In the fifth and final part of CVG's exclusive unveil of Splinter Cell: Conviction, senior producer Mathieu Ferland explains just what it is that will make the Xbox 360 exclusive title a true next generation experience.
The next-gen is already upon us, has been for a while, so we've all seen better graphics, larger environments, fancy lighting and more enemies on screen than before. But why will Conviction be a true next-gen game? "When a new generation of console shows up, it takes months and sometimes even years before benefits can be truly seen," says Ferland. "The first game to ship will usually focus on better graphics, or animation, or more detailed characters, or simply on more NPCs to be displayed. This is usually impressive, but is this really changing the core experience if we compare with games developed for previous consoles? Rarely.
"After two years of development, Conviction's high ambitions are about to be reached. This ambition was to come with 'next generation gameplay,' a creative and technical match leading to an experience that was not possible to deliver on previous consoles. This is probably the toughest challenge for any game developer to deliver 'real' innovation, so your game will be reminded for a long time as being the first one proposing this special experience."
In previous instalments of our exclusive reveal, various members of the team have already run us through the game's dynamic environment where you'll have plenty of opportunities to make your way using objects and manipulating people or even crowds. "When we wanted to propose a fugitive game, we were all excited about all a fugitive can do, but were also nervous about how hard this would be to produce," admits Ferland. "The toughest part is now behind: from a solid fugitive's playground, we can now build challenge, rewards and emotions for the player and deliver an innovative game that will surely meet the expectations."
Conviction is exclusive to Xbox 360, so the dev team don't have to worry about making the same experience on other platforms, they can work to one standard. This approach has benefited the new title in more than one way. "Developing a game for multiple consoles is not so difficult but it requires certain compromises, usually in quality. The cost of this is really high, but this guaranties the best graphics possible for each console, and the best level design for a better experience. If such investment is not done, every feature unique to a console will not be used and a game will generally end up with a lower quality."
So not having to worry about other consoles for development is a benefit because "you can simply focus and develop following a technical design that fits perfectly with the console". Ferland says his team will get better performances, allowing opportunity to add more content on-screen that would not have made it into the game if development was also done for other consoles.
Conviction is the first Cell game to be built from scratch in the Montreal studio since the original. "There is many positives of producing all modes of a game in the same studio: the communication is much easier, there is no time difference to manage, the challenge of sharing the vision of what the game will be is simplified, the logistic needed to share code and datas and to synchronize work done is much softer," explains Ferland. "When developing on multiple sites, we usually end up, sooner or later, splitting the database and code so each team can have more flexibility and be more productive.