Splinter Cell remains a ground-breaking series. Its gameplay, technology innovations and storytelling has left an immense legacy. Creative Director Chris Auty, Producer Matt West and Technical Producer Peter Handrinos spoke to Ubisoft News about the legacy, the remake and their connection to the series. We’re recapping the key questions and takeaways below.
Why Ubisoft Toronto?
Splinter Cell Blacklist was the catalyst for building Ubisoft Toronto. As the studio’s first lead project, Blacklist shipped to critical acclaim in 2013. Exhilarating stealth gameplay was enhanced by the latest advancements in performance capture to create a highly cinematic and immersive experience.
Since opening, the studio has gone on to ship innovative game projects on some of Ubisoft’s biggest brands: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, and Watch Dogs, most recently leading development on Far Cry 6 (see how we did that here).
Matt West: It’s a big deal that Blacklist was the first game that ever came out the door at Ubisoft Toronto. It’s in our DNA.
Remake vs remaster. What’s the difference?
The team is setting out setting out to bring Sam Fisher out of the shadows and back into the light, all while meeting modern game expectations and retaining the elements that made the series so memorable.
MW: To me, a remake takes what you’d do in a remaster and goes a little bit further with it. The original Splinter Cell has a lot that was amazing and revolutionary at the time it came out, 19 years ago. The gaming public now has an even more refined palate. So, I think it kind of has to be a remake as opposed to a remaster. Although we’re still in the very earliest stages of development, what we’re trying to do is make sure the spirit of the early games remains intact, in all of the ways that gave early Splinter Cell its identity. So, as we’re building it from the ground up, we’re going to update it visually, as well as some of the design elements to match player comfort and expectations, and we are going to keep it linear like the original games, not make it open world.
What will be familiar to fans of the franchise?
In short: the core elements that made Splinter Cell, Splinter Cell.
Chris Auty: Splinter Cell was a breakthrough in stealth … it was “stealth redefined” with a huge focus on getting that core gameplay right above all, and delivering on an ideal: be a ghost. It’s important for us to preserve the sense of mastery by supporting players who observe the situations, make their plan, use their gadgets, and outsmart the enemy creatively to deal with the challenges they are presented with. Ideally, they end up coming out on the other side with no one having realized you were even there. That’s the essence of Splinter Cell.
MW: One of the things that, from my point of view is really exciting about this project, is that the last couple of games all of us have worked on have been really big worlds. What that means is that the economy of decisions is very spread out, whereas what I love about a Splinter Cell map is every square inch represents intentionality. Every square inch is part of a choice, or directly offers a choice, or has a direct ramification. That density of gameplay is at the forefront in Splinter Cell, and that’s going to be really, really important for us. The gameplay experience we are targeting is directly tied to what we want players to feel, to capture the essence back when we were all playing the original games.
What updates and advancements can we expect to see?
There were big technology and gameplay leaps with Splinter Cell. The team is looking to carry on this legacy of innovation and exploration with the remake.
Peter Handrinos: A lot of time has passed since the original Splinter Cell, and even since the last sequel – enough time to miss an entire console generation. So now we’re going to take the time to explore what this means for us, for light and shadow, for animation tech, for gameplay, AI, even audio. We’re going to ask ourselves, “where does it make sense for us to innovate? What not only fits with the legacy, but brings the game up to a level that will be expected of us, and where can we surprise our players?” We want to bring them something new, yet still connect them to that feeling that they had two decades ago, playing that masterpiece for the first time.
CA: My background has been in level design and level creation for the past 20-odd years, and seeing that back then – that there could be cloths that flap as I move through them, and that there’s some sort of actual, genuine interaction between me as a player and the world I’m in; seeing the enemies moving around, allowing me to plan and make different judgment calls based on where they are and what’s happening – that had a huge impact on me early on. Things like the thermal vision and using that as a gameplay element – these things were not just graphical bells and whistles. They were actually relevant to the experience.
From a team perspective, we’re all behind that philosophy, that the stuff that gets added is not just eye candy. It has a relevance and a bearing on the on the game itself.
What is the Snowdrop engine and what does it enable the team to do?
The game will be rebuilt using Ubisoft’s own Snowdrop engine – the same engine being used to develop Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, as well as Ubisoft’s upcoming Star Wars game – to deliver new-generation visuals and gameplay, and the dynamic lighting and shadows the series is known for.
PH: Snowdrop is a proven modern AAA engine. It empowers content creators and programmers alike to try things quickly, see what works, and ultimately find success. I think that’s one of its major advantages, allowing us to quickly find the modern equivalent of that core Splinter gameplay. Some other AAA engines out there do not afford this type of iteration speed, necessarily, and so this is really what gives Snowdrop an edge when bringing Splinter Cell up to speed on a modern engine.
Ubisoft Toronto is growing!
Are you passionate about Splinter Cell? Or a technology enthusiast? Ubisoft Toronto is currently building out the Splinter Cell development team, with a variety of roles ranging in expertise and experience.
If you’re interested in applying, you can check out our job page here.
The original interview with Matt West, Chris Auty and Peter Handrinos was originally published on Ubisoft News. Read more here.