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IO Interactive's Christian Elverdam, gameplay director on Hitman: Absolution, talks to PSM3 magazine about easter eggs, freedom, barcodes, and Danish favourite The Killing
Something we noticed on the CG trailer you released is that 47's barcode has been scratched off or covered up. What's the significance of that?
I think you will have to speculate about that - that's a big part of this game. A big part is a moral personal journey for 47. He goes on a hunt for the truth about a lot of stuff, and that's part of it. But it's interesting - that's a good observation.
There are a lot of things for the player to discover/do in Hitman games. Where do you draw the line between signposting and letting players discover things for themselves?
That's a very good question. That's why we have a lot of user testers on our game. There are typically quite afew things you can do in any given situation. There are quite a few different paths to take, both in terms of what you do as 47, but also physically - where do you go and what do you see?
It's actually very interesting, because what we found is that if we highlight one path too much, then some people will take that path and think: 'that's the path, that's the only path,' because it felt so obvious. It's interesting, how do you really make people aware that there is a choice?
Typically one of the things that works well for us is that if we put you in places where the exit, for instance, isn't clear, or you don't know how to proceed. That's always a little bit tricky, because people always expect almost to know where they're going. It's a really interesting balance to tryand find.
As a dev is it difficult to give players too much freedom, because you have a story to tell and you want people to see certain things?
There are two ways of looking at that. On the one hand if you create a specific set-piece for something, then you create it with the knowledge that it may be never seen by some people. That's the effect of what we do with Hitman games. On the other hand, I think a big part of building a cinematic experience comes when you build an AI. We try to make our AI characters into small human beings in themselves. And though they're not all aware of everything, they talk a lot to each other and they all have small stories to unfold.
We have Visano in the Library of our E3 demo, with his bad relationship with Sergeant that you can interfere with in all sorts of ways. You invest in it emotionally. We got a lot of feedback from fans saying: 'why did you kill Visano?' That was the point actually. We didn't need to do it, but we wanted to showcase that we have human shield in the game. So for us, AI makes for a cinematic experience that's not necessarily super scripted.
What lessons did you learn from making Kane & Lynch and Mini Ninjas, are there many Mini Ninjas hiding out in Absolution?
You'll have to look. I mean, you might find some Easter eggs there in the game... I think from all the games we've been making, since the last Hitman, we learned a lot about what to do with Kane & Lynch, specifically: 'How do you build set-pieces and shooting experiences.' We learnt from our mistakes as well. We have been learning from everything. I think that's always why it's a comfortable place to be with 47, because we can make him well rounded and I really like that.
Finally, in the UK at the moment, everyone has gonemad for The Killing: do you think Sarah Lund could catch Agent 47?
(Laughs) That's a very good question, I would remain sceptical.
She always gets her man...
He's been around for a while, a lot of good people have tried. I think she would have ahard time trying to get him.