The Thief fan community has been buzzing for more details regarding the movement mechanics of Eidos-Montreal’s Thief. The fast pace of AAA game development means that ideas are often in constant flux and subject to change, so to bring the community up to speed, I took the Thief communities top questions to Lead Level Designer Daniel Windfeld Schmidt. Here’s what he had to say:
ResonanceCascade: How do you avoid intentionality problems when the jump, climb, and mantle abilities are all tied to the same button? (i.e. how does the game know which one we want to do and when?)
Good question. We’re actually still working on the control layouts right now. We’ve been constantly tuning because it’s really important to us to avoid ambiguity in controls. We’ve gone through several revisions since the demo we showed at E3, for instance, and we’ll continue to playtest until we feel that it’s right. As it stands right now today, jumping/climbing is on its own button, swooping is on its own button – we’ve separated them. We’ve put actions that share similar goals – ie. to move on to the next section – on the same button, and taken actions with different goals – ie. to get to cover – on separate buttons, which helps avoid clashes.
Platinumoxicity: Since jumping is now contextual, have you designed all level areas in a way that removes confusion about which things can be jumped over and which can't? How does the level design prevent players from constantly running into situations where they think they should be able to do something, but they can't?
This is related to the earlier question regarding the control scheme. Our latest revisions have brought even more fluid jumping. It’s really dynamic where you can jump – so long as you’re pressing in the right direction and press the jump button, you’ll jump.
Nightwynd: Could you go into detail on how the contextual actions actually work? Do you have to separately define jumping spots while building a level or are the contextual actions rather based on different variables such as level geometry and player’s position etc - Or something else?
The system that we use detects edges in the environment geometry around Garrett. It figures out whether he can jump, climb (or whatever the situation might call for), simply based on the edges within reach that are being detected around you. There are no pre-defined hot spots; it’s handled in real time. Whatever you would logically consider an edge can be interacted with.
Master Taffer: Could you explain some of the movement options Garrett has at his disposal in addition to the swoop and climbing, such as sliding over environmental obstacles?
Garrett can crouch, stand, walk, run, jump, climb, swoop (swooping is directional), vault over obstacles, and also slide down precipices/slopes as well. This all plays an important part in how likely Garrett is to be detected. Stance and speed directly influence his chances of being spotted.
DarknessFalls: Can you swoop while standing, walking and running, or do you need to be crouching?
You can swoop in any stance, in any direction.
NIB: What's the role of the rope arrow in this game? What do I gain by using the rope arrow?
It depends on the level. When you use a rope arrow, you might find a secret area, a new vantage point to scope out an area, some loot, an alternate path or the ability to get behind a guard or something else. It really depends on that particular level.
DrunkenGuard: How many rope arrow hotspots are you planning? Are we talking about just one or two in a single level... or five plus?
As many as we can!
Loup: Will it be possible to cancel a jump or mantle a few frames into the animation? In other words, being able to cancel the jump or mantling which you have just begun?
The transitions are really fast... like, really fast! For example, climbing up something takes less approximately than 1/4 of a second at the moment. You can physically stand up and check the coast is clear before you climb.
Subjective Effect: Will crouch-moving and swooping always be silent unless over "special" surfaces like broken glass or are there general surfaces, like marble, where they will make some noise?
We’re still looking at the visual language for noise and noise traps, but each surface in the game has different characteristics when it comes to the amounts of noise they create, from very noisy to not very noisy, depending if you are running, crouching etc.
A huge thanks to Daniel for taking the time to share more with us, and for everybody on the official Thief forums for submitting their questions. Hope you guys learned something new, stay tuned for more!