Old Games Writing: Thief and environmental storytelling

In this piece of OLD GAMES WRITING, game developer Robert Yang examines storytelling through design in Thief. For him, it is the game’s fourth mission that best demonstrates Thief’s storytelling prowess, something that happens by flipping the script, just a little, and encouraging the player to engage her senses.

So when they turn that corner and you hear the tell-tale clang of boots on metal, you freeze midway up that stone ramp and listen for how many metal steps you hear. A lot of metal steps means a long metal catwalk. That’s the beauty of a footstep mechanic: it translates sound into space and surface.

Yang infuses the writing with numerous detailed anecdotes and analysis to further his case, speaking on topics such as private vs public spaces, reading text for narrative sake, and even critiques later installments, just to name a few avenues he undertakes.

It’s a well written case.

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