Interview with Daniel Roy
- Producer on Splinter Cell Double Agent -

July 2006

Daniel Roy with Sam Fisher

English version
Pour la version française, cliquez ici.

Daniel Roy from Ubisoft was kind enough to answer some of our questions concerning their upcoming game : Splinter Cell Double Agent on Xbox 360.

Xbox Gazette : What is your name and position in Ubisoft ?
Daniel Roy : My name is Daniel Roy, and I am a Producer on Splinter Cell Double Agent X360. This usually means I get to worry about silly things such as planning and resources, and I make sure the team never lacks caffeine on late nights.

Xbox Gazette : Can you give us some details about Ubisoft, the previous games developed by your studio, and your current projects ?
Daniel Roy : SCDA X360 is developed at Ubisoft's Shanghai studio. The Splinter Cell license was created at Ubisoft's Montreal studio, but Shanghai's involvement in the license goes a long way; we handled the porting of the first Splinter Cell to PS2, and were the studio who created Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow on the XBOX.

Xbox Gazette : How long has Splinter Cell Double Agent been in development for, and where are you in development now ?
Daniel Roy : We've been working on SCDA for two years and a half, now, with production starting a year and a half ago. We're almost done, with only a few months to go, so our current efforts are focusing on polish, debug, and balancing the overall experience.

Xbox Gazette : Which studios of Ubisoft and how many people work on SCDA ?
Daniel Roy : In total, three studios worked on SCDA: Shanghai is creating the single player of the X360 version, while Montreal handles the single player and coop for XBOX and PS2. Annecy, in France, is responsible for the online adversarial modes, both for X360, XBOX and PS2.

Xbox Gazette : SCDA is the fourth game of the series (if we excepted PSP version) and its story seems very complicated. Can you talk us about it and what were your inspiration's sources ?
Daniel Roy : The story is quite simple, really: following the tragic death of his daughter Sarah, Sam Fisher goes through a period of deep emotional turmoil, and ends up asking his old friend Lambert for a risky assignment. Lambert assigns him to a deep undercover mission within an organization known as the JBA. Sam will quickly come to realize that the JBA is a terrorist organization, and a deadly game of undercover sabotage begins.
Our inspiration for this type of story is primarily real-life testimonials of NOC (Non-Official Cover) agents, and we actually collaborated with an ex-secret service agent on setting the right tone and mood. Otherwise, movies such as Infernal Affairs (a Hong Kong cop movie, which I highly recommend) helped us set the dramatic pace.

Xbox Gazette : In SCDA, the story will not be linear and players will have choices to make, some good and some evil ones, which will affect the story. Which ones ?
Daniel Roy : The choices the player has to make during the game are not so much between "good" and "evil". This is too simplistic, and not nearly as interesting as what we have in mind: snap decisions within a second's notice, between a deep moral imperative, and the need to protect your cover.
Ultimately, these choices permeate the game, and each strategy, each decision the player makes, will affect how he is trusted by the NSA and by the terrorists. These can be simple choices, such as recovering or not information for the terrorists, but they can also be far-reaching and dramatic, such as killing or not a friend in order to protect your cover and eventually save millions of innocents.


Xbox Gazette : Some radical changes seem to have been made. Sam will be very exposed to the daylight. We imagine it will have an influence on the gameplay. Can you talk us more about it ?
Daniel Roy : For this instalment, we wanted to redefine and expand greatly the notion of stealth we usually find in Splinter Cell; so yes, you will see some gameplay in a larger variety of environments, including broad daylight, but also rooftops at night, and a snowstorm. In the context of daylight, for instance, stealth becomes much less slow-paced and methodical; it's suddenly a matter of clearly evaluating your surroundings, then moving quickly when the enemy is not looking your way. You'll notice that this affects the pace of the game a lot, which brings a nice variety to the overall experience. Some of our game mechanics had to be adjusted in order to accommodate this type of stealth, of course; this is where the new Threat Indicator comes in; rather than the old 'Visibility Bar' slider, we now have a small indicator on Sam, showing the immediate threat: green, Sam is hidden; yellow, he is exposed; Red, he is in combat. It all brings a smoother, more intuitive approach to stealth, and in a broader context.

Xbox Gazette : Will the IA of Sam's adversaries be upgraded in comparison to the precedent episodes ?
Daniel Roy : The AI from Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is certainly a strong base, but we did refine it immensely to suit our precise needs. For instance, we now have to accommodate a much greater number of NPCs than before, and this means some new mechanics. For instance, in the Kinshasa mission, we actually have snipers, as well as AI fighting AI. We spent a lot of time making sure their behaviour was realistic and engaging.

Xbox Gazette : Will Sam have new movements and new equipment?
Daniel Roy : Sam does have some new moves in this game, some of which you saw illustrated at E3 this year. Some of these moves are more brutal than what you previously saw of the very disciplined Sam, and they showcase the psychological progression of Sam as a character. There is also a great number of gadgets and gadget upgrades, and these are tied to the choices Sam makes in the game.

Xbox Gazette : Will the interaction between Sam and the environment be more elaborated than in the precedent episodes ?
Daniel Roy : In a broad sense, yes. The environment is a key component of the gameplay, and determines how the player will approach stealth in the levels. This includes weather effects throughout the game, but we also have created much more dynamic environment elements, to bring diversity and unpredictability to the experience.

Xbox Gazette : The graphics in SCDA seems to be very impressive. Which engine do you use on Xbox and Xbox 360 ?
Daniel Roy : We use the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory engine for both platforms, although they both had 1 year of development to push them forward in their specific direction. For X360, this meant expanding the 3D effects and rendering techniques, as well as optimizing the Chaos Theory engine for pure performance. As it stands today, the engine used on SCDA, both on X360 and XBOX, is twice as powerful rendering-wise as Chaos Theory; that is to say, it's twice as powerful on XBOX, and much more powerful still with the power of the X360 behind it.

Xbox Gazette : The music in video games is very important. Who is the composer for SCDA ?
Daniel Roy : For SCDA, we are working with a very talented composed called Michael McCann. Where Amon Tobin's Chaos Theory soundtrack brought the game a cool, techno edge, Michael has really brought forward an organic, emotional core to the game experience. His music is as varied as it is entrancing.

Xbox Gazette : Which multiplayer modes will we find on Xbox and Xbox 360 ? Will an Xbox 360 be able to play with a gamer who plays SCDA on another platform ?
Daniel Roy : The next evolution of spies versus mercenaries multiplayer is coming to the Xbox 360 and an all-new spies versus spies mode to the Xbox and PS2. In addition, there will be cooperative multiplayer on the Xbox and PS2. Unfortunately, we are not able to play cross-platform games at this time.

Xbox Gazette : SCDA is developed on the PC, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox and Xbox 360. Will there be some differences between all the versions, like exclusive levels, equipment or moves ?
Daniel Roy : As I mentioned previously, the current-gen (PS2 and XBOX) and the next-gen (X360 and PC) versions are being developed in parallel, and each is tailored to the specific strengths and challenges of its corresponding hardware generation. Expect environments to be geographically the same, but expressed in totally different ways, between current-gen and next-gen. Same goes for equipment and moves, which have evolved in parallel for both games. The same philosophy is at the core, but the actual expression of this philosophy is different.

Xbox Gazette : Multiplayer modes of the previous Splinter Cell have been very appreciated by the players. Will multiplayer in SCDA be comparable or will there be changes here too?
Daniel Roy : The guys in the Annecy team are working like crazy to bring a totally revamped version of spies v. mercenaries to life. They had the Herculean task of making the game more accessible for newcomers to the series, as well as making it a deep gameplay experience for the fans. This influenced everything, from the way the spies move faster and with more acrobatic grace, to the mercenaries' new gadgets that make them more powerful than ever before. Now the game is 3 v. 3 (instead of 2 v. 2 in previous games), so you'll get some pretty amazing levels featuring huge vertical drops, nooks and crannies - each side will definitely benefit.
The game is now centered around the spies infiltrating installations, hacking data with their hacking tools, and getting out, all the while being hunted by mercenaries playing some heavy zone defense. The game has been streamlined and brought back to its core strength and emotions of sneaking, tension and spectacular moves.

Xbox Gazette : The release date of SCDA has been delayed. Can you explain us the reasons and give us the current release date ?
Daniel Roy : We are incredibly lucky to work for a company who recognizes the need to make our games as great as they can possibly be. When we neared the original release date, we took a long, hard look at the game, and decided it needed more time for polish and to deepen the experience. The result is a much richer HQ experience, and an overall deeper gameplay experience. The current release date is September 28th. Almost there!

Xbox Gazette : Will there be a demo of SCDA or other contents available on the Marketplace before of after the release of the game ??
Daniel Roy : You can expect a demo of SCDA to be available on Marketplace around the launch of the game. We will announce shortly what those will be, so stay tuned!

Xbox Gazette : Thanks a lot for your time and your answers !

Related links :

- SCDA videos

- SCDA official site

- Other Xbox 360 interviews

Xav & Max73, Xbox Gazette, July 7th 2006

Thanks to : Daniel Roy, Cédric Crausaz, Ubisoft