The Hitman games have a lot of personality, a lot of detail, and a sarcastic sense of humor. And to get those levels of nuance, you need something to build on. You need to be able to go back and make sure it's working.
MA: I think you're totally right. Actually, Hitman can be quite the serious game, right? We are talking about an assassin that kills for money, and that itself is pretty serious. So I think that the feeling has been at IO, they always want to spice it up, to make it a little bit lighter, with putting in some dark humor, and putting in some very unique and quirky characters that would make it maybe a little bit comic.
MA: Yeah, exactly.
How do you provide the foundation that gives them that chance?
MA: It again boils down to a base AI that is very versatile, a base AI that can handle a lot of different situations, and can build a lot of different behaviors for our AI characters. Everything from enemy behavior, to combat -- close combat, range combat -- just trespassing. And then put a lot of focus in communicating what the AI is thinking to the player.
We have tools. One of the tools that we use a lot is something that we call sequence editor, where we can basically build up a lot of small situations inside the game. It's basically a tool that the level designers and the AI programmers can use to create this theatre, this play, and then figure out... At any point in these sequences they can be interrupted, they need to be able to handle that.
So they could spot Agent 47, run around the corner, and they would react to this. And maybe if he was trespassing, they would walk up to him, and say, "Hey! You're not supposed to be here!" And if he keeps on staying there, they'd say "Hey! I'm warning you! You're not supposed to be here! Get away!"
If the player would still choose to stay, he would pull his gun and say, "This is your last warning! If you don't get out of here, I'm going to shoot at you!" So we put in a lot more drama, and a lot more behavior, and that's so the player has time to think about his decisions, and what he should do.
Earlier, you said one of the things that you're primarily concerned with, with Glacier 2, is visuals. Visuals can mean a lot of different things. What are you concentrating on?
MA: It was important of us that we could support the vision of, and the artistic style of, the game -- so there's a lot of dynamic lighting. It's a fully deferred renderer that we're using, a lot of dynamic lighting, lots of dynamic shadows, and many post-effects and post-filters that support all the visual quality that you see.
When you think about Kane & Lynch 2, there was a great deal of effort put into effects...
MA: "YouTube aesthetics", we call them. And we put a lot of effort into the effects in Glacier 2 as well. It's very customizable the way that you create the particles, and for example, when you see the rain here, the rain drops that fall on the glass [indicates demo], it's not animation.
They are procedurally generated, and you know you will see, in the game, rain splashes on the characters, rain dropping down the face. Everything like that is something that is calculated. It's not animated by any graphic artist, and something we put a lot of effort into getting the right feel of, and getting the right visual quality out of it.
I feel like this generation -- and this is just me talking because I'm really aesthetically driven -- we have seen a lot of games with really interesting shaders, but maybe not as much as I thought, in terms of like giving a really distinct visual feel. It seems like a lot of games go after a very sort of samey, gritty look.
MA: Yeah, I think that looking at Hitman, there's a very distinct feel to all of it. It was very important that we could, from the tech side of things, be able to support the vision of how it should look, and what kind of emotion it should convey.
And the challenge with games set in the real world is to create an aesthetic that's unique to your game, while doing something that feels realistic to the players.
MA: We'll sometimes use the term "hyperrealism". We want to make it more real than real, in order to convey a certain feeling about it, and so that's what we're trying to do.
Is that something the artists are primarily concerned with?
MA: I believe it's a cooperation between the renderer programmers and the artists for the aesthetics of the game. It's a very tight cooperation, and they do a lot of back-and-forth in terms of effects, and in terms of shaders, and features as well. The artists, they create a technology for them, so they're able to create shaders themselves, in a sort of a visual language. So they have a lot of possibilities and a lot of opportunities to do these things themselves, as well.