We sat down with Ubisoft Montreal Realisation Director, Antoine Fortier-Auclair at rAge 2013 and discussed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s theme, the current and next-generation versions and more.
ZG: We’re all very excited for the ‘pirate’ theme in Black Flag. What are the unique elements that will separate Black Flag from the rest of the series? What has Ubisoft done in terms of gameplay to keep it “fresh”?
FA: The pirate aspect of the gameplay is obviously a massive one, but the beautiful thing about Black Flag as an Assassin’s Creed game is that we (Ubisoft) looked to achieve a balance betweeen the Pirate lifestyle and the Assassin’s appeal.
The Assassin’s gameplay is all about free-running, climbing up rooftops, stealth, being tactical and air assasinations; while the pirate lifelstly is a more brash one and violent.
So an example I can give you is if you are sailing your ship and you destroy the mast of an enemey ship, you sail right next to it and tell your mates to attack the ship. You can use a swing-rope to board the ship or by jumping from platform to platform. You start boarding the ship; which is a very violent, brash ‘piratey ‘ thing to do.
But the Assassin way is to actually to climb up the mast of your ship while your mates distract the other ship mates, then you’re navigating the planks, jumping from your ship to the next above everyone else. With your hood on as an Assassin, you kill the guys on the balconies, then dive down into an air-assassination. This is the iconic Assassin thing you can do, except this time you’re doing it with two Cutlass Swords in your hands. So this is a symbiotic example of the two themes themes merging well.
ZG: Will the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions feature any significant advancements in gameplay, due to the more advanced technology?
FA: No, there will not be a major difference. There will be some unique features for the map which uses the PS4 touchpad, the navigation of this is super intuitive. We had some people test this, we didn’t even need to explain it, and it just works.
Other than that, Ubisoft as a company philosophy, tend to go into new console markets as quickly as possible, we tend to support console launches. So the Wii U version has a ‘Horizon Mode’ which essentially allows you to take all the menus or HUD to the controller, so it’s a lot more cinematic experience, it’s beautiful.
But the real reason we didn’t want to go crazy with the next-gen versions is because we didn’t want to abandon the people that have been with us since AC 1 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. That’s really important to us. We realize that people don’t necessarily transition to the new consoles on day one, not everyone can, there’s limited supplies and so forth. So it was very important for us to make sure we didn’t abandon our fans, because they’ve been buying our games year in and year out. We’re appreciative of that and so we decided that the advanced features on next-gen will be mostly aesthetic.
Some of the aesthetic things are incredible on next-gen. Things like the vegetation, the transparency of the sails, the ocean water is gorgeous. Things like the weather system, is just beautiful. So it will look better on next-gen, but we were conscience of not alienating anyone on any given platform. This was super important.
ZG: The multiplayer popularity with Assassins Creed has been growing. Is there anything new we can expect in the multiplayer?
FA: Yes, we have quite a bit of customization in the singleplayer, so we wanted to support that in a way in the multiplayer. So you have a ‘game mode creator’ now, where people will basically be able to create their own game modes and share them. So you can keep the multiplayer fresh, and it doesn’t get any better than that. Hopefully people like that.
ZG: Will the ‘rate the mission’ feedback help Ubisoft with designing DLC for Black Flag? Or will the player feedback only influence future Assassin’s Creed games?
FA: What I can tell you is that Ubisoft as a company are always keeping up with with reviews as well as people’s comments when the games come out. So this is going to be a new way of finding out more about what people like and what people don’t like as such. So this will help in how we go about it with future titles. So while I can’t tell you if it will affect DLC, I can tell you that it’s probably going to affect design in general. I hope people vote.
Hopefully people use it to express themselves. I mean if it weren’t for fans, we wouldn’t be able to make those games at the rate we’re doing. People keep liking them, so hopefully they tell us why and how. The important part for us is to keep the story relevant.
ZG: Are there plans to end the AC “story?”
FA: I’m not important enough to know, (laughs) but I can tell you that Black Flag is a really good jumping on point for new plans, and also like a fresh beginning. As you know Desmond’s story concluded in AC3 in a very natural way, and so now we’re sort of changing the approach to it a little bit, with regards to the present day aspect of that game. We’re now chronologically after Desmond’s story and you’re playing as yourself. So what we did was an Abstergo employee, you’re you, playing as you and you go into the Animus into Edward’s story. So whether the story is going to end, I don’t know. Again, I’m not important enough, I don’t sit in on those meetings (laughs). So I think this is a nice new fresh start. I hope it keeps us afloat. I think people would agree the story still has some wind to it. I hope it does and I think it does, so hopefully people will agree.
ZG: The Assassin’s Creed series has featured really memorable heroes, who is your favourite?
FA: Man I love Edward. But actually a lot of people have said Leo as the fan-favourite. Leo was a real smart guy and charismatic, but I honestly think we have the best line-up of characters with Black Flag. We have Black Beard who’s super-interesting, with two sides to him – he is really smart, and he does transform into that monster for some people, you’ll see that. Charles Vain is incredible and Edward is just brilliant. I hope people like it. I think they will.