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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed: Unity dev talks player freedom and open-ended assassinations">Assassin's Creed: Unity







After getting duly excited about yesterday's big reveal of Assassin's Creed: Unity's four-player co-op mode and NPC-packed setting, Sam successfully snuck past the guards at E3 to find out more info. He spoke with Alexandre Amancio, creative director at Ubisoft Montreal, about the changes Ubisoft is making to the way Assassin's Creed handles freedom and complexity.



PC Gamer: There's some small things about Assassin's Creed that I and few of my friends have an issue with that are being addressed in this. You've added a layer of complexity to every major part of the game the free-running down from buildings, the combat encourages more experimentation. Was this a goal from the start?



Alexandre Amancio: For navigation, we definitely wanted to give more control. We felt that we tried to guess a little too much what the player wanted. Whenever you try to guess what the player wants, you have a percentage of chance that you get it wrong. And that's what generates these frustrating moments when you're trying to tail a character and you get stuck on the wall, right? So we're trying to guess with one button, what the player wants to do in any given situation. So by adding that second layer of control free run up or free run down we're just adding one button, but it's eliminating a lot of problems. Now, not only does it give the player more agency, it removes the need for those haystacks, which are ingredients. You have to do them exactly where we place the haystack. We want you to be able to do that wherever you want, and we want you to have the simple control to do so, so it's not very complicated. You hold down the right trigger and A and you go up, you hold B and you're gonna control down. So that was the theory behind the navigation.



Our combat system right now is actually more streamlined. It's simpler because it's less of a tree structure, but it's deeper because it's more like a rock, paper, scissors thing. You need to analyse the patterns and react to those patterns. We removed also the endless counter and parry stuff. And also when you start hitting an NPC, he's going to stop you, so you can't just power-move it. This was done on purpose because we wanted combat to be more of a mastery of combat, if possible, but we also wanted to make it more challenging, because players will always follow the path of least resistance. Assassin's Creed is not a fighting game it's a stealth game. If combat is easier, then everyone is going to do combat, not stealth, so what we wanted to do was make combat more challenging give you the tools to become better if you want to do that, then give you tools to become stealthy quickly, and this is another thing: stealth wants you to get found.



Once you get found, you lose control. Everybody detects you and then the only way to go is to fight your way to the end. Now we work really hard in giving the player control back. So if you get spotted and you're in a huge fight and want to leave, you can use a smoke bomb, you can use any of our different ingredients to get control and get back on those rooftops, analyse the situation and try another strategy, because combat will not be the answer.







I got the impression you guys want to go back to more open-ended assassinations during the demo. Was that a founding goal of making Unity?



Yes. We wanted to get a little bit of that back. We have missions we call them black box missions, it's just an internal term we use for them they're 360-degree missions. They're situations, like an assassination for example, where you can analyse a geographical area depending on your skills and the tools you have, you can have different approaches and perform the assassination the way you want to do it. And AC1 did that very well. It was limited by different things, by the technology, the level, the depth that was available in terms of gameplay, but now, with everything we've learned and this new technology, all of that put together, we can do it the right way as we always dreamt of achieving.



Obviously the co-op is a huge part of Unity. How do you guys create missions that can accommodate four players while also being satisfying to one?



First, one thing we decided very early on that we didn't want to do was fake co-op gating. So there's a door, there's two levers and two players can pull the levers to open the door, right? So if you eliminate that sort of co-op, you're left with a co-op where players need to co-operate to face a challenge that's maybe too challenging to face alone. And the other way of encouraging co-op is the opposite. You can either throw something hard at the player and force them to join up, or you can give them bonuses if they get closer together. So we're using that to encourage co-op.



Now, how do we make missions that can be satisfying for one or done by four? It really depends again on the way you observe the missions. If you're two players and you notice there's a guard defending the gate and there's a lockpick behind that gate, one player might decide to distract the guard and pull him away from his guardpost, while the other one unlocks the door boom, you've breached. If you play by yourself, you look at that situation, you look at your tools depending on what you have you might use a different strategy. For example, a smoke bomb. So it's always possible to do a mission by yourself and with players. It just depends on imagination, the tools you have and your level of skills.







Another thing we've added that helps us with that is the fact that now our characters progress...in Assassin's Creed there was very little progression in IV, right? The character you had at the beginning and end was very similar. This is not true today. We have skill points, you start with a character that has the very bare minimum. As you collect skill points you can invest in different skills. You saw the lockpick skill if you don't have a lockpick skill, you can't lockpick. But if you have lockpick skill one, and you try to unlock a level three chest, that's more challenging and you're gonna break more lockpicks, that's a minigame. So if you try to perform a mission and you're very strong, and it's a moderately challenging mission, you might be able to pull it off alone. If not, you might need to join up with friends.



That's another thing, our missions now have different areas of difficulty, . Everything is unlocked. You can try a four-star mission at the beginning of the game, but you might find it very difficult. However, maybe if you play with friends, maybe it makes it a little easier. And again, because our missions, all the co-op missions are black boxes, they're all 360, they all have different ways you can approach them, which means that even if you're able to play alone and you complete the mission by yourself, there might be some really cool things you can't do alone, but if you play it with friends you can do it another way. So it's not just completing a mission, it's how you complete it and the fun you have while you're doing it.



And you can build a strategy out of your different skills as a team, right?



Yes, that's the idea. Obviously some players like to play different types of ways. If you invest in complementary skills, of course you play better as a team. I'm the lockpick guy, maybe you're the scout and are leveling up your eagle sense. We've shown level one in the demo, called Eagle Pulse Eagle Pulse highlights certain things and then it fades out. If you bring it to level three, the top level, then the stuff I see in my Eagle sense also appears on yours if we're playing co-op, so it becomes a social skill.



How does the story reflect there being four players in a mission?



I can answer that by explaining how the co-op and single-player work. So everything is in the same world, it's seamless. The singleplayer story is all about Arno's narrative, his story, his redemption quest. The co-op missions are what we call Brotherhood missions, these are the things Arno does for the assassins. So they're different however, they're all part of the same progression and world seamlessly.



This is a really small thing, but well worth mentioning. Compared to recent Assassin's Creed games, I had much more of an onus to use the jump button in this, and just having that freedom to choose when to jump to me is freeing as a player. Can you talk about that design decision?



It's something we added because we wanted to add a layer of mastery to everything, right? So a player that is just casual in the way they navigate might just hold the freerun button and have a very easy playthrough of the city. But if you stick to that, then there's no real way of having mastery of a system. By just adding that jump button, it's not necessary, but it adds efficiency. Then, you add that layer of mastery, that depth that makes the difference between something that is, I think, good or excellent.







I want to ask about setting it sounds like something Ubisoft has wanted to tackle for a while within the series. It's seemingly a strong match for the subject matter for Assassin's Creed. Why was this the game to approach doing the French Revolution?



When we decided to go back to a very dense, single urban setting, we wanted to go back to the roots. If you're reinventing the core, you should go back to the essence, and that way you can actually see the difference and make it count. We decided to go back to a large sprawling densely-packed urban setting, and we started thinking about which setting we could have, which city. It was really easy to come up with Paris. It is the most visited city in the world, there are landmarks all over the place, it's rich in history. And then we were like, okay - but when? Because Paris was awesome throughout history, there's different beats where Paris was very interesting. We started thinking about the French Revolution, and it's next-gen, and Assassin's Creed is a social stealth game. That means crowds. We really wanted to try our hand at large crowds. Why not do the French Revolution? Large crowds, different factions; it just screams systems. That's how we zoned into that.



It's interesting that you've not completely reinvented Assassin's Creed, but made changes that a lot of long-term fans will appreciate.



Well, you know, when Assassin's Creed was released it set the stage for large open-world games. It really hurt the traditional action-adventure games that the market. With every generation shift there needs to be a game that defines what that is, what a genre is. The little changes in stealth, navigation, large crowds the more systemic nature, the open-endedness. That, in our opinion, is what an open-world action-adventure game should be.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed: Unity E3 hands-on: Ubisoft rewrites the basics of the series">Assassin's Creed: Unity







Assassin's Creed was at risk of backing into a creative corner. The third game slimmed down the climbing and combat into single button prompts, offering even less interaction than its predecessors, and while we lapped up living the life of a pirate in last year's Black Flag, it seemed fairly obvious that the series wouldn't just keep its focus on naval combat every year until the end of time. Unity feels like it could solve a few of my long-standing issues with Assassin's Creed's overwhelming simplicity by having a rethink of a few outdated ideas around combat, platforming and stealth. It's also married to a backdrop of the French Revolution that really suits the series' storytelling needs.



Before my hands-on, I'm shown the same stuff demoed the Microsoft conference at E3, with new protagonist Arno Dorian free-running across some rooftops before wandering through a square occupied by hundreds of bustling NPCs. It's the first sign Assassin's Creed's world-building has stepped up in detail, since Unity isn't being made for nine year-old consoles. This leads to an assassination in a massive town square, where Arno drops down and takes out his target. Throughout the demo we see Arno moving in and out of interior locations seamlessly, another benefit of being targeted for console hardware that's closer to a PC standard.



When I take control, it's essentially a chance to explore the area surrounding Notre-Dame and to understand how the open world works. Gone is the clunky and imprecise drop down process when you want to get off of a rooftop and hit the ground running: now you free run down structures instead. I move the stick and hold down B on an Xbox controller and Arno free runs across the side of the building, meaning Assassin's Creed now offers the same responsiveness in movement whether you're climbing up or down. Unity isn't a reinvention of Creed's platforming, if you were angling for a full revamp, but this will make chases a lot more fun and less automated. You suddenly have a better way of escaping pursuing soldiers than jumping in bales of hay; holding down B at least partially solves that seven-year contrivance.







For navigation, we definitely wanted to give more control, says Alexandre Amancio, creative director. We felt that we tried to guess a little too much what the player wanted. Whenever you try to guess what the player wants, you have a percentage of chance that you get it wrong. And that's what generates these frustrating moments when you're trying to tail a character and you get stuck on the wall, right? So we're trying to guess with one button, what the player wants to do in any given situation. So by adding that second layer of control free run up or free run down we're just adding one button, but it's eliminating a lot of problems. Now, not only does it give the player more agency, it removes the need for those haystacks, which means getting around is more in the player's hands, which I notice almost straight away. It feels really good to climb up and down from buildings, now. Since you can also wander seamlessly through interiors in Unity, anything that can make that feel less awkward is welcome to me. It's odd just how accustomed players got to such bizarre fundamentals in the series, and I'm happy they're being addressed.



It's small thing, too, but players can actually jump again with the A button on a controller, which, when timed right, makes moving around a lot faster than holding down the trigger. Ubisoft wants you to feel a sense of progression in your skills including these long-standing basics, and I certainly wasn't getting that from just holding down one button to climb everything in Assassin's Creed III and IV. It's something we added because we wanted to add a layer of mastery to everything, right? So a player that is just casual in the way they navigate might just hold the freerun button and have a very easy playthrough of the city. But if you stick to that, then there's no real way of having mastery of a system. By just adding that jump button, it's not necessary, but it adds efficiency. Then, you add that layer of mastery, that depth that makes the difference between something that is, I think, good or excellent.







I don't get much of a chance to sample stealth in the demo where players can now move in cover around rooms, but I like the feel of combat, and no, I didn't find countering to be quite as easy. There will be progression systems in player skills that can hopefully keep the combat feeling fresh, but Ubisoft actually wants it to be trickier to renew the player's focus on stealth and strategy.



Our combat system right now is actually more streamlined, explains Amancio. It's simpler because it's less of a tree structure, but it's deeper because it's more like a rock, paper, scissors thing. You need to analyse the patterns and react to those patterns. We removed also the endless counter and parry stuff. And also when you start hitting an NPC, he's going to stop you, so you can't just power move it. This was done on purpose because we wanted combat to be more of a mastery of combat, if possible, but we also wanted to make it more challenging, because players will always follow the path of least resistance. Assassin's Creed is not a fighting game, it's a stealth game. If combat is easier, then everyone is going to do combat, not stealth, so what we wanted to do was make combat more challenging.



If you mess up and get caught, Ubisoft wants you to have the tools to escape and plan anew, as opposed to stabbing everyone until the situation goes away. Once you get found, you lose control, Amancio says. Everybody detects you and then the only way to go is to fight your way to the end. Now we work really hard in giving the player control back. So if you get spotted and you're in a huge fight and want to leave, you can use a smoke bomb, you can use any of our different ingredients to get control and get back on those rooftops, analyse the situation and try another strategy, because combat will not be the answer.







I haven't played enough of Unity to call the success of that either way, but I admire the intent to forge a slightly different identity for Assassin's Creed as the potential of what they can do with the tech suddenly increases. Exploring the open world is made fun by the sheer amount of people everywhere, and the promise that every interior is just woven into the overworld for Arno to explore. I end the demo inside Notre-Dame. The detail and various colouring on the walls is really impressive, implying some hard research by the art team, and the lighting effects are obviously the series' best to date. I like that Paris during the French Revolution is such a contrast to the tropical backdrop of Black Flag. There are different factions within the city, and incidental events like protests going on around you to relay the feeling of uncertainty that hangs over the story. There are murder mysteries to solve, too, giving me hope that the city will just feel a bit more realistic than those of past entries.



Unity is attacking a few of my long-held bugbears with the series, presenting solutions to odd bits of design that we've been putting up with for years. There's an awareness that Assassin's Creed can to be improved, here, and in my hands-on I got some real evidence of how Ubisoft is doing it. The co-op side of the game is something that still seems a bit vague to me, and it wasn't part of the demo they tie into a more open-ended structure to certain types of missions, which I'm sure we'll learn more about before release in October. If Assassin's Creed had manoeuvred itself into a corner by stagnating creatively, though, I now see a way out of it for Ubisoft, and revising the basics of the series was the best place to start.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed: Unity sneak peek footage is “in-game,” not a cinematic, according to Ubisoft">AssCreedU







A big draw for the Assassin's Creed series has always been the setting. Whether in ancient Rome, Jerusalem, or the pirate-city of Nassau, the look of the world helps make the game's sometimes strange mix of alternate history and sci-fi a bit more comfortable. With the upcoming Assassin's Creed: Unity taking place in revolutionary France, it's a great to hear the game's first released footage is truly "in-game," according to Ubisoft.



The "sneak peek" trailer that appeared last week shows a desolate salon, a few empty street corners, and a looming cathedral. And naturally we also get a look at the iconic guillotine, which surely has an important role to play in whatever mischief the next assassin find him- or herself in. But it's definitely not a cinematic, based on a response to a question posed to the official Assassin's Creed Twitter account:



"In-game, but ALPHA... which means it's not final, we are still working on it," reports Ubisoft.



Alpha caveats aside, it looks fantastic for a work in progress, and with its smoky urban decay I think the next entry will likely carry on at least the high-quality design tradition of the series, even as we wait for other information to drop. If Unity can stage a revolution as well as Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag stages its darkly-funny and ridiculous interpretation of pirate life, I'll be satisfied.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed 4 developer says PC was “first” in line for performance optimization">ACIV







After recent comments appeared to imply that its developers are unconcerned with PC optimization, Ubisoft has responded with a broadside of information about the design process behind games like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Contrary to reports in the media, Ubisoft designers are "PC fans," according to a new post by Communications Manager Gary Steinman.



Steinman, a former editor of PC Gamer, had additional comments from Ubisoft associate producer Sylvain Trottier, who he says was "re-quoted out of context" in the media with regard to the PC version of ACIV. Trottier feels there is some confusion about how and when PCs are pushed to their maximum during the development process. Before any optimization work begins, there is an earlier phase that is all about discovering where the graphical boundaries might be, according to Trottier.



“You want to push the particle and lighting effects to the max to see how it looks,” Trottier said. “Thing is, while you’re doing that, the performance doesn’t matter. We were doing R&D. But we weren’t doing R&D for performance. We’re doing R&D to try to see how far we can push the limits, to make our game look very amazing.”



When the proper optimization of a game like ACIV begins for its respective platforms, the PC comes "first," according to Trottier.



“We are very proud of the PC version of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag,” Trottier said. “The game runs well on low-end PCs, and lots of additional features were added for higher-end machines, allowing each and every customer to fully enjoy the experience on their PCs. Our partnership with Nvidia that saw our respective engineering teams work together to develop a highly optimized PC version also demonstrates our commitment to the platform.”



Now, to my eye, ACIV does look gorgeous, especially with the settings cranked up. I'm not sure a violent encounter with a rogue wave has ever looked so pretty on my machine. And we already knew there were graphical features exclusive to the PC version, which we learn from Trottier has its own team devoted to it over in Kiev, Ukraine. But of course I'm not running it on anything like the Large Pixel Collider either, so maybe I have yet to see where the limits of the game truly are.



Thanks, PCgamesN.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag lead writer doubts series will take place in present day">acivblackflag







Following the release of their tribute to the pirate life, a handful of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag developers took to Reddit and addressed a few burning questions from fans. They avoided addressing where Ubisoft would take the series post-Black Flag, but that didn't stop them from sharing where they thought the series wasn't going.



Lead Writer Darby McDevitt had a hard time believing Ubisoft would set an entire AC game in the present. “I doubt we would do a modern day AC," he writes. “There are just too many mechanics we would have to develop to make it believable... vehicles, plausible modern cities, a huge array of ranged weapons, etc. The modern day will most likely remain as a ‘context’ for all future games, something to tie them all together.”



McDevitt also noted that recently delayed Watch Dogs would help “scratch the itch” for players interested in a modern day Assassin’s Creed. We’ll have to wait until spring 2014 to see if that’s actually the case.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed 4 launch trailer arrives a month early, brings warning of pirate adventure">Black Flag







Okay, Ubisoft? Activision? EA? You're all here? Good, take a seat. I've called you to this post to explain the purpose of a "launch trailer". It's designed to accompany the launch of a game. Not to crop up two weeks before launch, and definitely not when you're over a month away from that launch. Oh well, given that it's here, I guess we'll show you Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag's launch trailer. It's unique among today's AAA video previews, in that only about three things explode.







As with almost all games containing the Ubisoft logo, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's PC version will be trailing behind the console. Our goods won't be offloaded until November 22nd. While you wait, you can read about Craig Owens' attempt to tame the high seas, when he went hands-on with the game earlier in the year.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed 4 dev says a game with “multiple worlds” unlikely, even for 900 people">AssassinsCreed4-shipbattle







The Assassin's Creed series has always had a knack for putting its imagined, simulated history at the center of its experience. It's taken us to the Near East, Italy, colonial America, and in the upcoming Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, to Blackbeard's Caribbean. But as we learn from an interview with AC4's game director Ashraf Ismail at Examiner, it now takes a small army of developers to craft just one of those game worlds.



Addressing the possibility of creating an entry in the series some day that would include multiple, globe-spanning locales for the conflict between Assassins and the Knights Templar, all Ismail had to do to put that idea to rest was point out the size of his team.



"From a pure production standpoint, it would be very, very difficult to do something like that," Ismail said. "On this game, we’ve had over 900 people working on it. With the Assassin’s Creed machine and being the game director, even I am sometimes amazed. It takes 900 people to create the content for this game, so to try to do multiple worlds that are all big and fleshed out with unique characters in them, I’m not sure it would bring that much to the player."



While Ismail did hint that future games might include the ability to play as multiple assassins in the same general setting, he said putting together some sort of Abstergo reunion of "America with Connor, Ezio in Italy, and the Caribbean with Edward" isn't feasible given the dev resources that are now needed to realize a single, "high quality" game universe.



For more on piracy, assassins, and the obviously massive project that is an Assassin's Creed game, check out our recent in-depth interview with Ismail. AC4 releases for PC November 19 in North America.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed 4 season pass announced, includes new single-player story">Assassin's Creed IV - Sea Stab thumb







To absolutely no one's surprise, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag will launch with a DLC season pass. Following in the footsteps of 2012's Assassin's Creed 3, and countless other high-profile games, Black Flag will try to preemptively sell you downloadable content right out of the box. And now we know that the single-player portion of the pass will not focus on main character Edward Kenway.



The DLC, called Freedom Cry, will include nine missions and focus on Kenway's first mate, Adewale. The content will take at least three hours to complete, according to Ubisoft. Fifteen years after Adewale escaped a life of slavery, he joined the Jackdraw crew and served under Kenway. But in Freedom Cry, he finds himself stranded on Sainte-Domingue with no weapons and none of his crew to help him.



Freedom Cry is not the only piece of content promised in the season pass; extra multiplayer characters, single-player skins and collectibles, and a Kraken Ship Pack to customize the Jackdraw. Ubisoft's blog post says that all of this content will be released before March 2014 for $19.99, but its specific mentioning of March 2014 hints that they might produce more DLC afterward—and charge extra money. So, we might see a season pass and then even more DLC outside of that pass, based on the blog post's wording.



Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and its season pass, will launch on PC on Nov 19. You can learn more about Adewale's plight in the trailer below.



Announcement - Valve
Save 60% on Assassin’s Creed® III during this week's Midweek Madness*!

The American Colonies, 1775. It’s a time of civil unrest and political upheaval in the Americas. As a Native American assassin fights to protect his land and his people, he will ignite the flames of a young nation’s revolution.

Assassin’s Creed® III takes you back to the American Revolutionary War, but not the one you’ve read about in history books...

*Offer ends Friday at 10 AM Pacific Time
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Assassin’s Creed Heritage Collection bundles all previous Assassin’s Creed games">Assassin's Creed Heritage Collection







More and more new games every year are sequels, so I guess the next logical step is enormous collections of previously released games. Bethesda announced at QuakeCon that every Elder Scrolls game would be available, and now Ubisoft is following suit with the Assassin’s Creed Heritage Collection. Available on November 8, the Heritage Collection will include Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and Assassin’s Creed 3.



The official price has not been announced, but some listings are starting to pop up in the neighborhood of $70/£40, which isn’t outrageous for five games plus DLC. Still, at that price you’re paying a premium for the packaging and whatever extras they throw in there, and we have no idea what those extras might be.



Of course, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag lands on November 19. Technically speaking, I suppose gamers brand-new to the series could pound through the first five games in time for the launch of Black Flag, but only if they’re willing to give up showering and eating. Still, die-hard fans might appreciate having the games and their individual DLCs all in one tidy package.
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