Interview: Eidos Montreal's Level Designer on Thief

Words stolen from his mouth

Last years' Dishonored may have stolen Thief's clothes, but if there was ever a franchise likely to steal them back, it's Eidos' classic low-fantasy. After all these years Garrett is returning and Eidos Montreal has the duty of assuaging his legions of fans, whilst appealing to the new crowd. We caught up with the massively-named Lead Level Designer Daniel Windfield Schmidt to talk about all things stolen.

How do you help casual gamers enjoy Thief?

There's a lot of tools to make sure you can just pick it up and play it. But for some people, take a day off from work and sit down, I'm going to play this for the entire day until I'm finished. Disable all these extra help features and let me play the game as I want to play it. So these things are optional.

In terms of how - can you just push through this game aggressively, can you shoot everybody and so on, games like these are based on resources. So, you know, even in the old Thief games you could play very aggressively, you could run on carpets, jump between carpets, blackjack people and take them out one by one. It was a hit and run from the shadows. I think that's a very valid strategy for a thief to say you can just free roam and hoard everything.

So we want to support the aggressive Thief style, but it's still a Thief style. When you start looking at some fo the features we added, the focus combat, the focus arrow and so on, those are optional. You do not have to use them and we're even debating whether we can force you to not be able to have them at the beginning of hte game, so you have a more pure Thief experience. But for a lot of gamers who don't have a lot of time, who want to play and, go, you know, oh I made a mistake and the guard saw me and so on, we don't want you to necessarily hit the reload and start again, For them it's like, okay, I invested in these abilities, let me use them to get out of this sticky situation. It's like a get out of jail free card.

This is OK for some people who want that get out of jail free card. But it's also a resource. It's finite. You can't do this sustainably throughout the game. So you have to kind of pick your battles - do you use it to super-pickpocket somebody, so there's also the stealth version of this resource.


How do the eye-drops work?

This is the iconic thing of Garrett, the hooded figure with the scar on the eye. The original series he had a mechanical eye, he could zoom in and stuff like that, so we wanted to keep that image, that icon, character trait. But it also has something to do with the story, which we're not going into at this point. But it relates to the mysticism, the overlay, that makes him a little more unique.

You've said it's grounded and gritty, with no magic, but deadly shadows had a strong supernatural element. Will that be present here?

One of the things that was important to us was immersiveness, the texture resolution, the hands in the environments, because we wanted to make sure that you feel that you're part of the environment. And having people immersed is about relativity. If I can't relate to this table, this table is out of proportion, it's going to break - it's like, I'm in a game again. Having him shoot fireballs and that kind of magic makes it more abstract. So what we want to do is tone it down a bit but still a very important part of the story. And the lore of the franchise is that there are a lot of things underlying and so on, but we didn't want to make it fireballs in your face, kind of thing.

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