GI: Sean Gibson of Gaming Illustrated. I’m here at the Square Enix booth. Could you introduce yourself and your role with Hitman: Absolution?
Nick Price: I am Nick Price and I am the community manager at IO Interactive, so I handle all of the fans and I do a lot of the communication work around Hitman.
GI: So you are debuting Hitman Absolution, which is part of a very popular series. There’s always a lot of hype around this series, what is the most exciting thing from your perspective about this game?Nick Price: Oh, there’s a lot of stuff that’s been interesting. It has been six years now since we put out the last one, so we’ve done many things, actually. We built a new engine from scratch, actually, a Beta 2 Engine. What that allowed us to do was actually redo everything we wanted in the game. So there’s a lot more variety now, there’s a lot of focus on making sure if you fail in the stealth approach you don’t necessarily have to start all over again. You can if you want to go for a very purist appearance, obviously, but you can change the situations a lot more now compared to the earlier games. Where the AI in the past would be universally loaded, now it’s more local, so if you’re fast, if you’re good, if you have skill, you can actually change situations. And that’s really good because it helps a lot of players who found the games to be very punishing and very hard to begin with.
GI: I enjoyed the level of difficulty; a little punishment can be good, right?
Nick Price: Yeah, we have lots of punishment, so that’s not something you should worry about. Also, if you’re a core Hitman fan, some of the new features, which are insane, are related to actually being there to help you understand what goes on in the world. If you want to switch those off, you can do it, if you want to go completely purist, you can take out everything, every HIN system, everything that’s visual in terms of information, so the HUD and everything goes away, so you won’t know how many bullets you have, for instance. You will need to count everything, you will just need to poke around and very much rely on your skill as a gamer.
GI: Now I was always a big fan of the lore behind Hitman, I always felt that it had a really good story line. What are we going to be seeing in the story? I don’t want you to give away any big spoilers, but tell us a little bit about what this game does with the back-story. Do we find out more, and where are we going in the future?
Nick Price: Yes, this time it’s a bit more personal. We actually don’t do much into the details about how Hitman became Hitman, or who Agent 47 is, but there is plenty that goes back to the earlier games, with the way he was created and the cloning and all of those things. But actually this time what we have done is we’ve woven a very long story into all the missions, so it is more of a story-driven experience this time, it’s not isolated hits as such. And what that does is it allows us to get a little bit closer to 47 as a person and do some things we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be some interesting things in there.
GI: The physics and graphics look pretty amazing. This looks like a big jump for Hitman.Nick Price: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The guys spent a long time on them, so for us it’s quantum leap. It’s the first game we’ve put out with Glacier 2, so it’s really interesting. And they’ve been working hard for a long time.
GI: Now, as someone who has interacted more than anyone with this title directly with the fans, what do they give you in terms of feedback that went into this game?
Nick Price: Lots of different things. I would say the problem with having a very active, very vocal fan base, if you can call that a problem, is that a lot of people want different things, and many of those things are actually natural progressions of what you have in the earlier games, and good evolutionary steps that you would want to take, but not all of them actually can work together when you start to put the pieces into what is going to be the broad picture of the game. So what we’ve done is over the last six years we have allotted the feedback that we get from forums and people writing in and having good ideas and all of those things. And we’ve done user testing all along, so as soon as we build a feature we get people in and we have them play it, just to see if that isolated feature works, and once you get close enough to around alpha code you begin to put all of these things together, and then something breaks and you need to take it out or you need to adjust it. But we keep testing. We have every week two major sessions, one Monday and one Friday, where we have people in and they just look at everything we do, they play the game from start to finish and then we adjust based on what they say and do they like those things. Actually “Instinct” is a feature that came from feedback from some of the players who came out and tested the game. So we try to listen as much as we can. But obviously IO and our game director, have a vision and we need to be true to that, otherwise it is just going to be a weird mishmash of things.
GI: Hitman: Absolution got a lot of show floor space at E3. A lot of monitors were tied up with people playing the game the whole time the show was taking place. And one thing I’m also noticing is it’s pretty rare to find an open terminal. A lot of people are interacting with this game. That’s got to be exciting.
Nick Price: Yeah, that’s awesome, that’s what we hope for, right? And this is the first time that regular people will have had hands-on time. So we have done a lot to make sure that there is a lot of buzz here. So yeah, excitement is high.
GI: So a final comment for the fans—there is such a passionate core group of fans for the Hitman series. What’s the final comment about Hitman Absolution that you would like to tell them?
Nick Price: We know that people have been concerned if this is an action game, what is this…I think that the code we are showing now at this point, with all the hands-on comments that we have seen, clearly shows that this is the sandbox that you are used to. It is a little bit different in some respects, but it has all evolved and it is all for the better, really. And it’s going to be awesome. November 20, that’s the big day.
GI: All right. Thank you for joining us.
Nick Price: Thank you.