New Thief: Binding Keys

Check In: I am still exhausted from this weekend, so I’m writing an easy thing — a thing I hope is easy at any rate.

I started playing the new Thief game (in contrast to Thief, The Dark Project and it’s sequels, Thief 2 and Thief, Deadly Shadows) and have played enough to have a sense of how I want to customize my controls. So here’s what’s I’m doing:

One-Key Sprint and One-Key Creep

In Thief TDP sprint-forward and creep-forward were both single key. That is where my love for the one-key-go-fast and one-key-go-slow began. numpad-five, numpad-seven and numpad-slash make for a nice stack of creep, normal and run. It was so good.

As is typical of 2010-era sprint keys, Thief sprint chords with move-forward. (…And no other key. Why, developers? Why?) I installed my standard single-key sprint (To the numpad-slash key).

Garret can creep in all directions by chording the creep button with directionals. Sneaking about is slow and methodical work, and I rarely need to creep left or right. I can usually make do with forward only and bind a one-key creep-forward to numpad-five*. In this game creep is very slow and bobs forward like Sylvester the Cat sneaking about to pizzicato strings.

Swooping and Dodging

Swoop and Dodge are new movement abilities. Swoop makes Garrett scurry in the direction indicated, and harder to see when he does it. Dodge makes enemy combat swings miss, with a conspicuous swashbuckly cape-flutter sound effect. Double conspicuous given that Garrett doesn’t wear a cape.

The design choice was to activate swoop by a double-tap of the context-jump / climb button. Why require chording and a double-tap when it could be done with just a double-tap and no chording? I added a function to direction keys (numpads-eight, -six and -four) so that double-tapping them will swoop in that direction.

Double-tapping backwards (numpad-two) I assigned to dodge back. The dodge button is also chorded with directional keys (thankfully without the need to double-tap). I bound numpads-one and -three to dodge left and right, respectively.

In Thief TDP I used numpads-one and -three to lean left and right, but leaning is now a context action done by plugging in to a leanable corner (activating it with the context-action key) and using the directional keys. Sadly, it’s difficult to unplug from corners, thus it’s difficult to flee if, while peeking you discover good cause for panicked flight.

Dropping down

Dropping, or jumping down gets its own button. In Thief TDP, Garret walked off the ledge he was on. In this game, he’ll walk up to a ledge and peek over, though this works with only designated ledges, so it’s not entirely consistent throughout the game. Skinny walkways are often trouble.

For most FPS and TPS gaming, I usually assign jump to numpad-plus and crouch to numpad-enter (The two double-tall buttons on the right of the number-pad. It makes sense visually). I pretty much did that here, binding context-jump / climb to numpad-plus.

Crouch is toggle-only in Thief (which is fine, given the amount of long-term crouching one does). I assigned double-tapping numpad-enter to dropping down. It seems intuitive.

Not expending arrows unnecessarily

This leaves out some controls that I’m not using. I’m playing no-kill (mission-fail if I hurt anyone) so I don’t need takedown. And since pressing the attack button automatically arms an arrow, I should probably move that from my primary mouse button (RMB in my case), In Thief TDP one had to specifically ready a bow, and specifically choose an arrow to not get a standard pointy one. Thief will automatically ready, knock and release any arrow Garret has in his inventory by pushing the shoot button. Some things are best left as not convenient to one key.

* Many games don’t recognize the difference between keys on the number-pad and keys off it. Some games can tell the difference between top-row numbers versus pad numbers, but not pad direction and editing keys from the ones on the islands. Auto-Hotkey has a mechanism for locking the Numlock one way or the other (also giving the advantage of opening the numlock key for in-game use.) I tend to want to use the various auxiliary islands and the arrows for additional controls (Typically weapon / tool selection), so I’ll set the Numlock down when necessary to ensure they have different meanings.

I’ll also often turn the numpad-enter into something else to differentiate it from the primary enter, since the latter is a big button that is good for rarely-used non-combat effects, such as healing.

** The context-jump / climb button is used for jumping or climbing but only when there’s context to do so. It’s totally not as fun as the jump / mantle button in Thief TDP which would also had the delightful effect of speeding your escape in full run, giving Garrett’s flight from danger a rather cartoonesque feel.

Addendum I switched the arrow / throw button to numlock and made RMB another context-action button (used for pushing buttons and stealing stuff and talking to people). This is a fairly comfortable layout and I’m not accidentally flinging arrows into space.


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