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Looking Back... Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Series producer Mathieu Ferland takes a wander down Sam Fisher memory lane...

Sam Fisher has saved the world more than a few times now, but we regard his biggest and best adventure so far as last year's Chaos Theory, which saw the superspy stuck in the middle of a massive global information war. Before Sam gets a new hairdo and goes all bad in Double Agent, we managed to get an audience with series producer Mathieu Ferland, who gave us the lowdown on the making of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - and more importantly, his attempts at finding girlfriends for two members of the development team... Here's his top eight insights into the theory of Chaos...


1) SETTING GOALS:
"While Pandora Tomorrow's teams in Shanghai and Annecy (France) were dedicated to creating a new type of multiplayer experience, the Montreal team were already working on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Our basic intention for the game was to provide the best quality in every element of its design - those that have real meaning to gamers. To achieve this, we read a lot of fan forums and conducted research to clarify what elements gamers most appreciated and to discover what content is less popular. From these observations and based on our own instinct, we identified many features to focus on in Chaos Theory, and our mindset and main objective was to include them all so we could make the best Splinter Cell ever.

"Basically, gamers wanted more open environments and free objectives: they wanted to create their own experience. Implementing this was such a challenge in a game like Splinter Cell because it deeply affected many gameplay elements, and so forced us to think of all possibilities and make things work whatever the player did. We wanted to improve the general tension in the game based on proximity and provide contextual cool situations to deal with, but also to equip the player with appropriate skills and tools, like Sam's knife and close-combat abilities."

2) WRESTLING WITH TECHNOLOGY:
"Pushing technology is always a risk because being the first to do something implies that you might use primitive tools to develop content, as well as investing a lot of money in R&D. We wanted to provide a real next-gen feeling on current generation hardware. The technology had been developed early enough in development to switch to production quite efficiently. However, it was a real challenge because tools to produce such quality visuals were not totally optimised at the time. More importantly, we realised that creating such high levels of detail was time consuming and very costly for the project. Still, we wanted every level to be different and every zone to be unique. We'd never have reached such quality were it not for the massively motivated efforts of the whole team."

3) FAN FEEDBACK:
"We referred to fan feedback a lot - it was a major consideration for Chaos Theory, but as mentioned we also needed to trust our developer instinct experience. For example, the knife was the most wanted weapon by fans and it was a perfect fit with our intention to enhance tension based on proximity. With this in mind, the decision was easy to take and it was one of the first elements we added to Chaos Theory."

4) ADDING AND SUBTRACTING:
"There were a few restrictions we needed to take into account when considering new weapons or gadgets. Globally, we were more restricted by animations than by actual gadgets. Considering the new systems and gameplay possibilities, we had to make choices with the player's weapons and abilities. For example, the 'SWAT turn' was removed in Chaos Theory, but we tried to design the game so that players didn't feel the need to do it - and they didn't miss it as a result. We did increase the gadget and weapon possibilities though, especially for fire-fight situations such as the shotgun and sniper rifle. We were able to keep most of our original weapon list, but we had to 'organise' them appropriately in different weapon's attachments to keep the controls simple."

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