Can We All Just Calm Down About Thief?
If you live in the same Ion Storm inspired corner of the internet that I do, you’ve probably heard the brouhaha about the upcoming Thief’s redesign of its titular thief, Garrett. He’s gothy. He’s gothy, and they want to make him more mainstream.
That word—mainstream—caused a portion of the internet to light itself on fire with scorn. Mainstream, in my Thief? Perish the though! Everyone hates the design; everyone thinks the new Thief is going to be garbage.
How about we all just calm down?
Look, I get Thief. It wasn’t the immersive sim of my childhood (that was Deus Ex), but I care about Thief. I don’t want Eidos Montreal to crap all over it. I want nothing more than to play a great Thief game brought into the modern day.
The thing is, we’ve seen no signs that modern Thief will be terrible. We’ve seen a character design, some Thief with a splash of Dishonored screenshots. And as much as we all remember Garrett fondly from the original games, he wasn’t exactly a triumph of character design. He’s from the Gordon Freeman school: he doesn’t talk much, he doesn’t matter much; we champion him because of nostalgia, but he doesn’t exactly matter, does he?
Sure, the new design might make him look like an asshole, but I imagine you, reading this, ready to tear my head off, dresses about how I do: jeans, a t-shirt. I’m hardly connected with fashion. I’m not exactly a young kid anymore. Fuck if I know what appeals to sixteen year olds.
And we, the 25-35 year old gamer who grew up with Garrett, think we know what’s best, but we’re not exactly the target audience for previews in Game Informer, you know? For one, we’re more interested in whether or not the game’s fun to play, and we’re not gonna figure that out from pictures of Garrett’s design. For two, we’re kind of a small group. We think we’re very important, largely because we’ve kickstarted the development of a lot of classic styled games, but even if everyone who backed Project Eternity bought a new, full-budget Thief game it’d be selling about as well as a niche Japanese RPG. We think we’re belligerent and numerous but we’re really not.
What Game Informer is doing (at the behest of the publishers, no doubt, as befitting an exclusive preview) is trying to expand the audience. Thief is the kind of game that developers get into development wanting to make: they’re not going to fuck it up. Seriously, Eidos Montreal made Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and you’d have to find a cold-hearted son of a bitch who didn’t love a single game released after 2003 to find someone who didn’t think it was a pretty good Deus Ex rendition. There were problems—the boss fights—but it stuck the landing.
So I don’t begrudge Eidos Montreal for trying to sell their game in such a way that it moves a lot of copies, makes them a bunch of money, and lets them make more Thief games. If the game’s terrible, we’ll move on, but it’s probably not going to be. And, even if it is, the design of its nondescript main character isn’t going to be what makes it so.
And even if it’s terrible, it’s not going to retroactively destroy the first three Thief games. They will still exist. You will still be able to play them. I promise.