How Eidos plans to bring the decade-old Thief to new gamers (interview)

Steven Gallagher and Stephane Roy of Thief

Above: Steven Gallagher and Stephane Roy of Thief

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

GamesBeat: How do you feel about the tradeoff between player choice and narrative? There have been some very interesting games this year that have played with that, like BioShock Infinite. It seems like there’s a different ending, but there’s just one ending. In The Last of Us, you have to do some things. Grand Theft Auto has the torture scene that you have to be a part of. There’s an illusion of choice in some of these games, where the designers have very deliberately staged things so that you can only go down one path. How do you feel about that? Are there some instances where we’ll come across that sort of thing in Thief?

Gallagher: The story is a single narrative arc. It’s a very powerful, emotional story, and it just has this single thread. It’s always been designed that way. As you heard in the story presentation, Garrett initially sets out to say, “I’m a thief. I don’t kill.” Whether you then play the game killing and pushing the envelope of who you are and experimenting with another aspect of that personality is up to you. The story is going to end the same way for everyone. Your perception of yourself, though, is going to be different from Stefan’s, since he’ll play the game a different way and have a different emotional reaction to how he understands the scenes and the interaction between some characters.

I suppose it’s not the illusion of choice, really, but when you go back to the city hub — The story tends to take place in the missions, but you can always return to the city hub. That’s where you do what you want. If you find a story and realize that there’s something like a murder that just happened in an alleyway or you discover an old love affair happening in this bedroom you’re creeping through, that’s where the world is going to start this feeling that you’re unfolding your own stories in the city.

The thief Garrett overlooks city.

Above: The thief Garrett overlooks city.

Image Credit: Eidos Montreal

GamesBeat: What else have we not talked about that’s a big part of this game?

Roy: With the city, what we really wanted to show you today is the feeling of exploration. There are a lot of secrets in this demo here. Like he said, it’ll be fun to see some cooperation between people – you might find something that the next guy doesn’t, and he’ll wonder where it was. Also, when it’s time to play the game from A to Z, we hope we’ll have a nice balance. There are the missions that make up this big story that you’re going to follow, but between each mission you go back to your hideout, and then you get to explore and discover all these secrets in the background. We hope that we’ll come up with a good mix there.

The city is a character by itself. It has its own evolution. As you progress through the story, you’re going to see things change. The demo today is part of the Stone Market. We’ll also have a district called South Quarter, and other areas that are parts of missions. But what’s important is that the game world isn’t just mission after mission. It’s one big universe.

GamesBeat: If players have just come off of another stealth game, like Blacklist or Dishonored, what should they go into this game thinking about? How do you think they might have a different experience?

Roy: The first thing is in the title. You’re a thief. You’re not a soldier or a killer. It’s not about vengeance. Your goal is to steal, not kill. That’s the major difference for me. It’s like being a kid and playing cops and robbers. There’s that fantasy of being above the law. That’s the unique flavor we bring. There still aren’t any other games like that.

We do have some similar mechanics. Garrett has a bow, the guy in Crysis has a bow. But that’s not just because it happens to be the flavor of the month. That’s been part of his DNA from the beginning of the franchise. How we use the bow in this game isn’t necessarily built around killing anyone. It’s really about interacting with the environment.

Gallagher: Thief’s buzzword, for me, is “anticipation.” Listening to Stefan talk about the bow — Yes, there are bows in other games throughout the world. What suits Garrett, though, is the anticipation. It’s a thoughtful weapon. It’s not like bam-bam-bam, six dead people in the room and I’ve left already.

Thief is a thoughtful game. That’s always been key to the experience. “Where should I go? Did that guy see me? Am I going to get away with it?”

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