First Look: Thief

By Adam Smith on April 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

the picture is symbolic - that's me, peeking at Thief for the first time. Do you see?

I spent a huge portion of my teenage years either playing Thief or thinking about Thief, and I’ve never really stopped. A couple of weeks ago, armed with a questioning mind, I travelled across an ocean to see Thief: No Longer Four and to talk to the development team at Eidos Montreal. The ’4′ is gone because crimes against typography and sense can only be endured for so long, and also because this is a reboot rather than a sequel. With my archaeological hat sitting atop my sceptic’s cap, I was determined to find whatever traces of the old remained and to see what remains for those who remember the original series so fondly.

It’s impossible to know, following this first proper reveal and without having played any of the game myself, whether the impressive technology that is one of the cornerstones of Thief’s new incarnation will amount to anything more than a superior spectacle but. What is clear, following an hour long in-game demonstration and a controlled tech demo of the excessively detailed fire, smoke and weather mechanics, is that Eidos Montreal are building an edifice with every modern convenience, some of which may be welcome and others which may sit uncomfortably with the expectations of those who lived through the Metal Age.

At first I thought this was the most Thief-y screenshot of the lot, but it isn't

Garrett was born in adversity, the antihero of a game that would have been style over substance if it hadn’t been so packed full of substance, or substance lacking style if it hadn’t been the most stylised fantasy/steam-punk hybrid in existence. Thief’s world was never one thing or the other – it was its own thing, a borrowing from history, literature and the wider world of fiction that embodied ideas of class warfare, industrialisation, religious fractions and gothic masque all at once. There has been nothing quite like it in gaming since and Thief’s greatest crime could be that it does not ‘borrow’ enough from its predecessors, instead building something that is attempting to be both murky and brilliant, and also somewhat new.

No quick time events are involved when pushing guards out of the way

Before discussing what Thief may or may not be, it’s important to remember what it was. Many of the apparent changes that are already drawing ire and, indeed, in some cases made me frown on the day, can stand to be re-examined in the context of reality rather than memory. Garrett isn’t as amused and distant from troubles, here more grim and dangerous from the very opening of the game, which sees him returning to The City after an inexplicable and mysterious absence. However, replaying the original game proves the apple to be wind-fallen rather than storm-tossed, and not quite as far from the tree as may be imagined.

The City has changed. Garrett has changed. And yet, more convincing than the demonstration itself, which showed one of the most ambitious meetings of advanced technology and art design that gaming has produced to date, the people in control of the game’s narrative and thematic destiny are aware of something fundamental: the relationship between the master thief and his City is the centre of everything. There are thousands of lines of speech in the game, all recorded in a purpose-built studio, and while it’s disappointing to hear that the peculiar linguistic traits of The City have become a thing of the past, it’s reassuring that Garrett will, as ever, be talking to himself. Or, as it was put to us, ‘talking to The City, which is the game’s other lead character’. Even if I may not like some of the new voicework, that statement is music to my ears.

Occasionally Garrett examines a piece of loot if it is particularly shiny

To be clear, the voice acting is well-executed, it just seems a terrible shame that the slang and accents that ran through The City as strongly as mortar and water are perhaps being dismissed as something allusive and on the level of footnote or in-joke. The language of Thief was as much a part of the atmosphere of the place, its credibility and otherworldiness, as the skyline or the shadow. To hear guards swear is not only crude in a linguistic sense, I find it confounding and it causes the sense of place, so immaculately crafted, to creak at the seams.

The fears of other changes, of quick time events and hyper-action sequences, are unwarranted. The Focus ability may cause purists to squirm (I am one and I did) but apart from a solitary user-triggered slow-motion combat sequence, very much a last resort and part of an escape rather than an assault, Focus was used for thievery rather than violence. Plucking the rings from somebody’s ears is preposterously silly but it’s an act of outrageous daring and deftness that leaves a grin on the face. Garrett is good at this, the game tells you, a master thief, and limited use of Focus throughout a mission allows him to demonstrate the peak of his abilities. From what has been shown to the press in this demonstration, it’s clear that Garrett is a thief who will spend his time thieving, and while the plot will no doubt send him on a cataclysmic course that requires adaptation and adjustment, that’s nothing new.

This is a third-person 'takedown cam'. Somebody working at Eidos Montreal realised I was an old man who adored the first two Thief games and immediately suspected that I'd think that 'takedown cams are rubbish'. I nodded in agreement.

Take The Dark Project: the gap between infiltrating a believable faux-medieval manor and dodging the festering belch-gas of giant bipedal oaf-beasts in a series of zombie-infested catacombs was one level, and that was a prison break-in that took a detour through a haunted mine. The level design in The Metal Age had more focus, more thievery and possibilities for avoidance of conflict, and while Eidos Montreal are rebooting and revamping the series, it’s the second game’s setting that new Thief most resembled during this first look.

The scant details of the plot that have been revealed suggest that the narrative will throw Garrett on a collision course with an industrialist Baron who has taken political control of The City, using The Watch, his personal army of thugs. There’s also a plague, which combined with the decadent brothel of the demonstration level to draw an uncomfortable proportion of Dishonored parallels. Despite his increased agility and eyeshadow, Garrett is still very much a thief rather than an assassin or goth-model, and while he’s capable of pulling off the occasional slow-motion murder, fighting is a last resort. Even if he is capable of slaughtering every guard in a level – and the bodies piled high during my last visit to Lord Bafford’s cellars would argue that his previous incarnation could do the same – it’s an approach fraught with peril and likely to detract from his ability to excel in the task at hand; robbing everything that isn’t nailed down.

Garrett actually looks much more grizzled and scarred underneath that mask than you'd imagine

Apart from death, Thief avoids fail states. Escape, or the discovery of an alternate route, will always be an option. The level we were shown begins in the streets of The City with Garrett stalking his prey, a nobleman with a tempting trinket who is heading for a location across the rooftops and far away. Clambering onto a rooftop, overhearing talk of violent crack-downs and a populace on the verge of revolt or collapse, the player sees the urban sprawl stretching before them. The view is astonishing, for its scale, detail and design. The City will be an open playground, with side missions to discover and loot to gather, and if this early glimpse is more than smoke and mirrors, a view that the freedom exhibited in the playthrough strongly supports, its creation will be a landmark achievement.

Black cords of ash and soot hang in the air like an oppressive net over the Victorian skyline and, later, flashes of lightning send white light dancing across individual raindrops and puddles, casting crazy shadows across the cobbles. Fog shifts like a living thing and all of it combines to make contrasting shapes of varied darkness and light that act as an ever-shifting patchwork obstacle course for Garrett, who can use any pool of darkness or obscurity as a vanishing point. Many of the technological tricks are striving for the same impact on design as the Dark Engine’s light sources did so many years ago, with the main difference being that we are apparently living in the distant future now. Everything that was shown was running on PC rather than one of the nextest generation consoles on which the game will also be released, and the effect was like seeing a bike soar down a street with its stabilisers removed.

And yet, even as Garrett scrambled across rooftops, traversing City blocks at an incredible rate, ducking through open windows and over alleyways, I was simultaneously filled with wonderment and tensed with uncertainty. It’s a beautiful, extraordinary place, this city, but is it recognisable as a version of The City? The weirdness, that not-quite steampunk ahistorical off-kilter sensibility, was lacking.

The rooftop pursuit is a race against time. A clock is striking twelve, the sound thundering across the district, and Garrett must reach the red light before the chimes end and the door to the brothel is locked for the night. Good grief, I thought, do I really want a time limit in my Thief game? Do I really want to sneak around another brothel?

The latter question is still on the table but the time limit can be dismissed. Fail to reach the door in time and the mission won’t begin again – this isn’t about finding the perfect free-running line – but the easiest entrypoint will be closed. Maybe you’ll have to find an entrance somewhere deeper, in the City’s underbelly where it keeps its underclass, or perhaps, with a little ingenuity, it’ll be possible to unlock the gate. Until we actually play the game, it’s impossible to know how satisfying these freedoms will be but the promise of them is a salve for those who fear a more linear experience.

This is the most Thief-y shot of the lot. Putting out fires with arrows.

As for The City’s weirdness, it becomes more apparent. It’s perhaps too generous to see the surface level, that Victorian London topping, as an intentional cork on top of the more uncomfortable underground, but it’s clear that the design takes ‘verticality’ as a central tenet. Garrett spends more time climbing than he has previously, which leads to the already-maligned third-person viewpoint when he attaches to a wall. It was rarely used in the demonstration and explained away with a slightly apologetic shrug, ‘in first-person, you’d only be able to see the wall right in front of you’. Scroll through this page and notice Garrett’s hands in the first-person view screenshots. When he isn’t wielding a weapon or examining loot, the hands interact with the environment, gripping corners as he leans, brushing against walls and tables as he passes. It’s an effective spatial tool and helps make his body, which physically exists rather than being a floating camera, an active part of the environment.

Returning to climbing and dangling from ropes, it’s clear that the use of height, scale and scaling isn’t only a facet of level design, it’s a facet of urban design. While the surface of The City is gaslights and plush, over-ripe luxury, bursting with corruption and abuse, just beneath lie the furnaces and workshops. Steam, chains and metal, dangerous, dirty and darker. That’s not all though; like a three-tiered cake, the City has a broad base and it’s here that it most resembles its former self. The Victorian brothel has an opium factory tacked on its side, all clanky metal gratings and over-anxious workers, and below that, at its very foundations, it’s something else entirely, a huge edifice of medieval design, part castle, part sanctuary. The walls are solid – this place will endure longer than the ephemeral everyday above – and they carry markers, the symbol of the Keepers, an easily missed but thrilling reminder of The City’s past, the series’ past and Garrett’s past.

I admire any game that allows me to lean - Thief does good leaning

Short of stealing the design documents, I tried my damnedest to find out more about the existence of factions from the previous games but nobody is ready to talk yet. I did have a debate with the lead level designer as to whether The Metal Age is the best game in the series (having replayed both games since, I admit now that I was wrong to back The Dark Project – nostalgia, eh?) and uncovered a studied, cerebral and critical knowledge of the Looking Glass titles that left more of a positive impression than all of the fancy lighting tech in the world ever could.

There were moments in the playthrough that looked scripted, particularly a guard following the noise of a breaking bottle and ended up on the wrong side of a barred gate, which handily closes when an arrow is fired at the switch by its side, but the team are honest about the state of the playthrough. This is not a level as it will be played, it is a compact version of the experience, condensed so as to contain infiltration, thievery and escape, a showcase of possibilities. The architectural possibilities are explicit and exciting, the storytelling is scratched into the masonry and in the overheard gossip and barked orders.

It's hard to express how impressive this is in a screenshot, but all of the smoke reacts to winds, drafts and figures moving through it, billowing and taking on new shapes as it hits objects, and fire spreads across flammable materials and can be extinguished with water. SCIENCE

Dishonored approached stealth and urban navigation as kinetic problems, solved most often through motion rather than stasis and seclusion. Garrett’s newfound agility and his collapsible bow (I held a forged and machined replica, and almost neutered myself when I clicked the catch that opens it) will make him a less subtle knife in the dark at times, but they will also open up new pathways, above and across buildings and rooms. It’s the increased mobility of Garrett that most exemplifies the difference between then and now, but it’s the other central character, The City, that could benefit from Garrett’s ability to better traverse its greatest heights and its most wretched depths.

The trailers may emphasise crazed leaps from ramparts, gadgetry, violence and a poised, mannered edginess – a word that was used during the demonstration and that never fails to make me cringe – but even in a demo level that is constructed to be a greatest hits compilation, Garrett spent most of his time crouching in the shadows, waiting, watching and sneaking between his unwitting marks. The technology and the design are built around shadows and fog, architecture and agency, and even though Thief may, to my regret, lack some of its original voice and soul, the excavation hasn’t left those spaces empty. From the vantage of a concerned critic and interested observer, the new elements locking into place appear to have an intelligence and fascination of their own.

If the world-building is consistent and strong, and the game holds true to its intent, which is to present interesting, complex spaces and allow the player to explore them with all of the old tools of the trade, then Thief will undoubtedly delight me, despite any misgivings I maintain about some of the changes in tone. But that ‘if’ is very important. It’s possible to play a game for an hour or two and to seize, or be offered, the wrong end of various sticks, and while I feel much more optimistic about this reboot than I did before seeing it in action, that’s all that has happened. I’ve seen it in action, with members of the development team playing it in a controlled environment. They know that I’ve missed firing water arrows at torches and clubbing guards on the noggin. I’ve missed creeping on carpets and shuddering at the sight of a hard, stone floor. I’ve missed being encouraged to think about a location as a challenge and a possibility, and I reckon Thief just might bring all of those things back to me.

Oh, and I’ve also missed rope arrows and they’re finally coming back as well.

Thief isn’t coming out until 2014, which is annoying. However, in the much less distant future I’ll share more details about the demonstration level and an interview with the lead level designer and producer of the game, where we discuss balancing the old and the new, whether we’ll be returning to any cathedrals or cradles, and if there is even a single taffer left in The City.

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213 Comments »

  1. Mordsung says:

    My stealth gland is quivering… quietly.

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      I wish I could say the same, I’ve read both this and the PCG preview & still don’t feel at all that it’s a Thief game. I guess I’ll just have to wait until release, until then Adam can you confirm whether or not the viewmodels are at an unrealistically low fov/directly in front of the camera? I couldn’t play dishonored because it gave me simulation sickness, I’m worried this will be the same.

      • Wreckdum says:

        I’ve heard people always say some FOVs make them sick… Glad I never had that problem cause I had a lot of fun in Dishonored. Also of all the games I played in the last decade and complained they were console ports… Dishonored would have never been one I complained about. In fact I never even noticed an FOV problem.

        I’ve always just told myself people who complain that an FOV in a video game makes them sick are the same people that can’t ride on airplanes or do other things normal people do. lol

        • SelfEsteemFund says:

          Could you read my post before you reply next time? I’m talking about viewmodel fov. To the rest of your comment, I can’t tell if you’re being serious or if you’re young so I’m not going to reply further.

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        • Mordsung says:

          Simulation sickness is a real thing. TotalBiscuit has a minor problem with it, my father vomited watching me play Mario 64 as a kid.

          It applies to viewing things on a screen where the FOV is out of whack due to playing on a wider screen, since there aren’t really similar situations outside of gaming where this happens it doesn’t tend to affect their normal life.

          It doesn’t make me sick, and I used to not notice it, but over time I have become “FoV aware” and it does start to get annoying even if you don’t get sick from it.

          • Baines says:

            What causes people to get sick varies from person to person as well, which only makes it easier for people to dismiss it as a concern.

          • iucounu says:

            Yes, it’s an odd phenomenon. I used to get this playing Timesplitters on the PS2 and Goldeneye on the N64, but not at all in later generations. I think there are a lot of issues – FOV, frame rate, control sensitivity…

      • Claidheamh says:

        I tend to have problems with FOV in games, too, but Dishonored had an FOV slider, if memory serves me.

      • Bauul says:

        There’s actually very good logic behind the low FOVs you get in modern first person games.

        It’s simply down to the fact most games are played on a TV ten feet away from the player. If you think about your field of vision when looking out of a window just in front of you, versus looking out of one across a room, the FOV suddenly makes a lot of sense.

        The problem is developers not giving us an option to slide it back when playing on a close up screen. But for what it’s designed for, a low FOV does actually make a lot of sense.

      • SirHurrDurr says:

        I´d only had one game that were causing described Motion Sickness to me once.
        Metro 2033 ,the “restricted View” was once factor ,a Fanpatch later on where you simply could Adjust Fov yourself solved this.
        Like a Fov of 65 requires you to tilt the “Head “alot ,a feeling that occurs might on a Boat where Only Sea is around and the Eye misses a “Fix-point” but still you are going up and down.
        This causes also kind of mentioned Sickness to some percent of us.
        So i hope Thief will give us that Option but thats a far Way to go still ,since i dont even predict the Next-Gen Consoles to have thier coming out before Christmas this Year.

      • DarlingDildo says:

        Hey,
        You should be able to control FOV from within Dishonored (I’m talking about the PC version here). If the highest setting still isn’t working for you, you can edit one of the ini files. See instructions below.
        http://www.destructoid.com/here-s-how-to-customize-dishonored-s-fov-even-more-236377.phtml

        It may also be possible to edit the DishonoredEngine.ini file (search for FOVAngle, mine was set to 90), but I don’t remember if the setting saved upon exiting the game, which may be the reason for the existence of the aforementioned guide.

        I would also recommend watching this video. It explains, in detail, why people get sick at low FOV angles on the PC.
        Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blZUao2jTGA
        Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1XsPYPGcl0

        Cheers.

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  2. Oneah says:

    Picture number 3: Scripted Event

    Picture number 5: Finishing Moves?

    • Adam Smith says:

      Not scripted – it’s what happens when you run into people at high speed instead of the models just bouncing off one another.

      For five, see the alt-text!

      • Ultra Superior says:

        I love reading your stuff, Adam. Brilliant article.

        Thank you !

      • LionsPhil says:

        It has lean keys?

        LEAN KEYS ARE BACK?!

        • welverin says:

          Yes, play Dishonored, or Crysis (well, I seem to remember them in the first one).

          • Grey Poupon says:

            Arma 3 has upper- and lowerbody leaning that you can assign to any analog controls if you’d prefer a progressive lean. I use my racing pedals for leaning, works pretty damn nicely. It also has dynamic smoke that reacts to helicopters and whatnot.

            3rd person kill cams are great at ruining immersion, and Thief in the olden times was a game about immersion. I hope you can turn those off.

      • Oneah says:

        Actually now looking back at it, it kinda reminds me a lot of animations you get when you did a takedown in Deus EX: Human Revolution.

      • db1331 says:

        Stopping to read that alt-text as I was working my way through the article just made me realize yet again that this is the greatest games site on the net. I was looking at that picture and thinking, “Is that a fucking third person takedown cam?” The alt-text is pretty much exactly what my response would have been, though probably a bit more gracious than what I would have been able to muster.

        • lith says:

          Mine would’ve been “Say, I don’t suppose you know whose idea it was? And do you have a list of his phobias and allergies?”

          I loathe takedown cams. Is it so hard to have “Play Takedown Animation? Y/N” in the options? But they make for “kewl” “real gameplay” trailers, which is all that matters.

  3. ran93r says:

    I don’t mind a little scripting but I’m glad for the absence of QTE’s. I hope they haven’t just hidden them away from the press.

  4. Zephro says:

    Well this sounds better than the trailer… that’s all though, still intensely worried.

  5. Zunt says:

    This sounds like it’s got some of it right, but …. are you saying there’ll be no Taffers?

    • CptSqweky says:

      The taffing taffers can’t get rid of the word “taff”. If it’s truely a reboot with a seperate continuity, then I can maybe forgive getting rid of Stephen Russell. But no taffing? That’s just downright criminal. Foolish mansy taffs.

    • TheTingler says:

      I’m prepared to bet between now and release an abundance of taffers will come flooding in. The team really underestimated the love for that word!

      • yabonn says:

        Also : Taffer hats in TF2.

        • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

          Calling it now: you’ll be able to get the new bow as a weapon for the Sniper.

          That makes me kinda sad, really. Strange, because I adore TF2 and Thief, and still quite fancy the look of this new, different Thief.

    • Geen says:

      Fun drinking game that will most likely kill you: Take a drink every time someone says taffer. Good luck, and I’m not responsible if you die.

  6. LuNatic says:

    Are the 3rd person sequences, and the action takedowns disablable/avoidable?

    • ulix says:

      The 3rd Person-sections are luckily not avoidable, since climbing in 1st person would be a really shitty experience. Unless you’d put the Field of View to 180, which would look weird… maybe with an Oculus Rift it’d be feasible, not on a normal monitor though.

      Takedowns are avoidable if you don’t get cought, or just run away the other direction, I’d imagine (actually, I’m 100% sure of this, because of… umm… logic).

      • Dave L. says:

        Funny, I don’t remember climbing in first person being a shitty experience in Thief 1 & 2, System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Dark Messiah, FEAR, Mirror’s Edge or Dishonored.

        • Tomac says:

          Did any of those games have you pressed face first against a wall? Usually first person games have you face away from a wall when sliding across a narrow ledge. I think this game will be a bit more climbey like Assassin’s Creed. Can you imagine playing the climbey bits of Assassin’s Creed in first person?

          • Grey Poupon says:

            Go watch a video of Mirror’s Edge while thinking to yourself if it’s climby or not.

          • Tomac says:

            I’ve played hours of Mirror’s Edge. You’re missing my point.

          • ulix says:

            Watched a video of Mirror’s Edge. Faith NEVER climbs walls, she always climbs ledges or pipes.

            Missing the point entirely.

          • Dave L. says:

            Because, as everyone knows, when climbing walls (as opposed to hanging from ledges against walls) the human vertebrae all immediately fuse, preventing any rotation of the head or neck.

          • KenTWOu says:

            I’ve played Mirror’s Edge using gamepad and that was really horrible experience. Analogue stick was too slow during pipe climbing, there is a reason why this game has dedicated Turn 90/180 button. And without that button you can’t make certain tricks really fast using gamepad. Of course, PC mouse doesn’t have some of these issues and you can play the game using Turn 90/180 only when it’s really needed. But that was Mirror’s Edge, the game was built around parkour.

            Thief 4 is a completely different story. What if they can’t use special button for 180 degree turn because we all know that gamepads don’t have enough buttons and devs want to use these buttons for other useful stealthy things.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        You do realise that when climbing a ladder or a wall, it would be very simple to move the mouse to look left or right, or up or down? Why are you assuming you’d have to point the camera straight ahead at the wall? Try thinking critically instead of swallowing the BS the developers feed you.

        Keeping it in first person would also be more consistent with the work they’ve done to make Garrett touch walls and pillars as he moves around in first person.

        The bottom line is that 3rd person is a way to make the game easier because they fear that keeping the game in first person would be too hard for people. The same excuse was used for the 3rd person camera in DXHR whenever you stuck yourself to cover: they actually claimed that it’s too hard to visualise and process a space in first person, so the game had to switch to third person. It’s a blatantly rubbish excuse.

        I think it’s extraordinary that the developers at Eidos keep tossing out ‘immersion’ as a buzzword, but then they implement all these third person switches, which is what’s going to harm immersion in their games more than anything else. They seem to think that ‘immersion’ is a function of the narrative. I can’t believe the concept is so badly understood by people who call themselves game designers. This industry is such a pile of shit.

        • sabrage says:

          Thank you for saying, in many more and better words, what I was going to.

          I thought Far Cry 3 handled first-person cover brilliantly. I don’t know if it would work in Thief, but so far that’s the bar to beat for me.

        • KenTWOu says:

          @Runs With Foxes
          Yeah, all game designers are idiots, I get it! By the way, Thief 3 Deadly Shadows proves that you’re wrong. First person view with body awareness is seriously limited during climbing, until your character has owl’s neck. And that’s also immersion breaking.

    • TheTingler says:

      I don’t know if they can be turned off, but there was definitely a moment where Garrett simply blackjacked a guy without a takedown animation happening, so they may not happen all the time, or only in specific moments.

  7. Creeping Death says:

    No love for Deadly Shadows, Adam?

    • Adam Smith says:

      Yeah – much more than a lot of Thief fans I know. Realised I hadn’t mentioned it at all as I finished, but I do think the distinction between the first two and the third is worthwhile, and new Thief, in spatial design at least, seems more Metal Age than anything.

  8. sinister agent says:

    With the change in voice and the dropping of the language thing, I suspect the sound design may take something of a hit, which would be a great shame. And ugh, “reboot”, how utterly unnecessary.

    But this does sound promising. Certainly I’m more optimistic about it than I was when I saw those idiotic 4 INSTEAD OF AN E WOW SO KOOL pictures.

  9. BTAxis says:

    So much handwringing about the new game not being exactly the same as the old ones. I have never played the old Thief games, and I wonder if that is a good thing; a lot of people seem intent on being disappointed in this game in deference to their nostalgia.

    • Jahandar says:

      Who said anything about nostalgia? I (and many other Thief fans) still jump into Thief 1 and 2 at least once a year, and new fan missions are made all the time. This isn’t a case of rose colored glasses and a legacy built by time spent apart. We know exactly where the previous games’ strengths and weaknesses are, and there are good reasons why we all want the new game to stay true to the originals.

      • Itkovian says:

        Indeed – it’s one of the few series’ where I never feel like my returning to it had anything to do with nostalgia. it’s always just as good as it has ever been…

        I made this the other day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ou3G-uBLSA4

        /shameless plug

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Exactly. I’m so sick of this nostalgia/rose-tinted glasses argument that gets trotted out, as though we haven’t played these games for 13 years.

        • Samwise Gamgee says:

          As an old gamer but newcomer to the Thief series (yeah, I know, forgive me) thanks to GOG, I can confirm that it is one of the few classic games that still holds up today. The game play is great and the graphics and textures even at the default 800×600 resolution ooze charm, craft and atmosphere.

  10. Lars Westergren says:

    Very nicely written article, Adam. Almost all my worries have been soothed, this is looking mighty promising.

    You seem to avoid mentioning the third game completely unless I missed it somewhere. (“having replayed both games”). An omission or a statement? Apart from the criminally small levels due to the damn Xbox, I thought it was a very worthy game in the series.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Just replied to somebody about that above – I wasn’t intentionally spurning Deadly Shadows. I’m replaying it RIGHT NOW, or at least when I finish writing this reply.

      Going to follow up with another article which will include some love for it.

  11. DrScuttles says:

    If they can replicate the feeling of missions like Life Of The Party, where you traipse across the City with a specific target in mind but get caught up in dozens of mini-missions and pockets of interesting Thieving options along the way, I’ll be okay.
    Not all change is bad. Likewise, not all change is good, either. At the very least, I’m glad that now we have some small measure of detail on the game itself, it doesn’t sound like I can just write it off completely.

  12. MuscleHorse says:

    Reader, I blackjacked him.

  13. Muzman says:

    Sounds pretty good at least. It’ll all depend on the the AI and level design and the immersive properties of the player perspective (something cross platform titles routinely ignore or screw up).

    Anyway, what’s all this talk of Thief 2 being the best? It had the best levels (of just about anything, ever), sure. But The Dark Project is one of the best told stories in all video games, and one of the best marriages of storytelling, gameplay and level design you’ll encounter. Thief 2 just hasn’t got it in the plot department. Sorry.

    • fish99 says:

      Personally I got into the Thief 2 story more, plus the game was more about sneaking/thievery and less about adventure and combat. Thief 2 would generally give you a large building with loads of enemies, so it was a more tense and a bigger challenge to stay undetected.

      I replayed them both late last year (on expert) and my opinions didn’t change. They’re both fine games though, so it really doesn’t matter.

      • Muzman says:

        There’s only a tiny bit more combat in The Dark Project than in 2 (specifically violence demanded by a couple of objectives against some beasties). Otherwise it’s all sneaking if you want. It’s a common misconception however as most people’s reaction to zombies and the like is that you ought to kill them.

        More building infiltration type missions is good, but on the whole the series’ impression of the city as a place of untold ancient mystery is pretty cool.

  14. woodsey says:

    Oooh *squeal*.

    Can we all just let in a teensy bit of excitement now, or must we go on about emo this and “I’d rather eat my own child then play this rubbish” that?

    A question for Adam, though: is The City open-world now then? All of the time, or just between missions? I was unclear on that bit.

    • Adam Smith says:

      It wasn’t made entirely clear on the day, either during the demo or conversation afterwards, but there are story missions and optional side missions, but it’s also possible to explore freely. I reckon taking on a mission probably closes off the rest of The City for the duration.

      There’s a little bit more about it in the interview, which will be up tomorrow or at the weekend.

      • woodsey says:

        Sounds good. I was hoping they would expand on that idea from Deadly Shadows. Casual thievery from a few terrace houses makes a nice change of pace from sweeping heists.

      • welverin says:

        I think it was in the podcast Game Informer put up for there coverage that I heard that it isn’t open world, but there will be a hub that you can wander about in between missions

  15. Totally heterosexual says:

    So… it’s just called “Thief”? Rather then Thief 4, Thi4f or Thief 4: Thief another day?

    I fucking hate when reboots do that. I know it’s a returning franchise, but just using the same name as the first game smacks me a little of tempting fate. See Tomb Raider.

    This looks quiet nice though.

  16. Stevostin says:

    This does look promising after all. My main concern is the writing, which was not a strong point in DE:HR (while certainly a strong one in Thief games), and Goth Garett. Let’s hope for the best.

    • woodsey says:

      Different team, different writers.

      Although I thought the writing in DXHR was particularly good, for the most part.

      • Stevostin says:

        I can’t remember of one text that was even remotely interesting. All felt like fill in. Story was very cliche and lacking sparks.

        Different team you said ? I thought it was the same !

        • ulix says:

          Same studio, different team. They have 2 or 3 full teams at Eidos Montreal.

        • woodsey says:

          I dunno, I thought much of the main-path dialogue was very good, the performances too. I struggle to think of a game that has made me buy into a relationship between two people so much in spite of them never even sharing the same screen for more than 5 minutes across a 30 hour game. Sarif was great too, there’s always some sense of an agenda but he was always insanely likable.

          There a few duff parts, sure. “Fly-boy” makes me want to throw-up every time I hear it, but nothing’s perfect.

          Couldn’t get enough of the emails either. The ebooks were used more as a scientific-authenticity backbone admittedly, which didn’t particularly engage me.

          • karry says:

            The whole storyline was pointless and filled to the brim with Checkov’s guns that never fired. What was the point of having your “girlfriend” kidnapped ? What was the point of even having Adam remembering her while he’s being cut up on the table ? Where were the Illuminatis ? Was there really any point in establishing Tong’s parentage ? Would a person at the head of security in a large organization really wander the world on his own, with very vaguely defined goals ?

          • Zenicetus says:

            I thought the writing in DX:HR was forgettable too. Aside from sounding like generic Cyberpunk throughout the game, there was the lazy way they wrapped up the ending with a choice of what button to push, instead of creating a more developed ending. There were also a few really badly-written racial stereotypes in that game. I hope they use better writers for Thief.

          • Muzman says:

            It’s weird. I thought the side missions were often really well done. So much so it seemed like they were done by completely different people for some other game.

          • Cockles says:

            Ooo, ooo, I know, pick me, pick me Karry!

            I recently replayed DXHR and a lot of stuff that seemed pointless and went over my head the first time around made a lot more sense after a replay a couple of years later.

            What was the point of having your “girlfriend” kidnapped ? – She was about to reveal her discovery on behalf of Sarif that augmentation could be made available to all people, the illuminati didn’t want that and wanted to control augmentation Secondly, Hugh Darrow wanted to use her research to make the new biochip turn people crazy.

            What was the point of even having Adam remembering her while he’s being cut up on the table ? – On my replay I noticed something throughout the whole game that I’d pretty much overlooked the first time around (or at least didn’t care about). Adam still had an incredibly strong emotional connection to Megan, I honestly think the developers should have played up Adam’s belief that he was a white knight coming to her rescue and intertwined this better with his motivation to find her because he wanted to solve the mystery of the disappearance and get revenge for his injuries. However, after played the game again I find their relationship really touching, certainly on Adam’s part. Wish they’d done more with that. Remebering her during the surgery sends an blatant signal to the player on his thoughts towards her and it also contrasts with the sick stuff going on to him; his dreams are fantasy and his reality is pretty grim.

            Where were the Illuminatis? – You meet them during the course of the game (Darrow, the other guy from the Humanity Front and his aide Sandervelt etc) the Illuminatis are really just a small bunch of people who aren’t “The Illuminati” in terms of an organisational identity. I think that’s important because the original portrayed them to be a specific thing; they’re “The Illuminati” first and foremost but in DXHR, they’re just a group of powerful guys who sometimes pretend to be “The Illuminati” when it suits them. Also, Bob Page is pretty much the guy pulling all the strings, essntailly he is “The Illuminati”.

            Was there really any point in establishing Tong’s parentage ? – Only to have some connections to the original, this is a prequel after all. Tracer Tong was being held prisoner to blackmail Tong Snr. Oh, and to shamelessly cash in on some DLC that should have been in the game anyway. Without the DLC it’s just a passing reference and he could be someone else entirely but it’s nice to have connections to Deus Ex.

            Would a person at the head of security in a large organization really wander the world on his own, with very vaguely defined goals ? – No but that would be a shit game; security guard simulator IV where you eat doughnuts and read newspapers whilst chatting up the secretary.

  17. engion3 says:

    Hmm, I never played the original Thief (only 26 and didn’t have gaming pc growing up) but this looks pretty decent. This is the same studio that made the tomb raider reboot correct? If so that’s good news, I enjoyed that.

  18. Snargelfargen says:

    Still looking promising, although some of the design compromises are very un-thief-like.

    -Focus’s slow motion, third-person takedowns: What is up with this? Pushing a button to go into slow motion isn’t scary or tense or even satisfying. To be clear, combat in the older thief games was horribly broken, but the one thing it did right was make the player afraid to engage more than one guard at a time. Fighting was messy, and a “clean” mission was gratifying. I wish Eidos had taken some cues from Mirror’s Edge, the timing based punching, disarming and stunning was both intuitive for the player and fitting for a character who didn’t fight unless absolutely necessary.

    -Cover-based stealth: In the previous games, stealth was maintained by keeping in the dark, walking slowly and avoiding loud surfaces. Traversing a tile hallway was a game in and of itself. Garrett’s talent was to not be noticed. The player felt powerful as they stood in shadow and watched guards completely oblivious to his presence just a couple feet away. In this, they’ve done away with darkness, levels are brighter and filled with volumetric fog to obscure vision. Hiding is done by crouching behind objects. The player is no longer powerful in the shadows, and instead has to skulk from one waist-high obstacle to the next. There has been no mention of sound management AT ALL unfortunately, so it sounds like that element of gameplay has been removed completely.

    All that said, good to hear the developers “get” the relationship between Garrett and The City. This is probably gonna turn out all right, although the gameplay resembles a hard-mode Dishonoured more than any Thief game.

    • Adam Smith says:

      On the latter point, that’s not the case at all – shadows are cover. It’s even possible to stand in the shadow a guard casts and hide in it. The entire stealth system is based around shadow, light and fog, not just cover.

      In fact, furniture and other smaller cover items are mostly useful BECAUSE of the shadows they cast rather than the physical object itself.

      As for sound, I spoke about that a little in the interview. It’s possible to use noises to distract guards but Garrett’s found some soft soles this time around and doesn’t start stomping around and making noise when he’s on a hard floor. That aspect may change apparently.

      • Lacero says:

        Thanks for stealing the Truth and fencing it to us Adam.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        That’s very encouraging! More lurking, less crouching. Thanks Adam.

        Interesting about the sound. Can’t imagine Eidos have very much allowance to change things as they go after five years indevelopment, but we can only wait and see.

      • zubbuz says:

        I love the original games, favourite series of all time, BUT his hard-soled shoes always bothered me.

        Fair enough for getting to where your breaking into, but surely when you break into a bank that only has tiled floors, a Master Thief would think to pull on some nice soft and supple yet relatively grippy leather-soled shoes?

        Then again, the game was incredibly well done for its day – can’t bash it too much :)

    • ulix says:

      Unless you yourself (as the player) are the best Thief in the world and know the controls of the game perfectly, play on a 7.1-sound-system with an Oculus Rift, etc., Focus actually MAKES SENSE.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        What?

        • ulix says:

          Imagine needing the physical dexterity (or just the hand-eye coordination) a thief like Garett has, to be reqired of the player. By introducing Focus the developers try to simulate these incredibly daring and difficult situations, in which a master-thief would find himself, so that a normal human being can play them.

          • Moorkh says:

            I wasn’t aware Garrett was of the super hero variety leaving us mere mortals to approximate his experience with “press F for focus/awesome” crutches…

          • ulix says:

            The way I understand it, you’ll still need to do stuff as you’d normally would in Focus mode, it’s just in slow-motions. The takedowns are just one small aspect of focus, aparrently.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            Haha, am I correct in understanding that Garrett is simply SO AWESOME that the medium of video-games is unable to convey his greatness? The only way mere mortals can hope to control him is to slow down time and press one button (not two, not three).

            Funny thing is, the Mirror’s Edge combat I suggested is basically just left clicking. Video-games, man.

  19. Guvornator says:

    “It was rarely used in the demonstration and explained away with a slightly apologetic shrug, ‘in first-person, you’d only be able to see the wall right in front of you’.”

    Who ever said that needs to go play Mirror’s Edge and then have a little think.

    • ulix says:

      In Mirror’s Edge you’re never, ever climbing walls. You’re climbing ledges and pipes.

      • fish99 says:

        And clinging onto pipes and ledges you could often see just a wall in front of you.

        • ulix says:

          Yes, and had no choice but to go up and down. Take AssCreed for example, where you have a couple more choices of direction on every wall. Now imagine AssCreed’s climbing in 1st person.

          It’d be complete and utter shit. It just wouldn’t work at all.

          Or, to be more exact: it might work, if climbing was as slow as actual rock-climbing in real life. Then it’d be tedious and boring as hell.

          • Muzman says:

            I don’t understand. Can’t people turn their head when climbing in real life? Pretty sure they can.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Stop making sense, Muzman, ulix can’t handle it.

          • ulix says:

            Sure you can. You don’t have to though, at least not as much as you would in a game, since your eyes have a field of view of almost 180 degrees.
            Then of course you have a tactile sense in your hands and feet in real life, all four of which you can move independently and freely, so you might not even have to look around.
            Also, climbing a 5m wall in real life takes several minutes. Do you want climbing in this game to take several minutes? Or do you want it to be fun?

            Did you guys take my advice? Did you imagine AssCreed’s climbing in 1st Person? Was it shit or was it shit?

            On top of being tedious, boring and slow, it’d (without a 180° field of vision and a tactile feeling of your whole body) also be disorienting as hell.

          • Muzman says:

            I’m still confused. One because I imagined Assassin’s creed climbing in first person and thought it would be fine. And two, because I’m not aware we even know what NewThief’s climbing will actually be like. Are we talking ropes? Climbing gloves? General Free Climbing? All of the above one assumes.
            I don’t think you have played Mirror’s Edge. You do have to go sideways in that, hanging off ledges etc. And even when going up and down you have to jump between up n’ down pipes going across. You can also go up and across by flinging yourself between things you dangle from. And it’s cool. The level design doesn’t use this all that well at times (mostly because it interrupts momentum where it usually ends up), but the first person perspective is not the problem with it at all.

          • ulix says:

            And how many choices of direction do you usually have in Mirror’s Edge’s climbing? Two, or was it maybe two? Or maybe it was two? I’m not sure anymore, only played through the game twice.

          • Muzman says:

            Well five or six depending on the situation. You can go up and down pipes and jump across to adjacent pipes or ledges (or wall run across further). You can do fingertip ledge holds/mantling sideways, drop down to a ledge below, do a double hand catch to a ledge/handhold above, do a twisting jump onto a handhold behind or adjacent to you (and upwards a certain amount. Which you aim by twisting around and reaching out one arm). Plus trapeze swinging from any free hanging points.

            It’s probably the best first person implementation since Thief itself. It’s not really a climbing game so they don’t do it all that well, but all the features are there. I spent a lot of time ‘just looking at the wall’ in that game, and looking around at how far down it was. Thought it was great.

          • ulix says:

            In any given situation, Mirror’s Edge being a very linear game and all, how many of these were valid choices? Was it two, or maybe it was two? Either go “forward” (advancing the level) or “backward” (track back, although I don’t see many reasons to do this in Mirror’s Edge).

            And do you want “valid climbing points” to glow red in Thief (4), like they do in Mirror’s Edge (since otherwise it’d be completely disorienting, thus further proving my point)?

          • Muzman says:

            There’s typically various ways to navigate a level, dependent on skill level. So if it gets you to the end, it’s a valid choice (unless you are racing).
            It doesn’t really matter since we’re talking about mechanics not level design. If you were to implement ME’s climbing in another more climbing centred game they’d still work just as well, probably better. As it stands there’s loads of places you can climb on, even if you don’t need to (and you can deadend yourself doing this).
            I don’t know about making things red since I didn’t use runner vision.

      • Nova says:

        In Mirror’s Edge you’re never, ever climbing walls. You’re climbing ledges and pipes.

        And those float freely about the city?
        Not to mention that you’re climbing walls constantly. Do you even know what Mirror’s Edge is?

  20. RedViv says:

    This sounds promising.

  21. SRTie4k says:

    I am still concerned that this game will lack the ‘soul’ that made the original games magical. How am I going to get immersed back into what I knew and loved about The City if everything has changed completely? No more interesting dialect? No fusion of industrialist steampunk, medieval gothic sets and paganistic rituals and locales? Maybe I’m jumping ahead of myself here, but this future of Thief is not looking promising to me. It looks more like Dishonored than Thief.

    Also I keep hearing the word “reboot”, but then the description says that Garrett has returned to the city. So sequel then? Which means that Garrett is older, which also means that Stephen Russell should have voiced him, not a younger guy with a younger voice.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I don’t think they mean he’s returned to the City after the events of Deadly Shadows. Rather, he’s a young Thief who has been away from the City for a long time for unrelated reasons. Like how in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne was away from Gotham for several years, but he isn’t an older Michael Keaton.

      • Adam Smith says:

        Yep – he’s been away for unspecified reasons and when he returns, he has to smuggle himself inside a cart since the City is under quarantine because of the plague. He mentions having been away but can’t remember where he’s been. I’ll go into more detail about what’s implied and where I think the narrative threads of interest are in the next article.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          Please stick the phrase “shiney” into your next article if Thief is none too clever in your view judging by what you have seen!

          All this talk of ‘building a sound studio’ to capture the dialogue scares the shit out of me! You don’t spend cash money on stuff unless…. Bah, be gone imagination, we imagine for you!, you have the freedom to enjoy our experience *sad chops*

  22. FakeAssName says:

    The Dark MOD is my 4th Thief game, nothing in this article makes me question if that opinion will change.

    Hell, nothing in this article makes me think it will register on my radar as Thief 5

    • Asurmen says:

      Despite it covering a number of complaints people had? What was/wasn’t said to your liking?

    • Cockles says:

      That’s really your loss, all you’re doing is excluding yourself from something that you could potentially enjoy. Why even act as judge, jury and executioner before the game is released/reviewed/played by you?

      The Dark Mod is absolutely fantastic and I love it but this is a new official Thief game, it could spawn a great legacy or at least shine out against the majority of triple-A army wank-fest that we see. Unless you can kidnap the developers and force them to go back to 1999 and make a sequel, it’s going to have features that modern games do.

      You need to deal with this, it’s the way the games industry has been going for years now. Thief 2 is without a doubt one of my favourite games of all time and I am often disappointed by nostalgic replays of old games (Thief 2 does not do that to me, it’s still great) but I’m really looking forward to playing a new thief game and it being reimagined. It might turn out shit, it might turn out average but your anger, which is completely self-imposed, is pointless and worthless.

      If you care that much then start a campagin to get the developers to listen to you (it will fail but anything’s possible), otherwise deal with it and you might get a positive experience rather than definitely having a negative one.

  23. SilentDawn says:

    So much words. i can’t deal with that now. i’ll wait for a video :)

  24. Prime says:

    Upgraded Self from ‘Ambivalent but Hopeful Watcher’ to ‘Quivering Excite-a-naut’. Lots of my fears just melted away like smoke. Cheers, Adam!

  25. Dominus says:

    Are there 3rd person takedowns and such?

  26. Penguin_Factory says:

    Oh boy, the return of a popular franchise! I can’t wait for comments threads to fill up with fanboys who refuse to accept the game as a legitimate entry in the series and who for some reason feel the need to repeatedly broadcast this to everyone else.

    Anyway, the game is looking graphically very impressive but the art style seems oddly bland and uninteresting. Maybe it’s just in comparison to Dishonored.

    • Cytrom says:

      It looks pretty much like dishonored to me with the lights turned down… and I’d be perfectly fine with that at this point.

    • FakeAssName says:

      Too late, I already started …. though I hardly consider myself a fanboi; I liked Thief 3 after all, but this is just more of the same “movie disguised as a video game so we don’t have to jump through Hollywood’s hoops” that we saw with DX:HR.

      • woodsey says:

        What the hell does that even mean? Are you seriously suggesting DX:HR is anywhere close to wanting to be a film?

        • FakeAssName says:

          Yeppers: exactly that!

          … in the same way I view most metal gear solid titles as movies with game play breaks roughly inserted.

          Hell, it really should have been titled MGS:HR since it was far closer to a MGS title (minus the batshit) than the other DX titles.

          • welverin says:

            No.

            Just no.

          • Totally heterosexual says:

            Well you sure are wrong good sir.

          • FakeAssName says:

            And you are not my opinion ….

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Well, either DE:HR was supposed to be a film but the hoops the Director had to jump through in hollywood made it impossible or that is utter bullshit. (Seriously, what? Hoops – what hoops? There are far more hoops to jump through in game development)

            You may hold an opinion but don’t think that you can’t be wrong. If I were to state that in my opinion, you made that post because you are really the blue alien girl from mass effect who is jealous at the success of other gaming IP’s, would I be wrong? Of course I would. Having an opinion doesn’t make you immune from being incorrect, simple as that.

  27. derbefrier says:

    Ok I will put my pitchfork down…..for now.

    Sounds promising. Almost ready to let myself get excited about this game.

  28. Cytrom says:

    This is looking sweet. I understand the frustration of the old hardcore fans, but thief is a dead franchise at this point. You are either happy to get something that resembles the old games a bit (and might be totally awesome even if totally different), or alternatively you don’t get anything.

    A similar scenario as with fallout 3. Sure F3 was probably the worst fallout game, but it was an awesome game on its own.. especially with some modding applied it was basically stalker-ish survival game in a fully open world which isn’t exactly an oversaturated theme in gaming or wasn’t at the time. Without it fallout would have remained in complete obscurity, and we wouldnt have new vegas either which is one of obsidians finest work.

    • Azdeus says:

      I read; “Fallout 3 was pretty good as long as you changed the game into something that suits your taste”.

      • Cytrom says:

        It was good on its own too.. with the possiblity of becoming something more. A possiblity that doesnt exist for most games regardless if hey require it or not.

    • Emeraude says:

      I keep asking that question tough, but what’s the point of a *gaming* franchise if you cant’ use it to evaluate the kind of *game* it produces ?

      FO3 may not have been bad (to each his/her own) but it was a completely different kind of game from its predecessors. All those recent reboots we’ve seen may not be bad, but most of them aim at being games totally different from the ones they used to be, only paying lip service to the original design…

  29. Jekhar says:

    They way i played the previous titles: Clubbing everyone i could unconscious, so i could waltz freely through the now quiet levels. Finding the loose thread, that let me slowly unravel the pattern of guards, was very rewarding for me. I was happy i could do the same in the recent Deus Ex, via non-lethal takedowns. As long as i can do the same here, i’m a happy little taffer.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I like to club guards and drop them from a great height in front of their unwitting comrades. Then I listen to their moronic exclamations as they search for the culprit.

      Russell voiced Benny too. Think I’ll miss him more than Garrett :-( The guards’ dialogue was wonderfully absurd.

  30. reggiep says:

    It’s definitely looking like Dishonored beat them to the punch. I’ve never actually played a Thief game, but I enjoy these first person sneakers like Deus Ex, Bioshock and Dishonored. I think my lack of familiarity with Thief can only be beneficial.

  31. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Clambering onto a rooftop, overhearing talk of violent crack-downs and a populace on the verge of revolt or collapse, the player sees the urban sprawl stretching before them. The view is astonishing, for its scale, detail and design. The City will be an open playground, with side missions to discover and loot to gather, and if this early glimpse is more than smoke and mirrors, a view that the freedom exhibited in the playthrough strongly supports, its creation will be a landmark achievement.

    After HR and how utterly hyperbolic and ridiculous a lot of pre-release concerns ultimately were, Eidos-Montreal, steal my money now. Third-person takedowns can’t even faze me given the quote above.

    Edit: this wonderfully sumptuous nugget from Eurogamer’s preview;

    A lot of it can be summed up in a single scene: Garrett is on a rooftop in the midst of The City, on his way to break into a brothel called The House of Blossoms in pursuit of a nobleman wearing an expensive medallion, and in order to proceed on this path (others are available) he needs to bypass a couple of guards below him. Only problem: they’re standing in a brightly lit doorway and one of them is facing outwards. Rather than waiting for them to move on, however, he does something awesome: he uses a rope to lower himself into the shadow behind the guard furthest from the door. What shadow? The dynamic shadow being cast by the lantern the guard is holding up in front of his chest. He then waits for the guards to move inside the door, follows slowly, and slips behind a stack of boxes to one side once they cross the threshold.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Steampunk X to cover boxes, I knew that factory would be working 24-7 rendering such(and low walls too), ahh well, one day………..

  32. TheApologist says:

    In the words of Jamie Redknapp, that was top top top previewing – a lovely read

  33. AJ_Wings says:

    Can enemies be seen behind walls using this “focus mode”?

    I hope not…

    • Tomac says:

      Nothing they’ve said about focus has implied that it allows you to see anything through walls whether it be loot, guards or intractable objects.

  34. Banana_Republic says:

    Sounding more and more like a cross between Dishonored and Arkham City. Both were good games, but neither were at all reminiscent of Thief for me. Despite the hopefulness of the article, I’m not seeing it with this game either. The trappings are there, but not the soul.

    Gawdamn, I hate “reboots”. Either play by the rules of the IP or develop a new one. All I see with this new game is someone fingerpainting over top the Mona Lisa.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      Mr. Republic, as someone who loves Thief, thinks The Metal Age is still unsurpassed in terms of pure level design and regularly replays the second, I nevertheless struggle to see how they don’t have room for improvement as suggested by your Mona Lisa comment. Hell, after a long hiatus, I’ve been replaying the original title (because I vastly prefer the sequel) and the level and mission design can be horrible at times (dozens of zombies in repetitious grey mineshafts and tunnels? Sewer levels?). Lighting, A.I., environmental interaction and utility are all things that seem precisely improved and the very things that needed vast improvement.

      Other changes are certainly more ambigious, that I don’t personally mind and even find interesting (like being able to push and stumble guards for instance and making escape viable instead of a likely push of alt-l as you get hit by Hammerite’s hammer twice in quick succession before the pre-rendered death skull appears) but suggesting it’s finger-painting over a masterpiece is woefully unfair.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      3rd Person disappointment is a sight to behold

    • KenTWOu says:

      Sounding more and more like a cross between Dishonored and Arkham City.

      What? Where did you get that? Dishonored has lots of offensive powers and Arkham City is a beat them up. And both games doesn’t have L&S stealth. Actually Dishonored has a very little, but still…

  35. DukhaDave says:

    Okay, it looks nice to me and I’m pretty sure the boys from Eidos’ll pull off some fun gameplay, though I’m equally sure it’ll be far too linear. The sticking point for me is Garrett. Does it really have to be Garrett we play? He’s had a great story, and if they’ve designed a character who looks and sounds totally different, with different abilities, why pretend he’s the guy from the other games?

  36. Turin Turambar says:

    “…which leads to the already-maligned third-person viewpoint when he attaches to a wall. It was rarely used in the demonstration and explained away with a slightly apologetic shrug, ‘in first-person, you’d only be able to see the wall right in front of you’. ”

    Maybe they should add the ability of turning your head. Like in real life, you know.

    • ulix says:

      Yeah, like rock-climbing like in real life, that’d be amazing. Slow, tedious, boring as fuck… but amazing…

      Seriously: if you want acrobatic climbing with more than two directions (up/down), like in AssCreed, 3rd person is the only feasible way to do it.

  37. Kein says:

    Heavy writing, it was incredible hard to read article for non-english visitor. Oh well.

  38. lith says:

    I am genuinely worried about the audio. There are no sound engines around these days that are as complex and precise as either EAX or Aureal A3D (yes, folks – we’ve gone backwards.)

    Certainly, if there were, there are no developers interested in using them.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      Frostbite 2.0? Whatever you may think of Battlefield 3, the sound engine is peerless. Thousands of discrete sounds realistically propagating, interacting and changing, sometimes over kilometres is a delight to the ear. Why the finest moment in multiplayer I’ve experienced came during a stand-off between an assailant on the opposite side of a wall in complete darkness, I heard every clang, clack and scrape of his reload both from a nearby doorway and muffled through the wall were we on either side on, engaged in our purely. sonically-identified competition to reload first and walk around to fire. I lost because I was just too stunned by the auditory tension to notice he appeared in the doorway, muffled rounds entering my head.

      • lith says:

        Frostbite is all smoke and mirrors. They use the audio equivalent of Bloom and HDR – reverb, and volume tweaking. Flashy things. Nothing that really adds anything useful to a gameplay situation, unfortunately, and it’s certainly nowhere near as advanced as it could be.

        Thousands of sounds? I doubt that. I’d be surprised if there are more than 32 *3D* sounds – “3D” being the key here. 3D sounds, as in ones that are actively mixed and tweaked in relation to the game’s environment and the players’ actions within it.

        There might be hundreds of *2D* sounds – sounds which are just played in vanilla stereo or 5.1, straight from your HDD, requiring very little processing power. I know for a fact Frostbite uses these, and uses them a lot, to putty over the gaps in its 3D sound system. The Chilean Village level in BC2 is a classic example – there’s the sound of battle constantly playing…but each sound’s location stays fixed relative to the character’s head. It’s like the battle is taking place strictly on your shoulders…

        No environmental or positional calculations are done on 2D sounds.

        (The graphics equivalent to the above would to have a few NPC sprites rendered in polygonal 3D, and then the rest as 2D, Doom-style sprites…then claiming you can have hundreds of sprites on-screen at any one time.)

        FMOD (another popular sound engine, though it’s use is waning a bit these days – used in games like Hard Reset, Bioshock 1, Borderlands 1, Just Cause 2,) is also famous for this – it claims it can do 200 “virtual voices”, which is just their marketing term for 2D voices (voices that aren’t “tweaked” from their original state like 3D voices.)

        The reverb engine in FB is good, though a little overdone, and audio HDR (like it’s graphical brother) got overdone to the max.

        The other thing is that, at the end of the day, FB only can output to 2D 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. There is no 3D audio output (via ambisonics or HRTF filters) like EAX and Aureal were doing back in the day (think full height and close-in positioning, which is impossible to do on 5.1 setups.) 5.1 is actually a pretty lousy way to output a soundscape, and very Rube Goldberg-esque.

        Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s wonderful the stuff DICE did with Frostbite’s sound. Because they’re the only dev to give any amount of faeces about audio (do you know how audio’s done in most games? It’s done a few weeks before the game goes gold, normally by a single engineer who would be working on few different projects within the studio – can you imagine graphics being handled the same way?)

        I’m just saying it still could be better, and certainly

        Most “advances” in game audio have done nothing for actual end-user satisfaction. Rather, sound engines tend to focus on two things: making the product as easy as possible for the devs to use, and minimising CPU overhead for the resources. It’s kinda pathetic – “Oh, please use me as the sound engine, Mr. Developer – I’m ever so simple to use and won’t take up much space, I promise.” Even though FMOD and Wwise and even Miles are quite powerful, and capable of wonderful things, most devs never ever use them to their full potential…because most don’t give a rat’s arse about sound. They’ll write millions of line of code for a shader that renders slightly better eyelashes even if it eats GPU time like Paula Deen eats babies…but if it takes more than a dozen mouseclicks to implement a better filter for an audio effect, which might use 0.1% more CPU time…nope, they won’t touch it.

        Consider this. According to my XGame.ini file for Bioshock Infinite, a game released this year, the amount of simultaneous 3D sounds allowed to be played is 32 (“MaxConcurrentHearSounds=32″ is the line. Bioshock Infinite uses Audiokinetic’s Wwise sound engine.)

        Meanwhile, EAX 3.0, released over ten years ago, used in games such as FEAR, GTA III and VC, and COD 2, could play up 64 3D voices simultaneously.

        EAX 5.0, used on Prey, BF2142, and the original Bioshock (via FMOD), could do 128 3D voices simultaneously (with four effects on each).

        And, back in the day, the late nineties, in the time of the first Thief games, the Aureal A3D engine could do 64 voices…with up to sixty first-order wavetraced reflections.

        And all of these were true 3D engines from startpoint to endpoint, able to output not just X and Y positioning, as with 5.1 systems, but Z axis – height – positioning as well, and with crosstalk cancellation for close-in effects.

        That’s what I mean by the fact we’ve gone backwards.

        There have been some advances I like, though, like that HDR volumising, which is nice, and, more importantly, 32-bit floating-point calculations which allow for more seamless effect applications and better granularity. (Things like using higher-quality sound files are just a function of more storage space.)

        But there’s still a lot of forgotten tech which is not being used today, but should be.

        • Muzman says:

          It’s dead right. There has been the tech, but no one gave a rat’s. It still blows me away how feel like you can just about play Thief blindfolded. It’s not about the pretty effects it doesn’t really have. It’s how the sound moves through space more correctly. It’s where you expect it to be when doors open and close, long corridoors etc
          Chiefly to blame is the fact that the only audience anyone cared about for a decade was sitting on the couch.
          I’m still reeling from Bioshock all these years, the sound was so terrible. Just reverb saturated stereo positioning most of the time. From a game with ‘Shock’ in its name too. Disgraceful. But no one really cares.

          • lith says:

            Absolutely. Thief needs precision audio, not a sonic shitstorm like BF3.

            You need to be able to tell when a guard has just walked behind a pillar from how his the sound of his footsteps have been occluded. You need to be able to judge the size of a pitch-black room from the reverb of your own footsteps. You need to be able to tell when a door has been open by the change in room reverberation. You need to be able to tell whether that torch you hear crackling is above or below you. You need to be able to tell how many guards are searching for you, and where they are, while you’re crouched in a fireplace.

            The thing is that none of this is new or untested, prototypical technology. It’s existed for decades and has been done before. It can be done again. Metro 2033 used wavetracing on the PC version, for example, and the original Aureal A3D sound cards specialised in it. EAX-style reverb filters are standard-issue. HRTF, combined with interaural delay and crosstalk cancellation, has been around for ages, and used to be standard-issue on sound cards ( and the USAF has been using it to tell it’s pilot’s where a radar lock is coming since the eighties). Ambisonics were used in Colin McCrae Rally.

            It can be done.

            But most devs are too lazy when it comes to sound.

      • lith says:

        Wavetracing. That is completely awesome. That’s what Thief 1 and 2 used with Aureal – wavetracing, where the reverb is calculated directly from the environment, rather than using an approximation of filters.

        Thank you very much for that!

  39. Squirrelfanatic says:

    The alt-texts are great! Thanks so much for that information. :)

  40. Vraptor117 says:

    One button press, third person takedowns like DX:HR are fucking horrible. For one, they never make enough animations, so you see the same. fucking. one. every. other. time. And two, they destroy immersion when the models clip wildly through scenery, other bodies, or worse, other active guards who do not notice the “stealth takedown”.

    Fuck takedowns.

  41. Brun says:

    Scroll through this page and notice Garrett’s hands in the first-person view screenshots. When he isn’t wielding a weapon or examining loot, the hands interact with the environment, gripping corners as he leans, brushing against walls and tables as he passes. It’s an effective spatial tool and helps make his body, which physically exists rather than being a floating camera, an active part of the environment.

    This is really huge, IMO, at least from an immersiveness perspective. Giving the body “physicality” is one of those subtle little things that can greatly enhance a game’s immersiveness. Hopefully it’s something we start seeing more of in next-gen games – I’d love to have an Elder Scrolls game with such a feature.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      It’s also a great way to destroy it unless it’s flawless (see: early days of ragdoll physics, in which bodies did such ridiculous things that they stood out far more than the rigid-but-consistent scripted death animations). I can imagine situations in this game where the players move back and forth quickly and Garrett’s hand keeps spasming up and down, unsure whether the grab the pillar or not.

  42. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Thanks Adam :) I’m actually really looking forward to getting up somewhere high and getting a good view over the City…

  43. popedoo says:

    Thanks. And roll on next year! :)

  44. Jason Moyer says:

    ” I did have a debate with the lead level designer as to whether The Metal Age is the best game in the series (having replayed both games since, I admit now that I was wrong to back The Dark Project – nostalgia, eh?)”

    I replayed all 3 games back to back several years ago and my conclusion was that TMA was the weakest of the series, even given all the technical shortcomings that the third game had.

    • Vorphalack says:

      TMA was irrefutably the strongest Thief game. If you didn’t like it, fine, but that does not make it the weakest Thief.

      • Muzman says:

        Stronger how? The story makes very little sense at times (and we know the plot was reverse applied onto the missions). The art in the cutscenes isn’t as good as the first (even though they are higher res). People rightly criticise it for repeating maps (even though I don’t mind that so much myself).
        Whatever you think yourself it’s not like there’s no case for this.

        • Justin Keverne says:

          I’d be keen to hear how the story of The Metal Age makes little sense, even with it applied after the levels had been designed. I’ve never had trouble with it, it’s a noir detective story probably even more so than The Dark Project.

          • Muzman says:

            The “at times” is key for one thing. Much of it is motivational for another. I mean, sure we can evoke that The Big Sleep doesn’t entirely make sense either, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing in this case.
            I’d have to dig up ten years worth of stuff, but from memory the premise itself is pretty hand wavey. There’s no real reason for anyone to want Garrett dead except Viktoria, of the characters we’re presented with (the fact that the cops are after him anyway notwithstanding). The idea that Karrass would hire the entire police force just to assassinate him is pretty thin, particularly when he’s apparently fighting an espionage battle with the Pagans. He only draws his attention more than anything. Then when practically handed the real target(s), Garrett’s got to spend a couple of missions gathering “evidence” of this in the most difficult places imaginable, for a blackmail plot that involves outing Truart…to who? The Press? The public that’s so ever watchful of corruption? We already know they can scoop up anyone on whatever charge and make them disappear. Seems like Truart would just laugh it off (and yes Karrass keeping the recording suggests it means something, but I have trouble buying it from any angle) This didn’t really seem like the guy who confronts crime lords in their own house just to make a point either. Call me picky.
            They couldn’t resist chucking in Karrass somehow knowing Garrett would break into his office. It’s a groaner gag for sure. But it’d be nice if it mattered. Clearly the whole operation is blown. It doesn’t seem to change anyone’s plans or security however, let alone rate a mention.

            Most of it is stuff that’s no worse than the average movie or tv series. But the first set a pretty high bar. I don’t remember all the details right now but it was comparatively sloppy and padded. But comparatively. It’s known that T2 was a rushed production in a lot of ways. That it could have been tightened up a lot was always fairly evident to me.

          • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            @Muzman:

            Truart already had his own reasons for disliking Garrett. He was the new Sheriff. He didn’t like being made to look a fool by a master thief getting past all of his Watch guards and roaming around the police station. Sure, Garrett wasn’t Truart’s only problem. He hates pagans too, which, together with his easy access to hardly missed street scum is why Karras approached him with a business proposition. He’s also got the usual office politics to deal with, but at least the traitor Hagen was discovered. Anyway, Garrett’s an embarrassment, and to a man in Truart’s unstable political position that’s a more pressing threat than the pagans (and being paid to kill him doesn’t hurt either), so he jumps at the tip to try and dispose of him. After all, Truart’s position is hardly guaranteed: he may be gentry, but the nobles who appointed him can easily put someone else in his position instead.

            After being ambushed, Garrett realises that Truart’s obsession with him is… if not likely to get him killed, it will at least make his thievery far harder than he likes. He gets a tip from the Keepers about an important meeting Truart is having. Garrett reads what he wants to hear into the note, and thinks he’ll find whoever hired Truart to kill him. The Keepers of course were not telling Garrett what he wanted to hear, but what they thought he needed to hear about—the threat of Karras. Garrett’s still not looking past his nose (as usual)—the meeting told him nothing he wanted to know, but he realises the potential for blackmailing Truart if he can get that recording, and sets his sight on that.

            So Garrett’s still trying get Truart off his back, and not giving a taff about Karras yet, when Truart inconveniently turns up dead. Well, it solves Garrett’s immediate problem but it doesn’t make him feel safer: whoever hired Truart is still out there wanting him dead. He makes a leap of logic, and thinks that finding Moseley’s contact—certainly involved in Truart’s murder—will help him find out. It does, indirectly, but unfortunately also gets roped into helping Viktoria. It’s all getting complicated, and Garrett hates complicated.

            As to why Karras wanted Garrett dead? Karras seems to be pretty canny. I don’t know whether he’d somehow heard of the Keeper’s prophecies, or whether the Mechanists have reliable prophecies of his own, but it’s pretty clear that Karras realises long before Garrett himself does that Garrett’s the only real threat to his plan.

            But like so many villains before him, Karras’s ego is his own undoing. He can’t resist taunting Garrett when he has him trapped—even if he can’t be there to do it in person—and he has little to worry about. As soon as Garrett opens the safe, the alarm will be tripped, and there’s no chance Garrett will escape. Not a chance.

          • Muzman says:

            An interesting speculation to be sure. But the phrase used consistently is “Truart was hired to kill Garrett”, not arrest him for crimes he already committed (even on reputation without evidence), not conveniently dispose of him. Hired to kill him. The implication is that this is completely extraneous activity on his part. (Garrett never sways from the assassination plot, which is a bit odd since convenient disposal would seem more apt from his point of view. I don’t recall any clue that allows him to jump to that conclusion)
            There’s no evidence I can recall that anyone knew Garrett did the Shoalsgate job. We can insert that people might speculate this, but no one’s going to put that about too harshly since it would seem odd Hagan’s “treachery” was discovered at more or less the same time.
            I don’t recall anything to suggest Truart’s position was precarious. From what I remember he was popular and successful for ruthlessly cleaning up the city (which isn’t to say I remember every note)
            (and after that point it seems you mostly restate the plot, which doesn’t make it more solid in my mind unfortunately)

            The easy insert is that Karrass bumped into Garrett while he was still with the Order of the Hammer (he made the mechanical eye after all). So he’s aware of Garrett’s skill. What’s lacking is a reason for Karrass to want him dead. Garrett was completely unaware of what was going on (and otherwise disinterested). Garrett doesn’t even seem particularly well known in this game. We could insert that Karrass is obsessed with him somehow, but that’s not really evident either.

            Pretty much every trouble I have could be tidied up with tweaks to the writing. But as it stands it doesn’t hang together as well as it might for me. There’s only so much I can throw to arrogance and stupidity on the part of the characters that’s not in evidence.

          • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            I always thought the tip off at the start of Ambush was about the Shoalsgate job, not just Garrett’s whereabouts. Cause if not, I agree: it seems a few too many men for Truart to send after one thief, even when he’s being paid to bump him off.

            To be honest, I don’t remember if it’s ever stated outright that Karras hired Truart to kill Garrett. I know Garrett believes it—perhaps there’s something in one of Moseley’s letters about it? I do think the kill-Garret plot would make more sense if it was just Garrett’s interpretation of events, else there’s an explanation missing either for Karras’ knowledge of Keeper prophecy, or his motivation. Regardless of the truth of that, Truart is cracking down on criminals of all kinds from the beginning, so would have been a nuisance to Garrett (if perhaps not a threat) without being hired.

            As for Truart’s position: there are some guard conversations about it, as well as Karras’s oh-so-convenient conversation to himself about the blackmail value of the recording. It’s perhaps a little ham-fisted.

            So yeah: there are those two holes in the plot, but it hangs together pretty well apart from that.

    • Justin Keverne says:

      The Metal Age is probably stylistically the weakest, everything is brown and grey with occasionally a bit of gold or green. It lacks the variety of colour or location found in The Dark Project. However I’ll maintain for as long as I draw breath than the level design in The Metal Age was some of the best ever: infiltrating Shoalsgate Station, the journey across the Thieves Highway to Angelwatch, the Jules Verne-esque steampunk submarine base, all superb.

      Deadly Shadows suffered because of its technology leaving everything feeling claustrophobic and visually muddy; the Shalebridge Cradle works because it twists both of those aspects wonderfully, other levels didn’t fare so well.

      • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

        In the words of the Bobby Bland tune; that did it!

        The Metal Age was glorious artistically, it incorporated everything from the medieval period, baroque, art deco, noveau, gothic, bauhaus, surrealism, neo-classical, steam-punk, rococo and even hellenic art in one superlatively beautiful tableaux that shines inspite of muddy-textures and a complete lack of roundness. In comparison the first is much more bland, even though it has very clearly ‘different’ scenarios, they just feel very mediocre at times (I would retroactively purchase DLC to remove the comparatively linear levels, sewers, mineshafts and tunnels featuring zombies and monsters), not merely in design but visually it’s far less appealing.

        And now the obvious caveat; in my opinion.

  45. karry says:

    Once again, i find an article on RPS, that is written in such a way, that i honestly have no clue, if the author has genuinely seen the actual game, or are these just his speculations on it. No idea. It doesnt follow from the text itself.

    • welverin says:

      “It’s impossible to know, following this first proper reveal and without having played any of the game myself,”

      “It’s impossible to know, following this first proper reveal and without having played any of the game myself,”

      “It’s possible to play a game for an hour or two and to seize, or be offered, the wrong end of various sticks, and while I feel much more optimistic about this reboot than I did before seeing it in action, that’s all that has happened. I’ve seen it in action, with members of the development team playing it in a controlled environment.”

      So you found an article on RPS and don’t know if the author has actually seen the game or just speculating on it, did you try reading it?

  46. Ender7 says:

    I am not too happy about timed events like the clocktower. One of the most hated elements in games, hopefully that is the only one in the game. I hope there is no stupid moments where the game rips the control from the player to force a particular stupid moment. Like in Deus EX:HR where the character walks in to the boss fights like idiots to create a big boss battle. This is a thief game, the character should avoid conflict and interaction threw-out that whole game.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      Surely you read article and realised and I quote; “… but the time limit can be dismissed. Fail to reach the door in time and the mission won’t begin again – this isn’t about finding the perfect free-running line – but the easiest entrypoint will be closed. Maybe you’ll have to find an entrance somewhere deeper, in the City’s underbelly where it keeps its underclass, or perhaps, with a little ingenuity, it’ll be possible to unlock the gate.

      It’s also been confirmed you can finish without killing anyone.

  47. Soldancer says:

    Though this article puts me a bit more at ease with regard to mechanics, it still does not seem to address my biggest reservation: the removal of supernatural elements and overhaul of the setting.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The tension between the supernatural (pagans) and science/technology (Hammerites/Mechanists) was key to the worldbuilding of the original series. Also, The Eye, Viktoria, Constantine, The Hag, fire elementals, burricks, zombies, haunts, mages, keyrunes craymen, spiders…and THE CRADLE are gone?!

    I’m worried that this will turn into what the Tomb Raider reboot wound up doing. Taking a new spin on an old character, but putting that character into a completely different scenario and environment than the series’ origins. (The entirety of the original TR has Lara in tombs, and she fights like four humans in the whole game. The reboot has maybe 5% gameplay in what could be generously called tombs, and she murders like 3,000 dudes. I know it’s early for comparison, but it’s still worrisome.)

    • Adam Smith says:

      We’ll know whether any of the factions, creatures and supernatural elements are included when more of the story is revealed. Cards are close to the chest right now but there are hints of all manner of aspects to The City that haven’t been discussed yet. I pushed for more info in the interview and there are lines there that have possibilities between them.

      That’ll be up in the next couple of days.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Hope they treat you well Adam. Nice hotel, hospitality and all the things that you wouldn’t want to forego.

        • Grape Flavor says:

          So they’re buying him off, is that what you’re implying? Really? It’s that hard for you to believe that this game might not actually be the exact same as your ridiculously early and negative mental preconceptions, that you already resort to calling the author a fraud?

          Then again, what I’ve seen of your posts resembles the incoherent babbling of someone either severely intoxicated or suffering from profound mental retardation, so perhaps your judgment isn’t the best to begin with.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            Yeah, your insults could have substance.

            A bit of advice though, by insulting someone you undermine any validity that the points you are trying to get across may have actually held.

            I suggest that rather than addressing my mental frailty/reliance on drugs you suggest why corporate hospitality wouldn’t influence a reviewer’s opinion.

            I await your insight into why a negative on a balance sheet would be accepted by the suits unless a positive outcome for the company was anticipated.

            Anyway, big love from me!

      • ziusudra says:

        I still have not saw any of the weirdness of the first two games, you know, I remember playing the first level of the dark project and just stop to stare at that incredibly strange streetlight, the one that seemed like a claw. Things were familiar yet bizarre.

  48. Yosharian says:

    Ok, I will admit this article has given me hope where I had very little.

  49. doggod101 says:

    This game has really well rendered vases so I look forward to checking it out also stealth is pretty cool.

  50. Ernesto says:

    Hmm… I like it. Except that new bow. Looks much too metally, clonky, non-silent.

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