Q&A With Maxime Beland, Creative Director on Splinter Cell Blacklist.

Developer Ubisoft

Publisher Ubisoft

Platform PS3, xbox360 & Wii-U

Release Date August 23rd 2013


Below is a transcript of a Q&A session with Maxime Beland a founding member of Ubisoft Toronto and Creative Director for Splinter Cell Blacklist. This was not an interview we carried out our selves but still one that will be of interest. Thanks to Ubisoft for the transcript.


What makes this the best Splinter Cell game yet?

This is the biggest Splinter Cell ever – it features unrivaled scope and variety for fans of the series.  We’ve built the game with player choice at its core, and we put the full control in the hands of the player powered by the Strategic Mission Interface or SMI. 

The SMI blurs the lines between all game modes and allows the players to choose the content they want to play when they want to play it.  If you want to dive into our deep Single Player experience, jump right in as elite spec op Sam Fisher, back as leader of the newly-formed 4th Echelon.  You play as Sam and it’s up to you to stop The Blacklist – a deadly series of escalating terrorist attacks on U.S. interests.  Or you can choose our unique co-op mode, The 4th Echelon Missions, 14 exciting, distinct missions that complement our SP experience.  And of course we showcase the return of the legendary Spies Versus Mercs multiplayer, including the new Blacklist mode. 

All of these modes support a universal economy system and full customization, where players can use mission rewards to upgrade everything in the game – from Sam’s gadgets, weapons, gear and plane, to Spies and Mercsloadouts.  Players will now create their own custom Splinter Cell experience.  Blacklist features a huge amount of content, and it’s got everything you want in a Splinter Cell game.


Is this an evolution of Conviction?

Splinter Cell Blacklist is the biggest game in the series and we are innovating from the roots of the franchise to expand the range and variety of gameplay.  The game features a thrilling modern story ripped from today’s headlines, an immersive Co-op experience with the 4th Echelon Missions, and of course, the legendary Spies Vs. Mercs makes its epic return with Splinter Cell Blacklist.  This is the biggest, most ambitious Splinter Cell to date, and fans are going to be blown away by amount of content and variety of gameplay in Blacklist.


Ubisoft has talked about innovating from the roots of the franchise with Splinter Cell Blacklist .  What are they?

In Splinter Cell Blacklist, we have focused the game on Sam Fisher.  He’s got access to all his training and skills. We want you to really feel like Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell Blacklist– you can make decisions the way you think Sam actually would.  You’ve got access to all the tools Sam needs to take down the intense threats and challenges he will face in this game.  The Blacklist is going to push Sam’s abilities to their limits and we think gamers will find the game compelling and engaging.

Do we learn any more about Sam’s history in this game?

You will not learn his back story but players will see his character progression following the events of Double Agent and Conviction. Those missions have changed Sam, and you really see those changes come to life in Splinter Cell Blacklist.


What is the story about in this game?

The United States has a military presence in two thirds of the countries around the world. A group of rogue nations have had enough and mastermind a terror ultimatum called The Blacklist – a deadly countdown of escalating terrorist attacks on U.S. interests. Sam Fisher is the leader of the newly formed 4th Echelon unit: a special operations unit that answers solely to the President of the United States. Sam and his team must hunt down these terrorists by any means necessary, and stop The Blacklist countdown before it reaches zero.


How big is the team that works on one game and what is the amount of time invested behind creating something as grand as this?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

We are over 400 people strong working on Splinter Cell Blacklist worldwide. We lead the brand here at Ubisoft Toronto and also work very closely with Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Shanghai. In addition, we also have teams in Ubisoft Bucharest and Ubisoft Pune testing and tweaking the game. I joined the Splinter Cell Blacklist team at the same time as I joined Ubisoft Toronto, in April 2010. So it’s been just over three years of development, and we are very excited to get the game into the hands of our fans this August. 


Please tell us a little about Toronto Studio. Was the studio founded with the mind to develop/work on specific franchises?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

Ubisoft Toronto opened its doors in 2010 with a mandate to focus on building innovative AAA games with connectivity at the core right from the start – something quite unusual for a new studio.  The Toronto studio was fortunate to be given ownership of the Splinter Cell franchise by Ubisoft and we’ve assembled a team built with some of the best game development talent in the industry.  This is a big year for the studio as we ship our first game, and I couldn’t be more proud of what the team has accomplished together in such a short time.


What is “Killing in Motion” all about in Splinter Cell Blacklist?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

In Splinter Cell Blacklist, Killing in Motion is not a feature, but a gameplay philosophy. The introduction of Killing in Motion completely rebuilds how Sam Fisher, moves through the world, and how he takes down his enemies.  We’ve added three elements to support Killing in Motion – active sprint, Mark and Execute in motion, and takedowns in motion.  Once players master Killing in Motion, they will be able to play seamlessly through the environment, taking out enemies quickly and efficiently. We took great care in Splinter Cell Blacklist to allow the player to really feel like they are Sam Fisher and it’s a powerful feeling when they gain access to all of Sam’s abilities in the game.


Let’s talk about stealth gameplay, which Splinter Cell series have been known for. So far we have seen the return of night vision, moving bodies, knife, whistling and Non-Lethal Combat. What else will make a come-back from previous titles that you can share with us?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

We’ve included a wide range of features and gadgets that support the player that loves to play in the Ghost and Panther playstyles.  Takedowns from cover are back and better than ever.  The sticky shocker returns in an exciting new way.  Fans of stealth can also make the most of Sam’s sneaking abilities, ability to abduct and carry enemies, and use the silent, but deadly, karambit.  We’ve built variety in every level to ensure there multiple paths for the player to choose, and many ways to tackle any challenge facing Sam and 4th Echelon.


In what ways are you ensuring that Blacklist walks the line between stealth and action?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

When we conceived the design for Splinter Cell Blacklist, gameplay variety and the ability to play your way, and be rewarded for your choice, was a priority for our team.  It’s a huge and extremely daunting task from a design perspective to create a game that supports multiple play styles, and then add game elements that support each style (ie: shadow for the Ghost player or enemy groups for the Assault player).  But this was a design element we felt was important to move the Splinter Cell franchise forward in a dynamic way to allow every player to discover their own path in the game.

Splinter Cell Blacklist will have a lot of variety in the game and its design, supporting a wide range from non-lethal right through to full action.  We’re also providing a number of unique moments where gameplay mechanics and perspective will change based on the challenge at hand.  In addition, we’ve built the economy system to support play style choice and this goes a long way to rewarding the player and the way they choose to play Splinter Cell Blacklist.


What new features and abilities will the upcoming game have?

Splinter Cell Blacklist supports classic features and a wide variety of new innovations.  Sam is back in his suit with his legendary goggles, and he has new gadgets and weapons making him more deadly than ever.  We are also introducing Killing in Motion with Splinter Cell Blacklist, allowing Sam to move efficiently through the environment while taking out multiple targets quickly and fluidly.  And there will be a great deal more revealed about Splinter Cell Blacklist features and innovations over the coming months.


How important is realism in Splinter Cell Blacklist?

Splinter Cell has always revolved around realism; we’re not making a fantasy game or a sci-fi game; we’re putting a realistic hero in a realistic environment against a strong, but realistic new threat. Everything in the game is feasible; it’s an important element of what makes Splinter Cell so popular with gamers. We’ve used a real-life Sam Fisher in our stunt actor, an ex-military weapons and technical expert. He’s teaching our actors how to fight, handle weapons and do holds and throws so all the action is as authentic as possible.


Will Sam’s iconic goggles be back?

Yes, Sam is going to have his iconic trifocal goggles back in this game.  He’s back with 4th Echelon – and this time, it’s his team, his way. He will have his goggles, tactical suit, gadgets, and so much more – and gamers will be able to upgrade and customize everything to support their playstyle.


Does Sam have the power to do anything he wants in this game?

Yes – due to the severity of this threat, a new mandate was given to Sam directly by the President of the United States. Sam is granted the fabled Fifth Freedom to do whatever he has to, by any means necessary, to take down the Engineers and stop The Blacklist attacks.


How does the economy system work?

Everything you do in Splinter Cell Blacklist earns in-game currency that allows players to purchase and upgrade  4th Echelon resources, such as guns, weapons, gadgets and customizations.


How important is character creation in a game?

Maxime Beland, Creative Director

Good stories depend on interesting, relatable characters. In Splinter Cell Blacklist, Sam Fisher moves from lone wolf to pack leader of Fourth Echelon. The dynamics between the 4th Echelon team are important to our story in Blacklist, not only to showcase Sam as leader, but to also really go deep into the dynamic tensions that build and evolve over the course of the game. 

We were really excited when we found Eric Johnson to act as Sam Fisher – we knew we had found someone strong and powerful enough for the role. Right away, we knew that we had to find an actress who could play Grim in a way that could hold her own with Sam. This requires a smart and powerful woman, which we definitely found with Kate Drummond. She has a presence and the power to look Sam Fisher right in the eyes and tell him when he is wrong or when he is right. I’m really proud of the actors.  They’ve allowed us to tell what I think is our most emotional and relevant story in the series to date

Will Michael Ironside return as the voice of Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell Blacklist?

 Maxime Beland, Creative Director

Early in the development of Splinter Cell Blacklist, we made a choice to focus on high realism and production values that would create a more immersive, lifelike story experience in the game – to make a leap forward in the quality of our performance capture.  In Splinter Cell Blacklist we are incorporating full performance capture (full body, facial and voice captured at one time) using technology similar to the innovations implemented by the film industry.  We required an actor who could not only deliver a commanding voice performance, but also a demanding physical performance to really bring the character of Sam Fisher to life.  We auditioned dozens of actors, but the moment we met Eric Johnson, we knew instantly we’d found our new Sam Fisher.  We are very excited about the creative direction for Splinter Cell Blacklist and we’re confident that fans of the series will experience a gritty, action-packed performance by Johnson as the iconic lead character

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