Sometimes, no matter what the occasion, it takes a thief. Looking Glass Studios proved that a long time ago when Thief: The Dark Project swept our collective hearts with its novel approach to stealth and first person action. Now, more than a decade later, Eidos Montreal is looking to recapture that magic in a wholly new package with Thief, scheduled to launch in late February for Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
GamingBolt recently had a chance to speak to level designer Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt and narrative director Steven Gallagher at Eidos Montreal about Thief, ranging from the changes made to game throughout development, how current and next gen versions compare to each other, and much more.
Ravi Sinha: We’ve heard that there will be changes to the progression system in Thief with the team eschewing XP in favour of using gold to buy equipment. How would it have worked if the XP system remained in place? Will these changes make the game more fundamentally Thief-like in nature?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: We decided to put more emphasis on stealing and looting,that is what the game is about after all. We decided against having the XP system for a few reasons and we think the experience is strong enough without it. This also tallied with some feedback we received from the community and they reacted well to the news we were removing it so we’re glad Wedecided on that route.
Ravi Sinha: Thief will be releasing next year on next gen as well as current-gen consoles. It will also be releasing on PC. When stacked up to the PS4 and Xbox One, how does the PC version look in comparison? Did the more PC-like architecture of the PS4 and Xbox One make development across them easier?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: The PC version is hugely important to us as this is the platform that the series originated on. In a similar vein to Deus Ex: Human Revolution we are taking this platform really seriously. We’re really pleased with how the game looks and feels on all platforms and PC, PS4 and Xbox One all look great. The architecture of the new machines really helped us fulfill our vision too for sure.
Ravi Sinha: Is the development team aiming at 1080p resolution on both next gen consoles? Furthermore, Thief will be capped at 30 frames per second on both next gen consoles. Do you think can next gen console owners expect any improvements in frame rates? May be variable frame rates from 30-60?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: It’s a little too early to talk specifics on this just yet though although the team are pushing to have the highest resolution and frame rates as possible for all platforms.
Ravi Sinha: Tell us more about the campaign for Thief. Garrett will be in business for himself but will there be any incidents in the storyline where he’ll confront the authoritarian regime of the city? Furthermore, will Garrett’s actions have an impact on the overall city a la Dishonored or will players’ approaches to missions affect the difficulty of latter missions? Any details would be great.
Steven Gallagher: Garret will be in business for himself, like he always is! Garrett walks the fine line between politics and the people. Will he brush with the law? Yes – for sure – he’s the Master Thief! The further into the story the more trouble Garrett gets into.
His actions impact the city due to the size of the jobs he gets involved with andthey will impact the narrative. We have decided to create a single, really powerful story arc and Garrett’s is definitely involved, if not responsible, for how the story pans out.
Will players’ approaches to missions affect the difficulty of latter missions? Not really, It is not that something you do earlier in the game will effect something later. It is not really the way this game plays out. The player has a lot of choice and a lot of different ways to play each level, and a lot of choice when it comes to the huge City Hub area but we decided against branching the storyline depending on Garrett’s choices.
Ravi Sinha: Splinter Cell: Blacklist attempted to return to a more stealth-based approach while incorporating heaps of action in the process to appeal to modern gamers. This approach has sort of put off fans and critics alike. Given how Thief will be a return to the series after many years, how difficult is it to match up to the original appeal of the series while still expanding on the overall gameplay? No doubt there are things you can do now with technology that earlier platforms didn’t allow.
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: When revisiting an existing license there are always things to be aware of and treat with respect and the studio are approaching the Thief franchise in the same way we did with Deus Ex; taking a lot of time studying what made the original games so interesting and then working out what we need to do to ensure the essence of those games is intact. For example the light and dark mechanics, the bow, the arrowheads and so on all have to remain – plus they’re cool to use so it’s an easy choice.
We also kept the fact that you can complete Thief without knocking anyone out or killing anyone. You still have that choice; that is an essential in what makes a Thief game. It’ focus is on stealing. We didn’t fall into the temptation to force players to shoot anyone or to do anything in that direction. We want to make sure that stand alone experience that Thief was in the original series is still what retained in Thief.
Ravi Sinha: Will there be any acknowledgment to the events of past games at all? Maybe in the form of homages that lifelong fans will appreciate?
Steven Gallagher: This game has a brand new storyline; it’s not a prequel or a sequel. It’s a stand-alone experience with a fresh perspective. It feels like a Thief gameof course, we have taken Garrett as a compelling main character, picking up that world and the feeling ‘I steal for living’. It is going to feel familiar but it is a brand new story and a brand new Garrett. In many ways you can see it straight way, it is Garrett again. That was a compelling choice; we wanted to go ahead with Garrett as the main character. I’m not going to reveal any spoilers at this stage; but we love the old Thief games and if there is a chance that some things have sneaked in the game that would make old Thief fans happy, it’s not impossible!
Ravi Sinha: Does Thief on the Xbox One take advantage of features like Cloud computing, Kinect or SmartGlass? Similarly, will you be looking to incorporate any of the features of the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller like the Touch-pad?
Steven Gallagher: The PS4 touchpad is used to quickly select items from your inventory and switch arrowheads – it’s really intuitive and people that have played it really like it. We also have the light on the front of the pad changing color to indicate when you step out into the light – it flashes white when you step into the light and goes dark blue when you’re in shadow. It’s subtle but when you’re playing in a darkened room it’s really cool and helps you know when you’re in danger.
Ravi Sinha: Can you please talk a bit about the focus mode? We have already seen similar features in Hitman Absolution and Dishonored. How do you plan to make it different and unique?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: What Focus a fallback for the player to use in a tight spotand it enhances their abilities as a player. For example you can pick pocket faster or resolve combat faster. Focus is in limited supply though so you need to manage it carefully,the player has to think about if they want to fall back on this as they can only sustain it for so long. It is more it is much more a thing that goes alongside an experience, to quickly scan areas for more information. It’s totally optional though – you don’t have to use it, you can even disable it in the menu if you’re not a fan.
Steven Gallagher- I’ve seen players playing the game where they have integrated into their play style, as part of who Garrett is. This is interesting as it becomes part of their play style and less as a fallback. I see it used a lot as a concept blanket e.g. did I see everything in this room? Do I need to take more time on this shot with an arrow?etc. I have also seen focus used in ways which I did not know you could do!
Ravi Sinha: Weapons and items will play a big part in Thief. Can you please let our readers know what kind of stuff will they have at their disposal? Furthermore, how can players use them in conjunction with the enviornment?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: We have a series of elements, we still have some unannounced tools and gadgets that we have not talked about yet. We have a lot of different arrow types to manipulate the environment e.g. the water arrows that extinguish flames to create a new shadow path, the fire arrows that light up objects, the rope arrow that enables you to climb to higher places and so on. Naturally light and shadow is a big part of the gameplay and you can remove light from the environment and create distractions, you can break bottles on the other side of the room, to create special distractions – the bow is a weapon, but you also use it to manipulate your environment and the enemies
Ravi Sinha: Are you guys planning to include unlockable skills system in the game. If yes can you please explain what kind of skills will be available and how will you make the player unlock them?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: Upgrades to your skillset and tools can be bought from black-market dealers in the City Hub area. We have a range of different things for the player to purchase, new tools such as a ratchet to access new areas, a scalpel to steal paintings quickly, and wire cutters to disable traps and open new areas. Garret’s skills can also be upgraded to heighten his thieving abilities, increase the damage he can do, increase the strength of his armor and so on.
Ravi Sinha: How long does the single player campaign last?
Steven Gallagher: With regards to the single player campaign, there is no correct answer to this because your play style defines how quickly you will go through the game! I‘ve seen more aggressive players, even aggressive Stealth players, whocan go through the game quite quickly because it is part of theirplay style, i.e. how quickly can I get through this room without being spotted?, how quickly can I take everyone out? etc.
And then there is the other type of players who want to hear/see everything, they are going to keep stopping and hear conversations, Look through keyholes, open windows and explore the levels fully. These players are going to be playing for a long time because there is stuff hidden all over the place. This is such a broad answer as there is no answer, it is very much down to you play style. The player also has access to a huge city hub area where there are additional, non-critical jobs and side quests.
Ravi Sinha: Are there any plans to include a multiplayer component?
Daniel Windfeld-Schmidt: We focused a lot of energy on a single player campaign, that being said we do have an online component in the form of leaderboards but we wanted to focus on a strong single player experience.