Thief developer on PS4: “Sony really wants to convince the priority is a gaming console. Gaming for them is the key”

Thief on PS4 is one of the most exciting stealth games since a mustached pensioner snuck his ludicrously toned rear end into a Foxhound body suit. We chatted to project lead Stephane Roy of Ubisoft Montreal during E3, where he discussed the challenges of balancing hyper realistic AI with making a title fun. As you’ll see, he’s also thrilled Sony is placing the emphasis on games first and foremost with PS4.

Thief PS4

When we ask him about the direction PS4 is headed, Roy is particularly happy Sony has spent so much R&D making the machine’s architecture as developer-friendly as possible, especially after the troubles some devs had porting projects to PS3. “I’m really happy to see that,” Roy says. “Because 360 and PS3, how we make the game – of course for you at the end, the player – pick one or the other, it’s the same game. For us, under the hood, the architecture was so different. Today, speaking with Sony the architecture is much more similar than the rest.”

This in turn means the studio can spend more time on the creative side of making Thief sparkle, rather than rasslin’ with unruly technology issues. “It makes our life easier and now I can see it’s really great to see that now my team will put energy in gameplay and not fighting with the architecture.”

“For people who are still in love with that type of gamer’s game, I think that Sony is doing it well for this generation”

Roy is also pleased PS4 is prioritising games over promoting itself as a multi-media hub. “It seems that Sony, they really want to convince that, for them, the priority is a gaming console, gaming for them is the key. Of course I’m pretty sure that later they’re going to tell us that the console can do “everything” like… some competition. But I think right now it’s interesting, so for people who are still in love with that type of gamer’s game, I think that Sony is doing it well for this generation.”

The Thief dev believes Sony’s early messaging has been key to the goodwill so far garnered for PS4. “Their message is crystal clear,” Roy says. “And they support indie, also, not just the big, big blockbusters, that’s great because it forces… I think the creativity will be back.” Roy believes this creativity will in turn force developers to take more chances as a result of the fiercely inventive indie scene. “It forces us to have a demarcation; we cannot just copy the same design because there is a lot of new developers coming and they have new and crazy ideas.”

Back to Thief, and Roy emphasises balancing effective, clever AI that is still fun to toy around with is one of the defining factors for making a good stealth game. “No good AI, no game,” he reiterates. “Because it’s systemic, it’s not scripted. And it’s a complex beast. Especially with the next-gen.” As Roy states, the studio always has to be mindful that the game isn’t too realistic for its own good. “It’s a complexity now that we have to do deal with, to make sure that it’s still a game, it’s not a life simulation – because we had also the problem that the AI is really, really, really smart.”