Assassin's Creed III's Game Director Damien Kieken on multiplayer
GAME NAME: Assassin's Creed III
DEVELOPER(S): Ubisoft Montreal
PLATFORM(S): PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
GENRE(S): Action, Stealth
RELEASE DATE(S): 31 October 2012 (Xbox 360, PS3), 22 November 2012 (PC), 30 November 2012 (Wii U)
Ubisoft has been gracious enough to send through a Q&A with Damien Kieken, Game Director on Assassin's Creed III. In it, he focuses entirely on multiplayer aspects of the upcoming blockbuster.
Stevivor: What can you tell us of the new division of Abstergo, “Abstergo Entertainment” and what is this new product called “Animus” that they are commercializing to the mass market?
Damien Kieken: This year, you are no longer playing a Templar recruit hired by Abstergo... This year, Abstergo has decided to open a new “entertainment” division within their corporation named “Abstergo Entertainment”. Abstergo Entertainment`s newly released product to the mass market is a ground-breaking device entitled “Animus”. Thanks to Abstergo’s incredible research into genetic memory, ANIMUS gives everyone the chance to game within the past.
Abstergo is selling their product using a very friendly, edgy marketing tone and they’ve developed a cool branding and user interface to appeal to everybody. They have a few taglines such as “Make history yours” or “Relive the past in HD”.
Always with the consumer in mind, Abstergo Entertainment will give you insights on the company’s future initiatives by granting you access to files and information on products that will soon hit the market. As you progress in the game and level up your character, you will access such files and videos. Moreover, every month you’ll have new personal and community challenges to unlock new content that will continue the storyline throughout the year.
Stevivor: In terms of content, what are the key new elements in the game this year?
Kieken: Assassin’s Creed 3 takes place before, during and after the American Revolution, mainly in the British colonies Boston, New York and the Frontier. Therefore, one of the key focus for the multiplayer team was to create unique maps based on the revolutionary war setting that are different from past AC MP maps and fun to discover and play with and against friends! Of course, apart from unique maps, we had to create a wide array of characters that are inspired by this setting and that will resonate with the players!
Another key element we focused on was on developing new game modes based around team play and competition. We are revealing one new mode at E3 called Domination which is a team based mode (4 VS 4) where players need to work together to attack/capture and defend various zones on a map to score points. It’s the famous multiplayer mode based on zone capturing with the AC MP twist. This mode introduces a whole new dynamic in Assassin’s Creed multiplayer.
Wolfpack is a 2 to 4 players versus AI mode… In this mode every second counts as you need to hunt AI targets… A fast pace experience which rewards flawless navigation and quick reactions before the clock ends.
Finally, we are always working on refining the overall multiplayer experience. Data tracking and feedback from AC Brotherhood and Revelations players have helped us in improving our core mechanics as well as working on the overall performance of matchmaking and group system. Now Kill and Stun interactions are merged on the same button (to stop having the game revealing the pursuer and to improve player reactivity), thanks to a 3rd Ability slot, you can play with 3 active abilities at the same time and we have a brand new ‘player focused flow’.
Stevivor: What are the major elements (gameplay wise) you are improving in the game from the previous instalments?
Kieken: Group creation will be flexible. Basically, you will be able to recruit friends to join your group and session anytime before and during a game. Once you are in a group with friends, you guys will stick together and be able to play versus other groups of set players.
In terms of pure gameplay, we have decided to merge the kill and stun action on the same button. Most importantly, this modification makes the controls more intuitive and improves the player’s reactivity when they need to kill or stun a player! Also, the idea is to stop revealing the pursuer to the player (the “stun” UI appeared over the head of the pursuer character in ACR).
We’ve also decided to add a 3rd active ability slot to the player. This new slot is reserved for range abilities only. This lets the player choose 3 active abilities at the same time from all the available abilities which really opens up the strategic possibilities. Players will be able to create a wide array of ability sets.
Navigation wise, Players are now able to use the environment to kill their targets (walls, pillars, objects, etc.) making the kills look very bad ass. Also, players will be able to drop quickly from railings without jumping too far with the new Vault move making navigation options larger and more precise.
Stevivor: What is your inspiration behind the MP characters? How historically accurate are these characters?
Kieken: The character cast in ACIII’s MP is inspired by the diverse characters which inhabited the 18th century America, from the colonialist living in the flourishing cities to the natives living in their villages in the wild.
We wanted to translate in all our characters the political tensions of this period and create a group of adventurers coming from all over the world converging on this new continent.
We do a lot of researches on the cloths of each character but we add a little contemporary touch to each of them!
We use a lot of historical reference (particularly paintings) as well as contemporary hero references.
We were inspired by somewhat historical movies like “The Last of the Mohicans” and “The Patriot” but we also use strong archetypes such as characters from “Snatch” or even “The Avengers”.
In the end, our cast of characters can be compared to movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Sherlock Holmes” or the “Brotherhood of the wolves”… At the same time using historical reference but with a modern attitude.
It’s really important for us that players recognize themselves in these characters and want to incarnate someone who’s charismatic.
Stevivor: What makes the new domination mode unique from previous MP modes and what are the basic rules of this mode?
Kieken: The domination mode introduces a whole new dynamic to the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer experience. Two teams of four fights to capture zones within a map. There are three zones to capture in the map. Controlling a territory gives the controlling team points every second. The more territories controlled by a team the more points are awarded.
As you would have understood it, it’s the famous multiplayer mode based on zone capturing BUT with the AC MP twist! When you’re capturing an opponent territory, you’re a target so you need to blend in the crowd, hide or stun your pursuer to gain enough time to capture the zone then become the pursuer and kill your opponent.
A zone can be captured even if defending team members are within it. The more you have players attacking in a zone, the quicker the territory is captured.
What’s mainly different here and makes this mode really fun is that the action focuses around “capture points” or “hot zones”, producing many varied confrontations among players who are both attacking and defending...
You need to use different strategies when attacking or defending a zone. A good mix of stealth, observation and aggressiveness is required.
Team play is essential in this mode. Communication with your teammates is also key.
As there are 4 players and 3 territories to capture, a good initial tactic for a team is to focus on trying to control 2 territories to begin with. There is normally 1 territory much closer than the other two to the starting groups. A team should capture that territory with only 1 player while the other three run off to the next closest territory, capture it and defend it.
Stevivor: What makes the new Wolfpack mode unique from previous MP modes and what are the basic rules of this mode?
Kieken: This is the first mode in AC multiplayer where players will collaborate together to assassinate waves of NPC targets. In this mode, you’re objective is to chase down specific NPC targets (AI) and kill them the best way possible to score as many points you can. Each kill is rewarded with points and depending on the quality of your kill, you will get more points! If you successfully kill your target in unison with your partner, you will be rewarded more points.
A very important ingredient in this mode is time. When the game starts, a timer will begin decreasing. If it reaches 0, the game is over. Basically, your time is limited and the only way to add additional time to your clock is to reach the needed score to complete a sequence.
So you need to take quick decisions and always adapt yourself to the different situations you’ll face trying to maximise your score with qualitative kills versus the time needed to perform them.
The AI will also react if they spot you, depending of their grade, they can stun you, use some abilities to defend themselves or trick you, using for example, the disguise ability.
The new Wolfpack mode is fresh, quite challenging and rewarding. Each time the game ends, you’ll want to try it again and again and beat your previous best score and eventually successfully reach the very last sequence killing the final targets and obtain a cool visual reward!
Stevivor: Will players be able to customise their characters?
Kieken: Of course, players will be able to deeply customise all the characters available in the game. Players will have access to the customisation of different body parts (head, chest, legs, etc.) but also the character`s face with scars, war paint and other make-up. That’s not all, players will also be able to change their weapons, assassination, stun and taunt animations. And finally we have brand new full-body costumes in the game that really alter the appearance of each character.
Players will not only be able to customise their character but also their profile with an emblem, picture, title and relic selection and customisation.
Stevivor: Can you give us examples of new abilities featured in the game?
Kieken: With a third ability slot available for the players, they will be able to add one more ability to their set. This 3rd slot is dedicated to range abilities like Pistol or Knives. We developed a few new abilities such as the Glimmer ability which fades your character making them less visible to opponents and the Animus Shield ability which makes you invulnerable against all abilities for a few seconds which is very efficient against the Smoke bomb. For a mode like domination, both of these abilities are crucial when attacking a zone.
We have also new Range Ability like Poison Dart which is a ranged poison attack (does more points than a gun kill but doesn’t kill right away), new perks like Unstoppable which makes you run through all chase breakers and the crowd and of course new streaks like Streak Silent Mass Morph which Morph in a very impressive way all the crowd around you.
Stevivor: In the Multiplayer, how have you pushed the crowd AI and behaviour?
Kieken: One of the main key immersive features which really affect the gameplay in the multiplayer is the crowd life. In domination for example, a sneaky tactic as an attacking player is to blend into the crowd within an enemy capture zone and begin capturing it.
We have developed new varied crowd behaviours and patterns to have more living maps and places to hide, to perform Environment kills.
Thanks so much to Damien and Ubisoft for their time and effort.