When Looking Glass Studios, developer of Thief and Thief II, closed its doors at the end of May, Thief fans were disheartened by the possibility that they might never get to play the planned follow-up to the series. However, following rumors that surfaced over the weekend, Eidos has confirmed for GameSpot that it now has solid plans to publish a new Thief game - tentatively titled Thief 3 - for the PC and the PlayStation 2.
Future development of the series will take place at the Ion Storm studio in Austin, Texas, which in June completed Deus Ex, the conspiracy-laden first-person action-RPG. The Austin studio is headed by Warren Spector, who established a reputation for the innovative with his work on Ultima Underworld and System Shock.
Looking forward past the announcement, Spector said, "We here in the Austin office are thrilled, proud, and a bit humbled at the prospect of continuing and building on the work of the talented men and women who made Thief and Thief II." To further assuage fans' potential concerns about the change in developers, Spector added, "We respect the Thief tradition and we'll do everything in our power not only to live up to everyone's justifiably high expectations but to surpass them."
Over the last several weeks, the Ion Storm studio has shifted gears from post-release support for Deus Ex to assembling new team members. Some of Looking Glass' former members have signed on for the new project, though their names and roles have yet to be specified. Eidos also has not announced a release schedule for the game, though it has promised to be forthcoming with more information on Thief 3 in the near future.
GameSpot had the opportunity to talk to Warren Spector about the nascent Thief 3 project and how his team will pick up the previous efforts of Looking Glass. Read on for his perspective on how the project will move forward.
GameSpot: Tell us a little bit about what has been involved in transferring the Thief franchise from Looking Glass to Eidos.
Warren Spector: So far, not much. This has only been in the works for a matter of weeks. We're still at the level of trying to figure out if there are any hard-copy versions of Looking Glass docs or electronic backups or anything, so there hasn't been a lot to transfer! Give us a little time...
GS: Will Eidos build on the existing work Looking Glass has done for Thief 3?
WS: Absolutely. The first two Thief games were both compelling works of (dare I say it?) art. And they sold well, to boot. We'd be crazy not to build on that foundation. Bear in mind, though, I'm speaking in the abstract since, as I said, we haven't seen any Looking Glass assets down here in Austin yet.
GS: Will the next Thief game resolve the story issues brought up in Thief II's suspenseful conclusion?
WS: Without making any promises (see all the caveats in my earlier answers!), my instinct is to say, "Of course!" If we're going to maintain the integrity of the Thief series we have to wrap up loose ends left by our predecessors.
GS: Has development already started on the new game?
WS: Nope. Our first priority is to sign up some critical team members - the folks who will work together to flesh out the game design and storyline, and around whom we can build an entire team. It would be the height of arrogance, as well as fundamental foolishness, to try to foist off a finished game design on a team. You always want your team to participate in the creation of the design. That's especially true when a new group (albeit one built around folks already experienced with Thief) is charged with continuing someone else's work. Team first, design second, then development.
GS: Has it been decided whether the engine that Looking Glass was developing for Thief 3 will be used or if a third-party engine will be licensed for the game?
WS: "Decided" would be too strong a word, but given that the Looking Glass engine team has scattered to the four winds, it doesn't seem terribly likely we'll be finishing the LG engine. And, to date, the Austin office hasn't built an engine team, so we don't really have the desire to get into that - at this time, we're focused on content creation. My guess is that we'll license the engine that gets us closest to what we need for a Thief game and then replace the bits that aren't Thief-like.
Having said that, we're well aware that there isn't an engine in the world that offers the combination of sound propagation, object interaction, and stealth-oriented AI that made Thief work. Anything we license will likely be rewritten pretty heavily in these and other areas. And before anyone asks, we understand that the Deus Ex approach to stealth (just one of many approaches available to players) won't work for a razor-sharp-focus game like Thief. Whatever engine we use, we'll do the work necessary to make the game play the way a Thief game must.
GS: Will any of the former members of the Looking Glass Thief team join the new development effort?
WS: Yes. Some have already signed on. Others have offered to consult, if nothing more. We're still talking to a few ex-LG'ers. Look for more specific information soon.
GS: Do you have any plans to bring on Stephen Russell, the actor who played the voice of Garrett in the first two games?
WS: If "decided" is too strong a word to use when discussing engines, "plan" is too strong a word to use with regard to voice talent. Certainly, it's hard to imagine Garrett with any other voice, so we'll do what we can to maintain consistency. But, really, decisions like this won't be made for quite a while.