Is Unity going to be a rehash of the old games or will it set new standards for the series?
Assassin’s Creed is mostly an annual affair now. Except for Assassin’s Creed II, every game in the series has released the next year. Last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag took a different approach compared to the rest of the games in the series. Black Flag could be easily termed as more of a pirates games rather an actual Assassin’s Creed title but this change in direction was a welcome change. Unity goes back to the series’ root once again but that does not mean the franchise won’t rework on some of its crucial gameplay mechanics like stealth and assassination.
GamingBolt caught up with Assassin’s Creed Unity’s level designer Bruno St-André to know how Unity will be making a massive shift in gameplay and exploration, but at the same time be true to its roots. Bruno’s responses are below.
Leonid Melikhov: What is the biggest change in Unity when compared to previous Assassin’s Creed games?
Bruno St-André: I think the biggest change on this one and that’s speaks the most is the shared experience and the fact that you can play with your friends now. It’s the same experience as Assassin’s Creed before, but now you can share it. You can play with your friends in missions, exploring, collecting, all of this. I think that’s probably the biggest change.
"In terms of next-gen I think it's all about the crowd. The number of people we put on screen and the number of reactions those can have is important. It’s not only about putting a large number of people on screen but those need to be more believable than ever-before."
Leonid Melikhov: Right. The graphics fidelity was pretty good, how do you feel about the new consoles? Since this is the first true next-gen Assassin’s Creed and Black Flag was a cross-gen title. Do you guys think you can push it even more or did you cap it out?
Bruno St-André: In terms of next-gen I think it’s all about the crowd. The number of people we put on screen and the number of reactions those can have is important. It’s not only about putting a large number of people on screen but those need to be more believable than ever-before. They need to react to what you do and they need to react to other events. For the first time since you’re playing multiplayer/co-op it’s not a player-centric game anymore. They have their own key reactions and reactions that occur.
That’s one thing and the graphics is another thing to share. The lighting which we are using is only possible on next-gen and we showed a little bit of it in the demo and you’ll see it more and more as we get more done with the game. The seamless interior and exterior of the game goes far beyond on what we have seen so far. You can actually go up, in and out [of monuments] without any loading and it’s fully modelized from exterior to interior. You can enter via different routes, enter the catacombs and finding the ways inside. This is all done seamlessly, of-course it’s due to the next-gen consoles that were able to do so.
Leonid Melikhov: Sounds great. Yah, I noticed that were a-lot more crowds, I was very surprised, I didn’t expect that. I think another great thing is how detailed the buildings were. I remember you guys first released a little teaser, because people kept talking about it and asking you to show them something. A couple of things ended up leaking out, so after that happened you guys had to tease. So I assumed you were saving it for this time.
Bruno St-André: Exactly, that was the plan. What you saw is a teaser and I think we actually achieved a better looking game than we had in the teaser.
Leonid Melikhov: About the Xbox One and PS4 versions, are you guys shooting for 1080/60 fps on both?
Bruno St-André: To be honest, I would not be the exact guy to answer that because we have more technical guys. I think 60fps and 1080p, I am pretty sure are shooting for that. You would need to confirm with PR for the exact number to be honest. But I think we’re shooting for it, yah.
Leonid Melikhov: On both systems?
Bruno St-André: Yes, both systems.
Leonid Melikhov: I remember when Black Flag came out the resolution was a little less and then you guys released a patch bringing it up to 1080p on the PlayStation. I remember that happened with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Bruno St-André: I am pretty sure we will deliver it on launch.
"It’s a good topic, because the side missions in Assassin’s Creed Unity is called “The Thousand Stories of Paris” by our team. So we really want our side content to actually deliver the story. There are a-lot of hidden stories within the city of Paris. It’s rich and you gonna see a-lot of activities will go through cameos or hidden stuff within the story of Paris."
Leonid Melikhov: Sounds good. Is there competitive multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed Unity or anything like that?
Bruno St-André: Actually no, we made choices on the game early on that we’re going for the shared experience. This meant that we developed core mechanics more on cooperation instead of confrontation. So we put a-lot of effort into redefining the fights so that multiple players can actually engage in them and have a better strategy against the AI, which reacts differently each time. Same thing for navigation and same thing for the stealth. All of our effort and our decisions were based on this topic. We really wanted to be focused on that.
It’s been six years since I am on the brand. I’ve worked on Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood, Revelation, Liberation and then Unity. It’s been asked nearly every year by the fans to be able to play co-op and finally were able to deliver it with next-gen consoles. That was really our focus and we’re heading strong in that direction.
Leonid Melikhov: What can you tell us about the side missions in the game?
Bruno St-André: It’s a good topic, because the side missions in Assassin’s Creed Unity is called “The Thousand Stories of Paris” by our team. So we really want our side content to actually deliver the story. There are a-lot of hidden stories within the city of Paris. It’s rich and you gonna see a-lot of activities will go through cameos or hidden stuff within the story of Paris. It’s really cool.
Leonid Melikhov: The only criticism that I’ve heard about Unity is that one of the four assassins that you can play as with your friends is not a female. So people are asking now, why no female assassin for co-op?
Bruno St-André: We’re really dedicated to telling the story of Anor Victor, our main character. Anor will go through the process of becoming an assassin and closer to the root of the assassins. This guy is actually fully customizable but you remain as Anor Victor. You customize your gear, skill and visual.
Leonid Melikhov: Gender? No customization for gender?
Bruno St-André: No
Leonid Melikhov: Ok. What kind of missions can we expect in Assassin’s Creed Unity overall?
Bruno St-André: In terms of missions overall we had to change a little bit of the mentality around our design of missions because since we were aiming for the share experienced with multiplayer players, we wanted to move away a bit from the linear aspect of the missions and were going more for a 360 approach. So, therefore, it supports more creativity of the players so that they can combine their powers, skills and create something new. Create a new experience that we were not able to do before.
Leonid Melikhov: More dynamic?
Bruno St-André: Exactly, so less small objectives and more long term objectives and more ways to achieve it.
"We’ve added a-lot of new features with the stealth-approach. Tighter challenge in terms of fights and more exposed in terms of stealth adds for different types of mentality when you’re approaching the situation. As the assassin you’re always better when you approach, you plan and you strike."
Leonid Melikhov: By the way, the music was fantastic. Who is doing the music? Is it Jeremy soule? Is he back with the team?
Bruno St-André: I am not sure; don’t want to say anything actually. There are 2 guys and 1 girl that wrote the music our composers. Two of them are returning from the franchise and there is a new one.
Leonid Melikhov: The single-player demo that we saw had a little bit of combat. Is it still kind of the same? Is disarming in there? How is everything going to work? Because a lot of people are saying is that the combat system is too easy in previous Assassin’s Creed games. Is there anything new we can expect like new mechanics to kind of make it more interesting?
Bruno St-André: To be honest, our demo today is not fully exploiting our new combat system and I think it’s because we’ve improved the moves you can make, we’ve improved how you can chain combos and the techniques you can use. The truth is we improved it way more in the feeling.
When you’ll actually play the game you’ll see that the AI strategize against you and the way they react to you. For example; in earlier Assassin’s Creeds we’d always felt that the AI lined up and waited for their turn to strike. Now we have the NPCs coordinate their strikes against you so that they strike together. An NPC will actually try to confront you so that his friend takes a distance and tries to shoot you from a distance.
As a player, you need to be more efficient in using your skills to go through and why we did that is to give more value to the stealth. We’ve added a-lot of new features with the stealth-approach. Tighter challenge in terms of fights and more exposed in terms of stealth adds for different types of mentality when you’re approaching the situation. As the assassin you’re always better when you approach, you plan and you strike. And if you get in trouble or in shit, vanish and retry your approach.
Leonid Melikhov: Are we still gonna have optional objectives for 100% synchronizations?
Bruno St-André: Still do, yes.
Leonid Melikhov: Are there going to be a-lot of tailing missions? Because in my personal opinion and a-lot of other people have said that Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had a little bit too many tailing missions. Is that number going to be reduced? You don’t have to give me an exact number but will there be a smaller amount of tailing missions?
Bruno St-André: What I can tell you is that we learn from our mistakes and that’s the strength of our brand. Coming out every year, we take the polls of fans every year and we reiterate on that. So for sure, we heard the comments and we’ll be sure to deliver on that topic.
Leonid Melikhov: I’ll take that as a yes (laughs)
Bruno St-André: Yah yah.
Leonid Melikhov: You as the fan of the series as a gamer and not a developer what did you like the most in Assassin’s Creed Unity? I am sure there are a couple of surprises we haven’t seen, but so far what do you like the most personally?
Bruno St-André: Personally, two things. In terms of the environment I think Paris and the exploration of Paris is amazing. Once you’re going to play it, once you going to put your hands on it you’ll see it’s so diverse. Just the fact of entering through window, getting down two-stories from the building and finding a hidden trapped door on the ground, getting into the sewer and more. The level of details is amazing to explore.
Leonid Melikhov: Great depth in re-playbility and parkour.
Bruno St-André: Exactly, you will always find new stuff to collect and see. That’s for me and I like it. The second part is in terms of gameplay and in terms of missions. The approach we’ve given to the stealth. The stealth mode that we’re giving to the players such as cover kills and the fact that you can sneak up so close to the enemies. Getting into their house sometimes because of the interior, this aspect also touches me because in terms of mission design and in terms of gamer this is what I like. I like the emulated feeling of being an assassin. Stalking somebody, getting close to them and then making a perfect kill and then vanishing.
"What I can tell you is we’re closer to the roots. We wanted to make sure that for the newcomers who are new to the brand didn’t have to understand all the six iterations before. As our character, you’re going to learn what is an assassin and what is it to get into that guild of assassins and what it is to work as a guild of assassins."
Leonid Melikhov: Speaking of missions, I’ve got a couple of story questions. Is it a continuation? Or is it more of a reboot? I remember in Assassin’s Creed III there was a-lot of hints of Unity during the missions when Connor allied with his father Haytham. It was already foreshadowed that Templars and Assassin’s would be united together to do something. Are you taking that particular part of the story further?
Bruno St-André: What I can tell you is we’re closer to the roots. We wanted to make sure that for the newcomers who are new to the brand didn’t have to understand all the six iterations before. As our character, you’re going to learn what is an assassin and what is it to get into that guild of assassins and what it is to work as a guild of assassins. Then realizing what is the conflict between assassins and templars so we’re closer to that. Of course, there are surprises within that. The French revolution is also a part of the story and the redemption quest of Ando.
What I can say to you is that the team, the Unity team out of our name goes for the gameplay and it goes for the fact that you’re sharing with your friend.
Leonid Melikhov: For the modern story, is that still going on?
Bruno St-André: Yep, we still have a present. I cannot give away too much about it. It’s still present and its part of the brand. It’s going to continue and its continuing forward with the approach Black Flag was given, which was more of a personal approach. It’s talking more to the player as the protagonist. We’ve got twists, but it’s more in the same vein.
Leonid Melikhov: Right. I personally liked the Desmond storyline. I wasn’t a big fan of Assassin’s Creed III ending and I don’t think a-lot of people were. Many people asked if there is any way going back to that guy or is there something that’s still tied to him. I liked how in the modern story of Black Flag you’d go and hack computers and you’d go and look at all the stuff that happened previously. This was great for people who haven’t played the previous Assassin’s Creed games. I remember I hacked one of the computers and they were talking about possible future eras. French revolution was obviously there and you know Asia and the likes have been asked for like you know million of times now.
Bruno St-André: Yep.
Leonid Melikhov: I am sure it’s probably cooking up somewhere so you know; we’ll see how that goes. I am excited to see all the super hidden stuff in the modern story. I am still assuming you guys are doing some sort of collectibles in the modern gameplay part of it whenever you walk out of the Animus and explore wherever you’re going to be at. I am looking forward to that experience because it’s always fun.
Bruno St-André: It’s part of the definitive brand and we won’t remove that for sure.
Leonid Melikhov: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Assassin’s Creed Unity, before we take off?
Bruno St-André: I think we’ve covered pretty much everything. What I can tell you is that it’s been 3 years since I’ve been working on that project and for me it’s a big day. I love revealing the tech to the public, I love the response that we get from the public. It shows that I think over the last 3 years we’ve made key choices, sometimes hard choices, but we’ve probably right ones and today we had a huge response from our fans.
Leonid Melikhov: After Assassin’s Creed III, a lot of people were not happy with certain things. It was a very ambiguous project, some things turned off a couple of people. So after that everyone was like “Ohh…I don’t know how the future games are going to be now”, because they started to kind of bog down a little bit in quality and story and certain things like that. So Black Flag came out and was a really good game but it didn’t feel “Assassin’s-like” and it was more about piracy.
Bruno St-André: Yes.
Leonid Melikhov: It was an excellent pirate game.
Bruno St-André: It’s probably the best Assassin’s Creed game for exploration. It really succeeded in that.
Leonid Melikhov: Thank you so much Bruno, was a great talk.
Bruno St-André: Thank you.