We speak to creative director Jean Guesdon on all things piratey Assassin-related.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag went from being an interesting and unexpected direction in the franchise following the conclusion of Assassin’s Creed III to one of the biggest releases of the year when it comes out on October 29th in North America and November 1st in Europe. Despite the release of several other big-budget open world adventure titles, especially Ubisoft’s own Watch_Dogs, the team at Ubisoft is holding strong on making Black Flag a compelling experience.
We recently spoke to creative director Jean Guesdon about many aspects for the game, including the overall appeal of the pirate genre, features of the next generation console versions, protagonist Edward Kenway and whether we’ll ever actually see an Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan.
Ravi Sinha: When Assassin’s Creed IV was first revealed, there was a lot of cautious enthusiasm. What is the mood now?
Jean Guesdon: Right now we are past E3 and the mood couldn’t be better 🙂 E3 is always a stressful step, especially for us because we were showing off gameplay for the first time. Fortunately, the reception was extremely positive, and we came back to the office excited to finish the game.
" We have a huge Caribbean open-world that is full of activities and side-missions. We have forts to raid, shipwrecks to discover, smuggler caves to infiltrate, ally ships to escort, trade routes to disrupt, animals to hunt, collectibles to find, etc."
Ravi Sinha: Will Assassin’s Creed IV tell the entire story of Kenway or will it be spread across parts like that of Ezio and Connor, taking place over several decades of his life?
Jean Guesdon: It only tells part of Edward’s story—as you may know, we have already told the story of how Edward dies in the novel Forsaken. Now, we are looking specifically at how Edward became an Assassin in the first place.
Ravi Sinha: Are there any other mechanics besides the dual sword wielding and free gun aiming in ACIV’s combat?
Jean Guesdon: The combat plays very similarly to AC3’s combat, but those extra additions that you mentioned really take it to a whole new level. The multi-pistols mechanic enables you to shoot any enemy mid-combo, so it gives a whole new dimension to how you approach a combat situation. Free-aim enables you to pick off some enemies before the fight even starts, which also helps a lot.
Ravi Sinha: Tell us a bit more about the side-quests and missions we can expect in ACIV.
Jean Guesdon: We have a huge Caribbean open-world that is full of activities and side-missions. We have forts to raid, shipwrecks to discover, smuggler caves to infiltrate, ally ships to escort, trade routes to disrupt, animals to hunt, collectibles to find, etc. The key thing here is that all of these activities make sense in the context of the open-world—you will never feel like any of these activities are superfluous, they are all present for a reason, and they are all fun to complete. You are completing these activities to become a stronger pirate and a better assassin.
"One example is the companion app: this was at first an exclusively next gen feature but it became such an integral part of our game, such a cool feature, that we put in the effort to make it available for everyone. "
Ravi Sinha: We’ve heard a lot about the extra content of the PS4 edition – can you tell us a bit more about what we can expect?
Jean Guesdon: The PS4 version does not have any extra game content per se. Graphics, obviously, will be improved to give you a more immersive feeling: leaves and plants move with the wind, waves feel even more lifelike, sails billow in the wind, etc. Other than that, we do support the PS4 touchpad and Vita Remote Play, which means you will be able to play AC4 on your Vita through your PS4.
Ravi Sinha: What advantages has the PlayStation 4 presented in comparison to developing for other consoles? Like Watch_Dogs, did the next generation hardware present an option to expand on the gameplay, which would be reflected in the current gen versions?
Jean Guesdon: We are very open about the fact that we are a cross-gen title. This means that we have to develop for both current-gen and next-gen platforms. This obviously means that we had to do a lot of lateral thinking, but the reward is that features that we developed for Next-Gen ended up becoming feasible on current-gen. One example is the companion app: this was at first an exclusively next gen feature but it became such an integral part of our game, such a cool feature, that we put in the effort to make it available for everyone. So yes, in this sense, next gen really shaped some aspects of the game that you can experience across all platforms.
Ravi Sinha: Assassin’s Creed IV is also confirmed for the Xbox One. Is this version going to be any different from the PS4 one?
Jean Guesdon: Nothing we can confirm at the moment.
"Wind is such an important element in the pirate fantasy that we made sure a lot of thought was put behind its representations in our game."
Ravi Sinha: How long will ACIV’s campaign be?
Jean Guesdon: It’s hard to gauge since open-world exploration is such an important part of our game. You need to explore the world to become stronger, and to access some of the later missions. In this respect, the main path takes around 15-25 hours, but the totality of the content in the game takes a lot longer to complete 🙂
Ravi Sinha: Recently, CEO Yves Guillemot spoke about how he expects ACIV to sell less than ACIII, but that the pirate theme will appeal to more gamers. What’s your take on that?
Jean Guesdon: We’re not ones to pronounce ourselves on sales expectations, that’s not our position within the company. We do know that the pirate theme is extremely strong, that it speaks to nearly everyone in the world. It is a fantasy that everyone knows. In that regard,the appeal for the game is definitely increased. And it’s up to us to take that theme and surprise people with it.
Ravi Sinha: We recently came to know that PS4 allows better wind simulation in other Ubisoft games like Watch_Dogs. Since ACIV has this similar open world feel to it as well, do you think we will see something similar in Assassins Creed IV?
Jean Guesdon: You will definitely feel the effects of our tropical storms, and of the wind blowing in your sails. That is what I was referring to when I was saying that the improved graphics helped us increase immersion. Wind is such an important element in the pirate fantasy that we made sure a lot of thought was put behind its representations in our game.
Ravi Sinha: Last question – Will we ever see an Assassin’s Creed game set in feudal Japan?
Jean Guesdon: You know we can’t answer that 🙂
Thanks to Kiran from E-xpress games for setting this interview up.