The Tightrope Walk: Hitman Absolution, Freedom, and Realism
November 2, 2012 Page 2 of 3
When it comes to the AI, there's got to be a line. You sort of talked about this. Where you're creating AIs that behave realistically, to some extent -- but then, is that actually fun?
How do you handle that?
TB: No, you have to try it out. It is very easy to fall into this "simulation trap", that it has to be realistic. You know, if you do something to this guy, he will forever remember it, and he will know you. It's like, well, that might be so in real life, but it just isn't fun to play.
You have to build a system where there is a certain forgiveness in the system, where essentially you know you're playing a game, and you can be immersed it in any kind of way, but in the end it does come down to mechanics and your understanding -- okay, how can I provoke the game, and what are the results?
And, of course, having to hide for an hour for them to stand down is not very interesting, so finding the balance between making it realistic and making it playable is something that we are constantly trying to see if it's working, and using user tests as a reference, to see are they having fun with this, or are they having fun with that? And different groups can say, "Okay, now it seems like 20 seconds is better than 50 seconds on this stand-down for these particular things."
When it comes to games that have heavy systems design -- meaty gameplay systems that operate on rules -- is that getting more and more difficult to do as games start to look more cinematic, more realistic? Is there a tension there between making systemic games and making visceral entertainment experiences?
TB: Yeah, I think you said it yourself. With the first Hitman game, you could basically just make a bald guy, and you didn't need to make anything around it, but now you have to create this enormous context, and you really have to spend a lot of effort to build up everything to a degree where you can immerse yourself more into any area of the game.
And I'm not sure. I think in some, you can say like "systemic" games, they will take more clever choices, I guess, because of their design that allows for simple systems. I remember when I played Portal 2, I was so envious of them in the design choices that they made, with having a first person game, everybody around you are robots, and the almighty voice is the one telling you the story of the game -- while we have to live with this world where everyone is right in your face, your main character is right there, everything has to be done flawlessly for you to be completely immersed in it.
And sometimes I really wish we had a game that could have done some simpler choices that would allow us to, for instance, tell the story in a simpler way than we have to live with. We have this almost mute character that is completely mechanical, so he will never express himself like Nathan Drake would, or like Kane & Lynch would, always telling you what they're feeling, and how they're doing in the game. So the only thing we can hope for is that people can then at least live themselves more into our main character, because he is such a non-described character, and because there is so much freedom of choice put in the world.
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