Errant Signal: Thief (1998)

By Shamus
on Feb 24, 2014
Filed under:
Video Games

Chris and I have both picked up the new Thief game, which officially launches tonight. Over the past week we’ve been seeing early leaks, sneak peaks, and even embargo-defying live streams of the game. This title has every indication of being shockingly awful. I guess I’ll find out for myself tonight.

In the meantime, Chris played through the original and broadcast an Errant Signal about it:


Link (YouTube)

Thief is such an odd specimen in the history of games. Campster gives the game 15 minutes, and there are still a lot of things about the game that he didn’t mention. You could probably fill an hour-long documentary on the game if you set your mind to it. It was unique then, and it’s unique now.

Cutscenes

thief1_1.jpg

This is a game where the creators knew their limits and designed around them. Thief was made during the heyday of FMV games. A lot of people (myself included) thought that FMV looked pretty cornball, even when it was the hot new thing. On the other hand, CGI cutscenes of the day, while better, were still stilted and awkward.

Thief took a really interesting approach to the problem. They used live-action actors in silhouette against hand-painted backgrounds. While it might not look amazing today, it’s aged better than just about anything else from the same time period.

Stealth

thief1_2.jpg

Chris was right about how the game feels sort of timid with its stealth gameplay. They gave Garret a sword and there were spots in the game where combat was more or less unavoidable. The tutorial spent quite a bit of time teaching you how to sword-fight and murder people with bows. To the people of 1998, this game looked like a “first person shooter”, and I always got the impression that the devs were afraid of people getting bored if they didn’t get to kill something every couple of minutes. I think it’s pretty well understood today that players will happily avoid combat as long as the stealth mechanics are done right, but back then this probably felt like a huge gamble. In Thief 2 they finally embraced the all-sneaking approach, but it wasn’t until Thief: Deadly Shadows* that Garret finally stopped carrying that stupid gigantic sword around.

* Can we just call this Thief 3, since that’s clearly what they should have done in the first place?

I also really appreciate what Chris said regarding mobility. Other stealth games want the player to be as mobile as possible, letting you hop around in the shadows so you can ambush dudes. But Thief’s system of making you more visible when you’re moving forces the player to hold still and wait for foes to come to them. It’s one of the things that make the game so darn tense and scary.

Level Design

thief1_3.jpg

Yes, the game really struggles in places. I don’t know that I’d indict the levels as “too big” but rather “too unfocused”. There are a lot of long featureless tunnels, nonsensical areas, and a few unfortunate spots of artistic overreach. Some of the things they were trying to portray (like the submarine in Thief 2) required more detail and complexity than their given engine could really deliver. The Dark Engine was fine for man-made spaces (the cities in Thief and the Von Braun sections in System Shock 2) and turned ugly when used for organic things. (The “woodsie” parts of Thief or the Bio-tunnels of The Many in System Shock 2.) There were a lot of areas of the Thief 1 levels that felt like mazes for their own sake: No loot, no detail, no lore. Just a lot of walking and arbitrary no-source lights.

Thief 3 solved one problem while giving us another. The engine was finally able to keep up with the twisting rounded spaces they wanted to make. We finally had focused places that were full of detail. Spaces made slightly more sense and the lighting was finally able to deliver visuals in keeping with the gameplay and atmosphere. At the same time, levels were ruinously small, smothering the gameplay and choking off player movement. It was tragic. For me the ideal Thief game would be Thief 3 with all the balkanized levels stitched together to remove the loading screens. That was a sweet spot visually, and I’d be happy to stick with those 2004 graphics but with 2014 memory constraints. It would give us the best of both worlds.

Sixteen years. If Thief was a person, it would be ready to graduate from high school next year. It’s a shame about how this reboot has turned out. As Chris pointed out, this series occupies an odd space on the family tree of games. It has one sibling (System Shock 2) and one real descendant (Dishonored) and little else. Maybe we could count Deus Ex as a second cousin. It’s always been more of a cult-following type game than a blockbuster, which means there isn’t a lot of room for it in today’s market of huge budgets, linear environments, and trailer-focused game design. It’s entirely possible that the Thief reboot was doomed before they wrote the first line of code. Even if the early buzz is wrong and the game is fantastic, I’m not sure there are enough people out there who want a tense, slow-paced game of un-empowered sneaking and bloodless infiltration.

Then again… Judging by how many people just want to rob everyone blind in Skyrim, it’s possible there’s a really large untapped market for open-world larceny.

EDIT: Rock, Paper, Shotgun has praised the game. RPS is a hard-core PC gaming site and they’re apparently longtime fans of the series. I hold their opinion in high regard, and John Walker has proclaimed the game to be Not Terrible, with occasional moments of Brilliant. So there’s hope.

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  1. Phrozenflame500 says:

    Reviews seem to be ~6-7 for whatever that’s worth. Fairly mediocre score for a AAA game.

    Waiting to see more indepth coverage after it actually comes out.

    • rofltehcat says:

      The reviews really seem to be a bit over the place. Of course even the higher ratings are low/mediocre for AAA games but we’ll really have to see how it plays out in the end.

      However, I really wonder which systems the different reviews were done on. PC-centered TotalBiscuit for example seemed to have a rather good impression of it in his 50 minutes video (a long time of which was taken up by a settings orgasm).

      Especially all the difficulty toggles/restrictions seem pretty intriguing and some reviewers might not have changed them and expected the game to be more similar to the old Thief games. This might also be one of the points where the division might come from.

      • Mersadeon says:

        Yeah, TB liking it was really suprising. I hadn’t seen any of the leaked stuff or much of the promo material, I only heard from people about that. TB was so positive about it that I would consider buying it, if my PC was in any shape to not explode while playing it.

        • jarppi says:

          According to other reviews the story seems to be a problem in Thief. Totalbiscuit reviews games with emphasis more on gameplay mechanics and level design than on the story so he linking it seems logical.

          Personally I’m not so convinced. For me it looks like a game I pick next year when I get it with a much lower price.

          • Amnestic says:

            Granted I’ve never been hugely into the Thief series, I think I maybe played it once, but going off of the things mentioned by Shamus in the main post and Chris in his video, story didn’t seem to be a major focus in the older games either. The world, sure, but that’s different to the story (though the two can overlap).

            But I’m talking from ignorance both of the new game and the older ones, so I dunno.

          • rofltehcat says:

            Entirely possible. TotalBiscuit even made a very insightful video about it because of the general reaction to his Thief video:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpmeOB0Zyu0

            Either way, I preordered a Thief key earlier today because I love stealth games etc. However, it is one of those reimported keys (because I’m a cheap bastard and don’t want to pay full price for a game that probably won’t be all that long).

        • Humanoid says:

          He liked XCOM and then he didn’t like XCOM, so I respect the changeable opinion. In general I’d like to see a whole lot more of one/three/six-month later type re-reviews. They’d presumably mostly be revisits of positive reviews since they’re the games one is more likely to keep playing after the initial review period. Don’t need to go as far as the constant re-scoring of SimCity, of course.

    • MrGuy says:

      I’m actually curious if this is really considered a AAA game. Yeah, it’s made by a big studio, and it’s an established franchise. But given the timing of when it’s coming out, and the relatively modest marketing push (I hadn’t realized the launch date until I saw this post…), I’m not sure if it’s a game with AAA expectations.

      • Mersadeon says:

        Sure is a game with an AAA pricetag, though…

        • Rosseloh says:

          Honestly, I was probably going to pick it up fairly soon regardless – whether something convinced me at launch or I waited for Shamus’ opinion.

          What pushed me over the edge was that they only charged $50. In an age where every other “AAA” game is $60, that convinced me.

          (whether it’s worth the $50 is another thing entirely but I’ve had fun in the 3 or 4 hours I’ve played so far)

      • aldowyn says:

        Well, the game this is most like in recent years is Dishonored, and I certainly wouldn’t call that AA. This is closer, but maybe not. It depends on how strict you are with the term.

        It certainly *looks* like a AAA game, though.

  2. Mathias says:

    It seems like a fairly divisive title so far, which is interesting.

    I’ve never played any of the Thief games. I have Deadly Shadows in my endless Steam backlog, but I’ve never gotten around to actually playing it. Hoping toget around to that one of these days, since I’ve always liked stealth games.

    Though I hear all the games are balls-hard, and I’ve never been very good at stealth, so who knows. Maybe the reboot will be more accessible to someone like me in the same way Dishonored was, though I disliked the absurdly power fantasy-y nature of Dishonored.

    • modus0 says:

      While you can play Deadly Shadows without having played the first two Thief games, I can assure you that quite a few of the (somewhat hidden) references will be missed.

      I’d compare it to a person that doesn’t read comics watching Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers: They’ll probably enjoy it, but won’t pick up on some of the references like a comics fan would.

      Also, and this is for anyone looking to play through Deadly Shadows: install John P’s Texture Pack. It’s higher resolution than the default textures and has an option to change the “loot glint” from a neon blue to a more muted (but still noticeable) copper.

  3. aldowyn says:

    So the reviews are out, and I spent a fair amount of time reading up on it. (2~ hours, although TB’s vid was 50 minutes long for no good reason) I haven’t played any of the older thief games, and I’m not eager to play this one, but it doesn’t look as bad as some of the early coverage. Sounds like it has some really good ideas but can’t quite pull it off most of the time. Most reviews say around a 7 or 8.

    Personally, I particularly like how it actually shows garrett picking everything up and picking locks and such instead of stuff just disappearing in a jingle of coins.

  4. Wulfgar says:

    For me level size and very general map is positive aspect of the game. Like in case of searching for right key, it enhances experience. You need to stop, study a map and look for orientation points. You considering approaches. It feels like you are thief. Today either areas are small and linear or you “hunt for quest arrows” on a map. You don’t think, you don’t search you, you don’t read, you don’t solve, you just push W key until you get to a marker.

    • MrGuy says:

      Completely agree with this. The need to explore with no more concrete direction is “somewhere north of the fountain I guess?” was core mechanic, and really helped (for me) establish the realism. I find it weird in most games that you’re running around an unfamiliar building in a strange city and knowing exactly the layout of the rooms and which one your target is in (looking at you, Hitman….)

      That said, it’s realism that is somewhat deliberately frustrating. Fumbling around and getting caught because the treasure room wasn’t where you thought it was is annoying. It’s not DIAS stupid – it has a purpose. But I can see why so many people dislike it.

      • Abnaxis says:

        I would love a game where you were given written directions like you used to get instead of a quest arrow like it is now (and I mean REAL directions–I’m looking at you, Morrowind).

        The funny thing is, the arrow is toggle-able in a lot of games, like all Bethesda games. The problems is, any game that gives you a quest arrow assumes you will use it and will give no indication of where you need to go outside of the quest arrow.

        I tried turning the arrow off in both Oblvion and Fallout 3, and begrudgingly turned it back on because I went from following the arrow to looking quests up on a wiki, since no NPC would tell me in words where I was supposed to go.

        The pointer is removable in Thi4f, but I suspect it is similarly not optional.

  5. True Story:

    A friend who was working on Thief: Deadly Shadows at Ion Storm invited me to come to their office to do a play test. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me that the test would be done on an XBox, and I had neglected to tell him that I was a PC-exclusive player.

    A man armed with a clipboard, who identified himself only as an “independent researcher”, took me to a small dark office and handed me a controller. He booted up the game and instructed me to “play the game” while he observed.

    I proceeded to immediately run Garret into a corner where he got inexorably STUCK.

    After watching me hopeless spin Garret around in circles for about 15 minutes, Mr. Independent Researcher finally rescued me, only to have me get stuck again a few minutes later.

    My Observer finally gave up on me completely after about 45 minutes of watching me spin Garret in circles and run him into walls.

    I can only imagine what the notes on his clipboard said about my session!

    • syal says:

      “More wide open rooms: players enjoy spinning around.”

    • MrGuy says:

      “Movement tutorial should be set to trigger at 44 minutes of being stuck on wall.”

    • rofltehcat says:

      Very interesting.
      I’d expect internal playtests to often have stuff like that happen and I’d expect “external non-professional testers” to be the best at finding bugs like the ones mentioned. However, I guess it would depend on when (=on which versions) those tests are done.

      When was this playtest roughly?

      It would seem strange though that they’d leave you stuck in those bugs for so long. Even being stuck for 3 minutes or so should be too much.

      But it reminds me of that one time in WoW when I fell into a cone-shaped hole in the ground and couldn’t even teleport out because at the bottom of the cone shape I couldn’t stand. I wrote a GM ticket and after 30 minutes or so eventually managed to escape the hole by bug-wall-walking (walking along walls was possible if you’d walk perfectly parallel to them) several times around the cone.
      I left the ticket open but the GM wasn’t interested in that buggy location at all. Apparently being able to escape a terrain bug by abusing other bugs (that not that many people could do) is a perfectly fine solution for an issue like this.

      • Humanoid says:

        They were feeling merciful that day, otherwise they might have banned you for exploiting the terrain glitch. :P

      • aldowyn says:

        wait, did WoW not have a /stuck mechanic?

        • Humanoid says:

          It does, but a rather iffy feature. I gather it basically just clicks your hearthstone for you, i.e. a teleport back ‘home’, and triggers the cooldown as normal (which is bloody inconvenient), or otherwise it just attempts to shift you in a random direction. Once. If it fails then you’re waiting for a GM, because apparently the automatic feature has a 5 minute cooldown because reasons.

          In the situation such as that described above, you can’t even do that, because it’s implemented as a spell, and to cast the spell you need to be standing still. In WoW as in many games with iffy geometry detection, a lot of the places will have you stuck in the falling pose, and therefore considered to be continuously moving.

  6. BeardedDork says:

    I too just replayed Thief for probably the first time since shortly after it came out, it is not the game I remembered. I remember it being not great compared to Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid, but I didn’t remember how clunky the controls were and how it sort of feels like Garret is drunk all the time.

    • Tom says:

      I found that it wasn’t so much that the controls in the first games were clunky, (they’re actually quite sophisticated, but they’re optimised for extremely slow, cautious gameplay, so they can feel weird and frustrating to people used to just about any other, faster paced game – also those levels where the designers decided to give you no cover and make you run and/or fight a lot, which they did way too much in the first game. Played at what feels, to me, like the natural control speed, I find a single T1/T2 level can take up to half an entire day) so much as that you were often required to use them with phenomenal precision without any feedback other than success/fail; in particular, I had massive difficulty in judging exactly where to hit things.

      It’s fair and realistic and acceptable that you have to learn to judge elevation with the bow to get a good hit, but what’s not fair or realistic is how *incredibly* hard it is to jump up, grab a grabbable ledge and shim up and over it silently. It should be a wonderful mechanic that greatly helps the game, and it is when it works, but it’s just way, way too twitchy. You have to learn by trial and disastrous error, since if you don’t do it just right, you’ll fall back and make an almighty racket when you hit the ground. If you’re trying for a stealth run (i.e. to play the game properly) that usually means reloading, which in T1/T2 is sloooow.

      I’m all right with the bow, not great, but, in years of playing, I’ve never got the knack of silent ledge climbing. My success rate must be about 1%. If only they’d had the sense to either make the area you have to hit to grab a ledge larger, or have some kind of indication of when you’re lined up right to grab a ledge, or even of which ledges can be grabbed. Or just indicate as you fall off whether you jumped too high or too low, or maybe you only fall if you jump too low but if you’re too high you can still get it when you fall down with maybe a tiny bit of noise Or maybe have a diagram in the instruction manual showing just what the game engine actually considers to be the right way to do it, because that’s what I’ve never been able to figure out. Doesn’t have to be some immersion-shattering glow or an extra HUD gauge, Garrett just has to holster whatever he’s carrying and move his hands into position to grab, or draw breath for the jump, or something. But that’s late-2000s game design talking. In the late 90s, it would probably have been a gauge or some kind of highlight.

      Short version: the controls are actually good; the feedback telling you how well you’re using them is what’s clunky.

      • karthik says:

        The Dark Mod gets around this mantling imprecision by assigning it to a key different from jump. If you can’t mantle, the key does nothing.

        The Dark Mod actually fixes many problems with the Thief series.

        • Tom says:

          Shame OpenDarkEngine was never finished, or we might have been able to play the original games with those fixes.

          You know, since the publishers seem, if anything, even more eager to act as if previous games never existed than they were when they made Deadly Shadows anyway, I’d have been perfectly happy if they’d just remade the entire first three games in a modern engine with modern controls and design, keeping the plots identical, and called that the new Thief. They could even have just used the original voice files and cutscenes, since the style of the cutscenes has indeed aged so phenomenally well that I’m amazed nobody else has imitated it yet.

      • BeardedDork says:

        I don’t know, there are two many buttons that I never use, I don’t use buttons to turn, I don’t want to run. The buttons I want to use are a row lower on the keyboard than I expect them to be so I’m constantly doing something other than I intended. I spend a lot of time saying, “nope that’s not what I wanted,” and then getting hit in the face with a hammer while I try to remember that the sword is 1 and not q because my hand is still lower on the keyboard than I expected. I also hate the sword and regular arrows and forget I have them. It seems like the gimmick arrows shouldn’t be necessary so I often forget I have them too, except the water arrows I use them as often as my budget allows.

  7. Tizzy says:

    Once again, it seems like the story is an afterthought. It’s not a deal-breaker, of course, but it makes me sad. Once again, our eyes will be hurting from rolling them constantly during dialogues…

    • karthik says:

      And yet the devs said the QTEs(since removed), cutscenes, cinematic escape sequences and the attendant cutscene stupidity where Garrett suddenly becomes an idiot were justified because they were going all in on narrative.

      Oddly, “the serious narrative” was also the justification for why you can’t jump freely in the game.

      • shamann says:

        It’s beneficial in this case to note that despite often being used as such, narrative and story don’t mean the same thing. Story is content, narrative is structure. A lot of games like this are often heavy on the narrative (e.g. the telling, usually by guiding/forcing the player through a linear set of master events), but weak on the story (e.g. having something interesting to tell).

        I believe Eidos when they say a lot of the junk was in service of the narrative, because getting that beginning-middle-end structure in these types of games seems to be the thing that matters most to these kinds of game makers.

    • Tom says:

      Funny thing – in what a lot of people consider the best Thief game, Metal Age, the designers actually deliberately did that. They focused on good level design first, and fitted the story around it. It’s in the making-of video they did at the time, I think. It wasn’t exactly an afterthought, but it wasn’t the primary goal.

      Maybe things can work out OK if you consciously plan to make the story secondary to the design, rather than let it fall into that position by sheer neglect.

      • Tizzy says:

        I used to think I was a story fanatic, but after reading a lot of thoughtful pieces and comments, especially on this blog, I’ve come to realize that I’m not really.

        A game is a game, so good mechanics in the service of a good environment should come first. When I really enjoyed the story in a great game, and then I learn that it was added later, it always stings a little, because it feels so unnatural; I think it’s because our first contact with the game is through its story, before we learn the mechanics.

        But, ultimately, not only don’t I mind this; I actually think mechanics/environment first is probably the only sensible way to develop a game: if you do the story first, you may find that you are unable to develop mechanics that do it justice.

        That doesn’t mean that the story is not important, though; and if the order of development makes tacking on the story slightly more difficult for writers, there is still no excuse for some of the ludicrous slop we’re being fed. Especially in AAA games. I remember the 80’s when most games didn’t have to have a story, the 90’s when the story were often a thinly-veiled pretext. But if you’re going to have actual writers in your budget, they’d better deliver something!

        • Abnaxis says:

          For my 2¢, I don’t like saying absolutely that games have to prioritize either gameplay or story. I think that stories told through games can be more compelling than in many other mediums, and in these cases the story should take top priority. On the other hand, there are a ton of games that I enjoy with no story whatsoever, that would be completely ruined if someone tried to tack a narrative to them.

          Instead of saying story is the most important thing first, I think what should happen is games need to decide up front on what is important, and try to do that thing well. If tight mechanics are the most important, then streamline the mechanics and worry about story later. If story is what’s important, then get that right and maybe the gameplay suffers if it doesn’t fit with the tone of the story.

          I think where AAA games suffer is that they try to be all things to all people, and that is expensive and intractable from a design perspective. Compelling gameplay conflicts in many ways with driving narrative, and while throwing money at the problem seems to be a popular reaction from big publishers, it doesn’t address the fundamental conflict.

  8. Mersadeon says:

    My first and only Thief game was Deadly Shadows. While I agree that the levels were tiny, I have to always say that it has one of the best, unexpected horror levels ever. So harsh was my terror, I couldn’t even finish it. I would play until I met the first real enemy of the level and then just never touch it again, because after what felt like HOURS of foreshadowing and building up the atmosphere, I would have run away from a mouse, not to speak of whatever unnatural monster that was.

    • modus0 says:

      I think what actually made that level so damn scary was that the rest of the game wasn’t a horror game.

      I can practically ghost that level, and I *still* dont’ like going through it.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Oh sweet Eris yes. Every few years I get a craving to replay all three Thief games in succession and whenever I reach the Cradle I need to take a break unless it’s full daylight. I’m very much not a horror player.

      • Tom says:

        Have you tried the cathedral?

        EDIT: Not to say the T3 horror level isn’t awesome. Just wondered how everyone thinks it compares.

        • modus0 says:

          Which cathedral? There’s at least one in each game.

          The one in the first game wasn’t really scary, maybe a bit tense but not as scary.

          Maybe it’s because Zombies aren’t as fast as the Puppets, and don’t have that unsettling effect on nearby lights.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes.Thief 3,while lacking in plenty of aspects compared to 2,has the best horror level Ive ever played.And its considered by almost everyone to be one of the scariest sequences in a video game ever.

      • Tom says:

        Yeah, and all that despite the fact that console constraints meant that even that wonderful, beautiful, terrifying level had a load-zone slap-bang in the centre of it.

    • Disc says:

      It didn’t felt as scary to me as did it oppressive and creepy as hell. Sneaking through the place, I expected trouble at every freaking corner. The nigh-invulnerable enemies stopped being threatening when I realized you could just flashbomb them and they’d never come back up again.

      • Tom says:

        I have a feeling that at the highest difficulty level (which, it should be remembered, a nasty bug meant that you would often think you were playing at when actually you had defaulted back to the easiest, in the original release) they get up even after being flashbombed. Not that I usually consider it worthwhile to play thief 3 on anything except easy; I play games for plot, path choice, character interaction (Garrett eavesdropping counts!) and atmosphere more than anything else. T1 & T2 are different, because sometimes even whole new areas of levels open up at the harder settings, so completism and just plain value for money come into play there.

      • Disc says:

        “It didn’t felt as scary to me as did it”

        I.. I should stop typing in a hurry. I really should. That’s just horrible.

  9. Patrick the waffle maker says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to reboot Nethack.

    • syal says:

      With minute-long cutscenes and massive character development.

      That trigger every time you cross a certain square, so if you hit a teleporter trap that sends you behind it you have to watch it again.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    TotalBiscuit also did a wtf episode of thiaf.Judging by that,its a echanicaly sound game about stealth and thievery.So it differs from the original only in story and setting.It can be considered as a reboot then,which Im ok with.

    And dear lord those options.If anyone ever tells you that doing difficulty properly in a video game is impossible,direct them to this game.Thats how you make difficulty customization.

  11. Adeon says:

    I pre-ordered it based mostly on the strength of Human Revolution. I felt that they did a good job with HR staying true to the original so I’m hoping that the same goes for Thief.

    • karthik says:

      It’s not the same team. The Thief team was assembled separately for the game (from 2009-present) while the Deus Ex:HR team was busy making theirs.

      I believe many of them are veterans from the Assassin’s Creed games.

  12. kanodin says:

    I found that rps review earlier this morning and it seemed really off to me. Like it was filled with him saying it’s great while talking about all the ways it’s terrible. The only thing I can think of is it’s similar to many of our relationship with mass effect, full of dislike for bad decisions but still really really liking other chunks of it.

    Since we’re linking reviews I found pc gamer’s one more informative: http://www.pcgamer.com/review/thief-pc-review/ In particular his last line: “This is a decent stealth game that feels nice to play, and that’ll be enough for many – and if you feared the worst, you can rest a little easier. But the thing about evading disaster is that sometimes greatness slips away too”

  13. Strange guy says:

    While their site has buckled under the strain the review at Sneaky Bastards (http://sneakybastards.net/stealthreview/thief-review/ when it’s back up http://pastebin.com/TD4waGdv until then) was one of the most in depth and also probably the most scathing- “Thief is a disaster the likes of which we could not fathom.” They aren’t a major site, but from what I’ve seen they know their stealth and I trust their review.

  14. RTBones says:

    The game *may* be a decent title, yet not a good THIEF game. It all depends on your expectations, I suspect.

    I’ll be waiting until the community has a chance to really go through this game before I really decide to get it or not – though the mixed reviews are interesting, particularly in light of the early bashing the game took.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yup,that seems to be my impression of it.A good game,but no reason to call it thief.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Yeah, I remember one of the selling points is that they’ve done away with the supernatural part of the setting and that was what really made me want to play, especially since a lot of it was rather well written.

  15. modus0 says:

    The reason the level where you steal from the Downwind Thieves Guild feels like filler is because, for Thief Gold, it is. Same with the Mage Towers and Opera House.

    And if he hasn’t yet, Chris needs to play through Thief 2. It’s arguably the best game in the series, manages to realistically introduce new troubles, and the levels tend to have a bit more reasonable design with fewer “dead” areas.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think it’s telling that I still find most of those “filler” levels more entertaining to explore than I do many “essential” levels in modern games…

  16. Neko says:

    From the reviews I’ve seen so far, I’m not optimistic about Thief 2014. Lucky for me, my computer can’t handle it anyway, so I’ll merely experience the pain by proxy via my friend who is also a long-time fan of the series.

    I’ve been meaning to check out The Dark Mod for a long time; now might be the ideal opportunity to check it out.

  17. steve says:

    I can’t wait for the spoiler warning season

  18. stevenson says:

    can’t wait for the spoiler warning season

  19. Decius says:

    My favorite part of Metal Age was the level that started on the city rooftops. It pains me to see context-sensitive controls that I think would turn a free-form area into a multiple-choice one.

    • Decius says:

      On review, the rooftops in the remake are the worst out of all three previous games, precisely because of the context-sensitive control scheme and the visual cues that are required in order to tell the player where they can do stuff.

      Dishonered’s rooftops remain the most fun, but not the best. Blink replaced all of the good parts of figuring out how to get from A to B and replaced it with parts that were more viscerally fun, but less satisfying to look back on.

  20. Hitchmeister says:

    Any Thief scholars care to comment on the veracity of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDx6PxloRMo

    • Disc says:

      It makes a lot of non-sensical leaps in the first half, like ignoring the fact that there was another city before the City was built. The “zombie incident” was itself something that did happen roughly 50 years before the happenings of the first game, but it was nothing to do with the creation of the City (it’s never staded how old it is exactly afaik, but it’s implied to be a lot older than that) and there’s no verification if the Trickster god was really involved.

      The rest, starting from Garrett being drafted by the Keepers is more in line what the video attempts to be. Mostly true but ridiculously condensed history.

      • Chris says:

        Do we have any meaningful confirmation that The Master Builder exists? Like, sure, the Hammerites worship him, but I never got the impression that He necessarily existed in the same way that, say, The Trickster God exists. It’s sort of left nebulous – we meet The Trickster but never hear from The Builder, and I always thought there were two ways to read it:

        1. He does exist and the Hammers and the Pagans both represent the two remaining human factions that worshipped their respective gods.

        2. The humans of long-long ago found that their only way to stave off the chaos and terror of the wildlands was through tools and forced order, and in the process began worshipping steel and law as deities capable of combating the very real Gods they faced on a daily basis.

        • Tom says:

          I like the second version better. It’s got more potential for interesting writing. But still, maybe the uncertainty is better than either.

        • Disc says:

          There’s the Hammerite Shrines which you can use to temporarily bless your water arrows to do damage to the undead, which would at least give him some substance as a subject of worship, but there’s indeed nothing concrete to prove he would exist in the same capacity as the Trickster did.

          I’d imagine another possibility is that the Builder did exist at one point, but got killed like the Trickster eventually did, and can now only affect the world through blessings etc.

    • Mostly correct, with the caveats stated by Disc above, and the nitpick that Garret hasn’t lost his eye in thief 4, but rather in thief 1.

  21. James says:

    A lot of the stuff the Errant Signal video lists as problems are the reasons I enjoy the Thief games (1 & 2).

  22. Akuma says:

    On the subject of stealth in skyrim, and it’s viability as a game all by its self (How can you not steal everything? It’s all just sitting there). As I’m sure most know Skyrims stealth works on a mix of noise, light and view. I think the system was actually just a step away from making a really good stealth game, but there’s a few factors working against it.

    The main problem of course is after you gain about 15-20+ sneak the system breaks. It very quickly becomes overpowered and may as well be a minor invisibility (So long as you don’t bump into anybody).

    The second big issue is feedback. Only view and light gives you any useful amount of feedback with the little eye indicator, noise either reveals you completely or isn’t a factor at all. With noise there’s no in game indicator if you’re making alot or not, relying only on recalling what the weight your boots was.

    Saying all that I think there is a sweet spot with skyrims stealth, but it only really happens during that start of a game before your sneak barrels out of control. I recall one run I started where I entered a bandit cave. Usually in skyrim I roll around like an idiot trying to get those backstabs, but this early in the game I couldn’t risk getting into a fight and had to be more careful about it. This was probably the only instance when I actually needed to use the bow, but not as a weapon. One of the neat things in Skyrim that doesn’t get used nearly enough is the fact that enemies will react to any noise, even if it’s just a thrown object or an arrow hitting a wall.

    To shorten the story I was basically sat in that cave for a while, waiting on their patrols and using noise to stop them or make them turn around. It was probably the best stealth I ever had because one mistake put me in a world of hurt. Of course after the cave my sneak had levelled up so much I never ran into that situation ever again.

    It’s something I want to test out more to see how interesting the sneaking in skyrim can be made. Anouther issue holding it back of course is the level design. Either the houses are too small or the dungeons are too linear, there’s no room for planning or staying out of rooms with people in them, you have to go by them.

    But I do think if the levels were designed with stealth in mind and you didn’t let it level out of control we’d have a real game on our hands. I’d be tempted to make something myself but that creation kit is real clunky.

    • The other problem with stealth in most games is that once an NPC finds a dead body, it should be red-alert-kill-everything mode for an hour or two for the denizens of whatever dungeon/castle you’re in. This is a difficult game mechanic to overcome in the same way that whether or not an item is stolen is (discussed in a previous thread).

      It’d be amusing if a game required you to break into a location several times, and the more guards you killed, the tougher the next break-in would be. A little dialog about how “we’ll get that guy next time for SURE” would be a nice touch as well.

      • Akuma says:

        That’s generally a big problem in any stealth game. On the one side it’s the most natural reaction, and if the enemy lacks it then that kills the immersion. On the other hand if stealth is your only game mechanic then the instant your seen it’s game over. There’s actually plenty of games that give you an instant game over screen if someone sees you- there super frustrating and not fun at all, haha.

        The happy medium most games have found in my experience is to put enemies on high alert for a short time, then settling into just alert. So the games not over, but you’ve made their detection slightly better now.

        If have a mechanic like you suggest where if you kill guards more appear later on, then that can also run into immersion issues.

        “So wait. Last night a guy came in here and killed everyone? Why would I go to this place?”

        Dishonored was probably the best example of this actually. For them it made sense to ramp up security if you go on a bit of a killing spree, as they had the resources to fight back.

      • Tom says:

        Doesn’t Dishonoured kind of do that? I think the later levels get more fortified if you’re more violent in the earlier ones.

        • Perhaps, but I was thinking something a bit more over-the-top. You start out with a few guards, and if you’re particularly violent, you wind up with the target hiring a security firm that includes wizards, ninjas, and something that looks like an Imperial AT-AT.

  23. I didn’t realize Thief and System Shock 2 used the same engine (I haven’t played Thief), though I would’ve guessed after seeing the guard swing his sword. It’s remarkably similar to the melee attacks from SS2’s zombies.

    In both games, why were these attack animations so slow? Was this to allow for a parry mechanic in either/both games, or was it just “how things were back then?” I notice it also happens with the knockout attack in Chris’ video.

    • Tom says:

      The original idea that eventually became Thief was, apparently, to actually make a full fledged medieval fencing simulator. The speed seems kind of realistic in Thief; those guards are swinging big, heavy iron swords and maces, not rapiers – hence the massive, massive damage when they do hit you! Doesn’t make quite as much sense in system shock, though – unless, maybe, the SS2 zombies attack slowly because they’re struggling against the mind control. They do still tell you to run, and apologise while they’re killing you…shudder.

      • The only swordfighting “sim” I remember playing in a similar vein was “Die By The Sword” which was unintentionally hilarious (here’s the trailer). If ever there was a Monty Python “Black Knight” game, this was it, since you could hop around on one leg (and usually did) after an unfortunate encounter or two.

        After playing that, I can see how swordfighting mechanics would’ve been a nightmare to implement.

  24. Simplex says:

    Some may find it funny that this page features an ad of a Polish video game store encouraging to order Thief :)

  25. RTBones says:

    Now that the game has been out for more than 10 minutes, I’ll be interested in both Shamus’s and Chris’s impressions of the game. As the initial reviews come in, the more I read (or watch, as in the case of TB), the more I think I will let this one go at least until it hits the bargain bin. If any of the early vids or reviews are indicative of the actual gameplay experience, Shamus has enough on contextualized movement alone for an article or two.

    But what I am really waiting for is Shamus or Chris to sink their teeth into the concept of *boss fights* (BOSS FIGHTS?! In Thief!?!? *facepalm*) in Thief.

  26. Scourge says:

    I am still pumped for the game. Sadly I got to wait for the 28th until I can play it as it hasn’t been released yet. (Damn EU)

    At least I didn’t pay to much for it. 24 Pounds only, pre-prordered and everything. Quite a bargaining price actually, of which I am quite proud. I mean, 24 pounds. The game can be bad then but I will still be positively surprised.

  27. Zak McKracken says:

    I am slightly baffled by the proximity of “I pre-ordered the game” and “it’s probably horrible” in this post… wouldn’t it make sense to at least wait a few days until you’ve gathered enough information to tell whether it’s worth taking the risk?

    • Shamus says:

      I KNEW I was going to play it, and it was cheaper pre-release. I was going to play it, horrible or not, because I wanted to see it for myself and have my say in the inevitable conversation.

      • Decius says:

        Sucky: A tutorial section that tries to teach a basic mechanic using DIAS gameplay, combined with an (optional) ability to choose to make the DIAS more painful.

        Because I did the first part of the tutorial several times before starting a new game without the “no quicksave” option.

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