It’s become fairly common practice in recent years for games, even those from traditionally single-player franchises like Mass Effect and Tomb Raider, to have a multiplayer component included in order to improve their marketability. With a limited amount of resources – both in terms of time and money – available to developers, some gamers feel that the pressure to include multiplayer diverts focus away from the main campaign, leaving games with a shortened or unpolished single-player experience and a bland multiplayer experience.
The recent success of games like Skyrim and Dishonored however, has proven that games with single-player only can sell exceedingly well even without a bolted-on multiplayer. It’s perhaps because of this that Eidos Montreal has confirmed that they won’t be including competitive multiplayer in next year’s long-awaited reboot of the Thief franchise.
In an interview with Eurogamer, producer Stephane Roy assures fans that the development team’s focus is entirely upon the single-player campaign, and that there definitely won’t be any competitive multiplayer in the game:
“Right now, let’s say competitive multiplayer, like the example you just gave us – Tomb Raider – there is no plan for that. We are looking to see if there is maybe a challenge mode with some online component, but I’m going to be very honest with you – our main goal with this team is to give you the best single-player experience, just to bring back this franchise, to convince you we’re part of the future and not something holding onto the past. It’s really demanding, so I don’t want to see my team wasting any energy… I want to see them focusing on that.”
Though officially the game will be the fourth in the series, the title has been shortened from “Thief 4” to just “Thief“, since it’s a reboot rather than a sequel (though the recent CG trailer showed that Garrett has his mechanical eye, meaning that the game must take place after Thief: The Dark Project). It also appears that Stephen Russell, who has been the voice of Garrett the Master Thief since the first game was released in 1998, has been dropped and been replaced by a new voice actor. With that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the developers are at least maintaining the unique focus upon a single-player story campaign that the games are known for.
As a fan of the Thief games who views “change for the sake of change” with an exceedingly wary eye, I can’t help but feel encouraged by Roy’s words. In many cases, added multiplayer campaigns can feel tacked-on, uninspired and poorly-implemented, and the Thief universe doesn’t lend itself naturally to multiplayer. After all, the prime appeal of the Thief games is sneaking around unnoticed all by yourself, getting increasingly more creeped out by the surroundings, and keeping an ear to the ground for passing guards. Having a team of people scurrying along behind you would probably detract from the atmosphere.
That’s not to say that multiplayer in a Thief game would be impossible to implement; though Garrett generally doesn’t play well with others, there’s always potential for a game where players take on the roles of the different factions of the city, or perhaps setting up a Thieves Guild in which players help each other to raid houses for loot. After all, I was sceptical when they introduced multiplayer to the Assassin’s Creed games, but the stealth-based, back-stabbing mechanics of the single-player campaign were actually transferred over rather well.
In short, multiplayer might not be the worst thing to happen to the Thief franchise if it does eventually come along, but right now I don’t think there are any fans clamoring for it.
Thief will be dipping into your pockets some time in 2014.