Splinter Cell 3DS is a reworking of 2005's fan favorite Fisher adventure, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. It is one of the highest profile launch titles for Nintendo's latest handheld, and we caught up with the game's producer, Fabrice Cuny, to get the lowdown on what you can expect.
GameSpot UK: How long has Splinter Cell 3DS been in production, and how did the project initially come about?
Fabrice Cuny: The project started back in November 2009 when I began to gather the team. Gratefully, some people who we already had working on DS projects were available, and their expertise with this type of console helped us a lot for the design and the integration of our gameplay with the touch screen. We had previously considered the various options, and we had proposed the concept of TCSC3D to our management. And in early January, we went into production without knowing what the future would be.
GSUK: Did you know all of the 3DS's technical specifications at that time?
FC: At that time, we had just a little information on the new Nintendo console, so we got in touch with Nintendo. They came from Japan with 3DS and prototype games, and after a theoretical introduction, we had a chance to play these games and try the hardware. That was such a nice surprise that we’ve decided to extend our scope and redefined our planning. With the stereoscopy in mind, design was exciting and the team came up with new prototypes very quickly.
GSUK: Can you tell us about what Splinter Cell 3DS will offer longtime fans of the series?
FC: SC3D offers a true Splinter Cell experience with all the possibilities to experiment with different ways of playing, from the classic light-and-shadow gameplay combined with the use of all the gadgets to distract or eliminate enemies silently to a more offensive gameplay using weapons Sam acquires during his missions. We also made changes to enhance the experience. For example, we have a brand new mode of vision, thanks to the Fusion Goggles, but I won’t spoil it for you...and 3D texts inspired by the Conviction art style that guide the player through his journey and important narrative moments.
GSUK: Other than 3D graphics, does Splinter Cell 3DS use any of the handheld's other features, such as its cameras or gyroscope?
FC: Other than 3D graphics--available almost everywhere in our game, even in the loading screen--we wanted to use the gyroscope. We thought that the best solution for the game would be to combine it with the optic cable gameplay, and the experience is great. Being able to tilt and yaw the console in order to study the next room for possible encounters is really immersive.
Also, the 3DS kept the touch screen, which is a great addition for our Splinter Cell. We’ve designed the touch screen so the player will control everything related to the tactics and the preparation of the action. Thanks to his thumbs, the player is able to select his weaponry and gadgets. The design of the touch screen was a very interesting challenge, and I think that the team has done a great job with it. I’m convinced that this interface will make the game intuitive and easy to play.
GSUK: What unique challenges are there for developing in 3D?
FC: The challenge is to think outside of the box. Thinking 3D for art is pretty easy, but thinking 3D for gameplay is much more complex. It is all about finding the good balance between innovation and feasibility. The innovation should surprise the player and give him a deeper experience but with the ability of being able to produce the game. So we created some tools to be able to test the 3D on the PC before trying to implement it on the 3DS. This allowed us to define our 3D gameplay faster before really producing it, as the 3D wasn’t yet running on the 3DS and the pace on the PC is faster.
GSUK: Did you find it hard to make a compelling 3D experience knowing that the game still had to be good with the 3D turned off?
FC: 3D games are challenging for this reason, so we stuck to the following creative direction, which was “make the experience enhanced, whether the 3D slider is turned on or off.” Then, the core of the game is a classic Splinter Cell game, but with the 3D on, you have more depth while aiming, you have enhanced grenade aiming, you have more fun exploring the world.
GSUK: It's been suggested that the 3DS has a similar level of processing power as the Wii. Is this the case in your experience?
FC: The 3DS is powerful, and we are able to run the Unreal engine on this console, which is pretty impressive for a handheld machine, and the 3D doesn’t affect the performance (thanks to my amazing programmers). The architecture is different compared to a Wii or some other platforms that we had to work with here at Ubisoft Montreal.
GSUK: One of the apparent benefits of the DS was that it was a very easy platform to develop for, with low costs making for a wide range of innovative games and strong third-party support. How does the 3DS compare?
FC: The 3DS can be much more comparable to a platform between a DSi and a Wii. We are able to create games anywhere from a puzzle game to very high-end game such as Splinter Cell 3D. The tools on the 3DS were brand new, and with every development phase, we had some tools with bugs and crashes. But with version after version, Nintendo provided us a set of tools and the support to help us debug and optimize the game.
GSUK: Where to next for Sam Fisher and the Splinter Cell series?
FC: I can’t tell you anything for now, but watch your back.