anibee Features: Hitman: Absolution Art Director, Roberto Marchesi!
We were invited down to a cool little gaming-focused café, the St. Games Café@ Bugis+ for an equally snazzy event - a preview of Square Enix's upcoming title: Hitman: Absolution!
As if getting an early hands-on with the game wasn't spiffy enough, we also got to sit down and chat with Art Director of IO Interactive (the guys who've produced all the games in the franchise), Mr. Roberto Marchesi!
anibee: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in IO Interactive/Square Enix
Marchesi: I am Roberto Marchesi, and I am the Art Director of IO Interactive and for Hitman: Absolution. I started as a Concept Artist working on Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and I was on the original preproduction team for Hitman: Absolution as well. So I've kind of done a little bit of everything I guess!
anibee: This is the 5th installment in the Hitman franchise, the first in 6 years. What does it feel like to be coming back to it?
Marchesi: It feels good! Agent 47 is such a cool character, and in a world that's so open and dynamic, it's always a pleasure to come back. He could be in a seedy motel in one moment, then an awesome skyscraper the next. The number of scenarios and locations he can be placed in are always so varied that it's a ton of fun!
It also helps that I've had the pleasure to work with many familiar faces again. Being around them, as well as enthusiastic new-comers is what makes working at IO Interactive feel very family-like, and everyone enjoys it here.
anibee: Since the last game, Hitman Absolutions marks the first game in the series published under Square Enix (as opposed to Eidos' own brand). Has the experience been any different?
Marchesi: No, not at all. Working for Square Enix has been really nice, as they have provided us with a lot of tools and resources to use for this project. They trust us and believe in us to deliver, and it's really nice seeing their support.
anibee: What changes can we expect to see from Agent 47 and the returning cast? What's stayed the same?
Marchesi: There will definitely be a handful of changes, but I can't spoil the story too much! Agent 47's main appeal as always been how unique his charisma is and yet at the same time how "empty" he is. It is how little we know of him, that we feel is what makes him so appealing and relatable to the players all this while.
In Absolution, we will be shedding a bit more light on his background and making him more "human". But at the same time, we won't be going too much into this, so he will still keep the same air of mystery.
anibee: What were the main challenges in making the game?
Marchesi: The biggest challenge was definitely to introduce all kinds of new improvements, but yet still keep true to the legacy of the series. We are definitely aware of what was great about the previous games: the story, the social aspect of the game's community, Agent 47's compelling factor etc. We wanted to keep all of that, but at the same time we also wanted to take the chance to really reinvigorate the franchise as well.
One of the things we really wanted to do was to provide the player with as many options for him to approach any given situation. The challenge was not only providing these options, but also presenting them in a way that makes the player aware of what they are. The very communication of these ideas is what we mean by making the game more accessible, but not necessarily making it easier - providing a good challenge to long-time fans, but also making it appealing to new players without leaving them frustrated and confused.
anibee: Today's market has changed a fair bit, with more and more companies placing emphasis on a more 'casual' gaming experience. Fans have also become a lot more demanding, with their tendencies to pick at even the most well-intentioned of changes e.g. arguing that the Instinct-feature makes the game too easy. How do you strike a balance between that and keeping the long time fans happy?
Marchesi: I guess the first thing we did was to put more enemies on screen, hahaha! But joking aside, the Instinct-feature is not to make the game easy, but rather to refine it. In previous installments, you had to access things like your mini map via a separate menu; this resulted in the game getting paused and taking players out of the game.
With Instinct, this doesn't happen. Players get access to all the necessary information they need, but all in real-time and they're still right in the middle of the action - thus streamlining the whole process. Plus, you can turn off this feature too in Hitman: Absolution, if that extra challenge is desired.
We also play-tested this game countless times too with all kinds of people, encouraging them to try to tackle all the various scenarios in the game in as many ways as they can. As they do this, we made sure to track their thinking closely, enquiring on why they did and did not do certain actions and how to fix anything if necessary e.g. a play-tester didn't pick up a gun to take on some enemies because the option wasn't clear enough to him.
We really did all this to ensure that the game was as challenging, but also as fair as we could make it to be. We wanted this game to appeal to everyone to the best of our ability, and we hope that this will be evident as players try out Hitman: Absolution.
anibee: How has the fandom's reactions been so far?
Marchesi: The fandom has been extremely supportive to us, whether if it's from their encouraging comments, and especially from their constructive feedback. Hitman: Absolution is an extremely complex game that required a lot of time to work on, and it couldn't have been possible without the support from all the wonderful fans that truly care for and love the franchise. We are extremely excited to release the final product to see everyone's reactions and we hope you all will enjoy it!
Special thanks to Bandai Namco for the invite, as well as St. Games Café for hosting the event, and Mr. Marchesi for his time!
Hitman: Absolution hits stores this November!
Images courtesy of Bandai Namco Games and Square Enix