Dodge Target System Design in Hitman 2016


Torben Ellert is the leading online designer of the episodic title Hitman (2016) on Io-Interactive. Newsdio provided this in-depth look at the elusive Goals in the game. While most targets can be removed in countless ways and at the player's choosing, these elusive targets only appear in-game for a short period of time over a 48 hour period, and players have only one chance to complete the mission.

One of our mandates for the first season was to introduce Agent 47 as the main predator, travel the world, meet interesting people, and kill them. Part of this mandate was a challenge for the design team: creating a moment in time, "one hit where your shot matters," the purest experience of being the killer. Another goal was to create a continuous pulse of experiences during the first season of Hitman, with tense assassination missions at the heart of those experiences.

This is where the idea of ​​Elusive Goals: High-Level Direction came from to create a continuous series of intense and time-limited assassination missions. They would be difficult because players would have a chance to get it right, and the whole dynamic around how you play should change.

This was a challenge because earlier Hitman Games have always allowed the player to repeat and rehearse, gradually gaining experience and aiming for the perfect shot. This new game mode would go against everything we know about Hitman. But before we knew exactly what this new game mode would be, we set out to explore what we could do with our game.

"The biggest narrative challenge was how these Elusive Goals fit into the game's story. Short answer: They don't."

We tried a number of things, which led to the development of escalation mode, for example, but it all kept going back to the killer's core fantasy of what it meant to be Agent 47. For me, the bottom line is getting the call: "Hello 47, ICA has a new contract for your consideration." But he needed more than that: we wanted the player to go to the center, so that it seemed that every second counted, and that everything was at stake.

So the first thing we decided on was a time limit. A goal that was only present for a very short period of time (6 hours to begin with!). And that the target could only die once, and by extension, the way you managed to complete the mission would be permanent.

We then removed the tools that normally guide the player to their target: the red glow of the target, the minimap, and the icons on the main map. Basically going back to the core of the first Hitman games (and going against what we know as modern game designers).

The first time we played and reviewed the gameplay was with Io Senior Game Designer Jesper Hylling and Studio Creative Director Christian Elverdam. We printed a photo of the target, put it on the table next to Jesper and said: "This is what he looks like, that's all you know. Go kill him!

The eyes of a persecuted man

"As we develop the Elusive Goals, we give each one a code name. In this case, we use cocktails."

Jesper tracked him down and followed him to the first set of intrusion zones, and then had to go find a costume, at which point he had lost the target. It was tough, but the core of the experience was there.
After that, we explore save and restart rules, and time limits. In the first versions, it was one and ready. So no reboots, no retries, just industrial grade pressure.

I remember standing in front of one of our study meetings on Fridays, and playing it live for the entire team. This was the first time that most people outside the online team saw him, so he was trying to be nice and smart and attack the target through a small window. Needless to say, I failed, and then I had to improvise. This improvisation involved a saber in the middle of the party in Paris. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job! He had made a plan, he had failed. I had improvised and I got away with it. I ran away from the level, with bullets buzzing around my ears, and I felt like a boss.

Now that we had the basic concept, we needed to turn it into a complete design.

We start with cocktails (how is it done). The ending name of anything in a game like Hitman is always at stake. So, to allow us to refer to specific Elusive Targets as we develop them, we assign each of them a code name. In this case, we use cocktails.

The first elusive target (White Russian) had no narrative at all. But as we developed the idea, we realized that each Elusive Objective had to be memorable, not only because of the tense gameplay itself, but also because of the iconic nature of the objectives themselves. The idea was to make everyone in our community say, "I remember when I flew to Sapienza to assassinate the Prince."

The cardinal, in the church tower, with the giant bell

Perhaps the biggest narrative challenge was how these elusive objectives fit into the game's story. The short answer is that they don't. We decided that we would have a lot more freedom if they were "what if" stories that just happened in the same place. "What if Agent 47 went to Paris to murder a media sensation at a private party, during the fashion event of the year?"

This boy has thrown his last party

This gave us the freedom to create new characters that fit the spaces and themes that we had already established, without having to explain exactly how they fit in with the normal mission story.

For example, in "The Sensation," the target is Jonathan Smythe, a controversial media star who fled underground years ago. The ICA has just learned that it will attend a private party in Paris (with the blessings of Dalia Magolis) for several hours. There is no time to prepare, and 47 must enter without the usual time to plan. We underline this in the Elusive Goals briefings that end with Diana saying "The clock is ticking, 47. Good luck!" unlike usual "I'll leave you to prepare."

With the narrative framework established, we move on to the broader question: how would we structure the experience of the game as a whole? How much information should we give players, when should reboots be allowed, would there be a game save or auto save and how would we handle player failure?

"Playing an elusive target at a level you've completely mastered gives you the experience of being the apex predator. No matter what might be in store, you have the tools and experience to handle it."

One thing that has been constant since our first prototypes was the idea that failure (and success) would be permanent. The result of this simple design decision is surprising.

When players start an Elusive Goal, they play the game very differently. Gone is experimentation with fire alarms or breaking into intrusion zones in front of armed guards, trusting that there is a rescue game to turn to. Suddenly they are much more focused and serious. Every move carefully considered, and every improvisation full of risks. Every guard is a deadly threat, and every civilian is a potential witness on the path to that coveted Silent Assassin rating.

In our larger-scale game tests, some players sat stone-faced, trying to figure out the objective for themselves, others gathered in small groups, and others watched how mistakes were made and painful lessons were learned.

Obviously, this works because players know the game well. When a player tries a new location the first time, he is at the deep end (this is one of the reasons why we haven't launched an elusive target directly to a new level – players should have a chance to master it first) AND When a new goal arrives, they may not know where it is, but they have all the tools they need to achieve it.

Still, it became clear that players needed to be able to restart, at least to the point where they committed to elimination. Since each elusive objective changes levels (sometimes quite substantially) they needed to have some way to explore and plan, or to choose new teams again, if necessary. This led to the only substantial change to the original design, which was to explicitly allow players to restart the mission at any time until they began to clear their targets or complete their targets. This is the Rubicon moment, where each player must put their cunning plan into action, knowing that from now on there will be no restarts.

Elusive objectives are designed to complement our level mastery progression system, simply because players who reach the highest levels have learned the levels and their mechanics. They have gained a tremendous amount of strategic agency, and they can start in the right place, replace the team, and approach their goals with consummate skill.

Like Agent 47, they can immediately adapt to changing circumstances, regardless of the precautions their current target has taken. Simply put, playing an elusive target on a fully mastered level gives you the experience of being the apex predator. No matter what might be in the store, you have the tools and experience to handle it.

With narrative frameworks and gameplay structures in place, we needed to be able to inject new missions into existing levels. Fortunately, a basic design decision for Hitman, NPC, Geometry, and Rulers – Basically everything we need to assemble and deliver an elusive target.

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Taking "The Sensation" as an example, we deactivated all the bricks that make use of this later area of ​​the game, specifically everything related to Novikov's meeting with Max Decker. This meant that several of the more obvious rear area approaches were also removed, keeping players alert. Then we take assets from the rest of the level and host a private party, complete with music, bubbles, snacks, and guests. We've also brought the game's lighting forward by about an hour to make it appear a little later in the evening, obviously long after Victor has already met with Decker.

It is ongoing: as we create and launch Elusive Goals and see the futures being played, we modify (and redesign) the futures. Players see us responding to how they played, and we learn a lot about what constitutes a challenging experience. We have experimented with different types of security details, we have had targets with large and small loops, targets in the middle of groups and targets in the middle of a city. And even identical twins, where you shouldn't harm the wrong person.

Sibling rivalry! One is the target, the other is the customer. Aim carefully!

Hitman It is a board game. Not seriously. The serious tone of the game with its lethal hangover of gloomy humor makes for immensely sharable experiences. From the beginning, we knew that we would see highly skilled players working together to eliminate the targets. But it still amazes me how quickly they break a Silent Killer play and start refining it. But obviously someone has to go first and make the mistakes so that everyone can learn from them.

"Some players blindly approach Elusive Target missions, play them over and over again, and live with the consequences if things get complicated, while others spend hours exploring levels before the mission is alive."

What we've seen in the community are the internal differences between players about how evasive targets should be played. Some blindly approach them, play them at once, and live with the consequences if things get complicated, while others spend hours exploring levels before the mission is live, according to information they obtained from the informative videos. and The photos we have published. These players often reset as much as they can, only committing to elimination when they are completely sure they have a plan.

And as they work together, it creates a sense of united purpose. While each is their own version of Agent 47, they are all united by a common goal and common experience.

Our service model really shines here as we can respond to the development of game patterns and feedback on the game experiences we create. The limited scope and our ongoing releases within the seasonal format allow us to tailor experiences and change the common playing field.

People who took the first pair of elusive targets saw it very clearly. Sergei Larin (the forger) was almost unprotected, with a single bodyguard to cover his back. Congressman Anthony L. Troutt had two security details and a personal assistant. Cardinal Adalrico Candelaria had an entire region of Sapienza closed for his personal benefit, securely in every possible approach (unsurprisingly).

As of writing, we have had ten elusive goals, and they have become part of our history, along with King Flesh and the other classics of the Hitman franchise. Each player has their own story of how they got close to the Cardinal, or the Sensation, or the Joker. How they expected the mission to get going, how they prepared, and how they rejoiced (or criticized) the way it went. But even though each player faced the challenge alone, we all did it together. And for me that has been the greatest success of the game mode: the way it has created moments in the time when we all come together, to take on memorable goals, knowing that it counted. And knowing that we would never see them again

We are at the mid-point of the season right now, with several new locations ahead, and many elusive goals to come, and I am looking forward to seeing how these unfold. Hitman history.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go do a Bushwhacker.


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