Ubisoft Montreal?s Mission Designer for Assassin?s Creed Revelations, Falco Poiker, has been chatting to SPOnG recently about the game?s Den Defence mode, Constantinople?s original underground design and the challenge in ensuring Ezio?s new adventure doesn?t get boring for players.
I continue my interview with Falco here - we discuss the gameplay ?departure? that takes place when controlling Desmond in the Animus, the complex nature of keeping players entertained in-between missions and leaving the life of Ezio Auditore after three long hard years of development.
SPOnG: We know how Ezio and Alta´r will play, but Desmond is currently trapped in the Animus. Can you explain the kind of gameplay that Desmond?s sections will have?
The reason for Desmond being trapped in the Black Room, without giving too much away, is that at the end of Brotherhood
he falls into a coma. No-one really understand why, but he?s placed him in the Animus because it?s believed that it?s going to help keep his brain alive.
There isn?t a huge amount of gameplay with Desmond, it?s more story-based. But there?s a character you?ll meet in the Animus that you?ll be able to talk to... there?s been hints about this character before. I don?t know if you?ll be able to determine who that character might be from that but... [laughs]
As Desmond is going through Ezio?s memory, there are these data fragments. Picking these up will unlock little missions on the Animus Island.
SPOnG: So it?s a bit like Desmond?s trapped in the Matrix?
Sort of. Is there really a parallel anywhere that I can make to Desmond?s situation..? He?s trapped in his own mind. Our best comparison is Inception
, and in fact we do a sort of Inception style thing here, because Desmond is playing in a dreamland, but is able to access Ezio?s memories. Ezio in turn then goes and accesses Alta´r?s memories.
When you unlock these rooms... they take the form of strange platforming missions. You?ll have to play it to understand, because it?s very hard for me to describe it, but it?s kind of like a Dali-esque first-person platformer. It?s definitely a departure, and very cool I think. You get a lot of information about Desmond and his backstory by completing these. Where he came from, what his life is like... the artwork and surroundings are very surreal and symbolic of his life.
SPOnG: Would you say Constantinople is one of the biggest maps in the Assassin?s Creed series? It certainly feels like there?s a lot more activity packed in the game world than ever before.
Physically, it?s actually smaller than Rome.
Yeah. But Rome had a lot of large... I wouldn?t call empty spaces, but more open areas. Whereas in Revelations
we definitely have the largest urban map. In terms of the statistics we?re four-fifths the size, or 80%, the size of Rome. But we?re all urban here.
SPOnG: Has it been challenging on a design level to include such a large number of missions in the space that you?re working with there?
It?s not really tough making the missions in a smaller area, but it?s tough once you put everything together and you realise that the world is much smaller than you thought. The city?s still huge, don?t get me wrong, it still takes a really long time to get from one end to the other - and in fact we?ve had to create missions to make the experience to travel from one place to another more interesting, because the place is way too big!
For example, the Lute mission [where you must infiltrate a palace as a Lute player at a party to stop the Sultan?s heir from getting assassinated] - the distance between getting from the starting point at the amphitheatre to the palace is pretty big, right? We didn?t think it would be that much of a deal, to get the player from one end to the other. But we walked it and realised it was way bigger than we thought.
We have new technology that allows us to record what the player is doing and play it back via another character in the game world. So that has allowed us to create races in-between mission points with fellow assassins, including Yusuf. It?s just an optional thing to do - you?re not obliged to beat Yusuf or anything - but actually seeing him and four other assassins running along the buildings with you is really cool. And it makes traveling the world map more engaging.
The other problem with the map is... it?s funny for me to be calling the map ?small? because it?s a really huge city. But what happens a lot is that you have the Assassin Dens, and they overlap a lot with the missions. It?s just a side-effect of how we designed it. We had the same problem in Brotherhood with the Borgia Towers, but slightly less so because with these big open spaces you had a bit more room to play with.
What I?m seeing a lot in previews is that people will be just trying to get to another mission, and they?ll end up running into a Den somewhere. The Dens are, in my opinion, tougher than the Borgia Towers, so it makes the game a bit tougher if the player?s not aware of where they?re going. They make a beeline through this Den and all of a sudden they?re being attacked by loads of guys.
Eventually the player will learn - look at a map and avoid the red restricted areas - but it?s tough to arrange missions in the game world until everything comes together.