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Splinter Cell: Double Agent

The man who directs Sam Fisher parks his bum in the interview chair

Hugues Martel started his career in the traditional animation industry and his work includes animating on the highly acclaimed Triplets Of Belleville. After making the jump to games when storyboarding Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, Martel is currently finishing up Splinter Cell: Double Agent's directed sequences.

How did you get into animation?

Hugues Martel: I was studying illustration and I had a miserable time learning graphics because the teachers didn't believe people could illustrate and get money for it. I have a friend that quit the programme and got hired in an animation studio; he was very talented. He eventually got a promotion and called me one night. I thought only Disney did animation, but I gave it a go, brought my portfolio and got the job. Since then I've done pretty much everything in traditional animation, from painting backgrounds to visual development, character design and storyboarding."


How did you make the jump from traditional illustration to games?

Hugues Martel: I had a friend who called me from the videogame industry - a genius kid who I had given a job to. He called me and said: "I'm a director at Ubisoft now and I could do with some help storyboarding some Prince Of Persia things. Are you interested?" I'd never really done storyboards for this kind of stuff - never drawing humans, I'd always done cartoons. When I came here, I knew nothing about computers - my experience up to then was that I'd worked on a movie called Triplets Of Belleville, and that was my first animation job. When I was offered the Prince Of Persia stuff it was a very hard decision to make, but I feel that games have more potential.

Do you think games are beginning to rival traditional animation?

Hugues Martel: They're not there yet and they're not taken seriously, either. I'm hoping that little by little we can convince producers and the industry to buy into it. It's a very risky thing because it's a big investment; just making those small moments in Double Agent are extremely costly and not necessarily superfun to play.

Do you think games have more storytelling potential?

Hugues Martel: It's not about storytelling, it's about involving the person that's watching or playing your game. I think we have total freedom and we're just at the birth of it. I'm very excited but I'm also very disappointed; the engines are often unstable and we can never do what we think of easily. It's a real challenge. It's scary and I don't know if the industry will make it, but I sure would love to at least be trying.