Being a stealth game, a lot of focus is put on the lighting mechanics – stay in the shadows and the ‘light gem’ in the corner remains dull, become exposed and the gem gleams. On the PS4 build of the game, this effect is replicated on the DualShock 4 – the LED turned white and illuminated pretty much the whole room we were playing in after a guard exposed our location.
“There’s a pretty powerful light source in that thing,” lead level designer Daniel Windfeld Schmidt told us after our hands-on, “if you’re sitting in a dark room, and you go into the light, you’ll feel /your/ whole room light up as if it’s happening around you. I think that really helps the immersion.”
He’s right, it does. When you’re sneaking through a mansion, say, and the tension is ramping up as more and more guards patrol the area you’re sleuthing around you want to keep your eyes fixed on the centre of the screen, or on your objective, or on that shiny bit of loot on that nearby table. You don’t want to keep flicking your eye to the corner of the screen, checking this obtrusive HUD element.
“We want the player to respond to the feedback naturally,” explains Thief’s director, Nicolas Cantin, “we’ve got the light gem, and we’ve got the black cloak around the edge of the screen when you’re in the shadows, and it’s all very subtle. But when we saw the feedback from the controller, we were like ‘yeah, that’s it!’”
“We did research into how the player’s works,” explains Windfeld Schmidt, “and
the central vision is very keen to detail, and your peripheral vision is very keen to change. After a while, if something changes in the environment around you, you just know that without looking at it.”
It’s clear that the developers of the game are keen to push the boundaries of what next-gen hardware can do. We were dubious of the inclusion of the light bar when we started playing (in fact, we were going to turn it off before the developer insisted we keep it on), but – after seeing what it can add to the game’s generally tense ambiance – we’re excited to see more experiments with system specific hardware in the future.
To read more about Thief, pick up games™ issue 144, on sale 6th February