Assassin's Creed 3 is just a few short months away. Creative director Alex Hutchinson and multiplayer director Damien Kieken answer our questions about Desmond, new modes and more.
VG247: Desmond's segments have felt like the weakest link in the Assassin's Creed saga. To what extent has his portion been problematic for ubisoft Montreal, and how have you used player feedback to improve his tale in Assassin's Creed 3? Is this his last adventure?
Alexander Hutchinson, creative director: Desmond is getting more screen time than ever before! But any more info would be a spoiler.
It's clear that Ubisoft Montreal has made real efforts to diversify missions in its sandbox environments. How have you approached missions in Assassin's Creed 3 to ensure they aren't just “go here, kill this guy” or “go here and grab this item” quests?
Hutchinson: This is by far the biggest Assassin’s Creed game yet, and we have several full systems we haven’t yet announced. Between the two new cities in Boston and New York, the Frontier as a map that’s 1.5 times the size of Rome in Brotherhood, and the modifying effects of weather in all areas, the playable space is vast.
We’ve also added various new mission delivery systems like the Clubs, and allowed players to layer their experience: you can now have more than one active mission at a time, and more than one task on your plate, so people will be more in control of how they play their game.
Add to that the fact that we’re investing more on mission variety and custom mission events than ever before in a story that takes place over 30 years, and you have a vast experience. We can’t wait to get it into people’s hands.
Ubisoft's disclaimer at the start of each Assassin's Creed game seems as relevant now as ever, given the increased scrutiny given to the industry by the press. How careful must you be today when tackling historical events like the Revolution today? What do you think this scrutiny says about the industry at large?
We spend a big chunk of the early development of all of our games on historical research, reading books, watching documentaries, searching the internet, trying to find not just the well known history but any conspiracy theories that might be useful. We also have historians on staff and hire consultants for specific roles. On Assassin's Creed 3 we have a cultural advisor from the local Native American community who helps us with accuracy and language. Then, once we have a base of ‘fact’ we weave our story into it, again checking back both with documents and historians, to make sure our fiction is supportable enough to make it fun and interesting for players.
As far as I know we’ve never bent history significantly in the game. For example: every target in every game is a real person who dies in the right year at the right place, although we take liberty in ‘how’ they died of course. When it’s a completely fictional character, such as Connor, we can invent some things, but even the weapon you mention, which is probably the biggest fantasy element in the whole game, is an actual weapon from history and we explain how it came to America. Although again, in history it’s strong enough to kill a man throwing it forward, but probably not strong enough to hang a man from a branch!
Assassin's Creed multiplayer has always been an intriguing concept. Is it fair to say that multiplayer so far has been a test bed for what you hope to achieve in Assassin's Creed 3? Can you give us an insight into the big changes you've made?
Damien Kieken, multiplayer game director: Assassin’s Creed 3 takes place before, during and after the American Revolution, mainly in the British colonies Boston, New York and the Frontier. Therefore, one of the key focus for the multiplayer team was to create unique maps based on the revolutionary war setting that are different from past Assassin's Creed multiplayer maps and fun to discover and play with and against friends! Of course, apart from unique maps, we had to create a wide array of characters that are inspired by this setting and that will resonate with the players!
Another key element we focused on was on developing new game modes based around team play and competition. We revealed one new mode at E3 called Domination which is a team based mode (4 VS 4) where players need to work together to attack/capture and defend various zones on a map to score points. It’s the famous multiplayer mode based on zone capturing with the Assassin's Creed multiplayer twist. This mode introduces a whole new dynamic in Assassin’s Creed multiplayer.
Wolfpack is a 2-4 players versus AI mode. In this mode every second counts as you need to hunt AI targets. A fast pace experience which rewards flawless navigation and quick reactions before the clock ends.
Finally, we are always working on refining the overall multiplayer experience. Data tracking and feedback from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed Revelations players have helped us in improving our core mechanics as well as working on the overall performance of matchmaking and group system. Now Kill and Stun interactions are merged on the same button (to stop having the game revealing the pursuer and to improve player reactivity), thanks to a third Ability slot, you can play with 3 active abilities at the same time and we have a brand new ‘player focused flow’.
Has there ever been a temptation to create an Assassin's Creed game set purely in the modern day setting, and showing Desmond as a master assassin? Or would removing the 'ancestry/period setting' slant be too much of a gamble?
Hutchinson: I really don’t know what the future holds on the franchise, I’m 100% committed to shipping Assassin's Creed 3 at the moment.
Assassin's Creed 3 does a lot, and it's massive – but what about things you absolutely did not want to keep from previous games? Are there any series elements that you were desperate to ditch this time round, and how has this benefited the experience?
Hutchinson: I think we reached it with this one. The game is huge, both in physical size, play time and in the amount of new gameplay we packed in. We stripped out a lot of mechanics and systems from previous games but I think we are still pushing the maximum possible scope: there is only so much you can juggle in your mind simultaneously, and only so much variety you can add before it starts to feel random and not cohesive. Also, we have a very high completion rate on the franchise, and if you make it too long you start to lose that, which would be a disaster for a game like ours where we really value the consistency and continuity of the universe.
Assassin's Creed 3 launches on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in late October. A PC release is expected before the end of the year.