Behind the Creative Audio & Art for Thief of Thieves

Thief of Thieves Key Art

Thief of Thieves: Season One is a game about heists and the people who do them, based on a comic by Robert Kirkman of “The Walking Dead” fame. The protagonist is Celia, the apprentice of the titular Thief of Thieves, Conrad “Redmond” Paulson. The game blends comic frames with gameplay featuring stealth and social engineering – after all, a great thief never uses violence. The game is now out on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass. Our art and audio teams did a pretty awesome job, and here are a few words from our Audio Director and Art Director.

Tommi Hartikainen, Audio Director: Designing Thief of Thieves: Season One offered a unique yet welcome challenge in incorporating the graphic novel feel to the audio. Simultaneously creating a cohesive and comprehensive soundscape for the entire game while extending the same atmosphere from the comic frame scenes to the action sequences required careful planning and attention to detail.

Thief of Thieves

A heavily post-processed classical quartet plays in the graphic novel sections, menus and credits. It reflects the puppet-mastery of the main character’s mentor Conrad “Redmond” Paulson in a jesting but classy way. This feel is then extended to the player character’s “homebase” and certain key events to promote consistency and provide dynamic and textural contrast with the modern rock- influenced music within the action sequences. Bowed electric guitars with similar “sound-designy” post-processing are used as drones, with additional sound effects bridging the gap between the soundscapes of classical music and rock.

One of the technical challenges was spotting music and sound effects to the graphic novel parts of the game. Since the player controls the pace of the scenes, the musical segments had to be short and meticulously timed to the events in the comic frames. The sound effects were carefully selected to either include and/or omit sounds not visually portrayed in the graphics to create the same kind of high contrast storytelling found in the comic.

Thief of Thieves

KJ Kallio, Art Director: As someone whose background is in illustrating, coming up with a fresh and unique style for Thief of Thieves: Season One gave a perfect opportunity to think outside the box. Instead of following the beaten path of game art, we applied all the things we learned working within the illustration field, resulting in a look and feel that you rarely see in games. This approach had many advantages, along with some pitfalls.

Instead of using tiling or baked-in texture maps, every single character, object, backdrop, and detail have been meticulously hand painted with a heavy and expressive ink style and strong and vibrant colors. As a result no two levels look alike. This combined with the saturated, volumetric, bleeding lighting gave the scenes an almost dreamlike atmosphere. The goal was to make every scene and detail look like a painting, where the viewer could rest their eyes while marveling at the nuances of even the most ordinary and everyday objects.

Thief of Thieves

The toughest challenge was creating a seamless, coherent comic book style that works in the game world, while also being original. Objects viewed from several different angles had to be drawn with ink lines, rather than relying on toon shaders or cel shading. Painting everything piece by piece meant long hours at the office – especially with the major change in the overall visual style in the middle of the production, which meant everything done so far had to be painted again. In retrospect, we have no regrets.

Thief of Thieves: Season One is now available on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass.