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Codename: 47 returns as TVG discovers the lowdown on the vast improvements in store...
Agent 47 is back in another hard hitting, brutal, almost realistic encounter as the worldâ??s deadliest assassin. Powered by a new version of IO's stunning Glacier engine it will deliver more detail, slicker action whilst conveying the kind of suspense and edginess that gamers love.
Find out more, as our own undercover mole, Derek dela Fuente, spoke with Adam Lay, Assistant Producer on the game.
"The most important focus has been upon moving the series forward, to push the boundaries of the technology behind it, and to incorporate new gameplay features..."
When you were planning and working towards putting together new design ideas for Hitman: Blood Money what was the one important focus for the game?
Hitman as a series continues to remain a great challenge to ensure each new game exceeds the last in terms of quality and technical achievement.
The most important focus has been upon moving the series forward, to push the boundaries of the technology behind it, and to incorporate new gameplay features such as the Notoriety, a functional in-game economics system, accidental deaths, and the sophisticated weapon customisation system.
Hitman: Blood Money has been in development for several years now and is definitely the most ambitious title of the series so far.
We understand that development on Blood Money began before work commenced on Contracts; does this indicate a different direction for the franchise or something else?
A lot of the technology that powers Hitman: Blood Money has been completely written from scratch.
With the introduction of an all new graphics engine, along with several new integrating gameplay features, such as an in-game economy system, customisable weapon upgrade system, and a sophisticated notoriety feature, Hitman: Blood Money is sizably larger in both content and features than Silent Assassin and Contracts.
As a result a lot of the pre-production and even some of the new technology was established before Contracts had hit the shelves.
Can you tell us a little about the evolved "Glacier" engine and what this brings to the game and its visuals?
Hitman: Blood Money is the first game to be powered by IO Interactiveâ??s latest implementation of the powerful Glacier engine. This features a new render engine supporting up to shader model 3.x, allowing realistic refraction based environment effects. Both the Xbox and PC versions will feature dynamic soft shadows, and a new character rendering system consisting of a highly realistic rendering system, utilising normal mapping, self shadowing and rim lighting.
Most of these techniques are based on the simulation of light, and how it reacts to surfaces and effects the environment that surrounds it. For example if you were to stand in a room with a light above your head, your eye sockets, ears, arms, etc. will all fall into natural shadow. How light interacts with a surface depends on what that surface is, for example a varnished table will actually appear polished and reflect light, whilst an old wooden table will appear dull and grooved.
Visually, all these effects help produce a much more detailed, believable, immersive and realistic environment.
Having seen Hitman: Blood Money itâ??s fair to say that Codename: 47 looks a lot more agile than before, scaling buildings to set-up the perfect hit; could you elaborate on this a little and say whether the emphasis has been placed back on setting up the hit rather then progressing through a level?
Hitman: Blood Money features more interactive objects and environments than seen in any of the previous games in the series. Itâ??s now possible for 47 to vault and climb over walls, climb through roof hatches in elevators, scale ledges and traverse various balconies and ledges.
With this improved mobility, the potential possibilities the player has in their overall approach to each mission, and how they actually decide to kill their targets/s is greatly increased.
Additionally, a new in-game camera system has been implemented. The player can now move the camera independently from the on-screen character. The camera is no longer fixed upon 47â??s back, allowing the player to pan around the environment whilst they move. This leads to a greater outlook on their surroundings, as they move and explore the environment.
How long and hard does the team think about inventive ways to kill; where do you draw your inspiration from and how close to the mark without evading any censorship issues do you try to go? Perhaps you can tell our readers briefly about one ingenious hit that can be planned?
The focus has always been upon performing â??hitsâ?? in new and exiting ways, not necessarily upon creating a bloodbath. Many of the more brutal ways to perform kills have been inspired by everyday objects; for example, pens, hammers and the odd piece of gardening furniture. This time round the player can make use of more incidental household objects to perform a kill, along with one of the new features we have introduced which is the preparation of â??accidentsâ?? for the unsuspecting target.
One of the earlier missions features an ongoing rehearsal of an execution scene that is occurring within an Opera House. The tenor involved in this rehearsal is in fact one of 47â??s targets. There are a number of possible methods of taking out this target, some more resourceful than others, however I think the most creative way is replacing the prop blank firing gun used in the rehearsal, with a replica (fully working) firearm. This allows 47 to concentrate upon a second target, whilst an actor does his dirty workâ?¦.
What have been the most interesting comments/issues that you have had back from game forums and E3, which you will work on within Blood Money?
Actively throughout the development of the Hitman series, and particularly with Hitman: Blood Money, we have listened to our hardcore fan base and have tried to incorporate, where possible, the feedback posted via the various gaming forums and via consumer trade events such as E3. This in turn has had an influence on decisions regarding mission locations and overall games design. Hitman: Blood Money for example will feature locations geared towards less military inspired scenarios, and more towards those where a genuine Hitman would be most effective, more public areas.
Overall the feedback we have received so far has been very positive, especially from those guys who got to see the code running over at this years E3.
How important is it to have diversity in the locations? Are they more to do with graphical variety as opposed to really leading the gameplay and actions? What are the locations, how do you decide on them and can you talk about one of the teamâ??s favs?
As in the previous games in Hitman series, 47â??s business takes him to many varied locations around the globe. Throughout the course of Hitman: Blood Money, with the exception of a few missions featured within Europe, 47 will perform the majority of his hits across a variety of locations within the United States.
These locations and environments vary both in visual and gameplay terms. For instance on one mission 47 must gain access to a VIP party within the setting of the Rocky Mountains. Here 47 can use the environment to his advantage, pushing guests and disposing of dead bodies over the high ledges and slopes.
In addition many of these locations are considerably larger than those previously featured within Codename 47, Silent Assassin and Contracts, buildings and interiors feature to-scale architecture and accurate design.
"â?¦wouldn't it be unfortunate if someone pushed them over the edge, and they fell to their death? Accidents do happen."
Can you give the readers a basic understanding as to what the process is to creating a Hitman game?
Cool scenarios and locations are normally dreamt up first, the best are then expanded and elaborated upon, into what form the basis of the missions with targets, objectives and characters.
From there walkthroughs are devised for the levels, explaining in detail the various possible ways to successfully complete the mission. These are designed with the Silent Assassin rating in mind, all the missions are designed to possibly complete by killing the targets only, and without ever leaving a trace of your existence at the scene.
The entire game is documented with a comprehensive design document that contains every piece of information about the game, from the floor layout of each building, to the life history, age and blood type of each target featured within the game.
Can you talk a little about the weapons on offer, such as the customiseable Sniper Rifle, Bombs and 47â??s new disarm techniques; can you use non-lethal attacks until the final hit?
47â??s own weapons (such as his Dual Silverballers and W2000 sniper rifle) benefit greatly from the new customization feature that has been introduced. There are currently over fifty various types of upgrades that can be applied to 47â??s custom built weapons, all of which complement the playerâ??s personal preference and style of play. As in the previous games, 47 will also be able to use any firearms he happens to encounter whilst conducting his business.
Bombs now also feature with 47â??s arsenal; these can be used for a number of different techniques. The first and most obvious use being to directly kill someone with an explosion, bombs can be dropped or thrown and detonated via a remote to explode within split second accuracy. Bombs can also be used to take down certain parts of the environment; they can be attached to lighting rigs and chandeliers for example, leading to rather nasty looking accidents. They can also be used for distractions, guards and civilians will investigate a rigged explosion, giving 47 enough time to sneak in a restricted area for example.
Whilst attempting a hit, you will invariably find yourself in a situation where you may have to perform unplanned casualties and/or fatalities. Within Hitman: Blood Money we decided we needed to include several close combat techniques to support this.
For example imagine you have just taken out your target successfully, a guard enters the room and sees you and the dead body, he draws his weapon and is aiming directly at you, what do you do? Well now itâ??s possible to react to this situation as a professional would. You grab the gun out of the guardâ??s hand and use his own weapon to take him down. There are also some non lethal moves included too, like the head butt and the ability to push people around. Imagine if someone was standing too close to the edge of a balcony, wouldnâ??t it be unfortunate if someone pushed them over the edge, and they fell to their death? Accidents do happenâ?¦
Could you explain the â??Picture in Pictureâ?? system, what this brings to the game for hardened Hitman fans and newcomers alike; how prompts enhance the overall gaming experience and reduce the trial-and-error style gameplay?
By introducing the â??Picture in Pictureâ?? (or PIP) system, we wanted to remove the various onscreen messages that were displayed during gameplay in the previous Hitman games. Essentially within the old system, if a guard or civilian was to find a dead body for example, this information was portrayed to the player via a simple text message on screen.
However with the introduction of the new â??Picture in Pictureâ?? system, we now have the opportunity to display these events on screen as they actually happen. This allows the player to have a greater understanding of what is happening elsewhere on the level at that current time, in real time.
Additionally now with the inclusion of various in-game security devices, such as CCTV, the â??Picture in Pictureâ?? allows us to do some cool stuff such as displaying the actual camera feed to the player. This would allow you to determine immediately if you have been caught performing a kill or other act on film, itâ??s also possible to work out the range of the cameras.
The PIP is also an excellent means of introducing items, characters, and events that would normally be off-screen. Several of the possible accident opportunities found within Blood Money are hinted to the player via the PIP.
We were impressed by the level of AI featured in the large amounts of NPCs; could you elaborate a little on the enhancements that have been made and what this brings to the various scenarios to be found within the game?
The engine and scripts that power the gameâ??s AI, for both the enemies and civilians, has been completely re-written from scratch.
The NPCs (Non Player Characters) will now react accordingly to the environment and the people and objects around them. They will follow blood trails, investigate suspicious items and observe strange behaviour, leading to some interesting distraction type gameplay. Additionally a new pathfinder engine provides Hitman: Blood Money with further improved tracking and movement, resulting in realistic NPC behaviour and interaction.
TVG would to thank Adam Lay for taking the time to answer our questions on Hitman: Blood Money; weâ??ll have further coverage of Codename: 47 return later in the yearâ?¦s