GP: Can you please tell our readers who you are and a little bit about yourself?
Émile: Sure thing, I am Émile Liang and I am the associate Producer for Splinter Cell Conviction. So, in the demo for E3, Sam was looking for the killer of his daughter. Today we are going to be looking at a part in the middle of the game. This demo takes place in Washington DC and Sam has realised that his personal quest has been involved in a more complex world conspiracy which will involve Third Echelon, his former government agency. So today he has to defuse a bomb - an EMP bomb to be more precise.
GP: A day in the life of Sam Fisher?
Émile: (Laughs) yes, of course for him, but he is also going to have to rescue a scientist, and he has to infiltrate a warehouse. So what is important to us is to demonstrate consistency on what we showed at E3, in that we want to show a new kind of stealth. A dynamic stealth that is faster and more action paced. But it is also still holding to traditional Splinter Cell, in that you have to be stealthy - but when it comes time to action it will be high-level action.
GP: Besides the obvious, what cultural or political influences are there in the game?
Émile: For one, I would say this project for Splinter Cell: Conviction was talked about for two years after it started development and there were a lot of cool technical features but the foundation was not solid enough. So at this time we needed to just take the time to make some good, solid foundations so we could make it the most fun experience for the player. So I think it was worth it because you are going to see the result today.
GP: Yeah, I remember in the first demo's they showed for Splinter Cell: Conviction there were some technical stuff like environment interaction. Is any of that stuff still in the game?
Émile: No, because it does not fit with the new direction we wanted to use. We just wanted to have another approach. Create a more, like, predator approach. Make Sam more like the hunter so he can pounce on the enemy, like a panther.
GP: So going with that, Sam has always previously been working for that Government agency Third Echelon. But now he’s on his own personal mission, we can see him be a lot more viscous and just use his training to get what he wants?
Émile: Yeah, because Conviction is all about Sam Fisher.
GP: [i]Yeah, but now we know that he goes back to Third Echelon for a while, so isn’t that kind of like you are putting the leash back on? Or will he still get to do his own thing on his own mission?
Émile: Sam is not a Third Echelon member any more, so he is on his own. But he has to deal with previous characters that he saw in Double Agent and so on. So yes, he still has links in Third Echelon but he is totally by himself. So he makes his own decisions.
GP: I remember in the last Splinter Cell game the player got to make a lot of choices throughout the game that effected the ending, and which characters lived or died. Are the players still going to have those kind of decisions to make in Conviction?
Émile: Well for instance, there were two ending possibilities to Double Agent and we have chosen one of these which we preferred but I won’t tell you which one (laughs) but the narrative and storytelling here in Conviction also gives to many possible things. And so yes, we are going to have some choices that will influence the story.
GP: Are there going to be multiple endings?
Émile: You are gonna see! (laughs).
GP: So don’t take this the wrong way, but in previous Splinter Cell games there wasn't much depth to Sam Fisher and the other characters. I get the feeling this game is exploring that a bit further, so how deep is that really going here?
Émile: I would say that we are going to find out more about what is behind the characters. Also more of the relationships between the characters. We have several key characters and we will discover Sam in different aspects in relation to these people. So yes, we are building Splinter Cell: Conviction with the personality of who Sam Fisher really is and who are the people around him.
GP: How hard is it to come up with new ideas for a game this far into a series?
Émile: Well I would say that in our team we have several people coming in from different projects at Ubisoft Montreal, and so I think in the team, all the ideas come off from other games on the floor. But even though the ideas are inspiration for Splinter Cell, they are treated differently in the game. So yes, we can have mark and execute, but this is a tactical feature that could be inspired or thought through from what has been done in the Rainbow Six games. Is the the same thing? No, you know, we want to take inspiration from these things.
GP: Are there any points during a scripted event where you can interact with it? Say for example if some terrorists are about to kill someone, can you try save or or leave them to die and that will effect the game in different ways?
Émile: Oh no, the scripted events you cannot interact with them. But you are still in control of Sam during these events. So it is about keeping the player immersed, but you cannot interfere.
GP: Speaking of immersion, previous games always had cut-scenes the tell the story between missions Are those still there?
Émile: No, there are no traditional cut-scenes in Conviction. We wanted to keep plays always in control of Sam. So the only cut-scenes you will see are projected onto the environment while you play. We really want the player to never put the controller down.
GP: I noticed early in the demo there is a cover system, so is there any shooting from cover like Gears of War style?
Émile: Yes you can shoot from cover, definitely, but the cover to cover is just a way to not make the player move too slowly, but more the predator style. He knows where to go and Sam is efficient in getting there without being noticed. So it is a very fluid, seamless system. But with saying that, no, I don’t think we have the same approach as those other games. It is not a shooter, so if you pick up another weapon it is because you need it for your tactics and strategy to clean the house.
GP: How do you find the balance between realism over fun? Because in order to do the mark and execute you need to get a hand-to-hand takedown first? But realistically Sam has the skills to shoot the bad guys without having to punch someone first right?
Émile: Yeah, definitely but we just want to keep the realism up to a limit. I mean, if it goes up to ultra realism it is not fun. So we just need this balance definitely. But having this close-combat kill first in order to gain the execution makes the player take some risk. And I think that is the reward in how you manage your risk. Proper time, and choosing the good people to kill at the right moment is the perfect execution. And if you fail, you still have backup plans with the vanishing features as well. But we just want to push people to find intelligent ways through. And yeah, he can get rid of everyone without using he mark and execute or close-combat, but that is part of the spice you know?
GP: Thank you so much for your time Emile.
And our thanks to Ubisoft NZ and Montreal for making this interview possible. For more information about Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction, check out our hands-on article..