You may have seen a few stories the other day about Hitman's somewhat confusing digital, episodic, not-early access, it'll-be-on-a-disc-someday future. I spoke to IO's studio creative director Christian Elverdam about what's going with the game's unusual structure (There's also more in the Hitman feature I wrote last week).
The game will be effectively 'built' online with locations, missions and content being added over time says Christian. "The specifics, about how much content we start with and the specific pace of it, we will talk about later. But for now, just imagine there are going to be locations appearing". An example he refers to is, "let’s say Paris has has gone live and the location has launched", with Morocco and Italy also mentioned as upcoming locations. "We will release locations over time basically. So that when you play the game a location will appear once in a while. We talk of this ‘live world of assassination'".
These locations Christian refers to have "the bigger beats [and] probably where you’ll find the story moves forward". On top of that, "there’s going to be an overarching story between the levels, so in that way that will feel like an episodic story". In-between there are what he called "the pulses". These form that "live world of assassination" mentioned earlier. They will be missions that "might not be on the storyline, so are more following 47 as a professional assassin".
As far as the game's release, Christian says this: "to be completely factual about it, what we expect is this: the game will cost around $60. That’s your full price offering. Once we’re done building all the locations, that will be a game that’s bigger than Absolution, a substantial triple A game. Then, at the end of that, we will put it on a disc so you can buy it as a disc if you want".
The final retail disc however will lose much of the 'live' component though. "What we actually wanted is something a little bit different because, by doing it where we release it over time, we actually get [the] opportunity to figure out how people are playing our game and maybe react to things, like disguise mechanics and game balancing. And a lot of things that can affect how we think about the game as we’re building it".
One of the best examples of the live components are the time-limited hits IO can set up whenever it feels like it. "At the weekend we can say there’s a new target that’s appeared in Paris, he’ll only be here for 48 hours", says Christian. "The idea we’re working with - and this is new country for us, we’ll have to work with the community - is that the target will appear, Instinct won’t reveal him, you’ll get a portrait and you know he’s going to be gone in 48 hrs. The thing is though, there will only be one death, it’s final. So it’s not like you can replay it and then become Silent Assassin. You need to figure out what you want to do. This is the shot that counts. That’s something we haven’t been able to do before: this feeling. I just can’t wait to sit there with a sniper rifle knowing that when he’s dead he’s dead. If I screwed it up? I screwed it up. He won’t come back".
That last bit's not only a seriously great idea but an astute move. Both in giving the game a huge boost on YouTube or Twitch, and overall marketing. There's always been a strong Hitman community but if, as IO are suggesting, it's edging into a world of daily challenges and short notice special events, then that could see a huge increase in online and video coverage during the game's expanding online life. And then, at the end, there's a disc to buy.
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