Thief Preview – The E3 Primer

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Posted on May 1, 2013, Ian Miles Cheong Thief Preview – The E3 Primer

Game Front’s E3 Primer series is focused on providing previews of key games, companies and gadgets leading up to E3 2013 (June 11-13, 2013). Bookmark our E3 channel and check back for more in-depth preview coverage leading up to the big show.

The original Thief: The Dark Project captivated gamers with its features, which at the time were unique and unheard of. It was the first “first-person sneaker,” and one which set itself apart from the likes of Quake and Half-Life by having the goal be sneaking around and stealing things instead of killing everything in sight. After System Shock and Ultima Underworld, it was also one of few first-person games to offer a cohesive storyline with a protagonist whose fate you cared about. Despite being a gentleman bastard and an utter rapscallion, Garrett was a character who you grew to like, in no small part due to his voice actor, Stephen Russell.

Over the years, Thief saw the release of two highly-acclaimed sequels in Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows, both of which saw the return of Russell to voice Garrett. It has been over a decade since the release of the original Thief now, and Garrett is set for a return in a Thief reboot by Eidos Montreal, to be published by Square Enix. Eidos Montreal revealed details about Thief in April, its first major appearance since it was announced in 2008.

The game is currently in development at Eidos Montreal, by a team separate from the one which delivered the critically-acclaimed role-playing game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s a fact worth mentioning because the teams are often confused for one another. Eidos Montreal, like many other studios, runs multiple teams. It has been in the works for over five years now, since 2008—it’s a fact that’s also worth mentioning because the amount of time it’s taken to create is abnormally long for even AAA titles. The development of the game itself was greenlit by the bosses at Square Enix after they enjoyed what they saw of the game’s vertical slice, which had been developed over a period of nine months. The rest of its development, however, has not been as smooth as its inception. We’ll talk about that later.

Playing Garrett

Although Thief is a first-person game, the perspective occasionally shifts to third-person during certain sequences, such as combat or scaling walls. This provides players with a much better vantage point to utilize his abilties. The first-person view inherently limits your awareness, allowing you (and therefore Garrett) to keenly focus on the task at hand, such as lockpicking, pickpocketing, and aiming your bow. The game automatically switches to the third-person view to provide the player with more awareness of their surroundings, especially in combat. Garrett is an agile acrobat, and the viewpoint provides the player with a view of his capabilities.

The focus on Garrett’s acrobatics has also facilitated a switch in the voice actor portraying him. Instead of series veteran Russell, Garrett is being voiced by the same actor who is providing motion capture for the character, Romano Orzari. The switch is part of Eidos’ technique of capturing motion and voice at the same time for the game’s characters, which the developer believes will lead to a more natural, organic performance.

“Yes, it was actually very early during development at that time that we had him involved, before we made the decision to record our actor’s voices and their movement at the same time using a full performance capture technique,” said Audio Director Jean-Christophe Verbert.

The developers say that with the new game, the voice actors would have to wear a full mo-cap suit to record their facial animations, voices, and movements all in a single take. Narrative Director Steven Gallagher is convinced that the studio made the right decision.

“We want Thief to be a really rich, story-driven experience. Being able to deliver the narrative in the most convincing and believable way is a really important part of providing that experience.” Gallagher said.

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