In an effort to make it more accessible, Max Beland of Ubisoft Montreal says the studio decided that the best way to improve the stealth gameplay in Splinter Cell: Conviction was to get rid of the stealth gameplay in Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Accessibility is almost as important as gameplay these days. For every hardcore gamer willing to blow an entire night in a marathon gaming session, there are many more who just want to fill in a half-hour while they're waiting for Lost to start. For game publishers who want to play in the big leagues, that's the holy grail: Not a small following of devoted fanatics but a broad, mainstream audience who thinks a game is kinda fun.
So it is that Beland, the creative director on Splinter Cell: Conviction, joined the project in early 2008 with a mandate to "fix the things that weren't happening." Ubisoft had identified some "major issues" with the game at that point and eventually asked the studio to come up with something different, saying it wasn't interested in making another Double Agent or Chaos Theory.
"Although Chaos Theory was an amazing game, I think the issue that Ubisoft identified was that, out of everybody that is attracted by the fantasy of playing Sam Fisher, when they actually get to play it, we lose a lot of people," Beland explained to Edge. "Stealth, I think, has always been delivered as very hardcore gameplay."
"We did a lot of playtesting, a lot of consumer research, we talked to a lot of gamers and there were a lot of themes that were coming back all the time: Stealth is punitive, stealth is slow," he continued. The obvious solution? Kiss that hardcore stealth goodbye.
"Sam's back as the guy that he should have been all along. Sam is a guy who's fast, he's quick on his toes and he can run without making a lot of noise. He can be hanging on a ledge and not have to be moving at one centimeter per minute," Beland said. "Sam is a panther, not a grandmother."
It's impossible to argue with his assertion that stealth gameplay is inherently slow and not particularly appealing to a wide-ranging audience. But I still feel a little sad at the prospect of losing one of the few, and first, "true" stealth games available to fans of the genre. Sam can still shoot out lights and skulk through shadows but when you can just shoot people in the face, what's the point?
Splinter Cell: Conviction was released today for the Xbox 360 and comes out for the PC on April 29.