During our exclusive hands-on with Splinter Cell: Conviction in issue 49, we had a long chat with the game's Creative Director, Maxime Beland. Mag readers will have read the choice cuts already, but here's the full thing. Enjoy.
Why aren't you giving us total freedom to kill bosses?
I really believe that it's a mistake to make games that punish players. Like the civilians, for example. Sam Fisher does not kill civilians. So we have two choices. Either if you shoot them, it either says mission failed retry, game over - or we don't let you shoot civilians.
One of those choices is going to piss you off. There'll be a time you want to kill a bad guy and the bullet hits a civilian and it's game over. We don't want to do that. It's the same here - where there's a guy like that you need to interrogate, Sam knows that and won't shoot.
Double Agent was very tough. Are you trying to make Conviction more like Assassin's Creed, more approachable?
It's very important to me. We spend so much of our time, parts of our life making games, and people don't get to see the whole thing. And that sucks. I want people to play my games and finish them.
What we do is, we're going to ship with difficulty levels, I want to have at least a normal mode and a difficult mode, a realistic mode - like we did on Rainbow Six Vegas. And realistic is going to be really fucking hard, but it's going to be for the hard-core people you're going to need stealth, and two bullets is going to kill them, the enemies are going to be super-lethal. And then we're going to have the normal mode for normal gamers, that are going to spend 12 hours playing our game and not 30 because they're dying all the time.
If we were making movies and people left half way through our movies, we would be shooting ourselves.
We're not complaining. Making games hard just to extend them is like coin-op arcade thinking.
It's also about having a nice progression and variety in the gameplay. Like the mark and execute. I mean, we could make an entire level that's very easy. One guy who's not looking at you, you kill, you gain the execute, two other guys not looking at you, mark mark, you kill them. The whole game could be like that. But then as you go maybe there's gonna be three guys and you only have two marks but there's an explosive barrel. So you can really build a nice progression.
The player learns, and feels smart - because it's a Tom Clancy game and they need to think. but yeah - it sucks. You make a game, you spend two-three years on a game and people don't finish it?
And of course on Xbox, you get the stats on Live. Do you get to see how many people finished the last Splinter Cell?
Yes I do. And it's not - I would not be happy. I would not be happy if we got that for Conviction. I am not sure if that is data I can give you, but it's not good. I've seen games... games that 50% of players stop playing after the second map. I'm not going to name names, but think about it. If the game has ten maps, and people don't finish the second map, it's like having a two-hour movie and people leave after fifteen minutes. Can you imagine?
Must be a kick in the teeth for you as a creator. So it's 12 hours on easy?
Normal, there is no easy. It's Splinter Cell. Easy would mean you could just like run and shoot anybody and we don't do that.