. You surely are Ubisoft's finest asset, with your playful and inquisitive eyes inviting us to relive the many adventures we had after our first and far too brief meeting. If only we could be reunited and take some more pictures of our escapades. If only mere images could capture your boldness, allure and glistening green lips
! Where is Beyond Good & Evil 2
Putting our reminiscing aside, we can talk about the other
Jade at Ubisoft -- Jade Raymond
, producer of big budget bump-off epic, Assassin's Creed
. More specifically, we can talk about us talking
to her about sandboxes, flower boxes, pushy crowds and Star Trek's Holodeck in a brief Tokyo Game Show
chat. Find it after the break.
One of the key aspirations of Assassin's Creed is to create a huge, open and believable world. How do you rein in the player, allowing him to explore but still experience the story you're attempting to tell?
Our creative director, Patrice Desilets, talks about this game not as a sandbox game, but as a "flower box" game. [laughs] Which, to him, means it's got the sandbox elements of freedom and the ability to do your objectives how you want and in the order you want, but the strong story element that keeps everything tighter than usual. It's not as disparate as Grand Theft Auto
where the story elements only come together a bit. The story here is super important -- every side mission that you have and every investigation brings you a little bit closer to the deep story and that's the thing that pulls you along and keeps you headed in the right direction.
Altair seems like a strong player character -- he's become immediately recognizable as the Assassin's Creed avatar. What do you do about keeping the character strong while still letting the player inject a little bit of himself and experience the world with his own eyes?
Yeah, that's a good question. One of the ways we've managed to do that is in the hood. It's kind of interesting, we were thinking he's an assassin, that he wants to stay hidden and keep his face covered, so that's one of the reasons he has the hood. The other thing it allows is for the players to project themselves a little bit more onto Altair. Since you don't necessarily see his face, he becomes you much more easily. I think some of the other things we've noticed is when a main character has a lot of flashy, idle moves -- you know, a main character might stand around doing stuff that you feel in that situation you wouldn't have done that. It takes away your ability to relate to the character, so we made sure that the idle moves were subtle.
The other thing is keeping control within cinematic events, so it's never like the character just goes into a cinematic and does a bunch of stuff. The character is still always being controlled by the player and moves to the place the player wants to go. You're never pulled apart, saying "Okay, now I'm watching my character and he's doing a scene and this is what he's doing and he's acting it out." You always have the same control over him.
On that topic of moving to where you want to go, another big aspect of Assassin's Creed is crowd-based gameplay. Ignoring the fact that it's become kind of a buzzword, what exactly is "crowd-based gameplay?" Surely, any game can manage a bunch of people walking up and down the street?
Well, that isn't crowd-based gameplay, right? I think the difference is that a lot of the games we've seen so far feature a crowd that walks around and up and down the street. Sometimes you can pass through them when you walk near them, but there's often very little interaction. You can kill them, or sometimes punch
them, but there isn't a lot of stuff to do. We wanted to make a crowd that reacted
to what you were doing, and we wanted those reactions to create gameplay. So for example, if you bump into people who are walking around carrying a crate, that will make the crate drop. That means the crowd all around will go "Ahh!" and if there's a guard around, the guard is going to say, "There's the assassin!" and recognize you. You have to be watch out for how the crowd might blow your cover.
Conversely, the crowd can also help you out. Some people in the crowd, if you decide to help them out, will be on your side and stop guards who are running after you and make it easier for you to escape that way. Scholars will let you blend in with them and go into hidden places if you've helped them out. Other examples in a crowd might be be drunk guys stumbling around. They react like a traditional level design ingredient -- think of mines that placed in levels. The drunk guys will push you over if you get close to them, and that's something that will also cause you to stumble and draw attention to yourself, especially if they push you into, for example, someone carrying a crate. There's all of this gameplay that comes out of it. We were inspired by how crowds really react and were thinking of game standards -- things like fire traps or bombs -- and trying to think, what would that be personified like? What would the archetype for that be?
Let's talk about another type of crowd. Assassin's Creed is going into a pretty tightly packed holiday season and it's a brand new IP. Is there any concern about that? Did you ever consider pushing the game back a bit to say, January?
Well, I think it's great for gamers
, so as a gamer I'm excited for all the good games coming out! I think so far we've gotten a lot of attention for being a new IP, so we're just going to try and make the best game we can and hope that people are interested, and that it's different enough that they want to buy it. There's a lot of great titles but there aren't really any that resemble Assassin's Creed
There are some parallels between Assassin's Creed and BioShock, in the sense that they're new IPs expected to do well, with production values that lend to the "games as art" debate. Did you want to weigh in on that and how you think Assassin's Creed might make a statement either way?
Well, I'm really excited about seeing games evolve into a diverse kind of entertainment medium and we see them going in a lot of different directions. We see games like Assassin's Creed
or, like you said, BioShock
, and we also see games like Katamari Damacy
or Loco Roco
, which are also an art form, but not strictly in the cinematic sense. They're more about taking gameplay mechanics and making a nice artistic work out of it. So, I definitely think the potential is there. I think that the more we get to know our medium, the more we get to know what's fun, the more we understand interactivity and the better the machines get, we'll keep on going in that direction. Maybe, eventually we'll have something like the Holodeck. [laughs] Right? Isn't that what we're working towards in some way? That would be awesome