We've shown quite a few gameplay demos in the past months, yet you clamour, you thirst for more. You just can't wait to immerse yourself in the City and you want to see pure gameplay, unedited and uncommented.
Well, I'm all about giving the people what they want, so I've asked our Marketing Coordinator Jean-Philippe Chicoine to shoot one full mission playthrough just for you. He chose the mission right after the tutorial, as it’s the first time players will be free to experiment fully with the environment and gameplay mechanics, and it offers at least four different ways to infiltrate the building so we could show you things you haven’t seen before without spoiling the plot too much. Here it is!
This is also a great opportunity for me to introduce you to a key member of the Thief team here at Eidos-Montréal, so I'll let JP himself present his latest work...
Hi JP! Tell the fans what you do here in the studio.
Before I got in the industry, I thought all games had these huge marketing teams made up of dozens of people ready to churn out content just with a flick of the finger. Oh boy, was I wrong, and I’m so glad I was.
Here at EMTL we like to keep things much smaller, more agile and closer to the development team. First of all, we’re in the studio sitting a couple feet away from the devs. I’ve been told this is quite rare in the industry, especially for big games like this. Usually publishers have their own offices where they handle marketing for several games. If I’m trying to find a set of images that best represents a specific area of the game, I can walk up to the Game Director and Lead Artist, and we select the concept art together. Their approval on what we do is essential. Making decisions face to face with devs is so much more efficient, and definitely more fun.
I’m involved in... well, pretty much everything! As a Marketing Coordinator, I support the Brand Manager every step of the campaign. If you’ve seen footage of Thief online in the last few months, there’s a really good chance that it was me playing.
What's your favorite part of the job?
I work a lot on the trailers, from creating the structure all the way to fine tuning post-production with the agency. I go to recording studios with the devs and the actors to make sure what’s said, and how it’s said, is in line with the game. I flesh out missions as soon as they’re completed to find interesting screenshot opportunities.
That’s only a small portion of the most enjoyable things I do, believe me when I say the other half is nowhere as glorious and interesting. Still, I wouldn’t do anything else in the world. When a new feature gets implemented, I can’t wait to be done with whatever emails are piling up in my inbox to try it out. When our Lead Artist shows us a new Garrett render, I’m jumping up and down. When I go to bed at night, I know we tried our very best to show you just how much talent our co-workers (and friends!) have here at Eidos-Montréal. That feeling alone keeps me going.
So, this playthrough... First of all, what version of the game are we seeing?
For those that are interested, you can see the exact specs in the YouTube description. For this particular playthrough, we recorded the latest PC build, but I played with an Xbox controller.
I’m definitely a PC guy. I usually play all my games with keyboard and mouse, but the team really nailed the controller setup for Thief. There’s just something about bending a swoop in a “S”-shape between two pieces of furniture to avoid a guard you didn’t see coming. It’s still awesome even after hundreds of hours clocked in the game.
Where is this in the game?
It's the first mission, right after the tutorial. Following a heist gone wrong, Garrett’s trying to make his way to his hideout, the Clock Tower. Along the way, he happens to run into a Jeweler’s shop. Garrett being who he is, you can imagine what happens next.
What should we look for in this playthrough? Any particularly good bits?
Playing cat and mouse with the guard in the Jeweler’s Shop main room (starts at 8:20). Oh man. Like I said, I’ve played this game an ungodly amount of hours, but I still get super tense when I get in a situation like that. My hands get sweaty and I just get sucked into the game, so much that I have to put up a little sign next to me that lets others know I’m recording a run. I mean, if there was a fire in the studio, I probably wouldn’t even notice.
Also, chaining a swoop with another action is just great. A well-timed swoop-to-peek feels so right, it just snaps (see 8:40).
We've talked a lot about customization options, what do you have turned on or off here?
For any game I play, I just try to keep my UI as clean as possible for immersion’s sake. For this video, though, I kept some of the settings on so you guys could get a good feel for what I was doing. However, when I play, I always turn off the lockpick helper. Picking a lock based only on the controller rumble is so much more immersive to me, although some guys like to keep it on as they like the visual clue.
Also, I know that we’ve been getting some flak for the shroud around the screen. When I first saw the pre-alpha gameplay video, I was pretty worried about what they were doing with my precious light gem! However, it’s only when I got to hold the controller and play around that it started to make sense to me. The shroud is in your peripheral vision and definitely helps you, but you don’t pay attention to it when you’re busy keeping an eye out for guards. The shroud gives me the info I need in a quick and effective way.
I’ve kept a lot of HUD elements on in this vid so you can see the default setup, but I tweak things when I play the game just for fun. For example, I sometimes turn off the objective marker. As with many games, you can have a tendency to just run towards a marker, but if you do this in Thief you miss so much: secret loot, hidden collectibles, alternative routes and so on.
The beauty of the customization in our game is that if you don’t agree with me, that’s all good. You can customize it your way, and we can both strip The City clean of its riches as we please.
When you're not capturing footage, what's your playstyle?
First playthrough is always ghost. I’ll loot anything and everything. I observe the guard patterns (which start changing if you toy with them). I really push the AI's limits to see exactly what I can get away with on my second playthrough. I also listen to NPC conversations in case they reveal loot locations, which they do quite often. For example, in this particular mission, if you listen to the jeweler (the guy in the basement) read his letter long enough, he reveals the existence of the real and fake versions of the mask. Garrett even says something that you wouldn’t have heard normally if you just took the guy down.
Second playthrough, in each mission I’m taking out everyone (non-lethal) except one guy. I just love to see a single unexperienced guard running around the level looking for back-up as I strip the place clean. I’ll use that run to finish off any achievements I didn’t get in the first one.
After that, it’s Iron Man runs until I break enough controllers to justify moving on to something else.
Thanks JP! If you crave more gameplay demos, be sure to check out our YouTube channel, then let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter and the forums. There are lots more exciting news to come in the last week before the launch of THIEF!