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Interview: Alexandre Parizeau talks Splinter Cell: Conviction, evolving characters and stealth

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It was no shock to anyone when Splinter Cell: Conviction made an appearance at E3 2009, but the new look and presentation for Sam Fisher's latest action adventure took us all by surprise. Gone is the sulky and in hiding Sam Fisher shown years ago -- replaced by an offensive powerhouse ex-soldier, searching for revenge. Adding elements with appropriate buzzword phrases like projected objectives and dynamic stealth, Ubisoft Montreal hopes to push Sam beyond traditional stealth action titles.

We had a chance to speak one-on-one with Ubisoft Producer Alexandre Parizeau to discuss the evolution of Fisher, how Ubisoft wants to change stealth and to compare Sam to everyone's favorite television hero, Jack Bauer.

Gallery: Splinter Cell Conviction | 20 Photos

The last time we saw Splinter Cell it looked drastically different. It was around that time that Assassin's Creed was going to come out and they shared similar traits -- crowd control, for example. What was the thought process behind bringing Sam and the series back to the drawing board?

Well, the first thing is ... when we showed the game it was very early at the time and we were really trying to innovate and try something different for the franchise. When you try to innovate, some things work and some things don't. Not necessarily as you would like. What we tried to do in the last couple years was to ground all those things, so those things still exist. They are still apart of the game. We've still got crowded, or simulated environments. We're still using the same technology and we're building on what we had shown.

But we grounded it, in a direction that feels more like a Splinter Cell game. So, we brought back elements like light and shadow to make it feel like a right successor to Splinter Cell.

"When you try to innovate, some things work and some things don't. Not necessarily as you would like."

Were there things that the team at Ubisoft Montreal looked at from that original Splinter Cell: Conviction footage and you thought, "This works, but this doesn't..."

It's not necessarily stuff that we took away, but it's more that we built on it. We grounded the features to work better with the franchise. So, like I mentioned, bringing back the light and shadow gameplay and more of a mix between crowded environments and infiltration, like you've seen in the demo.

Of course this is the first we're seeing of the game, but many fans of the series want to know if the multiplayer will return in Conviction.

We're going to have a multiplayer, but I can't talk about it anymore than that. It's part of the things we're going to announce during the summer.

Is the multiplayer being developed by the team at Ubisoft Montreal along with the single player?

Yeah, everything is being developed by Ubi Montreal.

Conviction is planned for release later this year for the Xbox 360 and PC...

Yes, this fall.

What are the plans for beyond the release of the game? Is this the time you would begin to think about downloadable content?

DLC? Yes, it's always part of our strategies. We always want to keep the content fresh, so as soon as the team is done with the game we can move on and continue expanding the experience. It's going to be part of our plans, for sure.

Examining what you've shown so far, Conviction has a new "Mark and Execute" feature to the game (which has limited uses during gameplay). From what it looks like, the marking looks like the system used in Rainbow Six Vegas with the added element of, what appears to be, a quick snap to target system. How does that element work? How do you respond to people saying that may make the game too simplistic?

The "Mark and Execute" really was all about ... put it this way, you've seen Jack Bauer peak into a door, right? And, well have you seen the movie Vantage Point?

Yes. It's one of Dennis Quaid's finer works.

There's a great scene at one point where the bad guy puts on a mask and storms into a building. He's got a sound suppressor on, he's on the move, he's fast, but he's stealth. No one knows he's there, he's clearing the building, right? So think about "Mark and Execute" like this, stealth -- in the past -- has always treated the same way. It was more like a defensive tool. You're hiding in the shadows and waiting for the right moment and then you attack. What we wanted to do is give tools to the player to be more on the offensive, but remain stealth. Remain silent and undetected -- become the predator that you're supposed to be. You're supposed to be like Jack Bauer. You're Sam Fisher, the best elite agent in the world. You're supposed to be able to do that kind of stuff.

Some people are worried it's going to make the game too easy, but it's not. Have no fear at all. It's an added tool that lets you do the first step when storming a room or area or a situation. But you'll have all the tools that you're used to use as well. It's just an added tool to allow you to be a bit more offensive. To be that predator that we want you to feel like you are.

You've mentioned Jack Bauer a few times already, originally when Splinter Cell came out it was very military heavy. It wasn't really about Sam the character, but focused instead on the situations this person was going into. It seems Double Agent and Conviction have made the situation much more personal. Why shift focus to Sam Fisher the character?

When we were approaching the design of Conviction, the main thing was where Sam was now in his life. What did he have to deal with? That's the first thing we're thinking about. He lost his daughter, he lost people around him, he's out of Third Echelon. That's going to affect the way he deals with situations, right? That's how we approached this situation. That's also the idea of dynamic stealth came from because we're like, "He's not going to be the same person when he reacts to situations as he was when he was working for Third Echelon." It's a completely different scenario.

When we came up with the dynamic stealth, the idea came from... we didn't want to break up the pace with cinematics, so we had to come up with ways to tell the story in real time -- like the projected objectives. So, everything is embedded for the same purpose which is, where is Sam in his life now? And how we make you feel like that, like Sam Fisher.

"It's just an added tool to allow you to be a bit more offensive. To be that predator that we want you to feel like you are."

Splinter Cell: Double Agent had multiple endings to different scenarios. Continuing the story in Conviction, what is the official ending of Splinter Cell: Double Agent?

(smiles) You have to play Conviction to find out.

That won't be a problem. I notice the demo you're showing off here actually says demo at the start menu. Are you planning to release this demo to the public at some point?

Uh, maybe later ... closer to the release.

So, you've got to tell us. Has Sam had some work done? He looks 10 years younger in Conviction.

(laughs) Does he? You know, Sam Fisher is a bit like those characters in movies like James Bond. He's ageless, right? He's a great character that I'm hoping my kids will play with later, in the future.

Do you think that, for instance at the end of Double Agent, it felt like Sam was the Splinter Cell on his way out. That he might retire and a new guy would take his place to bring the game back to what it originally was. But players associate Splinter Cell with Sam Fisher and not ...

Third Echelon?

Right. So, is bringing this back to the roots of the franchise a way to quell those fears that this character was on his way out? As in, Sam is the Splinter Cell.

You know, we love Sam Fisher he's a great character. He's a complex character and we haven't seen a lot of who he is, right?

That's true.

We saw a bit of that in Double Agent and in other games where he's a bit sarcastic, but really efficient. We wanted to show a different side, a different angle of Sam Fisher. This is a different part of his personality and I think it's going to be interesting.

Thanks a lot, Alexandre.

Thanks for dropping by.

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