Thief will no longer make use of an XP system because it was reducing the incentive to actually steal things.
As part of its "reimagining" of the Thief franchise, Eidos Montreal incorporated an experience system not unlike those found in more combat-oriented games - a fact highlighted by the "headshot XP" bonus that appeared in the E3 gameplay demo. But in the latest "Take 5 Q&A" session, Game Director Nic Cantin and Lead Level Designer Daniel Windfeld Schmidt revealed that the XP system has been dropped.
"At first, we wanted to outline the progression of the player with XP, but it was reducing our motivation to steal. The main goal of a thief should be to gain loot," Cantin explained. "Garrett is already the Master Thief, so we saw no need to have XP as a core mechanic."
"We wanted to put emphasis on stealing things, and put the rewards on the stealing aspect," Schmidt added. "We want to allow the player to decide the 'how to' - we shouldn't judge how the player wants to achieve their goal, only reward them for achieving it."
Instead of progressing with experience, players will use the gold they steal to purchase tools that will enable them to behave in stealthier or more aggressive manners. On the surface it sounds more akin to how the original games worked, and Cantin acknowledged that the negative reaction to the implementation of experience points had some influence on the decision to cut it.
"It is more a design decision to add to our economy system and entice the player to steal more," he said. "But yes, the E3 reaction was right, rewarding killing like that was wrong for a Master Thief."
It's a smart move, but I'm a little concerned by the timing. Thief is due in February and that's pretty close to the wire for dicking around with core systems. Excising a fundamental component of character advancement has to be a pretty big deal, and even if it's not a terribly complex technical maneuver, messing with what I see as a fairly central aspect of the design at this late stage doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
Source: Eidos Montreal