Thief: Eidos’ Words Vs My E3 Playthrough

By Nathan Grayson on June 17th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

E3 is chaos. In its worst moments, it’s a swirling maelstrom of poor planning and slip-sliding schedules – a thumping videogame Valhalla that feels like it was designed with techno-ravers and cosplayers in mind, not journalists. I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes you have to interview Thief‘s developers before playing their game. Optimal? Not really. But it still made for an interesting conversation – just between Eidos Montreal and its own game, not Eidos and myself. The question: was Thief’s E3 demo able to live up to what lead level designer Daniel Windfeld Schmidt told me about it mere moments before? The answer: Errrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Frequency And Potency Of Combat

What Eidos Said: “We have people who played that way, and they ran into walls. There’s an army of trained soldiers right there, and you’re not a trained soldier. You have some mechanics you can defend yourself with, but that’s not what you’re there for. So if you get a guard – maybe two – you can defend yourself, but that’s it. If you have more than that, you kind of have to look at your options. People who try to guerrilla their way through usually die pretty fast. You can. This is a few hours into the game, so it’s a pretty tough level. I could probably pull it off, but enemies would probably never actually see me. They’d just start disappearing one at a time.”

My Experience: After a flawless tippy toed dance right over the mansion level’s first courtyard, I hit a snag when I dashed out from behind a bush a bit too soon. Almost immediately, I found myself face-to-face with not one, not two, but three fairly miffed electro-club-wielding guards. I hadn’t figured out how to block yet, so I just kind of weaved in and out while walloping one in the shoulder repeatedly.

To my shock (and, let’s face it, horror) this tactic proved exceedingly effective. My three highly trained foes just kind of stared on in confusion, halfheartedly taking swings like someone playing whack-a-mole after hearing that their childhood pet box turtle just bit the big one. A few well-placed strikes (shoulders are the seat of all the most vital human organs) felled each of them – a simple step-forward, step-back hokey pokey formation scrambling their years of advanced combat training into mushy, cold eggs.

Admittedly, I did take a couple hits, and a third definitely would’ve finished me off. Garrett’s still no titanium-bodied man-tank, so he wheezes into his grave without too much pushing. But again, I spent half that battle entirely incapable of blocking. Kind of a big handicap, right?

There is, however, a much larger reason I don’t imagine we’ll see too many players turning this into Thief: Night Of A Million Furious Bonkings. Put simply, the combat’s terrible. There is no weight. No heft. I understand that Garrett’s got noodle arms and twig legs, but come on: it felt like we were sparring with toothpicks. The system’s also incredibly simplistic, with basic swings and blocking pretty much forming the whole of it. Entering focus mode (more on that soon) allowed me to deal slow-mo, location specific blows, but that was the only real curveball. Arrows from afar and stealthy takedowns up close all the way. I know it’s Thief and all, but there’s no excuse for melee that’s this creaky.

Verticality

What Eidos Said: “I don’t want to say that verticality is a dominant strategy in our game. We have verticality – quite a lot, actually. But a lot of the game is about being grounded. We have different types of guards, some of which are crossbow men. They have tactics to get you down. Also, it’s not just one continuous path. You can’t just go up there and then proceed through an entire level. You have to go up and then – oh – go down and then up and then over. So it’s much more back-and-forth. It’s kinda like you get up there and feel safe for a while, but then you have to look at what your options are to take it from there. There’s not this overt, interconnected, artificial network of marksman areas. We want to keep it so that you still have to think about the consequences of your actions.”

My Experience: This comment actually aligned with reality quite well. Even the first area – which contained a giant, courtyard-spanning wall that may as well have bellowed “CLIMB ME” – forced me to briefly pop down into guards’ patrol path before climbing stairs into the next area. Successive portions of the mansion’s outside and inside more or less proceeded accordingly, with the option to scale objects presenting itself fairly often, but not as thinly veiled rainbow paths through the skies. Instead, I tended to use walls, crates, and the like as vantage points – both for shooting out torches and getting a bead on guards’ locations.

It was in these moments that Nu-Thief truly shined, allowing me to dart and duck between the highest highs and lowest lows, blending with the shadows and meticulously plotting my way through each maze of guards and poorly trimmed shrubbery. During a few moments of particularly successful distraction and deception, it was like I really was the darkness, spreading to whatever surface I pleased and reducing grown men to frightened children. Despite the E3 build’s countless rough edges and general glitchiness, Thief was pretty tough in places. When I bent my surroundings to my will and ghosted my way right past particularly well-positioned opposition, I felt like I’d really earned it.

I do have to point out, however, that guards seemed physically incapable of glancing even a few degrees upward. I was in what appeared to be plain sight on multiple occasions, but since the surface was elevated, the po-po just pranced right on by without a care in the world. But then, that was hardly the worst of my law-upholding nemeses’ crimes.

Guards, Artificial Intelligence, And Lack Thereof

What Eidos Said: “There’s several factors to what we can do now that we couldn’t do [in earlier Thief games]. Hardware’s better, so we can do more barks, a better blend of animations, better readability of the AI. They can act in groups, so like, ‘OK, you go and check it out. I’ll stand guard here.’ They won’t just all hop around one place. In combat, they’ll start taking positions and make it harder for you to just run away. It’s a really big balancing challenge for us. It’s really hard to make AI feel like a human, because humans are super complicated. But they still have to be fun to play with, because if they were super smart, they wouldn’t shout out their intentions. We need to kind of merge that reality with the game.”

My Experience: Nope, nope, nope, nope. Guards proved respectably eagle-eyed in a few cases, but stultifyingly blind in just as many others. My favorite was when I found myself right outside the mansion’s basement entrance in a labyrinthine mess of crumbling walls, barrels, and dog cages. I used a water arrow to put out a torch on the other side of the, erm, expansively constrained area as a distraction, then slyly rounded a crucial corner while a guard struggled to understand what could possibly make all the pretty lights go away. Mistake. I miscalculated and nearly slammed mascara-ed-eye-first into two more guards. ‘Welp,’ I figured, ‘that’s curtains for me, then. May as well see how far I can get before they bop me into festive goth ribbons.’

They never did. I just crouched and weaved between them, nearly brushing against their engorged wallet sacs (Garrett views human anatomy a bit differently than the rest of us) as I passed right by, almost entirely undetected. One shouted, “Hey, did I just see something?” after I’d almost made it all the way downstairs and into the basement. He, of course, proceeded to do absolutely nothing (meaningful, at least) about it. Admittedly, my light/darkness HUD indicator told me I was well-hidden, but I refuse to believe that even Garrett could find a way to be that invisible while mere inches away.

Another time, I accidentally hopped down from a wall just as a guard was patrolling right up to it. Again, I braced for certain discovery and subsequent doom. But, same as before, nothing. It was actually pretty funny: the second we locked eyes, he lackadaisically spat out one of his idle barks, basically complaining to me about the sad state of his profession. He just had to tell someone, I guess. It was tearing him up inside. I kind of felt like we had a moment, he and I. We  managed this magnificent heart-to-heart between all the thievery and bloodshed – a fleeting second of all-too-human understanding. Then went our separate ways.

Seriously though, it was bad.

But there were also positives – glimmers of diamond choked by rough. At one point, I accidentally stumbled right up to a dog cage and had a whole area’s guards fanning out to find me in seconds. I huddled in a corner while an avalanche of footstep sounds pounded my ears. Were they coming from the left? Right? In front? Behind? …Beneath? And all the while, that damn dog wouldn’t stop barking, like a wailing emergency siren with much bigger teeth. It was actually kind of terrifying. My heart was pounding, and for just a moment, I forgot all about the plague of practically game-breaking problems I’d encountered mere minutes earlier.

It was those rare moments of NPC competence paired with Thief’s already excellent sound design that revealed potential for brilliance – however slight. That said, Eidos Montreal’s AI programmers still have a whole, whole lot of work ahead of them. Godspeed, ladies and gentlemen. Godspeed.

Level Design And Options

What Eidos Said: “Yes, you want to give players all these options, but the more you give the harder it becomes. The key is to find a good mid-balance of saying, ‘Where do we put these choices so that they make sense?’ Because if they don’t make sense, then nobody can find it. Nobody’s gonna make a logical conclusion of discovering it. So we want to make this middle path where it feels really open, but you can still have a good experience without getting lost. If you want to take a faster approach, you can enable navigation markers.”

My Experience: By and large, the mansion – both outside and in – felt fairly natural. As I mentioned earlier, refreshingly restrained verticality paired with devious guard placements to make for some seriously suspenseful moments. The demo wasn’t quite a shining paragon of level design brilliance, but it wasn’t some hyper-linear funnel into the gaping maw of Call-of-Duty-dom either. I came in fearing that the wispy gothic paradise would end up feeling like A Videogame Level and not a living, breathing place, but – if nothing else – it straddled the line between the former and the latter well enough.

There was, however, an oddly repetitive element to its many stone-hewn dimples and curves. Areas frequently opened up to reveal multiple paths – for instance, water control rooms beneath a giant fountain or various halls, bedrooms, and quarters within the mansion –  but they’d always funnel back together for the main objective. So I was able to explore and maybe choose my way around some guards, but eventually I’d be forced to skulk past (or place arrows between the unibrow hairs of) a specific group of three-or-so standing directly between me and the next objective. Previous choices, then, ended up feeling a bit artificial.

Level design was also a major place where focus mode ended up coming into play. Much of the time, areas were straightforward enough, but when they weren’t, there was no intrigue to it. A quick flash of focus mode’s blue-hued, important-object-highlighting overlay almost always did the trick. That applied to both loot and key points like climbable pipes and some enemies, too. The only thing that really kept it from delivering a series of organ-skewering precision blows to game balance was scarcity. Focus didn’t auto-replenish at all, and recovery items were few and far-between.

Linear, Action-Heavy ‘Escape’ Scenes

What Eidos Said: I didn’t actually ask Schmidt about these bits, as I was unaware of their existence before I played the demo. Another Eidos Montreal dev briefly described them as “rollercoaster-like” and said that they provide moments of vastly different pacing.

My Experience: I’m all for reboots and reinventions breaking outside the box. In fact, I encourage it. If I wanted to play old-school Thief, I’d just play old-school Thief.

That said, goodness gracious great balls of fire, what were so many great balls of fire doing in my Thief game? The scene I played saw the mansion collapsing, with rivulets of fire slithering across my path while larger conflagrations mushroomed up all around. The obvious objective? Run for your life. Run or die. Run run run run run run.

This section was essentially on rails, and sneaking wasn’t even a factor. I dashed over burning bridges, stumbled across collapsing rooftops, and watched entire sections of mansion crumble into the tar-black waters below in sloooooow mooootion. Trial-and-error came fast and furious, with various sections nearly requiring death and a subsequent restart before making sense.

There was also a fair amount of third-person during this section. I didn’t hate it or anything, but any sort of climbing basically was Assassin’s Creed – right down to little animation details like the way Garrett swung his leg to build momentum before bigger leaps. Far more egregious, meanwhile, was an insta-death QTE involving a loose chunk of wall and a quick button-mash to give Garrett’s grappling line a life-saving toss. I mean, really? In Thief? Why? Why at all?

After the entire mansion sloughed into churning waters and I escaped at just the right moment, the demo I ended. I won’t lie: I didn’t leave the room particularly pleased.

In Conclusion…

What Eidos Said: ”Well, with a reinvention, it’s always gonna be a little different. And what people remember [varies from person to person].”

Also, in response to rumors of serious trouble behind the scenes:

“There have been some changes in personnel. The project’s been going on for a while. We were trying to get the DNA right – the essence of the game. It took a while because we tried a few things that just didn’t really fit. And hopefully, you’ll play it and see that we have a solid product. You know, rumors are rumors.”

My Experience: I am conflicted. As you can very obviously tell, the new Thief rubbed me the wrong way in quite a few places. AI and combat, especially, were well off the mark, and that’s definite cause for worry. Oh, and let’s not forget the linear, QTE-ridden escape scene, which felt completely at odds with pretty much everything ever – especially common sense, stealth (or even stealth-action), and the year 2013.

Thief’s level design, however, was solid, and I could see it meshing quite well with competent though basic systems and smart enemy placement if the AI gets stolen and replaced with pretty much anything else. No doubt about it, Thief needs some serious work, but I think there’s still potential. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was an absolute joy, and I can almost see the murky silhouette of a similar miracle skulking around in Thief’s gutters.

Also, there is still tons I wasn’t able to see. Other areas. More open slices of the world. Secrets (of which there will apparently be many). Fuck, The City itself. I’m also crossing my fingers for the story, which is still shrouded in a sooty smog of mystery.

Still though, a release date of 2014? Let’s hope it’s very late 2014.

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140 Comments »

  1. KDR_11k says:

    I guess with stealth games it’s always a question of “is the AI failing or is this just considered stealthy?”

    That’s kinda why I don’t like stealth games so much, it feels far too uncertain when you will and will not be detected and since detection tends to be fairly close to an instant fail for a stealthy style (at least you’d usually want to reload a checkpoint) that’s doubly bad. It’s why I appreciate Mark of the Ninja’s systems and why so many games seem to stick special vision modes in to allow stealth.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I refuse to believe that even Garrett could find a way to be that invisible while mere inches away.

      There were a few things that Thief (original) did to combat this:

      1. A brief handwavey explanation (Garrett is an ex-Keeper, and so has a preternatural ability to be unseen. Such an explanation doesn’t have any bearing on how it feels to play the game, but gives it a basis in the fiction.

      2. Thief was dark. Very dark. When you were unseen mere inches from a guard, you were usually in an almost nearly pitch black shadow. Thief 3, and the videos I’ve seen of Thief 4 are much lighter by comparison. This is at least partially due to adapating to the different environment of a console + TV.

      3. The guards were dumb. Really dumb. Their lines and voice acting were deliberately written to sound stupid (especially Benny :) and this really helps to sell the dumbness of the AI reactions (itself an intentional design to allow the player some leeway when fumbling at being stealthy).

      It’s unclear what the new Thief is doing with regards to 2 and 3.

      Nathan, how dark was the game when you played it?

      • Ansob says:

        Regardless of whether or not it’s hand-waved (and who cares if it isn’t?), being able to literally brush up to a guard as long as you’re in shadows is half the point of Thief’s stealth anyway. If they do away with that, it wouldn’t be as Thief-y.

        The QTEs/linear Michael Bay fest sound shit, though. :(

      • Eddy9000 says:

        It’s worth pointing out that the brightness for screen shots and promo videos for the past thief games was turned up high, or else promotional screenshots would just be barely discernible black rectangles. If you google thief 1-3 screenshots you’ll see how bright they are.

      • dontnormally says:

        )

        I hated that you didn’t close your paren and had to do something about it.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, one ends up playing within this completely abstract system with little relation to reality, but also, to some degree, expecting it to be consistent with real-world experience. It would be interesting to see if it were possible to base a stealth system on an abstracted model of human perception (I think the computing power may be up for it). It may end up being easier to play, despite the lack of a tidy “light-meter” style feedback mechanic, if it’s more consistent with the real world.

      • suibhne says:

        This. Human perception is so variable, fallible, and narrow-focus that it’s easy to fool us into thinking we’ve seen nothing at all or experienced something totally different from reality. And the great thing is, there’s a ton of real, peer-reviewed research in this area. It would be a joy to play a game that actually leveraged that stuff, rather than another mechanistic, unintellectual “light/shadow” system.

        Granted, I know this is (sorta) a Thief game. ;)

    • suibriel says:

      Thief 4 in a nutshell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8pImL1FeaE

  2. ResonanceCascade says:

    This is pretty in line with everything I’ve heard from people who saw/played the demo. Some nice things, but also a lot of worrisome or downright bad ideas, with an unfortunate level of jank. Hopefully this one gets a lot more time in the oven, cause it sounds like those rumored “production problems” were true.

  3. gganate says:

    QTEs? QTEs!! What the hell? Everyone complains about them, so why do developers keep putting them in games? About the only thing I can say regarding QTEs is that the Witcher 2 had them (rather infrequently) and it managed to be a very good game.

    I don’t think the hardcore Thief fans are going to be pleased with this, but they probably wouldn’t be pleased with nothing less than a reformation of Looking Glass Studios.

    As to the AI thing, previous Thief games had poor AI (Deadly Shadows, in particular) and I’ve always thought that you kind of have to “role play” and pretend that the guards are deadly. You could murder everyone in the first two games pretty easily, once you knew what you were doing.

    Let’s hope it’s a worthy game, and not a dud.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Naw, Thief 2 in particular had very good AI. The guards were dumb as a box of rocks, as they would have to be for the game to even work, but the AI under the hood provided really great feedback. Hell, Looking Glass even bent over backwards to make their stupidity make sense within the narrative. The City Watch wasn’t exactly comprised of A students.

    • Brun says:

      The QTEs sound like Thief’s version of DXHR’s boss battles. Something totally unnecessary and out of place for the game but included to appeal to a “wider audience.” Hopefully they turn out like the boss battles and end up not taking too much away from the game.

      • frightlever says:

        There’s a wider audience that enjoys QTE? Well that’s two hundred years of evolutionary theory right out the window.

        QTE – why I have a G15 keyboard. I already have RSI, I don’t need more RSI. It’s not a good thing like money or hair, it’s a bad thing like cancer or relatives.

        • GameCat says:

          I liked QTE in Resident Evil 4, but only these kick/punch/suplex that were appearing after shooting enemy in certain part of his body. You could ignore them, but with one button press you could also do cool move.

      • Caiman says:

        This whole “broaden the appeal to a wider audience” bullshit needs to stop. They don’t make chocolates taste like vegetables, chicken, beef, and beer all-in-one to broaden their appeal, do they? If you have a product that appeals greatly to an audience because it is special, don’t ruin it by introducing totally unrelated elements. Since games became about selling the most copies instead of making the best games, the AAA industry has really gone down the shitter. The only light, apart from indie work, is the occasional great design that somehow slips past the low-pass quality filters these publishers employ.

  4. The Dark One says:

    I’ve also read elsewhere that the developer’s runthrough and the playable version of the demo were super dissimilar. It really sounds like a half-baked title at this point.

    • Wedge says:

      Well based on the rumors the developer runthrough was a hacked together show off device that would never function as an actual game and had taken up a huge portion of development. Because after all these years AAA companies still don’t understand how to competently run a business.

  5. benjamin says:

    I’m playing through Dishonoured right now and the AI guards suffer the same affliction of not being able to look up. It makes my life a lot easier but it also breaks my immersion a bit. I have to say though that Dishonoured has me interested in stealth games. I never realised how powerful you feel when you ghost a level.

    • Focksbot says:

      What do you mean “the AI guards suffer the same affliction of not being able to look up”? Someone else said this about Dishonored the other day and I can’t work out what either of you are talking about. In the early levels, I was regularly spotted on the high rooftops from the ground, and just the other day I was playing the last level and got spotted by someone just as I was about to drop down on him from a few feet up.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        The guards don’t look up while walking around, although they do occasionally when they stop. Their vision cone does reach up fairly high, but only at a long distance. If you’re more than, oh, about 20 degrees above horizontal from their eyes, they won’t see you.

        • Focksbot says:

          OK, I getcha now.

          • Mirqy says:

            to be fair, in real life (I know, not relevant) people hardly ever look up.

          • Ringwraith says:

            Precisely, no-one ever looks up unless you are actively searching for something.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            It’s mostly true that the only people who go around looking up all the time are tourists… Even, if you were tasked with guarding something quite tall you’d probably only look it up and down every now and then, to make sure nobody had stolen the top of it.

          • Widthwood says:

            That lack of predictability would be horrible for gameplay though.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Yeah, Adam was well off the mark when he wrote in his Dishonoured review “There’s no equivalent of a cover-based shooter’s regular placement of chest high walls, the commas in a level’s grammar.” Once you realise that you’re practically invisible above the guards’ heads, the regular placement of street lamps, walls, and high exterior and interior ledges is as frequent and obvious as an arena of chest-high walls.

    • gganate says:

      They definitely look up on hard, playing Dishonored right now.

      • Anguy says:

        I played through it on very hard yesterday and they definetely don’t look up often enough since basically no one ever saw me when I was up high on something. The game is also way to easy with the supernatural abilitys, at least when playing thorugh it stealthily

        • frightlever says:

          I’m playing on super duper hard. Not only do the guards look up, last night when I went to bed the guards jumped me with a pillow case full of bars of soap. True story. My own fault for collecting bars of scented soap, I guess.

          • Anguy says:

            calm down, I didn’t mean to brag. I just think a hard game mode ultimately should take some effort and not be a breeze to play through. It shouldn’t be hard only in the case that you set yourself artificial limits like not using blink or something along those lines.

            And those guards in Dishonored definetely don’t look up as PopeBob stated as well

      • PopeBob says:

        Nah, mate. In all difficulties, you can hide literally atop a woman’s changing screen in the Golden Cat and the mark and the woman he is arguing with won’t notice you. The AI has shit cones of sight unless they’ve been alerted to the thought that someone might be hanging about at which point their cones become more broad.

        • KenTWOu says:

          It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! Dishonored doesn’t have real shadows, that’s why it will be impossible to hide without such vertically limited cones.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      I’ve been caught from guards looking up on a few occasions, but most of them were in the Knife of Dunwall expansion and not in the main campaign.

      I notice guard patrols are more chaotic and harder to predict in Knife of Dunwall than in the main campaign, so maybe they look up more in the expansion too. I’m not entirely sure though as that’s a bit hard to pick out.

    • suibhne says:

      And yet, that strikes me as pretty realistic. How often do people actually look up, security guards and police included? Their attention could be grabbed by noise and/or by motion in their field of peripheral vision – but barring those two things, I suspect that even security professionals rarely scan the rooftops above them. I think this is a case where realism seems gamey, but really isn’t.

      • Chris D says:

        I think it’s the combination of not looking up along with the shorter than real life sight range. You wouldn’t necessarily notice someone above your head, if they were quiet, but you would notice someone on a roof across the square.

        I think Dishonored loses out because it goes for a realistic art style and also a first person view. More realistic art means you’re primed to expect things to react closer to how they would in real life, while the first person view makes it obvious what someone could or couldn’t see from a given position. It’s obvious the guards aren’t playing by the same rules.

        In something like Mark of the Ninja or even Metal Gear Solid the change of perspective means you’re more likely to let some of the gaminess pass because it’s never really trying to be anything else. The closer to reality you get the more it jars when that perception is broken.

        Basically, there’s a reason the original Thief games were really, really dark.

        • Wedge says:

          Dishonored? Realistic? With it’s giant cartoon limbed and headed people?

        • Focksbot says:

          “You wouldn’t necessarily notice someone above your head, if they were quiet, but you would notice someone on a roof across the square.”

          But they do in Dishonored. I’m back to being confused about this. I was regularly spotted, in early levels, while up on the tops of buildings. Particularly in that first square in the first two missions, and on the buildings around the Golden Cat. And the courtesan staring wistfully out to sea on the docks? She notices if you bump people off on the balconies.

          I had much more success staying low than high in Dishonored. This makes sense, because as a trade-off, high up places give you a better view.

  6. nasenbluten says:

    I won’t be surprised if it’s disappointing when it comes out.

    These multiplataform reboots often get oversimplified to appease the console side of business. Sometimes good stuff manages to get trough on PC, like Max Payne 3 or Hitman Absolution.

  7. Dowr says:

    No doubt this game will receive praise from everyone whilst we, the old timers of RPS, will be shouting and groaning at it like every reboot of old PC franchises.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I thought Human Revolution was actually pretty good.

      /hides

      • lowprices says:

        You aren’t the only one. It wasn’t perfect, but I still really enjoyed it. Also it got rid of the thing from Deus Ex that annoyed me: elite agent JC Denton needing to aim his gun for 6-8 weeks before he was likely to actually hit what he was looking at.

        • GameCat says:

          I just deleted first Deus Ex after experiencing the same thing. It was so funny, silly, and “OMG WHAT YOU WERE THINKIN?! It’s fucking special agent! Why he can’t aim?”.

          • LionsPhil says:

            There is a special circle of hell for you types.

          • Wedge says:

            I actually dropped Deus Ex 1 the first time I tried to play it as well. While the Statue of Liberty level is supposed to be a tutorial, it’s still a very awkward one giving you all that open space and horrible aim when you don’t really see areas like that elsewhere in the game. When I managed to give it another go later on and get into NYC and everything, it got a lot better.

        • Professor Paul1290 says:

          I remember that at some point it was found that the way Deus Ex handled bullet spread was rather weird and that the width of the crosshair did not accurately represent the actual spread of the bullets

          I don’t remember the exact details, but I think it was that Deus Ex did some weird calculation that did odd things depending on range, and the result was that a lot of weapons were actually somewhat more accurate than what the crosshair indicated.

          Whatever the actual issue is, apparently Shifter Mod fixes the crosshair to be closer to the weapon’s actual accuracy, which for a lot of weapons seems to be little more reasonable than what the vanilla crosshair suggested.

      • Vandelay says:

        I enjoyed it too. However, it sounds as if this will suffer from similar issues that DE:HR suffered from when it comes to the level design. I want levels that begin by offering me multiple entry points into a building that actually feels like a real place. I don’t want a building that is designed to funnel to the objective, but occasionally splits off into three.

        I hate to do the console blame thing, but the limited memory of the current gen machines has really damaged the scope of game levels.

        • Wedge says:

          I feel like the open city hubs in Hengsha and Detroit did a better job of the level design than the “dungeon” levels where you have to infiltrate a fully hostile area most of the time. Which I would also say was mostly true about the original with regards to NYC and Hong Kong.

          I did enjoy HR for being able to create moments that reminded me of the original though, particularly if you have the strength augment to move any kind of box around. I was able to do some fun things by building platforms to get to areas the wrong way, or by blocking off doors/paths to restrict the AI from getting into areas. I remember a part when in Montreal you’re supposed to have a bunch of guys attack you while waiting for an elevator, but before calling the elevator, I just moved some crates in front of the two pathways into the area and never saw a single soldier.

      • Emeraude says:

        Why hide ? I found it really disappointing myself, but I don’t really see how being of the opposite opinion would be in any way shameful.

      • phuzz says:

        I just bounced right off DX:HR, not because I felt it was a poor sequel (I thought it was entirely fitting), but for some reason I didn’t have any fun.
        Maybe I should go back and give it another go, I only got a couple of levels in.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        HR is good, and from the sound of it, a better Thief sequel than this game.

        The one thing both the original Thief and Deus Ex did right (and to a limited degree DXHR), was giving the player more autonomy and authority than the script writer. Between the scripted escape scenes and fake non-linearity in Thiaf, it sounds like we’ll be having none of that.

      • Contrafibularity says:

        Of course it was good, it was a level-by-level and character-by-character rewrite of the Deus Ex script, man-handled into a prequel blockbuster. Not even Eidos Montreal’s dubious design decisions could entirely spoil it.

        The thing is, now that Square-Eidos Montreal have had their success, they will probably double down on their mistakes, and without a game to copy almost 1:1 (IW not being much of an option) it’ll be.. interesting what they’re going to do with DX next.

  8. Matt_W says:

    Thief 1 & 2 exist together as venerable members of my Top 5 Games of All Time pantheon. I’d hoped that this reboot would feature better, not worse AI. I’ve been waiting for 15 years for a game where other guards would notice when patrols started to disappear or lights started to go out, wouldn’t give up searching ever if they found a dead or unconscious body, would properly illuminate the areas they’re patrolling, would show some situational awareness.

    • Aerothorn says:

      Yeah, you’re never going to get that in a mega-budget title because it would be considered too difficult/inaccessible, particularly the “enternal search” part of it.

      • Widthwood says:

        Nah, what it would end up is become more linear and simple. Developers do have to make sure that players don’t waste hours going the “wrong” ways that they wouldn’t actually able to go through etc. And besides, the more abilities guards have – the more constrained is Garrett. It’s easy to have guards stay alert forever after seeing dead bodies, use electric light after seeing fires go out, routinely wander into dark spots, constantly change routes, run instead of walking at a crawling speed and frequently look up and down – there is not much “AI” in it, just more if-then conditions.

        I don’t remember the exact quote, but I recall that one of the Thief 1 developers (maybe even Warren himself) saying that dumb guards were a conscious gameplay choice, not a limit in AI.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      And that would be quite un-fun to play. There’s nothing like ratcheting up the difficulty on a player to punish them for making a mistake. Alert a guard once, and he never stops searching? That’s like asking for an FPS with neither recharging health nor medkits.

      • Emeraude says:

        Could actually make for a great game.

        • Focksbot says:

          OK, just remembered: how do you make this game mechanic fun? Look to ‘Mark of the Ninja’. That had a specific mask/playstyle based entirely around screwing with the guards, and it worked really well. Once I managed to get a chain-friendly-fire kill count of five, as one guard after another freaked out and shot at the shadowy figure in front of him, only to realise it was one of his mates.

          If you’re going to have a game where the guards don’t forget, where the slightest mistake gets them hunting for you and the sight of a body sends them into a frenzy of activity, you’ve got to add a positive angle to it, make it something the player can embrace, rather than something that gets them reaching for quickload. So you make messing with their minds a feature.

          Probably not right for Thief though.

          • belgand says:

            Yeah, not ideal for Thief, but you have a point there: kill one guard and they get curious, kill several guards and the few left alive start to get scared. Arkham Asylum had the same basic idea going on and it worked pretty well. Most of these guys probably aren’t elite, battle hardened veterans but minimum-wage rent-a-cops whose job generally means “walk around while trying not to be very bored”. Once they no longer feel safe and don’t have the feeling of safety in numbers they should panic and start acting erratic. Something that’s both good and bad. Give them a stat for morale (so you can have those elites) and they’d be a lot more interesting.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Arkham Asylum had the same basic idea going on and it worked pretty well.

            That idea worked pretty well, because Arkham games doesn’t have wide open levels like Thief or other stealth games. It has room after room after room, and every door is a loading screen. Even open-world city has separate areas with isolated groups of AI. And Batman was really powerful and could use one-button-escape ability after any mistake.

        • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

          Just like you have fast-paced, instadeath tricky platformers like Super Meat Boy, you could have a fast-paced instafail stealth game, with small levels and quick respawns. It could indeed be a really fun game, but it would be very unlike Thief.

          • Bhazor says:

            We already do. Hotline Miami and Monaco would both count as instafail stealth games played at the speed of light.

          • Emeraude says:

            It could indeed be a really fun game, but it would be very unlike Thief.

            Oh totally, I’m just saying I don’t see anything that would prevent making a cool game out that constraint.

            Same for the no regen, nor med-kits.

          • darkChozo says:

            With some creative interpretation of mechanics, N/N+ could count as well.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            Stealth Bastard Deluxe is a thing which exists.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        That’s like asking for an FPS with neither recharging health nor medkits.

        No it’s not like that. In an FPS with no healing you could only take a certain number of hits before the game ends, which would necessitate very short levels you could restart over and over (like Hotline Miami, so it can certainly work).

        But in a stealth game in which guards never stop searching if they’ve found clear evidence of your presence (i.e. a dead body), you are still able to evade them using movement and various tools. There’s no reason why your capture would be inevitable. And if you enter a different part of the map the AI could behave differently; e.g. the guards outside a mansion are searching, but the guards inside might just be on alert and not actively searching. Seems like an appropriate punishment for failing at (what is supposed to be) the game’s core: stealth.

        • KenTWOu says:

          But in a stealth game in which guards never stop searching if they’ve found clear evidence of your presence (i.e. a dead body), you are still able to evade them using movement and various tools… And if you enter a different part of the map the AI could behave differently…

          Splinter Cell:Conviction already did that: If AI notices any mistake (dead body, broken light bulb, etc…) he sounds the alarm after several seconds of investigation, if you don’t eliminate him. And that wasn’t THAT FUN. Lots of people criticized that system, because it was too punishing and doesn’t suit well for several play styles. Only stealth purist endorse it wholeheartedly, because they didn’t notice it anyway if played well.

          It’s worth mentioning that Conviction Fisher was really powerful, he can shoot people like in any third person shooter and had Mark and Execute mechanic. So the game had more action than even legacy Splinter Cell games. That’s why it was at least slightly balanced in this regard. Thief doesn’t have such powerful things and doesn’t need the same punishing AI behavior!

          • kament says:

            A fine point. I’ve said yesterday it wouldn’t be all that interesting to play, but Conviction is a good example of unforgiving(-ish) approach (though it could use a few improvements), which some gamers seem to yearn for. And yet, it was reviled by oh so many at the time because of the necessary change of pace. It was way too fast to be appreciated by hardcore fans. You couldn’t sit there for umpteen minutes watching and planning and preparing; what kind of stealth is that?

            So, while it definitely could be entertaining to play with such an AI, seems to me that many gamers don’t want that. They don’t want their stealth to be fast, they don’t want trial and error.

            But I was considering this: knocking off guards and putting off lights is a huge part of fun in a Thief game. Maybe not for the purists, but still. Why force a player to avoid these pleasant activities? What’s the point in robbing them of their fun?

            Besides, if AI punishes player for certain actions, why on earth implement them in the first place? Put in the game water arrows and then punish the players for using them? It just doesn’t make sense.

    • Focksbot says:

      Me too. And I get the feeling that on some level there’s a conscious design decision not to do this. From the hints developers drop in interviews, I get the impression we’re not meant to be playing stealth games as a ‘reload-if-you-get-spotted’ kind of genre. They want us to have frantic escapes like in the movies, and keep playing even after we’ve screwed up.

      Any game where the guards reacted remotely realistically to the threat of an intruder who’d already taken down one of their own would push players strongly towards a reload-heavy playstyle. Otherwise you’d have to go through the rest of the level with panicked, angry packs of guards hunting high and low for you, and instead of feeling like a skilful predatory thief, you’d feel like a trapped rat.

      I quite enjoy how blatantly Monaco (which has no reload option) throws this in your face. You can literally knock a hole in the wall of a bank, kill two guards, rob a safe and set off ten alarms, but if you manage to get into an air duct or bush in time, you only have to wait thirty seconds before everyone’s back on their feet, calmly patrolling their usual routes, not even bothering to put the cash you missed back in the safe or station anyone at the gaping hole in the wall.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Me too. And I get the feeling that on some level there’s a conscious design decision not to do this. From the hints developers drop in interviews, I get the impression we’re not meant to be playing stealth games as a ‘reload-if-you-get-spotted’ kind of genre. They want us to have frantic escapes like in the movies, and keep playing even after we’ve screwed up.

        So Assassins Creed then?

    • kament says:

      I think something like that wouldn’t be that interesting to actually play as it sounds.

    • KenTWOu says:

      @Matt_W
      Splinter Cell:Conviction partially did this. Guards don’t give up searching ever if they found a dead body or lights started to go out, they illuminate the areas they’re patrolling using their flashlights… IT’S NOT FUN!

    • DasBlob says:

      I can only speak for myself, but I would love to play a Thief game (or a Hitman game, for that matter) where the guards react to other guards going missing.
      They would not have to initiate a manhunt right away – they could, for a while at least, act on the assumption that their co-guards are dodging work and maybe look for them in obvious places (like the larder… or the loo). They might alter their patrol routes to cover their absence. Or report to the head guard who investigates.
      It would certainly work if the guards were written as bumbling and inefficient, and we might get some funny dialog of the guards ranting about their unreliable colleagues or speculating where there have gone or what they are doing instead of patroling.
      Letting them find a body should definitely be punishing the player. But if the guards are not well paid enough to risk their lives, that might just make them cover the obvious enty points better and stick together for their own protection. You would have to alter your approach, but you could still go on stealthing. Having them search you relentlessly, in groups, with torches, might be a litte too punishing (unless the levels are big/complex enough to avoid them), but I would definitely like to see some permanent change in their behaviour. (Not “Oh, look, I found Tom! He has got an arrow through his neck! Did you find a burglar in the five minutes you were looking? No? Well, carry on as usual then. No need to report this right away. No, no, just let him lie there. The day shift will put him away.”)

      On a similar note: I would like to play a Hitman game where eliminating one of your targets by way of a spectacular accident changes the actions, positions and attitudes of NPCs in the level, so that you have to vary your approach based on the order in which you take on your targets: Blow up a gas stove – expect firefighters and the police. Several people fall to their death – the party stops etc..

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        They might alter their patrol routes to cover their absence.

        Guards did this in Dishonored. Take one down, and another guard comes before long along the same patrol route, often complaining “wasn’t someone supposed to be on guard here?”.

        Funny thing is, it made it really easy to clear parts of the level. Pick a good location, choke out the first guard, hide him in a dark corner. When his first replacement comes along, choke him out and hide him too. Repeat until the guards stop covering this patrol route.

        It’s also a design that can be frustrating: if a player is trying to get into a locked room (say), and isn’t confident enough to sneak past while the guard’s looking away, they’re going to knock him out and then try to get in. Having another guard come and take the same patrol there is a “fuck you” to this player. It’s negative feedback even though the player’s action is something the game design is supposed to allow—so that’s kind of backwards.

        Edit: You could, of course, fix these problems by adding more rules to the system. But the more complicated you make it, the harder it is to make (and so it takes longer and costs more), and the harder it is for a player to be able to understand it (so it will appear random and/or unfair to many).

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      The Assassins Creed series is a thing which exists.

    • deadpan237 says:

      there’s plenty of games similar to that. NOLF 2 guards would start searching if so much as an object was out of place like a bottle knocked over or a door was left open, or a light turned off, and some of the metal gear series they would immediately call in reinforcements when they saw dead soldiers. but no game is going to make AI’s search for you indefinitely, it’s a waste of resources processing resources. most players would just kill that guard and move on. not to mention just downright stupid. you want intelligent AI? what kind of intelligent person in their right mind would think “hey one of my friends is dead, i’m gonna search the whole base room by room so the attacker can potentially ambush me” and not “oh shit someone killed that guy, i’m gonna call in reinforcements and put the entire base on high alert and organize a giant search sweep of the entire area”. i don’t care how dedicated to the stealth genre you are, that would ruin the game. might as well make it fission mailed the moment you get spotted.

  9. njolnin says:

    I think it’s important to remember that the original Thief games (I’d count 1+2 among my top 5 games of all time) did not have very aware guards at all, nor was the combat at all sophisticated, thought it did naturally force me to run away at higher difficulties. As I hear it, Nu-Thief’s issues are not necessarily bad things. Although, in my experience the guards did look up a little higher in the old games than they do in Dishonored-hiding yourself in darkness seems to be what counts most.

    To clarify on the guards, since I’m not at all saying they’re bad, their individual awareness was not good by design, but they were pretty darn good at chasing after the player when they discovered you and were also good at exploring the darkened corners of a room if they thought they saw you. Visual and audio clues let you know what the guard was doing at any given moment. So, while an individual guard always seemed a little dim, it came together well.

    Where the game truly shines is in its massive, nonlinear levels that are a joy to explore. To me, that’s the most important feature. I don’t want a game that’s a series of ‘arenas’ that I progress through in a linear fashion. Thief levels are massive, and I’d often find myself lost or a little confused- and that’s a good thing! I like the feeling of being daunted and not sure if I should head through a courtyard or explore a distant tower. I end up studying the map and environment much more when my path and objective are not clearly laid out in front of me. All of that made the environments feel more ‘real’ to me. Dishonored, on the right settings, has come closest to replicating this feeling so far.

    Also crucial to me- some kind of level editing software. Thousands of thief custom missions have been made, and I am always amazed at their quality, often exceeding the original game.

    • Focksbot says:

      “I think it’s important to remember that the original Thief games (I’d count 1+2 among my top 5 games of all time) did not have very aware guards at all, nor was the combat at all sophisticated, thought it did naturally force me to run away at higher difficulties.”

      And the description of taking down the guards in this article sounds incredibly close to the generally accepted tactic in the original games – keep walking around them or weaving between them hacking at their shoulders.

    • NathanH says:

      Indeed, there are a couple of erroneous “criticisms” in this article.

      1) “I know it’s Thief and all, but there’s no excuse for melee that’s this creaky.”

      There absolute is an excuse, and indeed better than excuse, a good reason. Melee should not be particularly complicated because the more complicated it is the more chance it can be made favourable for the player. And it should not be particularly fun because making it fun would require effort and there shouldn’t be much effort placed in melee. Essentially what you want is something that doesn’t make you want to do it for the sake of doing it, and doesn’t give you a particularly favourable outcome (that is, you should always take a certain amount of damage). The designers should attempt to achieve this with the minimum effort.

      That you can dance around the guards relatively easily is a valid criticism, though. That suggests a level of player skill is attainable where you can deal with them relatively easily in melee, which is a bad thing. It was a significant weakness of the first two games, in fact: if you knew what you were doing you could take on every sword-wielding guard in a mission at the same time and have good expectations of winning.

      2) “Admittedly, my light/darkness HUD indicator told me I was well-hidden, but I refuse to believe that even Garrett could find a way to be that invisible while mere inches away.”

      Hopefully, this is deliberate, because it’s a good system. If you are in fullest darkness you should not be detectable by sight, only by sound or touch. The guards should not be particularly alert, because it isn’t particularly fun if they are. Guards shouldn’t be particularly clever, because it isn’t particularly fun if they are.

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, what these guys said.

        I’m not a fanatic about Thief,** but this project sounds pretty faithful to it (except for the QTE-heavy finish and, the combat, if, as NathanH said, it turns out to be master-able).

        ** though I just started T2 recently and it’s fantastic!

  10. Gentlemoth says:

    There will come a day when the hopes of Thief fans fail, when we forsake all our wallets and break all bonds of preorder.

    That day is this day.

  11. Greg Wild says:

    I’m really worried about the “escape” sections. Planning an exfil is a huge aspect of Thief, especially on harder difficulties.

    • qrter says:

      It’s always been one of the most impressive aspects to the Thief games for me, that your mission wouldn’t simply end when you had hit all your objectives, but that you still had to get out of the place.

      This QTE shit sounds.. well, shit.

    • GreatGreyBeast says:

      You know, high speed escape sequences could work really well for this game, if designed properly and used sparingly. Theoretically, you could make a fast-paced, time-critical scenario – like a burning house – which still allows multiple paths. Left or right? Neither is wrong, but each has different obstacles. Maybe your health can take one or two leaps through a wall of fire, but not a third; so do you barrel recklessly ahead in hopes of a quick escape or take the longer way in hopes of preserving health? These decisions are essentially the same as traditional Thief gameplay, just pushed to a much more urgent tempo. Throwing 2 or 3 such sequences into the game would literally allow a nice change of pace without betraying the core gameplay.

      But of course that’s not what they did. On-rails, “hold-forward-to-continue” sequences are just glorified QTEs, and totally inexcusable. And I don’t mean inexcusable because it’s a Thief game, but because it’s a game, period.

  12. Emeraude says:

    The good thing, I guess, is that my expectations are so low for this game I can hardly be disappointed.

    Hell, even DARK so far gives me more hopes.

    Edit: The fact that they seem to have a good sound design is pretty great though. Probably the only hopeful note I got from that whole article.

  13. Muzman says:

    Deadly Shadows had that hilarious approach to AI looking around too. They would not look anywhere but left and right below a certain alertness threshold.
    One time I was standing on a pylon in the docks (as you do) and this guard kept patrolling past. As his head only came up to my toe height he kept turning his head to look at my foot as he walked past. Since seeing a foot wasn’t enough to really excite him sufficiently to look at what it was attached to, despite being about a meter away from his face, he would only turn his head, say “hmmm, what’s that over there?” before carrying on with his day.
    Until he came back and did it again. I watched this chuckling for many minutes, this guard staring intently at a foot.

  14. Vandelay says:

    Argh… this doesn’t sound too promising. Sure, there are some positives in there and sounds as if they have the actual fundamentals right (excluding the combat,) but they are pilling on trash in the hope to imitate its generational peers.

    It isn’t so much the sequence that is described to close the preview, but the execution of it. A burning building escape in a traditional Thief level actually sounds like it could be a lot of fun, if the level remained open ended and you had to try to recall your way out of the building or risk taking another path. You could even have the level dynamically change, closing off the path you used to enter the building and forcing you to take a new route, accompanied by the now fleeing guards that you won’t of had the opportunity to blackjack. Instead they take the easy route of creating a heavily scripted, orchestrated set piece, topped off with QTEs!

    I’m not so worried about the AI, as this is still early days and I’m sure that will be fixed, but the attitude that is displayed just from the description of this level is slightly worrisome.

  15. X_kot says:

    Hitman: Absolution, meet Thi4f. I’m sure you’ll be the best of friends.

  16. kament says:

    So far I’m only concerned about the latter: those linear action-heavy scenes. AI and combat can be fixed at least partially, they still have time for that.

    But those “escape” scenes… The only way to fix something like that is to remove it altogether, and I think it’s highly unlikely they will be scrapped.

    I wonder if they’re outsourcing it. Again.

  17. derbefrier says:

    Seems to be about what i was expecting. I really hope they work on the AI. I mean the guards in the original thief games were nothing to brag about really but that was…over a decade ago. I hope they really work on the AI. I imagine these “escape sequences” will be the most hated part of the game. The combat i am not to worried about since I don’t plan on doing much of it :P. Its good to hear that the slow-mo sounds like it can’t be abused to the point of making the game feel like child play(a mistake dishonored made) but I do hope there’s a option to turn it off completely. All and all this sounds like it could be a decent addition to the thief series just not the ground breaking reboot we all hoped it would be. If we are really lucky the devs will listen to all the feedback from the E3 presentation and take it to heart.

    edit: just realized I got through a whole Thief article without going into fanboy rage mode. I think I deserve a medal.

  18. woodsey says:

    Oh for fuck’s sake. It’s fucking Hitman: Absolution, isn’t it?

    Pretty much everyone was impressed with their initial ‘vertical slice’ and pretty much everyone is reeling from their E3 demo.

    I think I’ll just /sigh.

  19. Shazbut says:

    I thought Human Revolution was tremendous. It’s the best game that isn’t called Dark Souls that I’ve played in about a decade.

    Edit: Reply fail :(

  20. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “Thief: Night Of A Million Furious Bonkings”

    …and now I’m wondering why the porn parody genre hasn’t showed up in gaming yet.

    • dE says:

      Let’s just say Blizzard is on record for getting all lawyer trigger happy on one of them parodies.

  21. Zenicetus says:

    The unrealistic stealthiness sounds like Skyrim with high stealth skills and items. Doesn’t always work with higher-level NPC’s but you can get ridiculously close to the mobs you spend most of your time with, when clearing a dungeon. It kinda takes the fun out of it, but at least that should be easy to fix in Thief, or maybe it’s tied to the difficulty setting.

    As others said here, the QTE escape runs sound much worse, and it’s unlikely they’ll be scrapped with all that investment in time and resources. The recent Tomb Raider reboot was chock-full of those QTE and timed-jump escape runs. I chose one of them at around the 2/3 point of the game to say “screw this” and quit the game without finishing. Game developers have to stop trying to be film directors.

  22. Eddy9000 says:

    To be honest all of Nathan’s observations (except for the QTE’s) sound exactly as I remember the original thief games.

  23. baltasaronmeth says:

    They lost me and my wallet at “rollercoaster-like” and “insta-death QTE”. Does anybody remember the MGS2 documentary video, where they explained, how they intended to have an “escape the water” scene at the end of the tanker, but ultimately dropped it, as they thought it would be too boring?

  24. KevinLew says:

    I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since the last Shenmue game, but its toxic invention of QTEs still persists in almost every game possible. It’s almost like developers are given bonuses based on how much QTE they can shovel into a game. Worst of all, QTEs can’t even get away from the “press X to not die” stereotype.

    Is this how developers now pad the length of their game because you’re almost certain to fail it the first time? Nobody even likes the mechanic from all the reviews that I’ve seen, so why does it keep showing up in so many current games?

    • Strangerator says:

      It’s an extremely lazy way to pretend like your cinematic game is actually interactive.

      My thought is, if you really want to have cinematic sequences, just let me watch or provide a way to tie it into core game mechanics. If you can’t tie the sequence into game mechanics that I’ve already learned, just make it an automatic sequence. QTE are what are known as “beginner’s traps” in game design, it’s only challenging the first time since you don’t know about it, easy to navigate if you are expecting it. No matter what, they are always annoying as hell.

      I’m thinking of starting a petition to CD Projekt Red to make sure that the Witcher 3 doesn’t include any QTE. Nothing ruins my satisfaction in a combat system like throwing in pointless QTE. Also not a huge fan of killing big bosses inside a cutscene, because I like to be the one to strike the killing blow.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Exactly.

        QTEs are cutscenes masquerading as gameplay.

        Execs love them because it’s cheap (no gameplay design, no need to test and balance). Lazy/unimaginative devs love it because it’s easy. Wannabee filmmaker devs love it because it it lets them pretend they’re making a film.

        QTEs are hack work. Lazy, uninspired and cynical hack work.

    • Muzman says:

      I’d love to see an in-depth piece on this with no soft questions. Why do devs keep doing it? It’s easily the most hated trend in gaming by a long shot. You never hear “I loved the QTEs in this game” (which isn’t to say people don’t feel like that). It is reserved for consistent and loud internet and reviewer scorn, but it keeps featuring. Why? I wanna see them lined up in front of the House Committee on Bullshit Mechanics.

      Seriously, Why? Are we wrong and they’re amazingly popular with testers? They get letters from Jane and Joe public all the time? What’s the story?

    • Mentalepsy says:

      Developers say “Well gosh, we couldn’t have made this extremely specific action sequence interactive without using QTEs. The game mechanics just don’t work that way.” Well, if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all! If you start to implement a QTE sequence, stop, think, and do one of the following:

      1) Redesign the sequence to work within normal gameplay, even if you have to tone it down a bit.
      2) If you can’t do that, get rid of it entirely. The game will be more fun without it.
      3) If you really and truly can’t live without it, just make it a (brief) cutscene. You just want me to sit and watch anyway, so don’t annoy me by pretending otherwise.

      If you find yourself having to make these kinds of decisions frequently, you really need to stop and think about your game design.

      Any fully-playable segment of the game is far more satisfying than even the most fantastically-directed QTE sequence. Even if it doesn’t sound as cool on paper, it’s going to feel much cooler to me, because I did it myself. I didn’t just press X to watch the animators do it for me.

    • strangeloup says:

      To play devil’s advocate for a moment, I thought they pretty much worked in Shenmue, and they felt right in Heavy Rain (which is pretty much QTE: The Game).

      They’re a big bag of arse in just about everything else though.

  25. Strangerator says:

    Perhaps the least surprising story of the day?

    All of this is a bit Borg-like. All of your beloved IPs will be assimilated. I’ll bet the Borg are really good at QTE.

    When you take a series that was loved for its unique gameplay style, and rip out the things that fans loved about it, you’re getting to a level of risk aversion that is crippling the industry.

    “We didn’t want to risk making a game with the same “feel” as the original, because it might be inaccessible, but it will have the same title and protagonist as the original games, which is what fans want.”

    TRANSLATION
    (Profanity Warning):
    “FUCK YOU franchise fans. We’re not remaking this shitty decidedly non-action oriented game from your adolescence. We’re going to make everything explode, and make everything simple. No thinking allowed. I don’t just want this to appeal to nine-year-olds, we’re now aiming at their dogs as a new demographic. Do you think the Call of Duty dog was a coincidence? Ha! We’ll make games dumb enough for dogs, and you know what? You’ll STILL buy them in droves. Who’s a good bitch? You are!”

  26. Infinitron says:

    Why not implement a highly complex fencing combat system instead of this focus mode VATS nonsense? That’s basically what the first two game were trying to do, anyway. It was their inheritance from Dark Camelot.

    • Widthwood says:

      Why waste time developing complex system that will only be used in few emergency situations and lead to quickload anyway?

  27. jonahcutter says:

    It sounds like Thief is going down a similar path to the one chosen for both Hitman Absolution and Tomb Raider. So we’ll end up with a game that to some degree has echoes of its series’ successful past, while burying or sidelining that gameplay all too often for “updated” elements. Said “updated” elements all ripped from other games and shoehorned in with no real coherent vision.

    Both those games were sometimes decent as individual games. But they were absolute shit as games of their respective series.

    I would be surprised (pleasantly) if Thief does not end up falling into the same category.

  28. Phendron says:

    The AI in DX:HR was pretty shit as well, at least in regards to stealth.

    • Widthwood says:

      Its not “shit AI”. Shit AI means NPC’s get stuck in scenery, can’t navigate map properly and always magically know your location. What you are referring to is a conscious decision to have say, NPC FOV at 30 instead of 110, or hearing radius of 10m instead of 40m, or sight radius of 50m instead of 500m, or guards cool down period of 1 min instead of 1 week.
      “Its all in the numbers”

  29. Jason Moyer says:

    Nathan, do you have any idea what difficulty the demo was using? Most of the stuff that really concerns me (the combat and AI) doesn’t really sound any different than the first 3 games if you weren’t playing on Expert.

  30. bhlaab says:

    Oh boy, this is sounding more and more like Hitman 5 by the second.

  31. Bweahns says:

    Oh god those on rails flight sections grind my gears. I hate them so much. I remember playing Far Cry 3 and really struggling to stay interested. I had to endure one of those stupid clock counting down escape the burning building scenes with bright flashing icons telling me what to do. I rage uninstalled after that scene and haven’t wanted to touch it since.
    It’s such a lazy, contrived way to create excitement that always achieves the complete opposite.

    Ugh.

  32. Dave L. says:

    Anticipation levels went from ‘Hey, it doesn’t look as bad as I feared’ after watching the Gamespot gameplay video to ‘Fuck.’ after reading this.

    Hopefully the displeasure with the QTE escape sequences will be loud and universal enough that they’ll drop them prior to release, but it seems unlikely.

    And how the hell is it that materials system complexity now makes ‘if ([material density]==[soft] && [arrow type] == [broadhead] || [rope]){ arrow sticks;}’ an impossibility? ‘The physics system goes berserk when the player hangs from ropes’ made sense as an excuse for not including them in Deadly Shadows. ‘The materials system is too complex’ does not make any sense for limiting their use to pre-set points in this one.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Anticipation levels went from ‘Hey, it doesn’t look as bad as I feared’ after watching the Gamespot gameplay video to ‘Fuck.’ after reading this.

      May be you should read this thread. Several forum members played the game during E3 and made Q&A there.

  33. JessMcGuire6 says:

    until I saw the bank draft ov $8303, I didn’t believe that…my… father in law was like they say really earning money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop.. there sisters roommate had bean doing this less than 18 months and resently cleard the morgage on there home and bourt a new Renault 4. I went here, Bow6.com

  34. Shiny says:

    On the one hand, spending a lot of time polishing up a build for E3 is a waste of precious development resources.

    On the other hand, fuck!

  35. Stevostin says:

    They still have time, right ?

  36. tellrov says:

    I wish gaming sites and journalists would finally get a bit more agressive towards devs. Does anyone actually believe the crappy AI, the path highlights, the QTEs are things waiting to be fixed? They know well enough what they are putting out there and it’s because they know they can get away with it. Instead of interviewing an employee about how he feels the combat resonates, or handling them with silk gloves, you should just ask “what are you doing? Why do you copy more from recent generic AAA titles than from the series you’re supposedly trying to revive?”

    You shouldn’t say “There’s still time. There’s still a ton to see. The mansion seemed natural though!” Grab those devs by the neck the next interview and ask them why the fuck they put an on-rail QTE section in there. Stop treating them like your friends and do what journalists are supposed to be doing and maybe we’d start getting better games.

    • Focksbot says:

      I’m as disappointed with you in QTEs, but I think we’ve got to be careful not to demonstrate such an outrageous sense of entitlement as to expect journalists to act like mob enforcers. Most developers, in all probability, put in pretty long hours trying to make something extremely complex. On top of that, they’re supposed to please everyone – they can’t risk alienating casual players at the expense of fans, and casual players do like things to be easy.

      Don’get me wrong – I think the whole industry is steering itself into an iceberg in terms of catering to the masses. But individual devs are swept up in it. I think the best thing decent journalists and fans can do is to keep shining the light on the few genuinely good games and why they work, supporting those devs that do take the risk of alienating casuals. There’s no point in harrassing people on behalf of a franchise’s fanbase. We’ll always have Thief, right?

    • Upper Class Twit says:

      I’m pretty sure that journalists are supposed to get facts, which Nathan did. He told us what he found good about the game, and what he found bad about the game. Journalists are not supposed to attack people and try to find whatever negatives they can on behalf of their fan base. Its an interview, not an interrogation. If people like Nathan started treating these things as interrogations, no one would want to get interviewed. Game devs aren’t the government. There’s no law that says they have to answer questions.

    • Widthwood says:

      Hmmm let me try to answer your hardball questions for Eidos..

      what are you doing? Why do you copy more from recent generic AAA titles than from the series you’re supposedly trying to revive?
      “We drew inspirations from wide array of sources, from books and movies to architecture and music, to move the series forward while preserving the spirit of earlier games.”

      why the fuck they put an on-rail QTE section in there
      “With awesome capabilities that next gen consoles brought we had an opportunity to include engaging gameplay sections that allow player to connect more deeply with the character than simple non interactive cutscenes.”

      Is that what you wanted to hear at the cost of Nathan being banned from Eidos’ press conferences? :)

  37. F3ck says:

    Nothing feels more like a cheat to me than spending good money on a game that pulls that “Quickly Tap E” nonsense…

    …in my hundreds of years playing games, I’ve never conversed with another “gamer” whom did not also despise them. It seems it may be the one thing we all can agree upon…we hate QTE’s in action games.

    So why…why are they still doing this?

  38. v_ware says:

    I’ll stick to Dishonored thank you very much.

  39. Marik Bentusi says:

    Sounds like a Duke Nukem-kind of game design oddity. Bad sign. I’ll be very cautiously picking up news on this.

  40. fitzroy_doll says:

    This reminds me of the recent failed Alien(s) games – there’s an existing formula out there, that people loved, but the new devs are blind to it.

  41. soopytwist says:

    Quick save? Knowing there are QTE’s has already just about made my mind up not to bother with this so called “reboot”, ever. And if there isn’t a quick save…well that’s the straw that broke the camels back.

  42. KenTWOu says:

    The scene I played saw the mansion collapsing…

    Nathan, it wasn’t the mansion, it was a separate location with a bridge.

  43. Jim Dandy says:

    Serious question here, even though it may sound like some kind of snarky put-down (a vexed issue on this site, if truth be told):

    What’s the difference between pressing E when prompted (by a fragment of text) to initiate an action, and pressing LMB when prompted (by the presence of a goon in your sights) to shoot a bullet/arrow/stream of ravening lambency*, or pressing C to crouch (when prompted by a collapsed roof-beam), or space to jump (when prompted by a ledge)?

    Is it the fragment of text itself that’s the problem? Sure, it’s inelegant, but so are white portalable surfaces, or walls with architecturally-improbable sticky-out climbable bits. Are we so enraged by that fragment of text that we’re willing to limit our interactions to a ‘crouch/walk/run/jump/shoot’ leavened with the occasional ‘press/push/crank’?

    Is it the nixing of hard-won WASD muscle-memory that’s the problem? A perceived lack of interactivity, whatever that means? Sooner or later just about every game boils down to ‘do action X or fail task Y’.

    *Sorry, been getting my Lensman on lately. Speaking of which, this quote: “penetrative gaze held rigidly to the fore, he ran down corridor after corridor” proves that inelegance is no impediment to a snorting good time, sums the experience of too many games, and offers insight to the Freudian cesspit of Doc Smith’s imagination…

    • Muzman says:

      QTEs might count as ‘interactivity’ in the broadest sense but you’re talking about the overarching systemic nature of the game. Jumping out the way of bullet/falling thing is not one interaction but many. You have the freedom to move forwards, backwards, jump, crouch, shoot etc and ideally you used several of these in some combination to get into and out of a given quanta of gameplay, let’s call it.
      A QTE is a single action to produce one of two results, invariably one that’s simpler in nature but presented as more complex than the actions your character can perform normally. In a modern 3d game with a generally high level of interactivity it’s like turning the game inside out, usually at a most pivotal moment as well. The complete antithesis of player driven gaming.

      • Jim Dandy says:

        You could look at any rhythm-action game as nothing but an extended, often massively decontextualised QTE. Hitting the prompts on time and in sequence is a pleasure in itself, if they’re cued and paced with care. Throw in a fun context, and you’re having a ball playing Parappa with your mates.

        The QTEs in the God of War series are like the cherries on sundaes. No one wants a bowl of glacé cherries with a teaspoon of ice-cream on top, but I don’t see why we have to be so vanilla with our genres. Neapolitan, people, it’s delicious!

        • Muzman says:

          Generally people play these sorts of games for the high level of interactivity, the depth of action being rewarding, that sort of thing. Placed discretely these other forms can be alright, take hacking in various games, ‘plumbing’ in Bioshock etc. These are usually fine in the right amount. But they are discrete.
          More and more these QTEs and ‘takedowns’ are being inserted right in the middle of when a 3d action game (perhaps especially a first person one) is supposed to be at its most impressive; when all the things the player has done result in a winning moment (or even a losing one). Instead they take that agency away at the most important time. I think that’s generally not what people want from the experience. (around here and similar places at least. There’s probably swathes of gamers who think it’s just what games are like. God of War is more particularly designed around a certain kind of combat arc. You build up to them or deal with them quite a bit so it’s more central. I do actually think players’d come to prefer the other, free-er experience in the right sort of game though, given the chance).

          I generally side with the view that this is merely industry one-upmanship in terms of visual spectacle. They want the coolest looking event, with high detail of animation and rendering power, but they can’t design systems to match that level of detail so the player can do it themselves. So they just skip it.

        • Widthwood says:

          They often break a certain level immersion, a self-identification as a character you are playing.

          It’s fine when the game is obviously “gamey”, but in recent Tomb Rider for example they bothered me somewhat because cutscene Lara was obviously different from normal Lara, and forced me to act certain way I would never chosen myself if I had normal in-game abilites during QTE parts.
          I’d say I prefer ordinary cutscenes, at least they are honest in their non-interactivity and don’t force me personally to act certain way as if it was my free will when it is obviously not.

          I liked QTE in Kindom of Amalur though. They were simpler, didn’t guide me through story, mostly they just offered bigger XP rewards when I was mashing buttons in sync with my character smashing monsters :)

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I think it’s a mistake to frame an action like shooting an arrow as a binary event in the same way that a button prompt is. The actual physical action is binary, but there’s much more to it than that. You followed the goon around for a good while. You found a vantage point. You aimed your bow to get the perfect arc. Then you clicked and watched in terror to see if you landed the shot or if you just sent an arrow whizzing past his ear, alerting him to your presence. The narrative was never broken, the gameplay was never interrupted, and the player was very much the driver of what was was happening.

      Replace that with a button prompt/QTE. You walk up to a pre-chosen vantage point. The letter ‘A’ appears on your screen. You push ‘A.’ You watch as your character pulls back the bow, then the camera attaches itself to the arrow, which the automatically embeds itself in the guard’s head. The camera then cuts back to your character, while the achievement “Arrow to the Head” pops up in the lower left corner of the screen. Your input in the scene was minimal.

      If you boil all of gameplay down to just the button pressing, then yes, there’s no difference. But in the context of the gameworld, it’s really night and day.

      • Jim Dandy says:

        Since, ultimately, it is all just button-pressing and window-dressing, why not stretch the ways you can communicate the context?

        I’ll bet there’s more than one of us who, if we were being completely honest, ground (grinded?) through FFVII’s random encounters and interminable wandering just to have our minds blown by the next cutscene and story twist.

        I’m not saying QTEs are great, I’m just saying they’re not necessarily evil, and when carefully considered (GOW) can work really well to break things up. They can be a way of adding a smidgen of interactivity to a cutscene, not taking it away from the ‘regular’ gameplay.

        We can argue now about the place of cutscenes, especially since we stopped needing to pre-render complex character performances and environments. I’d suggest that until we figure out how to translate the language of the edit into gaming, we’re stuck with fluctuating volition. It might be more ‘pure’ to stick to the camera with the gun stuck to its underside, or the camera that follows a few feet above and behind a character, but purity only matters to me if I have to eat, drink or snort something is something I don’t give much of a fuck about, actually.

        (Edited for various knobs and warts. Apologies for those that doubtless remain.)

        • Widthwood says:

          But what is an actual need for them?
          Those kinds of QTEs that Thi4f seems to have are like forcing you to play Dance Dance Revolution to be able to continue watching a movie. Player provides no meaningful input, player presses some buttons that translate into completely different unpredictable actions each time they are pressed, the reward – is uninterrupted cutscene that developers obviously could have provided without any input from player whatsoever.

  44. lord_strange says:

    “Deus Ex: Human Revolution was an absolute joy”. Apart from the boss fights. I still shudder when I think of those. I’ve never played a Thief game, so I’d like this to be good, but this piece fills me with some trepidation.

  45. deadpan237 says:

    i don’t think the lack of AI and bad melee are really anything new to the thief series. hell in thief 1 and 2 the enemies didn’t comprehend the concept of circle-strafing and you could just walk around them slashing away with your sword while their fruitlessly swatted the air in front of them trying to catch up with you, and even if you didn’t do that, you could easily fight off 3 or 4 once you got the block system down. and who could forget the ubiquitous “lean forward and knock out the patrolling guard as he walks right up to you” trick? the only thing in this area that has me worried was the “lack of weight” that you mentioned. it reminds me of thief 3′s combat system (or lack thereof) where a stab or an arrow shot on an alerted guard wouldn’t cause so much as a flinch on their part.

    the QTE’s and scripted escapes are definitely an unwelcome change. i predict the levels will be quite linear as well, or at least the deus ex “illusion of open-endedness” style, based on what was said about the branching paths all leading to one objective.