explore that scale. Thief: Deadly Shadows even experienced this, bisecting its levels with load zones to fit within the previous console generation’s memory limitations. Exactly what Roy is referring to when he says the ability to shoot rope arrows anywhere would result in cuts to the narrative is unclear, but we’d hazard a guess that he’s referring to this environmental density, or the memory required for scripted sequences like the burning bridge which Eidos Montreal believes is some kind of storytelling. To reference Deadly Shadows again – Ion Storm couldn’t get rope arrows working in the engine, much to the disappointment of fans. But the climbing gloves created in place of them still allowed Garrett to scale any stone surface. “Here, we control the cost of production,” Roy continues. “It’s not just money, it’s also all the effort. If you can check everywhere, and the artist has to block everything, at the end we have an amazing sandbox and… that’s it. By controlling a little bit where we put the ingredients, it makes sure that we have a lot of variation, it’s not too repetitive, and if it’s well done it should be transparent for you.” Though this Thief is a new, different game, Roy is adamant that he and the development team want to respect fans of the series. We can’t fathom a harder slap in the face.

Note the new vision mode in use here, highlighting lootable and usable objects with a pale blue.

Note the new vision mode in use here, highlighting lootable and usable objects with a pale blue.

It is a design philosophy that ties into one of Thief’s major new additions: Focus mode. Key objects are highlighted in blue, whilst guards’ footsteps are visible through walls. It also ‘amplifies’ Garrett’s ability to pickpocket – stealing in Focus mode is far quicker, and allows multiple items to be grabbed in a single swoop. Roy is clear that Focus mode can be disabled for those who do not wish to use it. But its presence is still troubling, for much of the key information that should be communicated by the environment has been moved not just to this vision mode, but to the user interface itself. “It’s a good comment,” says Roy. “If you tell me that, it’s because we still have to work on that. Personally, I really like the Focus feature. Personally, I don’t think that you cheat by using it. It’s really a part of the answer to why Garrett is the master, and not just… another one. “You don’t have to use it. So what does that mean? It means that we have to work very hard to make sure that you’re going to be able to read the environment without that. In this demo, if your feeling is that, without the Eye, it would have been complicated, it means that we still have to work hard to make sure that, without it, you are going to be able to progress. But it’s going to be harder. The Focus is really linked with the story. It’s not a gimmick, like magic. That’s why we designed the game with it.”

Garrett now fights with his blackjack, as he carries neither sword nor dagger. The blackjack can block incoming blows, whilst whacking a guard will cause a health bar to appear that can be whittled down in about five hits.

Focus is a way to essentially gamify Garrett’s nature as a master thief; a shortcut to making players ‘feel’ like a master, rather than by having them master the systems and environment on their own. Why does Thief need this? “With the next-gen, with the smartphone, with the tablet, with the indie developer, it’s really, really cool because now we have a lot of different types of players. There is a type of people that like to have that kind of indicator, because… they don’t want to fight with all these mechanics. They enjoy the story, they want to progress, they want to feel that they are good, but at the same time they like to, you know, ‘let me help you a little bit’.

They don’t want to fight with all these mechanics. They enjoy the story, they want to progress, they want to feel that they are good

“We are working very hard to respect these different types of player. Honestly, it’s like, let’s say you are at home, you like to write, and you have a novel in your drawer that you would like to share. I’m pretty sure you don’t write for one guy; you want to make sure a lot of people would see the story. It’s the same thing to us. But we really want to be respectful to the fanbase. That’s why Focus, you can disable it. You can play this game from A to Z without killing anybody. You can even finish this game in a non-lethal way. All these layers will be there. But if it’s story and stuff like that, we’ll give you Focus, indicators, to just make sure that you enjoy the experience.”

Stephane Roy mentioned that Eidos Montreal plans on giving guards a wider field of view on higher difficulties.

A light gem is still one of those indicators. It’s tucked down in the bottom left corner of the screen, and exhibits three states: hidden, partially visible and fully visible. In addition to the light gem is the Shroud – a murky vignette that surrounds the edge of the screen, constantly undulating as Garrett remains in shadow. Leaving the safety of darkness causes the Shroud to flash brilliant white; an effect that quickly became distracting. We understand Eidos Montreal’s desire to move players’ attention away from the light gem, but the Shroud was one of the chief elements preventing us from ever feeling immersed in the world. “This is where our job is really complex,” says Roy. “Why? Because I can understand your point of view. But I receive other comments that this flash, people were really in love with it, because they don’t have to check the gem. Just having that flash, they understand ‘Okay, the situation has changed’. So now, they forget the rest, and when there is that small tick, they understand, ‘Okay, now I should swoop, and come back.’ But, let’s say it’s a jury with yes or no. It could be fifty-fifty. So here, this is where we have to trust our instinct and move forward. It’s impossible to please everybody, so we try to find the best solution.”


Yes, this is 40 XP for a headshot, in Thief.

We thank Roy for his time, and his candour, and think back to the end of the demo, in which Garrett completes his slow motion vault to the end of the exploding bridge. We leave the room and head back into the fray – back to E3, to explosions everywhere, to the USA – feeling ill.

Daniel Hindes

Further Investigation
What Is Yours Can Be Mine: Thief Stealth Preview
We've seen Eidos Montreal's 2014 reboot of Thief in motion. Our impressions, as well as details of new stealth mechanics, follow!
Witches Be Crazy: Dishonored – The Brigmore Witches Preview
We go hands-on with two hours of Dishonored's final DLC campaign, The Brigmore Witches.
The Darkest Project: Tangiers Stealth Preview
We speak to Alex Harvey, one half of Andalusian and developer of dark avant-garde stealth game, Tangiers.
Fifty Shades of Black: Splinter Cell Blacklist Hands-On Preview
With a little over a month before the release of Splinter Cell Blacklist, Sneaky Bastards goes hands-on and speaks with Game Director Patrick Redding about his systemic approach to stealth.
Thief Revealed
Eidos Montreal's take on the stealth genre's masterpiece has finally been brought out of the shadows. See the first screenshots, video and official details here.
The Man In The Iron Mask
Become a masked, supernatural assassin in this exclusive exploration of the stealth approach in Arkane Studios' immersive sim, Dishonored.
Neon Struct Developer Interview – Structural Analysis
We speak with Neon Struct developer David Pittman about the game's colourful world and clean stealth systems.
Neon Struct Stealth Review – The Fluorescence Age
Despite the name, Minor Key Games' cyberpunk espionage thriller is bathed in the ambiguous greys of Thief and Deus Ex.
A Midnight Sermon
The fifth of our fifteen-part series of articles examining Thief II’s level and mission design returns to a classic layout with a twist - the Eastport Mechanist Seminary.
Deep in the Shadows: Thief Design Analysis Conclusion
Our deep dive analysis of the Thief reboot concludes with a holistic look at its stealth systems in the context of the game's level design.
What Is Yours Can Be Mine: Thief Stealth
Witches Be Crazy: Dishonored – The Brigmore Witches
The Darkest Project: Tangiers Stealth Preview
Fifty Shades of Black: Splinter Cell Blacklist Hands-On
Thief Revealed
The Man In The Iron Mask
Neon Struct Developer Interview – Structural Analysis
Neon Struct Stealth Review – The Fluorescence Age
A Midnight Sermon
Deep in the Shadows: Thief Design Analysis Conclusion

30 Responses to Lay Down Thy Hammer: Thief Hands-On Preview

  1. By CybeargPlays, June 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Forgive me for being disgusted with the words of the Thief 4 developer.

    He claims that they needed to limit the range of rope arrow use in order to prevent the player from seeing too much and breaking the game. You know who else grappled with that exact same problem and overcame it? LGS, with Thief 1/2. In the original Dark Engine, if the player saw more than about 1024 geometry polygons on-screen, the engine would stutter and the game would crash. How did they overcome this? Clever level design.

    How does Eidos Montreal overcome the same issue? By limiting the mechanic so they don’t have to be as clever with their level design, while at the same time turning a mechanic that made the world feel free and open into a hand-holding “click here to continue” mess.

    Their talk about trying to have variations in the tone of the game betrays the fact that they don’t really know what they’re doing. “But if I give you ice cream every day… you know.” Clearly this guy is either lying or he doesn’t understand Thief’s design very well. There were adrenaline rushes a’plenty. As a kid, I remember a particular moment in Thief 2 when I clumsily mantled up a balcony in the Lost City mission and was heard by a Child of Karras. I was in the shadows, leaning to the side to try to keep as far away as possible, my breath held and my heart thudding as I hoped that I wouldn’t get caught. The Child of Karras stuck its face so close to me, its polygons clipped the camera a bit, but I managed to get away and it was a huge rush.

    That moment will live with me far longer than a scripted sequence of “press x not to die” quicktime sequences in a linear action shot of a sequence. Is this what we gave up Stephen Russel for? So that the new voice actor could run down burning bridges in slow-mo sequences? It’s like selling your soul for a Klondike Bar–you shouldn’t have done that in the first place, and what you got for it was crap, anyway.

    And then there’s Focus. Now, Thief 3 needed loot glint because, due to poor visual design, the player couldn’t tell, at a glance, what was valuable and what wasn’t. Thief 1/2 almost never had that problem because loot was colorful and golden/silver-colored, while standard stuff was grey or brown, clearly made out of stone/wood/iron. It telegraphed to the player what was important just at a glance.

    Now, I’ll grant that it may be harder to do that these days for a couple reasons. For one, Thief 1/2 had very sparsely-decorated levels, so there were fewer things to mistake for loot. Additionally, it had a cartoony aesthetic that aided in making loot super-colorful so it really stood out.

    Besides, being difficult to find was part of the point. Sometimes, it wasn’t evident where loot was and the difficulty was in searching hard to locate it. By having a Focus mechanic that tells you flat-out where it is with a highlight, you cut out that element of gameplay. It’s also another example of lazily playing with mechanics in order to avoid having to think harder about level design later on.

    In Thief 1/2, not only was loot colorful, but it was either placed in locations where you’d think to look, it was mentioned in a readable so you had a hint, or it was placed in a hard-to-find location where you’d think to never think to look. That is to say, if you saw a ledge somewhere, there was a good chance that the developer would have noticed that particular nook and ventured to put a bit of loot there to reward the player for exploring. Why can’t a modern level designer do that? Plenty of Thief 1/2/Dark Mod fan mission developers managed to do a masterful job of it, so I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be done in Thief 4.

    Furthermore, their excuse for Focus seems to be that they want to reach a broader audience. Here’s an idea, Montreal: instead of reaching a broader audience and alienating your core audience in the process, why don’t you scale your expectations, develop for your core audience, and don’t spend more money than you can hope to get back?

    Thief is a classic franchise that will garner a lot of sales no matter what, but wouldn’t it be better to have Thief 4 go down as a “faithful update to the series that brought Thief to the next generation” rather than as a “hand-holding sell-out that killed the franchise for good”?

    I’ve heard this mentioned a lot concerning Dark Souls. It’s a wonderfully hard game in an era when developers are afraid of making games difficult. How did they get away with it while still making money? Because the developers knew what their goal was–to create a challenging game–and they knew what the audience for that would be–significantly less than the audience for a Call of Duty clone–and they scaled their investments and expectations accordingly, and it paid off because it hit a niche market. Thief 4 could hit a niche market of people who love challenging, free-ending stealth like what Thief 1/2 had, but instead Eidos is straining its reach, and its budget, for a game that may well disappoint Thief fans and only briefly intrigue the broader audience they are shooting for.

    Hope selling their souls for that Klondike bar was worth it.

    • By Magnus Roe, July 30, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you for saying this.
      I try not to read much into games in development to avoid ruining the surprise and I’d allowed myself to get a bit optimistic. After just skimming through a bit of this preview though, it’s fairly evident I’m neither in the target platform or demographic anymore.

  2. By erik, June 21, 2013 at 2:47 am

    “The “ingredients” that featured within the level did not feel general-purpose and consistent. They were not systems; they were hand-placed, hard-coded points of interest.”

    I loved Deus Ex Human Revolution but it had the exact same problem. It’s like the devs went down a checklist for each approach. There’s always a convenient ‘stealth approach’ vent somewhere. No open levels with lots of room for improvisation, but the ability to choose between a few strict paths.

  3. By DeviousBoomer, June 21, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Great article, and nice to see some gameplay that isn’t off a screen. I’ll be a damned liar if I don’t say I’m nervous about this, but I’ll still get the game to come to my own conclusions about each aspect.

    However, a question: were the loading zones in TDS really to do with XBOX hardware limitations or was it due to an unoptimised engine? On the box of the PC version, the minimum required specs are 256MB of RAM, which was fairly hefty for 2004 standards. Maybe it’s a mix of both – an engine developed with consoles in mind, not PC.

    • By Magnus Roe, July 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      256mb was not by any means “hefty” in 2004, I had 512 in a system in 2002 and that was not particularly much.

  4. By Jacob Albano, June 21, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Re. DeviousBoomer’s question: The original Xbox had 64mb of RAM. The levels were tiny because they had to fit within that limitation.

    I’ve been fluctuating between hopeful and cynically bitter about this game, and this article has irreversibly pushed me over the edge. Thanks for the great insight as always, SB. If nothing else we can be grateful that Thi4f is a reboot and therefore not a part of the original series’ canon.

    • By Daniel Hindes, June 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm

      There are also a number of mods for the PC version of Deadly Shadows that combine each level segment into a single level – and they run just fine.

  5. By Yasha, June 21, 2013 at 4:05 am

    I get uncomfortable looking at Roy’s wording:

    “You can even finish this game in a non-lethal way.”

    …so the implicit assumption here is that this is an optional extra. That the game has been designed from the outset to be about combat, and about lethal combat, and that avoiding that is no longer a core part of the experience. Tacked on like that unpleasant little “non-” instead of being integral to how a professional and master behaves. Lethality as the basis for gameplay.

    That’s upsetting.

    • By Magnus Roe, July 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      To be fair, I’m not sure I think nonlethality was a “core” mechanism in the previous games, it’s not even a requirement on most missions unless played on Expert and I think many people sniped the odd guard for convenience or humor. Dishonored had the developers admitting the nonlethal part was added very late in development and it worked very well, (if very preaching).
      However I’m not optimistic about this game. Eidos Mont. has no idea how to do stealth challenging and they’ll probably put in boss battles with novel puzzles.

  6. By SoundMan, June 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for adding another article that speaks to things important to an unrepresented portion of the fan-base who are yet to be understood or valued by EM.

    Thief, at its core, is not meant to please everyone, and doesn’t even seem to please a third of gamers nor a good chunk of people calling themselves fans. It’s a niche game, and EM aren’t even trying to please that niche, which should’ve been the foundation of their decisions before building atop it.

  7. By TheOtherGuest, June 21, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I could say all sorts of things in response to this, but it’s pretty much all been said. I’m hoping that, somehow, EM will pull a Microsoft and completely change the direction of the game in response to the horrified fans of the past Thief games…but I don’t really expect them to.

    One thing I find really strange is that I’ve seen interviews with the developers where they say things like “Don’t worry. We only use the third-person camera in a very, very limited way.” That sort of statement makes me ask, “If it’s so limited, why spend time implementing it at all?” I imagine that making animations for Garrett, developing a third-person camera, etc. takes more work than, you know, NOT putting in something most people don’t want. It’s the same with the escape sequences. “Don’t worry. It’s not always like this.” Why is it EVER like that in this game? There’s no good reason for it.

  8. By No Charms To Soothe, June 22, 2013 at 2:21 am

    This is the final “reveal”.

    E3 2013 comes; and now, for at least just a glimpse, Roy has to face something beyond the little scripted and managed Q&A (read: BS) that, up until, he was a part of…

    And so much is confirmed. So much of the predictable — and, to many of us — plainly obvious, worst worsenings are absolutely underway.

    It’s such a shame that Thief has ended up in the hands of a guy who clearly wants to try and serve the lowest common denominator. It’s a shame that it’s been so degraded as to end up with a guy who wants to try and characterize simple dumbing-down as “hard-work”, when it’s just simply disgraceful, derivative, typical and clumsy dumbing-down. It’s a shame a guy who is willing to get by peddling his nonsense has control of the Thief franchise.

    There are loads and loads of games for Console Kids; and there are loads and loads of “games” for Casuals too…

    They gotta fuck Thief up too?

    The Thief community should be capable enough to take this gross disrespect and reply with a loud and massive rejection.

    • By Tenebricus, July 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Well, Monsieur Roy made it painfully clear that he’s not making this game for you or me, but perhaps for the dreaded Mass Consumer or somesuch. Therefore our ‘loud and massive rejection’ as you’ve put it would seem kind of futile, wouldn’t it? But yes, I probably won’t buy this game if that’s what you mean…

  9. By SolidJensen, June 22, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Thies game looks so good, hope there will be a Wii U version… also hope there will allow us 2 play with japanese voices, most games sound sooo much better that way heheh

    • By Magnus Roe, July 30, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Jesus christ, if you’re trolling I think you’re overdoing it.

  10. By MrAndre, June 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    “[The light gem has] hidden, partially visible and fully visible.”

    And Thief 2 had what, 10 different settings, along with 3 settings of volume.

    How can that possibly be an upgrade from the previous system? That was one of the fundamental parts of the classic Thief gameplay. It set the standard for a lot of games, such as the older Splinter Cell games.

    God damn it, the more I hear about the new Thief game, the less I want to buy it. And that is definitely not good, coming from a fan of the series.

  11. By routtj, June 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    A “slap in the face”? Come off your fucking high horse. This game looks fun, Eidos seems to have kept true to the core principles of any good stealth game (underpowered protagonist, emphasis on keeping hidden, ability to ghost–which even some hardcore stealth games lack), and with the ability to turn off Focus, they’re keeping a relatively hardcore experience in there. You’ve gone out of your way to assume the worst in every tidbit of information gleaned from the gameplay video. I understand longtime fans being concerned about the integrity of the experience, but when you go out of your way to make mountains out of molehills, there’s only so much fan-wanking I can stomach.

    • By Tetracycloide, June 26, 2013 at 5:05 am

      Looks fun if that’s what you want out of a game. If you want a thief game in the vein of the previous titles in the series, a reasonable expectation given the title of this game IMO, then no it doesn’t look fun. It looks like it was built for someone else, someone that doesn’t know what thief games look or feel like. The protagonist doesn’t feel underpowered either. They emphasize that several times during the interview that they didn’t want the player to have their playstyle constrained. If the protagonist can do anything they want up to and including just fucking killing everyone in what sense are they ‘underpowered?’ Far from assuming the worst from every tidbit this article focuses on only what was actually reveled and is rightly worried by it. I mean really, QTEs ‘action escapes?’ In a thief game? In 2013? What’s hilarious is that now we know for sure those are in, or were intended to be in at this point, because they’ve revealed them in the gameplay demos at E3 yet if anyone had suggested that after the first trailer’s escape sequence giving the same impression you’d have jumped all over them for ‘making mountains out of molehills.’

  12. By Ninjaec, June 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Sure, this text reeks with almost reactionary thoughts and elitism – but that is just as I want it. I am a pure PC player who played the original games just as they came out. I have been on the fence on wether this installment will be a dumbed down console game or not and the more I see the more I feel I will stick to Dark Mod.

    Eidos Montreal could have made this game but just not named it Thief and not have used the character Garrett.

    I am getting more convinced by the idea that the developers have not even played the original games and completed them all using stealthy game play.

    • By Tenebricus, July 1, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Funny thing is I find your post way more elitist than the article in question, you being all ‘pure’ and stuff. In fact I envy the author’s restraint, for if the interview with the producer is any indication, then Thi4f will prove to be a Thief game in name only. Daniel Hindes has brough to attention exactly the questions I was concerned with, something that none of the other E3 journalists did. Something for which he has my thanks. I believe the discontent with the course of Thi4f’s development to be completely justified. Therefore critique of it’s obvious flaws by no means has elitism at it’s core, but rather honesty.

  13. By Tetracycloide, June 26, 2013 at 4:50 am

    “If I give you the possibility to shoot the rope arrow everywhere, I will have to cut something. I will have to reduce our intention for the narrative.”

    I can’t tell the story right because you keep using rope arrows!

    Is this guy serious? If Dishonored can tell a story with blink of all powers then rope arrows going everywhere shouldn’t be an issue.

    Focus mode honestly doesn’t bother me too much. In a modern engine there’s so much headroom for clutter on the screen that the difference between, say, a candle stick you can pick up and one you can’t can be practically non-existent. Picking out a single copper coin against the surface of a desk that’s covered in a dozen other objects can be quite tedious. Focus seems a reasonable way to route around that and IMO a similar power in Dishonored worked just fine as did the similar gameplay toggle in Human Revolution. I don’t know why it needs to include synesthesia or making pickpocketing easier though.

    I’ve never liked UI elements other than the light and shadow you can see on the ground and reading the guards movements for stealth myself. Light gems, shroud, it’s all the same to me: a gamification of stealth that’s always felt tacked on and clunky. The answer to every ‘stealth’ question is ‘well what’s your hiddenness variable at the moment as displayed by this UImajig.’ But two such systems at once does seen odd. If they don’t want you looking at the light gem why put it on the screen?

  14. By KenTWOu, June 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    “I am getting more convinced by the idea that the developers have not even played the original games and completed them all using stealthy game play.”

    Then read this:

    “I had such a long talk with Emanuel Garcia, the game’s creative director, during our community mixer and the guy knows Thief better than the vast majority of people. We talked about everything from the trilogy’s events, character development of Garrett, secrets in the missions, fan missions, the LGS retrospective podcasts, etcetera. The guy knows his Thief.”

  15. By Maksym, July 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I have no doubt that they will insert some kind of “hardcore mode”, but it will essentially just be the same game with some features turned off and a few sliders pulled up. This was somewhat of a problem in Dishonored. They built the game around objective markers. When you turned them off you were suddenly just thrown into the level without any kind of a briefing and while there were some maps, they weren’t even nearly as prevalent or useful as those in Thief. The game basically was not built around that mode–although it didn’t hinder it as much as it could have–and neither is this one.

    Can’t wait until they show us a level where Garrett finally gets his Execute move that allows him to clear the entire room in slow motion while performing a Max Payne jump.

  16. By Grant Cruickshank, July 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    After reading that I also feel ill.

    ‘Thief’ sounds like it’s being made by middle managers who fear shareholders, don’t understand why people love the property they are trying to adapt, and who cleave to concepts of everyone-friendly, lowest-common denominator game design that are constantly made to look ridiculous by games like Dark Souls and Minecraft.

    NO QTE’s. NO UI hand-holding. NO being unable to solve problems that Looking Glass solved 15 years ago, with 1000s of times less computing resources available to them! To suggest that a one-click-to-progress solution is the only way to avoid messing up your narrative is not just the stupidest thing I’ve heard a game designer say but also damned insulting to our intelligence…oh, I guess a lot like your new game will be.

    If you’re trying to please people who ‘feel good’ by pressing x and watching a scripted action take place, then you’re part of the problem that’s ruining Gaming as we once knew it. What’s more ultimately rewarding: learning how to play a piano or pressing a shiny button that makes it play itself? Games need skill to be interesting. Remove it, remove the player agency for any reason, and you may as well be making films! I wish people like this would just take themselves out of the industry, I really do, before they sanitise it to mass-market death. The indie/kickstarter revival we’re seeing, and the slow decline in AAA output, is precisely because of these morons stripping out everything that made games great fun and selling their empty-but-shiny corpses. Talented developers are abandoning the production lines in droves, looking to recapture what makes gaming great, while this idiot trundles along with his simpering butchery of a classic franchise.

    Either do it properly, Eidos Montreal, or don’t do it at all!

    /irate Thief fan

  17. By Dome500, August 1, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Where are the times when gamers had to be intelligent? Where are the times when playing games was different from reading a book or watching a movie? Where are the times, when playing a game not only meant interacting with it, but really having to think, make a plan, orientate and look for things.

    Now, everything is highlighted. “look here, that’s what you are searching for” ” go there” “do this”.

    Hitman, Thief, Splinter Cell, they all develop in that direction.

    I do not mind the action focus if it’s optional. If you want a phase where you say “ok, I failed in stealth but I want to continue” that you can continue in another way and kind of win back the stealth element if you react fast enough, or if you just want to kill the AI and scare them to hell.

    But what they are doing is basically, they are forcing you into action for the game rythms sake and destroying your stealth (or rather making it obsolete) and on the top of that they are showing you exactly where to go and what to do.

    In the end, games will be just like movies.

    A lot of “you have to do this”-, forced detection- and forced action moments and a game that tells you exactly what to do so it gets easy enough for everyone to play it without even having to try to figure out how to solve the problems, because basically, if you want, they are solved for you.

    :( A sad development in my eyes.

  18. By Dome500, August 1, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I don’t know why my comment got deleted.


    I was essentially saying the same as you.

    The gaming industry is sick.
    Developers seem to believe they have to push out AAA titles with a lot of budget they throw in and please EVERY audience available to justify those large sums of money used in the process.

    What we have in the end are half-cooked “stealth-like” games which emphasize every playstyle without bigger consequences.

    I do not have anything against OPTIONAL action.
    Against a path for a fun- or rage-run or for just getting yourself out of a hairy detection situations (provided it requires skill to get out of the situation without dying).

    But what we see here are more and more forced action or forced detection sequences, linear “you have to do this” parts and games that piratically show you the solution you should have to find yourself with a cheap gimmicky feature.

    Not only are games more and more gamyfied by the developers, the core mechanics are also immensely toned down, while there are more and more “game helpers” which go along with an actionyfication of the whole stealth franchise.

    Splinter Cell, Hitman, Thief, all the big stealth franchises suffer from the same illness. Despite the fact that newcomer franchises such as Dishonored are showing EXACTLY how it is supposed to be, developers abandon their actual core franchise and fanbase and are throwing tons of money in so called “AAA” titles which only represent half of what the old predecessors where about by trying to cater to a wider audience to justify the higher development costs.

    It’s a dark age for the stealth franchise…..

  19. By Hans, December 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Just read this and I’m as disgusted as you guys are about the comments this guy is making…. but for those of you who do not know already check out darkmod standalone its your replacement for what thief 4 should have been. You will not be disappointed!

  20. By Zladko, December 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I really wish it were Arkane developing this game.

  21. By Jerykk, December 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    So many flawed assumptions here.

    1) The bridge escape is a set piece, much like that burning house escape in Far Cry 3. Thankfully, set pieces are a very small portion of most games and almost never representative of the overall game experience. They exist so the marketing guys have something visceral and cinematic to put in trailers. Blacklist had set pieces as well but they comprised maybe 1% of the entire game. The rest of the game could be ghosted to your heart’s delight. Same with Hitman Absolution.

    2) The rope arrows in Thief 1/2 only worked on wooden surfaces. Wooden surfaces carefully placed by the level designers. How is that any different from the new implementation? If Looking Glass didn’t want you to use your rope arrows in the first two games, they simply didn’t give you the option to use them. The designers were always the ones who decided where you could go and that remains unchanged in the new game. That’s the entire reason why rope arrows only worked on wooden surfaces to begin with. So the designers could control where you could and couldn’t use them.

    3) Focus is completely optional. You can even apply a difficulty mod that turns it off entirely. You can also apply difficulty mods that trigger a fail state if you are detected or take any damage. It’s absurd that people automatically assume that the new Thief has turned into CoD or something. The game is still very much focused on sneaking around and stealing stuff. You can still kill and incapacitate people (as you could in the first three games) but it’s not necessary to progress. If you want to ghost, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so.

    In summary, yes, there have been compromises made in order to get a new Thief game to market. No publisher is going to greenlight a hardcore stealth game with no concessions to more casual players. As such, the new Thief will definitely be more accessible to players who aren’t stealth aficionados. However, hardcore players will still be able to play it like they played every other Thief game. Just because you have the option to use Focus or whatever doesn’t mean you have to. If you lack self-restraint, that’s what the difficulty mods are for. Hell, if you ramp up the difficulty and apply every difficulty mod available, the game will be far more hardcore than any of the previous games.

  22. By Murray, October 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Such a shame to waste all that effort and time of talented developers, on a game that doesn’t have the same sense of humour, cunning, open world, and problem solving of the original games. Shame shame shame.

    It’s not the same without the authorial intentions and tone of people like Terri Brosius, Dan Thron, Randy Smith, Doug Church, Tim Stellmach, all the talented artists, designers and programmers who made up the teams that made Thief 1, 2 and even 3.

    Thief is my favorite game series ever, and despite it’s quirks and imperfections… it’s intentions and achievements were so great. The darkness of the story and world. The humour and reality of the voice acting. The artistry and writing of the cutscenes. The design and execution of the missions. Yes, there were frustrating moments and elements in all the original games, but this latest one… it’s just not even playing in the right ballpark. Corridor missions strung together. Lacking humour and flavour. The main character is boring.

    Where did GARRETT go? Where did the interesting factions and mythology go?

    I don’t mind the way the game looks aesthetically, but the design principles behind it just didn’t work for me… Running around stealing hordes of coins and scissors??? It was never really about the loot! It was about the talismans, the story objects, the crystal eye, the special stuff. Looting rooms was never really important. It was about confronting an open environment and tackling the mission task at hand. This was all lost.

    Here’s to hoping that someone else picks up the mantle, and builds another medieval based stealth game with real character, and proper problem solving and exploration. :)

    I’d like to give it a go myself one day.

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