The story of Splinter Cell: Conviction, so far? It goes something like this: ‘Now you see Sam, now you don’t, now you see him – crikey, he’s got a beard, what gives, Ubisoft? And why’s there so much daylight? Oh, now he’s gone again. Oh, there he is. Yay, he’s had a shave. Gosh, he just smashed that man’s face into a toilet.’ Sort of like Jack Bauer doing a pantomime, then.
Last month VGD slipped on some PVC pants, screwed three Magilites to its forehead and skulked down to south London to interview Maxime Beland, Creative Director on Sam Fisher’s much-delayed, grim-faced return to the world of gaming. Set your jaw and read on.
VideoGamesDaily: Conviction has had quite a troubled development period. We hear earlier builds were scrapped because it was felt the game was becoming too similar to Assassin’s Creed. Is that a worry now? What did you change, in particular?
Maxime Beland: It was actually never a worry, that it was too much like Assassin’s Creed. The stress and the reason why we changed was because it didn’t feel like a Splinter Cell game anymore. So many things had changed – there were no gadgets, there were no lights and shadows, there were no athletic moves – a lot of the core values that Splinter Cell depends on.
And that’s what we changed, we brought them back. We were delivering them in a different way, it’s faster, it’s more dynamic – as you’ve seen, it’s still stealth but it’s a new type of stealth. I’m happy because I think we’ve succeeded in delivering stealth that is going to reach more people. It’s going to ring true with a lot more people, because it’s more permissive.
VGD: Some of our forum members have expressed concerns that the changes are still too drastic. If nothing else, Sam himself looks very different – the three-scope visor no longer graces the box art. What would you say to reassure fans of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, for instance, that this is still recognisably the same sort of experience?
Beland: I think it’s interesting what you say, because I think everybody has a different perception of who Sam is. I think to me the three dots are probably one of the best icons of the game industry – it’s so powerful, it’s such a powerful image, we know they’re very iconic for the franchise, and that’s why they’re back, that’s why Sam gets his goggles back in the game. Our main menu has the three dots.
So to me, that is still Splinter Cell. What is also Splinter Cell is Sam Fisher himself. But to me, a black wetsuit is not Sam Fisher. It’s one of the tools he uses when the situation asks for that. But in Conviction, because it’s much more of an urban environment, because there are moments with crowds, because Sam is not dropped off a chopper into a Siberian base, he is dressed in a way that fits the crowd, that fits the context for Conviction.
So we didn’t change Sam because we didn’t like the wet suit, I love the wet suit, he looks great in a wet suit – for me Sam is dressed for the party he’s going to. And for the next Splinter Cell, the context will define his uniform.
VGD: Will the crowd play more of a part later in the game? Or will it be more a question of secluded interior areas and patrolling guards?
Beland: There’s a lot of variety. A big point for me in Conviction was trying to give a lot of variety for the player. So we’ve got all kinds of maps. We’ve got maps that are more open, outside, with crowds, where you get to do some exotic gameplay in there in the crowd, and we’ve got moments like you saw where the crowd is a bit more window dressing – they’re there, but if combat starts they’re just going to run away and that’s going to be it. We’ve got maps that are completely isolated from civilians, more classic Splinter Cell if you want. So I think we’ve got a good variety of those.