This week at the Eurogamer Expo I had the honor of interviewing Torben Ellert from IO Interactive, who is currently working as a game designer on Contracts mode for Hitman: Absolution. We were able to spend a good ten minutes talking about the game, and here for your reading pleasure is my interview.
Q. So what made you bring Agent 47 out of retirement?
A. I don’t think he ever retired, as in the end of Blood money he went to a shop and asked for something in the back room. We brought him back mostly been as we have been rebuilding the engine, Glacier Two. As you have seen from the demo we have at the Expo we have done a lot of game building, some really powerful crowd tech, a really really powerful A.I and of course Contracts mode, the online contract creation which allows player for the first time really to create their own hits in the Hitman world.
Q. Playing the demo we saw that Agent 47 can now use hand-to-hand combat, was that something you felt was missing?
A. I think it made sense to include hand-to-hand combat. Agent 47 is deadly with everything from his bare hands, to a half brick, to a kilo of C4 or a sniper rifle. It means he is deadly with everything and I feel that it made sense to fill in the last gap.
Q. You personally worked designing for the contracts mode, would you mind explaining what the concept behind this is?
A. When we were building the world, we thought ‘What if anyone in this world could be a target?’ What if a player could go to the level, press a button on their keyboard or joypad to mark any character as a target, and then say the way to kill them? Did they hide the bodies? Where they seen? All these things turn into a contract. So you walk into a level, say China Town Square, and you mark the drug dealer. You say he has to die via an explosion and create a contract where you have to be able to pull this off somehow. You save it and send it to your mate. Your mate then looks at it and goes “Hey wait second, how do I blow this guy up without killing anyone else? How do I pull this off?” He knows your someone can pull it off because you created it, but then he cracks it and he does it a little bit better, a little bit faster than you. Maybe he has beaten your leaderboard score and so as a result you need to up the antae again. So this is a way for us to allow players to express their creativity in this great big gorgeous sandbox that you have in Hitman: Absolutions, not only show off to the world but also the competitors and their games.
Q. You mentioned China Town Square as one of the locations used in the game. How many different locations will there be in the finished game?
A. I can’t tell you exactly how many different locations there are as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can say that there a substantial number of big and small, intimate and very challenging areas to create hits in. Say for example you have three rooms, and there are four characters in those rooms, and you have to take out two of them without the other two knowing. So what we basically did was we took all of the levels we have in the game and thought, where are the levels where people could do awesome stuff? Those are the levels that are available in contract mode.
Q. In the past Agent 47 was limited to around eighteen to twenty weapons. Has there been an increase in the weapons available to use in the game?
A. In the game there are a lot more than eighteen to twenty weapons and in contract mode we get to the really interesting ones. Some can be upgraded so that you can change the way that they perform and some of them are really fun weapons. In contracts mode you have a smaller number of weapons which can be used in weird and wonderful ways, but in the missions you will have a much wider number of weapons. From not just the hand guns and rifles, but also C4, Bottles and golf clubs giving even more interesting ways of killing people.
Q. A new addition to the Hitman games is Instinct Mode. This has been compared to Eagle Vision from the Assassins Creed games and also the Detective mode from Batman Arkham City. How does this differ from those modes and what makes Instinct Mode unique?
A. It’s natural that Agent 47 has an instinct that would set him apart from other people and this was something that makes this different as this a skill honed from experience. In Instinct Mode you are not only able to mark your targets, but also to use your instincts to understand situations better. For example if you were disguised as a gangster, you can use instinct mode to see if your close to being discovered. You will be able to know if you need to be cautious and stand further away from the possible gangster who might spot you. There is also marking, which is where you can target multiple targets and kill them quickly and efficiently, but also to see whether your disguises needs changing or how to approach a situation differently. So you can see it’s more than just a tool to see through walls and buildings, it is a way to help you through the tougher levels later. There are certain times where you can use instinct mode to analyze a situation and find a solution, or you can use it later to help you assassinate a target surrounded by guards. It all depends on how you wish to use this skill, and this is something that is used widely not only in the missions, but also contract mode.
Thats it from me for now. I had alot of fun talking to Torben and I hope you enjoyed reading this. Oh and keep checking the site for more interviews and posts from Eurogamer 2012.
-Random Man 5000