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Thief interview: 'It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to please everyone'

Eidos Montreal on reinventing a classic

Haven't read our first impressions of the rebooted Thief? You need a quick catch-up session. Done? Then it's time to sit down with Eidos Montreal's Stephane Roy and Daniel Windfeld Schmidt as we quiz them about bringing Thief back to the masses...

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What are your lasting memories of Thief?

DWS: So I remember that when Thief came out it was just like, "what kind of game is this?" It was pretty cool that the name by itself indicated what the game was about. At the time stealth games weren't really big. It pioneered the stealth genre and a lot of games were inspired by Thief. So I think the newness of, 'you're not supposed to fight everybody and not supposed to shoot everybody,' was one of the things that made us go, "wow this is different." And then you started playing and you started understanding what the philosophy was about and the value of that.

Why bring Thief back now? Why make it a next gen only project? And why reimagine the series rather than carry on the franchise?

SR: Thief is a complex beast. We have to be really careful with it because there is a lot of passion behind this franchise. It takes time to fully understand why people are still in love with this franchise after all these years. We did our homework and, honestly, the next generation aspect during the conception phase wasn't even in our minds. It was more of a question of, "Thief is... what?"

So on the table we had a lot of stuff, and after that we asked what was really the core. After a lot of conversations we found the DNA of the franchise that we could build on. It takes time. We said at the beginning that we have the right to be wrong because let's say the mandate is, "you must find the right answer and I give you two months," let's say. It would force us to make fast decisions and then that's it - we'd have to live with it.

So we wanted to make sure we respect the fans. There are people who know exactly what they are expecting and they are really demanding so I guess it's impossible to please everybody. But our offer is pretty solid and we can explain why we decided to go in this direction.

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DWS: The expectations of the players are very different today then they were back in the day. Some people played the original series and have fond memories of that. They want to replay it with new flavours to get a new experience that's similar to what we remember.

Today's gamers are a lot less patient. They expect a lot more from the developers in terms of features and so on. Even for menus that are easy to use. For a lot of things that weren't as extensively developed back in the day. For example: control inputs.

It took a while to learn the complex controls. Numbers 1,2,3,4... There were different types of peeking: peeking forward, peeking sideways, peeking upside down... They had all these things that were very complex and it worked for the hardcore gamers, but a lot of people backed off early on because it was very difficult [to learn]. So our focus has been to say, "we want the same amount of challenge, but within the game and not within the inputs." I don't personally have the patience to learn the super, super old games and all their fidelities and hard-learned lessons. I want it to be more streamlined.

And I'm a pretty hardcore player. But I want the challenge to be in the game and this is something that with today's technology we can do. What we don't want to lose is the hardcore fans. We don't want to alienate; the fact is you can play our game (on really high) difficultly.

Did you take many wrong turns while trying to figure out what Thief's essence was?

SR: Oh yes! A very easy example is the famous question for Thief about whether it's a first-person-game or a third-person-game. We gave it a try in the third person because there are a lot of amazing games in the third person and they sell a lot of copies.

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So we have a short demo version with a third-person perspective from A-Z and it's pretty interesting. But according to us it's not Thief - it's another game. Another big thing we tried at the beginning was based on feedback we saw from the play-testing. For a lot of players - not old guys like me but from the newer generation of players - they were play-testing the game and they had a lot of testosterone and I guess they wanted to play fast. Very quickly they're like, "Oh shit, they saw me!"

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