I spent Sunday morning trying to get my head back into my ThiefRL project. It seems to have promise. The question is how far to push with it. I have a bunch of potential features and I'm trying to organize and prioritize them.
I decided to axe a couple of potential features in order to keep the scope feasible. I'd been thinking about having sidekicks whose movements could be planned out ahead of a heist to some extent. The benefit would have been that it would create nice inter-character relationship fodder. However it would also involve an additional game mode (the planning stage) and it's not clear to me what, exactly, they would do. I worry that if they are capable of doing the same things as the player they would just steal the fun.
The other feature I've decided to drop is the idea of open-city gameplay. I'd been considering having big open cities with compounds embedded in them for more focused gameplay. However I worry that it would be difficult to get the density of risk and reward encounters up to acceptable levels across an entire city. It could certainly be done, but I am going to focus on running the player through a series of smaller areas instead.
These things could always be added in a sequel. Thief 3 added a city hub, for instance, which connected together all of the mission levels. I remember the city portion as being moderately successful.
I got a friend of mine who is a veteran gameplay designer/programmer to try it out recently. He said it was too difficult so I have been considering solutions. Part of the problem, I think, is training the player to move diagonally around corners to gain distance from pursuers. If I had the player follow an NPC in an early mission that might help with that.
I also need more ways to get away. I've got various ideas for that, and just need to start trying them out.