Yeesh: Rumors Suggest Major Trouble In Thief Land

By Nathan Grayson on April 27th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

After ages and ages of (oddly fitting) silence, Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot finally saw fit to break cover last month, shadows still coiled tight about it like a snake ready to strike. And yet, something seemed ever so slightly off. Adam remarked, among other things, that the demo he saw seemed a bit too scripted, and as it turns out, there may well have been a very problematic reason for that. According to a large, rather troubling report from Polygon, development troubles have left Square Enix with a half-finished game and some tough decisions to make going forward.

Apparently, the project’s had difficulty holding onto leads and senior-level talent, resulting in multiple, conflicting visions and many do-overs of entire sections and gameplay mechanics. Last year, however, Square finally put its foot down on the promotional pedal, so – if sources are to be believed – the entire studio spent 10 months working on the recent press demo. Meanwhile, the game itself languished, leaving it in a rather unenviable position.

“The current version of Thief barely resembles the initial concept, says a source. The vertical slice doesn’t load inside Thief’s current heavily modified version of Unreal Engine 3. Many programming tricks were necessary to run the current demonstration, like turning off non-playable character AI — the engine has trouble when too many characters are on screen.”

And with Thief’s development process coming up on its fifth birthday, Square’s itching to have something in the wild – especially in light of recent financial troubles due to hilarious overestimations of what even its brightest stars would sell. Naturally, the publisher has declined to comment on this alleged turn of events.

If, however, Polygon’s report holds water, the prognosis certainly sounds grim – and not in the just-goth-enough, “edgy” way Square is hoping for. As of now, Thief’s scheduled to release sometime next year. I wish Eidos Montreal the best, as it sounds like they have a lot of work ahead of them.

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103 Comments »

  1. AndrewC says:

    Oh balls.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      Snooker balls in a wank sock, console blackjack!

    • SelfEsteemFund says:

      Ed Balls.

      On topic: It will sound harsh but I’m actually happy the game is in trouble, I even hope development stalls entirely because what’s been described by the devs as well as shown to the press wasn’t anything like a Thief game.

      Spending millions of dosh monies & a huge amount of the games development time on what’s basically a very small semi-interactive trailer (that didn’t even have AI & other key features enabled) to get the press hyping it up will not give actual Thief fans much, if any hope at all. The game has been a rush job from day one in order to release with the new consoles & I really don’t want to see a Thief reboot at all if the outcome is a shit stain on the entire series’ name. (eg. Hitman and the other reboots)

      If you’ve played through all the Thiefs (+mods) recently try out The Dark Mod as it’s more of a Thief game than any Thief ‘reboot’ will ever be (probably).

  2. phelix says:

    Well, I suppose that’s what you get when you try to develop state-of-the-art games for six-year-old hardware. You’re going to hit a hard limit sooner or later.

    • Nasarius says:

      I dunno what their past development focused on, but they’re only releasing for Windows and next-gen consoles now. While 8GB of shared RAM isn’t quite as roomy as it could be (if you want to have a massive, detailed world simulation), it’s more than enough for most purposes.

  3. Azhrarn says:

    That is really depressing news. :(

    I was hoping to get a good new episode in this venerable Stealth franchise.
    There is still hope, but it has been dampened quite a bit now.
    Let’s hope it turns out much better than expected from occurrences like this.

    • JarinArenos says:

      Depressing, but not terribly surprising. I was just waiting for the bad news to show up, with Squeenix involved…

      • Azhrarn says:

        Square Enix isn’t always a bad party to have involved.
        Last time I checked Deus Ex : HR turned out just fine.
        Different from its origins sure, but still a really nice game. :)

        • bjohndooh says:

          Deus Ex : HR is the exception, not the standard.
          If this Thief game ends up comparable – there might be dancing.

  4. Adriaan says:

    Hope it won’t turn out like Aliens: Colonial Marines despite all this, but that does sound pretty worrying.

    • DarkFenix says:

      I don’t see how it could turn out any better. I mean, from all I’ve seen so far they’ve set out right from the start trying to wreck the Thief franchise. Imagine how bad A:CM could have been if they were actively trying to screw it up rather than simply being distressingly incompetent.

  5. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    The one game I’m anticipating that has created a black hole of hype, consuming the finite hype I could possibly muster for any future game, please… please turn out great.

  6. RedViv says:

    (Distressed) Eek.

    • Bhazor says:

      “I heard that! ……………………………… Hmm probably just a mouse”

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Every time they get “7h14f” just perfect it blackjacks the developers and they have to start all over again.

        You weren’t supposed to be a reply! Stupid comment. Okay, it’s definitely my fault because I remember clicking the reply button and then changing my mind and then didn’t hit “cancel reply”, but I’m not going to sit still and just take this kind of deserved abuse from the comment system!

  7. Earl-Grey says:

    I am very much perturbed by the thought of having Thi4f stolen away from under my nose.

    • phelix says:

      Lock up your anticipations for now.

    • drvoke says:

      It seems like they’re still on the fence, and maybe SquEnix will pawn off development to a third party. There’s always hope.

  8. Bhazor says:

    Ten months for a press tech demo.

    You spend that long making what is essentially a trailer and then you only show it behind closed doors. The mind reels. They could have at least released a video for it.

    • Fox89 says:

      Maybe it’s for the best that they didn’t though if the game is likely to change significantly from what was shown. That last thing you want is a final product that is completely different from the videos you release, remember the backlash Aliens: CM got for exactly that.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      And after 10 months it’s still too embarrassing to show publicly.

    • Snschl says:

      Dragon Age 2 was made in 10 months. I mean, it really shows, don’t get me wrong, but at least that could be packaged and sold. These guys just spent the better part of a year on nothing; a publisher-mandated press push that they aren’t even going to show.

      The screenshots look great but, like Colonial Marines, it’s all showroom lighting. It’ll probably look a lot worse in the field.

    • KenTWOu says:

      No thanks. We already have BioShock:Infinite and its very ambitious E3 2011 demo.

    • sinister agent says:

      Imagine an ever-expanding ball of stupidity that becomes exponentially larger every time someone underestimates it, which is every time they estimate it. That’s the average manager, that is.

  9. BumKnuckle says:

    This has just spoilt my day.

  10. InternetBatman says:

    At this point wouldn’t it be better to wait a year and let new console hardware power through performance issues?

    Also, the trailer fixed:

    • suibhne says:

      The game was already targeting next-gen consoles, which will be out in considerably less than a year.

  11. Iskariot says:

    O boy.
    Now I am depressed.
    That does not bode well.

    Come on, you can do this Eidos…
    Do not disappoint us.

  12. Contrafibularity says:

    the entire studio spent 10 months working on the recent press demo

    That can’t be right. What sort of studio would put all their energy into not working on a game for so long?

    • Tuco says:

      That’s “triple A development” for you.

      • UmmonTL says:

        And I’ll bet that if the game comes out as a buggy mess nobody wants to play they’ll be so afraid of the Thief franchise that it’ll take another 10 years until they touch it again…

    • Meusli says:

      We are talking Polygon here, the guys who gave Simcity a 9/10. Perhaps Square did not throw them enough money for a positive story.

      • Keirley says:

        A lot of the things Polygon has done deserve to be criticised, but they’ve done some pretty stellar investigative journalism. Their piece on Homefront’s development springs to mind.

        edit: as far as I recall their piece on Homefront stated that Kaos Studios did pretty much the same thing – months and months spent on press demos that didn’t really contribute to the wider project at all.

      • Vandelay says:

        The same Sim City review that had the score lowered once the game was released and the server issues plagued day one? Then lowered again when the issues persisted?

        A lot of early reviews for Sim City were very positive, just as many people who actually played the game also said they had an enjoyable time. Excluding the server problems, most of the issues with the game’s simulation did not seem to be apparent to most people until they put 20+ hours into the game, so it is not surprising that many reviewers did not pick up on it either (of course, you could say that they are not doing their jobs properly, but that is a criticism that should be leveled at games journalists from pretty much all of the sites that reviewed the game.)

        Polygon was the one of the only big websites I heard of actually acknowledging the game’s problems in their review, even if that was after release, and does not in way smell like a paid for review. Actually, I don’t think that is something that has ever been proved to have happened in the past, as far as I am aware, so I don’t see why that accusation still gets thrown around so often.

        I feel like I must have missed the reason behind all the hatred that is aimed at Polygon. I would say they are one of the better gaming sites, in an entirely different league to the likes of IGN and Kotaku, yet they often receive negativity whenever they are linked to.

        • Srethron says:

          I only found out about most of this yesterday, but a lot of the Polygon hate seems to be from:
          (1) Brian Crescente and Arthur Giers acting like right jerks; Exhibit A: that gaming “reviewer cribs” piece, Exhibit B: various Sim City idiocies, including plagiarizing John Walker’s turns-out-Sim City-doesn’t-need-to-be-online-after-all piece then denying it, chronicled here: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=526449

          (2) The standard gaming press tactic of uncritically fawning over game company PR reps and writing glowing previews of… anything and everything.

          (3) That layout. Ick.

          • Josh W says:

            I read the amusing comments of that article, I’m trying to work out to what extent people should just go “yes you were being twats, we all know it, even if you won’t admit it, just don’t do it again and we won’t say any more about it”.

            There’s probably an extent to which it should be pointed out and recorded, just as an example to future games journalists, but there’s probably better ways to do that.

      • Snschl says:

        Of all the gaming news sites, you accuse Polygon, probably the one with the most transparent ethics policy, of being bought?

        • Meusli says:

          Yep, I call ‘em out for what they are.

          http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/13/polygons-simcity-review-is-busted-policy-in-action/

          “some major journalists losing their minds on Twitter with anyone who dared to question it” [URL="http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/04/22/the-power-of-silence-why-the-simcity-story-went-away/"]RPS[/URL] @aegies

          Corporate shills that have been caught out more than once I will never trust, sorry.

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            Oh yeah, Arthur Gies is such a ‘shill.’ I’m sure his pockets are just overflowing with EA’s bloodmoney.

            I swear some of you live in a fucking hack spy novel, not reality.

          • Meusli says:

            While some people are spoon fed lies and ask for seconds…

          • Keirley says:

            Man, you should have said ‘wake up sheeple’. Then you would have won.

          • Meusli says:

            I could say that maybe your site is paid for, but its not important enough.

    • woodsey says:

      Yeah, I find that hard to swallow. Square gets impatient and puts its foot down and then doesn’t do anything as they work more on an hour long demo for 10 months than the game itself.

      • ChrisGWaine says:

        It’s not implausible. Part of the purpose of the demo would be to impress the publisher management. Having something to show them that you can claim represents the quality you are going to deliver (and that can also be used to impress retailers and press) is reassuring to the publisher even if it’s based on smoke and mirrors.

        • woodsey says:

          True. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, just very odd.

  13. scorpion_wins says:

    Speaking purely as a consumer and Thief-fan, I don’t want to see this version of Thief. I don’t want people to lose their jobs if the project tanks, but those are two separate spaces.

    • onodera says:

      I have to agree. I’m almost glad this version of Thief might not be released. It’s painful enough to read people say they liked the storyline of Fallout 3 more than NV.

      • captain nemo says:

        I’m not disappointed – The way the project was going seemed to alienate the hardcore fans. It’s better it was never born.

        • Cockles says:

          I don’t understand why you guys would think this way, I love the thief series (perhaps not deadly shadows but it had a few great moments) so I share your sentiments towards the original but why would you not want to see another thief game? It might be rubbish (if it sees the light of day) but no one is going to force you to trade in your old copies of thief to play the new one. Why should alienating a portion of the hardcore fanbase be a problem for this game? I consider myself a “hardcore” fan of thief but if the new game is crap then so be it – there are other thief games, people who will be alienated will have unrealistic expectations.

          There is nothing for you to lose if a new thief game comes out, unless you pre-order it for a stupid amount of money and don’t wait for any reviews.

          Also, what has people’s opinions on the Fallout 3 and NV plot got to do with this?

  14. Bork Titflopsen says:

    I guess just-goth-enough-to-be-edgy Garret is indicative of my experience with what I’ve seen of this game so far. It’s like that friend that got really into this new thing, but only on the most superficial level whilst never really getting what that thing is really about.

    You’re really into dubstep? Who’s your favorite artist? Oh, Skrillex? Well, never mind then, see ya.

  15. Dariune says:

    Look RPS, I appreciate you have your integrity to think of and your ongoing quest for truth displayed in a humourous and non-chalant way but just this once, couldn’t you have lied?

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      I got slated for inferring that the recent Thief Corporate Jolly in LA(or wherever) may have skewed impartiality.

  16. WMain00 says:

    So in other words, they just spent all their time and money making a glorified demo to show off to the press in an effort to get the PR wheels spinning again, but meanwhile behind the scenes they have absolutely nothing solid and the development has ground to a halt?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the utter insanity of the games industry.

  17. Dudeist says:

    I’m not big fan of Unreal engines. It work’s fine with Bioshock, etc, but that’s true, here not so much AI enemies same time. Why they cannot use id engine or Cry? Works well both single and multiplayer.

  18. Ajsman says:

    First they ruin Absolution, and now this… Well I guess I’ll have to add Squeenix to the “I’m not buying your games without a demo” list.

    • The Random One says:

      Sounds like even that might be giving them too much credit.

  19. HisMastersVoice says:

    “(…)the entire studio spent 10 months working on the recent press demo.”

    The next time some retarded corporate suit comes out and claims games are getting more expensive to make day to day, I’ll smash his/her/its face in with a crowbar etched with the above quote.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Don’t forget to mention ‘performance capture’ for shiny emotional cut-scenes.

  20. DickSocrates says:

    I want a Cockney version called ‘Feef’.

  21. Danda says:

    Hire the original Thief Trilogy leads, or outsource the game to their current studio. There, problem solved! Even if they can’t fix the whole thing, at least the original fans will buy it

    • Tuor says:

      There’s no such thing as the “Thief Trilogy.” Thief 1 and 2 were made by Looking Glass Studios and were PC only. Thief 3 was made 4 years later by Ion Storm and was a multiplatform game (mainly aimed at the XBox).

      • Azazel says:

        It’s a direct sequel in every way that matters.

        Unlike this… reboot… /sourface

        • fish99 says:

          Not really, it wasn’t by Looking Glass. If memory serves there were one or two ex-LG people working on it, but that’s not the same as the whole team. It also had in-level load zones, and from what I’ve read it had small cramped levels. It also wasn’t the Thief 3 LG were making when they shut down, which was going to be an open-world sandboxy game. And it has mechanics which wouldn’t have been in Thief 3 like wall climbing, and the movement of the character was a lot different to the LG Thief games, to the point where someone had to make a mod to (mostly) fix it. I’m assuming it also had different writers, so you can question whether anything that happens in it is really Thief cannon.

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Sir, I dispute your claim of Thief: Deadly Shadows’s inadmissibility. It was a worthy addition in spirit and execution. Despite being shared with the unwashed Xbox masses, it was released during a time in which the Xbox was still competitive with the performance of a moderate gaming PC of the day and thus does not fall under the inauspicious label “port”.

        Should you wish to contest my dispute, I regret that I am unable to represent myself on the field of honour due to a persistent case of scuttles I picked up on the Crimean peninsula. I therefore choose Smiggs the gardener as my champion and I shall be his second. Be warned, sir. He is a man of unsurpassed fighting vigour and he has a hazy grasp of the fine distinction between “to first blood” and “to the death”.

        • Hmm-Hmm. says:

          It is of course very much possible that ‘first blood’ is sufficiently hazardous to a duelist’s health that it end the duel in a rather permanent fashion. However, should your challenger not cease the duel at first blood, then by rights, sir, your man and you run the risk of ignominous death without the right of a duel.

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            Fortunately once he gets started, he is hard to stop. I just hide somewhere until all the witnesses have met their end, then I ensure his docility by distracting him with a pipe tamped with his favourite blend of tobacco and a copy of “Girls With Pruning Shears” magazine.

        • Tuor says:

          What? What is this, this affrontery?! Such gall! Such audacity!

          Indeed, sir, I do agree that in some respects, Thief 3 could be considered in the same vein as the previous 2 releases, and in particular the way it ended I found most fitting. In addition, they used The Man to give Garret his voice, as is only proper.

          However. However, I say! There was much amiss with this product developed by Ion Storm. Levels cut up into pieces? No rope arrows? No swimming? Rather than the series growing over time, it took a step back in gameplay, and this was entirely due to making it compatible with the devices used by those uncouth peasants, the XBox users!

          I therefore must restate my orginal claim, and say that I do not view Thief 3 to be of the same fine vintage as the first two games. It was not an utterly deplorable experience, but was indeed a disappointment in this man’s eyes.

          If you still wish to challenge me, then bring forth the gardner! I shall surely prune him down to size! He shall know my fearsome gaze and sharp, pointy teeth! But if you accept my words as true, then perhaps we can put this matter behind us with a few stiff drinks and a pinch of snuff. The choice is yours.

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            Your points are well made, particularly with regard to the piecemeal loading matter, and I grant you Deadly Shadows’s departure from the undeniable (and frankly, possibly unassailable) quality of the originals. I accept with pleasure your admission that it is a worthy game in its own right, even if it is not quite up to the standards of its forebears.

            I’m glad that we can come to an equitable resolution to this dispute. Let us raise our glasses together and engage in a round of gentlemanly boasting at the Frenchman’s Head.

  22. Scroll says:

    Well I would like to point out that these stories come out for a lot of high profile projects that turn out to be fine in the end, mainly because its hard to tell the state of the game until the last few months of development.

  23. 11temporal says:

    Unfortunately the chances of recovering from such a dysfunctional state are pretty slim.

  24. Dowr says:

    Despite development troubles, I’m still going to judge the game as I would any other game.

    And considering this is part of the Thief franchise, it has a hell of a lot to live up to.

  25. ScubaMonster says:

    These comments are bewildering. First look at Thief, everybody blasted it for how badly the direction of the game appeared to be going and thought for sure it’s going to be crap. Now it might be canceled and everybody is mourning the loss. Make up your mind people!

    • Kentauroi says:

      I think it’s that the concerns most fans of the originals have seem to be well founded based on how this article is phrased.

      “Apparently, the project’s had difficulty holding onto leads and senior-level talent, resulting in multiple, conflicting visions and many do-overs of entire sections and gameplay mechanics.”

      For people already worried about the Thief 4 not being true to the originals, information that the studio can’t agree on a vision or nail down it’s mechanics just compounds that fear.

      No one wants Thief 4 to be bad, but when new installments in old franchises come out, there’s always the worry that the soul of the original will be lost due to the “Make it more accessible and add more action” mentality that seems to pervade the AAA industry.

      • KenTWOu says:

        For people already worried about the Thief 4 not being true to the originals, information that the studio can’t agree on a vision or nail down it’s mechanics just compounds that fear.

        Actually, it doesn’t. Because fans already know that at certain point of development EM wanted to make the game with third person view only. A year ago they decided to focus on first person view. I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason of disagreement inside development team.

    • fish99 says:

      I ain’t mourning.

      The only way I could see a real Thief game getting made these days would be some of the original LG folk doing a Kickstarter. I honestly don’t think a proper Thief game would even get commissioned in the AAA space these days, let alone survive the iterative design process as management and marketing kept asking for the game to be made more accessible and exciting. You’d end up with Assassins Creed:It’s a bit Dark Edition. It’s happened to every other old franchise.

    • Josh W says:

      Here’s the thing, when a game is in development, it can still change, and despite the other problems, their ideas for hand animation were brilliant.

  26. MazokuRanma says:

    Well, they should probably just cancel it now then. It’s not likely to sell the 7 gazillion copies they expect anyway. :/

  27. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Duke Nukem: Thi4fever

  28. HisDivineOrder says:

    Just hoping against hope they’ve still got a team working on Deus Ex Human Revolution’s sequel. And when I say team, I mean THE ORIGINAL team. Let ANOTHER team screw this thing up while the great people work on the only game that matters.

  29. eclipse mattaru says:

    You people are such drama queens. It’s not that big a deal, this is just a small case of a press demo having to be faked because the developer can’t hold together a team for 5 years; I mean, it’s not like reliving the same thing that happened with, say, Aliens: Colonial Mari–OH WAIT.

  30. Okami says:

    I believe every word of this. After almost ten years in this industry, this sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Been there, done that. Though I have to admit that ten months of working on a demo would probably drive even me insane.. Poor developers, I feel your pain!

    • Lazarus_Soma says:

      That would be ten months out of the 2 years they were given as an ultimatum to turn the non functional bug-ridden mess they had into an actual game…. and they used that time to make a glorified demo….. and even that only barely worked becuase they cheated… a lot.

  31. WrenBoy says:

    While the Polygon story sounds pretty bad in general I dont see anything inherently wrong with hiring local talent. Most of the information may well be accurate but the source sounds like a bit of a dick.

  32. Tuor says:

    Kill it. Kill it with fire. It’s obvious that Eidos Montreal can’t handle making a new Thief. If they force something out now, I think we all know that it’ll turn out as something that doesn’t please anyone.

    If some LGS vets want to create a new game via Kickstarter, I’d certainly be interested in whatever they put forward. But as things stand now, I am… not optimistic that we’ll see a reasonably faithful addition to the series.

    • WJonathan says:

      Or, if they’re determined to release something as disastrous as this is appearing, at least have the decency to re-brand it and not soil the Thief legacy.

  33. goettel says:

    The trailer sucking balls was a hint.

  34. Josh W says:

    I’m wondering if there is some flaw in the vertical slice paradigm.

    In some ways it seems perfectly natural that there should be some kind of gameplay alpha within a limited scope; dishonored produced one at the end of 3 years of development, at the point they were ready for it.

    If this were an indie game, the vertical slice would be the mini version of the game submitted to competitions or released as a pre-release reward, it would be playable in itself but limited.

    Then from there you’d continue to develop until you’ve got something much more polished, with deeper gameplay with more variations etc.

    It makes sense.

    The problem is when the vertical slice doesn’t come from the direct development process, and isn’t a good place to build from.

    I’m not sure you can make one coherently if you’re cludging it together and rushing to get it out the door, as otherwise you’ll have that point where you look back at mangled late night code, and have to start sinking your enthusiasm into working out what on earth you actually did.

    I think these things have to come as the aftermath of experimentation, as the first example of the combined purpose of the team, and the precursor to just chugging away at development that works on much smaller iterations.

    In all of these senses, a vertical slice should be much more for the team than the press, and might be better served by never being shown, unless it can also be played.

  35. Wedge says:

    This sounds A LOT like the Homefront fiasco. Not good.

  36. DiFiasco says:

    Another great IP falls like a lamb to the slaughter…to quote Victor Meldrew: “I…DON’T….BELIEVE IT!!’

  37. Leramar says:

    How depressing. I was looking forward to a new Thief game. I hope they can pull it together.

  38. P.Funk says:

    This seems like a perfect example of what happens when you try to expand production without the necessary talent.

    Products like this without good vision are just hopeless. Its like all those trash movies that have no name directors and 13 screen writers.

    This is tragic, but ultimately what happens when “success” intrudes upon good sense and some publisher tries to go big.

    Another one for the garbage bin I guess. By the even of 2014 we’re gonna have a fight over “worst game of the year” probably.