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Sushiglutton
09-04-2015, 09:33 PM
So this is something Ubi said a few months ago (http://www.gamespresso.com/2015/06/07/assassins-creed-syndicate-set-to-re-assess-side-quests/):


“In Assassin’s Creed we tend to be very generous with the activities that players can engage in, but one of the things that we need to do to modernise the experience is to make sure that those activities make sense for the players – and this is something that we are working on this year. Every activity that the player will do will make sense in the narrative quest of the protagonist,” he says. “The goal is to take back London, so all the activities that you will do in the open world will serve that as well as the main storyline.”


Was thinking about this a bit while replaying RDR. Does the design goal, as described above really make any sense? It sounds very compelling at a glance, but let's unpack it a bit.


My main issue with the description above is that it sounds to me like Ubi is trying to solve the issue of mindless side stuff by framing it on a "macro level". That is to say the activites will still be very repetetive and lack a handcrafted feel, but there's an overall narrative reason for them. This doesn't work from my experience (games like Shadow of Mordor and Just Cause 2 have tried). There's no escaping getting your hands dirty by adding personality at the "micro level" (aka each activity instance).


I also don't really see the point of going so pure. For example in RDR (as I said was thinking about this while replaying it) the main goal for John Marston is to bring his former gang to justice. Very little of the side stuff counts towards this goal. On the contrary it's used for world building, expanding Marston's character, or just a bit of relaxation (casino games, treasure hunt). Never feels like an issue to me. However what R* have obv been really careful about is to not add content that breaks the overall mood of the game (like for example the beating up husband missions in AC2 did). That imo is very important.


I don't think framing the sidecontent with a common goal will cure the open world fatigue, for that you need an entirely different approach. It may actually enhance it since a) if everything counts towards a common goal the accountant feel may increase, and b) there's no break from the hamster wheel.

Farlander1991
09-04-2015, 09:45 PM
ACB and AC4 do this, and people took it very well.

Like a lot of things, this isn't a bad concept, depends on implementation.

Shahkulu101
09-04-2015, 10:17 PM
There are games where side activities working towards a common goal are great - ACB and AC4 as Farlander has mentioned.

And games where the side missions are good but not directly related to the main storyline - RDR (never played it but I'll take people's word) and TW3 (although this one not as much, since there are plenty of side quests which affect the campaign, though they are the minority).

Both can work, and I don't know what I prefer overall, what's important to me is that they are there for an artistic purpose, and not there for the sake of content. So if what you are saying might happen comes to pass, the side-content is busywork albeit with a intrinsic narrative purpose, it won't win any points from me. Although some people say that the collectibles in ACB were better because they were tied to removing Borgia influence. I can see why they think so, but to me it changes nothing since I absolutely detest that type of content with every fibre of my being.

Farlander1991
09-04-2015, 10:24 PM
Although some people say that the collectibles in ACB were better because they were tied removing Borgia influence.

I actually would like to mention Rogue here, one of the things I really like about the game's wild areas, is how collectibles have interesting pathways to them, so even though collectibles themselves are boring, I had fun getting to them because the exploration of those areas was neat.


I can see why they think so, but to me it changes nothing since I absolutely detest that type of content with every fibre of my being.

While I don't detest it (again, it depends on the implementation, and I understand a certain need for it - you can't fill the whole open world with hand-crafted content, unless that open-world is pretty small), I think Ubi and pretty much every open-world action game out there overuses this kind of thing to a huge degree.

HDinHB
09-04-2015, 10:41 PM
what's important to me is that they are there for an artistic purpose, and not there for the sake of content.

I agree, though I would be even more generous and accept other than artistic purposes...just some reason besides padding, be it artistic, historic, educational, experiential, or just plain fun.


I actually would like to mention Rogue here, one of the things I really like about the game's wild areas, is how collectibles have interesting pathways to them, so even though collectibles themselves are boring, I had fun getting to them because the exploration of those areas was neat.


Some of them really stood out. There were fun ones, even though they were always too short (you'd get to the artifact just when it was getting good), but I thought at the time if there was a way to string the best ones together, it could make an almost tomb-like level. If there were outdoor, icy, cave-tombs.

Shahkulu101
09-04-2015, 10:46 PM
Yeah, I do remember Rogue's collectible paths being quite memorable - especially the Native Pillars - getting to them was sometimes like the platforming missions from the previous games all on their own, and it felt good that you were experiencing that sort of gameplay seamlessly and not as seperate, categorized mission even if the end goal was actually gratuitous.

That's how I hoped how the Nostradamus missions would be like before the game released, you get the location of the building and in trying to find the riddle location (obviously with some guidance - like emphasized pathways or search areas) you end up with a sort of seamless tomb mission - if that makes any sense.

Farlander1991
09-04-2015, 11:01 PM
you end up with a sort of seamless tomb mission - if that makes any sense.

Yeah, it does. I actually believe this is how view points should be handled. There's only so many ways you can climb in the upwards direction, that having a tomb level that would mix the indoor and outdoor areas (for example you get indoor, jump on some boxes to get on the second floor then through lanterns on the other side, get out of the window to climb around onto a scaffholding, climb up to get into another window inside and there you need to navigate in a different way, and then back out, etc.) would be far more interesting, IMO. And a view point (alongside a fast travel possibility, maybe) seems like a good aesthetical reward for the end of that.

Shahkulu101
09-04-2015, 11:18 PM
Yeah, it does. I actually believe this is how view points should be handled. There's only so many ways you can climb in the upwards direction, that having a tomb level that would mix the indoor and outdoor areas (for example you get indoor, jump on some boxes to get on the second floor then through lanterns on the other side, get out of the window to climb around onto a scaffholding, climb up to get into another window inside and there you need to navigate in a different way, and then back out, etc.) would be far more interesting, IMO. And a view point (alongside a fast travel possibility, maybe) seems like a good aesthetical reward for the end of that.

YES. Love this idea.

Viewpoints, while cool and iconic of the series, have really lost their allure. Especially for myself, as I've completed each game at least 4 times (with the exception of AC1), so the amount of viewpoints I've climbed in total is a number I can't even bare to estimate. This is a perfect way to spice them up and make them far less tedious.

HDinHB
09-04-2015, 11:34 PM
Those are both good ideas. Many of the viewpoints in Black Flag and Rogue are almost identical and therefore dull (and often lower than the mast of your ship parked 20 yards away). Unity had more variety (and certainly more height), but climbing is still so easy there wasn't enough challenge to it.

I liked the Nostradamus riddles, but if they made (some of) the symbols easy to find but challenging to get to, it could be a fun mental and "physical" puzzle.

i rarely, if ever, have to stop and think "how do I get there from here" anymore, it's just point and click climbing, and that takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Rugterwyper32
09-04-2015, 11:55 PM
I think the problem with collectibles comes from two things, mainly: The feeling of it being a chore (mark something on the map, run towards it, in some cases press a button), and the lack of actual usefulness for them. Sure, maybe you'll get a cool cape from collecting all of them, or an outfit! But that doesn't feel like a fitting reward, and it takes too long to get anything from collecting all of those things anyway. Marking a lot of flags on your map and looking for them in hidden tombs just for a cape that really doesn't help at all doesn't help. Or hunting down feathers for an outfit that hasn't got a point and doesn't feel worth your time. Or if you get something rather quickly from them, then it feels there's no point in getting the rest (Desmond's Journey in Revelations, which is, frankly, pointless).

In fact, the only collectibles I've truly enjoyed so far are the shanties. I actually liked the almanac pages, it's just that they were more of a pain to get than necessary for too little of a reward. The shanties actually give you something nice and satisfying, being fun to collect and making your journey on sea a lot more enjoyable. But while it's a step in the right direction, it's not enough. And from what I can tell, in terms of collectibles Unity isn't that much of an improvement.

So what do I think? Well, Farlander's idea is a fantastic one, for one. I actually had hoped with Unity that they'd go that direction, considering the seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors areas and how it'd been kinda done before. The Giotto's Campanille viewpoint had you going between the inside of the tower and the outside, for instance, and it could actually be easier to get it after the Cathedral Assassin Tomb that got you out at the very top of the dome of the cathedral. And if memory serves, doing the Torre Grossa tomb got you out pretty much right next to a viewpoint, if memory serves. So seeing that not having been done even though there's precedent of it being done makes it ever so slightly disappointing.

The other thing I think should be done regarding collectibles, though, is learn from stuff like the Metroid series. Whenever you obtain collectibles, they serve more of a purpose. Missile expansions, power bombs, energy tanks, you feel their benefits pretty much right away. Finding a way to make you feel a benefit from obtaining a collectible right away and not making them feel like a chore would be a great thing. I like collectibles in Metroid because they fit both things, specially in the Prime series: They're useful (and right away) and they're fun to obtain due to how the puzzles around them are handled for the most part. Sure, there's a few easy ones, but those tend to be early in the game to let you get on your feet.

Xstantin
09-05-2015, 12:33 AM
Viewpoint puzzles sound nice. Unity had it somewhat with Notre Dame iirc, cause you could just climb the perch tower straight up
Speaking about collectibles I liked I thought the Black Flag hidden treasure maps were cool and made sense being there fitting with the whole pirate theme

VestigialLlama4
09-05-2015, 08:25 AM
I also don't really see the point of going so pure.

To me side missions and how they work has to do with story and character. There's no hard and fast rule. In Brotherhood, Black Flag and Syndicate presumably, you have general goals - Brotherhood is take Rome away from the Borgia (so all the side missions are interlinked and integrated), Black Flag is be a successful pirate (so all the side missions are interlinked and integrated) and Syndicate the goal is take back London I guess.

But in a heavy story game like AC1, AC2 and AC3, the side missions do stand apart. Like AC1, these liberation missions and those tiny assignments of which you only need do two or three to reach your target and those Flags and 60 Templars. There its an afterthought because the main story is the heart of the game. AC2 introduced the Codex Pages which is a side activity but it unlocks the finale but on the other hand it doesn't bring special advantages because all the key upgrades (Double Blades, Poison, Gun comes from the main story itself). The Tombs are specialized levels that unlocks the Armor but the combat and medicines are overpowered as it is that they don't really need the Armor.

AC3 actually balances side and main missions well. Connor has a story goal of stopping the Templars and has a personal connection but his nature is that of a helper so he takes on other people's causes as and when needed. So he builds and settles the Homestead which is part of the economy and that economy and money largely feeds into the Naval upgrades, so you have two sets of side missions interlinked, you also have Tombs and for the first time the Tomb isn't tied to armor at all. The AC3 Brotherhood mechanic is gratuitous even if they did make it more involved and made a story around the recruits and gave them unique character models moreover (one thing AC3 doesn't get credit for is that it really does have a large number of unique character models and supporting cast, much more than the games that followed).

Jessigirl2013
09-05-2015, 11:22 AM
Yeah, I do remember Rogue's collectible paths being quite memorable - especially the Native Pillars - getting to them was sometimes like the platforming missions from the previous games all on their own, and it felt good that you were experiencing that sort of gameplay seamlessly and not as seperate, categorized mission even if the end goal was actually gratuitous.

That's how I hoped how the Nostradamus missions would be like before the game released, you get the location of the building and in trying to find the riddle location (obviously with some guidance - like emphasized pathways or search areas) you end up with a sort of seamless tomb mission - if that makes any sense.

THIS!;)

They reminded me a lot of the assassin tombs too, Shame Syndicate probably wont have this...I don't know how they would get this to work in a city.

Sushiglutton
09-05-2015, 06:26 PM
ACB and AC4 do this, and people took it very well.

Like a lot of things, this isn't a bad concept, depends on implementation.

So you are saying that by "modernizing" they actually mean "going back to Brotherhood" ;)?


Let's start by analyzing Brotherhood a bit. It's true there was an one overarching goal of reducing Borgia influence and strengthen the opposition. Several sidemissions were connected to this goal (warmachines, faction missions, renovating shops etc). However, and this is important, some weren't (tombs, glyphs).

Note two things:

1) The overarching goal did not make the most dull activities (renovating shops for example) engaging.
2) If the game solely focused on the reduce Borgia goal it would have missed the missions focused on the mystery aspect, which to me would have resulted in a less engaging experience.


That BH's sidemissions were generally well recieved did not primarily depend on them working towards a comon goal (imo). Rather it was because they were of higher quality than AC2 (for example the warmachine missions were uniquley handcrafted) and they matched the tone of the game. Ofc the common goal helps with the latter aspect, but is not necessary. Instead a creative director should balance a few different goals (main narrative, tourism, mystery etc?) and make sure the side stuff is of high enough quality and fit the overall vision.



To me side missions and how they work has to do with story and character. There's no hard and fast rule. In Brotherhood, Black Flag and Syndicate presumably, you have general goals - Brotherhood is take Rome away from the Borgia (so all the side missions are interlinked and integrated), Black Flag is be a successful pirate (so all the side missions are interlinked and integrated) and Syndicate the goal is take back London I guess.

I would add "worldbuilding" (story, character, worldbuilding). Worldbuilding are for example things like the boardgames in AC3. Like I said above I don't believe all side activities in AC:B were interlinked (and the same goes for AC4 were templar hunts, mayan puzzles and board games served a different purpose than say plantation raids).



But in a heavy story game like AC1, AC2 and AC3, the side missions do stand apart. Like AC1, these liberation missions and those tiny assignments of which you only need do two or three to reach your target and those Flags and 60 Templars. There its an afterthought because the main story is the heart of the game. AC2 introduced the Codex Pages which is a side activity but it unlocks the finale but on the other hand it doesn't bring special advantages because all the key upgrades (Double Blades, Poison, Gun comes from the main story itself). The Tombs are specialized levels that unlocks the Armor but the combat and medicines are overpowered as it is that they don't really need the Armor.



I agree that things like the templars in AC1 are an example of poor sidecontent. They don't do any of the three things above and they're dull from a gameplay pov.
The codex pages do build story, but they are negative worldbuilders. By that I mean their inclusion makes the world less believable. They do nothing for Ezio's character and are uninteresting from a gameolay pov. Therefor I think they overall are lacking.
The tombs are great worldbuilders and are reaonably engaging from a gameplay pov (imo). Therefor I think they add to the experience.





AC3 actually balances side and main missions well. Connor has a story goal of stopping the Templars and has a personal connection but his nature is that of a helper so he takes on other people's causes as and when needed. So he builds and settles the Homestead which is part of the economy and that economy and money largely feeds into the Naval upgrades, so you have two sets of side missions interlinked, you also have Tombs and for the first time the Tomb isn't tied to armor at all. The AC3 Brotherhood mechanic is gratuitous even if they did make it more involved and made a story around the recruits and gave them unique character models moreover (one thing AC3 doesn't get credit for is that it really does have a large number of unique character models and supporting cast, much more than the games that followed).

I agree with this. The different groups of sideactivities are able to show different aspects of the protagonist's character and also function as worldbuilders (the Homestead is a mini-revolutionary-era-USA). This is a good example of by not having ONE common goal you are able to give the experience a greater variety of flavours.

Farlander1991
09-05-2015, 07:13 PM
So you are saying that by "modernizing" they actually mean "going back to Brotherhood" http://static5.cdn.ubi.com/u/ubiforums/20130918.419/images/smilies/wink.png?

I guess? :D


However, and this is important, some weren't (tombs, glyphs).

Well, glyphs are part of the modern day experience and not historical experience, while tombs - it's not true, they were tied to the taking down the Templars/Borgia. The sect of Romulus is paid off by the Borgia, and over the course of the missions we find out where the source of it is, and the very last tomb is us chasing the Cardinal who was responsible for keeping the sect up. The things in ACB that really aren't connected to the Borgia goal are little things like Fight Club and feathers.

Now, I'm not saying that everything always has to be focused on one thing. Shadow of Mordor (which I like) is so focused on killing orcs that I really wouldn't mind some side activity's like a board game with the rebels in the cave, heh.

Ultimately, as I already said, there's nothing wrong with the concept, it depends on implementation. And it's also not the only way to do things as well, of course.