Splinter Cell: Conviction Interview, Alexandre Parizeau, Producer, Part 1
Written Saturday, January 09, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
When we were at Ubisoft Montreal towards the latter stages of 2009, we got chance to sit down with Splinter Cell: Conviction Producer, Alexandre Parizeau and talk all things Conviction. In the first part of our open and frank interview with Parizeau, we talk about the negativity and concern behind the mark & execute mechanic, what we can expect from the franchise down the road – we hear Sam’s building an army of mini Sam Fisher assassins – and the game’s new kind of stealth.
All the trailers and gameplay videos have shown a more action based Splinter Cell. Can we still expect to see the traditional stealth elements in Conviction?
I’d say that it’s a different kind of sneaking around, it’s not like waiting for the patrols to pass by, but you can finish levels without being detected. So the idea is that you’re going to kill people, yes you are, so you’re not going to have people walk by you, you’re going to have to take care of the people, but you’ll be able to finish levels without being detected. They won’t know what hit them basically. That’s the main difference philosophically between Conviction and the previous Splinter Cells.
With the interrogations, can you kill the targets accidently prior to getting up close?
You can’t kill them. The first thing I’d say is that they’re sort of like mini rewards... You’ve worked hard to get to these guys, you can’t kill them because you need information from them, so you’ll need to find them and approach them. Each interrogation will be unique, so there will be surprises and they won’t play out the same way.
The idea is, you have to extract some information from them so these guys will talk. You can’t mess it up by hurting him too much or not hurting him enough, but the idea is that it’s a reward and we want the player to have a blast and use that moment to tell key information about the story. We want them to become more involved with the narrative as they play out the sequence themselves rather than have a cutscene or scripted sequence play out in front of you.
Are these used very often?
I wouldn’t say there’s one every level but there’s going to be a bunch. One of the big goals was to have the story told in real-time, you’ve seen a lot of those elements but we’re keeping a few surprises for when the game comes out. We don’t want to spoil everything.
Are you worried that the mark & execute mechanics remove quite a bit of control from the game?
It’s a different way to play, that’s for sure. We have had a lot of comments on how players believed it will make the game too easy, but we are balancing the game with mark & execute in mind. So no, it’s not too easy. If you tried to play the game like I did, you’d get your ass kicked. I guarantee you! At TGS, I saw over 30 journalists get their ass whooped by this demo over and over again. So if you jump into a room and hope mark & execute will save your ass... it will not.
You have to plan your attack, prepare and use strategy. It’s a Tom Clancy game. It’s not a “win” button. It’s like a tactic that you can use if you set your attacks right, prepare right. If you press your buttons at the wrong time, you lose your execute, it’s not going to work and the enemy is going to be aware of you. You have to press it at the right time, you have to know for sure that you’re using it well and you have to use your gadgets in conjunction with it to set it up properly. When you pull it off, it’s immensely satisfying. It works really well and you’re like, "I am Sam Fisher the badass spy agent that I should be." It’s not a win button. It’s not a win button!
How do you earn the mark & execute mechanic and is there a limit to how many people we can mark at once?
The idea is that you have to do a hand-to-hand stealth kill before you earn the right to do it. It’s kind of a nice balance between, I have to get close to my enemy, surprise or take one away from the pack and eliminate him, and then I can setup my attack. Then it can be either something that you plan really far ahead in advance... something that you really take your time to plan and whilst you’re in the shadows you set up. Or, as you get better with it, we found that players are able to link it up really quick.
For instance, when I get in a room, I don’t have the right to execute, but I see two guys grouped up in the corner and I see a guy that’s patrolling and there’s a pipe above him. What I can do is setup my entrance so I mark the two guys in a group together, then I can jump down on the isolated guard and link it up with a mark and execute combo to take down the other two guys. It’s that kind of thinking that we feel is extremely rewarding for players.
Once you start learning how the mechanics work and start getting comfortable with it, you can clear a room with three guys in it really quickly. It works really well. As for the marks, you’re never going to get 12 marks. There are some customisations linked to weapons and marks, so depending on the weapons, you can use more marks.
Can you get through the game without mark & execute or is it necessary to survive?
You can go through the game without mark & execute, but it’s the same way as, “I’m going to go through the game without the AK-47,” “I’m going to go through the game without jumping”... I mean, if you want, you can, it’s your game, but it’s part of the mechanics and the game is balanced with it, and you will enjoy it.
People are concerned and worried and I understand that because it’s a change. It’s part of your arsenal. It’s not a win button. So it will help you deal with some situations, you’ll recognise moments where... “oh yeah, if I use my mark & execute here, it’ll help me out.” In other situations, it’s not going to be the appropriate way to deal with it, but that's part of the gameplay mechanics.
Going back to weapons, is there a set cache or can you pick up weapons from the environment?
You can pick up any enemy weapon that they are using. So again it’s part of the idea that Sam is working on his own business and will have access to all the weapons and gadgets and will use whatever he finds. So if there is a weapon on the ground that he needs to use to get out of a sticky situation, he can.
The way the weapon load out works is, you always have access to your pistol and your assault rifle, so basically your pistol is usually silenced and is going to help you setup stealth attacks, but when you get into situations where you’re faced with a large amount of people, sometimes you will have to resort to your assault rifle.
In the TGS walkthrough, Sam threw the sticky cam, can he no longer use the rifle with these now?
What we’ve done now is we’ve sort of separated the weapons and the gadgets so you have your gadgets and you have your weapons, so the weapons won’t throw gadgets basically.
So Sam’s getting old now... can he go on much longer? Is it the end of the franchise maybe?
No, it’s not the end of Splinter Cell. We really hope your kids will be playing Splinter Cell...
Will they be playing as Sam Fisher though? I mean, he’s getting old and grey now!
He still holds his own though.
So he’s going to have more children and they’re going to get killed then?
He’s going to train them and there’s going to be mini Sam Fishers running around.
Ahhh, mini assassins. You do realise we’re going to report that now and the internet is going to explode with headlines reading... "Splinter Cell Producer says Sam Fisher will create army of young Sam Fisher assassins."
*holds hands up*
It’s not me that’s going to look silly.
Check back tomorrow when we talk to Parizeau about what really happened in the early stages of development that caused them to reassess their design, the enemy AI, the environments and we even talk about the legendary Michael Ironside. Don’t miss it. You’d be a fool otherwise.