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Thief: The Dark Project
T1 cover.jpg
Greg LoPiccolo
Tom Leonard
Mark Lizotte
Tim Stellmach
Doug Church
Ken Levine
Eric Brosius
1.14 (Original)
1.33 (Patch / Sold-Out Edition)
1.37 (Thief Gold)
US release
November 30, 1998
Action, Stealth
Game modes:
Single player
USK: 16+
OFLC: M15+
166 MHz CPU, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB video card RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 6.0, 42 MB HD space, Windows 95
Keyboard and mouse

The plot of both this game and Thief Gold focuses on The Dark Project.

Thief: The Dark Project, also known as Thief 1 or T1 or simply Thief, is a first-person stealth game developed for Windows by Looking Glass Studios and published by Eidos Interactive. It is the first game in the Thief series, it is set in a Middle Age steampunk-fantasy setting, in a metropolis called The City. Thief casts the player as a professional thief named Garrett, who was trained by a secret society. He intertwines himself into a sinister plot while merely attempting to live off of his chosen profession. Based upon the Dark Engine, the game brought many new ideas and technological achievements to the software industry when it was released.

Thief was the first stealth game to take place from a first-person perspective, and it introduced light and sound as stealth gameplay mechanics. The game underwent a tumultuous development cycle, during which initial plans for it to be action-oriented were altered to focus on stealth. Its final design combined ideas from first-person shooters with a focus on avoiding confrontation, which led the designers to label it a first-person "sneaker".

The game was a critical and commercial success, and has been cited as an influence on later stealth games. It has been hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. Thief was followed by two sequels, Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows, the second of which was developed by Ion Storm Austin following the closure of Looking Glass Studios. Thief 4, the newest game in the series, was developed by Eidos Montreal, and was released on February 25, 2014.


Thief takes place from a first-person perspective in a 3D environment, with a centered crosshair for camera control. The game's heads-up display (HUD) includes a health bar and a visibility gem; the gem brightens or darkens depending on the visibility of the player character.[1] The game features two separate inventories for weapons and items, displayed in the bottom corners of the screen; the player cycles through the inventories to select objects. Certain parts of the HUD become invisible when not in use.[1] The game takes place in 12 large, lightly scripted levels; this allows for emergent gameplay.[2][3] In each level, the player must complete one or more objectives; these objectives are altered by the player's selected difficulty level. The selected difficulty also changes the level, with harder settings increasing the amount of enemies and making certain paths inaccessible.[4]

The game focuses on stealth and evasion rather than on confrontation; the player character's combat proficiency and damage resistance are limited.[1][5] Shadows may be used to evade notice, and the player character may navigate environments through actions including walking, running, standing, crouching, jumping, swimming and climbing.[1] Sound is used to communicate to the player the location and internal state of AI-controlled characters;[4] details including the surface on which a character is walking, their proximity to the player and whether they are alert can be gleaned from the game's sound.[1] The player may also distract AI characters with sound—with a thrown object, for example. Different floors cause varying amounts of noise; gravel and ceramic tiles, for example, make a large amount of noise, while carpets make very little.[6]

A blackjack and sword are available; these incapacitate and kill characters, respectively. Direct confrontations are handled with a sword-combat system, which features three possible attacks and the ability to parry.[1] Fallen bodies may be picked up and hidden. A bow is also present, but is usable as a tool as well as a weapon. Water arrows, for example, extinguish torches, while rope arrows lower a rope on which the player character may climb. Other tools available to the player include lockpicks, flashbombs, and speed potions, among other things. Objects stolen in a level become money that can be used to purchase equipment between levels.[1]

The game's non-player characters (NPCs) are controlled through complex artificial intelligence (AI) systems.[2] They can detect visual and aural cues in real-time; if the player character is heard making a slight noise, or is somewhat visible to a NPC, they will become alert and search the area. The sound of swords clashing or another NPC's voice will also be detected and reacted to.[1][4] Reactions to finding the player character vary between hostile and non-hostile character types. A non-hostile human will run for help from a hostile character; a hostile character will aggressively search for and attack the player character. If the player significantly injures a hostile human, they will retreat and call for help. The player's alterations of the game world, such as hiding bodies or extinguishing torches, can be detected by AI characters even when the player character is not near enough to witness it.[2] Non-human characters such as zombies also appear in the game, with slightly different AI patterns.

Missions, Briefings and Cutscenes



Thief's story takes place in what is best described as a steampunk world ( more specifically fantasy steampunk). Thief's setting is a conflation of late medieval society with early industrial revolution technology and magic in a dense urban environment.

Guards wear metal armor and are armed with arming swords and bows. Cobbled streets of half timbered houses and stone mansions are lit by electric street lights. The classical elements of earth, fire, air and water naturally form into crystals that can be bought or found around the levels and used as tools. Characters in the game generally speak using modern English (with some exceptions; see below) in variations on British and New England accents. The game also has unique fauna such as Burricks and Craymen (see Opponents).

Thief's narrative is elliptically told, leaving much of the detail regarding characters, events and the game world to be inferred from observation and documents found in the game. The story is progressed through the briefings, several elaborate cutscenes and the missions themselves. In the missions players can read books and scrolls, overhear conversations and Garrett himself often makes comments. The core plot of the story is told via Garrett's narrow perspective, which rarely describes things that aren't of immediate concern. However external aspects and influences on the story are constantly being alluded to. Three groups from Thief society are of particular importance: The Keepers, The Order of the Hammer and the Pagans. The Order of the Hammer features in the game itself, but neither the Keepers or the Pagans are ever explicitly described. They are known primarily through the long quotes that open each briefing video. These quotes are presented as excerpts from the writings of each group and, though not always relevant to the mission, are effectively incluing players in general.

The notion of assembling scraps of information by seeking it out, stumbling upon it or being presented with it is key to Thief's narrative structure and gameplay.

  • The Keepers are the group with whom Garrett served a lengthy apprenticeship. A secret society, they are enigmatic to the point that it is unclear if a member of the Keepers carries on any public life outside the group. They are preoccupied with the idea of balance in all things and typically portrayed as hooded figures engaged in some scholarly work or observation. The Keepers believe Garrett is too skilled to be left to his own devices.
  • The Order of the Hammer, or The Hammerites, are a militant theocratic religious group with a long involvement in the City's history. They are named for the favored tool of the Builder, a messianic figure who led mankind to leave primitive life. The hammer is present in all of their iconography right down to their weapons. Hammerites speak and write in a distinctive fashion, derivative of Early Modern English such as that found in the King James Bible.
  • The Pagans in Thief: the Dark Project are barely present, despite being integral to the plot. Their quotes are taken from poems, songs and fragments of parchment found in abandoned temples and other ruins. They are noted by their use of an, at times barely comprehensible, rustic dialect. Their writings speak of the destruction of the natural order by the 'manfools' and a belief system that has a cyclical view of existence.
For example: "Builds your Roofs of Dead Wood. Builds your Walls of Dead Stone. Builds your Dreams of Dead Thoughts. Comes Crying Laughing Singing back to Life, takes what you steal, And pulls the skins from your Dead Bones shrieking."
-Clay tablet in an abandoned Trickster Temple
(taken from the briefing to The Sword).

Some in-game documents show characters using the same dialect, indicating that the Pagans have not been completely overridden in the City's culture.


Main article: Storyline#Thief: The Dark Project


Information on non-recurring characters may also be found in Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows
  • Garrett: The protagonist of the series. A cynical, highly disciplined master thief who only wishes to be left alone to steal in peace, but who unwittingly becomes embroiled in a series of epic events. As a child, Garrett was recruited into the Keepers but later rebelled against their secretive, hierarchical ways. He left the mysterious organization, went into business for himself as a thief, and now uses his Keeper skills to steal from the rich and give to himself. Garrett comes across as cold and ruthless, but also seems to have a professional pride and will only kill when absolutely necessary. He is even a caring and warm person to those whom he regards as friends, like Viktoria (during the Metal Age) and Artemus, although not overtly.


  • Keeper Orland: A member of the Keeper organization with a strong dislike of Garrett. Orland eventually becomes the leader of the Keepers in Thief: Deadly Shadows. His leadership quickly proves officious, bureaucratic, and secretive, and Garrett quickly learns to dislike him. He first appeared in Thief II: The Metal Age, albeit voiced by a different actor. Orland is killed by the Hag towards the end of Thief: Deadly Shadows, in an encounter that begins with the Hag appearing in the body of Keeper Artemus.
  • Keeper Artemus: The Keeper and mentor who took Young Garrett in and taught him in Thief: The Dark Project. Artemus is the main point of contact between Garrett and the Keepers throughout the series and attempts to enlist his help with the various Keeper prophecies. He holds genuine affection for Garrett, in spite of Garrett's rejection of the Keeper ways, and carries a strong independent and rebellious streak of his own. Artemus also appears to be the only Keeper whose stealth skills rival Garrett's and occasionally manages to sneak up on him. Artemus is believed to have been killed towards the end of Thief: Deadly Shadows, by the Hag, who skinned him and took control over of his body in order to trick Garrett into "returning" the Sentient artifacts to her.
  • Interpreter Caduca: An old woman in the Keeper organization in charge of reading and interpreting the Glyph Prophecies. Prophecies are central to the Keepers' work, so Caduca plays a very important role in the organization, and even the Keeper leader listens to her advice. In reality, Caduca is actually relatively young. Prolonged exposure to the Glyphs causes accelerated aging, an effect which limits the amount of knowledge and power any single Keeper can obtain from studying the Glyphs. The word caduca is Portuguese for "old".


  • Constantine: An eccentric and rich man who moves to the city and builds a mansion with gravity-defying rooms. He later reveals himself to be the Trickster, an ancient god of the Pagans.
  • Viktoria: Apparently a wood sprite (or "wood nymph") or similar magical creature in human form, she was a primary antagonist during the events of the Dark Project. However, she and her followers become allies for Garrett's war on the Mechanists in the Metal Age. It is clear that she was able to gain Garrett's respect, even to the point of Garrett being willing to defend her directly. It seems that this degree of respect and general sentiment on Garrett's part is only seen in his relationship with Viktoria and the Keeper, Artemus.

City folk

  • Cutty: Garrett's old "friend" and fence. Garret has to break Cutty out of prison so he can get paid for the Bafford job, but later Cutty succumbs to the elements and dies within his cell.
  • Basso the Boxman: An acquaintance of Garrett's whom he rescued from a Hammerite prison, although this uncharacteristic act of kindess was merely performed because Garrett had his eye on Basso's sister, whom he hoped would be "grateful". Garrett also helps to rescue Basso's betrothed Jeneviere from indentured servitude in the first mission of Thief II: The Metal Age.


To create an immersive environment for such adventuring the game's NPCs are often persistently active in a level and always make use of thorough pathfinding. That is, the game's AIs carry on their movements whether the player is around or not (guards patrolling a mansion for instance) and are able to navigate level architecture almost completely. For example, if the player is walking through the courtyard of a mansion and a guard on the second floor sees this through a window, the guard will then run to the nearest stairs and out through the building to attack (even if the nearest stairs are on the opposite side of the building). The aforementioned guard's excitement may cause any other guards he passes to join him in the chase. This and other complex interactions NPCs can have (such as servants running to fetch guards to where they saw the player) coupled with the elaborate level architecture allows for a considerable degree of unpredictability in the gameplay. Thief missions are variously populated by the following:

Humans and wildlife

  • Male and female servants: they present no physical threat, but can call alarm, bringing guards into the picture.
  • Guards: carrying either sword or bow, each house's guards have their own distinctive uniform and can also include different ranks.
  • Hammerite Brothers, Priests and Novices: the first being tall armored men with metal war hammers, the second, shorter older men who can hurl bolts of magical energy. Novices are rarely seen young men clad in purple-gray and offer no physical threat. They function akin to a servant in terms of AI behaviour.
  • Mages (Thief Gold only): The mages come from the East and their goal is to achieve enlightenment through the conquering of fear. They come in four varieties: earth, air, fire and water. Each mage attacks with spells based on their chosen element. The mages have a Keep built outside the city, and they are so secretive that even the Keepers know little of their aims. They speak in a strange voice that echoes, although to all intents and purposes they are completely human.
  • Spiders: these come in two sizes, the smaller is about the size of a human head and the giants stand at about waist height. Both kinds bite.
  • Burricks: pony-sized bipedal lizard creatures that inhabit underground caverns and run-down places. They are known for tunneling and defend themselves by belching a poison gas. In rare cases, they are kept as (rather problematic) pets.
  • Craymen: bipedal humanoid crustacean-like creatures with large claws instead of forearms. They also inhabit underground caverns and run-down places. They make chittering, clicking sounds.
  • Fire Elementals: Sentient balls of fire that typically roam near lava flows. They require unique tactics to avoid, as they light their own path. Can be killed with a water or broadhead arrow.


  • Zombies: These conform in most respects to the traditional aggressive, moaning re-animated corpse of horror fiction from the 1950s onwards (see Zombie). They are impossible to kill by normal means, however they can be killed with holy water, fire arrows or flash bombs. They are often found in catacombs and cemeteries. The most common sort is extensively decayed but occasionally fresher specimens are found. There is no clear explanation for the dead rising as zombies in the game; there are often cases of zombies rising near to corpses which remain at rest.
  • Apparitions: appear as a spectral Hammerite Priest that hurls magic skulls. Their utterances sound like warped backward speech. They can be killed by Constantine's Sword, requiring quite a few slashes. It is unknown if a normal sword can kill them as they aren't encountered in the storyline before obtaining Constantine's Sword.
  • Hammer Haunts: skeletal warriors with swords. Rising from the graves of Hammerites whose burial site was desecrated, they are very fast and dangerous. They are noted for their howls of laughter and haunting phrases such as "Flames surround you, nothing but flames, burning your flesh" and "Join us, join us now!" They can be killed normally in hand to hand combat; by backstabbing with the sword - either normal or Constantine's Sword (only works if they are unaware of your presence) - one slash is required. They can also be killed by several flash bombs, but a single flash bomb will often stun them for long enough to allow them to be easily dispatched by sword.


  • Apebeasts: sword wielding furry humanoids with tails. Can be blackjacked or backstabbed.[7]
  • Bugbeasts: humanoid praying mantis-like creatures that spit clouds of stinging insects. Can be blackjacked, very difficult to kill by backstabbing.
  • Frogbeasts: Small green frogs that attack by hopping at the player and bursting. They might be regular fauna but since they only appear in the third act they are associated with the other minions.
  • Chaos Spiders: A variety of giant spiders that can shoot damaging projectiles and webs to entrap the player.

The Trickster's force also employs Fire Elementals, two types of Craymen (including Craybeasts), and regular Giant Spiders.


Garrett has a variety of weapons and tools at his disposal. His weapons are an arming sword, a blackjack and a bow. The sword and blackjack are used as one might expect; the blackjack can render unaware opponents (even most creatures) unconscious and the sword is usually for more open combat. The bow has broad uses thanks to the range of arrows that are available for it:

  • Broadheads are the basic sharp-headed battle variety. Broadheads, Rope, and Noisemaker arrows can be retrieved after shooting, provided they impact on a wooden surface.
  • Water arrows have a water crystal on the head that shatters into water on impact. These are used to put out torches and fires and wash away blood. They can also be combined with holy water to use as a weapon against the undead.
  • Fire arrows have a fire crystal on the head which explodes on impact. They have the highest destructive power. These arrows fly in a flat trajectory.
  • Gas arrows are tipped with an air crystal. On impact it shatters into a cloud of incapacitating gas that knocks out any living opponents. Like fire arrows, these fly in a flat trajectory.
  • Moss arrows are tipped with an earth crystal that, when broken, causes a large patch of moss to grow rapidly on the ground. Its main use is to provide a quiet surface to walk on.
  • Rope arrows can be fired into any wooden surface, at which point a rope is deployed that can be climbed. Can be retrieved after use.
  • Noisemakers are arrows designed to cause a diversion. They whistle loudly through the air and then mechanically rattle for some time, alerting any nearby NPCs and causing them to investigate.

Other important items include flash bombs, which blind opponents and damage the undead, explosive mines and eventually lockpicks. Holy water can be used to temporarily turn water arrows into powerful weapons against the undead. The combination of the mantling ability with the rope arrow creates enormous opportunities for climbing and many of the missions cater to it.


Thief was first conceived in Spring 1996 as "Dark Camelot", an "inversion" of Arthurian legend which focused on sword combat. The game was to combine action with role-playing and adventure elements. This idea progressed on paper until early 1997, when it was re-positioned as an action/adventure game focused on thievery. Development began in May of that year, with a team almost entirely different than what had previously worked on the game.[4]

As development progressed into mid-1997, Looking Glass Studios' financial problems caused drastic changes to the company. "Few emotions can compare to the stress of heading to work not knowing who might be laid off, including yourself, or whether the doors would be locked when you got there," AI programmer Tom Leonard later said.[4] Several team members quit because of the conditions, including a designer and the lead programmer. Looking Glass' Austin branch was forced to close, costing them producer Warren Spector and several programmers who had done important work on the engine.[4] This concept was inspired by GoldenEye 007; Significant effort was spent on developing systems by which AI-controlled characters could make decisions based on their perception of the game world.


Aggregate scores: GameRankings 89.65% (based on 24 reviews),[8] Metacritic 92 (based on 18 reviews)[9]
Review scores: Computer and Video Games 9.0,[10] Game Revolution A,[11] GameSpot 9.1,[12] IGN 8.9[13]

Thief: The Dark Project was very well received by critics on its release and remains one of the more highly praised and respected PC games.[8][9] Thief garnered consistently high scores and numerous outright raves with reviewers calling it addictive, unique and, when compared to its first-person-shooter peers, revolutionary.

Thief is without a doubt my Game Of The Year. Where other games like Unreal and Half-Life promised revolutionary gameplay, Thief delivers.
  — John 'Gestalt' Bye, Planet Quake[14]

Released so close in time and with both games attempting new things in first person immersion and story-telling, Thief is frequently compared with Half-Life and often favorably.[15] Reviews repeatedly mention the game's attention to detail, original style and high production values.[16] In particular many note the game's achievement in making stealth-action, a counter-intuitive concept for some, a tense, rewarding and enjoyable experience.

I can't really explain how this worked on me. Five-minute waits for anything drive me crazy, yet I was content to stay in the corners and slink my way toward victory.
  — Brett Todd, Games Domain[17]

The game was also praised for its potent immersive qualities, with some reviewers calling it a look at the future of gaming and virtual reality.[18][19][20] The most prominent factor in this immersion and the most lauded aspect of the game generally is its audio system. Critics consistently noted the game using sound to an unprecedented degree as a gameplay element. The fidelity and artistry in this department allowing players to accurately determine their own audibility and the location of enemies as well as being a major contributor to the game's atmosphere.[21]

However, Thief's graphics received a mixed reaction. The game used 8-bit colour textures at a time when PC games were moving up to 16-bit colour. It is also dark and low contrast, making it difficult to play in lighted rooms. Raising monitor brightness harms the visuals and arguably damages the experience of the game. Its character models and environments were lower in polygon count than other first person shooters of the period. Few reviewers found this an outright negative, many not mentioning it at all. For those that did notice, it did not harm the game; rather it was simply not up to the standard set by its other aspects.[18][21][22][23]

The game's content occasionally drew criticism also, some reviewers feeling that after establishing an excellent premise in stealth thievery the game failed to follow through, with missions too often straying into traditional fantasy fare of dungeons, catacombs and monsters.[17][19][24] Such enemies confused the gameplay for some. Although all enemies can be defeated through stealth in Thief, the inclusion of zombies and the like implied a need for combat to some players.[14][25]

Reviews and awards

Thief Gold

Main article: Thief Gold

Thief Gold is the 1999 expanded re-release of Thief: The Dark Project, which was common for Eidos Interactive-published games at the time (for example Tomb Raider Gold, Tomb Raider 2 Gold, etc.). Thief Gold features numerous bug fixes and enhancements on the original game with many missions having their guard placements and patterns changed, areas retextured, and some missions gaining whole new areas. It also adds three new missions, fulfilling the original intent of the designers to have one mission per talisman.

The package also contains Windows Thief themes, the DromEd Thief level editor and a special "blooper reel" mission, as well as a "making of Thief II" video.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Thief: The Dark Project Manual
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Building an AI Sensory System: Examining The Design of Thief: The Dark Project
  3. Beyond Pacing: Games Aren't Hollywood
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Postmortem: Looking Glass's Thief: The Dark Project
  5. Thief
  6. Retrospective: Thief The Dark Project
  7. Since they are never named in the game itself the name for these creatures comes from how they are referred to in the game's editor, Dromed. However, prior to the release of the editor they were typically referred to by fans and some reviewers as Ratmen, based on their appearance and voices. The "ape" moniker is also confusing since apes do not possess tails. In Thief II: The Metal Age similarly voiced creatures appear, but they are more clearly ape-like in form, and Thief: Deadly Shadows features unmistakable humanoid rat creatures.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thief: The Dark Project for PC, Gamerankings
  9. 9.0 9.1 Thief: The Dark Project (pc), Metacritic
  10. Review: Thief: The Dark Project, Computer and Video Games
  11. Thief: The Dark Project - PC, Game Revolution 1998-12-01
  12. Thief: The Dark Project Review for PC, by Greg Kasavin, Gamespot
  13. Thief: The Dark Project Review, by Trent Ward,
  14. 14.0 14.1 Thief: The Dark Project review, by John Bye, Planet Quake, January 1999 ((archived))
  15. Thief: The Dark Project review, by John Misak, PC Gameworld
  16. Thief: The Dark Project review (Gold Award), by Farah Houston, Games Domain, December 1998, (archived)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Thief, second opinion by Brett Todd, Games Domain, December, 1998 (archived)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Thief review, by Bob Colayco, Firingsquad, January 1999
  19. 19.0 19.1 To catch a Thief, by Wagner James Au, Salon, February 1999
  20. Thief: The Dark Project review, by Trent C. Ward, IGN, December 1998
  21. 21.0 21.1 Thief review, by Greg Matthews, Games First!
  22. Thief: The Dark Project review, by Jeremiah Pratt, Game Genie
  23. Thief: The Dark Project Review, by Christian Schock, Intelligamer, December 1998 (archived)
  24. Thief: The Dark Project Review, by Paul Presley, Computer and Video Games, PC Zone
  25. Thief: The Dark Project review, by Andy Grieser, ESC magazine, 1998-12-22

See also

The Thief Universe

Within the game

Beyond the game

External links

About the series

About the game


Currently available for purchase on GoG (as thief Gold).

Also on Steam (as thief Gold)

May be able to also find it on eBay

Games T1 Icon.png Thief: The Dark Project · TG Icon.pngThief Gold · T2 Icon.png Thief II: The Metal Age · TDS Icon.png Thief: Deadly Shadows · T4 icon.gif Thief (reboot)
Game Design Storyline · Lighting · Sound · Weapons · Abilities · Light Gem · Compass · Loot · Approach · Architecture · Cut scenes