Assassin’s Creed 3 Interview: Ubisoft On Red Dead Redemption, Next Gen
We recently saw behind-closed-doors gameplay of Assassin’s Creed 3, which you can read about here. NowGamer spoke to lead scriptwriter Matt Turner about the third Assassin’s Creed, the comparisons with Red Dead Redemption and the next-gen of consoles.
What would you say separates Assassin’s Creed 3 from what essentially was Assassin’s Creed 2: Part 2 and Assassin’s Creed 2: Part 3?
That’s a tough one, because we went a long way to make everything different. I think one thing that separates it from all the Assassin’s Creeds, not just those, is organic environments that are playable in 3D and are as immersive as the cities of the previous games. That’s a huge difference.
What we’ve seen reminds us of Red Dead Redemption and also MGS 4, with its ‘nowhere to hide’ theme…
We’re definitely aware of those games. Red Dead I would go so far as to say it was my favourite game of the last two or three years for sure. We had already had prototypes for the animal stuff before Red Dead…
Were you upset?
We were more like okay, okay. Here’s the thing: Rockstar is a sensational company. If they’re doing that too that means our ideas were in the right direction, take that as a positive.
So we saw that and were like alright this does work, how can we make this better, and that’s something that all good developers are always trying to do. Not be the same as, but take it to the next level. That was our reaction.
They’ve had success, how can we take that success and build on it? So we focused on that. We’re definitely aware of it, playing competitors’ games. It was almost a validation that we were doing the right thing, and pushed us to make a better game.
As far as the MGS 4 thing is concerned, we’re taking a bit of a different approach to it. We’re aware it was there and we wanted to add our own Assassin’s flavour to it and make it work in that environment specifically for us. We didn’t want it to feel like anything else, we wanted it to feel like American Revolution, Assassin’s Creed.
Combat has been enhanced, now enabling dual weilding much more fluidly.
There must have been big pressure on Assassin’s Creed 3 then because this is the sequel, a numbered game with a longer development cycle. The others were sideshows…
Those are full games, we wouldn’t want to call them sideshows. Brotherhood and Revelations were good, full offerings for players that had their successes.
But Assassin’s Creed 3, for us, we wanted to evolve from Assassin’s Creed 2. The core team from that game came onto this one straight after Assassin’s Creed 2 finished. There was no gap. Mostly engineers, so they were focused on pushing the tech forward from the very beginning.
So that start was all about redefining [Assassin’s Creed], making something really fresh but also really challenging. The way that we broke that down: there are three pillars in Assassin’s Creed 3, which players associate with the brand: social stealth, navigation and combat.
Those are the three things that Assassin’s Creed is about, and as long as we focused on those things and evolve past that and expand we’re going to have something that people will feel is Assassin’s Creed, but also something new.
So there was pressure, but not pressure in a sense that ‘oh, this is what we have to do’, just ‘this is what we’re doing’. So we set ourselves that goal early on. I came on the project over two years ago.
Note: that is not Wolverine abusing a young Connor.
What made you choose the setting? It has been rumoured for a while, along with Victorian London, although maybe that was just wishful thinking from the British press…
I get that! The design of Victorian London is a pretty wicked city to imagine.
But the Revolutionary War is such a big thing. Where did you even start?
That’s a good one, man. How much time you got? (laughs) When I came on the team the decision to set it then had already been made so I wasn’t in the discussion of the choice but I was privy to the reasons behind it.
For us it’s about what’s happening in that period, you’ve got to think that it’s not just the Revolution: it’s before, during and after, with a slice of colonial life. The Revolution is a backdrop to our Assassins/Templar story that is the focus of all Assassin’s Creed narratives.
We found that what was happening in that period in history was reflecting where the Assassins/Templar war had come to, so we were getting all of those wicked narrative parallels given to us and we thought that was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Again, we wanted to start from the beginning and make everything fresh, a new take on Assassin’s Creed. What that meant was that we started talking about organic environments, and when you start talking about colonial America you think about the frontier and that massive wilderness, which goes hand-in-hand with what we wanted to do in terms of pushing the assassin forward.
This screenshot really doesn’t highlight the grandeur of Boston.
So with those two things, we’re like: ‘that’s the right place to be. Now let’s figure out exactly when this is going to take place.’ And that conversation started happening at the same time as the character Connor, as we started to figure out who he was and what was driving him, when his life span would best be complemented by the history of what was going on. It’s a back and forth discussion all the time: that’s just games really.
Basically, we wanted to experience this person’s life, and these are the dates that give us the best window to tell an interesting story about how this person came to be and what drives them as an assassin.
The process was long, and always changing. As we wrote a draft and had some missions and we were like this won’t work and then we change it, which is always happening in games.
But what we’ve come to now is really solid and the character of Connor is complemented really well by what surrounds him and the time that he’s alive. He bounces off these different events in his life that have different impacts on him.
[We want] his character to become as important and likeable to players as Ezio, who was a pretty crazy character, and successful as far as they go: big shoes to fill. We’re very confident and hoping that Connor can fill them adequately.
There’s a stronger focus on wilderness and exploration outside of the cities now.
Ezio’s one of the few videogame characters that actually has a character. We’re going to be completely honest: most game stories are terrible. A lot of the game stories that are held up as being amazing, if it were a Steven Seagal movie you’d be like ‘nah’. In terms of an overarching narrative Assassin’s Creed, on the other hand, does everything quite well. That said, the Desmond sections ripped us right out of it. How do you balance the two narratives and make sure they don’t jar?
It’s a tricky balance. We’re always working against [it not jarring]. At the same time a lot of people are really into the present story and how it’s unfolding, so we have to respect that as well.
The truth is that the present does give us this awesome meta goal for the whole thing rather than being a period piece, and some people get a little confused by it but we have these great layers to the story. Our first focus is to make sure that each layer moves forward at the right pace. The focus is the history; that’s one standalone story.
The present story has to move forward proportionally at that time. I can’t say in this version you’re going to see more of Desmond than you have before, but it’s that balance, it has to feel like it’s relevant, that you’re doing it for a purpose, I think that’s the trick.
It’s not as jarring if you think you’ve come out of the Animus for a reason, as opposed to, ‘hi, now I’m here, walking around. Now I have to go pee!’ That’s what we’ve been trying to make sure is really clear to the player, the reasons for coming out of the Animus, that the present sections are grounded and motivated. As long as we have that as well we’ll have a nice balance people can enjoy both [sections] and they can play off of each other a bit.
What would you want from new consoles for Assassin’s Creed IV?
As far as where Assassin’s Creed will go I really can’t say… for me it’s more than graphical fidelity. The idea of being connected all the time is a strong one, and I’d like to see that come through. Whether that translates into the games that come out I couldn’t tell you.
I would like gaming, and consoles to move beyond just being consoles. To have other functions and do them well… As far as what they’re [Sony/Microsoft] doing I haven’t the foggiest idea, but that’s where I’d like to see it go. That would be great for Assassin’s Creed. But as far as where it’s going I don’t know.