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thanks for the kind words about that post, inteh. I'd definitely love to see the video you described! you might have an easier time if you use the recording features on the new consoles and share it to twitter. (unless you're playing on PC)

about that post, I'd like to revisit some of the things I brought up there.

I think one of the big problems about Assassin's Creed goes beyond struggles with communication in parallel development. I think one of the reasons that each game often disregards interesting things from the last has more to do with there not really being a wholly defined idea about what an Assassin's Creed game actually is, on a specific level. little things like controls, big things like what a weapon's role is, or what a tool does. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the thing is that these games have such a ridiculously wide scope in terms of mechanics and content, and reshuffling both those things every game is crazy enough without taking into account that it's a YEARLY series.

I think there is a desire to keep things fresh, to make the series feel like it's not a typical uber conservative yearly series. But I think that comes at the expense of never really nailing down a core identity for the series. There are things that stay the same, but one of those things is never how it feels to play the game, and I think being in that place means you're not able to make the kind of changes that feel like clear steps forward. Because there's this sense that the path forward isn't built yet, and when it is it'll be wildly different from the section of path behind it.

And maybe that's not even really anybody's fault. Because it's not a game that has a clear analogue. It has elements of Hitman, but it's not Hitman. It has elements of GTA, but it's not GTA. It is a historical game, but to a level of detail and scale that's literally nowhere else. It has so much stuff, even if you don't count the fluff. There are so many things it has to do right, and no-one has really done anything like that particular combination of them, let alone in this quantity.

I think that's the main spirit of the ideas I've been having recently. Of finding ways of making the content in the game simpler but increasing the possibility space within that content. Of consolidating things that don't need to be separate. Of separating things that don't need to step on each others' toes.

Maybe taking the concept of Rogue and turning it into a game that appears in the series every other year would be helpful. To have one studio focused on defining one kind of game, and the other studio on another. If that turns into a true split and not different flavors of the same, the contrast might take on a different tenor than it does as two attempts at the same kind of thing.

Anything that contributes to more focused games that maybe aren't afraid to be more hardcore about sacrificing small ambitions early in the process if they are ancillary to major ones.

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Re: simplifying: why bother allowing you to resolve fights without killing an enemy but also give you the option to do a big finishing kill? This is more egregious than previous assassins being just as effective with fists as weapons, because in that case the choice was predetermined wrt what kill you'd get. In this case, the game is literally saying "see that guy who's passing out from the pain of your fight? why not kill him, just because!".

Simply just making end animations required and quick would feel a lot more honest, instead of arno apparently being so good with a blade that he can disable literally anyone without killing them.

I stand by my idea of rewarding the Hitman Silent Assassin approach with a better score/more XP.

and/or, making nonviolence more convenient by having guards be less suspicious of knocked-out guards (assuming sleeping on the job), but going on a more involved investigation and being more alert when they find a dead body.

getting a little less specific, I think the morality of Assassins is definitely grey, but I have never bought the whole idea of ANYONE who signs up for guard duty or even anyone who joins the Templars being fair game. In both cases it's the kind of thing people do because they have nowhere else to go, when they want to make a difference, or even when they just want good pay and free room and board. They don't have the power that a modern police officer has, they aren't automatically soldiers. They're just as much part of the people as a thief or a prostitute.

I think Assassins exist to go after the big fish that lead such people to enforce horrible things, not specifically the people under their command, and I think that presenting no motivation not to bathe in the blood of a thousand city guards or fresh-eyed templar initiates but not addressing or acknowledging that in the narrative is extremely dissonant, and undermines the narrative unless your protagonist is meant to come across psychopathic.

I liked Revelations' story, but when Ezio and Yusuf were zipping around killing men who did nothing wrong for the sake of a tutorial, it didn't sit right with me. A life just ended, and if the story doesn't care then you have to address that it doesn't care, that has to be part of the characters.

Arno can't murder a random dude he thinks stole his dumb watch and them expect me to feel sorry for him as he drunkenly mopes on the steps by the corpse. contrast that to the ludonarrative assonance of Edward, who kills a man for a few coins, then steals his clothes and hides the body in hopes of stealing even more from him in death. It is so incredibly rare for a video game to match a character so perfectly to their actions, and everything about Edward is designed to make everything that you can do in an Assassin's Creed game make sense.

While AC3 is a little less overt with its characterization of Connor, it does make clear that Connor is not fully confident that what he does is right, but cannot see any other way to fight for what he believes in. I read his character as being continually conflicted until the very end of the game, when he kills Charles Lee. I think this is also a valid way to handle what the game allows you to do: it isn't quite as on the nose as BF, but I think more interesting.

TL;DR: it's fine if Assassins are psychopaths, it's fine if they're merciful, it's fine if they're somewhere in-between. But whatever the story choice, it must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be justified and expounded on by the gameplay, and vice versa.

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Going off on that, it would be nice having Pick Up Body back, but used in a better way. Why not let us position a corpse/knocked out guard in a way that they look like they're sleeping on the job like Calvar said? Lean them against a wall and cross their arms. Something like that could change the dynamics of guard suspicion, offering bonuses for tricking enemy AI. Give us a cool fear system to intimidate guards without ever showing ourselves (again using the environment or corpses by hanging a guard from a tree for a morbid surprise). I think AC could really benefit with a new system like this. At least, something LIKE it.

It would not only allow for creative assassinations, but we'd have fun with having a sense of control over the enemy an Assassin has never had before. Guards in these games are just obstacles with no other purpose than to annoy or get in the way of the player, but being able to manipulate them through fear or trickery changes each mission into more of a playground. Allowing more freedom with more manipulation of AI and the environment gives players a way to create their own stories.

That derailed a bit, but I wanted to share.

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yeah, the main way we thwart guards in these games is through violence. I'd def love to see other options like sneaking, intimidation, and bribery introduced or expanded on, and for the player to have a good reason to seriously think about which option they want to go for.

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thinking about movement speeds. I think the default speed should be a pretty brisk pace. not quite jogging, but a quick, purposeful stride, slightly faster than the speed of a civillian blend group. I also think that free-running should be tied to the A button, in both high and low profile. there are many situations where being forced to enter either mode to climb isn't ideal. the change also makes the control scheme less confusing to learn. initiating a climb is something you do so often in AC, and it's comforting for it to always be tied to a single button. A can do different things in different contexts (jumping off a building instead of flipping down to grab the edge, based on if you're holding the right trigger or not) but in terms of initiating climbs there's no reason it needs to be more complicated.

While in the midst of a climb straight up, I don't think you should need to press or hold the A button to make certain jumps. simply pressing up on the stick should be enough to make the Assassin perform any vertical movement possible. This was one of the great strengths of AC1's system, and the climb leap as introduced in AC2 only ended up being a flow-breaker. Wall ejects should still be in, but I think they should require actually turning your camera around first to avoid the old pitfall of accidental button presses.

it also frees the A button up for another thing: when reaching an edge in the climb, whether it be a windowsill or the edge of the roof, having to press A to actually pull yourself up over it. the effect of which is twofold: there's a more tactile sense to completing a climb, and a serious help for stealth, allowing players to be sure they can get close to an edge while still being in stealth. (animations also have to be tuned so the player is effectively in cover whenever they reach an edge in their climb.)

I think movement in stealth mode should be faster by default, though sprinting should still pop you out of it. on a more general level, it and all the movement in the game needs to be more precise. think Watch Dogs or Hitman Absolution: turning and stopping on a dime. fast and precise enough to navigate between cover manually. cover system limited to contextual corner cover, main purpose of stealth mode being the physically lower profile and completely silent movement. (would be cool if stuff where you pull people over cover to assassinate was kept in without requiring a traditional cover snap, but not necessary, as we would still have the corner takedowns which are basically a less goofy version of the same thing.) oh, and toggled with clicking the left stick, left trigger should definitely be used for aiming. (the shoulder buttons are awkward for inputs that need to be held.)

I think stealth mode is a useful addition, as it allows for more variation in stealthable areas: places with crates and boxes, places with stalking zones. (now no longer needed to be automatic) I still hope that populated areas are the most prevalent stealth environment, but these traditional stealth options def increase the possibility space around the periphery of that.

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re: movement, the camera should be more precise and responsive, and movement and animation should more strictly be based around where the player is looking. AC3 started to get into this with Connor's head following where you look. The Assassin need not be directly locked into looking where the camera is at all times, but the idea should be that said direction is where the Assassin is focusing their attention, and where they're braced to move to next. Right now, AC characters act like they just realized that they were going to turn around a few seconds after they started.

You should still, for example, be able to walk towards the camera, and the Assassin doesn't need to be looking over their shoulder when doing that, but there needs to be less a sense of puppeteer and more one of instantaneous collaboration, in terms of movement decisions.

I'd like this kind of feeling to extend to fights, making it less about using the same two or so moves to activate cool animations, but having three or so normal attacks that can be comboed together to create different-looking normal attacks that do more damage, like a far more grounded version of devil may cry or similar stylish action games. in keeping with the theme of simplification, parrying could be done with the same button as attacking, requiring you to face toward that enemy before pressing it to succeed. (more fluid and responsive movement should apply to how you move in a fight stance as well, removing as much frustration as possible and just making it about your actual skill. at least in small-scale, winnable fights.)

Keeping the player more physically connected to the Assassin's actions, while also making those actions more precise and easy to understand.

And I get the potential animation difficulties, but I'd like if the "health bar" eroding was represented by nearly-missed parries on both ends, and the only strike that connected solidly was the killing blow. I readily admit that that's potentially confusing and probably not remotely feasible in the near future.

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re: guns in AC and the way Unity forces melee assassination of targets

I think the best option would be to make sniper-like Assassinations an accepted part of the game, but to give that more depth. Some focus on making long-range shots skillful, modeling interesting mechanics like bullet drop and adjusting for wind, as well as clearing guards out of opportune sniper points as part of your preparation, and dealing with a more wide-reaching guard alert once you succeed. Obviously pistols as opposed to rifles would have to be a far closer range version of this, but the same principles could apply.

Some of the memory corridors and Templar memories have been pretty cool, but for the most part they're kinda a storytelling crutch. I think it would be best to keep Unity's version in for when you do a melee assassination, but for them to be smaller, non plot-critical looks into the target's life. That would reward the "classic" style while also helping with production realities, and not require arbitrary restrictions on how the target is killed to advance the plot.

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I like that Unity went back to AC1's way of having to get close and assassinate the target, but for future games it shouldn't be that restrictive. Can't hate on large guns because we are finally able to sheath them.

With the memory scenes they're interesting in showing how the target was involved, but at the expense of not getting to know the target as much. Maybe with the next game it could be a combination of memory corridor and memory scene: during the memory corridor the Assassin and Templar each exchange a few sentences, which then leads to the memory scene. And during that the Templar could narrarate, similar to how Shaun Hastings narrated the target databases in AC2.

Also to make it a bit more realistic, memory corridors could start out a little different depending on the distance from the target. Kill the target while within a few meters and you're leaning over his body in the memory corridor. Kill him from a little farther and your standing several feet away. Kill the target from over twenty meters and you're standing a great distance away in the memory corridor and the target's voice is muffled.

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aurllcooljay wrote:
Also to make it a bit more realistic, memory corridors could start out a little different depending on the distance from the target. Kill the target while within a few meters and you're leaning over his body in the memory corridor. Kill him from a little farther and your standing several feet away. Kill the target from over twenty meters and you're standing a great distance away in the memory corridor and the target's voice is muffled.

Perform a TINS and you have to use a cell phone.

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I'd prefer the storytelling about the target came more from the things you learn about them while investigating, and from the context in which you assassinate them. AC1 did this, and it kinda made the actual conversation with them feel a little redundant.

I just read over what I wrote about gun ballistics and such, and I just realized that's kinda insane production-wise considering it might not apply to all the places AC might go next. maybe the gun would work best if it were exclusively usable in open combat? Like, you automatically switch over from your non-lethal silent ranged weapon as soon as you get detected, because you need something more immediate. (exactly how it works now with the sword and hidden blade.)

I like this because it both empowers the player once the shit hits the fan, and also subtly punishes them by giving them flashier but louder tools to kill with now that they're in the open. In the end, it encourages running away, because staying to fight is both dangerous and liable to bring more folks running. The player instead only wants to do enough damage to ensure their flight is successful.

contrast with the pistol as treated in previous games: the game allows you to select it and use it at any time, suggesting that it is meant to be a viable method at any time. And while the game often punishes you for using it over another stealth weapon, it punishes you retroactively. In the case of using it to kill a target or take out a lone guard, that punishment comes after some measure of success.

In my hypothetical idea, I feel like punishment/tradeoffs would come precisely when it makes sense for them to: AFTER you've entered into what is meant to be the game's gateway to the failstate, instead of after you've completed one of the win conditions.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I'd prefer the storytelling about the target came more from the things you learn about them while investigating, and from the context in which you assassinate them. AC1 did this, and it kinda made the actual conversation with them feel a little redundant.

I didn't get that at all. The information gathered beforehand was the usual "Templars are tyrannical and evil" point of view, whereas the conversations you had with them gave you THEIR point of view. It may have been similar information, but the difference in context made it interesting. That's what made me replay AC1 about 20 times. But since then, there hasn't been any complex story contexts on that level. Maybe with Haytham, but he was still made to look like an evil mastermind by the end.

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The video is now up, should I make a new thread for it? I don't want to clog this one up unnecessarily.

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Yes, please do.

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New thread is here: http://www.thehiddenblade.com/almost-perfect-minimalist-stealth-dinner-e...

To get back on topic, the further thoughts in this thread have made me fully compose my personal ideal for a future entry in the series, and convinced me to actually write that out. I won't be doing that right now, but I've decided that I will do it. For now, I'd just like to give my compliments to Calvar again; paragraphs 3-5 of post #51 are again absolutely dead on. You illustrate the internal conflict of this series, and its players, perfectly.

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JoeyFogey wrote:
Calvar The Blade wrote:
I'd prefer the storytelling about the target came more from the things you learn about them while investigating, and from the context in which you assassinate them. AC1 did this, and it kinda made the actual conversation with them feel a little redundant.

I didn't get that at all. The information gathered beforehand was the usual "Templars are tyrannical and evil" point of view, whereas the conversations you had with them gave you THEIR point of view. It may have been similar information, but the difference in context made it interesting. That's what made me replay AC1 about 20 times. But since then, there hasn't been any complex story contexts on that level. Maybe with Haytham, but he was still made to look like an evil mastermind by the end.

Solution: don't make all the information you gain beforehand paint them as evil, and instead make it a fairly accurate picture of who they are and what they're actually trying to accomplish. After all, always having bad intel on their targets kinda undermines the idea of Assassins being good at detective work.

Regardless, the fact that a person doing horrible stuff thought they were good all along is hardly complex. It's the oldest tale in the book, and AC1 repeated it 10 times, with little or no variation. And it's not like any of the things they said were at all convincing. they committed undeniable atrocities. Their laughable attempts to bring Altair down to their level were neither clever or at all necessary to the story, and the amount of credibility Altair gave them made him seem way more naive than he appeared to be from the start.

I think AC3 was far more complex, because some of the Templars had the fairly standard excuses, some of them openly admitted they didn't care about anything but themselves, some of them were simply scared to die. In Haytham's case, he was just cynical, privileged, and full of hate. AC4 also had some good moments, though not all of the targets got as much development due to the sheer volume of them.

A story about moral ambiguity doesn't have to argue that everyone is blameless or on equal footing in the end. In fact that's an irresponsible and simplistic notion. But hey, you and I and many people here haven't ever really seen eye to eye on AC1's story, sorry to bring that up again.

EDIT: Thanks Inteh, I'll def check out that video!

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On the subject of simplification, I think that AC would be well-served by adopting a more stylized visual aesthetic, and creating a less meticulously detailed but still thematically evocative world. That's very much the layperson's view of what is possible when sacrificing fidelity, but in general I think that whatever said sacrifices can gain is worth it. I think we're past the point of sheer photorealistic ambitions driving sales and capturing imagination, at least on the same scale as previously. Assassin's Creed would definitely benefit from looking different from its competition, rather than just being further along the same path that they're going down. (and assuredly it would benefit from any possible performance boosts)

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
On the subject of simplification, I think that AC would be well-served by adopting a more stylized visual aesthetic, and creating a less meticulously detailed but still thematically evocative world. That's very much the layperson's view of what is possible when sacrificing fidelity, but in general I think that whatever said sacrifices can gain is worth it. I think we're past the point of sheer photorealistic ambitions driving sales and capturing imagination, at least on the same scale as previously. Assassin's Creed would definitely benefit from looking different from its competition, rather than just being further along the same path that they're going down. (and assuredly it would benefit from any possible performance boosts)

I'm well aware that I'm about to get LIT the [REDACTED] UP for this, but Cel-Shaded Assassin's Creed. Hell. Freaking. Yesssteeee~

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I honestly don't care for graphics. So what if I can count the wrinkles in this guy's face and his nosehairs have realistic shadows? I want my game to run smoothly, have great mission design, a solid story and an interesting setting (probably forgetting some things here tbh). I don't see cell-shaded AC happening, ever. But if it were true, yeah dude, I'll take it. If they can't deliver on both, sacrifice some graphic work to give me more 'game'.

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gerund wrote:
I honestly don't care for graphics. So what if I can count the wrinkles in this guy's face and his nosehairs have realistic shadows? I want my game to run smoothly, have great mission design, a solid story and an interesting setting (probably forgetting some things here tbh). I don't see cell-shaded AC happening, ever. But if it were true, yeah dude, I'll take it. If they can't deliver on both, sacrifice some graphic work to give me more 'game'.

I just love the Idea of Assassin's Creed so much that I would breathe in an aesthetic change with open lungs.
Cel-Shaded AC would not happen because Ubisoft has literally no balls.
But if it did, that aesthetic could lead to some insane game design revolutions.
Cel-Shading or simplifying aesthetics allows for extreme amounts of Visual Signaling.
The game world itself becomes part of the HUD.

While not Cel-Shaded, Mirror's Edge and Splinter Cell Conviction are two games that do this really well.
In Mirror's Edge, because most of the game world is white, or some combination of white and any color EXCEPT Red, whenever you see Red, it becomes a subtle but effective way of telling Faith and the player, "Okay, parkour over this way." There are no objective markers. There is no HUD. Mirror's Edge is HUDless by nature. Everything is told through the game and its aesthetics. When Faith takes damage, the bright, bold colors desaturate and it's very easy to tell how much health she's currently at.

While I'm not a fan of SC Conviction's method, because it greatly de-pretty-fies their game and ruins its aesthetics, in my opinion, being in darkness or Stealth will turn the game world Black and White, being in light will turn it Colored. That's actually really cool.

Think of the amount of stuff Ubisoft could do if they chose to dramatically change the aesthetics of their game. But they won't. Because the one thing this company is missing the most of, it's courage to innovate, or the ideas and means to do it.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
I'm well aware that I'm about to get LIT the [REDACTED] UP for this, but Cel-Shaded Assassin's Creed. Hell. Freaking. Yesssteeee~

http://youtu.be/aqUVn3Ciy9o?t=2m9s

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Graphics weren't big for me before playing (just wanted to finally equip a spear!), but I am thoroughly impressed by the visuals. 10/10 eye candy.

The one thing I don't like about that is the outlines make the characters and objects look cartoony. Besides that I'm fine with it.

Calvar The Blade wrote:
On the subject of simplification, I think that AC would be well-served by adopting a more stylized visual aesthetic, and creating a less meticulously detailed but still thematically evocative world. That's very much the layperson's view of what is possible when sacrificing fidelity, but in general I think that whatever said sacrifices can gain is worth it. I think we're past the point of sheer photorealistic ambitions driving sales and capturing imagination, at least on the same scale as previously. Assassin's Creed would definitely benefit from looking different from its competition, rather than just being further along the same path that they're going down. (and assuredly it would benefit from any possible performance boosts)

I barely understood a word of that. We didn't all graduate from college with a masters degree. Tongue But I get it.

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haha, sorry. Basically I feel like the Assassin style either needs to become less iconic and more grounded in the look of the time period and place, or both the Assassin and the world that surrounds them needs to be more heightened. I'm not talking specifically about cel shading which is basically a filter over an existing base. I'm more thinking about the general idea of a look that's clearly not bound by reality. proportions, shadows, ect.

Another benefit I missed was visual clarity and less cluttered objects that can obstructed free-running paths. Unity and recent AC games have partially struggled with their movement systems because they succeed at filling their worlds with the amount of stuff you'd expect to see in a realistic recreation: piles of rubble, broken down houses, furniture and baubles. Obviously one route is to make the movement more sophisticated to make navigation in such crowded spaces easier, but simplifying environments would be a lot less work on the asset generation and mechanical side, and keep the gameplay more approachable.

EDIT:
Has anyone looked at some of the Dead Kings achievements/trophies that show up in Unity's list now? There's talk of killing certain numbers of "captains" as well as what sounds like a few new systems. I bet it's going to be very Shadow of Mordorish. Which is to be expected, I suppose, since Black Flag and Freedom Cry both took some steps down that same path. I bet Ubi must wish they could have taken a break to get that concept fully implemented faster, since the internet isn't going to consider the similar elements of previous AC games and will instead yell "copycat" at the top of their lungs.

(which is kinda fair, if they're literally using the same naming structure as SoM for their Captain equivalent)

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I wish guards would check hiding spots again. It makes sense for them to not do it right away, but when they go into their second phase of investigation it seems both good for the gameplay and logical for them to begin searching said spots.

The player should be encouraged to use hide spots to let guards go past them, but not to just stay in them until their entire alert cycle is over. part of using them effectively should be about making a break for it in the opposite direction the guards went.

Something that Unity seemed to be doing was making guards permanently remember you once they'd detected you. (in the line of sight tutorial)

I was a bit disappointed to find in the full game that they do forget eventually, as soon as they lose their SSI and go back to their posts. I hope the implied functionality can come back, because it's such an interesting concept: you can run away and get a second chance, but it'll be harder to sneak back in the same way.

Possibly related is the crowd size. I get the reasoning for tons of people during riots and such, but I think Unity actually goes a bit overboard with crowds at times. It often feels like there's more people out and about at all times than really makes sense, with little dictation about what places should be more crowded or not, or what effect the time of day should have on the crowd density. I also feel like the reactiveness of crowd members took a big hit due to the greater numbers, which is kinda the opposite of what I want from AC going forward. it'd be nice if there were less arbitrary lines between "The Crowd" and "NPCs that can actually interact with the world in complex ways".

Of course, I could be wrong about their behavior, as not being able to understand most of what they're saying probably makes my brain assume they're never talking about relevant things.

I must say, I do appreciate a lot of the work they did to make the crowd feel more alive and purposeful, with random members greeting each other in the street, holding pikes with heads on them, or dragging people along.

There were times when the illusion of an actual crowd overtook me, and it really felt like I was watching a mob get led down the street by a guy, or people just milling about on a corner. There's a great deal of good work done to the way the crowd is presented, but the performance issues and the way things break down when you interact with them kinda obscures that work.

it's been a long time since we first started to get a greater variety of behaviors and carried items, like the apples in Brotherhood, but a lot of the same problems with those animations remain: bumping into them completely cancels it, and they often have no way to go back to what they were doing. Letting their prop lie on the ground as they walk on, or just standing still in a basic idle pose. unfortunately the greater variety of behaviors and props often just serve to highlight these issues.

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been thinking a little bit about the gameplay loop of AC. One of the reasons it often turns people off is, ironically, due to the variety. Or more specifically, the fact that you can end up spending a significant amount of time doing something you don't enjoy doing to get to the stuff you like to do. As the series has gone on, it's tried to please everyone by increasing the variety of mission types, and that's often compounded the problem.

One of Unity's most admirable goals, which it succeeds at a lot of the time, is combining many different types of gameplay in each mission. Mod missions are a step towards bringing investigation into the Assassination itself, tailing missions can often (albeit inconsistently) turn into chases if you get spotted, objectives to steal an item don't require you to remain undetected as you pickpocket the person in question, and even if they die you can still steal it from them.

I said a while before that I thought the game should be structured as a series of investigation missions with assassination missions in between, and I still think that can work as the context, but it shouldn't be the same kind of harsh division of gameplay styles that implies.

Each mission should combine many of the gameplay elements of AC, and in that way offer freedom in how you approach it. There should be less of the sense that certain mechanics and options are "only for assassinations" or whatnot. Why shouldn't there be mystery-solving elements in an Assassination? Why shouldn't there be mod missions when investigating?

If they take the gameplay elements that are core to AC and interweave them into all of the main missions, and make the progression throughout the game about iterating on more complex and difficult versions of the same combination, I think they can end up with something that feels like a more satisfying and logical progression.

The kinds of things like "exotic" gameplay segments or missions focused on one specific style of gameplay would be far more suited to side content, where they can be more unabashedly what they are. insta-fail stealth can come back because that particular side mission is focused on testing your skill at remaining completely unseen, and if you don't like that you can go do the mission focused on being in a combat arena and defeating everyone. A mission based around using some weird weapon or contraption or solving some hacking puzzle can exist, and nobody would complain about it disrupting the things they like doing because it's something you specifically have to choose to do.

This was a great strength of AC3 and its approach to the Homestead. AC3 acknowledged that its main gameplay loop was about sneaking and stabbing, and so the main story is entirely focused on that. The only way to take a break from said activities is to go do the side content, which is purposefully mostly just about Connor's adventures during the time off.

It's both a great way to harmonize the mental state of the player and the protagonist (both are either focused on major story progression or taking a break before getting back to it) and a great way to tell a story that feels true to what you're actually doing.

The main gameplay loop is about stabbing and sneaking and the side content is a bunch of much shorter, less complex missions about being a normal person. This illustrates how Connor's normal life takes a backseat to his Assassin duties after he grows up. (with the first few missions you play as him being about innoculous childhood games and another day out hunting, respectively.)

Side content is a far more suitable place to tell, for instance, the story of the protagonist falling in love, or going through other complex experiences that the game's main systems and mechanics aren't designed to depict.

Everyone remembers how odd it seemed in Revelations that Ezio's quest to get a flower for a date turned into a stealth mission, and basically ended with an assassination on a plant. It's because if the mission was just "buy a flower and then go meet her", the mechanics involved aren't especially interesting, not enough to be worthy of a main mission. And creating new mechanics that would make such a process interesting would be expensive and inapplicable in the rest of the game, not to mention involve throwing the player head first into things the game had never previously taught them. But if that subplot were a side mission, no-one would be upset if it was just a simple fetch quest. The game was up-front about that mission not being as substantial as the main quest.

Grand Theft Auto routinely makes the player do things unrelated to the core gameplay for its main missions, but the difference is it actually DOES bother to create those one-off mechanics that you'll never use again, like blowing up a cell phone by calling it, or using a crane. Grand Theft Auto is basically a game built around that kind of inefficient use of resources, often to the detriment of the actual main gameplay.

So unless AC fully commits to going that route, I think it would be wise to refocus the context of main missions on what the game is actually built to do. Because another harmful thing about romance in the main path of a game not designed to be about it is that there is almost no way to justify said romance being very integrated into an lone-wolf assassination-focused story unless it results in "you have to kill the person who kidnapped them/is trying to kill them" or "the person you're trying to kill killed them first".

As side content, the story of Arno and Elise would be free to have its climax during a conversation by a duck pond, not during a boss battle.

So TL;DR or to summarize: the main missions of Assassin's Creed could gain more of a sense of freedom and logical progression from reducing the amount of contexts they present and bringing more gameplay systems together in each of them, whereas the side missions in AC could better serve as palate cleansers and diversions if they broadened the amount of contexts they presented and focused on fewer gameplay systems at once in each of them.

I also think that AC could do better at telling main stories with more varied contexts if it dropped the open world aspect, effectively making the ONLY story the main story, and freeing up resources to design a lot of one-off systems and gameplay loops.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I also think that AC could do better at telling main stories with more varied contexts if it dropped the open world aspect, effectively making the ONLY story the main story, and freeing up resources to design a lot of one-off systems and gameplay loops.

The entirety of the previous part of the comment is all stuff I've thought about before, and 100% agree with. It just makes sense. "Variety" is not what AC has ever needed, it's just that it needs the things it already has to be actually GOOD before moving onto splatting Side-Content around like glitter. Hasn't happened since AC2 maybe. I mean Beating Up dudes or Delivering Letters, or Racing Thieves has nothing to do with Assassination but it's got decent amounts to do with Ezio's personality. Side Content in AC2 actually felt pretty cool, and made my heart flutter with boyish wonder. Only instead of, "Wow, I wonder what I'll see next!" it was, "Wonder what this guy will say after I break his nose!?"

Duccio is a fantastic example of this sort of side-plot that I bet a lot of people remember even more than the main plot.

And you can choose to seek him out too, that's the thing. In Revelations he barely even appears on your map! Sure it was more of an inside joke kind of deal, but damn was it hilarious and I'm glad that he was in there.

Now, about removing the Open World aspect from Assassin's Creed.

Yes. Hell freaking yes.

Even if not the entire series, because there's something nice about roaming around (it's what the parkour system was made for, after all - gutting that would be a head-scratcher for Ubi), at least make ONE game that's more linear.

Dishonored doesn't have an Open World, but it does have Open Levels that you can approach in multiple ways, often linked to an unlocked Skill or Power. Assassinations are also pretty open, considering you're always given at least one Non-Lethal option, as well as multiple Lethal Options (for all the nasty stuff you've got in your Weapon Wheel).

I would like to see what a Linear Assassin's Creed would feel like, though. And I'm not talking about AC Chronicles China, which is a side-scroller that I'm still going to love (if it's ever released, that is [taps foot impatiently]). A cool, 3D but linear AC game, like Uncharted or The Last of Us but slightly less rail-roaded so more like Dishonored, I guess.

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Styx is a game that gives open missions without giving you an open world. I think that's a great example of what Assassin's Creed could benefit from. Except there should be no loading times between areas.

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I was just giving the non-open world idea out as an example of how they could better accomplish the kind of storytelling Unity tried to pull off. I don't think that kind of change of direction right now would be a good idea. maybe it could be a spinoff after they get the open world version on track.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I was just giving the non-open world idea out as an example of how they could better accomplish the kind of storytelling Unity tried to pull off. I don't think that kind of change of direction right now would be a good idea. maybe it could be a spinoff after they get the open world version on track.

If they took off two or more years and re-introduced the series, they could easily redesign the missions like this, but if it's still an annual release, that sudden change would throw most gamers off.

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the ability to take a break at all depends mostly on the performance of the other franchises Ubi's trying to grow, so they can't really assume they'll have that luxury when making plans for the future. It would have to slot into a yearly spot, probably done by a different team, maybe the Splinter Cell one?

If it were to happen at all, it would probably be a sign of giving up on trying to have a group of diverse series in favor of creating basically new stuff but branding it with a popular series, which isn't really super positive imo.

I can't realistically see this hypothetical thing replacing the open world game, as open world is the direction Ubisoft seems to be taking all of their series. I'd be more encouraged to see them acknowledge the limits of the format they're in rather than throw out the things they've been building on, to be honest. It's not like level-based games automatically have great stories. I thought Dishonored's was pretty messy, to be honest.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Dishonored doesn't have an Open World, but it does have Open Levels that you can approach in multiple ways, often linked to an unlocked Skill or Power. Assassinations are also pretty open, considering you're always given at least one Non-Lethal option, as well as multiple Lethal Options (for all the nasty stuff you've got in your Weapon Wheel).

I would like to see what a Linear Assassin's Creed would feel like, though. And I'm not talking about AC Chronicles China, which is a side-scroller that I'm still going to love (if it's ever released, that is [taps foot impatiently]). A cool, 3D but linear AC game, like Uncharted or The Last of Us but slightly less rail-roaded so more like Dishonored, I guess.

Another good example is Arkham Asylum, which was designed for inside-areas missions. Arkham City introduced open world and as a result felt lacking (luckily there were more missions in buildings than there appeared to be). Also the number of all the enemies in Asylum are scripted so after you've defeated them all there aren't any left in the game. In Arkham City they respawned, giving the feeling of being in fights too much.

Because so many Unity missions took place at landmarks and inside large buildings, open levels look like they could work good. Perhaps a compromise would be each city district is a different area.

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aurllcooljay wrote:
DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Dishonored doesn't have an Open World, but it does have Open Levels that you can approach in multiple ways, often linked to an unlocked Skill or Power. Assassinations are also pretty open, considering you're always given at least one Non-Lethal option, as well as multiple Lethal Options (for all the nasty stuff you've got in your Weapon Wheel).

I would like to see what a Linear Assassin's Creed would feel like, though. And I'm not talking about AC Chronicles China, which is a side-scroller that I'm still going to love (if it's ever released, that is [taps foot impatiently]). A cool, 3D but linear AC game, like Uncharted or The Last of Us but slightly less rail-roaded so more like Dishonored, I guess.

Another good example is Arkham Asylum, which was designed for inside-areas missions. Arkham City introduced open world and as a result felt lacking (luckily there were more missions in buildings than there appeared to be). Also the number of all the enemies in Asylum are scripted so after you've defeated them all there aren't any left in the game. In Arkham City they respawned, giving the feeling of being in fights too much.

Because so many Unity missions took place at landmarks and inside large buildings, open levels look like they could work good. Perhaps a compromise would be each city district is a different area.

Actually a fantastic point. Everyone hails Arkham City as fantastic - and it is - but I actually prefer Arkham Asylum. It's one of my favorite games.

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Been thinking a bit about why I dislike Unity's "crowd" events. The good thing about Assassin's Creed's open world is being able to explore and discover things at your own pace. But with the crowd events (and the versions of them that have been in since AC2) disrupt that player-controlled pace. They present the player with a literally unending string of objectives that have to be completed in a small amount of time, and they constantly appear around the player.

They are too transparently meant to be distractions specifically made for the player, rather than something the player discovered, they're too eager for the player to run into them, and they provide no sense of accomplishment since they will continue happening until the end of time.

My favorite is the "assassinate the messenger without being detected" one, because it's slow-paced enough to allow the player a decent amount of time to think about if they want to engage with it or not, it places a simple restriction on itself that requires some amount of creative thinking or preparation, and it doesn't expire based on a time limit. The stated premise doesn't really make much sense when combined with the restriction, but premises are easy to change.

but even this suffers from the problem of being an endlessly repeatable thing that spawns very frequently with no variation, which robs it of impact and allows players to formulate a single strategy that they repeat on it over and over again.

AC4 tried something a little different in terms of its distractions: rescuing crew members. As far as I can tell, the locations where crew were being held and the patterns enemies guarded them in were picked randomly from a set of predefined setups any time the player was low on crewmembers. This allowed them to be a bit more interesting and varied, but the fact that they were so transparently tied to how many crew members you had and would repopulate if you let them deplete didn't help with a feeling of accomplishment or them being naturally occuring things within the world, instead they were once again centered around the player.

This was subverted in Freedom Cry where there are ALWAYS slaves being oppressed, and you can never stop them. Some of the freed slaves aid you, some of them get on with their lives, but there will always be more that aren't so lucky. This was a powerful statement in the context of that story, but obviously Unity's or 4's situation doesn't fit together so neatly.

In both 4 and FC however, the handmade nature of the events detracted from the plausibility, and made it strange that said events were even repeatable at all. They were designed using techniques normally meant for missions that you complete once and then move on, rather than ones specifically meant to convey a variety of systemic scenarios that can be applied to different locations.

So Unity gets the systemic part right, Freedom Cry gets the "not beholden to the player's location or state" part right.

Ideally, I think AC would go for a mix of old ideas and new: having simple events requiring you to interact with a character in some way (whether killing with a condition, stealing, freeing, ect.) that are limited in number, placed in a randomly generated location that persists across a single save of the game, and if appropriate randomly moves around a district. possibly not marked on the map unless you do a certain sidequest relevant to that district.

This would mean a much lower chance of running into each event so quickly, an ability to assign more interesting and specific rewards to completing each one, to create more varied modifiers and parameters, to make successfully completing them actually remove them from the world and create a sense of meaningful progression.

That said, extremely low-level events such as a criminal stabbing someone on the street or a thief running away could still exist (with reduced frequency) but with no reward attached besides a civilian or guard thanking you. (guards shouldn't try to kill you for tackling a thief, what the heck was that about?) Things like the more complex AI interactions between different factions displayed in Unity is the other kind of stuff that can fill the same role of ambient things going on in the city.

Unity's mistake was trying to use things mostly suited to rare ambient stuff as regular incentivized content. Which results in a feeling akin to grinding mobs in an MMO: not exactly immersive or interesting.

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consolidating/simplifying something I touched on before:

Progression in Unity didn't feel interesting or satisfying to me. It was mostly based on stat increases and ammo capacity. the issue with that being it makes elements of the game either trivially easy or unfair, or encourages spamming of tools rather than intelligent use for high-level players.

What I want from AC progression is for it to be mostly focused on unlocking actual new abilities or effects, whether inherent ones or specific to outfits like in AC4.

Gear can have stats attached to it, but instead of being focused on creating a power curve, I'd find a system of trade-offs more interesting. The first outfit you get being balanced across all stats, and the others being more specialized, but not actually more powerful than said first outfit, just a reallocation of the same number of stat points. And by getting out of that same long-power-curve-for-gear mentality, the number of unique-stat gear pieces can be far smaller, and the variety and prestige shifted to cosmetic skins. (why not make those old assassin skins actual period-specific redesigns and more difficult or costly to acquire? I think people would find that cooler.)

I find it more interesting for enemies to have the same stats according to their archetype for the whole game, and for the player to unlock new ways to approach them, not abilities that render said enemies wholly ineffectual.

I'd like for earlier missions to actually be humbler and smaller-scale, and for the context, number of guards, and number of archetypes to be what increases and incentivizes the progression mechanics. It makes for a more believable world when the early challenges the protagonist faces would be easy later on because of tactile advances in their repertoire and the visible functionality of their gear, rather than an abstract level disparity between them and their foes.

I'd also like improvements to the presentation and usability of progression. something like bringing up a simple selection screen when you complete a mission and gain a skill point, not expecting you to remember to go through 4 menus on your own any time you get one. If the way to progress is so easily missable, it's hard to design a game meant to be played by someone that is fully aware of the system and engages with it.

EDIT: oh, and not completely undermining the progression system by selling damage/stealth/health boosts would probably help a whole damn lot.

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I said a while ago that I'd lay out exactly what I want for a future entry in the series. I'm... actually not going to do that. I had quite a bit written out, but my basic concept is just too flawed to ever actually exist. It was basically a spinoff title that refined and made better use of the core mechanics of the series. I see I'm not alone in my desire for something like that, but ultimately I think there's no way something similar to the mainline games could coexist with them. We'll probably never get a game that caters to us seriously, it would just be too redundant from an overall perspective even if the product itself were good. The best we can hope for is better core design and better community support from the mainline entries.

It's funny; Rainbow Six seems to be on the path to greatness again through a modestly budgeted, mechanic and community focused game with Siege, but the franchise had to collapse first to get there. Something similar would probably have to happen with AC, but I think that's even less likely because AC, unlike R6, has never focused intently on its core gameplay. This weird, unsatisfying melange is what AC is, and all they can do is try to make it more satisfying, not significantly change its structure. I know this sounds depressing, but it could actually end up well if they make the right moves; it'll just be that we get what we want by buying a lot of what we don't want in the same package.

As to what the right moves are, Calvar, you've been doing a remarkable job of describing them. I can't possibly respond to all of your points, but I think you have a ton of good ideas, even if there are some I don't really agree with. Some disagreement is pretty much inevitable considering the complexity of the subject, so don't read too much into that either.

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yeah, I think it's inevitable that the broadness of the things AC is expected to cover means it can't really completely succeed at catering to all groups simultaneously. There will always be some people who feel left behind to some degree. hopefully they find the best balance possible, since I doubt they'll ever consciously decide to not cater at all to certain portions of their audience anymore.

I actually agree that many of my ideas are contrary to the idea of consolidation and simplification. I often get ahead of myself. I don't imagine everything I suggest would be a wise thing to focus on bringing to the series right now, just something to keep in mind in the future.

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Most AC videos on Youtube are very uninspired. For a mission you mostly see twenty walkthroughs and ten full synchs. What we need are challenges to make the basic players more in depth. Especially on those assassination missions. At the very least:

Ghost Run- Yep, kill only the target without being seen. Extra points for no dead bodies discovered and no distractions/lures used.

Silent Extermination- Same concept, except on every guard in the area.

Blitzes- Regular blitz and anonymous blitz.

Also an in game timer for tiebreakers in points.

I like how one of the assassinations in Unity had a map to help in the mission. A definite nod to AC1's information gathering. How I would want it is each assassination has detailed maps.

First you'd scope out or find out about the area in which the target will appear. If it's indoors you'll have one map for each floor and one for outside. Outdoors and you have a map for ground level, one of building roofs, and another for underground tunnels if there are any. And the maps are available on quick select, just like the treasure maps in AC4.

At first the maps will start out simple, but then you find out find out about guards and their travel routes. Even more importantly the target's travel path. As I have stated before, it would be better for the target to walk randomly between places than to have a predictable route or not move at all. These places would be represented as dots on the maps with lines connecting to show the travel routes.

Generally the targets would travel between floors, usually staying on the lower levels for opportunities to pounce on them from above. I also liked how you could influence the path of some targets in Unity, for example Sivert going into the confessional instead of past it and giving le Peletier tainted wine to make him walk to a deserted hallway. These optional routes are good for more creativity.

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interesting thing on quiet places in games versus ones overcrowded with side content: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/01/the-open-space-and-hissing...

specifically calls out Ubisoft open worlds at certain points. I appreciate things like the Kingdom and Frontier more and more. They had things within them, but they often held them back stubbornly, just out of sight, just out of the habitual path. waiting for a real explorer.

I also relate a lot to this part

There’s something very insecure about this kind of content saturation. Something desperate—begging me never to stay in one place too long, nor to look too closely at the world I’m inhabiting. It’s the rambling, nervous chatter of someone who can feel an awkward silence coming and will do absolutely anything to delay it.

One of the reasons I found the ACU murder mysteries so interesting is they're the only times you're ever really asked to look at your environment in a non-utilitarian way. It's not about "how do I get here", but instead "what happened here? what kind of place is this?" Instead of "how do I sneak up on this person", it's "do they have the motive or means to have caused this? Does their alibi hold up?".

It isn't good because the mysteries are extremely tricky, or the presentation and implementation is perfect, but because it's an ambiguous enough mechanic to fit into an Assassin's repertoire while not necessarily requiring their other skills. It can be used to augment a normal mission, but it can also be used to augment your understanding of the citizens of a city and the spaces they occupy.

It's simple enough to justify its use to explore simple things, to be minimalist. It's a shame to have that kind of tool and then bury it in either a bunch of missions trying to be everything that the main path is but smaller, or a bunch of faceless collectibles that aren't trying to be anything at all.

In a generation where people are so into minecraft, strange that so few games seem content to let their worlds seem quiet unless you do a little digging.

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How is parkour in AC meant to work?
The parkour system in AC was designed to be simple to control. The player is not meant to wrestle with getting the character to perform an action, but to determine where said actions can be performed and guide the character through the motions.
Thus the design is focused on teaching the player to take notice of climbable elements and the ways they can transition through them. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the tomb missions introduced in AC2: at the beginning of most sections, the camera pans along the single correct path to navigate the environment. In the open-world segment of the game there are multiple paths to choose from, so that same pan is effectively replicated by the player, except they are choosing paths based either on a whim or on which is most tactically advantageous.

How does it work in practice?
This brings up an interesting point: the system is so efficient at allowing completely player-defined paths that it encourages design with absolutely no middle ground between a completely free-to-navigate environment and an environment with all paths walled off except the intended one. The goal of the AC parkour system is to have a reliable, easy-to-learn movement system. And it succeeds at that goal. Every aspect of parkour movement is meticulously streamlined to the point that it has little more exciting mechanical depth than the walking system itself does. To a player, the most remarkable thing about it is when it breaks, because that is the only time it actually does present the player with more friction than the walking system does. The attempts at challenge by limiting the viable paths is equivalent to making you walk down a long hallway with no diverging paths for a bit.

What impact does this have on the game?
To be clear: this is not necessarily a bad thing! It's fine for parkour in AC to just be a different kind of walking or running, a different way of breaking line of sight, a different way of moving into position. But one of the strangely dissonant things about AC's parkour is it's framed as though you're meant to take pleasure in it: to feel like you've just completed a strenuous activity and are seeing a beautiful vista cinematic as a reward. The game treats parkour and climbing like it's a glamorous and difficult activity, but in the play experience it becomes just as utilitarian as putting one foot in front of the other. And I actually think that's an intriguing thing: to play as a person who has trained their entire life to make these actions second-nature and routine. And whether the game portrays them that way through its surface-level narrative, that majestic synchronization shot so clearly evokes otherwise.

Initial conclusion
The synchronization shots and the linear climbing segments are there because the game wants players to enjoy the experience of moving through expensively recreated digital environments, of looking out from the top of a tower and taking pleasure in the experience of being there. That desire is, in my opinion, incompatible with the design objective of an easy-to-use parkour system. For either of those things to thrive, one of them has to die.

Option One
Either option actually opens up a lot of possibilities: with no obligation to grand scale, the settings of the games could shift to humbler places more suited to a completely frictionless parkour experience. The cities and forests of AC3 were a prime example of what this could look like: there was barely any level of elevation above what was actually necessary and relevant to the game mechanics. Why why would you actually have a tactical reason to have buildings that are significantly higher than a guard's detection radius? Why would you want to engage with the simple but inherently slow and inconsistent climbing mechanics when you're trying to quickly escape? so the focus is on horizontal evasion. The end result is a game that feels very much like it values the movement systems of AC for what they are best at: a tool that you use on efficiently designed elements to approach from a stealthy angle until you get spotted, at which point you rely on the simpler and more precise ground-based systems to either adapt your movement path or escape.

Option Two
Now the other path, the one where the grand scale and high-flying gameplay is encouraged, that requires a commitment to a wholly different philosophy for movement in AC: focus on precision, expressivity, and on more cohesively melding it with the other mechanics. The broad focus of a game like AC is not solely a weakness, it can also be a strength. Obviously re-tuning the parkour elements is important, but assuming a satisfactory new, more dynamic framework has been created (I'm leaving the nuts and bolts discussion out of this for once because I'm less and less sure it's a valuable part of my commentary) it's still a lot to ask for one system out of many to justify the entire setting of the game. Basically, if climbing a huge tower or famous landmark is meant to be a momentous part of the game, it serves it well to partially rely on the other mechanics of the game as obstacles in your ascent. Mixing exterior climbing with interior climbing, exterior stealth and interior stealth, combat (or sneaky kills), and maybe even some puzzle solving! It would absolutely take resources away from other optional content that uses those design elements, but one of the problems people have had with the side content in AC is how spread out and decompressed it is. The idea of concentrating that content in very specific grand locations is a compelling concept. It could make those big, intricately designed structures associated in your head with big, intricately designed gameplay segments. And all that side-content-generating power focused on creating fewer but more substantial things makes that optional content feel more valuable and worthwhile to engage with. exploration of the humbler or less-vertical parts of the city can be encouraged by murder mysteries, collectibles, and the inevitable mordor-esque large-scale dynamic systems, all of which work better in an environment not focused around a single overriding structure anyways.

Middle Ground
to quickly mention a non-AC example of a developer tackling this issue, the Arkham games both embrace movement as a utility, simplifying it down to a single button press to move to a new location or completely remove yourself from a conflict, which is like AC's lifts, only reusable and completely subservient to the player's will as long as they are within range. They also have an expressive and precise form of movement in the gliding mechanic. They have the same flavor of separation between navigation-focused gameplay and nav as a tool that most AC games do, but the glide serving as a bridge between both nav points and other gameplay actions makes the line far blurrier and less jarring. If used right, the grappling hook in AC Victory could be a similar bridge and allow for an AC game closer to this middle ground.

Fin
So I guess I've formalized some of my perception of the movement mechanics in AC, and outlined a few pretty optimistic (imo) views of how Ubi can best use those systems. went back and edited in some headers for reading clarity.

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I really love all of these posts.
I'm sorry that I can't add very much that's constructive (except for one thing, that I'll say after this) but I at least hope that by telling you how much I appreciate them, I can encourage you to keep writing them. About the nuts and bolts ideas you DO have, it's fine to send those to me in PMs if not on this actual thread - because I do like hearing about those ideas as well.

Now, I'm going to bring up Shadow of Mordor for a reason that I don't think a lot of people have talked about.

AC has three Core Pillars; Navigation, Combat and Stealth.
Each of these three pillars is designed to be intuitive and easy to use.
The problem is, when the player doesn't need to fight with the controls (input difficulty; Street Fighter, Tekken) or fight with their environment (Mirror's Edge, Prince of Persia games) to make things challenging, how do they achieve challenge within those three Core Pillars?

Well, Shadow of Mordor gives Enemies [Strengths] and [Weaknesses]

This FUNDAMENTALLY changes the way you can approach each target, which FUNDAMENTALLY changes HOW you make use of the three Systems and what WAYS you can use them in. The idea of AC removing surfaces or paths that allow you to trace over them with the Parkour system, that doesn't work all that well, like you said. It doesn't make the game more challenging or refreshing, all it does is make it more boring. The amount of CHALLENGE is the same - the only difference is that now there's only one clear path. Therefore, it's just plain bad all around.

Shadow of Mordor's [Strength] and [Weakness] system doesn't limit the paths you can take artificially with its Level Design, but with its Enemy design - something that, INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH HINT HINT NUDGE NUDGE PUNCH IN FACE COUGH COUGH - AC has always been absolutely terrible at.

When a Captain is Immune to Stealth Finishers, you don't want to use the Stealth System the same way as normal. Note that this does not INVALIDATE that Pillar - it is STILL useful on his lieutenants, his mooks, his grunts. You might just want to snap an arrow into his face. Or you might want to get rid of the rest of his dudes with Stealth and then use Melee to wreck him.

When a Captain is Immune to Ranged, likewise you can't very well headshot him - which forces you to use aspects of the Navigation and Stealth Systems in such a way that IF YOU FAIL, then you will have gotten into Combat in a way that feels unforced, and FAIR.

Sigh. For a guy who hasn't played Shadow of Mordor yet, I sure do adore it...
It's my current unrequited game-crush.

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very good point: when the ways you can use your skills is mostly defined by level design rather than enforced by agents within said level, it can start to feel a little strange, and the seams of the design show a little more.

I have a few problems with SoM's implementation. I think there's more variations of resistances than there needs to be, and that being fully authored and set for individual set characters or archetypes could allow for more refinement. I also have an issue with some of the ones that they don't really physically justify, or that seem overly gamey.

Brotherhood did a lot of similar things with the Borgia Towers (though obviously more primitive), but the philosophy of easily readable and natural reactions was more appealing to me on an executional level.

It is very true that giving AI more agency in dictating the flow of gameplay is a powerful way to make essentially the same kind of design feel more interesting and natural to engage with.

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For an experienced Assassin, a good, clean hit would be a very sparse narrative. The more complicated the story would be to recount, the worse it likely went. AC is designed in such a way that a simple, quiet kill is not mechanically interesting or challenging, leading the design of most missions to require a complex narrative. even if few guards are disturbed, or indeed, the mission is "ghost-run", the amount of very specific actions you have to undertake are ridiculous, to the point where it becomes clear this would realistically be a very, very unwise situation for an Assassin to be in.

In that case, could this problem not be solved by making the "optimal" situation more involved and skillful? requiring you to target the trajectory of your air assassination and deal with a reasonable limit on how high you can do it from, positioning being more crucial in doing a discreet low profile ground kill, and giving more control over where they fall or hiding their body so as to delay an alarm as long as possible. And then also opening up into more desperate and risky mechanics if you mess up at any point along that timeline: restricted-area stealth, if your target has fled into it, combat, if you alert only a few guards after your kill, and chases, if you are overmatched.

To put it another way, AC design assumes that everything going smoothly would be uninteresting and easy (which it is) and so it's meant to put us in situations skewed towards chaos and constantly-looming chance of discovery. That's a trick most conventional stealth games use, but it doesn't make much sense within the context of an Order whose MO is to wait for opportune moments with the least chance of things going sideways. And makes even less sense when dealing with assassin ancestors who go through about 30 missions based around the same kinds of gameplay per game. So I suggest that instead of saying that we are within this overwhelmingly non-ideal context and have to get through it, say that we are in a good window of opportunity that only someone with our specific skills could take advantage of, make mastering those skills interesting and challenging, and make everything else a penalty for failure while also a viable path.

This is why something like the grappling hook could be really great: if it adds another dimension to the "approach" and rewards mastery, using it properly becomes your priority, and everything else becomes a tool to aid in situations where you either didn't use it right or messed up some other aspect. But all that depends on the missions being designed around facilitating those viable grapple points and infiltration options, otherwise we're back to where we started.

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Obtaining weapons in Unity is closer to what I prefer. Besides the usual buying, rewards for completing missions, especially murder mysteries. However what bugs me is how much the stats matter. Like in RPGs, the highest level weapons are fifty times better than the low level ones. I'd rather it was like in previous games where the weapons you picked were more for aesthetic looks than what was the absolute best.

The number of available weapons equipped should also be like the earlier games, although Unity did teach us a thing or two about simplifying. I actually agree the hidden blade shouldn't be used in combat, except to accompany melee weapon kill animations.

I'd bring back picking up weapons, even pistols. There should be an option to switch a picked up weapon with the one in your sheath, as a way of obtaining.

You should have two main weapons. Hanging on the side a sword/dagger/mace/hammer and on your back a heavy weapon/long weapon/bow/crossbow/rifle.

Combat with weapons should be a rock-paper-scissors, with each weapon having it's own advantages (a great reason why it's handy to have two different types of weapons available).

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I don't think the issue is that the stats don't matter, but that the way they matter is skewed so heavily to damage, when in fact that's the one thing that should probably be roughly consistent across a weapon type. Changing things like attack speed, counter/parry window and such, that would all contribute more to an appreciable difference in feel that makes some amount of physical sense.

I think the ability to swap out weapons on the fly would be interesting, similar to how it works in Halo, as it also shares a two-weapon limit. I can't see it really working as is, since a system of weapon progression works against the idea of picking up any old guard's weapon. If they solely relied on equipment for combat stats, and made weapons more like broad archetypes where each weapon type behaves the same, then weapon-pickup could work.

Not sure I like a two-weapon system for AC though, we just got out of a period of Assassins who were increasingly loaded-down with stuff.

I'm more interested in something closer to the AC2 concept, where you can take enemy weapons but not sheath them when you need to use your hands. Except in this case, dual wielding whatever weapon you took with your primary. this allows stats to matter to some extent, as stealing a low level weapon wouldn't increase your effectiveness as much as a higher level one would but you still have the bonus of your primary. and since sheathing would make you drop the second weapon, it requires you to commit to looking really suspicious if you want the extra weaponry at hand. (something people often thought should have been a problem for Ezio, Connor, and Edward.)

Regarding making pistols work, I'd like to see them try an approach similar to AC4, but with aiming mechanics that feel less precise, matching the difference between a modern gun and the ones we're using. Similar to how dishonored's pistol feels: it shreds stuff in an undignified fashion rather than leaving a surgical bullet trail, its reticule is wide enough and its effective range short enough to discourage fancy shots. (AC's way of showing effective range is far less intuitive and feels less based in physical reality and more on arbitrary lock-on distance)

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One interesting concept Unity introduced was weapons not only having basic stat inclinations, but also a unique special move. The execution on that wasn't super great, as the moves themselves were awkward to use and not very diversified, but the idea of having part of the uniqueness of a weapon come in its general behavior in base attacks and then the other part come in a move that has different advantages and disadvantages, that's a sound idea.

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Something I appreciated about Black Flag was that it started to push the Animus UI in a direction more reflective of the actual context of the game. It was fine for the UI to be totally abstract when it was a top secret prototype or a hacked-together version of one, but it's stretching plausibility for Abstergo to still be doing basically that when they're trying to sell immersive genetic memories on the mass market. Stuff like Watch Dogs can be unreservedly tech-focused in its theming, but it makes more sense for something like a consumer-grade animus to seem more like its theme is based in the physical world of the game. Sure, part of what Abstergo would do is try to emphasize how advanced its product is, but right now it seems like they're trying far too hard. Compare how the DVD menu of a James Bond movie looks to how something like Lord of the Rings' menus look.

I think fewer people would be put off from the animus if its theme were more harmonious with the world they're inhabiting.

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One of the things that often undermines Unity's gameplay is the way its detection system works. For one thing, certain guards are apparently tied together by a psychic link, detecting you through walls as the same time as their friend who can actually see you. In that way spread of information among guards in ACU feels extremely unnatural, but it's not only because it's too quick. Often the range at which guards can or can't hear or see that you're having a fight is extremely close, to the point where crowd members at that range are probably reacting to the fight but the guards aren't.

Another issue is the immediacy of the binary shift between stealth detection mode and combat. In some past AC games, assassination moves could still be performed for a few seconds after the guard had detected you. The idea being you were taking advantage of their shock, which would wear off after a few seconds. Other Ubi games like SC: Blacklist and Far Cry 4 made this system clearer, making the indicator over the enemy's head flash for a few seconds, assuring that they'd spotted you but giving you time to kill them before they raised the alarm. This kind of system isn't absolutely necessary, as one might rationalize that the red detection time represents a similar period of grace, but it would have greatly helped with ACU's information-spread issues.

Shifting gears, I'm thinking about guns. Games have gotten pretty good at doing guns, and AC's inclusion of them has always felt pretty half-assed in comparison. If they're going to keep choosing eras with pistols for marketing reasons, they should get serious about making guns feel interesting to use. Obviously they can't be too powerful, and should be a horrible choice in stealth scenarios (or maybe unusable outside open conflict, as I suggested) but it would be great if it felt like a more lo-fi last of us (no snap to cover system, aiming feels weighty, bullet behavior is more dynamic) that transitions smoothly into melee, rather than feeling pretty much like the old AC1 knife-targeting system except you select with a crosshair.

If you make the systems that players engage with when they fail out of stealth more fun to master, then they won't complain as much about making more interesting and challenging stealth scenarios. And I think that games which offer gameplay in both open conflict and stealth should either make both of them interesting or pretty much cut out the other one. And if providing interesting gameplay for something like gunplay is too much work with everything else AC has on its plate, they should probably either stop choosing settings with guns or stop giving them to their protagonists.

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Just finished reading this Dying Light review, and this paragraph stood out to me: http://www.polygon.com/2015/2/3/7967647/dying-light-review-xbox-one-ps4-PC

The real gem buried within Dying Light is its vertical navigation. You'll spend a lot of time climbing low structures, two and three story buildings too, but there are specific places within Harran that tower above the city. And sometimes, when you're lucky, you'll need to get to the top of them.

These sections are the equivalent of boss fights in other games, towering enemies to be conquered by what felt like clever decisions on my part to make my way upward. Where this might be a disconnected puzzle in other games, Dying Light's visual presentation captures a distinctive sense of scale and height, and even for me, as someone terrified of heights, a genuine hint of vertigo. The ground was much more of an enemy to me in Dying Light than any hoard of zombies was.

It reminded my of my suggestion for the improvement of tower-climbing in Assassin's Creed, by bringing together all the other mechanics in the game in one concentrated challenge. But this reminded me that the thrill of climbing is not complicated. It's a simple blend of a unique perspective and intense danger. While it's true that AC's climbing systems are inelegant and imprecise at the moment, that's only half of why people are tired of climbing towers. In Dying Light, climbing up a narrow beam is a perilous action. If you aren't careful, you could fall at any moment, and you'll know exactly what you did wrong. In Assassin's Creed, walking across a narrow beam is a trivial action, and you're more likely to fail because your character does something you didn't expect than as a direct consequence of being in a perilous situation that feels like it could go wrong at any moment.

Being basically functional is an important thing for the parkour system, but adding elements of clear and masterable risks might be moreso at this point.

EDIT: To be a little more specific, in a game like AC the desire is for the player to be able to move around competently while in gameplay spaces: at street level, on the top of a house. At those times the player has other challenges to contend with, and all their skills as an assassin are meant to enable them to not have to fight with that environment to navigate it.

But as you ascend and leave those challenges behind, climbing is the only thing you're interacting with. And it has to become more risky and challenging, to become a "boss fight", as that review put it. There should be a sense that while the Assassin is not wholly out of their element, they have ventured into a less forgiving environment that requires all of their focus to navigate.

It would be interesting if they were narratively framed as thus: instead of being about scouting an area, which can be done from much lower points, tall tower climbs could be more a rite of passage for Assassins. Scaling every tower in a city being the ultimate proof of their climbing ability, and allowing the game to comment on your achievement in a more concrete and fictionally grounded way. Unlocking the map would make more sense if done via physical line of sight/fog of war rather than accessing arbitrary points. AC3 was a smart step in that direction, but that was dropped in both sequels.

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Ever since the idea of holding the right trigger + legs to parkour became a thing, it's always bothered me that in most cases you'll do the same thing by just holding right trigger by itself. It should be a very clear separation, where this is the button you hold when you DONT want to climb that pile of garbage in the road, or jump down from that ledge. It's even more annoying in Unity, where you'll still jump but you'll take a downward trending one, which is meant to be restricted to the RT + open hand input. Going to clearly lay out what I want each to do.

Parkour Up: hold to begin free-climb on objects, no need to continue holding during climb. press again to pull yourself over a ledge, preventing situations where you get up accidentally. When the player faces away from their climb spot, back eject from the wall in the direction they're looking, so as to not lead to situations where tapping the input to climb leads to accidental falls. When approaching a vaultable object, hold to climb on said object and, if still held, jump off in an upwards-trending direction. (possible new thing would be to do the same if you hold when running into an unaware guard, bypassing them and using them as a springboard similar to Dying Light) When running to the edge of a structure, hold to jump in an upward trending direction, even if there's a hay cart underneath.

Parkour Down: hold to vault or slide under objects, maintaining horizontal speed. When running to the edge of a structure, hold to jump in a downward-trending direction, guided by the player's movement input but trending towards fall-breaking elements: Unity with more control. When running to an edge that has a hay cart underneath, perform a leap of faith.

Neutral Run: hold to run in the direction of the movement input, make course correcting and reversing direction more responsive and agile, don't instigate any moment where the player's feet leave the surface they're on in this mode, even with regard to short drops. While holding, collisions with vaultable/pass-under objects should result in a dead stop, no vault or jump.

---
Something else I've mentioned a bit before is a non-lock-on air assassination system. From very short heights (basically anywhere about as tall as the maximum height you can vault) this would be inapplicable and the old system would work. Ideally it would be triggerable anywhere a normal air assassination is by selecting the air assassination from the ranged-attack menu, then pressing the left trigger which would then show an arc that represents your jump, terminating in a circle that shows where you'll land and the radius within which your targets must be when you get there. pressing the right trigger would begin the assassination attempt. Pre-jump, the arc would turn orange at the point along it where you'd take fall damage if you jumped, and turn red at the point where you'd take lethal damage. the completely safe jump height would be represented by a neutral color. This would more clearly communicate how fall damage works, and allow risk-reward scenarios where players plan to take out the target even though they'll temporarily be vulnerable if they need to make a loud escape. Even assassination from a relatively safe height could have an element of risk in terms of possibly missing the target and raising the alarm. This mechanic could also be used to perform precise downward leaps that might be too complex for the normal parkour system. (no "grab-ledge" option available while mid-leap, to avoid abuse.) I think it would add a lot of physicality and player expression.

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So what I want to look at now is archetypes.

In previous games "Brute" has meant a slightly bigger than usual enemy that is usually slightly more difficult to defeat and does slightly more damage to the player. Putting aside how little difference there usually is between fighting them and any other enemy, what I find more interesting is the potential to give them attributes that affect the experience of dealing with them outside combat. In previous games you never really got a sense that the Assassin is at any sort of a physical disadvantage with brutes. They can choke them out just as easily as any other enemy, and assassinations are the same. I'd like instead for everything you do to a Brute to be more difficult, and take longer. A longer assassination animation consisting of three stabs to keep them down, leaving you exposed for longer and making blend kills impossible. A slightly faster air assassination, but still longer than usual. NO ability to double assassinate. Much slower reaction to sleep darts. stuff like that. (I also would like to bring back the close-range poison blade as the only way to berserk enemies. Limited ammo, but a silent, blendable way to dispose of a Brute.)

I don't really like the concept of "agiles" as it's been used before. I think normal guards should have basic climbing skills and be able to make use of ladders and other typical ways of climbing. They shouldn't be as fast as you, but they should make use of their numbers to coordinate with rooftop guards and ones ahead of you, to let them know you're coming. Their ability to catch you should come from intelligent efforts to corner you through a variety of angles, taking advantage of the complex structure of their district. They should not fire ranged weapons when you're at street level among civillians, but do so with impunity on the roof, giving rooftop chases more of an element of danger, and encouraging the player to think tactically about when they get on the roof.

I think all guards should be less attentive to noise you make in a public place, and moreso if you're on the roof or inside a quiet house, in which cases sneaking would be necessitated.

Now, as for the actual idea of an "Agile" enemy, I like that in concept, I just don't feel it should be part of the typical guard dynamic. I would prefer for it to be more about specifically trained Templar agents in a one-on one chase. That sounds like something they'd make multiplayer only, but I'd really prefer that existing as an AI archetype that exists in non-online missions.

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quick poison thoughts:
poison #1 = long range silent darts, very accurate, limited ammo, 'permanently' non-lethally disables target (can be instantly revived by friendly NPCs), fast reload, usable from the wallhang position and while walking (not while running)
poison # 2 = close range hidden needle, very limited ammo, berserk effect.

poison 1 has a limited effect to balance your ability to silently remove a distant enemy from play.
poison 2 is short range and ammo-limited to balance your ability to cause indirect chaos that can both disrupt guard patterns and put a target in harm's way.

quick revisiting of pistol thoughts:
medium range, no ability to shoot while moving, noise scatters nearby civilians (temporarily reducing crowd cover around the player) attracts guards to the general location the shot originated from, and increases their detection speed, range, and view radius for about a minute and a half. Slow reload, medium ammo, headshots always kill, can be used to kill targets.

meant to encourage use as a tactical problem-solver when embroiled in open conflict or when entering it. slow reload means wise target acquisition required. meant to be wholly useless in stealth scenarios (unless you've silently killed everyone but the person you're taking a shot at.)

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