UbiSoft: Pandora Tomorrow
On the behalf of the staff of Xboxaddict.com and fellow Xbox addicts everywhere, we’d like to thank the crew of Ubi Soft for taking time to answer some questions about their next game: Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow.
Q: What kinds of high definition TV support will Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow have?
A: The game will support the high definition TV even if we didn’t make any particular adjustments for certain formats.
Q: Will surround sound be supported?
A: Pandora Tomorrow will support 5.1 Dolby surround. The sound FX have been specially worked on too to offer a sound experience with realism and as much game-play reactivity as there can be on today's consoles.
Q: It has been announced that Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow’s multiplayer will be a sort of hide and seek type of game play, instead of the usual death match style people are used to in online multiplayer. Will there be any other multiplayer modes besides the one that has been announced?
A: There will be 3 modes: Neutralization, Extraction and Sabotage.
In Neutralization - the default mode-, spies will have limited time reach strategic point to hack computers defended by mercenaries.
In extraction mode spies have limited time to reach those strategic points and take back a component to safety (ie their spawn point). Of course, computers are still guarded by mercenaries who can both neutralize spies on their way to their objective or intercepting them before they get out of reach.
In the third mode, Sabotage, the spies have to hack computer using remote modem in the vicinity of the objective, as computers cannot be hacked directly. Mercenaries can protect objectives by neutralizing spies, of course but also preventing computers from being hacked by destroying modems before the data download is complete.
Q: Will Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow support System Link for multiplayer or will it strictly be only on Xbox Live?
A: You can also play the multiplayer mode with a system link.
Q: What will the maximum number of players in a multiplayer game?
A: The game allows up to 4 players simultaneously.
It includes open configuration such as 1vs1, 2vs1 or 3vs1.
Q: Will there be new missions to download from Xbox Live?
A: The dev team is considering all possibilities, but nothing is totally decided yet.
Q: Tell us about the story. What’s new in this installment?
A: This scenario is not directly linked with the first opus in fact. Echoes of the first plot just continue, the aftermath of the Georgian Information Crisis still lingers. Fisher’s directives have been altered slightly based on his successes and failures in the Caucasus, meaning more of a focus on stealth than combat.
The political background of Pandora Tomorrow is pretty straight forward: East Timor claimed its independency against Indonesia. The United States backed up this movement against the Indonesian authorities. They install a temporary military base on East Timor to train the developing Defence Force of the “world’s youngest democracy.” Resistance to U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia is widespread and passionate.
The first sign of the growing hot is a bomb exploding in the US embassy of Deli in East Timor What seems to be a single secret operation will quickly lead you from east Timor to Jakarta, Jerusalem, Paris, a train to Nice in France, villages in the jungle and will end up in the US in Los Angeles, running after some secret information and a deadly virus to protect citizen’s life.
Q: Sam Fisher was given a wide range of gadgets to use in the first Splinter Cell. What kind of new weapons or gadgets can we expect to see in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow?
A: We spent time during the preproduction of the game to analyze the gadgets that were successful and used in SC1 and the one which were never played by the gamers. We realize that the core of the interest of the non lethal gadgets is to allow the player to observe, disturb, and play with the NPC. We enhance and develop this kind of sensation in the new range of new gadgets.
First of all, we have upgraded some of the previous gadgets like the optic cable which can now be used almost every where and in any position; we also have integrated the thermal and night vision in it. The camera jammer which was not used in SC1 is making the camera less “lethal” for the players.
We also improve the pistol. Some players found that the accuracy in Splinter Cell 1 was not efficient enough, but it was kind on purpose, since it was not a shooter game. Now, the Pistol has a laser aim which allows for perfect accuracy. But don’t think it’s simply better than the normal use: enemies can see the red spot light, warning them of your presence. The player will have the choice between more accuracy and more discretion
As new non lethal gadgets, we are very excited to offer to player a micro camera to record NPC conversation and listen to them from quite far away in a safe spot. The chaff and Flash bang grenade off course are now included in Sam equipments. All these gadgets are non lethal and made to create new game play situations.
The last but not least is probably the least technological of them: the whistle. Believe it or not we have Sam Whistling now and it is by far the gadget we prefer.
Q: Has Sam learned any new ways to kick butt or obtained any new skills he didn’t have in the last game?
A: We wanted Sam to have more freedom to move in the environment, instead of limiting the world to the moves Sam could already do. The train map (you’re playing in an high speed moving train between Paris and Nice) is a good example of this: many new moves were made just for it, like going outside the train, on top, underneath.
There are also new actions Sam can perform, like the "swat turn". With his back to a wall, Sam can do a quick spin across a gap and remain “invisible”. Something we borrowed from the online version is the ability to hang by your feet and shoot with the pistol.
Other moves have been tuned to be smoother, such as the way Sam can smoothly lower himself through a hole in the floor, and a new series of split jumps for tighter spaces.
And for the “kick butt” part, Sam can knock out his enemies by reaching upper place in split jump, or half-split jump for example, and fall on their head. We have to keep in mind that he’s facing deadly terrorist or soldiers, train to combat and most of all, armed. So even if you’re the best of the best, facing a gun with your empty hands is usually not a safe position. :-)
Q: The shadow and lighting engine was amazing in the first game. What engine improvements are in store for us?
A: We were particularly glad of what we have done with the engine of the first Splinter Cell, and using the same unreal Engine, we got a good start to create Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow.
We had to keep in mind the entire Splinter Cell graphic signature: dynamic, interactive lighting, soft bodies and amazing real time shadows. We pushed the engine to the extreme limit of what the console can support, from the light and shadow system we went as far as developing what we call the PSM, the sun rise in real time and reduce the shadow in Pandora.
Be aware that safe zones are not safe for ever…. The same direction was taken for the dynamic and interactive light system: in Pandora there is not what single light you can not turn off and shoot. We have reached a certain limit here; you can not go any further.
Bump has been used in some texture and surface to provide a more realistic feeling also, especially on the wet texture and on the map like Jakarta where it is poring rain.
Finally we can support a large number of civilian or enemies on screen along with a perfect graphic quality, this is the proof of an engine that has reached the perfect balance in between optimization and new features.
Q: What kind of general game play improvements have been made in this installment from the last game?
A: More than a new whole story, and new moves, we have introduced new gameplay elements in Pandora Tomorrow.
Some levels of the game are taking place where it is normal and expected to have civilians. This stresses the danger, the need not to be detected but also it makes it clear that being detected means the mission can not be accomplished: For example being in Los Angeles airport in the middle of the day, or in Jerusalem after an attentat during the curfew makes it quite obvious that you need to be a ghost, not to mention a train.
The alarm system has been change to be more balanced depending of the type of mission.
For example, in situations like warehouses and so on, we have tuned the alarm system so that the more you get spotted, the more the NPC get difficult to kill (they get armor protection and helmet). The player has all the interest to play stealth then, even if sometimes he feels the need of action and can go for it (at his own risk)
The use of the whistle is also an important change, as now you can “play” with your enemies. Calling them and running in the opposite direction for example.
The news moves also bring directly new game-play feature. The swat move allows you to go through open door without being catch, and you can now reach upper place with the “half-splint jump and jump” move.
Also, one of the new features really influencing the gameplay is the Dynamic Perspective Shadow (Sun Rising effect) that directly affects your stealth capacity. In exterior map, the gameplay is very different as you play at night or in the sunny morning.
Q: Do you find it hard to top the success and acclaim the last game received? Was there pressure?
A: We can’t say there was no pressure :-) We knew that with the great success of Splinter Cell come great expectations from the players for Pandora Tomorrow. Is was for sure a huge challenge, but that’s the kind of challenge you’re working for; and we’re particularly proud to have taken it up.
Q: How much life do you think the stealth game genre has in it? How much longer do you think you can put out Splinter Cell games and keep the gamers happy?
A: Our idea was not to produce a simple sequel with new levels, surfing on the success of the first game. Even if it’s still for sure a stealth game, you have to create new gameplays, moves, equipments or any other features, to offer new way of playing for the gamers; It’s hard to say how much life this kind of game has left, but we know that there are a lot of stuff left to create.
Q: Will Michael Ironside be coming back to give Sam his voice?
A: Yes, he’s now totally part of the character. And we have added Denis Haysbert voice for Lambert character as we wanted the duo in the game to be acting.
Q: How much did Tom Clancy contribute to this game?
A: The point of interest about Splinter Cell script is that it is taking most of its inspiration in the Tom Clancy universe but is not the adaptation of a Tom Clancy book or movie. This provides more freedom in the characters and the plot settings and is quite unique.
As in Splinter Cell 1, Tom Clancy is mostly involved in the concept of the game. Tom Clancy is a kind of “seal of quality”. His biggest role was at the beginning of the Splinter Cell 1 conception, where we came out with this strong concept supported by this great story.
For this type of sequel, the script and the person involved in it is crucial, they belong to the core team that start working in pre prod way before the first visual even exist. We have a dedicated writer: JT Petty. He is the original script writer of Sc1.
Q: Why do you use Tom Clancy for your game's stories?
A: He’s one of the best techno-thriller authors of our time. His stories are deeply realistic, make you fell it could happen in the real world. That’s the kind of feeling we want to create in our game, make the player believe the story and the situation he’s in.
Q: Did he actively direct the direction of the game? Or did he submit to you an idea and you went from there?
A: As soon you create a game in the Tom Clancy world, you have to respect certain elements to make it a part of this Clancy-esque universe. We follow guidelines for game content and storyline, which then, has to be approved by Clancy's people to make sure that the game is in line with the quality and style of his work. So in terms of personal involvement, it remains minimal.
But in terms of how our decisions are made during development, it is much more considerable. For each decision, you always need to keep in mind that everything you do has to fit with the whole Clancy and Splinter Cell 1 Universe.
Q: Did you ever have to use consultation to make sure that there is some level of authenticity displayed concerning moments or actions within the game?
A: We are working with some CIA and military specialists to make sure the plot at a geographic and techno level is true to what could happen in a couple of years.
Thanks for the inside information guys! Good luck on the release on this highly anticipoated title!