"What is the deal with headshot XP?!"
That's the question that Eidos Montreal decided to address in a recent Community Q&A post. The developer's official forums have been down for maintenance, so the team hadn't been able to directly solicit questions from the community for the new post; consequently, they decided to address a question that had been on a lot of Thief fans' minds since a gameplay video at E3, and which had come up in pretty much every gameplay demo since.
In short, fans were somewhat concerned at an on-screen popup that was appearing to reward master thief and protagonist Garrett with experience points for things like scoring headshots on guards. In a game renowned for its ability to be played in a completely stealthy, non-violent manner, the prospect of Call of Duty-style XP rewards for violent acts was proving to be a worry, to say the least -- and the Thief team was paying attention.
"Fans might be surprised how often the devs go to the forum to see how things are perceived in the 'real world,'" said lead level designer Daniel Windfeld Schmidt. "The consistent reaction to the XP system was something that indicated we needed to revisit some design decisions."
That "revisiting" turned out to be removing it entirely on the grounds that, canonically, Garrett is already supposed to be a master thief and consequently probably doesn't have a lot of room for progression and improvement. Instead, the change in game systems has places a stronger emphasis on stealing things and being rewarded for doing so -- some of the things that were once unlockable using XP can now be purchased using gold acquired through doing what Garrett does best rather than killing.
Players will still supposedly have the opportunity to accomplish their goals in a variety of ways -- the items purchasable using Garrett's ill-gotten gains will include both stealthy and aggressive tools, so those who want to play the game in a particular style should be catered to, whether that's remaining out of sight or taking a more offensive approach. Supposedly, it is even possible to play through the game without killing anyone and without spending any of Garrett's loot -- though it won't be easy to do so.
We've still got a good few months to wait and see whether the new Thief turns out to be any good, and even with this news, fans are still cautious; the reboot's abandoning of the series' established lore in favor of a brand new story is potentially cause for concern, but at the same time means that the new game should be an accessible place for newcomers to join the series. The fact that Eidos Montreal is clearly listening to and acting on fan feedback is a positive sign, too; despite the breaks from the series' narrative canon, it's pretty clear that the team is keen to make a worthy successor to the previous Thief games.