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A Focus on Focus

Posted by Adam Badke

Have you visited the Official Thief forums lately? Since Thief’s unveiling a few weeks ago, they’ve been buzzing with excitement and speculation, members new and old scrutinizing, searching, studying, analyzing each Thief update with the dedication, detailed eye and concentration of… well, Garrett himself.

Except, Garrett has an edge.

In Eidos Montreal’s upcoming Thief, that edge is due to an event that occurs earlier in the game that leaves Garrett with a highly increased ability to focus. This new Focus ability has been a hot topic on the Thief forums of late, so I chatted with Game Director Nic Cantin for more information.

So, Nic, tell us: what is the Focus system?

In the game, the Focus system is Garrett’s ability to focus and speed up his reaction times. From a game design perspective, Focus is a layer that empowers the player and empowers Garrett. But, it’s not something that you’re forced to use. It’s something that you manage, something that is one of the tools at Garrett’s disposal that he can use to tackle the various situations he is confronted with.

How does Garrett get his Focus ability?

Garrett gets his Focus ability as part of the main story due to an event that occurs early in the game – but I don’t want to spoil anything so can’t say any more than that right now.

Can you tell us how the Focus system works?

Focus is something that you have to manage, that you have to accumulate. The player will have to choose when the best time is to take advantage of Garrett’s Focus, as he has many different ways and abilities that Focus can be used. It’s completely up to the player to decide and manage how Focus is used in the game.

What things besides combat and lock picking can you do with Focus?

It depends on how you decided to use it, but for example some things like combat, marksmanship, lock picking and pickpocketing have the ability to be enhanced by Garrett’s Focus - if you choose.

So is the Focus system related to navigation, does it tell players where to go?

No, not necessarily. We don’t want to kill that exploration by giving the player too much information or too many hints. It is a tool that can help the player, but it’s certainly not something that will hold your hand or guide you through the world.

Is Focus an unlimited power?

No, Focus is limited and has a cost. As a player you will have to manage it wisely when you accumulate it, and really think hard about when the best time is to use it.

Is the Focus system optional? 

Presently, it’s the completely the players choice to use Focus or not. If players want to challenge themselves to stick to Garrett’s basic abilities, they can.

Some fans have been wondering if the inclusion of a Focus system might remove the challenge found in the previous Thief games. Is this the case?

No, not at all! Garrett’s Focus ability is there to empower the player when they need it, to give Garrett an edge over those surrounding him - but it comes at a cost. It’s all about giving choice to the player, but it will not break the game balance.

Is the Focus system tied to object highlighting?

Presently, the object highlighting system uses a very similar mechanic to what was used in the classic Thief games. While you can use Focus to add to that vision, if you choose to play without it, it still feels like a classic Thief game.

Can object highlighting be turned on/off?

All I can say now is that Thief purists will have options - those types of players will definitely be pleased.

Awesome! Thanks Nic!

I hope this answers a few questions, stay tuned to the Eidos Montreal community blog for more Thief coverage! Don’t forget to leave us a comment below and like Thief on Facebook!


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I should be more clear about the implicit problem here, because I feel like you're not even thinking about this, or otherwise trying to fool us with these ridiculous "explanations".

If you design a gameplay mechanic, you necessarily have (I mean, as a good designer...) to balance the rest against it, so this isn't in any way incidental even if you so choose to slightly put it back from the core experience. Remember in Deus Ex: HR, where you often purely needed to use these "optional" aid to differentiate a functional door, ladder or whatever from a simple decorative element because there was absolutely no other clue that the design would leave us? Just one example there, so please, don't make the same mistakes and think twice before screwing up everything for the sake of appealing the "casuals"...


And here comes the ludicrous "it's optional" argument... Why not put a machine gun somewhere too, we'd not be forced to use it anyway! Or I can try to play with my forehead if I think hands make it too easy... And by the way, that's not because you've found a pretty scenario to introduce the thing that it becomes more relevant in terms of gameplay, it's still a simple aid for "casuals". Eventually, don't say "no" to the question that it might make the game easier when your argument is "it's only empowering the player!" (oh yes, but "it comes at a cost" apparently, what kind I wonder...), please...

"Is Focus an unlimited power?

No, Focus is limited and has a cost. As a player you will have to manage it wisely when you accumulate it, and really think hard about when the best time is to use it."
I pray for that to be more than true...


"ll I can say now is that Thief purists will have options - those types of players will definitely be pleased."

Modern gamers should be the ones to have options, not the hardcore Thief fans.


That'll be some very good news for some of the system's detractors!