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Looking To The Future (again) - A Thread of Text Walls

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There's a very small change (in scope, probably not implementation) that would improve a common frustrating experience in AC. If you land on an NPC as the result of a normal jump or dropping from a ledge, they should crumple to the ground, and be open for a quick assassination if they're an enemy. If falling from a height that would damage you, they shouldn't take damage but the player should, the logic being that the player is either going to instantly kill them, run away, or be dead, so a bonus in normal combat would be pointless. Also removes an obvious method of killing civillians.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
There's a very small change (in scope, probably not implementation) that would improve a common frustrating experience in AC. If you land on an NPC as the result of a normal jump or dropping from a ledge, they should crumple to the ground, and be open for a quick assassination if they're an enemy. If falling from a height that would damage you, they shouldn't take damage but the player should, the logic being that the player is either going to instantly kill them, run away, or be dead, so a bonus in normal combat would be pointless. Also removes an obvious method of killing civillians.

This one's really good. It's the little things Animus subjects (players) interact with on a regular basis, so addressing little things like that is one solid way to make the entire experience more fluid.

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Another thing I've been thinking about is having in-world indicators on free-run objects when you're in a position to use them. Eg: the "vault" input appearing on a nearby vaultable object, the "hang" input appearing on a nearby ledge, and the "jump to" input appearing on the place you'll land when standing at an edge. This would help a lot with making exactly sure you know where you'll end up when taking a jump, and allow you to see what difference repositioning yourself makes.

Related to this and stuff like icons over important NPC's heads, I understand that this is a way to not require people to be in eagle vision mode the whole time to reacquire targets, but I think it would be great if turning off the UI would actually turn off ALL non-essential UI. People who prefer to use eagle vision and/or remember what their targets look like, and who know the controls well enough, those people should be able to turn that kind of UI off.

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reconsidering free-aim air assassinations. I think that I'm coming up with a complex solution to problems I have that can be solved within the original system. My actual issues are:
1. you can air assassinate from way too high
2. you can land without taking fall damage from too high... but it's half the height of the air assassination height
3. the way that the assassin either magnetizes and floats to their target if they're moving during the assassination looks goofy, and so does the target stopping and moving into the correct position to play the air assassinate animation.

The first one is pretty simply tuned, it should be kept it to two story building height, in my opinion. but the issue as always is communicating the height at which the player CAN air assassinate. I think using the trajectory arc I talked about could work, only snapping it to whatever target you have selected, and showing thru color coding what height you need to reach to take the leap.

#2 is also fairly straightforward. If controlled descent is more responsive (less long animations that give the appearance of moon gravity) + reliable (more accurately predicting what nav elements players want to jump to based off their directional inputs) and doesn't auto-snap the camera to the wall when going down it (giving players a clear view of what they're lowering themselves into and their relation to the ground), I don't think people will have much trouble adapting.

3 is a tough one. The animations in AC have become increasingly elaborate and I think this might very well be too much to ask, but I feel it might change things a bit if targets could throw you off by moving under a structure as you strike. Implementing a contextually timed trajectory animation while also retaining the player's collision seems like just the sort of thing that would vex AC's engine more than I could ever know. So at the very least it would be cool if the target's pause were simply made less jarring, or gave more of an impression of them sensing something and turning to face you. I can take or leave the gameplay possibilities, but the visual goofiness has always irked me a bit. It's most egregious with the double assassinations, which really feel like enemies gracefully gliding into optimal kill-poses. And it's not helped at all by the new visuals, which make quirks that seemed ordinary in AC2 look positively bizarre.

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Update to my totally-not-going-to-happen ideal assassin’s creed game design document:

-Controls-

Weapon hand/X button: unsheath hidden blade. (brings up a targeting reticule that is controlled by the right stick if using a controller.)

High Profile/Right Trigger: Stab if blade is unsheathed, with the stab landing where the targeting reticule is pointing. If too far away to hit anything, stabs thin air. If blade is sheathed, lock on to target. Locked on targets can be air assassinated by stabbing at them from above, as long as it's not from too high above. (indicated by color of lock-on outline: yellow = no, red = go. Variations on colors available in colorblind options) There is no automatic double-assassination. Unaware enemies must be pointed at with the reticule and stabbed individually, regardless of if the player has more than one blade. There is no non-lethal takedown. (non-lethal is supported, and consists of just leaving everyone but your target alone and being good at sneaking.)

Legs: press to toggle between Walking and Running. (variations of those categories of speed tweakable via the degree the left stick is pushed, if using a controller)
Empty Hand/B button: interact button, contextual. Used to speak to NPCs, loot bodies, and various other interactions, when tapped. When held, picks up objects or bodies and drags/carries them until tapped or held, both of which will result in the object or body being dropped in front of the player. Body automatically becomes stashed in a hide spot if a hide spot is in front of the player when the body is dropped. Bodies that are picked up are automatically looted.

Left Trigger/Input Formerly Known As Lock On/Stealth Crouch Input: enables the player to parkour. All climbable objects can be climbed in both the Running and Walking state. When the climb reaches the top of a ledge, the Running state must be entered to climb over it, preventing accidental exposure of the player to enemies patrolling on top of roofs.
If the player enters the Walking state, holds this input, and holds the left stick towards a ledge, they will hop down and grab the ledge, and begin the climb down the building if said inputs and states remain held.
If the player does the same as previous but in the Running state, they will jump off the ledge and grab onto a climb spot, land on another ledge, or fall to the street below. (not necessarily a bad thing if the player isn’t too high up.

Right bumper/weapon select in previous games: pressing this uses a tool. Hold brings up the tool select menu. If a tool is used when locked on to a target, it will be thrown at that target if in range. If there is no lock-on target, the tool will be thrown at the player’s feet. Tools do not have arbitrary amounts of each that can be carried, but have a specific unit of size. You can choose as many of whichever tool you want to bring, but are limited by the size capacity of your pouch. Powerful tools take up the most capacity.

-Gameplay Detail-

The reticule is not small; it's chunky, indicative of its forgiving targeting area. This means that players need only be precise in a directional sense rather than a pixel-hunting sense, and allow the animations of stabbing to be more interpretive than a gun being fired. (It solves the problem of players potentially stabbing enemies in the foot and getting a kill: animation is free to be convincingly deadly-looking.)

There is no alternative control scheme during combat. To dodge attacks, players switch into the Running state and move their character out of the way of attacks. To attack enemies, players strike them with the hidden blade from angles that they are not adequately guarding. Guarded angles are represented by the direction the enemy is facing and how they are holding their weapon. The player's goal is to bait the enemy into exposing themselves, and use navigational abilities to expose angles on their own. Parrying is done by aiming at the enemy’s weapon and striking it as they attack. (Visually it’s done with the Assassin’s gauntlet rather than the blade) Parrying stuns some enemies momentarily, opening them up to a kill, but with some it merely negates potential damage, in that case useful only if you noticed them attacking too late to dodge. Some enemies, such as those with big, heavy weapons, cannot be parried at all.

Some enemies might not quickly prepare themselves to fend off attacks from above if you scramble up onto an object, while others might have thick armor and helmets protecting them from above (in and out of combat) but be slow and thus vulnerable to ground-based attacks from behind. Some enemies might have projectile weapons, and can be killed immediately up close but are extremely deadly and worthy of running from when they are far away. You don’t want to try to actually fight multiple ranged attackers in open conflict, it will not go well for you unless you are very lucky. You can sometimes trick ranged attackers into killing their own simply by maneuvering yourself between an NPC and the attacker at the last second, but this may not always work, with less likelihood the higher ranked said ranged attacker is.

There are no weapons other than the hidden blade. It is customizable, as is the rest of your gear. Gear customization is less about granular stats and more about big chunks of abilities or inherent properties. Instead of “23% attack increase” versus “27% attack increase”, it’s “This is a standard hidden blade, it kills at the normal speed and confers no extra functionality” versus “this is a poison blade, it takes a few moments to kill its target, is unnoticeable when used due to its needle-like structure”, or “this bag is durable and can hold a specific kind of volatile tool that can’t be held when using another bag”. There will not be a case where there is a customization option that just does the same thing but better, or worse, as the case may be, nor would there be benefits inherent to a blade that do not make logical sense following from its design. To be clear, “no other weapons” means no guns. The Phantom Blade could be a type of ranged hidden blade that removes the ability to stab normally and introduces a very limited supply of ammo. (The blades are retrievable from the guards that you kill with them or buyable at weapon merchants)

Gear is more about the pouches, straps, and other practical pieces that tie your outfit together rather than the main visual theme of said outfit. For example, chainmail worn under your clothes would have a negligible impact on how the Assassin looks. Removing all gear except the Hidden Blade should be an option, with the obvious benefit of increased speed at the expense of any other possible help gear might grant. All cosmetic Assassin outfits are to be practical and logical for the purposes of being an Assassin. Not all in the same style, but all the sort of thing a person who spends their time running, rolling, fighting, and sneaking would wear. No Armor of Brutus’.

Small amounts of money are looted from downed enemies. Completing missions fictionally opens you up to more of the Assassin Brotherhood’s resources, meaning you get a bunch of money after completing each. You can get medium amounts of money by defending/freeing bureaus and clearing out templar hideouts, and all these events randomly repopulate in the open world at a frequency inversely proportional to how much the player has participated in them recently. Money is used to buy gear, blades, tools, and cosmetic outfits. It is represented only by period and setting appropriate currency, and there is only one type of such currency.
---

This is by no means a comprehensive examination of what would need to be considered with regards to the concrete changes and (especially) vague shifts in direction I’m suggesting, but it’s illustrative of the kind of subtractive thinking I end up with when looking at modern AC games.

(TL;DR: the thread has text wall in the title, man. I've done all I can.)

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DAMN, that is hella deep! Even thinking about a system like this sends some chills down my everything - if only because it'll take a bit of getting used to, and just reading it already makes me feel more Assassin-like. This would be really cool.

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Hey Ubisoft, start taking notes.

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Thanks folks!

Re-reading this again, I feel like I kinda missed an opportunity with regards to the use of the right trigger/high profile input. It would probably be best if holding it down for a bit and then releasing were required to actually execute an air assassinate. That same method could also be used to trigger a leaping attack in open conflict. (similar to Altair's open conflict assassinate jump in the AC1 CG trailer) It fits with the sensation of bracing yourself before pouncing, and avoids accidental assassinate triggering.
The "charging up" could be represented by a ring that fills up around the reticule: release before the ring is full and nothing happens.

I also neglected to mention an important thing in the case of the poison blade: the conceit would be that the enemy would have full autonomy until their delayed death triggers, meaning that if you were in open combat they would be able to kill you before they died, and if you were incognito they would be able to spot you and raise the alarm if you were careless after poisoning them. The "berserk" or "flailing around" state makes poison less interesting, less subtle, and too powerful, in my opinion. Considering that it's a main weapon in my design, and has no ammo limit (a needle-like blade with the tip coated in poison, not an actual injector) it doubly needs that extra tradeoff.

My concept for gear and progression is that the Assassin is fully trained and has all their abilities, and that their starting gear is totally functional, but not very specialized. So any other gear or weapons or tools you gain access to are not meant to be more powerful, but to enable different styles of play, maybe trading off on your effectiveness at other styles. So someone could potentially stick with the hidden blade and default gear, or remove all their gear and use the phantom blade exclusively: a fast-moving ghost with a one-shot ranged weapon. (since you'd not be carrying a pouch, you'd either have to use it only to kill your target, or retrieve it from every guard you killed with it)

Because of the lack of direct upwards progression, there would be far less different pieces of gear and weapons than previous games, but all of them would have wholly unique effects on gameplay. Things like your type of blade metal or the material your gear is made out of could be additional cosmetic options. (and prestige for multiplayer)

So yeah, that's most of the stuff I feel I didn't clarify or consider.

I'm not considering this as an attempt to "un-mainstream" the series, to be clear. I just don't think that either hardcore or casual audiences are as completely captivated by upwards progression as big publishers seem to think they are. I think regular people appreciate genuine options that change their experience more than they appreciate a traditional leveling treadmill. Phone games get away with it because they're meant to be distractions, but if a person has purchased an expensive gaming computer or console and is playing it on their HD TV, they're ready to be genuinely immersed in a world without the need for cheap tricks.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
My concept for gear and progression is that the Assassin is fully trained and has all their abilities, and that their starting gear is totally functional, but not very specialized. So any other gear or weapons or tools you gain access to are not meant to be more powerful, but to enable different styles of play, maybe trading off on your effectiveness at other styles. So someone could potentially stick with the hidden blade and default gear, or remove all their gear and use the phantom blade exclusively: a fast-moving ghost with a one-shot ranged weapon. (since you'd not be carrying a pouch, you'd either have to use it only to kill your target, or retrieve it from every guard you killed with it)

Because of the lack of direct upwards progression, there would be far less different pieces of gear and weapons than previous games, but all of them would have wholly unique effects on gameplay. Things like your type of blade metal or the material your gear is made out of could be additional cosmetic options. (and prestige for multiplayer)

I felt an almost unrequited-love level of Need when I read that.
That would be really, really awesome. Things like this functionally allow the player to partly design their own levels or missions. It's not so much placing limitations on yourself as it is with current AC Games (No Upgrades, No HUD, whatever) It's more about actively changing your available pool of Options from [Pool A] to [Pool C] and both of them being completely different in feel.

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I read the combat descriptions again, and I envision it in my head with a slightly closer camera-angle.
Everything just feels so right. The best thing there is the whole, no alternate control scheme in combat and out of combat.
Using your environment in combat, different enemy types actually being susceptible to different attack strategies.
How ATTACKING works (so INTENSE!) how PARRYING works, (even MORE intense!)

Fighting even a SINGLE opponent would actually become an enjoyable and deep experience.

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I guess my main actually-useful-to-developers feedback is about the most satisfying structures of upgrades and what makes poison interesting to me, lol. (In case any developers are reading this.)

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Hey, something that was cool in previous games were story missions that involved optional races: Ezio versus his brother, or Yusuf in Revelations. It's a great way to add some spice to an ordinary "go here" mission: it gives a totally different sense of urgency and fun. Plus the fact that it's not required that you win takes out the frustration that you get in "chase" missions. This also plays into the fact that I'd love if your character had a "Partner" assassin that they often scope out targets and go on missions with. The dynamic between two equally ranked masters in the field is not something often dealt with in the games. Yusuf was one of the times they did deal with it, and he was rad!

Ideally this would be a lot more recurring than Yusuf's companionship was, it felt to me like he was mostly only actually running around with you in the tutorial missions. (Same as with Bellec, which was disappointing.)

I don't want you to be with an NPC assassin every mission, but it would be nice if you kept crossing paths with one friendly character with similar abilities to yours, and perhaps his or her own personal story and equipment/outfits were progressing, just like yours.

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
I don't want you to be with an NPC assassin every mission, but it would be nice if you kept crossing paths with one friendly character with similar abilities to yours, and perhaps his or her own personal story and equipment/outfits were progressing, just like yours.

This is what my heart hoped for in terms of Arno and Elise's stories, before Unity launched. That's what I really wanted to see and play through. The few missions that delivered that feeling for me were awesome. I also wanted it to be this way because of Unity's title. I had this big theory of how Arno would sort of move away from the Assassins and Elise would sort of move away from the Templars united by their love - and while both would suffer greatly for it, they would both also spark the seeds of a possible unification of both sides. The Modern Day in Black Flag demonstrating how dangerous Sages were also supported this. Often, the Modern Day parallels the Historical Simulation. Today's Assassins and Abstergo could see how dangerous the Sages were through these memories, and decide that maybe staying alive as a human race is a bit more important.

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Yeah. I feel like the Templar-Assassin unification idea has potential (and resulted in a great story in AC3), but I think they have a lot they could do with making the sides of the conflict clear and distinct, and getting into the tone of how Assassins interact and how their politics work. Templars can still be sympathetic and interesting, but it would actually be a nice change if they were sympathetic and interesting wholly in their roles as villains, not as murky maybe-allies.

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Either way they take the story is cool, as long as they do take the story some way xD

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Calvar The Blade wrote:
the way that the assassin either magnetizes and floats to their target if they're moving during the assassination looks goofy, and so does the target stopping and moving into the correct position to play the air assassinate animation.

A lot of games with an air kill mechanic don't have that problem because it's implemented by using the kill button while pouncing on the enemy. If AC did air assassinations that way, it would also make the kills less easy than simply pressing Armed hand while on roof/hanging/crouching on ledge and letting the assassin do the rest.

Of course, some changes would have to be made because those games allow you to move in the air to position yourself right above the enemy, and the AC games never have and probably never will have that option. What I'm suggesting is the ability to see where the assassin will land from a jump, marked by some indicator on the ground/surface. You'll see where when the camera faces down and the assassin is on an elevated platform. You can control how far by how much the camera is tilted; the more it's facing down the shorter the jump.

And you won't have to rely on Analog stick to aim your jump anymore. By pressing Legs button in high profile, the assassin will jump to the exact spot of the indicator. This will need to get tested out though so that experienced players can aim their jumps efficiently while running, which gives you less time to do so.

To accompany this revamp, there should be a few different options for air interactions:
Armed hand - air assassinate.
Empty hand button - tackle (for realism, the target should take some damage).
Legs button - a knockout kick.
Analog stick - grasp in direction pointed.

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Some interesting musing upon the implications of Unity's crowds: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-05-25-beneath-assassins-creed-uni...

The care which AC puts into rendering the common people is an important metaphor, and part of why I hope their perception of you becomes more of a meaningful concern in the future.

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This is not a serious suggestion for the future of AC, but more of an idea of how the series could have begun: as-is, the animus concept was mainly used to excuse gamey things in a realistic world. It would have been interesting if instead the animus concept had been used to allow the world to be entirely unrealistic, fully themed around cyberspace visuals and such. Basic polygonal structures for buildings, abstract glowing representations of people.

It would have felt less like playing a video game and more like what actual memory-reliving technology might feel like: a hazy reconstruction of events, not a crystal clear one. And the minimalist visuals could be used to allow most of the focus to be on gameplay and performance, allow levels to be designed according to what gameplay requires rather than attempting to match period architecture.

My favorite aspect of this would be inverting memory corridors: in the game as-is, they are the place where everything fades away into animus code except for you and your target. In this version, you would stay as abstract representations but the world around you would become a realistic representation: these could be the only non-abstract visuals in the game.

The writing and VA would need to be razor-sharp, the animations would need to be expressive and heavily symbolic, and the marketing would need to lean into the mysterious angle rather than the relatable one. (history)
If they did all that and made an awesome game around it, I think it could have sold, though it would never have been as conducive to yearly sequels.

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a short thing: I don't really see the point in bothering to color code objective markers if you're just going to put the literal description of what the player is supposed to do on them. Same goes for tutorial button prompts.

When you resort to literalizing instructions, the player becomes more aware of the fact that they're being told what to do. You want them to forget that objective markers come from level designers and think of them more as their own intuition.

Mission markers are a great tool: with them you can get away with complex objectives that the average person wouldn't have easily caught on to without guidance, thus creating more challenge for the person who desires it if they are able to turn markers off in the HUD.

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Agreed - I think the only reason Objective Markers had text over them is so that the red markers wouldn't get lost in flame graphics whenever the player was around fires. The little white text is visible even through things that would obscure the marker like that. They could definitely take the text away though, and just have three "general" types of Navigate, Interact Non-Lethally, Interact Lethally.

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Other people are colorblind. Could help with that. Would be nice if the entire HUD was toggleable though. Turn on and off individual things.

Honestly though, the only thing I want from the HUD in Syndicate is for notifications to not all be in the same spot on the middle right of the screen thus covering eachother up. It's super noticeable with the Enigma and Dead Body side quests... you can't read the clue until the game finishes telling you that you have a clue and it disappears.

“To have peace there must be strife; both are part of the structure of the world and requirements.” - Ancient Egyptian Proverb

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Colorblindness is a good point. I was already considering making each marker have its own unique shape along with its color, this is just another reason to do so.

Re: getting lost in fire, that's why something like Syndicate's current objective marker works so well: green could get lost, but green and white contrast like few objects in the world will.

If each marker had its own easy to read shape + clear and contrasting coloration, I don't think there would be any problems.

And yeah, Unity's notifications were horribly placed + timed.

---

I'm not sure if I've mentioned exactly this before, but it might be interesting if the air assassination were a "charge up and release" move, both to get rid of accidental leaps into the middle of enemies, and to give it a more momentous feeling, make it something you have to physically commit to more.

This isn't like my suggestions of a lock-on or trajectory-based assassination, instead it would be the way it always was but with a required period of preparing the leap.
Enemies being able to interrupt your assassinations would make striking at the right moment even more important.

There is potential to add some sort of movement penalty while preparing, which isn't essential to the basic idea but could allow for more interesting design around this ability.

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[@Charged Air Assassinates] I Accept that. I'd like to play with that kind of mechanic. It's a powerful move considering its functions and uses, and once it's available there's no feeling of mastery involved. In Unity and Syndicate it also makes less noise than it did before, making it even more useful. A movement penalty would be acceptable, so no Sprinting, but I'd still like to be able to jog with it. That allows you to run along a rooftop, knowing that you intend to get down with an Air Assassinate, but demands you prepare and commit to it before you reach the edge. Things like that could be cool for spicing up chases.

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Actually it's pretty noisy in Unity, even with some of the upgrades. It was completely silent in Black Flag, along with most formerly noisy moves.

In syndicate we haven't really seen high profile moves that were very close to enemies or not obscured by LoS blockers, though it definitely seems like they don't have the attract range they did in AC1-3, and running also doesn't seem to draw as much attention.

To be honest, I'm ok with that. In real life experienced runners can run pretty quietly, especially in an urban environment with people around making noise, and I can buy the same being true of high profile kills by an experienced assassin. (unlike some of the old animations, Arno/Jacob/Evie don't seem to be giving their target a chance to cry out in high profile animations)

It definitely works mechanically for melee takedowns to mostly rely on line of sight stealthiness, and high profile to matter most when you're being observed. It's simpler, and simplicity is something AC games have in short supply, so that should be valued. Also, if what is quiet is easier to grasp, there's less work needed to make other sound-related things like whistling or firearm noise more meaningful.

Games with so many things in them have to pick and choose what they drill down into, and I personally think guard vision cones have always needed more attention than sound. When you get right down to it, the core of AC stealth is visual confirmation and LoS, and "Assassins are skilled at being silent" is a convenient excuse to focus more on that in the main mechanics.

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Mhm, that's reasonable. I must remind myself; simplification does not inherently lead to less depth. In actuality it can lead to even more depth - because by making things less complex up-front, you can build much deeper interactions between them all without the entire system falling to pieces.

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I'm thinking now about some things that could do with being a bit less simple, and I'm reminded of an experience I had with guns in Unity.

I had run down into a stairwell after alerting some guards, and shot the first one that came around the corner. Then the next one came around the corner, and I shot them too. Then the next one, then the next one, ect.

Like it or not, guns are a big part of the periods AC is set in at the moment, and the AI doesn't really have suitable behaviors for gunfights. They don't take cover when you start shooting, they don't try to flank you when you're defending a position well, and they don't peek around corners to try to take a quick shot at you. They prioritize fighting you at melee range even when it's been clearly established that you have a ranged weapon, unless they're a ranged guard in which case they behave like a turret, not moving from their post and only firing if you come into their line of sight.

Enemies need to adapt to how the player is engaging them, because the player has the freedom to engage however they like. They need to have access to more tactics and approaches to situations, or else they become too easy to outwit.

players versus their environment is by its nature an inequal contest, but each side still needs to have counters to everything the other side could attempt to do. The Assassin's superior navigational abilities are countered by guards being numerous and placed throughout the environment, their ability to kill at melee range is countered by the guard ability to do the same if they initiate open combat. The Assassin has all the tools to be good in a gunfight, but enemies don't have any real knowledge of how to engage on that level: most of them use guns as a slowly-charged special attack in combat or a tool to slow the player during a chase, not as a legitimate form of engaging their enemy.

Syndicate's concept of concealed weapons is good for keeping the action focused on melee, but when fights escalate enemies need to use guns more like traditional shooter enemies do. The initiative should be on the player to control the type of fight they're engaged in: to turn a shootout into a brawl where they have the upper hand. But enemies need to offer solid resistance to that.

---

Small last thing: even discounting guns, melee combat could also benefit from guards employing specific strategies and tactics for taking you down. I remember a guard line from AC2 something like "Just like we did that knight in [place], capico?". There must be many different ways a group could approach combating a single skilled individual, and if an AC game ever focused primarily on melee again, that would be a valuable thing to explore.

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The AI in Unity will also sprint right at you when you're taking cover behind a doorway no matter what. You can Cover Assassinate big numbers of them as they come to you, though they can see you're killing other guards. Enemies taking cover when you start using guns would actually be amazing, and you should likewise be able to do the same! Dodge Roll should not be the player's only available option. Both playing With Guns and playing Against Guns in AC Unity was frustrating and unfulfilling.

Enemies could take cover behind low walls and the like by reusing aspects of the player's own cover system, I think.

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Boy was that corner assassinate broken!

And yeah, my favorite "gunfight" in ACU was a mission where you get ambushed by snipers inside a house, and you can take cover at the windows and cover-hop from side to side. Basically one of the few times there's any reason to use cover like in a typical third person shooter! Though the ability to quick-shot kind of makes it really easy.

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Bringing up Quickshot and the related topic of Manual Aim, the way you Manual Aim a gun or Phantom Blade in AC U was also extremely annoying. It's unresponsive, it's nothing like the fluidity of pulling your Aim Trigger in a Third Person Shooter. And there's no excuse for that. Once the player holds L1 or Left Bumper, the transition should be as smooth as in something like TLoU or Uncharted.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Bringing up Quickshot and the related topic of Manual Aim, the way you Manual Aim a gun or Phantom Blade in AC U was also extremely annoying. It's unresponsive, it's nothing like the fluidity of pulling your Aim Trigger in a Third Person Shooter. And there's no excuse for that. Once the player holds L1 or Left Bumper, the transition should be as smooth as in something like TLoU or Uncharted.

Also, when you tried aiming around a corner/over cover, the crosshair moves completely out of the way of your intended shot. That's the biggest issue I had with it. It completely ruined stealth missions for me because it would alert everyone in the area if you f*cking missed.

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With the new controllers, why can't they use the built in accelerometers to move the crosshairs on the screen?

Surely a game can use leaning the controller to lean from cover and angling the controller to aim at the screen for manual aiming.

Are they afraid to do this because it's too much like Goldeneye on the Wii? pish posh. on that game you physically leaned the nunchuck to lean and pointed the controller at the screen to aim before pulling the trigger, and it was fun.

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Black Flag's aiming felt fine, but it also involved directly pointing the gun during the first stage of aiming, which gave it fewer frames of animation to deal with. (and meant you were always exposed while aiming except in stalking zones) They seem to be tweaking animation speeds in Syndicate so I'd expect that to feel better.

Remember that there isn't actually a "snap-to" cover system in Syndicate, it's more about direct control and stealth mode. In the video when Jacob does the corner assassination, you can see that he just does it from crouching in the right place.

if I had to guess based on that, I'd say that aiming your weapon while crouching at a corner would make you peek around it. There's no need for detailed lean control since actually leaning around and taking the shot is handled by the animation after you've pulled the trigger.

as joey said what's important is that the crosshair doesn't jump around oddly.

---

quick one: I feel like mod missions should be turned into small mid-assassination investigations that don't unlock new kill methods or whatnot, but simply give more information about the ways the player can complete the assassination. Pointing out opportunities for various simple kill opportunities that more skilled players could probably discover on their own.

Currently they're just not very friendly to new players, often serving as a challenge to do complex things they might not be ready for. Perhaps there's room for this sort of thing in AC, but it shouldn't be so prominent. Maybe pulling off difficult assassination methods could be achievements or a challenge that appears when you replay the mission?

(Hey, how about all challenges only become available on replays? Let the player decide their own methods and standards for their first playthrough)

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Jermaine Tito wrote:
Black Flag's aiming felt fine, but it also involved directly pointing the gun during the first stage of aiming, which gave it fewer frames of animation to deal with

I recently learned that this is also possible in Unity, by holding the aim button and then holding the fire button. Releasing fire will fire and releasing aim will cancel.

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Oh yeah, I found that too! I didn't mention it cause I think it's really bad control mechanic: could lead to lots of missed shots by folks who habitually hold rather than tap.

I like the way the general system in Unity allows you to judge a shot without actually pulling your gun out to see the crosshair, which is why I'd like if it were made more functional rather than scrapped.

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The design was well-intentioned, but the execution was frustrating because even the initial 'aim' without pulling the gun out had infuriating delay on it. At first it's not that bad but it really starts to get noticeable when you manual aim a lot. When you hold Left Bumper/L1, there really doesn't need to be over half a second of what FEELS like input lag before the screen starts zooming in. I would like that polished, the rest is fine.

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Something I think I briefly brought up earlier was drastically limiting the player's ability to climb, both by what seems more natural and by what suits level design. Eagle Vision has been used to highlight climbable paths in the past, and I feel this helps give a sense of how people actually climb: they plan out their route prior, rather than just throwing themselves into things.

Being limited by naturalism could also provide a reason to make ladders matter more: along with scaffolding, they are convenient excuses for climb paths in areas that would otherwise be devoid of them. Imagine if that sequence about finding a way in to the target in AC2 were a common thing you did on your own in navigation? Searching out artificial pathways that might have been placed recently, rather than a whole structure being built to be easily ascended? This is also something that could leverage a sense of place in history: throughout the story more ladders and scaffolding could open up or disappear based on what was being constructed at the time.

And then, consider the ways traditional outer-layer climbing could be combined with a genuine need to climb like the rest of us do: stairs, inside buildings. Ascending towers from both the inside and outside when appropriate, using the increased scale of the newer games to create gameplay that feels less arbitrarily constrained to any one method: a world where you're good at climbing, but sometimes opening the front door is the only real option when faced with a giant tower.

---

I won't pretend that making climbing more strictly regulated wouldn't open up a hole in the sense of freedom of expression the player feels. In some sense, they are losing that illusion of freedom: even if there are multiple paths and options, the designer's hand will be felt with more clarity.

So what that means is something else needs to happen to fill that balance: more expressiveness in horizontal movement, to make up for less in the vertical. We already have vaults and slides, jukes and jives, but they feel very contextual, actions borne more out of the will of our avatars than our own. Why not give the player more control, allow them to screw such actions up or use them incorrectly, but also give them more ownership over such actions, and allow the game to stop carrying so much of the weight with regards to guessing what the player wants.

First off, what if there were more of a sense of acceleration to running? Not that the player was sluggish to start off or imprecise to control, but that they could reach greater heights of speed the longer they spent moving optimally, with an accompanying change in animation that signaled this heightened state of running. (think about the way Mario puts his arms out at top speed, then think of the realistic "runner in her zone" version of that) What if reaching this speed also heightened your strafe ability, making it easier to dodge around crowd members (who'd slow you) at the expense of the tighter turning radius granted by lower speeds? What if simply releasing the forward input made your avatar decelerate slowly, but actually pushing the opposite direction of the one you'd been running quickly brought you to a complete stop?

^ what I just described there is a way to make the simple act of running around require more player thought, reaction, and input. But how could we add to that?

---

As I said before, vaulting is essentially an automatic behaviors that fire if you hold the right button in the correct context. If you're running directly at a window, you can't accidentally begin your vault too soon and end up perched on top of the windowsill. If you're running at a low opening, you can't accidentally begin your slide before you're close enough to go all the way underneath. How about we change that, and tie it to the system of acceleration? Make jumping an actual player-controlled action (Legs in high profile) whose height and length is affected by the speed you're moving at. This way, the player doesn't just rely on the invisible nav-grid to make jumps or not, they rely on determining their own velocity and the kind of jump arc that will provide.

This can apply to all sorts of jumping-from-flat-ground scenarios, but in the case of vaulting the player would need to be aware of the proper timing to optimally make it through that window. They might even need to perform extra calculations if they're jumping out of a second story window and aiming for an opposing rooftop or climb point. Or perhaps have to time a second jump input to coincide with hitting a wall, thus pushing backwards to reach something else, or simply mitigating fall damage. (perhaps hitting the same input again to roll upon hitting the ground?)

---

Sliding is perhaps the simplest to describe: when running, press crouch/stealth mode to enter into a slide, the length of which is determined by how fast you were going. There would be a minimum speed to initiate a slide, which would basically be "point where you're still basically moving at walking/jogging speed". This would make getting under things less of an action in itself and more of the result of an action, and would require being "under a thing" to be a mode in which you could freely move around while crouched, rather than something inaccessible when not sliding.

TL;DR: Climbing points being rationed out more rarely, naturalistically, and purposefully by level designers, and highlighted with eagle vision. (plus more use of the ways normal people climb stuff) --- Running, jumping, and sliding that all work essentially the way it does in Super Mario Bros, applied to an urban 3D environment and with a bunch of tweaks and additions that suit the context and gameplay demands of AC.

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A good time period they could choose for a "revamped" AC would be the prehistoric TWCB setting they teased in Unity. It would be a perfect setting to go back to basics in terms of mechanics and tools, as well as being perfect for dropping the animus layer since there would be so much potential sci-fi weirdness with TWCB.

And perhaps most importantly it could be a fresh start for beginning a new connected historical narrative, set way before any previous protagonists, with many thousands of years of history between there and Altair. About 68,000 years, in fact.

The Assassins and Templars wouldn't have to conform to the strict separation we saw in the crusades: it would make sense for them to be called something different... or perhaps even begin as one organization? The name "Assassin's Creed" could still apply, as you'd be assassinating targets, but what if they weren't all connected, at least in the same ways as before?

It could make for an entirely different kind of stories, where the lore of TWCB is more integrated and immediately relevant: remember that they stuck around for a very long time before dying out completely, which is where many of our myths and legends came from. Imagine stories that revolve around the beginning of those myths? Where the philosophy of Assassin and Templar is represented as interpersonal conflict within your own organization, rather than being a literal conflict?

There's basically potential to completely change everything about the series without needing to reboot it.

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I wonder how people might react to these games treating their missions more as self-contained challenges and less as chapters in a directly connected story? Like, it would make sense for multiple assassins to be assigned to a different thing when hunting a target. AC1 basically says that's how it works. If there's something to steal and get more info, someone does it. If there's something to blend into the crowd and overhear, someone else does it. And then someone does the actual assassination.

If you were one of those people, doing one of those three things per target and not always getting to be the one who brings something to its conclusion, it might feel a bit more like a job. The kind of job it is ostensibly like for every Assassin except us, in all previous games. I wonder if people would like that, or if they absolutely want it to feel more like an adventure, where you're basically doing everything by yourself, for yourself, or at least get to lead every step of the way.

I feel like the structure and feel of a job might better fit the main path of AC, with things like interacting with secondary characters and learning the impact of your actions being something you do when exploring the open world, rather than as part of these focused missions, which often end up making your character's personal drama feel like the center of everything.

It would be interesting to scout out a target for an assassin, and then have the option to hang out with them later and talk about their successful kill, and vice-versa. Or for an unsuccessful assassination to permanently kill off an assassin you might have hung out with or worked against a target with before.

Right now, there's little sense of real camaraderie between you and other assassins. They never really feel like co-workers, at best they feel like helpers or static quest-givers. I think it would be interesting if that changed, by focusing the main path on the experience of working in an order rather than being primarily about your own personal journey.

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I'd like to see this kind of thing be tried.
As it is now, a lot of the main path in AC games feels disingenuous or implausible. It breaks the illusion, if you will.
I would like to see a return to that sort of job-based system. However, to nail it, it has to deliver an enhanced sense of Consequence. If you complete it a certain way as opposed to another, things should change for the Assassin whose task is to kill that target. They need not be massive changes. An extra quote or two, or subtle little things shifting, the way they might in Dishonored or Mass Effect is what I envision.

Naturally, this structure also makes Assassinations that the player is given much more weight. It makes them a more colossal task stretching out in front of you. Assassinations are AC's analogue to Boss Fights. Yet in recent entries, they don't fill me with as much anxiety (in a good way) as they used to. I'd be happy if that soft sense of dread returned.

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as far as motivation/tension/dread, I envision the philosophy behind assassination/related missions to be somewhat like the approach the Hitman games take, where each mission is entirely focused on presenting you a scenario to succeed in, with little to no focus on tying it directly to past missions or future ones. Again, if you think of it as a shift at a job, makes sense.

Less need for elaborate presentational things like super specific dialogue and choreographed cutscenes bookending the mission, resources that can be put into having the open world and optional NPC interactions be where connection between the missions and the context of them is elaborated on.

It would be interesting if you didn't get another mission for an in-game day after your last (except after a sequence transition, which would probably skip a longer amount of time forward) meaning you would either be able to go around engaging with the activities or go to a bureau to sleep and instantly be at the next day. Would give a more believable sense of time passing than running directly from mission to mission does, as well as give the player better-defined "mess around" breaks. Length of wait between missions could be messed with to drive sense of greater or less urgency/immediacy, as well as an interruption of the schedule being used to dramatic effect.

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As far as motivation/tension/dread, I envision the philosophy behind assassination/related missions to be somewhat like the approach the Hitman games take, where each mission is entirely focused on presenting you a scenario to succeed in, with little to no focus on tying it directly to past missions or future ones.

I worry about an approach like this in Assassin's Creed. I fear that taking an approach so ruthlessly atomic without consideration for the holistic would really make each mission feel like it didn't matter in the design of the overall game. There should be some kind of narrative element in missions, or else the whole "missions are gameplay, open world is story" separation will feel too Artificial. This in-mission narrative element should absolutely not be done through scripting or cutscenes, but guard chatter, environmental storytelling, and player-directed gameplay. Older Hitman already does a lot of this. In older/classic Hitman the player is never interrupted after the mission's beginning and before its end. The player should stumble upon the story or seek it out, rather than it being put into their mouth by spoon. Most importantly, the player should be free to engage with or disengage from the in-mission story whenever they like. Things like guard chatter are good for this because a guard can be removed or moved away from at any time. If Dishonored is a bad example (I don't think it is) then Dark Souls' item descriptions and world visuals would be a better one, but in the self-contained job-like format of Hitman. Essentially, I want the "level select"-y nature of what you propose in terms of gameplay, but I wouldn't sacrifice the connection it has to the game world and storytelling. I understand that the reason I like Dishonored so much is because even with its fantastical powers being way too strong, the entire world of the game feels consistent and cohesive. Everything in this Fantasy game makes more sense than most "realistic" games do. AC has never had this sense of consistency - not that the Animus really harmed it. Used correctly, the Animus concept could have really helped the designers develop a more consistent universe. It was obviously used incorrectly, hence why there's much discussion of axing it (which I'm not 100% opposed to given how much trouble it evidently causes). Having storytelling exclusively through environments, guard chatter and thoughtful item placement would make the game world feel more cohesive and consistent without opposing your vision, I think.

Less need for elaborate presentational things like super specific dialogue and choreographed cutscenes bookending the mission, resources that can be put into having the open world and optional NPC interactions be where connection between the missions and the context of them is elaborated on.

This, I agree with. More cake, less icing, please. Throw the player into a mission where they're free to discover their own amount of story through exploration, disrupting the game world, listening to as much or as little ambient conversation as they please. This lets their consumption of story be self-directed. The open world has its elaboration and interactions - but the individual mission design is not be lowered or compensated on just to emphasize the open world. The emphasis is always on the completion of the task given, and the many different ways this can be done - if the player is skilled enough. Ideally both coexist. In-mission story is consumed by intentionally exploring or overhearing, whereas out-of-mission story is consumed by experiencing more "traditional" storytelling methods found in games.

It would be interesting if you didn't get another mission for an in-game day after your last (except after a sequence transition, which would probably skip a longer amount of time forward) meaning you would either be able to go around engaging with the activities or go to a bureau to sleep and instantly be at the next day. Would give a more believable sense of time passing than running directly from mission to mission does, as well as give the player better-defined "mess around" breaks. Length of wait between missions could be messed with to drive sense of greater or less urgency/immediacy, as well as an interruption of the schedule being used to dramatic effect.

An idea I agree with so much, I don't want to change anything about it. It almost begs thinking about why this hasn't been put into AC games already!

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It almost begs thinking about why this hasn't been put into AC games already!

I suspect the thinking is an attempt to reduce as much friction as possible between the player and progress. But I feel like this would be a welcome form of friction to most folks who are not speedrunners. (in most cases I think that things that bug speedrunners are things that should be considered, but when it comes to pacing and world consistency they're a little biased in ways normal players are not.)

---

Assassin's Creed Syndicate is introducing many things, four of which are concealed/innocuous-looking weapons, drivable physics-based vehicles, a (seemingly) GTA-ish wanted system, and a gadget that aids the player in bridging larger gaps and scale tall buildings.

All four of these things are focused on making gameplay make sense within a more modern era: display of obvious weapons became unacceptable for civilians, traffic was an integral part of urban life, the police were more defined, better organized, and had more at their disposal. Buildings got taller, and as cities began to be planned out more thoroughly ahead of time, streets became wider and more uniform, with "blocks" becoming essentially islands of more tightly-packed alleys and roofs.

All of these things are a big development investment to make for Assassin's Creed. These things won't exist for a single game, and it's possible that a future game is what justified so much progress being made on the basic elements of how assassins could fit into a more modern world.

I feel like these elements are signs pointing towards an Assassin's Creed game set in near-contemporary times. Perhaps after this one, perhaps after the next. Carriages might not be cars, but they're a kind of driving model that could probably be the basis for many other types of transportation. Carrying a revolver inside your coat is a far slimmer leap: that could fit into pretty much any time period in the last hundred years. The police are similar: they drive cars already (carriages) and carry batons and guns, how much tweaking is really necessary?

TL;DR: I expect this half of the "Juno" arc to get closer and closer to the modern day, while remaining in period settings. Building on these new elements and tweaking them through the 20s, the 50s, the 70s, with the conclusion somewhere in there. Then after that, they strip out all those modern elements (except perhaps the basic driving framework and the structure of the "wanted" level) and go back to gadget-free parkour in an ancient time. Perhaps beginning with the pre-TWCB-exctinction post-great-catastrophe period that I suggested.

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in most cases I think that things that bug speedrunners are things that should be considered, but when it comes to pacing and world consistency they're a little biased in ways normal players are not.

The two things any speedrunner wants the most are these:

1. All cutscenes are skippable.
2. The game is interesting to run. That means the general movement has to be fun.

Something like going to the Bureau to make it the next day isn't really a problem. It's part of the game.

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161803398874989 wrote:
in most cases I think that things that bug speedrunners are things that should be considered, but when it comes to pacing and world consistency they're a little biased in ways normal players are not.

The two things any speedrunner wants the most are these:

1. All cutscenes are skippable.
2. The game is interesting to run. That means the general movement has to be fun.

Something like going to the Bureau to make it the next day isn't really a problem. It's part of the game.

I meant to include people who are trying to play quickly but not legit speedrunning in that category, as well as people who enjoy running more traditionally-structured games. Obvs the AC speedrun community is its own niche w/ its own tolerance levels.

Ideally cutscenes within the main path would be limited to short establishing shots and transitions, and thus unskippable. Optional activities could have longer cutscenes, and also be unskippable since you went out of your way to view them.

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Unless it's the opening cinematic or the ending cinematic, I strictly disagree with having unskippable cutscenes. It helps no one. It makes repeated replays of a section or the whole game more tedious. It's irrational to be forced to watch them on a repeat run when something like "hold down the action button to Skip" exists in other games. It's no skin off anyone's back to implement. No one's ever skipped a cutscene from Dishonored unintentionally, as a great example. The spinning gauge that tells you how close you are to cutting the scene short is very clear, moves slowly, and the button can be released early enough even in the case of a mistake.

I'd make an exception to this if the cutscenes were indeed so short that by the time your Skip prompt were validated, the cutscene were already finished - but only then.

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I am talking about 5-7 second cutscenes that do not repeat when you reset the mission, but do play when you replay it.

their purpose being to highlight patrol paths and the general shape of the environment, similar to the things in AC2's tombs but bigger in scale.

Dishonored's cutscenes were about talking, and generally long and uninteresting.

So instead, cutscenes developed under the assumption that they are efficiently delivering useful information, and are thus in some ways part of the level design. You can't skip level design.

And then the optional kind, developed under the assumption that you sought them out because they were interesting to you, and that you care about the lines being spoken and expressions being made, combined to create an approximation of humans conversing, and thus in some ways similar to attending a play. You can't skip a play if you are attending it live, unless you leave. Leaving is simulated by turning off your video game device or exiting the game.

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A better way of putting it, thank you. That's sensible then, I've no problem with that.

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Jermaine Tito wrote:
I am talking about 5-7 second cutscenes that do not repeat when you reset the mission, but do play when you replay it.

their purpose being to highlight patrol paths and the general shape of the environment, similar to the things in AC2's tombs but bigger in scale.

This is much better done using a map (in the menu of course, minimaps are for weenies). That way you can access the information at any time and you don't have to sit there for 6 seconds every time you play a mission you've played a million times already. Trust me, those 6 seconds get unbelievably annoying after a while. I know the layout of the level after playing it twice, you don't need to keep telling me what it looks like.

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Maps are a layer of abstraction, not the same thing. I'd imagine that every aspect of the entire game gets annoying after enough playthroughs. People skip tutorials when the option is available to them.

Skipping that intro cutscene could interfere with timing, since the world would be moving in real-time. Best to keep it simple.

I like when a few small things are intentionally not optimizable. It's not my world, it's something someone else created. I can sit still for a few moments and appreciate that.

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Thinking more about mission variety and not always being the main driving force, sometimes contributing to something bigger.

I've been watching a show called "The Americans" about Russian sleeper agents in America in the 80s. As spies, they are tasked with doing a whole lot of different things. Manipulating people, taking out targets, planting bugs, receiving messages, ect. They perform these wide varieties of morally questionable activities for the purpose of furthering the KGB's interests in various ways. The point isn't always to kill people, and in fact that's often a sign of things going bad, because they want to keep a low profile, and quite simply dead people are often less valuable than living ones, if the living ones are blissfully unaware of what's really going on.

In Assassin's Creed, killing seems to always be the ultimate solution and point. This is because it's simpler to structure a video game like that, and because the name of the game unfortunately brings a certain expectation. But I think it's clear that as an organization, the Assassins share more in common with spies than contract killers. They do a lot of the same varied and dramatically-interesting things spies do, but we as players are often kept out of that, or given only a taste of it until it leads us to someone who must be killed.

Perhaps it's not enough for us to see different perspectives of an Assassination, or be involved only in the preparation. Perhaps an AC game that fulfills the idea of being an HBO-style prestige series needs more variation in goals, more focus on missions that represent what life would be like for a covert agent in this time, rather than overriding it with a homogeneous ideal of How Assassins Are. Assassinations can still be highlighted and important and numerous, but in a show like The Americans they aren't the thing that's being built up to all the time. They are exciting moments, but they are not the most dramatically-charged ones.

Perhaps AC's problem with endings comes from the fact that the act of intentionally killing a target in a capable and well-considered way is a moment of power and release of tension, from a narrative standpoint. They almost always try to make you feel disempowered or hindered in some way at the final assassination, to change that, but I feel like only AC3 really pulled it off. It put you through an oppressively scripted mission, and slowed you to a crawl. You did not feel like an apex predator when Connor killed Charles Lee, and Charles Lee did not feel like a mustache-twirling villain. It was a low-key and dramatically poignant confrontation, but it had to do so much work to get there, to the point where a lot of people didn't find it fun.

What if low-key moments where we regard someone across a table and try to communicate with or manipulate them were one of many varied moments that were fully a part of gameplay? Instead of requiring a cutscene, if the idea of varied tones of legitimate gameplay used for dramatic effect were a key part of the series. If the final mission of the game weren't an assassination mission at all, but still allowed for player expression and skill and interesting systems to engage with? Planting a note on someone could be a set-piece if the controls for doing that subtly were interesting enough. Turning someone over to the Assassin side could be a set-piece if the mechanics for doing that were intuitive and not about reaching dead-ends in a dialogue tree.

This series could be used to encapsulate the entire breadth of the spy experience in these historical periods, all while keeping its core gameplay intact. It could be freer to tell stories that don't suit constant breaks for stabbing. It's another reason why a yearly series hurts these games: they're only really capable of being about a contract killer dressed as a spy, because a spy who often kills people requires more time and resources to simulate.

(I haven't fully explained what I'd like to see due to time contraints, but I thing I've communicated the general idea of what I've been thinking about.)

the posts a bit guy