Experienced Points: Thief’s Risky Reboot

 By Shamus Apr 16, 2013 122 comments

splash_xp.jpg

How messed up does an industry need to be before your customers start clamoring for you to spend less money producing the products they buy? The $60 price tag is a foregone conclusion* so we’re not asking because we want lower prices. (Although, if that’s on the table, that would be nice too.) It’s just that we’d like to see studios stop financially destroying themselves. We’re at the point where saying, “We’ve got this elaborate new technology to make games!” is the equivalent to saying, “I’m gonna take a shower!” in teen slasher flick: Everyone knows you’re the next one to get the knife.

My column this week is about the upcoming Thief game, and how the developer has already gone into the steam-filled bathroom and begun toweling themselves with their eyes closed. As luck would have it, Jim Sterling’s video from yesterday is about the same thing. Also, we’re going to hit the topic again in the podcast this week.

In related by somewhat hypocritical news: I’m working my way through Thief 2 again, and I do admit these graphics have not aged well:

thief2_graphics.jpg

I love the game as much as ever, but would I be able to get into it if I was playing for the first time? Still, I think there’s some room between where we were then and where we are now. We might haggle over where the sweet spot is between cost and benefit, but I think we’ll all agree we passed that point years ago. (For my money, it was around 2004-2006.) However, some of you might argue for MORE GRAFFIX!

* Offer void in Australia.


A Hundred!202There are 122 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


  1. Eathanu says:

    As someone who only first played Thief in around 2007, I can safely say that, no, it’s not a very easy game for people not feeling the nostalgia to get into. And Thief is theoretically the exact sort of thing that I would like (a stealth game where it is absolutely worth not being seen/not killing everyone).

    Though, poor graphics aside, my main problem with Thief is that the noble whose house the first level takes place in is apparently the size of a large town, and its basement is lined with identical grey corridors (sound familiar?) so, not exactly the best first impressions.

    Basically, the levels were too sprawling for me without any real visual reward for exploration and they plodded on from (sorta) tense almost-seen encounter to another.

    I assume the game gets better later on, and Thief 2 is probably really good, but ultimately I only enjoyed my experience with Thief 3, partly because everything was more realistically compact in the city, partly because even similar structures looked at least a little different at a glance.

    • Infinitron says:

      What you call “realistically compact”, PC gamers were calling claustrophobia-inducing consolitis back in 2004. It was horrible.

      • Felblood says:

        As someone who started the series with Theif 3, I do think a lot of the drubbing it takes has more to do with it being different from the first two, than anything that could be considered an actual failing.

        However, it is worth mentioning that even that “realistically compact” mansion had a loading zone that divided it in half.

        Strangely, some of the later, while still segmented, had individual areas that seemed much larger than that entire level. This leads me to suspect that this is one of those games where the devs foolishly made the first levels first, making the game’s first impression with content developed before they knew what their engine’s real limitations were.

        It’s one of those pitfalls that crops up constantly, because it just seems to make natural sense, right up until someone points out how harmful it can be.

    • Infinitron says:

      And by the way, Thief 2′s maps are even larger. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, “bigger and more complex = better” was a thing.

      • Even says:

        It should also be mentioned that they also gave you a map (in most maps) and a compass, which as I recall, do help out a lot if you just can be arsed to use them.

        • Cupcaeks says:

          The sprawling levels and the usually sparsely drawn maps were part of the appeal of those games for me. It just felt so much more thief-like to have to rely on potentially shoddy intel in order pull off a job, filling in the blanks as you went. You could even buy tips for some missions that would point you towards hidden paths or loot. The only thing that I really felt was missing was the ability to add your own notes to the one’s Garrett had already made. I really hope that’s something they preserve in the reboot. Having to orient yourself in unfamiliar territory really added to the sense of immersion I got out of Thief, so I’m hoping they avoid having detailed auto-maps and objective markers.

          • Karthik says:

            Objective markers are confirmed to be in the new Thief. My guess is that the availability of a “GPS map” will be something tied to difficulty level. I also remember reading that you can independently turn them off anyway like in Deus Ex:HR.

            Really, I cannot see any modern first/third person game shipping without objective markers.

            • Alexander The 1st says:

              Dark Souls?

              Didn’t even come with a map.

              • Klay F. says:

                Thats because if you are just following the plot Dark Souls is pretty linear. Its impossible to get lost in Dark Souls because so much of the game is effectively a selection of corridors, be they actual corridors, wood bridges, stone ramparts, or ledges running along a sheer cliff.

          • Tom says:

            You could add notes! Not to the objectives list, but you could write all over the map if you wanted.

    • Supahewok says:

      On the other hand, I tried playing Thief for the first time sometime last year, and never got into it. To be fair to the game, I think I experienced some weird bugs that skipped cutscenes like they weren’t even there. Unless there’s no intro movie or cutscenes before/after the tutorial and before the first level? I had an objective given to me at the beginning of the level, but it wasn’t very clear, so I’m guessing there was a cutscene that was supposed to give me background. I had other games I could play and didn’t want to bother going to Youtube and Gamefaqs every other minute so I never bothered with it.

      While that’s not the graphics putting off a modern gamer, it is a legacy graphics or OS issue that put me off. I’m sure there’s a fix somewhere, but I and anybody else who tries probably has other things we can do.

      • Tom says:

        Every level begins with a briefing cutscene, some important ones also end with one, and there are other cutscenes at important times besides. And for the most part, they’re spectacularly well done, if you ask me – oozing atmosphere. If you play without them, you’re missing a LOT.

        However, as was common in the 90s, the game uses some twitchy proprietary video formats and unless you get the heady cocktail of dlls in your system just right, they will often get skipped. I believe it’s one of those nasty cases where too recent a dll can be as much trouble as one that’s too old.

    • Jakale says:

      I tried the first game out when it came to Steam. I had no issue with the size of the levels, though I had enjoyed the third game previously and it felt not entirely unlike sneaking around crypts, caverns, homes, and museums in Skyrim. Particularly early Dwemer city levels when I couldn’t one shot everything with my bow and was paranoid about setting off the guard robots.

      My problem was that I lost nearly all my enthusiasm when I learned the game quarantined my access to some parts of the levels and their loot based on my difficulty setting. I enjoy exploring areas, but I’m not too fond of being locked out for an arbitrary reason like difficulty setting and it feels like my accomplishments on those levels were diminished. Especially when I realized future levels would be the same, so I’d have to go back and do those X hours of game all over if I want those levels to be fully open to me.

      • Even says:

        Um.. that’s not really true. You can still go anywhere you want. Only thing you’ll lack is a gameplay incentive to go to all the places since you’re dealing with less or easier objectives.

        Edit: If I recall, the only part of the game where it skips any content on an easier difficulty is when you go down into the catacombs to find the Burrick Horn (or whatever it was called) where it will end the level after you’ve picked it up, while on harder difficulty you have to hike all the way back. This is at the absolute end of the level, which while may be abrupt, doesn’t necessarily prevent you from searching every place first. There’s absolutely nothing fancy on the way back.

  2. X2-Eliah says:

    I’d argue for more graphix. Coming into the computer-scene as such with vice city back in.. ’04, iirc, I got a relatively high baseline for visual appearance. For better or worse, I just can’t play games below a certain level of gfx.

    As for the optimal zone, hard to say. I *still* think that base Half-Life 2 is sufficiently good-looking, but I adore the fidelity that, say, Dishonored, or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, or even Skyrim, can provide. Given the choice, I would obviously pick more advanced graphics (up to a limit, of course – I don’t care one bit about TressFX, or megatextures, or subsurface light scattering). As you pointed out, the true problem is that devs/publishers are overreaching their capabilities because of the graphics. This does not mean that all graphically gorgeous games will be failures, though – Skyrim was a massive success. Dishonored too, afaik. If A game can strike the balance of great looks and great sales – *go for it*, I’d say. Have we passed the cost/benefit mark? For some games, sure. For others – not really, no. It depends on too many things, imo, to pick a date and draw a line saying “here is where the best optimum for all games ever was”.

    Regarding your column: The thing that jumped at me whilst reading it was “fan“. That was, more or less, the mantra of the post, I felt – fans don’t like this and that and this and that. Well… Is it a game being made for fans, I wonder? I suspect that marketing a game solely to a core fanbase, whilst trying to create something more aspirational than your average kickstarter promise, is… unwise.
    Edit: just to say, I do understand your position. I’m a pretty big fan of the latter TES games – if Bethesda decided to revamp TES6, strip out lore and key elements that I like about the series.. I’d be pissed off, too.

    • False Prophet says:

      I think Shamus and some of the others have argued this before, but part of the issue isn’t necessarily graphics per se, but resources wasted on things that don’t improve gameplay or the experience.

      Mostly cutscenes. A beautiful environment to run around with is one thing. Barely or non-interactive mini-movies between gameplay sequences? With full mo-capping? And the casting of Hollywood talent to read stilted dialogue in dull monotones? And stunt performers? How much of the budget of your typical AAA title gets poured into this fluff instead of the actual gameplay?

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Well, yes. Cutscenes are not the best, I’ll agree to that. But fluid in-game animations? Enemies properly reacting to your actions instead of standing like planks and grunting? Properly visual melee combat? I’d say that all of that does contribute to immersion and experience of play.

        But yes, I also fear that the money Eidos is wasting on thief’s mocap acting thing may end up killing the publisher/developer.

        • Kdansky says:

          I think there are two kinds of “better graphics”. The first kind is the sort of stuff we see in Crysis 3: Super-high resolution textures and models, life-like lip-syncing, tesselation and so forth. These things are nice to look at, but they offer zero game-play value.

          On the other hand, we have graphical improvements like emotional expressions or posture change in guards. These qualities actually improve the game: When your guards have 20 different alert-states, you have to convey that information the player, and that happens through graphics mostly.

          What I’m getting at: Your graphics need to be good enough to convey all information to the player, and the less icons and meters you use, the better. When every action in the world is represented by an icon or a bar, then you end up managing UIs that look more like spreadsheets than games. See WoW raiding as a healer for a painful example. You literally ignore the 3D-scene in favour of specialized UI.

          • Trix2000 says:

            Hey now, a good healer knows to keep that stuff minimal so as not to be distracted from fight mechanics (ie: standing in fire). ;)

            Getting back to the point I actually wanted to respond to – I’m also a pretty big fan of good graphics, but I should put a caveat on the word ‘good’ because it encompasses a number of things. Primarily:

            1 – Graphics are high enough fidelity so I’m not distracted as much by individual pixels (although this varies wildly depending on point #2).

            2 – Art design that both leverages the game’s theme well but also provides a unique and interesting style. Honestly I think this is a lot more prominent than #1, and can really compensate the most.

            3 – Details, basically stuff like you mentioned with emotional expressions and whatnot. But also things as simple as animating candles on a table.

            Ultimately though, I think the main point I want to argue are that so-called ‘good’ graphics are a combination of things. Plus, I think there’s plenty of room for ‘looks good enough’ that doesn’t take millions of dollars to realize.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I thought megatexturing is better because it makes the work flow better, not because it’s better graphics. As in, it reduces costs rather than increasing them, right?

      To the last point, if the developers weren’t trying to appeal to an established fanbase, they shouldn’t bug with attaching the name “Thief” to a game. Just make a vaguely stealth-focused game, sahove it in a fantasy setting, and sell it. Maybe they could call it “Disgraced” or something.

      If, on the other hand, they are making a game in the Thief franchise in an obvious ploy to cash in on the historical popularity of the series, it isn’t unreasonable for people to expect the developers to at least attempt to capture some of the essence of what made the previous Thief games good.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Okay, I can agree to that. So how much of the old essence is “some”? From not having played either the old or the new thief, they both seem to have a lot in common as is – not enough? Then, what else is needed? It’s just that I don’t think that they *aren’t* trying to recapture that old essence – and recapturing does not necessitate copying nor stagnation. DX:HR showed that.

        • modus0 says:

          Currently, we have only the following confirmed things in common between Thief’s 1,2, and 3, and the new Thief:

          Garrett
          Thieving
          The Blackjack
          Lockpicking
          The City

          I did see something that looked like a water arrow in one of the screenshots, but I don’t think there’s been any official confirmation about the elemental arrows.

          However, I’d say that the for confirmed elements are only a part of the “essence” of Thief.

          Thief had a jaded/snarky protagonist, a location that had supernatural elements (though not as many as say, and Elder Scrolls game), opposing religious factions (and the high likelyhood that their “gods” are real, at least one was…), a third group that wanted to play puppeteer, and a variety of smaller events involving the locals that made it all seem a bit more real.

          And so far, Eidos Montreal hasn’t shown any indications that any of the elements from the preceding paragraph will be in this new Thief. They even plainly avoided answering the question about the existence of the Hammerites and Pagans.

        • Abnaxis says:

          I would define “some” as “at least the core is there.” Take, for example, the first Metroid Prime. The core essence Metroid franchise is built on exploring fantastic alien worlds, searching in all the nooks and crannies for secrets while fighting off the various bizarre flora and fauna. Metroid Prime departed starkly from the previous entries in the series by switching to a 3-D first-person platform-shooter versus the old 2-D platform-shooter style (and it got flak for it before it came out just like Thief is), but I would argue that it ultimately succeeded as a Metroid game because the creators maintained the focus on exploration, lush alien planets, and freaky fauna even while they threw out the core mechanics used previously.

          The core essence of Thief is stealth. There are other games where stealth is optional, but you could just murder your way through any obstacle and be just fine (Deus Ex, Dishonored, Assassin’s Creed). Not Thief. In Thief, you are a lone wolf doing your damnedest not to be seen. If you are caught and the alarm sounds, you messed up and need to run away.

          Detailed modelling of facial bone fractures and full-body mo-cap don’t jive with a game where nobody is ever supposed to see you if you do it right. If the player is supposed to be doing everything to avoid being seen, why spend so much on modelling that will only apply if they get into a direct confrontation with the enemies? If the player is a lone wolf relying on wit and cunning to extract their target unseen, why spend so much money and fire the old actor to enable detailed models for action cutscenes?

          Nobody can really say anything about the game until it comes out, but the way the signs are currently pointing, the Thief core is not there. The marketers aren’t stressing the elements of a Thief game, they’re stressing the elements of a high-fantasy action Dishonored-lookalike.

          • harborpirate says:

            Exactly.

            As I mentioned in another thread, the Game Informer interview with a couple members of the Thief 4 team left me completely disillusioned with the idea of their remake.

            Their conclusions about why Thief was great:
            It has a really interesting narrative.
            Garret is a really cool character.

            That’s it.

            No mention of any of the things that would have come to mind if I was discussing why Thief was good. Hint: The AI and state system made sneaking around an actual play mechanic. The closest they came was confirming that one of their goals was making it possible to beat the game without killing anyone.

            So one ray of light in a sea of garbage.

            Think if this game were on kickstarter right now. Can you IMAGINE the venom that would be filling the comments? They’re doing a great job of alienating their core audience. Hopefully there is a much more massive audience that couldn’t give a crap about the original that will actually buy it, or they’re going to have a dud on their hands.

            • Klay F. says:

              When they are touting the ability to get through the game without killing anyone as a feature, I do NOT count that as a ray of light. Not killing anyone is the DEFAULT play-state for a Thief game. It is not a “feature”, it is a given. If you have to take a life, you fucked up. I know people like to go on about how there isn’t a wrong way to play video games, but there definitely is in Thief.

    • krellen says:

      If you are not making a game with the plan to please the existing fans of the IP, you should be creating a new IP instead. Plain and simple. The only reason to use an existing IP is to entice fans of the existing IP, and if you’re trying to entice those fans, you should give them things they want.

      The only value of an IP is its fans; without the fans, any IP is worthless.

      • Tizzy says:

        Or, I guess, you could cynically exploit the fans’ nostalgia while trying to create a game that has mass-market appeal (when the original games were released at a time where PC gaming was a rarer pastime, and mass market appeal was, by definition, unreachable)…

        … but that would be wrong.

        • TouToTheHouYo says:

          Damn it man! Be careful with your flagrant linkery! Do you know how dangerous that site is!? Why, I wasted hours there before I could even formulate this response! I shudder to think of the poor sods who click it unsuspectingly… May the Random Number God have mercy on their souls.

          Now, if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have a dozen or so tabs open and demanding my attention.

          • Trix2000 says:

            I’m happy to say I’m mostly immunized to the site now.

            …Nevermind that it’s because I’ve spent/spend so much time on it as it is that I’ve read most of it (more than once sometimes).

            • Mintskittle says:

              I’m in a similar boat as you, having literally thrown away entire weekends just tabbing my way through it. I still enjoy hitting it up, and have at least one tab open at all times while at work.

    • swenson says:

      HL2 is a surprisingly pretty game even today. It’s only just recently when I went back to it (yet again) that I started to think for the first time, meh, these graphics are really not much. It took nine years for me to get to this point, that’s pretty impressive!

      I think a big part of it in HL2 is effective use of little things. Lighting, for example, is used very well, showing the progression of the days (there’s a distinct difference between early morning and late afternoon light in the game). And little atmospheric things like wires blowing in the wind really help make a scene feel alive.

      • Zekiel says:

        I was under the impression that one thing that helped HL2 age well is the fact that Valve have actually updated the graphics engine since release. So I think it didn’t actually look this good on release.

        However I can’t actually find a source (haha) for that information so I may be misinformed. Anyone know?

        Regardless – your point stands. HL2 certainly doesn’t have amazing bling graphics, and it nevertheless looks fantastic.

        • While I’m not an official source for that kind of information, I was messing around in the engine’s SDK at around the time they updated it:
          -Half life 2 and episode 1 were moved onto the 2007 engine used in Team Fortress 2 and Episode 2 (which, while theoretically a significant overhall, only improved lighting and anti-ailising in minor ways and allowed a slightly larger LOD. Behind the scens kind of things, really. All the textures are the same resolution and the models had the same number of polygons).
          -All the other games were moved onto the L4D2 engine. While this was very minor in terms of graphical changes, it opened up a lot of very useful features to Level designers.
          In both cases, the updates were quite minor – so while it may not look exactly the same as it did originally, it’s still pretty close.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The fact that you(and so many others)still thinks hl2 looks pretty shows that what you do with graphics is much more important than how advanced it is.10 years from now,what is more likely to be remembered:Graphics from the crysis 3,or graphics from bioshock infinite?They are both using about the same technology,but one is using it to show you rubble,while the other is using it to show you fantastic vistas high in the sky,which is far more impressive and memorable.

      • Naota says:

        I’ve said this so many times before, and it’s amazing how few people in the industry seem to understand it.

        What do you look for in a book? The clarity and black level of the letters along with the quality of the paper, or the story it conveys?

        What do you look for in a song? The recording quality of the sound or the combination of instruments/voices contained in the medium?

        What do you look for in a painting? The hues of the paint and the, or what’s depicted on the canvas? Furthermore, is a more realistic painting objectively better? Doesn’t that make photography the ultimate expression of art?

        What do you look for in a movie? Presentation or content?

        Presentation quality has diminishing returns, and everyone has a different tolerance. Everybody wants both quality presentation and quality content, but this is rarely feasible. Some people are fine watching black and white movies with abysmal audio and video quality like Seven Samurai so long as the actual story told is something of worth, while others simply don’t have that tolerance. There are presentation enthusiasts in many mediums, but we’re the only one that still considers that the norm.

        Of course everyone wants their game to look SUPER REAL, but we’re long past the point where advances in presentation quality have a meaningful impact, just like with music and books. We’re no longer primarily held back by technical limitations, but artistic ones. Back in the 90′s, a leap forward in technology meant giving your character a face and hands. Today it’s developing a system specifically to render the light refraction of their fingernails; calculating the physics of each strand of their hair; even simulating the translucency of their skin! It’s such a minor detail, yet it requires billions of dollars and thousands of some poor artists’ work hours to include.

        When every other part of the game is suffering simply to have these things, they are not worth the time, the expense, or the effort.

    • Thomas says:

      I feel like it’s a moving point. Things don’t have to be cutting edge but what gets away with nostalgia and forgiveness (of course it looks bad its a 2004 game) wouldn’t cut it today.

      To be honest, the lack of prettiness in Alpha Protocol probably hurt the game a little bit for me. And games like Uncharted are absolutely incredible because of the way they manage to look.

      Maybe graphics are some incredibly difficult varying sum of expectations, aim and art design (Looking cartoony isn’t appropriate for some games and some people. How Bioshock looks bothers me, how Dishonoured looks doesn’t) and every case has to be judged to it’s own standard. I would not play Uncharted if it looked like Deus Ex and I probably wouldn’t play Deus Ex if it was released by a AAA company today (even if it could be played on consoles because I hate PC shooters). On the other hand Project Eternity looks gorgeous and I love me some KotoR 2

  3. False Prophet says:

    I’m playing it for the first time now, and it is pretty primitive but it works. Combat is stiff and clunky but I see it as my punishment for being a Bad Thief. Granted, I’m a veteran gamer in my mid-30s who just skipped most of the Golden Age of PC Gaming and is going back there for the first time, not some 15-year-old XBLA denizen, so take that as you will.

    FWIW, I’m playing KOTOR for the first time too and find that level of graphics to be just fine. I tend to agree that mid-2000s/end of the PS2 generation of graphics seems to be the sweet spot: good enough to have a variety of interesting and attractive art styles, but not so demanding that only half a dozen publishers can(not) afford it.

  4. AdmiralCheez says:

    I haven’t played any of the Thief games yet, but from previous experiments, I’ve found out that I can play older games for the first time without being bothered by outdated graphics. Within the past year, I’ve played the original Half-Life, Deus Ex, and am slowly working on Fallout. The graphics don’t turn me off of the game, probably because I realize that they’re older games, and I’m not affected by nostalgia.

    However, there were a few minor things that bothered me about the game design back then. Half-Life had too many long shooting sequences (I may have spoiled myself playing Half-Life 2 a few years before), and both Deus Ex and Fallout lacked an autosave feature, which more modern games have spoiled me with. So, after playing for an hour or so, and dying for the first time, it was like there was no record of my character ever existing.

    I’ve learned since then to save often. Very often.

    • Rosseloh says:

      I’ve noticed that “outdated graphics” don’t deter me at all (Hell, I’ve been playing Duke Nukem 3D a bit the last few days). What does throw me off is different control schemes. Thief and Thief 2, I could do just fine because the controls were somewhat similar to Thief: DS (which was my first Thief game), and they were intuitive. But when I try to play, say, Deus Ex…How did you people do it, jumping all over the keyboard to (say) hit F12 to turn on and off your flashlight? It’s all about what I’m used to I suppose.

      • Ciennas says:

        What Shamus’ old picture didn’t show was the illusive PC Gamer hands of the last generation: Literally, they have extra fingers and wider palms. It was considered heresy to make the game use fewer buttons, lest those plebians who didn’t want to invest in reconstructive surgery be able to have as much fun as you.

        This faded when everybody who could use the keyboards felt superior to the console gamers, conclusively proven back in 07 or 08

      • AdmiralCheez says:

        Yeah, I found the default Deus Ex control scheme to be un-intuitive as well. I tried to figure out the logic behind it before just giving up and remapping the entire thing. There were keyboard commands for looking around, because apparently some people didn’t play with a mouse? Reload was bound to the semicolon, and a few other weird things.

        I don’t know how anyone could play with those controls back in the day, but I can definitely say that I wouldn’t have been able to finish it if I couldn’t remap them.

      • broken_research says:

        The lost art of today’s gaming generation is the illusive control scheme called ESDF. Sadly, the WASD proved the more popular choice, even though it has less buttons circled around it to prevail. I remember Q was flashlight, A was microfibral muscle, W was speed enhancement, Z was cloak, X was the defense system, and C was targeting. I can’t remember the other ones.

        Honestly, it gave me a lot easier to reach buttons in Deus Ex for augmentations. I used the same thing in Jedi Outcast so I could actually use force push, pull, choke, lightning, speed and so on without using the function keys.

  5. modus0 says:

    Sure, the graphics of the first two Thief games haven’t aged well, but for me, the games are the perfect examples of “story and gameplay are important, graphics are just the icing on the cake” ideal.

    Unlike Skyrim, which is the first game in a while that I can remember thinking “this looks beautiful,” and yet I don’t see myself getting a serious itch to play through it again in five years. Or even ten.

    I really, really, really want this game to live up to the legacy of the title, but after what little information they’ve offered up, my enthusiasm has waned. This game should be an almost guaranteed sale for any fan of the series, and yet I’m actually considering foregoing it if they drop everything but Garrett, his eye (though I would actually like it if they did away with that, at least to start), and his tools; because to me, that wouldn’t truly be Thief.

    • Tom says:

      Agreed about the replayability despite the ancient graphics. I find them more palatable in the darker levels, because you’re mostly seeing silhouettes, which don’t need detailed textures or a lot of polygons. One thing that helped enormously, however, is the dll tweak somebody made for the dark engine games that turns on post-processing on modern graphics cards. Even without changing poly count or textures at all, you’d be amazed how much better Thief 1 & 2 look merely with bloom turned on and tuned properly.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        For me part of the reason why the games work so well for replayability is that while you do remember the gist of it there is a lot of great details you forget.

        Actually, all this talk of Thief makes me want to replay the games again…

  6. JPH says:

    Having played Thief for the first time around 2011-ish, I can say that no, it is not an easy game to get into at all. But I wasn’t terribly bothered by the graphics. It was the clunky, archaic gameplay, the horrible AI and the obtuse level design that killed it for me.

    • Perhaps it was the circumstances in which I played the game, but I didn’t have that problem when I played Thief.

      You see, I had dedicated last summer to playing many of the games I had missed out on in the past. I first played Fallout and Fallout 2, followed by Deus Ex and then the first (ie. terrible) Hitman game, Codename 47.

      Then I had played Thief: Gold. I think playing through a lot of those older games, especially Codename 47, primed me to be in just the right state to really enjoy those old Thief games. The AI felt like that of any other stealth game from the era, even Deus Ex.

      Compared to other stealth games, I enjoyed Thief. Especially since it had some pretty good maps and the lean mechanic, which Dishonored would go on to take.

      I can see how the environments would be an issue. A lot of the levels in the first game were not as good, especially the level with the huge lava pit. Still, I appreciated it for what it was.

  7. Karthik says:

    Playing Thief: The Dark Project for the first time now. Actually, that’s not right. I’m playing it for the fourth time, but it’s the first time I’ve actually made any progress. I’m at the haunted cathedral, and I’m totally, utterly lost.

    I’m enjoying Thief’s minimalist world building and Garret’s sparse remarks, and like with any sufficiently atmospheric game, I stopped noticing the ugly graphics half an hour in, but I don’t quite see the appeal of the gameplay itself. That bonehoard crypt level was egregious. Wading through tunnel after featureless tunnel (or corridor/hallway) with a compass while being chased by undying zombies and Burricks was not fun or rewarding on any level.

    So no, Thief is not an easy game to get into. Were it not for the gushing praise poured all over it, I doubt I’d have finished the first mission. (I’m stuck on Thief 2 as well, in that hellish maze of identical corridors that is Shipping & Receiving)

    I didn’t have this problem with Deus Ex or System Shock 2, despite the former having levels just as large as Thief’s. Of course, I played these games first a decade ago, so maybe that’s the thing.

    I enjoyed the Assassins level though, so there’s that. It helped that the manor in that level was fairly small.

    • Wedge says:

      I’m currently playing Thief for the first time, too, and I found myself losing interest at the bonehoard, too. It’s just so big, featureless and plodding. Having finished that level, I’m having a hard time finding motivation to pick the game up again. I really enjoyed the first two levels, though.
      Not sure what that says about the game, or about me. It certainly is making it harder to fall in love with the game the way I probably would have if I had played it when it came out.

    • modus0 says:

      For most levels aside from the Bonehoard (and the Haunted Cathedral), the Map (M key IIRC) is really good for when you’re not sure where you are.

      • Karthik says:

        Even without using the map (except to orient myself at the beginning), I’ve enjoyed all the levels so far except those very two. Constantine’s mansion had me all trippy.

    • Shamus says:

      To be fair, this was always a problem in Thief. The whole “first-person stealth” thing was a new idea, and they seemed a little timid about embracing it outright. So we had “exciting” stuff like being chased by waves of zombies. Ugh. That section of the game is a drag. Garret even carries a sword, which seems silly. WHY WOULD I LUG AROUND A SWORD? Later the game became more “challenging” by having ceramic tile or metal floors, which cause MASSIVE NOISE because Garret apparently struts around in three-inch heels? It doesn’t make the game harder, it just makes it slower.

      The second game is much more focused and the level direction is better. But Garret is still lugging around a sword that nobody ever used. Less tile-floor shenanigans and more focus on observing patrol patterns.

      The third one was a large improvement to the gameplay. The sword was replaced with a dagger. The levels looked wonderful. The tile floor gameplay was gone. The flirtations with open-ended play seemed to work well enough. (Slink around the city picking pockets between missions.) But the levels were far too big to fit into console memory space, so they were all broken up into little chunks with loading screens that RUINED the flow. Also, they tried to make the cutscenes more visually impressive, which sometimes worked and sometimes made them look cheap and silly. (The late game ones were the worst.)

      It’s never been a perfect game, but it had its niche and a lot of unique ideas.

      • Even says:

        On the contrary, I used the sword a lot on burricks, spiders, skeleton soldiers, ratmen and crabmen.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Plus, even the slight misses seem to be corrections that are clustering around and toward a particular ideal. It may not be everybody’s ideal, but one can see where the changes are heading to. It’s like, on a range of letters, starting with A, the G, then C, and players getting that the place this thing is trying to get to is around D or E, and they’re looking forward to seeing how close the next one’s going to be.

        This, IMHO, does not seem to be going toward that same ideal anymore. The changes sound like this is now describing something in game position M, perhaps. Now, nobody’s saying M is a bad place to be or a bad game.. But it’s pretty far away from E, and the reasons for thinking that fans of the C and G games are gonna LOVE M aren’t clear. M might even be a fantastic game.

      • Did you hear that the new Thief is getting rid of the sword altogether? At the very least, they announced the return of the blackjack, bow, lockpicks, and the inclusion of a grappling hook in lieu of rope arrows without saying the sword will return.

        What are your thoughts on that?

        • Shamus says:

          That sounds particularly good.

          I never liked rope arrows because I wanted to hoard them. Sure, I could use one here, but I wouldn’t be able to recover it and I might need it later. I’ll just look for an alternate route.

          Giving you a proper grapple hook is a good change, IMO. There wasn’t any reason to rope-climbing to an economy.

          • moduso says:

            But you often could recover the rope arrows, just ones you couldn’t were mostly because you needed it to descend, or knew you would be coming back that way.

            • You’d need to have a decent timing in order to get your Rope Arrows back, which can be a pain in the ass. I’m in agreement that a grappling hook would be a much better alternative.

              • Even says:

                What do you mean with decent timing? Because unless the arrow hit a spot that is difficult or impossible to reach, there shouldn’t normally be anything to prevent you from reclaiming them.

  8. Wedge says:

    How well graphics age is always an interesting issue to discuss. I was personally aghast that my roommate hasn’t played the original Deus Ex, which is one of my favorite games. He just can’t get past how dated the graphics are. Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much–I didn’t play DX until years after it came out, and it wasn’t that good-looking a game even when it was new.
    Somewhat more recently, however, I went back to play Ulitma IV, because everyone praises it as the best thing since sliced bread and it was free on GoG. Holy crap could I not get past how incredibly dated it was, both in terms of graphics and controls. I think I played for about half an hour and gave up.
    This sort of thing does make me worry about how we’ll treat old games in the future. Compared to, say, movies, games age EXTREMELY quickly — most people can watch a movie from the 50′s or 30′s and not be bothered by the fact that it’s black-and-white or doesn’t have fancy special effects. But look at a game like Thief, which is a measly 15 years old, and so many people can’t get over how old it looks.

    • Mike S. says:

      I suspect “most people” is an overstatement: b&w, dated effects, and unfashionable acting styles all do mean that large fractions of the movie audience will ignore a movie or TV show. Syndication packages would often drop the black-and-white seasons of a show, and of course there was the colorization thing a couple of decades ago. (Which failed, but not because there was a sudden upswing in interest in the black and white originals.) Consider how many things are remade pretty much solely to update the effects, or that for practical purposes, something like two thirds of the movies in Hollywood history are effectively relegated to one cable channel.

      (I personally love TCM and think it’s awesome. But I also listen to old radio shows in my car, and maintain a healthy interest in Silver and to a lesser extent Golden Age comics. No one should make business decisions based on my interests.)

      Games are a younger medium and are undergoing more rapid change. There are certainly older games that can grab modern imaginations– the repurposing of some for mobile platforms demonstrates that. But still, there are hurdles to get over with an audience familiar with more recent games, and I suspect that games that lack visual polish (and often tend towards the unforgiving) will often be a harder sell. I’d also guess that the games that chose more cartoony and/or stylized looks go over better than cutting-edge high-polygon realism circa 2000.

  9. Cinebeast says:

    As much as I like to blather on about the importance of proper storytelling in games, I need to admit that I’m quite a graphics jade. I haven’t played Thief, but judging it solely by that screenshot (as unfair as that is), I would probably give up twenty minutes into it.

    Hell, I’ve only played through Morrowind once and will never do so again, merely because I have no nostalgia filter for the aged graphics. For that matter, even [i]Oblivion[/i] looks archaic to me. It doesn’t matter that Skyrim has a slighter technical range – it [i]looks pretty,[/i] and it [i]moves pretty,[/i] so I will never stop replaying it.

    I have no choice in the matter; I’m just naturally shallow about this sort of thing, even though I prefer to play RPGs with deep mechanics and stories.

    On that note, however, I still agree with Shamus regarding Nu!Thief – even looking at the game as a non-fan, it seems to be screwing itself over.

    • I’m going to be honest, I can ignore graphics generally, but Morrowind had other problems than just graphics. It had a lot of really bad design decisions.

      • Nordicus says:

        You leave my sweetheart Morrowind out of this!

        *glares*

      • Kavonde says:

        Yeah; when that big, massive Morrowind total graphical overhaul mod thing came out a few months ago, I was excited enough to dig out my disks and give it a shot. Unfortunately, for all the improved textures and pretty bloom effects, its actual gameplay is insanely clunky and obtuse compared to Oblivion and Skyrim.

        It makes me sad, knowing that Morrowind’s story and setting are so much more complex than “run errands for this guy so he can take all the credit for saving the world” and “zomg, dragons.” I want to explore Morrowind and get invested in its world, dammit. But I also want to hit that goddamned mudcrab when I swing my sword at it, what the hell, how could that have possibly missed?!

      • decius says:

        If someone compliments you a thousand times, does a thousand jumping jacks, and then naps in your bed for an hour, you are probably an NPC in Morrowind.

    • microwaviblerabbit says:

      Skyrim was built differently to most other graphically enhanced AAA games. The development team made a limited number of art assets, and then moved on. It is what they do in every game, so the focus can be moved to building the massive game environment. Super-important NPCs and randomly spawning bandits are designed using the same tools. There is very little, if any motion capture used, and people walk, run and fight with the same basic animations.

      But people don’t notice and/or don’t care because the time saved in development is spent creating massive ruins, giving each hold a distinct feel, and giving the game more depth. In the case of skyrim, they added a system for creating infinite quests, though it only produces rather bland kill/steal X missions, or fetch quests. Bethesda is a good example of Shamus’s wish that games would use a decent level of graphics that looks good, but not to spend stupid amounts of resources trying to attempt the pinnacle of technology.

  10. StashAugustine says:

    I tried Thief 1, and really couldn’t get into it. My first impression is that you can talk all you want about how graphics are a waste of time, but a game based around projectile weapons and firstperson melee combat better have decent animation. I eventually forced my way through the first level, said “All right, the combat is just absolutely laughable, but this is a stealth game. I shouldn’t just be swordfighting everyone, right? And it’s nice to have a big level to explore and sneak through.”

    Next level threw me at a bunch of zombies in a narrow corridor. Maybe Thief 2 is better.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ugh,the zombie level.That one was just a confusing mess.The problem is that its a maze,not that it has zombies.The later one with ghosts was somewhat better.But not the best.Thief 1,though it was about stealth,still relied on combat at times.2 is praised as the better one precisely because it went full stealth.Plus it has robots.

      • Tom says:

        My standard advice to any newcomer would be to play Thief 2 first, because I consider it to have the highest ratio of stuff-got-right to stuff-got-wrong and hence be the “true” Thief experience, then either 3 to continue the story, or Thief 1 (or, better, Thief Gold) for completeness and backstory to Thief 2, by which point the player will a) be experienced enough in gameplay to stand a chance against the zombie hordes, and b) be interested enough in the story to tolerate them.

    • Cupcaeks says:

      A fairly common complaint about the first Thief back in the day was that you spent more time dealing with monsters than doing much thieving (though to be fair, you could usually avoid them, or at the very least outrun them, which is what I would usually do since that sword was absolutely useless against zombies). If you’re still willing to give the second game a chance, it is WAY better in that regard. Most of the missions in Thief 2 actually revolve around pure thieving, and there’s even a bit of espionage. The levels are even larger as an added bonus. Plus, as mentioned above, steam powered robots (and cameras. How does that work? Who knows, but its awesome anyway).

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im calling it now:By 2015 we will have another game industry crash.And really,this one was easily avoidable,if only someone checked their history,and why so many companies went bankrupt in the earlier crashes(because they expected to sell millions of copies only to break even).

    A positive in this that usually a crash is followed by a boom of fresh companies doing it right with good games.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      For a while now following some gaming news and especially reading around here I was telling myself “oooookay, this is gonna end badly” and when THQ collapsed I thought this was the final warning bell. So far I can’t say I’ve seen anybody take that lesson to heart so I won’t be surprised if all those “too big to fail” companies start crumbling.

      Now at the risk of being too optimist or idealistic I think if/when it hits this crash may be a relatively soft one. We have all those indie devs and small studios that have gained enough recognition in recent years and are just waiting to grab all those gaming dollars coming from the fallout, the period of reconstruction after the cataclysm may be incredibly short in this case.

      • Klay F. says:

        When (not if) the industry DOES crash, it’ll only be the AAA studios and publishers to suffer. The Notchs, and the Jonathan Blows, and the Phil Fishs of the world will continue making games like they always have.

        The Titanic didn’t sink the moment it hit the iceberg. The same is true for multi-billion dollar corporations. Inertia is basically all that’s keeping the AAA industry afloat. But instead of manning the lifeboats, the publishers seem set on dragging every studio in their grasp down with them.

      • Supahewok says:

        I completely agree with the idea of a soft crash. I’ve seen quite a few people warn of an incoming complete Armageddon, but really, all I see is the biggest publishers tanking. I’m thinking EA and Squeenix in specific. Ubisoft, maybe. They seem to be the publisher most likely to learn from mistakes if given time, as shown by them moving away from always-on DRM. Still, they may not have enough time to learn from this mistake. Microsoft might drop. Their newest OS isn’t doing well, they’ve been losing ground to competitors in every electronics they’re in, and if the rumors of their always-on next console are true, then they’ll lose the console market. Nintendo’s having a wobbly, but it’ll pick up. It has too many money-printing IP’s that are due for release in the next couple of years to go down soon. Activision is the only big Western publisher that I think is relatively safe. I don’t recall them screwing up for the past couple of years, and there’s some value in CoD yet. Plus Blizzard will always make them obscene amounts of money, unless their next MMO really, really screws up. And of course Valve’s going to be around because they’ve set themselves up very, very well.

        So I think a couple of the big boys can survive. And unlike previous crashes, there’s a very healthy indie side of the industry to rebuild from. The only question is if the medium-size developer segment can make a comeback before the crash happens. If it can, then they’ll be in a prime position to become the next generation of big boys, if they so choose.

        After writing this, I’m honestly thinking that there’s not going to be a real crash, in the case that a crash implies that everything breaks at the same time. I think the crash is going to be drawn out over the next 4 years. It’s like a marathon; the big publishers have been running a marathon on the road of graphical fidelity and gargantuan advertising, and they’re starting to drop from exhaustion. THQ dropped dead first. The rest of them will be strung out on the road over the next few years.

        • Thomas says:

          The reason I don’t think there can be an actual crash is I don’t think the market is ever going to shrink. CoD players are going to be playing their games forever. FIFA people won’t stop playing FIFA. More people will play MMOs, more people will play games.

          The only way there can be an actual crash is if the market shrinks or people get way to excited about it’s possibilities and over-invest. I can’t see that happening since the growth of games is slowing down a bit instead of increasing exponentially and we’re old enough that people know what sort of income it creates.

          There could be small crashes. I think we might be in a bit of a casual games crash, everyones burnt out, everyone was super excited and it’s still really hard to monetize.

          And a company will fall. But the point is, if EA goes bankrupt, Activision makes more money and puts out more games and gets huge profits off of it.

          • Supahewok says:

            “The only way there can be an actual crash is if the market shrinks or people get way to excited about it’s possibilities and over-invest. I can’t see that happening since the growth of games is slowing down a bit instead of increasing exponentially and we’re old enough that people know what sort of income it creates.”

            Isn’t that exactly what’s happening now, though? Publishers are investing more and more into their games, and if they’re to be believed (most recent example is Tomb Raider, >3 million units sold = disappointment) they are not getting an equivalent return. All the people in the world can buy a game, but if too much money was spent on creating and marketing that game, you will still fail. At this time, it has become apparent that development spending is growing faster than the market is. It doesn’t matter that the market IS growing, the fact is that spending is growing FASTER. That’s why I think that this crash is going to be long and drawn out, as opposed to sudden like what I’ve seen others propose.

            Do agree on your point that the fall of some will strengthen the rest though, I hadn’t taken that into consideration. Looks like Acti-Blizz will definitely stay in business provided there isn’t some catastrophe. Wonder who else will live long enough to take advantage of the new market?

            Edit: I gotta get going but I would like to quickly add this: Shamus and others’ here favorite target for the cause of publisher overinvestment is the graphics race. I’ve come to believe that while that is a factor, a far more significant one from a publisher standpoint is the ludicrous amount spent on marketing. Increased marketing does increase your potential audience, but I think publishers are spending far more on some aspects on their marketing than they gain back.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    *sigh* the cutscenes…Why do people thing that fully animated cutscenes are automatically the best way to go?Art is the most important thing,and good still images are cheaper and easier to make than good movies.And so far I have encountered precisely 1 movie cutscene that has impressed me visually(the spellforce 1 intro).But there are plenty of still images from plethora of other games(like thief)that I enjoy.

    Though I think that interactive cutscenes beat both of them.You know,what half life series does,when something impressive is happening,but you are free to look wherever you want,or do whatever you want.Yes,you may miss it because of that,but that just makes it that much more interesting,because you have to look for it.

  13. Doran says:

    Every time there’s a new XP points column I see the photos of two Shamus’ the beardless and Sumahs his twin from the mirror universe. Which is the REAL Shamus?

  14. Kelhim says:

    Thief 1 and 2 are two of my most loved videogames of all times. I played both of them (again) in 2011 and 2012 respectively. No, their graphics are not beautiful by any means. In fact, hardcore Thief-players, who know all the secret places and dark corners in any level, were always fully aware that the games are not visually stunning: They saw the textures and models which were never meant to bear close examination over and over again. This is even more true compared to today’s standards.

    Still, the games’ appeal has never been the graphics in the first place, but the game play and the unique atmosphere. The fact that you never saw Garret’s face and barely those of his opponents, and that you never confronted them directly in game play was responsible for a great amount of the mystery around the master thief and The City. Of course, these were art decisions based on the technical possibilities of the time they were made in, and the developers would have most definitely created another game with today’s possibilities, but the point stands that the first two games created this distinctive art style and game play which made them such a success and a legend.

    It would be very sad if the developers, despite all their claims to respect Thief’s legacy, make Thief less distinct. My fear is not that Thief 4 (or however it will be called) could become a mediocre Thief game compared to its predecessors, but that it could become a game that shares with them only the title and some sort of stealth game play, and otherwise tries to impress players with secondary virtues like graphics and cinematics instead of with gripping stories and constant suspense.

    PS: Thief: Deadly Shadows is a great game, too, even a great Thief game. It could have been a fantastic Thief game were it not for their self-imposed console-orientied limitations.

  15. wererogue says:

    For me, Grimrock was a shining example of Doing It Right. Cheap and cheerful, an enormous leap forward for a dead genre *without* tacking on all the Hollywood bells and whistles.

  16. Triple-A game development strategy, translated to war:

    “Sir, our armies have once again been routed by the enemy. Their superior tactical prowess has defeated our extravagant uniforms!”

    “Have the generals flogged and put their lieutenants to the death. Now get the men even flashier uniforms. THIS time we’ll be victorious!”

  17. JPH says:

    Addendum:

    There are two recent stealth games that I think are carrying on the spirit of Thief really well. (The first one came out last year, it was called Mark of the Ninja and I’ve been raving about it ever since it got put on PC; the second one is coming out this month, but I played the prototype and thought it was quite good, it’s called Monaco.)

    Both games do a great job of providing sprawling, open-ended levels with a multitude of tools to use in various situations. Monaco is especially Thief-like, as is also encourages you to steal as many riches from each level as possible by turning it into a scoring mechanic. It’s also being built primarily for cooperative play, which seems really interesting.

    I think part of why Mark of the Ninja and Monaco work so much better for me than Thief is because their levels are a lot less confusing. Making your game in 2D seems better, or at least easier, than 3D when it comes to building big, sprawling levels that don’t turn into frustrating rat mazes.

    • I will say that especially in regards to the first Thief, the level design was pretty bad. Thief 2 is where they began to focus more on stealth and larger layouts that made more sense, so they were easier to navigate.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Now if only either of those were in any way three-dimensional first-person games, like Thief was.
      People have been ragging when I say that this new Thief, to me, seems to maintain the old Thief’s features – and here we have things that “carry the spirit of the old Thiefs” that have completely different game foundation! How does that even work? Next you’ll suggest that pentadactic poetry about being unseen carries the spirit of old Thiefs…

      • Supahewok says:

        Think what he’s referring to is the fact that in all three of those games you can’t outfight a wet cat in a paper sack. Thereby making stealthy play a must. This is unlike games such as Skyrim and Deus Ex, or even Metal Gear Solid, that have stealth elements to a greater or lesser degree but if you’re caught you can probably fight your out.

      • JPH says:

        Saying that Monaco is not like Thief is like saying that Borderlands is not like Diablo. Superficially they’re structured differently, sure – one’s a top-down 2D game and one’s a first person game – but they’re both about hiding in shadows, distracting guards, stealing as many riches as you can and then escaping. The inspiration from Thief is very obvious.

        Mark of the Ninja, too – it’s all about watching how hidden you are and how much noise you’re making, and exploring complex levels with a variety of guards and alarm triggers. You can quietly and carefully pacify the guards or sneak past them entirely, and there are loads of collectibles to find along the way.

    • Karthik says:

      How is Mark Of The Ninja like Thief? It makes you feel like a predator, not a thief. Also, its level design is very set-piece based, where you go from hall to hall in a linear progression clearing out or avoiding enemies. Basically, it’s a chain of small puzzles and you’ll reach your objective so long as you keep going right.

      • Khizan says:

        Cause you’re absolutely terrible at combat and need to get the jump on EVERYBODY, making stealth mandatory regardless of your approach.

        Also, because there’s basically no difference between a Stealth Kill and the Magic Blackjack of Unconsciousness.

        • JPH says:

          Yeah, I was referring more to the game’s devotion to pure stealth rather than action with stealth as a side option.

          Also, Mark of the Ninja does a great job at providing a multitude of different tools to approach obstacles in different ways. There’s a great deal of complexity and depth to its gameplay, which I don’t think I’ve seen in a stealth game other than Thief (or the Thief series, I guess I should say).

  18. Jeysie says:

    “It’s just that we’d like to see studios stop financially destroying themselves.”

    Actually… I’d be OK with this. Not out of any particular hatred or vindictiveness, but because at this point the game industry might benefit from the AAA publishers dying under their own silliness and letting the smaller and indie folks rebuild a new industry with more foreknowledge under their belts, simply because the AAA publishers are currently stuck under a system they can’t back out of.

    (Granted… I’ll admit I have less skin in this game, seeing as how all the game genres I like are currently only being produced by indies anyway, and all the IPs I really like are dead in the water no matter what or being made by said indies. But it still seems like a clean reboot of the industry could do wonders for everybody.)

  19. Even says:

    The most glaring thing about that screenshot is death looming 3 seconds away unless you were considering changing your tactical plan within the next few eyeblinks.

  20. Bubble181 says:

    I never thought grpahics were really that big of an issue. UI, to me, is a much bigger hurdle. I could never get into Fallout – I only tried it for the first time in 2011 or something, and…Well, there’s just too much things I take for granted. Say, right-clicking my mouse, or using the arrow keys, or remapping keys (I don’t actually remember if FO allowed remapping…Maybe only partially? Anyway, we non-qwerty-users got shafted :p).

    • StashAugustine says:

      It’s generally the animation that kills it for me. I’m fine with low-poly models as long as you have a half-decent art direction, but seriously, Thief looks like the characters are all badly done marionettes.

    • Humanoid says:

      I played Sid Meier’s Covert Action for the first time last year. Being a 1990 release, the graphics were predictably primitive, indeed like other MPS games it might have looked outdated even back then. But that wasn’t an issue at all really.

      But the controls – ugh, your actions were almost all inexplicably mapped to the function keys of all things. And no mouse support. It was a very odd feeling indeed to play with one hand over the F-keys and the other over the numpad.

      Anyway, it was a fun little game, sort of like an expanded “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” – played it heavily for about two-three weeks, but ultimately it didn’t have enough variety for any real longevity.

    • Supahewok says:

      Gotta agree with you there. I CANNOT get into the original X-Com because of the horrible interface. (horrible by our modern standards, at any rate)

      I can play the Infinity Engine games alright though. Along with Deus Ex. The cut off point for me seems to be around the mid-90′s, with the only exceptions being MOO 1&2.

  21. Daimbert says:

    The basic idea is that you should improve the graphics so that you improve the gaming experience. The problem is that it isn’t always easy to figure out what that means. People in this comment thread have said to do it in the gameplay and don’t worry about it in the cutscenes. But that seems to me to be an action/FPS-centric perspective. For RPGs, the immersion, at least for me, comes from how the story is presented, and cutscenes are a big part of that. So I’d rather see more effort put into the cutscenes, especially for games where you don’t actually need top-of-the-line graphics in the gameplay to play the game properly. For example, I recently played Growlanser II on the PS2, as well as Disgaea 2, and they have poor, 2-bitish graphics with static pictures for important scenes. But because they have turn-based combat, you don’t need more than that for the combat; you can see everything you need to see well-enough for the gameplay. But adding the images to the story parts is really nice and adds a lot to my enjoyment of the games.

    So, different genres will require you to put your graphics power in different places, and different people will have different preferences in what they want to see. And that’s without even thinking about cross-genre games.

    For all of the things, there’s a minimum graphics level that you need to make the game playable and enjoyable at all (which also fits in with the B&W idea with movies and the like). Once you’ve hit that, it can only improve the game and give you an edge on your competition. And then you get into the complexities of trying to gain that edge. Add in that a lot of these companies don’t really know that their customers care about, and you get “Make everything as pretty as possible, no matter how much it costs, because reviewers will talk about it and so we don’t want to risk them talking about our outdated graphics”. Which also shows that a lot of casual game buyers don’t really know what they want either [grin].

  22. Zekiel says:

    Every time Thief and Thief 2 are discussed, I feel tremendously guilty. I’ve played both (more of the second) but never finished either, in spite of two attempts at the Metal Age. I adore the setting, eavesdropping on conversations, Garrett’s musings and the design and feel of The City. But I just don’t have the patience for the gameplay. If I’m spotted, I’m not good enough to escape so it becomes a game of save-and-reload every 5 minutes. And I get too frustrating waiting for a guard to walk slowly down the hall, wait for him to turn his back (Save) and then creep past…

    Dishonored was more my style – ability to relatively easily take out guards if need be, and the “cheat” mechanics of Bend Time and Dark Vision to fall back on in a tricky situation.

    So sadly nu-Thief actually had a reasonable chance of being my sort of game, with the Focus mechanic that sounds like it’ll give you a chance to escape situation you’ve messed up, and (probably) canned takedown animations that will relieve me of some of the burden of needing to be skilful.

    I know, I’m a terrible person.

    (But I still think nu-Garrett looks ridiculous, and the fact that apparently they’re ditching “taffer” in favour of actual swearwords makes me deeply, deeply sad)

  23. Rack says:

    When I first got a gaming PC Thief 1 was one of the first games I got for it and I still remember it as a shining example as to why I hated playing games on PCs. It used something like 80 keys and completely wrecked the sense I had on console games that the controller was part of my body.

  24. GTRichey says:

    The the $30 dollars extra we pay here in AUS (and no they can’t fool me with that $89.95 nonsense) is why whenever possible I buy games direct from the studio (if it’s indie) or from GOG (since they’re “trusting their users” when it comes to regional pricing) whenever possible. What makes it worse, is that on top of the price hike, steam attracts a foreign transaction fee. Blegh it sucks to like games and live in Australia.

    • Humanoid says:

      The foreign exchange fee is levied by your bank, or indirectly by Paypal (by way of an inferior exchange rate compared to paying by credit card) if you go that route. Fortunately it is avoidable, some credit cards have no such fees, or indeed any fees at all, though the norm is 2-3%.

      A couple of the fee-free cards I know of are the 28 Degrees card and the Bankwest Zero Platinum card. Both have no fees whatsoever, including no annual fee.

  25. Adam Rhodes says:

    I maintain the belief that the peak of graphics vs gameplay is Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube. GameCube levels of processing power and disk space and it looks fantastic. All these titles coming out now look super detailed and it really is unnecessary. I don’t need to see every grain of dirt on your tough, grizzled protagonist’s face so you can show me how tough and grizzled he is.

  26. Ski says:

    I sincerely hope some fans produce 2D cutscenes to replace the 3D cutscenes in this new Thief game. Hopefully the game will come with editing tools powerful enough to do such a thing.

  27. I only started playing Deus Ex back in 2010 and I still find it to be one of if not the best game I’ve ever played.

    I only started playing Thief last year and… well, I’ll be honest, it’s not my cup of tea. I can get past the graphics no problem, so it’s not that. Hell, I rarely if ever give a damn about graphics (unless, of course, it involves a really crappy frame rate). No, I just have a problem with the massive number of buttons required to play it and the fact I lack the patience and finesse for stealth games in the first place.

    As I managed to play Dishonoured all the way through, though, I think the problem is less the finesse and more the buttons and having to readjust to them every single time I get back to Thief after ages of being away from it.

  28. Pedro says:

    Noone mentioned the gfx upgrades that can be had for free over at the TTLG forums? Seriously! Get you asses over there ASAP and get the TFix / New Dark patch / Tafferpatcher upgrades:

    http://www.ttlg.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=83

  29. Put these ideas on the table so that both parties are aware of, and
    in agreement ith them. ) tthe Resty – Lift is safe, effective and non-invasive.

    To Colleen’s surprise, her parents ere not angry aat her.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!