Post Script

Cre­ative di­rec­tor, Io In­ter­ac­tive


Chris­tian Elver­dam,

The episodic struc­ture Hit­man was in­tended to launch with proved con­tro­ver­sial, and when Io an­nounced it was split­ting Hit­man’s in­tro­duc­tory three-episode pack­age into still-smaller chunks, a vo­cal com­po­nent of the com­mu­nity turned feral. But cre­ative di­rec­tor Chris­tian Elver­dam an­tic­i­pated it, and it didn’t dampen Io’s en­thu­si­asm to face the chal­lenges of a live stu­dio. Here, Elver­dam ex­plains what Io means when it in­vites us to en­ter ‘a world of as­sas­si­na­tion’. How have you felt about the pub­lic re­ac­tion to Hit­man adopt­ing an episodic model? We were ex­pect­ing peo­ple to be scep­ti­cal up front – there’s this old quote: ‘Ev­ery­one loves progress, but no one re­ally likes change.’ We can’t re­ally per­suade any­one that this is a good idea, I think. We’ll have to let the game speak for it­self. I re­cently toured around with the pre­view code for Sapienza, our next episode, and the feed­back was re­ally good. When I look at fo­rums and gen­eral chat­ter about it, I see much less worry about it af­ter Paris came out than be­fore. Be­fore, peo­ple were re­ally talk­ing about how much con­tent there would be, and I think if you re­ally dig Hit­man and you turn off the hints you don’t need, there are a lot of hours in Paris, and I think it starts to click with peo­ple why it’s a good idea that the next episode then comes out and there’s a new, fresh level in­stead of just bar­relling through. When did you de­cide that a live game was some­thing you wanted to try as a stu­dio? That de­ci­sion ac­tu­ally goes back a long while. There are so many words th­ese days – to me, ‘episodic’ be­came more about how to tell the story, be­cause way be­fore we started talk­ing about episodic ‘con­tent’, we knew we wanted to try to build a dig­i­tally dis­trib­uted game. We saw that In­ter­net con­nec­tions were reach­ing a crit­i­cal mass where it could be done, and we saw, talk­ing to Sony and Mi­crosoft, the poli­cies they have around patch­ing games – you couldn’t have done it with the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. That al­lowed us to mod­ify and work with the game when it was out, and we knew we wanted to do that. I want to see that hap­pen­ing with the rest of the sea­son: that we iden­tify stuff that could be bet­ter and ac­tu­ally work with it. What prompted the jump from the ini­tial three­ep­isodes-at-launch for­mat to a sin­gle episode on a monthly ba­sis? There was no doubt that it felt more nat­u­ral to us, be­cause it meant we could ab­so­lutely pol­ish Paris and Sapienza more, so it was a very clear de­ci­sion for us. As in any sort of com­plex sand­box game, there’s the odd glitch and the odd bug, but Paris feels like a game that knows what it wants to be. You can judge it and say, ‘Yeah – that’s a Hit­man game.’ It was al­ready meant for that struc­ture in the first place, be­cause we were talk­ing [about do­ing] episodes for a long time. Ob­vi­ously it’s early days, but Con­tracts mode is quite non-spe­cific: kill this per­son with what­ever you choose, wear­ing what­ever you like. How do you hope to see Con­tracts evolve in the long term? We need more player agency. When you think about the dif­fi­culty set­tings in the game, at the mo­ment they’re gov­erned by the Op­por­tu­nity sys­tem and sim­ple rules like ‘a guard can carry any weapon’ be­cause that’s a good start­ing point. But when I’m think­ing in my ad­vanced mode, is that re­ally what we want? Isn’t that a bit sus­pi­cious? Who would ever carry a si­lenced pis­tol if not to be an as­sas­sin? We may in­tro­duce a set­ting called Ad­vanced Weapon Rules, or, if I shoot a guy and I leave holes in his out­fit, can I ac­tu­ally then use the dis­guise? I would love to see, a few Es­ca­la­tion con­tracts in, which el­e­ments peo­ple like. Do you think there’s a risk that in build­ing fewer, but deeper puz­zles, you put off some of the Hit­man fans who are in it for the story? There’s al­ways risk when you do some­thing like this. I hope if you’re in it for the story it’s go­ing to be good enough that you want to go back and check what hap­pens. I have to say I think we’ve found a good tone for the uni­verse this time: it’s a lit­tle bit more se­ri­ous and I ac­tu­ally think a lot of peo­ple will ap­pre­ci­ate it. But I think if you’re a re­ally story-driven player – if that’s your most im­por­tant pre­rog­a­tive – you al­ways have the op­tion to wait. We’ve kept that op­tion open all the way. So Sapienza is up next – how does it dif­fer­en­ti­ate it­self from the chal­lenges we faced in Paris? Sapienza is dif­fer­ent on many lev­els. If Paris was busy and high so­phis­ti­ca­tion, this is about the lazi­est town you can come to. It’s a small town in Italy and it’s just af­ter lunch. It has this vibe of a real hol­i­day lo­ca­tion – you would ac­tu­ally want to go there and have some time to your­self. And that’s a theme we’ve worked with be­cause on the sur­face you have this charm­ing Ital­ian man­sion, and then you have Sil­vio Caruso, a bril­liant sci­en­tist who has trag­i­cally lost his mother, and you have this feel­ing that ev­ery­thing is pleas­ant, but then un­der the sur­face there’s a lot of mad, dark stuff go­ing on. That’s true of the mark and the level: it’s a very ver­ti­cal level be­cause the town’s on a moun­tain­side, and as you dig into the level you’ll need to find where Sil­vio keeps his se­crets. Mean­while, Sil­vio has a very frag­ile psy­che, and there’s a psy­chi­a­trist in town.

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