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UI and Audio

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Calvar The Blade's picture
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I think that with Unity's fantastic ambient audio, notifications and updates should feel fitting with that world, rather than cutting through and breaking the illusion. Looting a body or escaping guards shouldn't produce strange animus bloops. For things like escapes the dynamic music is an obvious candidate but I feel like it's also pretty overdone at the moment, with the same sweeping track going on regardless of if you're in an epic battle or facing off against a single grunt for 5 seconds. I think the solution would be to start with subtler tracks, and maybe layer on the bigger-feeling stuff based on how long and momentous the conflict actually becomes. It would be great if the "conflict over" sting also reacted in a similar way: less lengthy and pompous in the aforementioned 5 second scenario.

The music can serve the gameplay well, but in the menus it's just a distraction from what the player actually came there to do, and should be at the very least subdued and quiet.

I feel similarly about the UI in the game. I feel like there's a value to in-world interactions and UI that AC has mostly kind of ignored. It would be nice if going to a shop opened a UI window but kept the Assassin in sight, and pivoted the camera around the shop to the different items they select for purchase on the UI screen. Having shops and weapon/outfit stores as physical places creates such a better connection to the world than hiding it mostly in a pause screen, and it also feels grounding when players see that the same physical logic of our world is in place. In terms of convenience, I think that's another good reason why Bureaus should return: fast-travellable places all throughout the city that contain all the equipment you already have and allow you to stock up on ammo. (with shops nearby to get actual equipment)

I'm also really interested in things like the map being in-world rather than in a paused menu: something the assassin actually unfurls and looks at, with UI elements superimposed. (think Far Cry 2)

The actual pause menu UI should be clean and uncluttered: using the animus concept as an excuse to be easy to navigate rather than all cyber-crazy. It's strange that a lot of the in-world UI in Unity took this approach, with stuff like the blend circle. I feel like that's a mistake, and that these two worlds need to be cleanly separated. A blend circle is trying to sell a non-rigid and fuzzy scenario: hiding in a crowd. If it appears too mechanical, players will think of it that way and be less immersed in the hiding fantasy. The UI that exists in-world needs to be clear, but it also needs to seem fitting, and excess needs to be cut back on whenever possible. Instead of sparkling chests, why not color them brightly on the outside and have a dark color inside? This way, players can pick them out easily, and also instantly see if they've opened one already because of the contrast. This is the kind of minimalist approach that works great in the game, just like things like enemies' color alignments becoming more clear the further away they are. (nice one, Unity!)

So yeah, I think that the utilitarian and experiential parts of the game could do with less stepping on each other's toes. What are some UI or Audio improvements you'd like from the series?

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Leo K's picture
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UI improvements I'd like to see are definitely things like, shopping does not Pause the game, Shopping has a real, physical location and the items on sale are visible, I would like Assassin's Creed to have as little pausing during the actual gameplay as possible. If you press Start or Options, that's fine, but there should be little you can do from that except things like "Reload Last Checkpoint," "Progress Tracker," "Quit Game," or "Settings."

Using the map, shopping, changing disguises, accepting missions, equipping and unequipping items, I want all of that to be real time. That's the main thing.

For Sound, I don't have much input. The only thing I want in terms of sound is atmospheric sounds. I would like more atmosphere. I would like to be able to close my eyes and legit feel like I'm there. That's the level of immersion, mood and atmosphere in sound that AC hasn't had in every game. AC1, AC2, Black Flag were good in terms of these. AC1 and AC2 were my favorite when it came to sound and the atmosphere it portrayed.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
I would like to be able to close my eyes and legit feel like I'm there. That's the level of immersion, mood and atmosphere in sound that AC hasn't had in every game. AC1, AC2, Black Flag were good in terms of these. AC1 and AC2 were my favorite when it came to sound and the atmosphere it portrayed.

Yes! AC1 had the best atmosphere, especially in its sounds. The score, the sounds of people far off in the distance, crowd sounds, even going as minimal as Altair's equipment bouncing as he moved.

I'm still hoping for a remaster of AC1...

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I think Unity is the best the series has gotten in that respect. You can definitely tell where you are with your eyes closed, and things like distant drumbeats and crowds singing or yelling add a lot of flavor. What's most impressive about it is how many degrees of difference there are. The crowd sounds realistically different inside a house, on a small roof, on a high roof, at street level, in different parts of the city. And also how high quality the audio itself is. AC1 was pretty bad in that regard, and all previous games' ambient transitions have felt less dynamic and situational.

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Some things: ACC: China's UI is on the absolute correct side of minimalism, as compared to Unity's. The weird mix of abstraction and shapes in Unity felt genuinely unnerving to me. The motif of cuts through transparent materials made it look a bit like cracked glass panes, which ended up being really distracting. It would be interesting and challenging as a piece of art, with the way it invites your mind to puzzle out the abstraction even though there is no answer, but as functional language for interacting with the game, it's too much.

ACC on the other hand is more truly minimalist, with the irregularities in its designs less conspicuous and begging for attention. Unity had weird pillars forcing themselves out of the ground, ACC has an unassuming segmented ground. Thus ACC feels more like the netflix interface Unity clearly tries to evoke before being caught up in "look, sci-fi!"

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Something I missed originally: when the player begins being detected in the first phase, there is a huge audio cue accompanied by a 3D box that begins filling up, and a slow, pulsing tone begins to play. Once the box turns red and fills up fully, a second piercing audio cue happens, combined with a screen effect and the combat music begins to play.

First off: the box sucks. 3D UI elements can be cool, but this one is supposed to be an instantly readable gauge, and is form makes it confusing to immediately glean information from. Sometimes your camera angle is tilted at an angle and you get the wrong impression of how filled up the box is, sometimes it's hard to even focus on it because of its many sides and the extra complication of the exclamation point on it. I understand the concept of the 3D object aiding in indicating the direction of threats from offscreen, but the exact form it currently takes is not at all condusive to that. Have you ever tried to point at something with a box before?

As for the audio elements: the huge indicator noises seem really redundant and harsh since they're paired with very distinct and tone-appropriate backing audio tracks to indicate which phase the player is in. Why not just start playing the pulsing music and increasing the intensity as the suspicion rises, then have one distinctive sting that leads into the chase/combat music when fully detected? Doing it that way could also help players understand that yellow detection is only a prelude to things going wrong, not the inevitable beginning of it. When you have a ton of instances of the detection sound being constantly triggered and nothing really happening about it, it gives a sense that the game is being very passive aggressive about your abilities as a player.

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A smaller thing: the current weapon selector is a bit fiddly, partially because of the number of items available to select and partially because it's sharing space with the health item and ability trigger. Due to only having one axis, it leads to a situation where if you miss the smoke bomb, you have to keep pressing right until you loop back around, because pressing left only controls ranged weapon selection. The entire reason the expanded D-pad menu worked in black flag was because of the dual axis, which allowed you to quickly and confidently select weapons to the degree that it didn't matter that it did not stop time like previous selectors. Unity makes it fiddly enough that it often feels completely unsafe to bother with when you're in any tense situation. I've played Unity for a really long time, but I've still not memorized the number of button presses to a sufficient degree to feel confident in my use of that weapon selector.

Also, the "missing slot" unselectable element is lame. I don't want to feel like I'm destined to have every upgrade. Upgrades are interesting when you don't know how they'll slot in. It's not as if I got a big "HAVE NOT UNLOCKED MOVE" notification every time I held the A button in combat prior to unlocking the staggering strike.

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I too, disliked the Weapon Select or Inventory in Assassin's Creed Unity. Needing to keep pressing a direction to loop around was something that irritated me as well. If you tap too quickly, you might miss what you're going for. If you tap too slowly, the Inventory will disappear off-screen, and then you have to go through it again. I also disliked how slow and sluggish all of the menus are in AC Unity, and how it feels like there's too little content in them to have so many in the Pause Screen. I didn't fully understand the glass-cut motif of Unity either. In previous ACs, Animus elements made more sense to me or they were fitting Lore-wise. [White Room because Baby 2.0, Black Room because Coma, Snow Room because Upgrade, Ocean Floor because Pirates, Glitchy Ocean room because Virus] I was also a little forlorn that the Animus Loading Room is gone in Unity. Felt like a proud tradition being taken away. And besides that, it's more fun to run around in a Virtual Construct than to wait an entire minute for a Loading Screen to finish. People complain about Unity's long load times. The previous ACs sometimes had long load-times too. The reason they were less noticed is because we could walk around during them.

I can't comment on ACC China's UI because I actually don't remember it at all. That might be the point, after all. Chronicles was seriously helped by embracing reductive design. It really stripped things away until it couldn't strip away anymore. It's a functional, easy to understand game. This doesn't mean it's easy to master. Forgive the cliche, but it's true. It took me retry after retry to puzzle out how to Shadow Gold + All Objectives every mission. That I even wanted to keep trying is a testament to how enjoyable I found the game. The stealth makes sense, the navigation makes sense. Combat makes slightly less sense and is unrefined - maybe deliberately. I didn't care, though. I didn't end up using much Combat in AC Chronicles. Through all this, the interface stayed unremarkable to me for the whole game. The only things I truly remember were my Gadget Selector (Whistle, Knife, Firecracker, Noise Dart) and guards' Vision Cones. Both of those were things I used a lot.

Calvar The Blade's picture
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I agree that AC could do with some intelligent minimalism in its gameplay as well as its presentation! In the case of things like detection indicators and their accompanying noises, gameplay and presentation are one in the same.

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Readability and Function have to be the first things UI focuses on.
That means responsiveness, nothing that feels even remotely like Lag, and simplicity.
For me those are the most important things. Your eye should be able to snap to a UI element and instantly take the information it gives off.

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Something that I think is often an obstacle for people is the lack of clarity about mission objective markers being replaced with "investigation zones" when you get close enough. Despite both things being green, I think it's sometimes hard for people to make the association. I think that perhaps it would help if the investigation area resembled the marker more. (in Unity's case, that would mean being a deeper green and having a dark outline, but they could both be adjusted into something scalable between small icons and large area designators)

It would also be good, I think, if eagle vision tinted investigation areas green. It's easier then for people to understand how an investigation area relates to their physical environment, rather than always having to interpret it from the abstraction of the mini-map. (that's also another one of those things that would improve the no-hud experience, combined with objectives/player markers being designated with a pillar of light in eagle vision, like in revelations)

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I'm up for anything that would improve the No-HUD experience.
My other suggestion was to have separate markers for "Reach" Objectives and "Investigate" Objectives.
Reach Objectives could still be a green polygon or circle.
Investigate Objectives could be a green Eye.

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I think that we already have a specific tag for that: the yellow icon. I think the investigate color is tied to the "Reach" color because they're both about navigating space rather than interacting with a specific object or person.

Another suggestion I have would be for investigation areas to shrink based on the amount of area you've surveyed, so simply being patient and navigating the space slowly gives you more of an idea as to where to search.

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Hmm... Yellow Icon in my experience has only ever been used for "Do Not Kill."
The reasoning behind Investigate and Reach being tied to the same color is pretty logical, yeah.
The Zone shrinking based on amount of area surveyed could be nice, as long as it's not just a flat "shrink over time" function. Using Eagle Vision should be genuinely helpful in doing detective work/investigating, and anything that undermines that would just clash with the system, I think.

EDIT: I'm all for having only three main colors too! That's why I suggested a Green Eye. It'd still be the same color, the icon would just be different or change upon getting close/reaching the location, so players are less confused. They could still be given a short tutorial explaining what each Color's Objective "Type" is and go from there.

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DarkAlphabetZoup wrote:
Hmm... Yellow Icon in my experience has only ever been used for "Do Not Kill."
The reasoning behind Investigate and Reach being tied to the same color is pretty logical, yeah.
The Zone shrinking based on amount of area surveyed could be nice, as long as it's not just a flat "shrink over time" function. Using Eagle Vision should be genuinely helpful in doing detective work/investigating, and anything that undermines that would just clash with the system, I think.

As of ACU, yellow refers to any entity you need to perform non-violent action on, whether that be tailing a person, stealing from them, or taking/interacting with an object.

Red is for violent actions against any entity: killing a person or destroying an object.

And again, Green for navigation of space: finding something or moving to a location.

I think it's great that they have these three general categories, and think making them each feel more legible in different contexts is worth the effort of not just adding a bunch of new objective tags. Ideally the colors themselves should become enough of a clear language to not require as much attention paid to the text. Eagle Vision's alternate color coding feels complimentary as-is, though perhaps allies should be white rather than blue or green like in the past.

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Wow, you're actually right. For some reason unknown to me, I forgot that there were Yellow objectives outside of Tail (like Loot or Steal). In that case, scrap the Eye idea, just make sure players are aware of what each color signifies. In an ideal world, everyone would have no trouble with quickly learning what all the icons mean, and most of us don't. But since this discussion was probably started due to concerns of players not fully understanding Green objectives, I maintain that Devs should have a short Pop-Up explain all three Color Types at some point.

Making them legible in different contexts would be better for sure.

It's interesting that Green is the only one whose means AND end is interacting with the environment. Yellows and Reds are still all about navigating, but they're focused on doing that in the best way possible to achieve a Goal found in that same space that's not inherently "about" navigation. (Loot, Kill, Tail, Steal, etc.)

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Yeah, it's an illusion that these are all extremely separate actions, they have a lot of overlap! But it's a useful illusion for helping players understand what sort of thinking a specific challenge requires to be overcome.

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