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View Full Version : AC4 Main Campaign Mission Analysis 'Reverse Engineering' (with your input)



Farlander1991
02-17-2014, 08:22 PM
Okay, so this is how's this going to work. It's going to be a bit different from my AC3 analysis (http://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/752715-Starting-a-series-of-AC3-level-mission-design-analysis-and-suggestions)where I just chose a random mission and said in general what I think about it and in general what's going to make it better (in my opinion) and the discussion that sprung from that, it's going to be more of an in-depth Game Design exercise that's going to take a while. This is not going to be really opinion-based.

So, I want to take a mission from AC4, and 'reverse engineer' its design so to speak. Look at the guard pathways. Look at all the possible situations. Why things are placed where they are placed. How well does it utilize the world map and how the world map and mission design may have possibly affected each other. And sort of create a 'level design document' based on all that info. Now, this is not going to be my sole focus of what I'm doing during my free time, so each particular mission may take an unspecified long while. But if you the community are interested in this kind of thing, then what I want you to do is to vote for the mission in question. At a random point I'll just see which one gets the most votes and will start working on that.

Now, mind you, if there won't be enough people interested, then I probably won't do this. The thing is, I'm using this as a design exercise, and if people don't care about this, then, well, let the thread die - my notebook and head and playing is really enough for me for my own personal research purposes, and if the community is interested, then sure I'd like to do something cool and nice (even if it may take a random time ranging from a week to several months maybe :p As I said, free time varies).

And I'm saying only main campaign because that's kinda the easiest to replay. Here's the mission list:

Sequence 1
Edward Kenway

Sequence 2
Lively Havana
...And My Sugar?
Mister Walpole, I Presume? (only trolls will vote for this one I think :p )
A Man They Call the Sage
Claiming What's Due
The Treasure Fleet


Sequence 3
This Tyro Captain
Now Hiring
Prizes and Plunder
Raise the Black Flag
Sugarcane and Its Yields
Proper Defenses
A Single Madman


Sequence 4
This Old Cove
Nothing Is True...
The Sage's Buried Secret
Overrun and Outnumbered


Sequence 5
The Forts
Traveling Salesman
Unmanned


Sequence 6
Diving for Medicines
Devil's Advocate
The Siege of Charles-Towne


Sequence 7
We Demand a Parlay
The Gunpowder Plot
Commodore Eighty-Sixed
The Fireship


Sequence 8
Do Not Go Gently...
Vainglorious Bastards
Marooned


Sequence 9
Imagine My Surprise
Trust Is Earned


Sequence 10
Black Bart's Gambit
Murder and Mayhem
The Observatory


Sequence 11
To Suffer Without Dying
Delirium
...Everything Is Permitted


Sequence 12
A Governor No Longer
Royal Misfortune
Tainted Blood
Ever a Splinter

Rugterwyper32
02-18-2014, 12:19 AM
Huh, this is a very interesting idea. I've only seen videos of the missions as I'm rather impatient and I'll be getting my PS4 around June, but having seen a lot of the game I think it could work out.
My vote would go for Unmanned, I think. Yeah, that'll do.

jdowny
02-18-2014, 01:23 AM
I'm kind of interested to see this as well, especially as the missions were actually some of my least favourite and poorly executed parts of AC IV - the reason being that they allowed very little freedom in my experience. So simply because you can pretty much pick any and it will be an interesting thing to pick apart, I'll choose Black Bart's Gambit.

This was a prime but not uncommon example of exactly how I wish AC not to be. It was linear, enfuriating and restricting. Place this next to say, Majd Addin's assassination in AC1 and you see how far the games have veered off track. We've gone from a mission that allowed for utter freedom and three or four different approaches, to objectives being thrust in my face, poor stealth mechanics, 100% sync restrictions and tunnel-vision structure. It felt horrible in a game that should be about freedom.

Rant over. I'll be interested to hear your reverse engineering!

JumpInTheFire13
02-18-2014, 11:38 AM
I'm kind of interested to see this as well, especially as the missions were actually some of my least favourite and poorly executed parts of AC IV - the reason being that they allowed very little freedom in my experience. So simply because you can pretty much pick any and it will be an interesting thing to pick apart, I'll choose Black Bart's Gambit.

This was a prime but not uncommon example of exactly how I wish AC not to be. It was linear, enfuriating and restricting. Place this next to say, Majd Addin's assassination in AC1 and you see how far the games have veered off track. We've gone from a mission that allowed for utter freedom and three or four different approaches, to objectives being thrust in my face, poor stealth mechanics, 100% sync restrictions and tunnel-vision structure. It felt horrible in a game that should be about freedom.

Rant over. I'll be interested to hear your reverse engineering!

You basically just explained what I hate about the current state of AC.

Sushiglutton
02-18-2014, 02:47 PM
Sounds like a massive amount of work, but I'd be happy to read and comment on it :). Anyway I'm thinking either "Tainted Blood" or "A Governor no longer". My reasoning is that it makes sense to analyze missions with no naval component as they are easier to compare to past games and more relevant to future ones. I also wanted missions with some tailing as that has been a heavily criticized type of content and it would be interesting to hear your take on it.

Problem with these missions is perhaps that they have several phases which means more work to break down. If you want a single phase mission I suggest "Marooned"

dxsxhxcx
02-18-2014, 03:01 PM
if you don't mind and if time and patience allows it, could you please make a similar analysis about the modern days as well?

Farlander1991
02-18-2014, 03:34 PM
if you don't mind and if time and patience allows it, could you please make a similar analysis about the modern days as well?

You mean AC4 modern day? I'm not sure I can do there anything with the exception of all the hacking puzzles. With the exception of those the experience is purely narrative-based (very heavy on story and very light on mechanics) where there's very little to analyse from a game-design stand-point (well, it's the choice of gameplay they went with, which I personally don't consider to be particularly invalid given the production realities of AC games, even the first two which didn't have any parallel development going).

dxsxhxcx
02-18-2014, 04:33 PM
I just wanted to hear your opinion about it, which I believe you gave right now.. :)

Dome500
02-18-2014, 04:55 PM
I'm kind of interested to see this as well, especially as the missions were actually some of my least favourite and poorly executed parts of AC IV - the reason being that they allowed very little freedom in my experience. So simply because you can pretty much pick any and it will be an interesting thing to pick apart, I'll choose Black Bart's Gambit.

This was a prime but not uncommon example of exactly how I wish AC not to be. It was linear, enfuriating and restricting. Place this next to say, Majd Addin's assassination in AC1 and you see how far the games have veered off track. We've gone from a mission that allowed for utter freedom and three or four different approaches, to objectives being thrust in my face, poor stealth mechanics, 100% sync restrictions and tunnel-vision structure. It felt horrible in a game that should be about freedom.

Rant over. I'll be interested to hear your reverse engineering!

This.

I agree 100%.
That is a huge problem in modern games.
They need more freedom of approach.

I don't mind 1 or 2 missions in between were something happens ans you have to react.
But even there you can react in different ways.

But today in games it's just "Go from point A to B and do X".

Billiam301
02-18-2014, 06:05 PM
IMO it's a good this that the missions in AC4 are as restrictive as they are to an extent. I would like to have more freedom in some missions (eg, major assassinations) but I don't mind having set objectives for the majority. In fact, the said mission 'Black Bart's Gambit' is possibly one of my most replayed missions on AC4.

Dome500
02-18-2014, 09:17 PM
IMO it's a good this that the missions in AC4 are as restrictive as they are to an extent. I would like to have more freedom in some missions (eg, major assassinations) but I don't mind having set objectives for the majority. In fact, the said mission 'Black Bart's Gambit' is possibly one of my most replayed missions on AC4.

But not due to it's linearity but rather due to it'S exotic nature. And I have to agree. It's fun.

That is what I meant with "1 or 2 linear mission". Sometimes this is absolutely okay.

IN other cases though (especially on land and if you are NOT searching for a treasure (because going to and finding a treasure is by definition a linear task)) it is not that ideal.
Especially if it involves sabotaging, getting information, stealing or assassinating there are always multiple ways one can do something like this, and there should be in those cases.

Same counts for ship-boarding. Why can't I give my ship to my Quartermaster, swim over to an enemy ship which is close by (you can plan this and wait for enemy ships sailing towards you) and infiltrate it stealthy, kill the captain and the crew and then order my crew to board it? Would be another way to board. Not the traditional one, sure. But still.

And if I board normally, why can't I CHOOSE to either cut the flag or kill the captain, or kill a percentage of the crew or blow up the barrels? Why can't I just choose 2 of those things? Why do I have to do what the game tells me to do?

Same goes with Forts. Why can't I stop my ship, find my way into the fort, kill the commanding officers, sabotage the defensive weapons, and then call my crew in to take the Fort?

Something like that increases variety a lot.

Those were side activities sure, but there are also main missions on which you can give the player that kind of Freedom.

jdowny
02-20-2014, 10:05 PM
^ Very true.

For me, the first Assassin's Creed worked incredibly well precisely because you were free. There was no series of ham-fisted checkpoints plotting out the exact course of each mission. It was simply the player exploring the map and doing things their way - often chancing upon side missions. Yes, these were repetitive and restrictive in their own way but the player was still free - there wasn't even a desychronisation punishment for failing them - you simply went back to the checkpoint to start it again.

The series as a whole could benefit enormously from this sort of loose style of playing without holding the player's hand every step of the way. This sort of guidance is acceptable in the first stages of a game, but should become obsolete as the game progresses and as the player becomes more confident. As it stands at the moment, the objectives have become a leash, forcing the player down specific paths.

Players typically take greater satisfaction from being given a straightforward objective such as 'Kill X' or 'Climb Y' and allowed the freedom of movement and choice as to how I achieve this. The feeling of having accomplished this is far greater than the game saying 'Go to A, go to B, go to C, avoid being seen, only kill D with an air assassination.'

Take the mission where you kill Julien du Casse as a prime example. The entire island could have been open to the player from the beginning, since I recall there being at least two ways across it (actually 3 if you include the passage under the mansion). Instead we get this A to B to C objective string in which the final victory feels false because it's not necessarily how the player would have done it given his free will. Just give me A as a target and I can figure out the rest for myself. The player should be, after all, an assassin and not a slave.

Farlander1991, I wish you all the best with this.

Farlander1991
02-21-2014, 09:49 AM
Thanks!

I don't entirely agree with you, though. AC1 and AC4 rank on the top of my favourite AC lists, and I personally think that AC4 is very similar to AC1 in, well, pretty much as much as possible.

First, on a side-note, desynchronization punishment, IMO, is sometimes better than just failing the mission and having to go waaaaaay back to the person who gave it to you, but it's a matter of personal preference.

The thing about AC1 missions, is that, when it comes to side-missions - they're all small and happen in the world. AC4 is full off those missions, they are assassination contracts, you can tackle them whichever way you want, AND, unlike AC1 where in case of archer and assassination missions you utterly fail when you get noticed, in AC4 you just don't get extra reward (which I personally think is the right principle to go, if somewhat underdeveloped).

And when it comes to AC1 assassination missions. I love them. But one important thing to note is that they all happen in a contained environment with usually one entrance. There's only one entrance to Garnier's hospital. Only one entrance to the docs with Sibrand. There are a few entrances to Tamir market place, but you still have to get to a specific point to trigger the 'assassination starting cutscene'. And then you're allowed to do whatever you want (with the exception of a few scripted assassinations like Talal or Robert's decoy, for variety. And AC4, again, is VERY similar. You get to the small town in Great Inagua, and get to Julien whichever way you want (just as you'd enter the Acre docs and get to Sibrand whichever way you want). You can actually set a lot of parallels between AC1 assassination missions and AC4.

And AC4 assassination missions are usually longer and bigger than AC1's, due to the fact that you don't get to the assassination point directly (like you do in AC1 when you get to the mission). And there are sacrifices that are made from Game Design perspective. Yes, Great Inagua is not available all from the start, but if it were, we'd be able to get into what becomes our future compound before we get a special introduction for it. Can it be annoying? Yeah, I guess. But do we want our first visit to the compound be special? Yes. Does it make AC4 assassinations more linear than AC1's? Not really, actually. Yes, Julien's mission is more of a 'here are a few hubs you go through in order', but you're free to do whatever you want in each hub, including the big assassination one, it's a compromise to give freedom and yet provide a certain experience.

Now, mind you, when I say all this I don't have optional objectives (i.e. 'air assassinate the guy') in mind, since the way they're designed does tend to limit the amount of options in the player's mind. I always thought that optional objectives should be optional side-objectives (i.e. the 'what' rather than the 'how'), but the flaws in optional objective design does not inherently make the mission design itself worse.

And then there are things in AC1 that I personally really don't like that can be fixed with some kind of restriction or failure state. I've mentioned Talal assassination. The guy can't escape. If he gets too far from Altair, he stops and turn around, until Altair's close enough. That's not exhilarating. A constant chase with a possible failure state if the target gets too far away is, in my opinion, better. And you can still design it in different ways as to allow for different possibilities and choices (for example, the chase in Siege of Charles-Towne mission, I need to look at it more but after playing it a few times I realized that it's not as linear as it seems, or the Sage in Havana - I enjoyed chasing him down way more than Talal).

jdowny
02-21-2014, 04:48 PM
Some valid points. I think we tend to blanket an entire game with categories and accusations that might not always apply - you're right, there are always exceptions.

I'd like to point out though, that both Ganier's Hospital and the docks in Acre had more than one entrance, usually from above. But for me, the freedom to approach the problem without being punished in any way lay at the heart of AC1's appeal. It didn't penalise me for getting caught, for not doing it a specific way or for not taking "the correct" route.

If we continue with Julien du Casse's assassination as a good example for this - you could have easily closed the entrance to the mansion and still had a path going through to the beach from the jungle, just as you could have easily opened up the second route through the jungle to give the player more options. The mission would have played out the same but it's more satisfying if you feel you have come up with the solution yourself. Some of the best open world games such as Far Cry provide paths for each type of player. There's usually the gung-ho type, who drives a jeep with a machine gun and blows up explosive barrels with an assault rifle. Then you get the stealthy players, who creep through the jungle with silenced weapons not making a sound and not being detected. Both options are viable and neither player is punished for it, even if they are detected.

I guess the more I think about it, the more I'm seeing the combination of optional objectives and checkpoints as the true bane of the series now. They are limiting the freedom and the only solution is for them to go in my opinion.