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'Thief' level designer discusses the series' return on Xbox One and PS4

Thief returns to consoles this Tuesday.
Eidos Montreal, Square Enix

It's been a full decade since we last saw a new entry in the Thief franchise, and a lot of gaming trends have changed since then. We recently had a chance to sit down with Eidos Montreal's Daniel Windfeld Schmidt, who acted as the lead level designer on the upcoming series reboot. We began by asking him what it was like to develop for two separate console generations at once.

“Next-gen systems enable us to push key elements of the game, such as bigger sound banks for the enemies. We have a strong technical team who made the process very transparent for the main bulk of the production – an essential detail to help us keep focus on the player's experience.

“Technically it's been a fun challenge to support current and next-gen, but we also made it clear to ourselves that we wanted the same core experience across all platforms. Gameplay aside, next-gen offers bigger bark banks, higher graphical fidelity, hardware specific input, uncompressed animation – which when it's all combined – delivers a much more immersive and bigger game experience,” he told us.

We went on to ask about Garrett, and how his actions may affect The City as a whole.

“Garrett has his own agenda although large rewards are always accompanied with huge risks and he often finds himself in the middle of political conflicts on these well-paying heists. As Garrett completes jobs and the story progresses, the world will start to be shaped by the changing political tide and overall unrest in The City,” Schmidt explained.

We decided to ask Schmidt about the game's difficulty options, and how different players may go about the missions.

Thief has always been about different, stealthy options: how do you choose to approach the obstacles which are holding you from your prize? What tools do you bring? Do you expect casualties? Are you going only for the sole prize or will no stone stay unturned?” He said, moving on to the game's Custom mode.

“There are the expected 'Easy-Medium-Hard' style difficulties right off the bat, but for those who seek a more specific challenge there is the Custom mode. The custom mode enables you to enforce a set of rules to a new game – be it Iron Man (permadeath), No Alerts (mission failed if you get caught) or Stealth Takedowns Only?

“We are fully confident that if the settings are cranked to their most difficult, even the most seasoned stealth players will find an incredible challenge ahead of them,” he elaborated, pointing us to a list of the many options available.

We went back to the subject of Xbox One and PS4 functionality, asking what kinds of hardware specific features we could expect from Thief.

“We use the Kinect Sensor to track the noise output of the primary player on Xbox One – this feature is also available on PS4 if you have a microphone attached – and the guards will react to a noise above a certain threshold. But like many other things in this game, players will have the ability to turn this feature off if they don't want to use it. Also, on the controller, we will use the trigger rumble on various contextual trigger actions like using the bow, lockpicking, frame searching and so forth,” Schmidt said.

We still didn't know much about the game's side content, so we asked Schmidt if he could elaborate on what kind of optional quests players could find while exploring The City.

“The main story arc and missions are the driving force for the game. For those who want to just take their time and explore, there is plenty to see. The City is riddled with traps, puzzles, clues and rewards as well as many optional side quests which feature unique characters and setups, completely independent from the main story (though there might be links as those with a sharp mind will catch),” he stated.

Being a February release, Thief may be the game that sets the tone for 2014's major releases. We asked Schmidt what the fondest memories are that he's taking from the development process, and what aspects of the game's release he's most excited for.

“The team is very excited and we've been closely following the news and discussions in the media and community. We've been working on the game for a long time and can't wait to get it out there and hear about the community's experience. Personally I can't wait to see who finds all the secrets we've hidden everywhere, not to mention who completes the game with all the Custom mode switches on. Thief is, and has always been, an extremely unique experience and our hope is to deliver on that promise and be a worthy successor to such an amazing stealth legacy.

“The two best experiences for me is seeing the game come together as a vision, but more so working with a team of talented people who made it all happen,” Schmidt said.

After a long hiatus, Eidos Montreal's Thief reboot will finally be launching for the PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on February 25th. We can't wait to see what Daniel Windfeld Schmidt and the rest of the team have in store for us.

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