Square Enix and IO Interactive used Gamescom 2012 to debut a brand new online mode for Hitman: Absolution. A new “Contracts” online mode allows gamers to create and share their own custom hit challenges within the game. Gamers can choose a level, targets, weapons, and then set the rules for completing the contract based on time, style and witnesses. Everything is done without a complicated editor. Tore Blystad, game director on Hitman at IO Interactive, detailed this innovative new online mode in the exclusive interview below.
Can you explain how ‘Contracts’ works in Hitman: Absolution?
In Contracts mode we enable it so that every single character in the game is a potential target and the player can choose for themselves how to play through it. So they can go into any section of the game, select their targets in whatever way they choose, and then exit. They can then make this into a hit and send it to their friends.
What do you feel that user-generated content does for the longevity of the multiplayer?
The Hitman fans have always been doing this with the previous games, even though there was no support for it in the game. Because the gameplay in the Hitman games is based on the AI running by itself, there’s no scripting of whatever they’re doing. It means that essentially, however you want to play through the game, the AI will adapt to your play style. That makes a feature like Contracts very natural for us to create. Enabling anyone to be a target is the same thing we’re doing when we’re creating the game itself. So it was a very natural succession. We believe that this will give the game a lot of longevity because basically you can create an infinite amount of hits within the game.
Can you talk about the depth of what there is for people to create in this mode?
The special thing about Contracts is that you actually have to play the game to create the contracts. That means that you open up a level, you go in and you select which weapons and disguises to bring with you, and then as you go around you can target in the level and say, ‘this guy is a target’ or ‘that guy over there is a target.’ The way you choose to take him down in whatever disguise, if you hide his body or not, all of these things are logged and become a part of that contract. If you look at the regular hits within the game, this is something that is far more specific and you can go into great detail in saying, ‘I want this guy taken down with a knife while wearing a chicken suit.’ Whoever wants to make the perfect play through this contract will have to do the same thing as you. They can even one-up you by performing the hit correctly but doing it faster than you. They can challenge you to beat them at the same hit. If you want to create a contract that’s just about killing this guy over here and then getting out, you can turn all these conditions off and say the contract is very simple. It’s just a regular hit.
What impact do you see this mode having for the diehard fans that have been playing these games from the beginning?
We can see, after we announced it, that the fans just exploded online. They really, really love it and it was made for them. They can really see that this is something that will give the game something that the other Hitman games didn’t have. Contracts will hopefully keep them playing and enjoying it for a long time.
What are your goals heading into this new Hitman game?
With this new Hitman game we were looking at all the old games that we made and the legacy that we have, and basically taking apart every single game mechanic and putting it back together to create a more dynamic experience. Absolution is a more modern game then the old games. Previously, Hitman games have been notoriously hard and punishing for the players, only allowing the most hardcore players to enjoy them. We wanted to make it a more open experience, where the game wouldn’t punish the players as hard as the old games.
How has new technology enabled you to bring this game to life?
We built an entirely new technology for this game centered around AI, rendering, and the audio portions of the game, which is very central to us. We wanted a very cinematic experience combined with the very open nature of the game. It’s basically the player’s choice, whatever is happening. Then we needed a very flexible system from the engine to support being cinematic in any kind of circumstance.
Can you explain how Glacier 2 technology was created?
When we started on this game, we found out that the in-house technology that we had was running very old. We either needed to license something, or build something ourselves. Since IO Interactive is very much based on technology in-house, the old games were very renowned for their innovative technology. We decided that since there wasn’t anything on the market that we could use directly, we would rather build our own technology and tailor it for this game. The AI that we have is very advanced. It’s far beyond anything we’ve done in the past. Also, on the rendering side, to be able to live up to the art direction that was made, we built our own renderer as well.
How did you design this game’s environments?
We’re going for a darker and more dense style then before. It’s still a humorous game in many ways, but every location is very dense with detail. Since it’s a game that incorporates exploration, stealth, slow-paced gameplay, and a lot of voyeurism, we needed to build locations that were extremely rich in detail to be able to keep the players around for a long time to explore the environments and the characters within them.
What’s it like for you hitting the home stretch now and having that release date in sight?
It’s great. It’s always tough to finish off a game. Back home in Copenhagen they are working 24/7 to make this happen, but having a deadline and knowing that it will be out soon it’s tremendous for us. We’re very happy with that.