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About Judy

As WP's managing editor, I edit review and preview articles, attempt to keep up with the frantic pace of Rainier's news posts, and keep our reviewers on deadline, which is akin to herding cats. When I have a moment to myself and don't have my nose in a book, I like to play action/RPG, adventure and platforming games.


'Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory' (Xbox/PC) - Community Q&A

by Judy on Oct. 29, 2004 @ 7:41 a.m. PDT

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory will offer a high adrenaline experience thanks to never seen before close range attacks, a totally open level design, a completely immersive and interactive environment, and challenging advanced AI. Ubisoft sent us a pre-made Q&A with community submitted questions, subject being Chaos Theory's game design technology.

1) Does the game support real-time physics?

“The Rag Doll Physics engine for our game will imitate real-life physics. If an enemy dies, that enemy will react based on his environment, where he was shot, how he was standing, etc. So basically, you wont’ see a random animation for deaths because the possibilities with the rag doll physics are endless. The challenge with rag dolls in a game like Splinter cell is incredibly complex because Sam can grab a rag doll and hold it on his shoulders, from any position.

2) Is Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory using the new Unreal 3 engine?

Actually, we are using an updated version of the Splinter Cell 1 engine, an Unreal based engine. Since the end of the first Splinter Cell, we’ve been optimizing every aspect of the engine in order to get what we believe to be the current best technology. A lot of elements have been rebuilt from scratch such as the AI, thus providing a larger variety of reactions and more development flexibility. All the 3D rendering has been reworked, now managing normal mapping, per pixel lighting and specular effects to such an extent that you won’t be able to find this amount of detail in any of the released games today. Many other elements such as the rag doll Physics, Sound and animations have received major improvements. We feel we are working with the best tools and technologies at the moment, and we’re optimizing every aspect of the game to make it the best experience seen on Xbox to date.

3) Which physics engine is used?

We are using Havoc for the physics of the game. We wanted Sam to interact more with his surroundings… but we also wanted that aspect to be linked with gameplay. A good example of this is the ability for Sam to cut through soft materials in order to move stealthy in an area. Imagine Sam needing to retrieve information inside a tent guard by two men. You can either confront them, which as you know can be a fatal mistake if you’re not extremely careful… or, by going on the side of the tent, you can cut through the material and get inside unnoticed. Each approach can be rewarding for players and brings more depth in terms of gameplay.

Also, the rag doll physics engine will allow for some very cool and realistic deaths. It was a true challenge however to implement it the game, because, when you think of it, Sam can knocked down enemies that can eventually be woke up or even pick them up when they are on the floor. So you have to manage to use of the rag doll based on these features.

4) Will guards react to reflections of Sam in windows and on other surfaces?

Yes. Our engine has a full material shader architecture composed of a diffuse component, a normal map, a glossiness map and an environment map. True reflection is also possible using one of our shaders (The AI can see your reflection in the mirror). Almost everything (except ambient and radiosity lights) is rendered per pixel in our engine.

5) What improvements have you made in terms of sound?

Sound will play a big part in the game. With the optimization of our tools, we’ve been able to add new features such as Sound Masking, but also some subtle effects like obstruction and occlusion of sounds. This makes a big difference in the overall quality, and the realism and specific ambiances created in the game are great. Now you can hear voices and sounds of nearby areas, be aware of NPC’S position more efficiently, and progressively locate surveillance cameras while opening a door... The music is also very well managed since it level of stress changes with the in-game tension and action. With 5.1 FX, the immersion is impressive.

6) Ubisoft stated that this will be the best looking game on any console yet. Any comment?

It would be unfair to compare SCX (the Splinter Cell Chaos Theory engine) to the engine from current competing titles considering that those engines were started a long time ago and frankly, are outdated compare to Splinter Cell Chaos Theory.

Our physics engine is just as cutting edge as any other game out there considering we are using a newer version of the library (Havok 2). Our AI has also been redesigned from scratch and is now using navigation meshes, zone of danger, dynamic object avoidance, mirror and shadow detection and level of stress. The combat ability of our AI will be very impressive especially in cooperative mode when the AI will have to deal with 2 players and sometime be only aware of the existence of one of them allowing the other one to take them from behind.

Our animation system should be second to none with the usage of several inverse kinetics techniques (2D IK, 2.5D IK, Full body 3D IK), additive blending and a very powerful body and facial animation system including additive emotions. Our main character will have its feet sticking to the ground instead of feet translation. The level of cooperative animations (2 players together) available in our engine is also beyond anything that was done previously in the industry. The feel of real contact between the 2 players will be unique. Also, the fact that our engine is running on XBOX (64 MB) is a testament to its quality in term of overall optimization. Finally, the weather system is the real thing that brings everything together in this game. Materials transition from dry to wet (or the opposite), the AI reacts to rain, and the ambient sound evolves.

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