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

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I would prefer Assassin's Creed evolve into a series like that, yes. Being more multi-dimensional is the right path. Assassin's Creed games now are all tried-and-true repetitions of the same Experience, which is merely okay at best because on the one hand I enjoy that gameplay. On the other hand, it bears arguing that it's stale, and that it needs an injection of variety.

I'd happily wait three years, if necessary, to have Assassin's Creed better encapsulate the feeling of being an Assassin. Right now, the game feels cookie-cutter, in that we know exactly what to expect when we put in the disc. The AC formula, while successful, is after all a formula. And at the risk of sounding redundant, using a formula is the quickest way to becoming formulaic. This is what's happened.

AC at the moment is very one-dimensional, because we've mastered the skills necessary to play these games back in AC1 or AC2, and the additional tools, gadgets and gameplay mechanisms bolted on only serve as small "shots" of variety. They're not giving us an entirely new "drink," so to speak.

Someone once claimed that the basis of Fun is Learning. When we are no longer encouraged to Learn and Discover new things, because we can consistently fall back on the same tactics or experiences, Assassin's Creed begins to feel chore-like.

I'd like to see other facets of the Assassin organization. I'd like to see an AC game where we have our Main Protagonist, but we occasionally Switch Bodies to other Assassins that have other roles. What I mean is, the Protagonist, if at Master Assassin rank, would not rationally be forced to deal with low-level Assassin work. These supporting playable characters don't need as much attention or development as the main character, but they serve as a way to give us a variety of experiences without shattering the Protagonist's characterization. Switching characters for some missions allows us to see different elements of the Assassin experience in the same game, while upholding consistency with its fiction. One Master Assassin and one Novice Assassin is enough. In fact, this is likely what Syndicate is already attempting with the Evie/Jacob dichotomy - and hopefully the variance of mission types the two will get.

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I think that could work. If the "Master Assassin" were in fact a person solely dedicated to taking out targets, and those were the only times you played as them.

But what would be most interesting to me is if they contextualized the role of "Master Assassin" as someone who is simply an elite spy handling dangerous situations of all kinds. I'm not just talking about us getting to do different kinds of things, I'm talking about us doing different things that are all framed as equally vital to the success of the brotherhood, rather than small things in service of "the only thing that matters": killing a guy. On The Americans, the protagonists are two of the most skilled operatives in their organization. The KGB does not use them for low-level stuff, but they also don't wait around until they have a mission that explicitly requires killing someone. Kills are often needed, but usually to preserve the secrecy of the op, rather than because the person they're killing is the key that will solve a big problem if they're dead. The concept of "not compromising the brotherhood" isn't really dealt with systemically in the AC games, but in The Americans it is a constant concern and drives so much of the plot.

I guess I want a more sensical kind of operating structure for the brotherhood, one that seems less explicitly defined by the name of their organization and this series.

I appreciate that Syndicate seems to be trying to showcase two different types of Assassin, but I feel like the issue is that they will likely be applied to very similar tasks in terms of mechanics. Jacob is a reckless smooth-talker, but you likely won't be able to con your way in to restricted areas with your rougish charm. Evie is a focused master of stealth, but she probably won't have any greater motivation to stay out of fights than Jacob does. Who knows, we'll see how they do it.

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Right, right... The worst fear I have for Syndicate is that the two characters do not differ from each other enough and just feel like different skins or costumes for the same Player-controlled Agent.

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we talk a lot about freedom of approach, but we also do kind of want the context of a mission to dictate our rules of engagement to some extent, don't we? If every mission is free to approach in the same ways with no unique layer or challenge to it, it contributes to the feeling of homogeneity.

Ideally, you could make two assassins with the exact same abilities feel very different just based on the contexts you find them in.

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A strong point. Freedom of approach only becomes meaningful if the Context being approached is intelligently built to begin with. It's the feeling of, "Wow, I could have gone this way!?" versus the feeling of, "I can just kill this guy however I want so I'll just get on this rooftop and shoot him in the head in four seconds, then leave."

About making two similar Assassins feel unique based on context; it's cool that you bring that up as a possibility for Syndicate because if that's a route they take, I'd love to compare it with Dishonored 2 and see which works better.

Dishonored 2 is doing the opposite. It has the player experiencing the exact same campaign with the exact same scenarios no matter which Character they select at the beginning of the game. Because their Power-Sets are different and the ways they react to the game world in spoken lines are unique, the final experience will feel very different for the player depending on which Character they've chosen to inhabit.

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Dishonored's approach is definitely interesting. The concept of supernatural powers gives them a lot of room to play around with the kind of options you have.

I think that's where my thoughts about the other types of subterfuge comes in: since Assassins are fairly grounded as people, we need to look to things that are related to less physical and more performative skills. More involved social stealth, picking up/dropping off dead drops, interrogation, ect, as an equivalent to teleporting.

And as I mentioned before, that gives the advantage of expanding the potential dramatic tone. Dishonored gives you all these supernatural tools which give more options for sneaking and killing, which means everything is still focused on options within the limited box of sneaking and killing. Dishonored is very focused, wheras AC has always been about sprawling environments. It makes sense for your exploration of that large environment to take on a wider variety of tones and subject matter. Optional stuff can help, but the main through-line needs to keep people excited to see what happens next. And having the ability to pace drama properly is essential to that.

It would be much simpler if AC had Dishonored's structure, as it would be easier to create the tone through level/art design rather than your actions within it.

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Agreed. Dishonored's levels aren't open world, they're individual levels packed with opportunity. It's impossible to bring the same level of detail and possibility to a massive open world city without overworking everyone or radically redefining the gameplay types you have available. We've been focusing on the more plausible scenario, redefining AC's gameplay types.

Now, first of all, Ubisoft is enamored with their Three Pillars - Social Stealth, Parkour, Combat.

What should calm them is that they don't need to move away from those pillars in order to deliver on your vision. Enhance all three with various branches and methods. Keep the Three Pillars. Flesh them out in a systemic, comprehensive manner rather than changing their flavoring or sprinkling them with the spice of new gadgets that all cover the same Function.

The main design philosophy behind the Three Pillars (call it The One Pillar if you feel all Epic) is the following: For each possibility, there needs to be an appropriate Response by the game. This is something Dishonored excels at, that is not limited to Level-Based design. If two different expressions of Player Agency yield the exact same game-response, they're no longer engaging, and become dead weight.

A quick example would be;
- Rope Launcher parkour versus Regular Parkour.
If Regular Parkour is Silent and draws no attention in terms of sound, but is slower (easier to detect Visually)
AND
If Rope Launcher Parkour is Noisy and draws attention, but is much faster (harder to detect Visually)

That's a good start. If both methods yielded the exact same response (both are silent, both draw no attention OR both draw attention) then the choice becomes so easy for the player to make that they don't feel they've made serious investment in their choice.

I recently felt the weight of investment in one of my gameplay choices when I replayed Dishonored last night. I was in the Flooded District where Daud's assassins were waiting for me. There was one crouched on the edge of a rooftop and I didn't want to kill him, but I did want to sleep dart him. I wondered if sleep darting him would cause him to tumble off the rooftop and truthfully die. I was conflicted because I knew for a fact that if I tried to navigate past him without sleep darting him, I could spare his life but he might see me. Eventually, I decided that I'd risk sleep darting him. He fell off the rooftop and died. I used the Heart on his corpse to make myself feel extra regret xD

Unique Game-Responses for different Player-Actions.

Social Stealth can branch out into

  • Disguises
  • Dialogue
  • Appropriate Actions (we already have this one in AC)
  • Obstruction Stealth ("classic" stealth - we already have this in AC... SORT of :/ )

Parkour can branch out into

  • Bare-Handed
  • Rope Launcher / Tool of the Year (R.Launcher, Hookblade, etc.)
  • High Profile
  • and Low Profile

High/Low Profile draw more or less attention, make more or less noise while climbing, but climb quicker or slower. This is more for games that do not have the Rope Launcher, because hopefully the Launcher/Bare Hands climbing split already achieves the same purpose in Syndicate.

Combat can branch out into

  • Low Damage Weapon but High Speed, Harder to Counter With, Higher DPS Overall [For Experts]
  • High Damage Weapon but Low Speed, Easier to Counter With, Lower DPS Overall [For Beginners]
  • Vanish and Re-Enter Stealth

The key, the absolute key is that all of these things should seldom cover so much of each other's bases that some become redundant or useless. If a tool will be unused 90% of the time, cut it out of the game and redesign that 10% where it would be used. Likewise, if a tool is used a lot, it means there's something about it that's enjoyable. It can be tweaked, but try to keep what makes it enjoyable.

Unique Game-Responses for different Player-Actions.

I think combat itself needs an overhaul. It's a bit nasty that combat is its own minigame or "mode" separate from the rest of Assassin's Creed. The movement system you're locked into once combat begins, the way all your buttons now do different things, how your Assassin feels so much more rigid and non-Assassin-like/graceful in combat, etc. it's not the best approach in my opinion. Stealth and Navigation are indistinguishable at a glance in AC games, they cohere, but Combat is inconsistent with the mechanics of the other two Pillars.

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Yeah, you're definitely on to something. Well articulated!

To add a bit more to the discussion of what the game consists of, I suppose an alternative to doubling down on all aspects of covert operations would be to have a character who is actually a contract killer, paid for by the Assassins (and/or Templars?) rather than being a true believer. Go entirely the other way with it, narrowing the scope of the story but tightening up the thematic consistency.

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Yes! A stellar idea, that one. There's nothing saying the Assassins don't outsource sometimes, nevermind that they do have a fancy for getting the job done themselves. Honestly, anything Ubisoft could do to broaden and expand the characterization of the Factions rather than individual Characters would be amazing. Not to say that individual Characters shouldn't have strong characterization, they seriously should - but the Assassins, Templars and whatever else they decide to include (Erudito, Instruments, First Civ, etc.) should also be expanded upon.

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Black Flag was kind of touching on the idea of showing more of the Assassins/Templars by viewing them from the outside, but it was concerned with Edward actually ending up being part of one or the other by the end of the story. If you had an experienced and hardened character who doesn't see that as a possibility, and they have codified this/these group(s) as nothing more than potential employers, then that's a more consistent "from the outside" viewpoint.

Also, good excuse to move away from stylized hoods and into fully period-appropriate garb, though of course that should be the case with regular assassins and templars outside of ritualistic stuff. (I thought Unity's thing of the Assassin leaders only wearing classic robes when initiating Arno was awesome, but wished they'd committed to that)

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When talking about social exploration, I brought up GTA. In those games, mingling with normal people is done through explicit minigames and side-missions.

Recently I remembered exactly why I love exploring these games so much. They create these beautiful worlds and fill them with people going about their day. They have a seductive aural layer: whether it's the babble of the crowd or other noises in the environment, or an atmospheric free-roam soundtrack.

I have spent more than 1000 hours playing Assassin's Creed games. The reason for that is not because they have an inexhaustible supply of missions or activities, but because when I'm done with those, I have a huge contiguous environment to explore. And I don't really explore because I'm hoping to find a mini-game or intense personal drama. I think I and a lot of other people are just trying to feel like we are part of this world, like we belong.

For that reason, perhaps mini-games and citizen-focused sidequests aren't the solution. Perhaps what we need is more ways to feel like we belong in the simulated world that already exist, rather than abstracting another form of mission over that world. Maybe that's missing the strengths of the environment. Maybe framing missions as so discrete and special does that too. Perhaps the entire idea of a mission being defined by a beginning state, with a cutscene of any kind, is a bad idea? Cutscenes can exist, but what if they were less predictable in the ways they appeared? A more natural part of existing in this world.

Something else GTA has is a button that allows you to say something to the person nearest to you. What you say is dependent on your character and the context, and can lead to a pleasant response, a person becoming scared of you, or getting mad and trying to fight you. What if the "whistle" function were something you could do out of stealth mode, and when not in a restricted area would simply be a line of dialogue?

Perhaps we could have more things like the ability Arno has to drink tea in his cafe and relax on his balcony, and less things like playing bocce with George Washington.

TL;DR: An Assassin's Creed game where free-roaming and advancing the main path feels less strictly separate and more natural to transition between. Where missions feel like they're part of the simulation, not something that has just be generated. Obviously you don't want the player to kill the target before they accept the mission, but what if there was evidence of that target existing in free-roam? If they all existed in secure locations, surrounded by an impenetrable setup of guards until the vulnerable moment you are assigned to take advantage of? And you could walk into the cafe across the street, sit down at the table, and drink tea while wondering what that target is doing right now. There would be no mechanical point to all of this, other than making everything feel constantly present and tangible. A less content-centric way of allowing people to explore other aspects of the world than violence

EDIT: I should say, I feel like Unity's direction with the crowd is good. people having their own little dramas that you can follow, more of them that persist longer. What we need are more ways to feel like you can be part of those little stories, in small, simple ways. In AC2 I longed for that, but the most intimate interaction you could have with a civillian was grabbing them and beating them up. I feel like a lot of people have hit that wall, without really knowing what they were looking for. And crowd events as homogenous opportunities to violently interact just puts up another wall. Makes the world feel hollow when it should feel humbling. It's always undervalued when games find time to be quiet.

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something I really liked in Unity was the tactile experience of going through robespierre's notes/books and reading various things, in that one mission. Arno physically picked up the object and the camera moved to an angle that showed it off while keeping him in frame, then the text popped up in the UI. It's not a cutscene, but a combination of camera angles and animations specific to reading off an object that exists in the world.

In pretty much all of the rest of the game, whether it's mission critical stuff or collectible newspapers/letters, it just brings up the UI screen. That's not interesting, it's actually somewhat alienating. What was wonderful about those notes in robespierre's tent was that there was individual care put into making them each look like a specific object. Black flag touched on some of this with edward having a lot of unique animations for picking up collectibles, but as with Unity's chest animation the repetition wore thing. Within that tent though, there was exactly the amount of individual care that would need to be applied to an entire game.

I think one of the most valuable things for creating an AC world that is fun to exist in is to make sure that every possible player verb is fun to repeat over and over. Simply allowing you to sit down at places is a standard thing, but if the animation for it were varied, the camera angles it created intriguing, if you could use it creatively to either roleplay or carry out actual strategy, then that potentially adds an extra hour that someone will want to just mess around in this virtual city.

this idea can be applied to stabbing someone, pushing your way through a crowd, petting an animal, pretty much anything that seems small on its own.

enjoying the experience of interaction and resulting feedback is the most potent side content. It's the kind of polish that casts rays of sunshine over the "real" content. Kind of thing people don't appreciate unless it's not there.

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I do hope animal-assisted assassinations become an actual encouraged strategy in some future AC, more so than having to slowly lead them to a target.

So here's my idea. You get an item that attracts predatory animals. Not sure if it's gonna be like the AC3 bait or some kind of attracting pheromones, but that's not important. Things like that don't get explained much anyway. You throw it and all animals from a distance away are lured to that spot. Can also be used as a breadcrumb trail (just imagine leading an animal around an obstacle and to a mission target).

Now that we got that down, time to explain the situations of running into animals. Outside cities, some animals are roaming about like usual, but most are in there homes (caves, dens). You'll know they are in there because of the minimap. Usually they don't come out unless an NPC gets close, but that's what the lure is for.

Now for inside cities. I was thinking that in some places, people will own animals in cages. You will be able to open the cage from a safe distance away by shooting the lock off. This is also a good excuse for exotic caged animals because you would expect only native animals living outside cities. So you can have the scenario of a tiger, elephant, rhino, gorilla running amuck in a European city.

I expect the animal AI to be a little different than the usual AC3 and 4 animals. When the animal spots a target, it approaches slowly and when it gets close enough, charges for a kill. If the NPC doesn't detect the animal by the time it charges, he's dead. If he does, a fight ensues.

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Assassin's Creed needs a level maker.

I mean, Super Mario Bros now has an entire GAME for it. A full retail Super Mario Maker game.

The cool thing with the Mario Maker is that you have to beat your own level yourself in order to publish it. Which is why this guy spent 9 hours yesterday beating a level he designed over 5 hours - so it could get published as beatable: http://www.twitch.tv/pangaeapanga/v/17151251

Granted, there aren't levels, per say, in AC. So a "beat your own level before it's published" model wouldn't work.

But I'm sure if you got to design your own environment/scenarios and publish it for others to play, Ubi could charge like $1.99 to upload your level. This would be one way to screen uploaded content.

Ideally, you could create a playground to use in Unity's multiplayer co-op mode as well. Some people would design their home towns, while others would try to create impenetrable fortresses. Perhaps you can design a building with a "climbability" score on each surface where 0 = cannot climb, 5 = easy to climb (3 would be possible if you choose the right route, 1 would be only one route to do it, and it can be hard to pull off, etc), and the game renders the actual elements for you (hand holds, window sills, etc) so the designer doesn't have to do all that on their own and can work on global design and not minutia.

Just some thoughts after seeing Super Mario Maker in stores and that video.

“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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There are Missions/Memories in AC, so that would be the equivalent of Levels. Clear your own Memory in order to let it be Published. The model still works, it's just framed differently. No need for payment! ^.^ If a Memory can't be cleared, it can't be published.

Assassin's Creed isn't nearly as Open World as it wants us to think it is, so a mission-based upload structure is good. If we do want to be publishing tiny open world playgrounds, they would work the way Dishonored's Open Levels or MGS Ground Zeroes' Camp Omega do. They'd be a large area or mission space with a clear Goal but room for free, player-directed gameplay. That would also work, and I'd love to have that in the future.

I really like your idea for a big-picture, global design philosophy in the hands of the players. I would still appreciate being able to place handholds directly - but the difficulty-based number automation system should be there for sure, for people who just want to make a level and make sure it works first and foremost.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
I really like your idea for a big-picture, global design philosophy in the hands of the players. I would still appreciate being able to place handholds directly - but the difficulty-based number automation system should be there for sure, for people who just want to make a level and make sure it works first and foremost.

Exactly! Two modes:
1 - Let us generate random paths.
2 - Add your own paths.
(3 - Edit the randomly generated paths that we came up with to make it harder or easier).

It would be awesome to also have the same climbability/difficulty score generated for a path you've built as you are building it. "If I place this hold here, it's a 3, but 3 blocks to the left it's a 4, and 5 blocks over it's impossible with normal game mechanics..."

“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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I've said it before and I would love a level creator in AC. To be able to put down some structures, create a little courtyard or something, spawn a target and some guards, plan out patrol routes and upload the results so everyone can play it, that would be amazing. I would love to see what impossible assassination missions this community could come up with, then challenge each other to beat it without being detected and as fast as possible.

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I feel like the current gameplay/moveset is too static to design fun levels for without the aid of detailed scripting and triggers. (scripting referring to things like AI pathing and unique kill stuff, not linear explosions)

Making gameplay more dynamic should be first priority, as user-generated content dies fast if only the truly dedicated can make anything entertaining. And what I mean by dynamic is more situations where the drama and excitement is created by interacting systems rather than completely leaning on level design.

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Makes sense. No one wants a Level Editor that wouldn't be enjoyable to use without blowing it up into a million different mandatory Tabs; it'd defeat the purpose of encouraging fan creativity. Level Creation should, however, be something Ubisoft holds onto. There's demand for it. Capitalism ergo Game Development. I don't think it's just us, I see this thrown around other Forums periodically.

As for more dynamic gameplay, I want that for Assassin's Creed more than ever after playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Take that as you will, both interpretations are equally valid. There are parts of this game that are so organic, so fluid - and there are others that, after 100 hours of playtime (which I have accrued) become shallow. However, I can deal with that seeming lack of depth because MGS V compromises on it to provide more Clarity. When first streaming it, I spoke aloud, "This is the Assassin's Creed game I never knew I wanted." There's less freedom of movement, but it gets everything else AC stumbles over so, so right. There are good things to look into with Metal Gear Solid V when we consider what you said about gameplay not falling so heavily on the Level Design. There's so little Level Design to speak of in MGSV. They made two large Maps filled with logical structure layouts that you may or may not be able to climb or use as cover. Yet the pseudo-random patrol patterns of the guards, and the two or three reactions they can have to what you Do, are enough to achieve what the game wants to.

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yeah, it seems perfectly logical for a game about historical tourism to require less design work from the environments, in service of just making it feel more like the place it is imitating.

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I had an interesting idea just now. I was playing Syndicate and was at the docks by the Thames river, the foghorns of the ships sounding off while a woman sang a song about a man being married to a mermaid or some such. I thought her voice was cool, and the lyrics told an interesting story, so for the first time in an AC game, I was totally enthralled by the intended atmosphere of this part of the city. I stood there and waited for her to finish her song, and it was wrapped up quite quickly by the time I arrived. For only a few seconds, I was totally THERE, and enjoying myself while playing a game in a way I thought I could only enjoy myself in real life.

That's when my idea hit me.

What if in future games, we were given back the Throw Money ability? What if, after you finish listening to a song, you could Throw Money on the floor near where the people were singing, and they would thank you? Finally, and here's the real kicker, what if after you do this, the game logs that action somewhere unseen and starts having that song, or similar songs be sung MORE throughout the city? Eventually, by you "tipping" the buskers, you would start hearing more and more of your favorite songs.