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Thief rewards curious players with deeper story substance

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Eidos Montreal's Thief will reward curious players for the hours spent searching every nook and cranny and hunting for every collectible goodie — completing these minor tasks will reward players with smaller pieces of storylines and brief windows into the game's tortured society, producer Stephane Roy told Polygon.

As players complete missions, a number of optional small tasks present themselves. These include everything from finding rare collectibles to taking down a group of guards. The way players tackle — or don't tackle — these tasks will influence the kind of person Garrett becomes and the kind of information on Thief's world made available to players.

Some tiny tasks, like pilfering a valuable ring and sneaking out of a side entrance, will put players in the path of non-playable characters. In a hands-on demo shown during a Sony event today, I watched as Garrett snuck between wooden crates in an alley only to come up behind a pair of cackling guards. The two were yelling at a woman hanging out a window far above, nagging down at the guards. From this tiny conversation — which I could not have witnessed if I had snuck out another way — I was able to learn the depth of corruption among the city watch; despite patrolling during a city-wide lockdown in an effort to protect citizens, these guards were having their run of the place, talking loudly and keeping people up... among other dastardly things.

The world of Thief is mired in gloom.

The world of Thief is mired in gloom, set in a dark and dreary city populated by gray stones and softly pattering rain. Garrett, under players control, can sneak through the shadows, quickly swoop towards and away from objects and people (which really comes in handy when pickpocketing) and take down enemies in close-range combat or from above with arrows. These mechanics come with tiny tweaks on PlayStation 4 tailored to the DualShock 4 controller.

For example, when players move through the dark areas of Thief's city, the light on the DualShock 4 is a deep blue. When Garrett moves into lighter areas, the light on the controller changes as well, softening to a brighter white light. Players can also use the touchpad to select throwable items and arrows from Garrett's arsenal, pressing down then moving their finger along the pad to select the desired item. This simple system of touch becomes intuitive very quickly; players' fingers will remember where their blunt arrows or fire arrows are, or which slot holds throwable items like glass bottles.

Roy said that at one point Eidos toyed with Kinect controls, such as using gestures to peek around corners and shoot arrows. But the studio found that players' natural movements were being picked up by the Kinect and too often would accidentally move Garrett.

"The ideas look cool on paper, but then they didn't work very well and they looked stupid," Roy said.

It's how you play that will determine the kind of thief you are — an Opportunist who focuses on pickpocketing, a Ghost who sneaks through the city avoiding as much conflict as possible or a Predator who kills civilians without a second thought. These three classifications, Roy noted, are how the game lets players know how they playing. At the end of each mission, a stats screen will show the loot players picked up as well as a pie chart showing how much of each classification their actions embodied. Tiny actions like searching every painting within a house for hidden switches to secret safes, to carrying away every last valuable in a room will contribute to what kind of person Garrett becomes.

It's how you play that will determine the kind of thief you are.

Players who don't want to complete these tasks as they occur along the storyline will be able to circle back to complete them later. Previous missions will be open for players to take down extraneous guards and still those last jewels.

Roy said that he hopes players will use the Share button feature frequently through the game, using captured moments to play "cat and mouse" with others looking to complete the most graceful takedown.

"We're hoping to see people share a lot of amazing moments," he said. "We want players to prove they've been able to bypass certain situations and we're expecting them to surprise us.

"From a producer, this type of game is a nightmare to make."

"We think it's the type of game that will make players want to show how good they are," Roy added. "And honestly once the game is out there, there are no more spoilers."

Roy describes Thief's gameplay as emergent, allowing players to explore a variety of content in a context that makes sense; sidequests and additional scenes are piled onto the game in an effort to bulk it up. Rather, the story can exist without these bits and pieces, but as a narrative-driven experience, they add a layer of flavor to Thief that will help players understand just how dire straights Garrett's world is in.

"Different actions will bring out different pieces of story, and from a producer, this type of game is a nightmare to make," Roy said. "There are a lot of moments players will never see. But it encourages players to go back and do more, and that's what we want to see."