The Thief franchise has been sneaking in and out of the limelight over the years, originally starting off as a pair of high concept PC games. When first-person shooters were all about running and gunning, 1999’s Thief: The Dark Project, and 2000’s Thief II: The Metal Age, emphasised sneaking and patience. Since then, games such as Metal Gear Solid and Assassin’s Creed have popularised a slower pace of gameplay, and Square Enix is bringing Thief back from the shadows for a rebooted adventure.
We caught up with Eidos Montreal game director, Nicolas Cantin, and Square Enix PR manager, Adam Phillips, to talk about the revival of the franchise.
The last Thief game, Deadly Shadows, came out a decade ago. Why is now a good time for Thief to make a return?
Eidos Montreal game director, Nicolas Cantin (NC): We’re reinventing an IP with this game, so we spent time looking at how to bring it back. After ten years and new consoles on the market, we also had to consider how today’s technology can be used to create a new captivating experience for players. In the process, we didn’t want to forget about PC gamers either.
Square Enix PR manager, Adam Phillips (AP): With the new consoles, it was time to bring a new experience. Even though it is a revisiting of past experiences, it has been so long that it feels fresh. We’re excited to be able to revisit the classic franchise and make a game for today.
Is the focus new players? Or are you appealing to old fans?
NC: A bit of both. Our goal is to make sure we are respecting the main pillars and DNA of the Thief franchise. We want to ensure it has the dark setting and humour that fans will recognise, while at the same time making a game that has new mechanics and elements that will appeal to new gamers. That’s why we have included a lot of customisation within the menus, even on consoles. Players have the ability to choose the gameplay they want, so they will have the opportunity to enjoy the game in the same fans did with the original titles.
AP: Deus Ex was also a dormant franchise and Eidos Montreal revived it with Human Revolution in a similar situation. Square Enix has also done it with Tomb Raider, so we’re almost making a name for ourselves revisiting these great franchises and making them really relevant for today’s gamers. With Thief, it was time to shake things up and make sure we create an experience that will satisfy the fans of the previous games, as well as encourage more people to get involved in a universe that hasn’t been around for a while.
Any lessons from Deus Ex: Human Revolution that were carried over to this game?
NC: Listening to the fans to deliver a quality game was one. With Thief, we wanted to ensure we’re not only going to please new fans, but the existing fan base as well. We were a bit worried about finding the right balance, but our experiences on Deus Ex: Human Revolution helped us to make the right decisions the second time around.
AP: Although different teams worked on Human Revolution and Thief, it is almost like the studio philosophy is the same, such as respect the franchise, the pillars, the fans, and taking into account what really works well in the market today. We can’t just remake the original games, as that just would not work and those games are there if you want to play them. There is a fine balance in keeping the essence of what made the original games great, but also making sure the mechanics are more enjoyable today and adding extra things that players expect in a modern game.
What has the experience been like, working on next generation hardware?
NC: It has been interesting from the perspective of the things that we can do. There are so many elements we can put in the game world, whether it is graphics, audio, or AI. At the same time, the goal for both current and next generation platforms has been to provide the same experience. There is more detail in the graphics in the next generation console versions, but gameplay and experience remains the same across all of the platforms.
AP: All of the different platforms have been developed in-house. Traditionally you’ll find other studios concentrate on one version and then farm out the others to be done elsewhere. We wanted to keep the quality really high, so we’ve done all of the versions in-house, although the PC version is being done by Nixxes Software, who also did the PC ports of Human Revolution and Tomb Raider. The better hardware enables us to push the immersion of the game further, but the experience is the same, and we’re proud of the graphical fidelity we’ve achieved on current generation. The shiniest versions, though, are definitely on the high-end machines.
Finally, what has been your favourite way to dispose of enemies in the game?
NC: I like to challenge myself to be ranked as a “ghost” in the game instead of an “opportunist” or “predator.” To that end I try to stay as a ghost, but if I restart in the middle of a mission I find myself becoming aggressive and use more offensive means. It really depends on what happens to you in the game and how you want to play it.
AP: I play as sneaky as I can be, but if it goes wrong then I quickly drop a flash bomb and push the guards away to run off. With all of these different skill sets and weapons that can be used in the mission, as well as multiple paths to the same objective, it means that everybody plays the game differently.