Splinter Cell - interview

In contrast to previous titles of the Tom Clancy´s series, Splinter Cell will be quite different - player will control only one soldier, the black ops specialist known as Sam Fisher, who is the member of the Third Echelon organization. Players will fight in the invisible frontline of battle against terrorism and world conspiracy. Reveal more in today´s interview!
Splinter Cell - interview

Doupe: First of all quite a typical questions - could you please introduce yourself and your company?
M.F.: Hi, My name is Mathieu Ferland and right now I´m working as the senior producer of the game Splinter Cell.

Doupe: We will talk about your upcoming game Tom Clancy: Splinter Cell. How many people work on this game? And how long have you been working on it?
M.F.: The project started more than 2 years ago. Between 20 to 65 persons have been working on it (average of 35 persons). The game is beeing developed in the Ubisoft studios based in Montreal / Canada.

Doupe: Could you tell us something more about the story?
M.F.: Rogue president Kombayn Nikoladze of former-Soviet Georgia declares war on the United States using techniques of Information Warfare- technology empowered terrorism and propaganda. The U.S. military, trained to fight armies on physical battlefields, is powerless against the coordinated, remote terrorism dubbed a `High-Tech Vietnam` by world media. Sam Fisher, field agent for black ops NSA sub-agency Third Echelon stands alone on the invisible frontline of battle.

Doupe: The main character of your game will be Sam Fisher - could you tell us something more about this person?
M.F.: Our hero is a black ops specialist known as "Sam Fisher". He is ultra-trained, and has a lot of experience as an ex-Navy Seal, ex-CIA agent, and ex-NSA specialist. He is now in his late thirties, working for Third Echelon, a hidden cell operating secret field missions for the NSA, that are not acknowledge by the US government. Little is known about Sam, but his experience and top training make him deadly efficient.

  • He survives a massacre by hiding himself beneath the dead
  • A Survivor
  • Instinctive
  • Excelled in the field of espionage
  • Outnumbered and out-gunned he is calm, confident, focused
  • Joins the CIA, operating in Eastern Europe and the Middle East
  • Operating extensively in Germany, Afghanistan, and the Soviet satellites in the years leading up to the collapse of the USSR.
  • He becomes a trusted resource for intelligence from difficult situations.
  • Consultant on weapons and aggressive intelligence collection 

 

Doupe: Players will as usual fight against terrorism - what innovations will bring your game in this war? Will we stand up to illegal organization, world conspiracy or international dangers?
M.F.: In previous Tom Clancy`s games like Rainbow Six, the goal is generaly to neutralize a big threat and to act very quickly in response to critical situations. There is usually a bad thing going on in a country, and local elite forces cannot handle the situation anymore... So, the local government is asking to Rainbow secret team to prepare a tactic and to intervene...

In Splinter Cell, there is also a big threat to neutralize and Sam Fisher is also acting secretly. However, the secrecy level is much different as you need to do the hole thing as a spy, without being detected, without leaving a trace. In their intervention, Sam Fisher and Third Echelon are ignoring international treaties and political agreements between countries. Sam doesn`t exist at all. He needs to infiltrate and get critical information on suspicious secret actions of some groups or foreign government in order to prevent bad things getting worst. In Splinter Cell, Sam is the one that could make the difference between going into World War III or not.

Doupe: What types of gadgets and weapons will player use?
M.F.: Sam has a classical 5.72mm SC Pistol, and versatile 5.56mm SC-20K AR, which is a modular assault weapon system, presently being tested among certain Special Operations groups in the U.S. It offers semi & fully automatic rates of fire. When equipped with a FCS (Fire Control System), the SC-20K becomes deadlier and more accurate at longer range. It can also be equipped with a launcher that can fire conventional grenades, sticky shockers, flares, or items like non-lethal rounds and reconnaissance tools like laser microphones and other "special devices".

A lot of research have been made on gadgets, on cloth, on weapons, on military techniques… many information is coming from Tom Clancy.

 

As Gadgets needs to fit with Clancy universe, they are either already existing in the real world, or they are fairly credible to become real in short future. Sam can use non-lethal weapon, thrown with his launcher on a modified version of the SC-20K, like sticky shockers, ring airfoil or gas grenades but he also has the ability to shoot small cameras that sticks to walls and that providing vital information. Sam can also use a camera jammer to disable surveillance camera, a snake cam to look under doors. Night vision and thermal vision goggles are also available.

Of co All Clancy`s stories occurs in a near future, which means that geopolitical situations are credible and technology used is always ahead of what currently exists. Nothing is Sci-Fi though. After playing the game, the customer should say: "God, this could really happen… tomorrow". The concept of having a solo operative that acts secretly is realistic considering the new face of terrorism: we don`t know where terrorists are, but they`re everywhere. The NSA needs this kind of intervention, and even if they will never confirm it, a similar form of cell probably already exists. All gadgets used in Splinter Cell are either real or might be a secretive development project within the US army. Only the sticky camera and the camera jammer have been invented by the game designer, but are still credible. The goggles have also been inspired from existing material, because no existing goggle can switch between night vision and heat vision. I would bet that some of Splinter Cell gadgets like the snake camera and the sticky camera will be copied in other video games in a short future. We came up with weapons and tactical devices that are used by the military Special Forces or that are now tested to become the future top tactical devices.

Of course, Sam will earn these gadgets progressively during the game.

 

Doupe: Splinter Cell will be another game by your development team which will be inspired with Tom Clancy´s books. How important is the book-artwork? How involved is Clancy in the development of the game? Will he test the game previous to its selling?
M.F.: Clancy is mostly involved in the concept of the game and the story. His biggest role was in the beginning of the conception, where we came out with this strong concept supported by this great story. We needed to agree on the core ingredients of the game to make sure that they were coherent with Clancy universe. Clancy is also involved in the validation process of the game, which means that no game will be released until we get a global satisfaction from both Clancy and the development team.

What is unique in the case of Splinter Cell, is that unlike the other Clancy games the original concept did not come from a Clancy book or movie, or even Clancy himself. The concept was created by the development team who presented it to Clancy. He was so impressed that he took the ball and ran with it- embellishing the original concept with Clancy-esque details that only he could provide. 

It will be really interesting if this game inspires a Clancy book or movie, rather than the other way around.

Doupe: Why have you made a resolution to change your style in case of Tom Clancy´s games? Why will player control only one soldier?
M.F.: Splinter Cell is more an action & adventure game than a shooter game. Because the character needs to interact more often with the environment, it was more obvious to develop the game in a 3rd person view. However, the player has the full control of the camera, which makes the freedom of gameplay quite close to what a 1st person view can offer. With this system, we`re getting most of the benefits that 1st person view can offer, and keeping a gameplay mechanic and interactions made for a 3rd person view.

 

Doupe: Tell us some example of a typical mission. What will be the player`s objectives? Can you unveil some of the locations that will players visit?
M.F.: Like previous titles in the Tom Clancy franchise, Splinter Cell is using the concept of "missions" to progress in the game and in the story. The terrorists are using Information Warfare- technology empowered terrorism and propaganda in the US.

During the game, Sam Fisher gets critical information that will finally lead him to the real threat. There will be cut scenes, scripted events and around 17 minutes of pre-rendered cinematic that will guide the player into the plot. But don`t worry, they`re won`t be more movies than gameplay and you`ll be able to skip them if the story is not your main interest. Those are content oriented and straight to the point.

Some maps are designed to have climax sequences at some points. They are more to be considered as specifically challenging sequences (not always at the end of levels though), but they remain in the same game system (no new rules).

Examples from existing gameplay :

1) Secretly Kidnapping Dougherty out of the CIA,
2) Run through a burning building to find a contact
3) Disarm a bomb and save hostages
4) Find intelligence infiltrating main server

The main plot occurs in Georgia, Myanmar, Russia, and of course, USA.

Doupe: Splinter Cell is charged as a "stealth" game. Were you inspired by games like Deus Ex or Metal Gear Solid? What new features will your game offer especially compared with these titles?
M.F.: There are not many stealth games on the market, so it`s easy to gather MGS and Splinter Cell in the same category. Of course, we`ve been inspired by some good features of MGS (+ many other good games) and at first look, some concept may look similar. However, our main objective was not to make a "MGS like". We wanted Splinter Cell to be highly inspired by Tom Clancy universe:  a realistic geopolitical big treat situation with high tech military gadgets and communication devices. "Realism" was our key word. We wanted the game to have its own identity and providing a new game play experience. With the interactive lightings and the free camera, you`ll quickly discover that the game play mechanics are quite different. It has all freedom that of a first person game provides with impressive effects and animations of a third person game.

 

Doupe: How exactly will the player be able to remain stealthy? Will Sam remain alone throughout the whole game?
M.F.: It`s up to the player. The game has been made so the player can experiment different way of playing. He can try to be completely stealth by avoiding confrontation. He can also fight the enemis and hide their bodies... But the player needs to interaction with enemis because forced interrogation is sometimes the only way to get a keypad password, to use a retinal scanner or to know more about what is going one.

But remember... you better knock down a guy than leave a witness.

Doupe: What multiplayer support can players expect to see?
M.F.: Splinter Cell is a solo operative gameplay and a lot of tension is coming from this concept. The game is developed to be single player only.

We are currently studying the possibility of adding extra features from X-box Live after the release, but nothing is confirmed on that yet.

Doupe: How will the graphics and music be used to make tense and atmospheric moments in your game?
M.F.: I think you`ve already eared a lot about the interactive environment and about the dynamic lighting system. Most of object can be broken, and some of them like cans and bottles can be thrown to create distraction. Lights can also be turned on or off, which allows the player to create his own safe zones... the key to a stealth game. Projected shadows are also nice for both game play and graphics. This brings a lot of realism.

 

But, as not much people are asking about sounds, I`d like to give you more details about how it affects both tension and gameplay. Sound is a big part of immersion and provides many information and game play to the player. Of course, footsteps, conversations, noises, etc, will advice about the presence or enemy... Moreover, it has a huge impact on the way the player is controlling the main character. If he runs, it will make more noise than if he walks; moving crouched will be quieter. With the analogue stick, you may walk very slowly to avoid being detected and sneak behind an enemy to grab him and interrogate him. It makes also a difference if you walk on wood, grass, metal, broken glass... So be aware!  Sound gameplay are also used to distract an enemy. For example, you may break a window and hide in shadow to force an enemy to leave its position and open the way. You may also throw objects, like soda cans, to make subtle noise and distract the enemy. Music is also a nice contribution to immersion.  Dolby 5.1 will be supported in cinematic.

Doupe: Right now do you have any idea about the system requirements of Splinter Cell?
M.F.: It should run on PC equipped with PIII 800 MHz, GeForce 2, Radeon & GeForce 4MX,  256 MB of RAM

Doupe: At what development phase is Splinter Cell right now? And when will it be available?
M.F.: We are now adapting the features in order to also provide impressive results on low configuration machines. We want people who will play on lower spec to get all of Splinter Cell experience, and not only hard core gamer who`ll play the game with high end PCs.

The core of the game play should be identical to the original version and we are currently making sure that all specs will enjoy this game.

Doupe: Do you plan to make an open betatest? Will you release the demo of your game?
M.F.: It is all a question of time ... There will be for sure a demo released with the game.

 

Doupe: Do you have any idea how many copies of all the Tom Clancy´s games were sold? Which Clancy´s game is right now the most successful?
M.F.: More than 7 000 000 of Tom Clancy`s games have been sold worldwide to this date. The most successful game of the range is TOM CLANCY`S RAINBOW SIX ROGUE SPEAR.

Doupe: Does your development team has any plans for further Tom Clancy´s or other games besides the upcoming Splinter Cell?
M.F.: There are 2 things in our mind right now: give gamers what they expect from Splinter Cell, and leave for long vacations well deserved. :o)

Doupe: And finally question - Why could players be excited about Splinter Cell? Why do you think that your game will be successful?
M.F.: I think players will really like the way you can try different things to make Sam find his way. Sometime, you`ll throw a can to create distraction and sneak behind the guards, sometimes, you`ll use the distraction camera, sometimes, you`ll wait until a guard is all alone to knock him down and hide his body… there is always a clear goal, but I like to try different things to achieve the missions. With all the gadgets and special tricks, it provides tones of possibilities. You must find the best one…

Doupe: Thank you for your time and patience.

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