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It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun

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Offline Melan

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So, Thief 4, the sequel to the ground-breaking and influential PC stealth game is coming, and - among other things - the ability to jump outside of designer-approved places has been put on the chopping block. Why, you ask? Because it is more fun that way, and - get this! - the old method of allowing you to jump where and how you liked was a broken, outdated feature that had to go. All for you, Dear Beloved Customer!

Here is what the publisher's community rep has to say (emphasis mine, note how familiar it is):
Zitat
LOL! Everybody needs to calm down and relax.

This is such a non-issue. You can absolutely jump and move through the world fluidly and freely. The game has been designed specifically to achieve this goal. You're looking at this like you're losing a feature, but the reality is that you're gaining dozens more.

Anybody claiming the game will somehow be ruined because you can't free jump, when there is no reason to be jumping, would have to agree that Gran Tourismo is ruined because you can't choose to pop the trunk - right? No, of course not.

Saying that immersion is broken because of the absence of a feature allowing you to physically break out of character is akin to dividing by zero. Garrett would never randomly hop, skip and jump through the world. He just wouldn't. Honestly, if you need to spam the jump button continually for no reason to truly feel immersed a game, or need to be able to randomly pop yourself into the air like a grasshopper with the hiccups - then hell, maybe Thief isn't for you. But, check out Team Fortress 2 - it's free to play and you'll probably love it!

As someone who has played the game more than anybody else outside of the dev team, I can assure you that free jumping would ruin immersion. Pogo hopping through the world like a shop manequin on a spring would seem incredibly out of place, dated and overly simplistic within the context of the rest of the rich and tactile mechanics that have been created soley to make you feel like a Master Thief slipping through the world.

Like I said yesterday, this is not tomb raider, this is not The Last of Us, this is not an early 2000's game with cheesy pre-programmed hot spots. Forget what you know about the word "contextual" - it's been turned into a dirty word of late, but don't make the mistake of judging Thief on how "contextual" actions have been handled in other, completely unrelated games.

Consider that this only has become an 'issue' on the forums here after someone quoted a snippet of a text interview. It was never brought up when you guys first saw the E3 gameplay footage. Nor was it ever brought up as an issue by any of the journalists who played the game - including the few more 'critical' reports. MT didn't even scream bloody murder or beg the team to change the feature after he played the game. Why? For 1 very simple reason: It's just not an issue. Nobody felt restricted. Nobody felt they were missing anything. Chances are when you're finally playing the game, neither will you!

You can't free jump just for no reason - but you can jump whenever and wherever you need to jump. It's fluid. It's slick. You tap the jump button in the EXACT same way, with the exact same timing as if you had a free jump. In fact, if you weren't told that you couldn't free jump, and only tried to jump when you needed to jump to, you would have NO idea that you couldn't bunny hop around like convulsing jack-in-the-box. It's only when you tap the jump button while standing in the middle of a room with nothing to jump on that you DON'T jump.

So, I hear you asking, what happens when you DO press the jump button, but there is nothing to jump on?

You SWOOP!

It's AWESOME - just like a very small dash.
In fact, if Garrett didn't hunker down to avoid being seen, you would say that it feels like a jump, in a way (be clear: It is NOT a jump). The swoop is used to empower stealth gameplay, and can be used in any direction - forwards, backwards, side to side. You can even rotate/change direction while you're swooping. It cannot be spammed for a continual speed boost. It offers total freedom and mobility, completely aligned with the movement and grace of a master thief who makes his living by sneaking from shadow to shadow. Those hoping for Garrett the Master River Dancer will be disappointed, everyone else has nothing to worry about.
The future is in good hands, everyone!

(Also, they removed the game's traditional factions and replaced them with an Evil Baron Running a Police State, threw out most of the game's weapons and equipment, changed the main character from a cynical and world-weary professional into a consummate eyeshadow-wearing artiste living for thr thrill of thieving, and hired someone else instead of the protagonist's usual voice actor because, I kid you not, "he could not perform the character's physical stunts". All for you! Well, except for you nostalgia-ridden Master River Dancer-wannabes and bunny-hoppers, I guess.)

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Offline MK Ultra

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Yes, grow up and get out of the sandbox  ???

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Offline Settembrini

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What is to be gained by insulting both audiences: the power gaming speed-optizers and the people wanting to just play the fucking game?
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Offline Benjamin

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Zitat
Honestly, if you need to spam the jump button continually for no reason to truly feel immersed a game, or need to be able to randomly pop yourself into the air like a grasshopper with the hiccups - then hell, maybe Thief isn't for you. But, check out Team Fortress 2 - it's free to play and you'll probably love it!
Publisher's community rep? Not just a drunk they found somewhere?
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Offline Melan

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Looking into it a bit more: in this particular case, I am starting to believe the publisher is getting desperate. Strange to see computer game fans showing more discernment than P&P roleplayers, but except for the usual circle of paid shills, Thief 4 is almost universally being savaged, and the arguments are not being bought.

(Granted, the Thief series has always had an older, less ''gamer'' fanbase.)

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Offline BoyScout

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for the sake of game world atmosphere it's absolutely reasonable to prevent theplayer not to jump around like an idiot. Its not about Gameplay. However, a game designer does not necessarily need a jump feature to implement a branching gameplay experience.
Doom should have told you that.

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Offline Settembrini

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I think "branching" is not the experience sought after. Continuum seems more like it.
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Offline alexandro

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It is perfectly reasonable not to include a certain option (like jumping) in a game. In the old days this didn't even need an explanation or justification from the designer. It is sad to see how the diversity of gaming is reduced in recent times, with designers trying to cram every option under the sun into the game, to "make it appeal to a broader audience" (= make the game as bland as possible).

However, while I applaud the choice of the designers not to cave in to peer pressure and include a certain feature just "because everyone else has it", I cannot ignore the fact that their PR-spokesman is acting like a colossal douche. You don't dismiss or insult Gamers who don't like or enjoy the way you designed your game. You just don't.
« Letzte Änderung: 18. August 2013, 16:48:08 von alexandro »

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Offline Melan

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To make it absolutely clear, this is a feature that has traditionally been an integral part of the series, one which is offering a particularly high freedom of movement, and which was originally built on the design philosophy of complex environmental interaction and exploration (with a strong vertical component). As a historical curiosity, the same company created Ultima Underworld, which was Doom's contemporary and already featured jumping. Settembrini is right to point out ''continuum'' - that's a good way to characterise the approach, since it presents situations with a lot of non-binary choices. In this context, even jumping around like an idiot has an emergent function: the sounds alert guards to your presence and draw them towards your position, while you can circle around them undetected and sneak through a previously tightly guarded checkpoint. A slightly messy, but workable approach.

So we are right back at the point where a feature gets cut, this regression is justified with an appeal to the alleged design expertise of the people working on the title, and it is repackaged as ''progress''. And this is where it is hard not to see the parallels with P&P games.

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Offline Benjamin

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In this context, even jumping around like an idiot has an emergent function: the sounds alert guards to your presence and draw them towards your position, while you can circle around them undetected and sneak through a previously tightly guarded checkpoint.
And that's what gamers do. Fuck immersion, fuck story.

 ;)
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Offline BoyScout

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Re: It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun
« Antwort #10 am: 19. August 2013, 20:11:06 »
no, "continuum" just like "branching gameplay experience" are both guesses. We don't know their plans for the game. I admit that it's more likely to be a continuum, that's why i said "a game designer doesn't need...." not "Squeenix doesn't need...".
I'm not even sure if there are game designers left in this company ;D

Zitat von: Melan
In this context, even jumping around like an idiot has an emergent function:
yeah, that's what i told you. It can have a (gameplay) function but that's a different term as "game world atmosphere". I can think of many functions which would enhance the gameplay complexity and none of these has anything to do with portraying a "movie like master thief". Jumping around like an idiot is one of these. So should we integrate all of them for the sake of gameplay, disregarding what we actually want to simulate? A grim, movie like master thief.

But, again: One could achieve both at the same time and this is the true art about game design.


Zitat von: Melan
And this is where it is hard not to see the parallels with P&P games.
qft. Instead of flexibility many P&P's today are "designed" around certain features and fall apart if you put freedom of choice back on table. Which happens at least.... every gaming session?
On the other side, not even classic, retro, old-School - whatever - "rules" could handle true freedom of choice without arbitrary GM interventions. So, the grail is still out there.
« Letzte Änderung: 19. August 2013, 20:17:12 von BoyScout »

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Offline alexandro

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Re: It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun
« Antwort #11 am: 20. August 2013, 19:00:09 »
But, again: One could achieve both at the same time and this is the true art about game design.

True. With good games, you don't have to choose between emergent gameplay and immersion/story ("Chrono Trigger" is great in this regard).

But then, the Thief-series never was very good in any sense of the world (any game where the only way to win is the "trial'n'error-reload" combo is one that is quickly deleted from my harddrive).

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Offline BoyScout

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Re: It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun
« Antwort #12 am: 20. August 2013, 23:59:03 »
jap.

I personally lack the patience necessary to wait 2-3 mins for a npc guard to walk by anyway, so i never got into these stealth games and will never understand the fascination of doing literally nothing in a game.

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Offline Benjamin

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Re: It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun
« Antwort #13 am: 21. August 2013, 08:27:27 »
I guess you guys really loved HL2 and Portal for it's heavy mood and it's linear levels? Oh wait, you could always jump ...

If the developers of Doom had the technology for true 3D back then, they'd included jumping.

So should we integrate all of them for the sake of gameplay, disregarding what we actually want to simulate? A grim, movie like master thief.
Like with P&P adventures, if I'd wanted to share the exact story of an author with the set mood for any given situation, I'd go watch a movie or read a book. But since that's a game, I want to try stuff and explore. What else is the purpose of a game?

But, again: One could achieve both at the same time and this is the true art about game design.
There is no art in it. If at all, try Dwarf Fortress or Mount&Blade. Only, the makers are no artists, but really good game designers.

It's the same with adventures for DSA, in so many games there's always the illusion of choice. And I know some designers think this is the grail, but it's just not.

There's nothing to say against some puzzle games like Portal or FPS like HL2 (which I both enjoyed much), but here were no good game designers at work (meaning working out complex world mechanics in game terms), but brilliant level designers (meaning people who can build puzzles or shooting arenas respectively).
« Letzte Änderung: 21. August 2013, 08:30:09 von Benjamin »
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Offline Melan

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Re: It is for your own good: How Thief 4 is being optimised for maximum fun
« Antwort #14 am: 21. August 2013, 11:06:19 »
But then, the Thief-series never was very good in any sense of the world (any game where the only way to win is the "trial'n'error-reload" combo is one that is quickly deleted from my harddrive).
I am sorry to point it out, but there is virtually no trial and error in Thief: there is 'good at it' and 'not that good at it'. If you are good at it, the AI will not even know you have been there.  ;)