Thief dev answers your questions on sound, stealth, and more

By John Keefer, Jun 17, 2013 1:55pm PDT

When we knew we were going to be getting a closer look at the new Thief during E3, we solicited some questions from the community on what you wanted to know about the new game. We got some time with Daniel Windfeld Schmidt, lead level designer on the game at Eidos Montreal, and he offered up some interesting answers.

Warcrow: The sound design for the original Thief games was incredibly well done. The sound of a guard's footsteps as he closely walks by you, humming a tune, could be unnerving. Echoes off walls could also cause alarm. Explain the sound design philosophy.

Looking at the time Thief came out, sound was a very important factor. We recognize that. The environment around you will have an impact on sound, so soft patches of grass or carpets, they make almost no sound at all, even when you are running. Regular surfaces like stone and wood have a different layer of sound. There are things that make a lot of sound, like water. It splashes more when something goes through it.

As for the guards, feedback from what they say is very important. You can tell if they heard something or saw something and why they are suddenly moving about. You will also hear the footsteps of the guards, but their footsteps are handled the same as Garrett's--they will be muffled on grass or carpet. So it's a double-edged sword in those areas. Also, if you are in a covered area, you will not hear the sounds as easily.

So we are taking the sound design very seriously. It is very important to the feel of the game.

Raptorll: Will the game be ghostable? That is, can you get through the game without being forced to interact with anyone who may find you suspicious?

Yes. You can complete the game without killing anybody, or without knocking anybody out, or without causing an alert. In the demo we are showing, at the end there is a tally screen that show you completed the mission without knocking anyone out or killing anyone … and a second one: completed without causing any alerts.

Are those achievements?

Yes. We measure the player based on it.

Warcrow: The loot structure in the game really hasn't been properly explained yet. Why are there money or items out in the open? How will all the gold you acquire be translated into items or upgrades? Will Garrett have a fence?

We have set up the story so that any time you come across some loot, there is a reason why it is there. If you find a chalice in a garden, it could be that someone had a party and they lost it.

If you need to buy new arrows because you use them, you will be able to buy them, but we aren't ready yet to go into all the ways you can. But there is an economy system. There is motivation to acquire more gold.

In a demo we saw, he grabbed something that was part of someone's collection. So what does he do with it? Does he fence it? Does he keep it as part of his collection?

There are different layers there. One is the monetary reward where you pocket coins. Then you have collections that you steal from. We are still working on what the collection pieces give you back if you want to fence them or not. There will also be special collectibles where Garrett will have a room that he can show them for bragging purposes.

Rampancy: In watching some of the gameplay, it looked like the game could be rather unforgiving once you are spotted. Is that intentional, or will there be ways to regroup and escape if you aren't quite as stealthy as you should have been?

There are several options. You can deal with the situation or run away. Depending on the scenario--remember what you have seen is several hours into the game--so we are limiting your escape options and you really have to think about consequences of the enemy. There are hiding spots where you can go where guards are less likely to search. We have a lot of these mechanics where you can get away, but it takes a while to teach. In the demos we have shown, there are a lot of things going on at the same time. You don't have to be perfect. Guards will give up after a while if they can't find you. You can also use focus combat to take out a guard or two as needed.

mobab: How will the cover and shadow system work? Can it ever be negated?

There isn't a "safe" state. Even though the game has a light and darkness kind of binary look to it, it is much more analog than that. There is this middle state as well where you are kind of exposed. There are several states and the analog value comes from how the eye works. Are you moving, are you standing up, are you crouching. A lot of this matters in how we detect you. And peripheral vision is involved. If a guard sees something move out there, he is going to look in that direction. It is a much more slow reaction if they aren’t sure, but if you are right in front of them, they will react much faster.

So Garrett can be detected if he is dashing between objects?

Yes. Dash is not a freebie. It just gives you a chance to run a short distance without making more sound. If you make a mistake and you get an indication that a guard saw my movement, then you have time to quickly get back into the shadows. If you go back at the same pace, then you might not make it back in time. Dash gives you more maneuverability, but it doesn't allow you to just go out and run across a courtyard in the open. It is only to boost you in small increments.

Warcrow: What type of side quests will be included?

We have an open, free roaming area in the city hub. You can go talk to somebody and they can also tell you of something else they need done. And then you can complete that quest.

Pixelat3d: So there will be a city hub? From that hub you will be able to branch out into different areas of the city?

Exactly. You will complete a quest and then you can come back to the hub and find out the next job is over in a different area. But you don’t have to go there directly. You can explore and save it as something for later. It isn't just mission, mission, mission, mission.

So you will be able to free-roam between districts? The whole city is open to you?

Yes. We are not going to say how it evolves but you can go to all the various districts in the city.

Entity: Are you planning to use Quick time events?

We have some moments that are specifically triggered. It is a recovery kind of thing that gives you a last chance to save yourself. But it is a very small portion of the game, just like third-person view is a very small segment of the whole experience.

Beady: What will be the maximum field of view planned for the various versions of the game?

It's about 90 degrees. We are talking about adjustments so you can play with the settings. We are still experimenting with it. Those numbers can change very easily. We want a good experience so you can get a good idea of your surroundings. But first-person games do tend to have a depth perception problem where, in a room, the wall in front of you looks closer than it really is.

BlockheadBrown: The game has been announced for Xbox One. How do you plan on implementing Kinect and movement into the game?

The new console hardware gives us some things we need to look at and experiment with, but we haven't gone so far as to say what it will be. I know with the PS4, we are looking to experiment with the gyroscope for things like aiming the bow, and using the touchpad for certain things to see how it will work.

But with the Kinect, are you looking to experiment with voice commands?

We thought it would be funny that if your wife comes in and yells at you, guards will hear it and come to your position. That was one idea we had.

Stimpak Chopra: We have seen ice/water arrows to douse torches, and the traditional rope arrow. What other types of arrows will be available?

We changed the dry ice arrow to a water arrow. It just made more sense. The rope arrow is still in. We have a fire arrow. It can be used for combat, but we envision it more for igniting things like patches of oil. You can also use it to destroy pulleys and more robust objects to modify the environment.

We also have the blunt arrow, which is new. You didn't have that the old games. It is basically a shattering arrow that has a blunt tip. This is a really cool tool. It can't damage enemies--it feels like a pea-shooter almost--but it can push buttons from afar and you can use it to annoy guards and turn them around and rotate. It also creates a lot of sound, so you can use it for distraction or to isolate a guard from the other guards.

We have more that we will show later on, but those are all that we are revealing right now.

Raptorll: Are the old non-City Watch factions going to return--such as the Pagans, Hammerites, and Keepers--if only to give life to The City?

Because it's a reinvention, we are not going back to the old factions. We want new factions. The last story didn't give us a lot of options. We wanted to take a step back and make sure we have everything right for a new, fresh experience within this universe. There may be some references back to keep the following happy, but it will be all new groups.

The two new factions are the Baron and he has The Watch. We also have a dissident group called the Raven. There is a political conflict that Garrett finds himself in the middle of. There will be characters associated with the group that will reveal themselves within the game.

How exactly was The City reinvented?

I don't want to say we completely scrapped everything. We took a lot of inspiration from what made this city memorable. The connection might be a little different, but for us it's still the same. We haven't locked down the names of the new districts. We choose what matches best with what the old games have. Naturally we want to make it feel like it is the same place.

Will there be humanoids like the Craymen or Kurshok? What about magical creatures?

We didn't want to go too much magical, but we have a lot of these in a variant form. There will be references, but we wanted it to be more against human factions. That said, we may have some surprises later on.

Conan: The Thief community has quite a few mission authors. Will there be support for fan-based missions or additions to the game?

Right now our focus is to make the best possible single-player experience, but we may address that later when we are satisfied. We thought about options like an editor, but right now the mandate is to focus on single-player.

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