Thief vs. AAA Gaming

A detailed video essay focusing on favourites Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II: The Metal Age, and how these old dogs stack up against the AAA gaming industry of today.

1. Introduction – 0:00
2. Removal of Elements – 1:48
3. Maps and Quest Markers – 3:13
4. “Gaminess” in Level Design – 7:26
5. Storytelling in Gameplay – 11:08
6. “Choice” in Gaming – 15:36
7. Vulnerability – 17:09
8. Conclusion – 23:39





manzerboy06 (Uncharted 2):

Levelsave (Geoff Keighley Interview):

Rev3Games (Thief 2014 Interview)

jjdthemoviemaker3 (The Force Unleashed II Gamespot E3 Stage Demo):

drdrillvga (Saint’s Row The Third):

gamespot (Saint’s Row The Third Review):

gamespot (inFamous Review):

AbsoluteLlama (Homeworld):

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Comment (0)

  1. some decent points here at the start, but then you start to suggest that the desire for empowerment fantasies via gaming is almost some kind of moral failing on the part of the player; the early Thief games are good at what they do, but not everyone wants to play as a supremely vulnerable character for the sake of tension etc. Sometimes they just want to be Batman and kick ass; I don't really see what the issue with that is, as long as the gameplay and mechanics are decent.

  2. I don't quest markers necessarily detract from a game, it's all about whether it fits the game's goal or not. Witcher 3 is a great and innovative game that pushes boundaries in several areas, but it still uses quest markers, and without them it would be extremely confusing to navigate the world, because it is so huge.
    Back in WoW before quest tracking became an in-game feature, it kind of worked for quests because usually there were some notes on where you needed to go, like "forest to the north" or similar things within the quest's description. But it was also a way different game back then, much more slow-paced with emphasis on the world, whereas today progression and getting to the endgame is the primary goal of WoW. I don't necessarily think that is bad however, it's the natural direction the game would take with the style of expansions, i.e. massively more powerful gear, new level cap, new area, etc. The slow pace of the old WoW would become very stagnant with how many levels you'd need to get through at that slow pace, even if it worked very well back then. There's also the case of the old world being much larger than the new 7ish zones that are introduced with every expansion. There's only so much world that you can put into that, not to mention the continous story progression is destined to become shallow and hollow.

  3. Metro, 2033, and last light, on harder difficulties. One of my favriote game series, which I believe holds up too most the critasim, you give for modern games… Just my option though, you should play them.

  4. I'm kinda tired of people glorifying retro games and complaining about new ones. You can't take the best of the old games and the worst of the new and draw conclusions from that. But only in that way can such an argument be justified. Also, side note, I think dishonored is better than any thief.

  5. Batman is a superhero. It's not supposed to be difficult for the player to defeat a mob. The pleasure comes from feeling the fluidity of his fighting skill and imagining what it would be like to be him. You're comparing apples to oranges sometimes. Thief satisfies a different kind of fantasy than that of Far Cry 3 or Batman etc.

    For example, Batman has a map because he knows Gotham City so it makes sense. Location mystery isn't the point in a game like that.

  6. This is why I install combat, stealth and difficulty mods for Skyrim. My thief character can mercilessly slaughter anybody from the shadows but one or two direct hits from a melee weapon and he's out.

  7. Thief: The Dark Project was $3 million budget. Unreal Tournament was $2 million, So for PC Video Game at that time, Theif was maybe AAA product?
    Final Fantasy VII cost $45 million but prolly they spent a lot of money for pre-rendered CGIs… (both released at 1997)

    PC game player pool is always much smaller than console unless games don't require 3d Video Card.

    Also we need consider VooDoo2 released at early 1998 and VooDoo2 require 2d video card too. Which made PC Gaming was pretty expensive hobby compare to Playstation 1.
    So, Much cheaper than FFVII doesn't mean Theif was low budget game.

    Thief: The Dark Project, Deus EX and System Shock 2 had very unique gameplays and all of them got "Simplified" successors.

    Anyways, I agree most of other part what you said, Thief Dark Project, Deus Ex and System Shock 2 were master piece games!

  8. That's what I like about metro and it's games (yes I've read the book but this is about the game design) you get a compose but it shows a vague direction and this let's you see where your going but still take in what's around you metro being a horror game it works well and seems believable in universe that a compose would be on a survivor of the post apocalyptic Russian hellscape

  9. I explore the shit out of modern games. Skrim, Fallout, AC exploring is half the fun.
    Dishonored doesn't use maps, yeah it has markets, but that doesn't mean I don't explore like crazy. People play games differently. Yeah i agree some games are way to hold your hand now a days, and if you stray slightly off the path you instantly fail the mission, then game play now a days is very "lather, rinse, repeat" And nothing comes more to mind then Ubisoft games, AC, last 2 Tom Clancy's, Farcry. All have the same core element, "go to poit A, clear out enemies, check! Go to point B, capture/liberate this area, check! Use Hidden blades in game A, check, Use guns in Games B C and D, check!"
    And they dont bother changing the game play in the next game, if they do its only slightly, what is Wildlands and Division if not 3rd person Farcry? What's Farcry 3, 4 and 5 but not just the same game, same gameplay, same "lather, rinse, repeat. Point A to point B, liberate/capture the area" ubisoft is just one big joke that can do nothing but recycle all their ideas. But again people experience and play video games differently, and people play very games very differntly. And Dishonered you can stealthely all you want, i take time to stratagize, and again was still a hell of alot more fun then what ever the fuck 2014 Thief was.

  10. I could watch this video over and over. I'm someone with very little knowledge about level design and development, but I have played a lot. Through the years I would keep playing videogames, AAA's included of course, but one of the series I would always come back to is Thief. A lot of the things you mentioned are the reasons why, but I guess I hadn't been able to put it into words, thanks for that. There is "something" about this game and other games like these that make the experience of playing them something beyond just "fun", and I would call it a somewhat aesthetic experience similar to that you get from art. A great book, a great film, a beautiful painting. I'm not even worried about the industry as much as I'm worried about the new gamers, I hope people have the chance to experience this kind of gaming before they play so many AAA's, that they're unable to tell the difference between actual content and the rewarding feeling of a loot box.

  11. Ehhh. I agree and disagree about the maps. Yes, maybe having a map makes it too easy, but nothing pisses me off more in a game than stumbling around for 20 minutes trying to get to a quest that I can't find.

  12. I think Dishonored is not the best choice for vulnerability, Dishonored is extremely hard in the hardest difficulty, dying in 2 hits. Yeah; you are a magic mf but even that has limits. Also chaos system

  13. now that i've been working in the industry for a while, i feel confident answering some of the questions presented in this video. why are modern games more homogeneous than older games? why do they focus on spectacle over substance? why does it feel like no one on the project actually cared about the game they were making?

    it's all because designers have been extremely devalued by the industry. there's this idea that "anyone can design a game" floating around, so you'll often see the title of "game designer" shoved off onto a few people on the programming team and a few narrative designers. these people have no idea how to design a game beyond the superficial and tend to fall back on common conventions like the GPS minimap due to lack of experience. playtesting is a mess because the questions and scenarios are written by people who for the most part have no idea what to ask testers. a lot of the time the only thing being tested is whether players can get through a level, not whether they actually enjoyed playing it.

    tl;dr modern games would be a whole lot better if companies started hiring real game designers

  14. Great video essay. I've seen a lot of people trying to justify the more egregious and untenable trends in modern gaming without actually thinking about the contexts in which they're implemented. This shows perfect evidence of the contrary. You have to think of everything as a cohesive hole, in service to the game's focus. (I think that infamous, Dishonored and Arkham did explicitly that, but that's splitting hairs). Point well-made, and I hope a lot more watch you make it.

  15. is it really mind blowing to you how the games are changing? it is that hard to understand? the games like original thief are time and energy consuming. they are made for "hardcore" gamers (or whatever you wanna call em). they are not for regular gamers, the people who cant put that much much time, effort, and thought into playing video games. AAA games are marketed towards these people. I'm not saying there's any thing wrong with either group, my point is their main priority is making money and and games like original thief wont make you a millionaire these days… OH MY GOD PEOPLE


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