Splinter Cell has gone through a lot of changes since the first game in 2002, but none as significant as the changes that took place before it became the franchise we know. Yannis Mallat, CEO at Ubisoft Montreal spills the beans to IGN.
It was originally conceived as a retro-sci-fi shooter called The Drift, but it lacked soul even though it had some of the mechanics – like different vision modes and modular guns – that would make its way into Splinter Cell. Development struggled thanks to an inexperienced team with big ambitions and the project was close to being shelved.
Then it was pitched as a James Bond game in a desperate attempt to rescue it.
Nothing came of the demo, it was a failed “attempt to impress the license holder,” says Mallat. The Drift was shelved, and Ubisoft’s take on Bond never saw the light of day. It might have remained a forgotten project if it wasn’t for Ubisoft acquiring the Tom Clancy name.
As Ubisoft scrambled to find ways to plaster Tom Clancy across as many IPs as possible, the Montreal team – then based in New York – started searching through shelved games to see if they’d fit with the Clancy brand. When designer Nathan Wolff started adding espionage elements to The Drive, like cameras, indirect combat and stealth, the publisher considered remaking it as a game based on The Sum of All Fears.
Ordered to make a Metal Gear Solid 2 killer, the Drift team needed to decide how to pitch it. Instead of basing it on an existing Tom Clancy property, they decided to do something new, retaining that Tom Clancy style. The pitch was “What if the NSA couldn’t collect data by conventional means? Would it have access to a wetworks team or operative to do discrete dirty work?” And with that, Splinter Cell was born.
I certainly can’t imagine Fisher swanning around Casinos in an expensive suit, flirting with waitresses and guzzling down martinis like an out of control alcholic.