Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction has pulled in a couple of great review scores already, with the brunt of critical opinion landing later this week. You’ve read (or should have read, tut tut) both our and Creative Director Maxime Beland’s thoughts on the single player mode – now lend your attention to Patrick Redding, Game Director for Conviction multiplayer, as he discusses the game’s co-op offerings.
VideoGamesDaily: Hi Patrick, good to chat. How many Splinter Cell games have you worked on?
Patrick Redding: This is my first Splinter Cell. Before this I was working on the Far Cry series, I was narrative designer on Far Cry 2.
VGD: How would you characterise the evolution of co-op in Splinter Cell? Which features have gone out of fashion, and which have retained their appeal?
Redding: I see this co-op as fitting within a trend or a tendency that I think is emerging – actually it emerged a long time ago, but I think it’s just moved into the mainstream – which is that before, co-op was a relatively hardcore gaming paradigm for people.
It tended to be the thing that people who were PC tactical shooter gamers were really obsessing over, or that sports gamers were really obsessing over, and I think now what we have is a generational shift, where the core of the mass market are people who both want to have a deep story, memorable moments and all of the drama and meaning and investment that we typically have always had in single player games, and they also want to be able to share it with their friends.
They don’t want it to be a solitary experience, they want to be able either to sit on the couch with their girlfriend and play, or be on Xbox Live with their best friends and play, and feel that something is unfolding according to some design intention, and they’re getting a chance to experience that but it doesn’t have to be that alone.
That was what motivated us to move in the direction we did. I think when we looked at what single player was trying to do with Conviction, it’s a more internal story, it’s less about the outside world going to hell in a handbasket and there’s one man who can go in and save the day, and it’s a lot more about Sam’s personal hell, and what he’s doing to get out of it, or go deeper into it depending on how you look at it, and how situations are being manipulated by outside forces who have their own agendas, and how he reacts to that.
And I think that informs a lot of the game design choices we made, it informs the whole dynamic of this slightly more active mode of stealth, and the offensive qualities that come out of that: being able to strike at enemies with impunity, that sort of thing. And I think when we looked at co-op we thought, ‘we have to do the same thing’: there has to be a story there for the reasons I gave, but there has to be an extension of what the Splinter Cell universe is now.
Because it’s clearly something different, it’s not just the ‘political crisis implicating eight different countries’ of the week, there’s something a lot more intimate, personal and traumatic going on there for the characters and we needed to work out a way to apply that in a scenario that is really a lot more like traditional Splinter Cell in some ways – your handler is whispering in your ear, telling you what your rules of engagement are, and you have to go on this mission where you’re allowed to do some things with gadgets. Well, that’s not going to work, it’s got to be something more than that.
And so that’s where we got these ideas – let’s make it a prequel, let’s tie it in directly with single player, and let’s have the events of co-op have some meaning for what’s going on in single player, but also this idea, almost antithetical to the notion of co-op, of having two player characters who actually don’t like each other or trust each other. This idea that one is an American – that’s inevitable, it’s Splinter Cell – but one isn’t, he’s a Russian working for the rival agency, and it’s only because of some political expediency that their bosses have ordered them to work together.
So these are guys who are used to working alone, and now not only are they forced to take on a partner but it’s not like Murtaugh and Riggs in Lethal Weapon – these guys don’t know if they can trust each other to watch each other’s back, they don’t know if there’s some hidden agenda, they just don’t know.