Splinter Cell: Conviction with Patrick Redding
In the middle of a week where Ubisoft are wheeling him about on European press tours, Splinter Cell: Conviction's Multiplayer Director Patrick Redding describes himself as "hyper sleep-deprived". You couldn't tell: he appears eager and animated when discussing Sam Fisher's latest espionage escapade. The enthusiasm was definitely infectious, but before running off to get stuck into some of Conviction's early levels (a preview of which will be available on the site soon) I managed to sit down for a few minutes to discuss the game's delays, some of the best bits of the co-op campaign and why a perfect bromance is a bad idea.
How did your team initially approach the co-op compared to the single-player?
There aren't too many artificial barriers between the production processes, but on the design side we really knew pretty early on what we were going to be doing with the foundations from a gameplay point of view.
Have you worked on Splinter Cell before?
No, this is my first one.
Are you a fan?
Honestly, I was playing Splinter Cell before I even considered working for Ubisoft. It was by a weird coincidence that Clint Hocking, a friend of mine from Vancouver from before his days in the gaming industry, had gone to work there and I knew he was working on Splinter Cell. I tried it and I was like, this game kicks ass, and it was later on that he suggested "you might want to come out for this".
Have you played them all, then?
Yeah, yeah, of course!
Which one is your favourite?
Chaos Theory is my favourite, for sure.
Damn right it is!
I think that's a bit of... that's low fruit hanging freely! It was the same team that had done the first Splinter Cell and given that opportunity to really iterate and refine; close the gap on a few of the things they, frankly, ran out of time on [with the first game]. Which is the normal life cycle of a videogame, right? You abandon it about 95-99% of the way through and don't really get to finish anything.
Do you think Conviction will become your favourite?
I really do think they are different, you know? Chaos Theory still fits very much within the paradigm of a mission-based, very Tom Clancy universe structure in terms of narrative and locations and actions. I feel like this one is more contemporary, in terms of the kinds of stylistic choices that we've made.
It's a really tough question. Like I said, Chaos Theory is near and dear to my heart because, obviously, I only had to come out of it as a player. This one's going to be very hard for me to look at objectively having worked on it. But I think it will become many players' favourite Splinter Cell.
Do you think the repeated delays might have given the game a negative stigma?
I don't worry about that. I honestly don't. Of course, the game's coming out. All the game has to do in order to effectively counter the majority of that phenomenon is to come out - you know what I mean? To me, a much bigger question is, when a game's been delayed that long, is there a danger of it generating too much hype or expectation? The standard that you are setting for yourself is that we're not shipping the game 'till it's ready. People understand that games ship at that sweet-spot where, basically, it's not practical from a business perspective to wait any longer, and it also ships at that spot where the developers say 'we don't think there's anything more we can do to make it better'.
There are all these things going on there that are inherently imperfect, but the games come out and they're generally good if you put the time in on them. I think that's the real issue. I'm not worried about people - are there really going to be people out there that refuse to play the game because it got delayed?
There are a few cynics...
If the game is well received, and people like it and it gets good reviews, I don't see anybody flat-out refusing to play it because it got delayed.
This is one of the few 'when it's done' games still in existence, right?
I don't think we are philosophically operating in the same space as that. It's never that we're going to push it indefinitely, it's that there's always going to be certain franchises that we have elevated standards for: Splinter Cell is effectively the franchise that put Ubisoft Montreal on the map, and debatably was the major turning point of Ubisoft as a publisher. So we have to be very, very careful with it.
Part of that is strategic and good business sense, and the other part is that, as developers, we revere it. We don't want to be the ones that screw it up, and there are a few brands under the Ubisoft slate that are like that. To a certain degree I think Assassin's Creed is even more that way, although now they're in such a strong position, having worked in this deliberate incremental way, that they can continue to iterate on that game now in a very timely fashion.
Can you see that happening to Splinter Cell down the line?
I think it has to. I don't think any developer at this stage of the game is thinking in terms of wiping the slate clean every time they go back to the trough on it. Unless we're just going to stop making them, and I just don't see that happening.
Tell us some of the things the team's done over the course of the development that you're really proud of.
We have some things going on in the co-op story that I think people will be talking about for a while! I'm extremely proud of those. I wish I could talk about them, but I'm also really determined not to.