Splinter Cell Too Complex?
That's what Jade Raymond, head of Ubisoft Toronto will have idio... uh, us believe in a recent interview with Eurogamer. Raymond explains her take on why Splinter Cell hasn't been "popular enough". In short, she blames the series' complexity, difficulty and unforgiving gameplay. Not the release window for the games, the waning quality, the gradual simplification, the use of StarForce, one of the most intrusive and therefore hated forms of DRM that ever existed, or any other reasons. No, the complexity is the culprit. Sure.
"One of the things that held it [the Splinter Cell franchise] back is despite all of the changes that have happened over the years, it's still one of the more complex and difficult games to play".
I take it that Jade is referring to the franchise all the way up to the most recent iteration, Conviction. Conviction, as everyone who played it knows, offered a more simplified and action-oriented experience compared to the original Splinter Cell trilogy. So, is she saying that even Conviction was too complex and difficult?
"Even though we do have core fans who are like, 'Oh, I want to have more of this experience,' when you play any other game that has stealth elements, they're all a lot more forgiving than Splinter Cell."
Yes, apparently she is saying that. So which other games are you referring to then, Jade, when you talk about other stealth games? Dishonored? Deus Ex? Hitman? Thief? These franchises are literally the only AAA-standard stealth-oriented games that I can remember, at the top of my mind, getting a sequel or reboot in recent years. That's four other games. And some of them came out several years ago. The stealth genre is barely surviving at all in today's market, and the few that remain are certainly not unnecessarily simplistic or forgiving. Oh, but there's more:
"I guess Splinter Cell stayed with the most pure approach to that stealth experience."
No, Jade. No it didn't. Splinter Cell evolved. Whether it was for better or worse is arguable, but the fact remains that Splinter Cell: Conviction is a much more action-oriented game than the franchise's very first game, released in 2002. So no, Splinter Cell hasn't stayed with the most pure approach. You're talking out of your...you're not saying true things, Jade.
"The first thing you have to do when you start in a map, even in Conviction, which did go quite a bit more action-oriented than the past, is the planning phase. So before entering a room you've got to spend some time thinking, 'right, so where are the guys positioned? How will I get through here? Where's cover? How do I hide? Okay, I'm going to shoot out those lights. 'This is my strategy'."
Fair enough, Jade. You call this a "planning phase". Obviously because you never played any of the original Rainbow Six games. But that's okay, I call this "part of the gameplay". So, are you saying that this "planning phase" is a bad thing? It clogs the flow of the game down?
"By default there aren't many games where that's the phase. Most games you can walk in and you start shooting right away, or you just walk in and you improvise as you go along."
Suddenly, this all becomes so clear. It's so obvious now. How foolish it was of me to think that you were comparing Splinter cell to Dishonored or Deus Ex: Human Revolution. You weren't comparing Splinter Cell to other stealth games when you said it was too complex. Because every other modern stealth game has the same sort of "planning phase" as well. No, you were comparing it to other games in general! You know, Call of Duty. Star Wars Kinect. FarmVille. All that good stuff! Well, at least we are now on the same page. We can finally agree. Splinter Cell: Conviction was probably way too complex for the average FarmVille "gamer". So is this the market you want to tap into, Jade? Is this where you would have the franchise go? Is this the final frontier for you? Where no stealth game has gone before?
This whole interview can be rather disheartening. Having the head of Ubisoft Toronto - the person in charge of how the Splinter Cell franchise shapes and evolves - saying that their own franchise, which is a lot more action-oriented now than ever before, say that their game is still "too complex" for the modern gamer... Yeah, it certainly does not make me want to buy Blacklist. But there's hope. Reading further into the interview, Jade claims the series will cater to a larger variety of playstyles than ever before. If you want to go hardcore stealth, you can do that. If you want to charge through every door guns blazing - without that annoying "planning phase" - you can do that. Hell, you can even play the game if you're a single cell bacteria!
"You can climb up, do 3D navigation and jump over things without thinking too much or pressing buttons. Sam does it automatically. The Killing in Motion, being able to Mark and Execute while moving through the map, makes it much more accessible to more of an action gamer."
Surely, these statements will create (and have already created) quite a bit of controversy. But don't worry about that, Raymond's got her sides covered:
"There's a big difference between the vocal fans who write things on forums and what the larger base of players think. You can jump to assumptions only reading what people post on forums. That can be very different from what you find from user analysis afterwards."
Well, it's at least nice to know that Jade cares about her fans first and foremost. I think we'll just end it here. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is slated for release August 20 in the US, and 23 here in Europe. Will you be buying it? Has this interview swayed your opinion in any way? Feel free to let us know in the comment section below!