I first heard about it at Polygon. They’re my preferred source for video-game news and features these days. Tweets followed quickly on those heels—some of those tweets asking me directly if I was excited to hear the news. And, yes, I was excited to hear the news, to see the artwork.
A new Thief game is coming to next-gen consoles in 2014.
The original game, Thief: The Dark Project, is probably the video game I have played the most. I mean, I played that game over and over and over again, exploring the levels as stealth puzzles, as action experiences, as comedic romps—I ran around in that game until I wore down the carpets. I sanded it smooth through play. I played through most levels until they weren’t scary anymore, until I could predict almost every AI reaction and recite the dialogue of wandering foes by memory. I wore that game down to a nub. Then I played it again.
To me, Thief was both entertainment and school. It was like a game-design how-to class in world-building, environmental narrative, and linear ludic storytelling through level design. Yeah, I love that game.
Though I’ve meditated on Thief a whole lot, I’ve written about it only a little bit. I contemplated its writing in a piece called “Magic Words.” I wrote about its level design and use of religion in an article called “Robbing Gods.” Both of those were published at The Escapist, years ago. (Both of those articles pale, by the way, compared to Kieron Gillen’s stellar piece, “Journey Into the Cradle,” which examines a single powerful level of the third game, Thief: Deadly Shadows.)
Truth is, though, that I’ve barely written about the Thief series at all. Instead, I internalized it. I made its lessons into instincts and turned its techniques into mental muscle memories. It’s sometimes difficult for me to phrase the impact that game had on me as a writer and designer.
Thief is scary, funny, exciting, melancholy, all through a combination of writing (notes, monologues, dialogues, signage) and design (environments, characters, mechanics). It’s world isn’t a place where you’d want to live—it’s dirty, unfair, dark, and deadly—yet it draws you inside and compels you to step through it slowly, to explore, to soak it in. It’s wonderful.
One of my white whales of gaming is a stealth-action tabletop RPG with a gripping, enticing game world attached. For the last three or four years, I’ve been inching towards that goal with a side project (fittingly listed in the sidebar here for some time) codenamed Project: Dark. It’s not enough to have that game in existence; I want to make one of my own. I’m hoping it’ll be ready in 2014, too. (I’ll be playtesting that game again at the Origins Game Fair this year, if you’re curious.) I’m hesitant to write about that game, though, because I don’t want to let the electricity out of it yet. It’s something I’ve been excited about for… a long time.
So, yes, I’m enthusiastic about the approach of a new Thief game. It’s been a whole console generation since we last got one. I have no feelings one way or the other about the nature of the game—a reboot seems like a fine way to update the game to new technologies and audiences—but my hopes are high.