When writing a suitable story for Garrett, Thief narrative director Stephen Gallagher decided that the best way to build up a narrative was to break down the master thief.
"The [original] character presented himself as fairly unattainable," Gallagher told Polygon. "The walls were up, the doors were closed, the lights were off. So when we were trying to think of how to get inside his personal space and give him conflict, it wasn't [going to be] a driving need.
"We weren't thinking, 'Oh, what's the biggest job he could do?" he said. "The thing is, we need a little bit more than that to try and connect with this guy because, you know, we're trying to be imperfect with this guy who doesn't want to be seen and hides in darkness. If you bumped into him in a dark alleyway, you're not going to think he's there to help you out.
"[He] kind of inspired himself as basic premise: We took his personality and [figured out] what he can't handle."
Gallagher shared more details of the "new Garrett's story," offering a deep look into the world of Eidos Montreal's Thief. The game will star a Garrett haunted by loss and determined to never kill anyone unless it was necessary. Gallagher said Garrett's story begins with Erin, a young woman who has fled the servitude of a brothel and taken to the streets. Garrett, seeing her skill in pickpocketing, takes her under his wing and is determined to make her a master thief. But Erin is quick to kill and actually seems to enjoy the act, so after several years of pilfering partnership the two part ways.
"He kind of inspired himself as basic premise."
Many years later, a man in need of a quick burglary job hires both Garrett and Erin to accomplish it — without telling Garrett that Erin is involved. He is guarded about proceeding with the burglary, Gallagher said, and his misgivings are soon proven true. Erin kills one too many guards as the night wears on and the two make their way to the center of the mansion they break into. Garrett has stolen and hidden Erin's prized weapon — a grappling hook. The two are standing on the roof when a sudden, violent shift of the building sends them both hurdling down to the cobblestones below, where Erin dies and all goes black for Garrett.
Garrett wakes up in a city crumbled under corruption, greed and an unjust rule. His friends tell him he has been gone for one year. And this is where the Garrett of Eidos' Thief begins.
"In a way [we are] expanding on the essence of what that kind of character archetype is," Gallagher said of writing a "new" Garrett. "I think Garrett is unique. And I think a lot of people connected with the old Garrett. It's a very compelling thing to try and get you to empathize with this guy."
Gallagher is telling the story of a man whose profession is taking and a life built on loss. The emphasis on the loss in Garrett's story is how the writer has chosen to break down the seemingly infallible master thief and round out his character.
"To try and define Garrett as the master thief, it doesn't do him a disservice, but it gives you very little to hold on to."
"To try and define Garrett as the master thief, it doesn't do him a disservice, but it gives you very little to hold on to," Gallagher said. "Garrett's been challenging himself as a master thief for many years; the bigger the job, the harder the challenge. I think the biggest challenge for him is by taking [Erin's hook] that day, it's put him in a very strange position. It's put him onto a track he's never been used to before, it's new territory for him. Loss is an interesting emotional hook for players to follow."
Gallagher noted that Garrett's appearance may not be as swarthy or overtly sexy as that of upcoming video game heroes — like Edward Kenway or Batman — but that's because he was never meant to be that kind of guy. He's still a powerful character, but in more quiet, nuanced ways.
"We definitely stepped back from that," he said. "Garrett's stance is actually based on ballet, because it's the quickest, most strongest way to move."
"I wouldn't be expecting someone like him to carry that kind of story."
Gallagher demonstrated how Garrett stands in most of his promotional art, and viewers can see glimpses of his fluid, graceful movements in the handful of available trailers: the thief stands with one foot out, crossed at the top of his other foot and taking up a small amount of standing space.
"I've said this before and sometimes people misunderstand me," Gallagher said, "but there's a certain amount of the feminine in Garrett, he represents a lot of both [male and female.] The strength and elegance of the feminine, as opposed to the chest out, legs apart, 'I will save the world' [attitude]. He's not a savior by his own definition.
"He's lean of body for speech, for efficiency; it wouldn't do well to make him this big muscular guy," he added. "And to get inside his head, it's a privilege for the player, because you are the only person that gets to sit inside his head and hear what he has to say."
More of Garrett's story will be unraveled in the coming months, Gallagher said. But the story above is part of what forms him into the thief players will control in Eidos Montreal's latest adventure.
"You don't often get to play games where you're the master thief sweeping through the city like this," Gallagher said. "I wouldn't be expecting someone like him to carry that kind of story."