1. #1
    Sorrosyss's Avatar Senior Member
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    Assassin's Creed Games "will have less narrative focus"

    Very interesting interview with the Ubisoft CCO. I've collated it from various sources, including the original French version.

    Speaking with French newspaper Le Monde, and translated by GI.biz, Ubisoft CCO Serge Hascoet said narrative in games should be more of an “anecdote factory,” or a minor part of the game, instead of forcing players to follow a narrative path.

    Instead, Ubisoft wants to give players freedom to continue the path of the story, or venture off into other areas of the game before deciding when or if to return. Without narrative restrictions, this allows the player to interact more with the game’s world as is the case with Far Cry Primal and the recently released Watch Dogs 2.

    Both games provide the player with a world which seems to be more alive than scripted, and the first title to take full advantage of the studio’s new approach to games will be the next entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

    According to Hascoet, the Assassin’s Creed development team has “created a system” which has “meaning” to the player when performing certain actions, and said actions will also affect the game long-term as they “change the world.”

    “[Assassin’s Creed] remained a narrative game, because we wanted to meet the Borgias, the Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. All this is great. But now our business is to meet characters without it being imposed by the game,” said Hascoet.

    When there are cutscenes in a game, it bothers me, because it removes my ability for expression, During these scenes, I’m not doing what I want to do, which is evolve in this world. I don’t want us to write one story, I want there to be tens of thousands of stories, that each character has one, and I can speak to them if I want to know that story.

    "What interests me is to create worlds that are interesting to me as well as to anyone else," he says. “If I have a game set in San Francisco (like Watch Dogs 2), I’d want even my mom to be able to have fun, drive a boat, helicopter, car… There has to be interesting people to meet, too, and that they come across well. Also, the player has to be able to enjoy themselves. We want to give them many methods: private detective, assassin, hacker, hunter… You can try out these professions along with their problems, and to become more powerful.”

    "I don't want to be forced to play the story created by somebody else. We still have games like this but I want the player to write his/her own story. They set an objective, they understand the possibilities available to them and they accomplish that mission the way they want to."

    "[Wasn't this always the objective of Ubisoft's games?] In my mind yes but in games like Far Cry and Assassin's Creed, for instance, there was a lot of narration going on.

    "The next Assassin's Creed will be the first game to adopt this new approach."

    It would be very easy to jump to conclusions here. On the face of it, it suggests that the next game may well do away with the traditional linear story sequences and cutscenes, and just leave you with a series of strong independent stories akin to side missions from the other games. I've only played Watch Dogs 2 for a few hours thus far so I can't cite that, but certainly Far Cry Primal had a similar approach, and in my view had a much weaker watered down story as a result - weird dialect aside.

    With Ubisoft themselves stating that The Division was their long term template of their future games, you can start to see how this may well be turning out. Being able to play as 'his or her' story might even suggest a character creation tool, something that arguably you could never have had with a distinct and linear narrative surrounding a hero's journey - such as Ezio. With CD Projekt Red and Rockstar both seemingly adding seamless multiplayer to their upcoming open world games, Ubisoft may well be following suit with their flagship series as well.

    I'm not so sure this will sit well with many players whom fell in love with the overarching plotline to the franchise. On reflection, this all kind of makes sense following on from the news that the Phoenix Project storyline - our main modern day element since AC4 - will in fact be concluded within the comics. For many, it was seen as a chance to wipe the slate clean and reboot the modern day, but in light of the above it may well be that the meta plot has been stripped from the games permanently, and will remain purely in the domain of the books and comics.

    This is all speculation, but it certainly raises some interesting points for discussion.
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  2. #2
    ze_topazio's Avatar Senior Member
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    That didn't exactly worked perfectly for MGSV, but MGSV managed to get away with it because the gameplay and game design was stellar, let's hope the gameplay and game design of next AC is stellar too.

    But hey, good thing they're trying to make the AC worlds feel more alive, despite all the fancy npcs and beautiful cities, the AC world always felt dead, you can't really interact with many things, ride enough vehicles, genuinely influence the random routines of the npcs, etc.., everything you can do is scripted.

    Like you said, they could structure the story in a collection of fairly independent side stories, and in the end everything suddenly connects and you realize everything had a point, a bit like Zelda.
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  3. #3
    Lysette88's Avatar Senior Member
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    Well, it is a bit strange to hear that the meta-story might be stripped totally - my guess is more that it will be reduced to a necessary level, when you have to jump from one point in time to another one, like the WW2 part in Unity and the WW1 part in Syndicate for example. I personally do not like to be pulled out of immersion and be thrown into the Abstergo meta level too often - and if, I do not want to do extended tasks in this mode, because I want to experience the main time period, which is the main game theme. The Abstergo part is distracting from this, especially for people like me, who haven't played a lot of AC games yet (but I am going to).

    Now with the AC movie coming up, there has to be a meta-Abstergo part of the movie, or ti will not be understood by people who never played an AC game before or haven't played a lot of them. To me the meta story is confusing for example, because I started to play the series backwards. So to me it will be interesting to see, what I can learn from the movie about the meta-part of the game. Seen from this, it would be contradictory to strip the meta-level from the game totally - why would it be just in the movie and not in future games?
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    crusader_prophet's Avatar Senior Member
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    This is unsettling news for me. To me the illusion of making my mark in the game-world works better than being a completely rudderless ship with patches of conversations with NPCs here and there. In my opinion, the idea should be to strike a balance between giving the player the freedom to feel their importance of decisions in the game compared to having them run amok in the world with no clear objective. Without narrative focus there is no driver to keep moving. I don't play a game for a real life simulation, I play a game to experience a story that I will never be able to in real life. Just driving a boat for no reason isn't fun for me. If I am engaged in action while driving the boat and there is a narrative cliffhanger on the other side, that is fun for me. I don't want to run around San Francisco hacking random people driven by a bare-bones objective with no narrative impact or motivation. Giving players freedom and the feel of "creating" own story sounds all good, but there has to be a balance as well. If there is no compelling mysteries and nerve wrecking story unfolding on the other side of doing or not doing an activity in the open world, then where is the motivation to run around in a rudderless open world and interact with NPCs?
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  5. #5
    Pandassin's Avatar Member
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    This new approach sounds... interesting, I'm really curious to see how it works out.

    The thing is though, isn't narrative kinda an important thing in this series? I've no idea where Ubi is going with this approach, but I hope they still put a lot of focus on a strong, memorable story as well as the other stuff.
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    m4r-k7's Avatar Senior Member
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    “When there are cutscenes in a game, it bothers me, because it removes my ability for expression, During these scenes, I’m not doing what I want to do, which is evolve in this world. I don’t want us to write one story, I want there to be tens of thousands of stories, that each character has one, and I can speak to them if I want to know that story.”

    This quote particularly scares me. Until we see the next game in action it is hard to understand what he means by this new approach, but saying that a cutscene removes the ability for expression is just ridiculous - how about you put a large amount of effort into the script and overall story arch? I mean since the Ezio games (exlcuding AC 4), the stories have been particularly sub-par, which has not been due to the amount of narrative in the game, but rather it has been the execution of it.
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  7. #7
    To me this is a bit worrisome. I love Assassin's Creed because of the interesting stories of the ancestors and the convoluted plot of the modern day. The moment that I finished Assassin's Creed 1 in 2008 I got online and started researching the glyphs and everything, trying to piece it all together with the newly announced ACII in the Renaissance. The strong narrative is what brought me me in and hooked me since the first game.
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  8. #8
    D.I.D.'s Avatar Senior Member
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    Knowing the way Watch Dogs 2 works, I'm optimistic about this. WD2 has some great missions that are accessed by following leads: finding a person of interest, hacking their phone, eavesdropping on their conversation, following another lead to go and do something else. I'm fine with that in AC, so that we can go and look for particular historic figures if they are of interest to us. The game can easily funnel us back into the main story by having these characters direct us back to a core line when necessary.

    A strict division between Main Story and Side Content is mostly unhelpful, both to players and the game.
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  9. #9
    RinoTheBouncer's Avatar Senior Member
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    Actually this is like a dagger to my heart. I thought that this whole one year gap and the reinvention of the brand will put more focus on the lore and even when they said they might adopt the movie version of the Animus "Claw" into the games. It gave me great hope that the lore and the over-arching narrative will be something big. But that doesn't seem to be the case. You mentioned The Division, that game worked because it was marketed for people who love that type of games and it was an original brand and never really promised any mind-blowing story-telling. From the get go, that game was meant to be the way it turn up.

    As for Assassin's Creed, they presented massive cities with Unity and Syndicate and none of those managed to bring that much of a positive feedback, at least in comparison to the previous games. I don't see how player choices will work with Animus Synchronization and how it will be able to tell a cohesive story. I love games that give me the choice to do things my way, but this isn't Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls. The latters are two games that I adore, but they're story-driven games that were planned to be the way they were. Assassin's Creed is a game that was all about story-telling, connectivity, exploration and mystery.

    I don't wanna sound pessimistic, but I care more for proper story-telling than multiple ways to finish a mission. I didn't get into the Assassin's Creed franchise because of its vast worlds, side missions, gameplay mechanics or weapons, I got into it because it presented an amazing story and some entertaining gameplay to go with it, and even when the gameplay wasn't very fun, the story and the revelations that came after playing made the experience worthwhile.

    I hope we've misunderstood the interview, I hope the true meaning is lost in translation, I hope we're wrong and the game will focus more on story-telling. Everyone here knows how much I adore the Assassin's Creed franchise and Ubisoft. Just don't take away the lore. Please... I wanna engage with it, I wanna be part of it, I don't wanna read notes, I don't wanna finish a main story in a comic book, I don't wanna do side missions to understand important plot elements or search for deleted cutscenes that leak online. I wanna have a game that offers me all this in a well-directed visual presentation.
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  10. #10
    D.I.D.'s Avatar Senior Member
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    I really don't understand what so many of you have seen here that makes you think the lore has gone, or that the underpinning of the First Civ story is out, or that the modern day is gone.

    A "less focussed narrative" does not mean "narrative no longer matters". Far from it: this system should be much richer in story, and provide different experiences to different players and to the player who plays more than once.

    At the moment, we have a theme park experience with too many divisions separating types of realities. We know that the citizens are on a low rung of the ladder of realities, compared to character NPCs who are sitting in a higher reality. The citizens may be fun to listen to and to watch, but we know ultimately that they are the animatronics of the theme park, and nothing they say or do has real consequence. But haven't we always wished that they did? Ubisoft is answering that wish here, and taking away that wall: integrating those realities to make a more cohesive world. Listening to them and interacting with them can now produce clues to lead us to more story, in a way that feels more organic. Or newspapers can be read that get us a hint, or you might see a strange symbol on a wall, and another, and another. The pubs and taverns have been oddly useless so far, but what if we went to social centres to see what we could pick up?

    As for the characters, think of Syndicate. Every major character could have various hints ready to go, depending on how much story you've stacked up, and they feed you an appropriate lead for your amount of story. You might complete Karl Marx's request, and he might tell you of whispers he's overheard of an explosives plot against the Queen, and tell you which of the activists told him. Or maybe you were talking with Florence Nightingale at the hospital at that point, and instead she's the one who tells you about the curious case of a delirious patient, poisoned by the flammable chemicals covering his skin, who muttered about the plot while half-conscious. Or maybe your player has not built up so much story yet, so she tells you instead about a man who was brought in unconscious with a bizarrely large amount of money in his bag, and it turns out to be counterfeit cash...

    None of this interferes with modern day plot, which can also be cut in. You can have "All Roads Lead To Rome" bottlenecks in the story where every hint you hear is leading you towards a tomb level, and you find a ghostly message in there from the Isu. It ends, and we switch out into the modern day to find out how this encounter relates to Rebecca and Shaun's struggle. We then go back to the historical story after that.

    There are many ways this can work, and I don't foresee any problems with it at all. All they mean is that the game will not have these distinctions between major and minor story, and that we will be encouraged to engage with this world in order to progress. That is very positive.
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