Ubisoft estimates it may take players up to five hours to full explore Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's modern day content, almost all of which is optional. Some spoilers within.
Speaking to the UbiBlog, game director Ashraf Ismail said there's loads to do in Abstergo's offices, where the player has been employed as an historical researcher.
"In total, if you were to do everything in the present day – find everything, hack every computer, access every room – it’s a solid three to five hours," he said.
"For the main path – the stuff you’re required to do – it’s somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes. You leave the Animus five times during the game’s main path and each time you’re there for about three to four minutes."
The modern day segments are designed to progress the franchise's meta-story, just as in previous games in the series. It will answer questions like why Abstergo - and therefore, the Templars - are particularly keen on protagonist Edward Kenway, but is also designed no to be essential.
"We pretty much tried to boil it down to its most core essence because we know there are people out there who really don’t like the present day, and that’s okay," Ismail said.
"You don’t have to like it, but it’s part of the brand. For the people who like the present day and are big fans, we put in a lot of fan service and a lot of fun optional content. You get to choose if you want it or not."
By exploring their environments, players can find hackable computers and other secrets in Abstergo's offices. The content they find shows what happens to Desmond after Assassin's Creed 3, and is described as an opportunity to farewell Desmond. There are also plenty of in-references of Ubisoft "poking fun" at itself and the games industry in general.
Ismail also promised some "awesome cameos" from familiar characters, of whom only PlayStation exclusive Aveline has been announced so far, but also the return of supernatural elements.
"We call those 'What the Fuck Moments.' You can’t have an Assassin’s Creed game without a What the Fuck Moment. It has to be in there," he said.
"The First Civilization, Juno - all that is part of the brand and yes, there’s progression in it. It’s not just a nod that we make to it."
Assassin's Creed 4 is definitely a thing. it's coming to PlayStation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360 at the end of October, and popping up on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in November. It's got pirates in it. Have you seen the latest TV spot?