User login

making outfits more authentic and less anachronistic

10 replies [Last post]
Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/06/wardrobe-theorythe-anachro...

So, this article is a pretty good critique of Jacob Frye's outfit in ACS. It is based off the music video style gameplay trailer which is a bit misleading about who Jacob is and his place in the world, but I don't think a few inaccuracies invalidate the main thrust of the analysis.

The larger point is that Assassin's Creed protagonists have largely been designed in a heightened way that draws from modern fashion as much as from the setting of the games, and tend to be overly complex in a way that feels more like a costume than what a person would simply decide to wear.

This series began as being fairly stylized, though it was always on the realistic spectrum. The design of crowd members has become more and more authentic as the engine has improved, but the protagonist and major character design have taken steps forward and steps back. Elements of what our characters wear look period-accurate, but what's there and how it's arranged is still done so in service of making us stand out in the world, not feel like we belong to it. The contrast between us and the crowd has only gotten greater.

Now, based on what I know of Jacob I actually think his costume makes total sense: he's not a humble working-class man, he's backed by a powerful order and trying to raise an army. He seems like the kind of confident dude who is proud of his sleazy and ostentatious costume, while his sister's look is more reserved. (just look at the box art for an illustration of this) However, what people who don't know anything about Syndicate see when they look at Jacob is a guy in an ostentatious costume with no context. And for some, that's immediately a turn-off, and likely to discourage them from learning more about the game.

So why not just remove the need to make excuses for outlandish character designs by getting rid of them? By presenting an actual authentic look for a character that fits with their background and personality? And possibly even clothes that genuinely fit with the sort of acrobatics that are being performed, rather than heavy coats and unwieldy footwear? (leather isn't great for free-running, and I can tell you that with zero experience on the matter)

---

In the end, I still actually really like Jacob and Evie's character designs, but I think that with AC's insistence on more and more detailed and realistic visuals there's no way they can keep getting away with main characters that look ridiculous without context: otherwise this kind of article is going to become more and more common.

the posts a bit guy

Leo K's picture
Leo K
Online
Citizen
male
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009

I'd feel cooler wearing outfits that made more sense thematically and pragmatically than the dolled-up ones that many of the main Assassins wear. They'd still have to be just rogue enough - some kind of light, thin cloak-looking apparel - but not excessive to the point where the person looks genuinely out of place moving through a thick crowd of citizens. That would be good for me. Another thing - note that we never actually see citizens wearing hoods or cloaks of their own. In pretty much any of the games. The only time we saw people like that even in the more medieval games were when they were monks. Much of the problem could definitely be worked on by addressing that.

Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

I think the bigger problem is that Assassin hoods feel more "designed" than what you'd expect to see in a crowd. Even if most people didn't wear hoods, Assassins with less ornate and more ordinary-looking hoods would blend in better.

I want to stress that I understand the whole "wear iconic clothes to send a message to templars" thing, and I actually think it makes sense, and like the kind of designs that come out of it. The thing is, it's really hard to explain that to someone in a few seconds. Most people don't appreciate when something requires lengthy explanation rather than being immediately obvious from how it looks: that's where a lot of resistance to the Animus and TWCB story layer comes from. If the practicality of an Assassin's outfit is immediately obvious, if its style says very clear things about the character wearing it, then there's way less work you need to do to get people up to speed.

It would be very different if these games were not set in real historical periods: people are prepared to accept that they don't know the explanation for strange things in new settings that they don't have any pre-conceptions about. This isn't about what works in the world or what's the best artistic choice, this is about something Ubisoft should be very interested in: how to better present this series to new audiences.

the posts a bit guy

Leo K's picture
Leo K
Online
Citizen
male
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009

That's a better way of looking at it, but even that sort of designed feel could be partially explained by having more hooded NPCs period. It's reasonable that some people have more expensive clothing than others. Whereas one person wearing a hood in an entire city of people who don't at all, claiming he's blending in is more than a bit suspect.

While we're at it though, that overly-designed look could fade as well. I don't think it lends any more to the aesthetic than a standard cloak/coat and hood would anyway. In some regards, it might even hurt it. There are other ways to send the Templars a message. Citizens claiming a man was walking around with an expensive looking hooded coat won't always raise any bells. But if citizens claim a man with a generic-looking hood was walking around, sneaking around and climbing buildings that strange events were happening around, I guarantee the Templars would pay attention to that much faster.

Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

Well that's good, because we want Templars to be still be able to tell if something was the work of Assassins, right?

I've been thinking a bit about why the templar/assassin thing alienates some folks: at first glance, if you buy that the person on the front of the box is a capable assassin, and you know this is a series, you probably assume that the premise is really straightforward: you play as different killers throughout history, being pursued by the authorities of each setting. But what the real explanation is is kind of just that same premise but painted as two secret societies: Templars are often literally authority and their philosophy represents that, and Assassins are, well, assassins who kill for ideological reasons. Some might be frustrated by this because you could technically have the same philosophical conversations in a much more relatable and historical way, just like stories about discrimination against superheroes are just an abstraction of conversations about real-world discrimination.

Obviously the Templar/Assassin thing is really entrenched, and I wouldn't want to see it abandoned even if it weren't. But perhaps ubisoft should be more mindful of making sure the story being told is one that you couldn't be telling if these two secret societies were not involved. I think that's one of the things I love about AC3 so much: you can't separate Connor, Haytham, or their comrades from the orders they follow and tell the same story. They are too deeply defined by these extreme philosophies, and their stories are too specific to said philosophies. The final scene between Connor and Charles Lee is not about killing a target for a clear and noble reason, it is entirely about the war between these groups, and the wholly polarized and morally compromised relationship between them.

There can be human stories that feel specific to the time period, but the machinations of the order must be more than a backdrop: the crux of the story should say something interesting about these two factions. Black Flag had the right idea, focusing on different methods of recruitment each group employs with Edward, but Arno's story focused so much on his personal goals that the AC name ended up feeling like an impediment to telling that story, rather than being necessary to it.

There are some people who will always be alienated by a focus on secret societies and political machinations, but I think there are plenty of folks who just need the right balance between that and a respectful presentation of history. And I don't think any AC game has hit that balance yet.

the posts a bit guy

Leo K's picture
Leo K
Online
Citizen
male
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009
Jermaine Tito wrote:
There are some people who will always be alienated by a focus on secret societies and political machinations, but I think there are plenty of folks who just need the right balance between that and a respectful presentation of history.

Right. I adore the secret society angle and I probably wouldn't have gotten into Assassin's Creed if the games didn't involve it. To throw the whole "there are many sci-fi games, but not many historical" argument back at people, there are already plenty of games where you just happen to be a stealthy killer whose opposing force is the authorities, and not very many involving a millenia-long war between two secret factions.

Jermaine Tito wrote:
And I don't think any AC game has hit that balance yet.

Except, perhaps, for the first one. AC1 is so unashamedly Assassin's Creed. It seems obvious, but it is what it is. It did well making it feel like you were an assassin (because you were) who was often pursued by the authorities (because you were, regular guards are your main enemies long before you know what a Templar is). It was the one that followed real history the closest. That also happened to make it the creepiest and most immersive atmospherically. It also did great eventually showing the Assassin fighting members of a secret society. You were, they're the closest analogue to "bosses" that the game has. Obviously the first one had the luxury of being able to do that because people didn't yet know what it was about - but future releases could still follow its formula of revealing details about the enemy and the world through a slow drip. The main difficulty is consolidating the experience of both new players, and veterans of the fiction.

We know about the Templars, so hiding them for a while may seem cheeky unless it's done with subtlety, which actually might be just what the series needs anyway - even for old fans! It'd be nice if I KNEW that a Templar was doing some stuff, without the title "Templar, Templar, Templar" being thrown around all the time in speech. When it's said, I want it to have impact and echo in my mind. If I hear the term Templar, I want to fear that character - as I rightfully should. They're the only type of hostile who is not just on the same level as me, but actually stronger in open conflict. I've played the series for long enough to know what sounds like Templar business and what doesn't without needing it spelled out for me. And, this approach lets the story bring in new fans with the same slow process that AC1's did. Without revealing much about Templars initially, it can be revealed slowly. The subtlety is both a treat for veterans, and a shroud for newcomers.

Change is good if it leads to improvement of the game and what its Goals are, but Change for Change's sake is terrible. Removing the Templar/Assassin conflict and all of the Lore at the heart of Assassin's Creed is a sickening idea. There comes a point, a certain line where the game begins to betray its own vision. I do not want that to happen to AC any more than it already has. People who feel so truly alienated by the Templar/Assassin conflict to that degree legitimately shouldn't be picking up that AC game box in the store at all. I agree that the marketing isn't so forthcoming about this, but it's been better about it in recent trailers. So that's actually much more fair than the alternative. It feels more than a little unfair to refocus on those people while outright abandoning the reasons the games picked up traction with original fans. The series is about what it's about. Again, change is good - but keep it Assassin's Creed, yeah? The series can be a quality experience, without necessitating narrative change so drastic that it could be titled something else.

The main thing that AC has lost since it began straying further and further from AC1 is a feeling of overall immersion. The outfits should make sense within the city and crowds, the HUD should be as minimalist as possible - ideally the game should be playable with no HUD whatsoever. The interactions available to the player should be first consistent (no bugging out/frustrating controls), narrative-enforcing second, (fighting is fast and efficient, fighting large groups is tough, fighting a Templar head-on is tough) and plentiful third (even if many interactions are contextual, there should still be a reasonable number of them to make the city feel like a place you actually exist in).

Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

I feel like AC1 established a lot of the issues with the balance of both aspects, not the least because it was literally built over two actual historical groups in conflict at the time, which directly feeds into that suspicion of redundancy I mentioned. exaggerated outfit design, unthreatening combat, control issues, all of these are things AC1 started off with in spades.

I think the foundation was uneven from the start, which is why I think there's a limit to what can be gained by looking backward.

the posts a bit guy

Leo K's picture
Leo K
Online
Citizen
male
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009

My point about the slow drip story still stands. There's much to be gained from removing so much of the bluntness of recent AC titles and bringing back well-crafted subtlety, for both new players and seasoned fans. What I directly refer to is specifically the slow dawning that each target you kill is somehow connected, and that all of their stories intertwine at the end for a grand reveal. It surely can't be done exactly the same, but returning to that same feeling is what's valuable. That, if nothing else, is worth looking back on.

Back to outfits though - AC games always have more than one selectable outfit, and customizing how your character looks has stuck with the series since AC2. To appease both sides, it'd be great if the unassuming outfit was the default. The more designed-looking ones, if they were available at all, would be unlockable or selectable later. Something similar to how Arno's Master Assassin outfit's available after clearing the Main Sequences. Maybe it should be unlockable a bit earlier than that, but that's one way to do it.

Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

I agree re: more conspicuous outfits as an option, but they should still feel fitting for the setting.

I actually asked Darby Mcdevitt on Twitter about why we don't see Assassins take on non-templar targets very often. He didn't directly respond, but he favorited my second tweet where I wondered if they "prefer to solve non-templar problems with non-lethal means".

I don't take that to mean that no Assassin has ever killed a non-templar, but that their order is more inclined to be pushed into taking lives into their own hands when they're facing a similarly radicalized group with no qualms about killing. So I can see them taking on missions to influence the course of a war, harm non-templar interests, or defend those oppressed by non-templars, but I feel like in general an Assassination mission would not be considered were a Templar not on the receiving end.

I think it's fine for who precisely is a templar to be mysterious, I just don't think that should be something revealed after the fact. Instead it should be that reveal which drives you into direct conflict with them. Germaine, Roi des Thunes, and Silvert were good examples: they were the only targets in Unity who were introduced prior to their allegiance being revealed.

Also, Altair's lack of basic situational knowledge was a result of his distant and malevolent leader keeping things from him, and Altair specifically reformed the Assassins to address things like that. It's also worth considering that perhaps Altair was used to non-templar targets because Al Mualim was a Templar infiltrator who focused the Order's attention on his own personal targets. (all-in-all, not exactly a great model to base future healthy orders on) I think the player should at least be caught up to speed on what a Templar is, how they operate, and the war against them, because that's the minimum amount of information you'd expect an Assassin sect to have. Whatever is mysterious or obfuscated about Templars in the story should be due to the work of the Templars themselves, not the player's allies.

the posts a bit guy

Leo K's picture
Leo K
Online
Citizen
male
Toronto, Canada
Joined: 12/30/2009

Wow, all of the above is really, really solid! The player should definitely have to work for the information they get. Obfuscation should 100% be the enemy's doing, and not the actions of the player's allies. Thankfully, the in-game Lore seems to provide decent justification for this, but you'll let me know what you think. What I mean is, in Present Day, the Assassins are essentially crushed, and the Templars have basically succeeded. That's kind of their whole thing, Abstergo has taken over the world and things look impossibly bleak. Since the games are getting closer and closer to Present Day in their Historical settings, it's fair to have the complexity and difficulty of gathering intel rise and rise to reflect how the Assassins are slowly losing position over the decades.

What I now find more interesting from a gameplay-story-blend perspective is your comment of "non-templar objectives through non-lethal means." I'd love to see many more mission types that address events and operations like that. It piques my curiosity further for the dichotomy between Jacob and Evie in Syndicate. It's probably the one thing I'm most looking forward to, to begin with.

Calvar The Blade's picture
Calvar The Blade
Offline
Citizen
male
Joined: 11/21/2010

I definitely agree that it would be interesting to see more stuff in that vein. It reminds me of the mission where Connor races to stop Washington's men from ambushing the village by killing his messengers. It would be a good way to start off a game, with the action based in real history until the more secretive threat is uncovered.

the posts a bit guy