"No competitive multiplayer" in next-gen Thief

Despite Eidos Montreal having just finished work on the Tomb Raider equivalent.

Eidos Montreal has told Eurogamer that there is "no competitive multiplayer" in the upcoming Thief reboot.

Multiplayer has never been mentioned in connection with the new game, which was first announced in 2009, but given Eidos Montreal's recent history developing the multiplayer component of Tomb Raider, it seemed fair to ask about it. The developer's answers suggest there might be online elements by the time the game ships, but it doesn't sound like you'll be running around The City teabagging fellow thieves and bickering over perks and loadouts.

"Right now, let's say competitive multiplayer, like the example you just gave us - Tomb Raider - there is no plan for that," producer Stephane Roy told me when I visited Eidos Montreal to preview the game recently.

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Guess I'll be drinking alone, then.

"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."

Over recent years we've seen quite a few people shoving multiplayer sections into what were traditionally single-player game series for various reasons - the subtext usually being the publisher's desire to stop you trading the game in when you finish it. High-profile examples include the Uncharted series and of course Tomb Raider, but they're not alone.

But the response to these shoehorned elements is usually mixed at best. There are some action games that have always maintained a healthy balance between single-player or co-operative campaign elements and dedicated multiplayer - like Gears of War or Halo - and there have been some unlikely triumphs, like the excellent Assassin's Creed multiplayer, but it's not for everyone, and when it feels forced gamers tend to ignore it or respond with scepticism or worse.

Then again, Penny Arcade recently reported that multiplayer features are actually in decline across Xbox 360 and PS3 games, at least according to US retail data compiled by EEDAR, so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised to hear that Eidos Montreal isn't interested in competitive multiplayer.

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There's no explicit mechanic in Thief that matches Hitman: Absolution's score system (although the developers tell me they will track players' accomplishments) but an asynchronous multiplayer mode like Hitman's Contracts might end up being a good fit.

A challenge mode, however, could be very interesting. One of the best elements of last year's Hitman: Absolution - also published by Square Enix - was an asynchronous mode called Contracts. Something similar, drawing on Thief's many secrets and wide variety of play styles, could be extremely interesting.

And judging by Thief producer Stephane Roy's comments, Eidos Montreal concurs.

"We think maybe some challenge mode could be interesting, with online component like I said, but again, let's see in the near future, let's have another meeting together, maybe we'll be able to give you more information," he said when we met. "But again, no competitive multiplayer. Single-player is asking a lot of energy."

Check out our full Thief preview to find out what did make it in. We also reported on game director Nicolas Cantin's account of how Garrett was reinvented for the new game, which you might also find interesting.

Thief is due out for PC, PS4 and "other next-gen platforms" (Durango) in 2014.

This story is based on a press trip to Eidos Montreal's offices in Canada. Square Enix paid for travel and accommodation.

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