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View Full Version : Don't make the next game a short one.



SectionHades
01-08-2016, 03:37 AM
Although Syndicate was fairly enjoyable, I did feel a bit frustrated as I was approaching the last mission. I am a huge Assassin's creed fan, and never have I felt that an AC game needs to last longer. Game was too short for us to establish a personal connection to Evie and Jacob although both characters were unique and enjoyable (IMO). I finished the game in half a day, in 12 hours, which is not worth a year's wait. *IF* we are to wait another year for this AC game that has been rumored to be in Egypt, please don't make it as short as Syndicate was. Witcher 3 DLC has more hours than the main missions in ACS.

LoyalACFan
01-08-2016, 04:39 AM
Syndicate's story wasn't significantly shorter than most of the games. It had 39 missions, whereas Unity had 36, Black Flag and AC3 both had 45 (not counting the Desmond ones), etc. I do agree with you though, the game should have been longer to accommodate for having to split the screen time between two main protagonists, and even out Evie's side of the story.

SixKeys
01-08-2016, 05:12 AM
It's funny, I'm the other way around. I feel like these games are sometimes stretched out to their detriment. Each game has at least one or two missions that could have been cut and it would have made the story tighter. For example about half the stuff Ezio does in Venice. I didn't feel like the siblings had satisfying character arcs even though we spent dozens of hours with them. Jacob only got interesting in the Maxwell Roth sequence, which is close to the end. I feel like a lot of pointless stuff could have been cut in favor of a more focused story. All the Darwin, ****ens and Marx missions were pure fluff, for example, and trying to win the loyalty of a group of people you never really got to know. What was little Clara's backstory? Why was she all alone? What about Agnes? How did she end up with the assassins? We did a bunch of quests for these people with the excuse of trying to establish a bond with them, but in the end that bond didn't pay out in any meaningful way. They all basically just showed up one last time to say "well done, ta very much, now I'm off to live my life somewhere else". I'd rather have a short but memorable story than a long, sprawling one with a lot of boring filler.

SectionHades
01-08-2016, 05:43 AM
They put a lot of background information and great stories about the characters in the books, which is a shame. Had they been in the games the stories would've been perfect. For example I never knew that Haytham created a whole new ideology in the Templar order which the De La Serre family were fans of. Speaking of Haytham, his story, theories, ideologies and emotions toward Connor are all in Forsaken whereas Forsaken could have been an awesome DLC to play Haytham as he gets his revenge instead of playing in an alternate time line with superpowers. I feel like Ubisoft is focusing on game play to the point where they are forgetting that the story of AC is what makes it so great. All these untold stories that are instead in the books could have added so much more to the games and made them longer and more emotionally satisfying.

MikeFNY
01-08-2016, 09:21 AM
We did a bunch of quests for these people with the excuse of trying to establish a bond with them, but in the end that bond didn't pay out in any meaningful way.

True, I don't want to exaggerate in saying that I was touched when each and every one of them showed their gratitude in the end, it was a nice moment, but it could have been scripted much, much better.

Ultimately my main criticism of the game is indeed this: Here's Jacob, here's Evie, here's London, here's Henry. Jacob off to kill Templars, Evie off to find the Shroud with Henry. Oh, and by the way, here's Clara, Frederick, Ned and others who will reward you if you help them out.

I mean, tell me more about them, give me a reason to say "this will hurt" when they are about to speak to me for one very last time before fading away. Maybe the books cover these characters in more detail but unfortunately I'm sure many, like myself, have very little time on their hands and their only impact with the series is through the games.

cawatrooper9
01-08-2016, 03:40 PM
Also, I think longer stories sometimes hurt a game's realism.

For instance, compare GTA IV to Batman Arkham Asylum.

Niko in GTA IV is just a regular dude- but there's no way he'd be alive and not in prison by the end of the game. In just the main campaign alone, he commits at least one major felony in almost all of the missions in the game (of which there are probably at least around 100). The game had some fantastic missions, but some definite filler ones, too.

Arkham Asylum, on the other hand, is a tight campaign that takes place during a single night. The game stretches Batman to his limits, but it doesn't go overboard. Considering out of the two, this is the one based off of comic book material and features a roided out Joker and giant carnivorous plants, it's amazing that it's also so much easier to relate to.

Assassin_M
01-08-2016, 04:16 PM
It's funny, I'm the other way around. I feel like these games are sometimes stretched out to their detriment. Each game has at least one or two missions that could have been cut and it would have made the story tighter. For example about half the stuff Ezio does in Venice. I didn't feel like the siblings had satisfying character arcs even though we spent dozens of hours with them. Jacob only got interesting in the Maxwell Roth sequence, which is close to the end. I feel like a lot of pointless stuff could have been cut in favor of a more focused story. All the Darwin, ****ens and Marx missions were pure fluff, for example, and trying to win the loyalty of a group of people you never really got to know. What was little Clara's backstory? Why was she all alone? What about Agnes? How did she end up with the assassins? We did a bunch of quests for these people with the excuse of trying to establish a bond with them, but in the end that bond didn't pay out in any meaningful way. They all basically just showed up one last time to say "well done, ta very much, now I'm off to live my life somewhere else". I'd rather have a short but memorable story than a long, sprawling one with a lot of boring filler.
These are two different examples, though, AC II and Syndicate. AC II's second third (second quarter, really) of the Venice portion is where it was obvious the developers just wanted an excuse to meet more historical characters and needlessly stretch the story. By that point, there was nothing more for Ezio's character to explore (Really, there's nothing at all to begin with). Syndicate, on the other hand, either needed MORE or should have written the fluff sequences better. Sequence 8 is great because interesting things happen, interesting discussions take place. In Two Penny's sequence, nothing interesting is happening to Jacob's character. There're no interesting discussions. The sequence is simply event driven. The dialogue only tackles events and actions that are going to happen.

Take AC I for example. This is AC I's dialogue "But I want to play with fire, father. Ah, but then you'd answer for his burns". Here's the same dialogue written by Syndicate's standards: "Haha, you're too late. The city is ours". The earlier tackles the topic of responsibility. The latter tackles nothing but what's going to happen next. Actions and events, nothing else.

I-Like-Pie45
01-08-2016, 05:20 PM
Well Assassin M to Syndicate's meager credit, simple as that is, at least that still is a step up from what was 98% of Vanilla AC2's corridor dialogues:

Templar: Oh no Ezio I was such a bad Templar now I am defeated.
Ezio: Ha ha you were never as good as me the Assassin because Assassins are cool and Templars are dumb.
Templar: I am dead now Ezio here is a hint to the next Templar bad person you are going to kill
Ezio: Requiescat in Pace

cawatrooper9
01-08-2016, 05:39 PM
Well Assassin M to Syndicate's meager credit, simple as that is, at least that still is a step up from what was 98% of Vanilla AC2's corridor dialogues:

Templar: Oh no Ezio I was such a bad Templar now I am defeated.
Ezio: Ha ha you were never as good as me the Assassin because Assassins are cool and Templars are dumb.
Templar: I am dead now Ezio here is a hint to the next Templar bad person you are going to kill
Ezio: Requiescat in Pace

That's true. AC1 waxed poetic in a way we really haven't seen much of since. ACIII's dialogue was probably the closest, but even then it's leagues out of the original game's writing.

SixKeys
01-08-2016, 06:16 PM
Also, I think longer stories sometimes hurt a game's realism.

For instance, compare GTA IV to Batman Arkham Asylum.

Niko in GTA IV is just a regular dude- but there's no way he'd be alive and not in prison by the end of the game. In just the main campaign alone, he commits at least one major felony in almost all of the missions in the game (of which there are probably at least around 100). The game had some fantastic missions, but some definite filler ones, too.

Arkham Asylum, on the other hand, is a tight campaign that takes place during a single night. The game stretches Batman to his limits, but it doesn't go overboard. Considering out of the two, this is the one based off of comic book material and features a roided out Joker and giant carnivorous plants, it's amazing that it's also so much easier to relate to.

Yep, Arkham Asylum is a very good game partly because it doesn't try to stretch its story with constant twists and turns. It feels like a longer episode of the 90s animated series. Just a simple premise: the Joker traps Batman for one night, and Batman has only that night to solve the whole crisis. They can't stretch it out too much because it'd be ridiculous to have too much happening in just one night. The story is partly driven by the game's linearity. City, by comparison - which is open world - feels more unfocused because the sense of time is unrealistic. Batman gets to meet practically every villain he's ever run into, foil their plans, search for the Joker, take training courses, look for random payphones ringing all over the city, and look for a million Riddler trophies.



Ultimately my main criticism of the game is indeed this: Here's Jacob, here's Evie, here's London, here's Henry. Jacob off to kill Templars, Evie off to find the Shroud with Henry. Oh, and by the way, here's Clara, Frederick, Ned and others who will reward you if you help them out.

I mean, tell me more about them, give me a reason to say "this will hurt" when they are about to speak to me for one very last time before fading away. Maybe the books cover these characters in more detail but unfortunately I'm sure many, like myself, have very little time on their hands and their only impact with the series is through the games.

Exactly. The way they were set up reminds me of Ugo in AC2, who was a pointless, flavorless character. Completely forgettable because we never get to know him. In contrast, we learn at least a little bit about Antonio, Bartolomeo, Paola etc. so we don't mind helping them out. When they all show up together towards the end to reveal they're assassins, you feel a sense of warmth towards these people because they've been guiding you all throughout your journey.

Instead of being sad to see them go, I looked forward to kicking D!ckens and Darwin onto the milk train and getting rid of them forever. :p They were irritating as characters and never helped me in any way, only caused more problems for me to solve.


These are two different examples, though, AC II and Syndicate. AC II's second third (second quarter, really) of the Venice portion is where it was obvious the developers just wanted an excuse to meet more historical characters and needlessly stretch the story. By that point, there was nothing more for Ezio's character to explore (Really, there's nothing at all to begin with). Syndicate, on the other hand, either needed MORE or should have written the fluff sequences better. Sequence 8 is great because interesting things happen, interesting discussions take place. In Two Penny's sequence, nothing interesting is happening to Jacob's character. There're no interesting discussions. The sequence is simply event driven. The dialogue only tackles events and actions that are going to happen.

Take AC I for example. This is AC I's dialogue "But I want to play with fire, father. Ah, but then you'd answer for his burns". Here's the same dialogue written by Syndicate's standards: "Haha, you're too late. The city is ours". The earlier tackles the topic of responsibility. The latter tackles nothing but what's going to happen next. Actions and events, nothing else.

There's already some fluff before getting to Venice. For example all of Forlí and the carriage chase leading up to it. We could have met up with Leo in Venice and the story wouldn't have suffered for it. All Ezio does in Forlí is pass through the city on his way to the docks, so it never feels like more than a pit stop. It would have been more interesting if there was a reason why he couldn't immediately rejoin Leo but had to stay behind to help the citizens. Maybe that's where they should have put the DLC sequence involving Caterina's children. (Although that wouldn't have been historically accurate. But something similar anyway.) Ezio is on his way to meet up with his friend until a crisis arises in the city and being a person who cares about justice, he simply can't idly stand by and watch. That would have given Forlí some sort of purpose. But I digress.

I don't think Syndicate needed more, it was more about writing the fluff better as you said. The way Jeffrey Yohalem described the original plans for the game, it sounded like a much tighter, more sensible story and while I was listening to his comments, all I could think of was "why didn't they do THAT story instead?!". In the original script, Jacob was the one messing up all the time due to his rash personality, and Evie, the mature and sensible one, would spend the game cleaning up after him. There would have been a natural progression towards growing tensions between them until the final blowout. Then they would have to reunite for the final mission to work together, and they would get a better understanding of each other and mend their relationship.

That's a perfectly serviceable story, and it would have had better focus. What we ended up with was confusing because the siblings always showed up together at mission briefings, smiling in a friendly fashion, looking like best friends. So was Evie looking for the Shroud while Jacob wreaked havoc on the streets, or were they always together? Where is the tension between them? If Jacob is such a walking disaster, why does he get all the stealth missions? Why can Evie command Rooks? The story and characterization ends up all over the place because we are told what these characters are supposedly like, but the gameplay doesn't support that. So when they have a falling out, it seems to come out of nowhere when it should be a culmination of clashing personalities. They had a good story on their hands, but told it in such a way that it feels exasperatingly long because there's no structure to it. There's no sense of a clear beginning, middle and end, like good stories ought to have.

AC1's strength wasn't just the dialogue, it was that we saw and felt Altaïr's slow progression from an arrogant d-bag to a wise master assassin. His missions start out straightforward and clumsy, just as he is as a character. The first villains he kills are pretty cut-and-dry, their deaths easily justified because of how they act in public. In the middle of the game Altaïr starts to question himself, his discussions with Al Mualim and the Dais become more measured. The villains he faces turn out to have surprising sides to them, things are not so cut and dry anymore. Towards the end he has become wise and humble enough to understand why people hated him at first, and sets out to make amends, not just to regain his status but because it's the right thing to do. The final villain is the person we thought of as a father figure, our response to him is mixed. We know we're supposed to hate him, but we've also seen the good in him. Just like Altaïr himself realizes the world is not as black-and-white as he used to think.

The story works because it has a clear arc. Even AC2, as much as you dislike it, has a logical beginning, middle and end. It may have a lot of fluff, but as a player you can easily tell where act 1, act 2 and act 3 begin. Syndicate promises to show us one thing (the crisis and mending of the sibling relationship) but doesn't progress at a logical pace. One minute Jacob and Evie are friendly with each other, the next they're refusing to ever work with each other again.

cawatrooper9
01-08-2016, 06:34 PM
Yep, Arkham Asylum is a very good game partly because it doesn't try to stretch its story with constant twists and turns. It feels like a longer episode of the 90s animated series. Just a simple premise: the Joker traps Batman for one night, and Batman has only that night to solve the whole crisis. They can't stretch it out too much because it'd be ridiculous to have too much happening in just one night. The story is partly driven by the game's linearity. City, by comparison - which is open world - feels more unfocused because the sense of time is unrealistic. Batman gets to meet practically every villain he's ever run into, foil their plans, search for the Joker, take training courses, look for random payphones ringing all over the city, and look for a million Riddler trophies.

It's true, the Arkham games post Asylum were a little less focused, but they still did a decent enough job of making the player feel as if the action was all taking place with one night- perhaps too goo of a job, as I often neglected to do side quests because I felt so immersed that I felt rushed even when I wasn't (also, I've read criticisms of phenomena like that in games like Mass Effect 3- where time is a factor of the story (not necessarily gameplay) but still heavily affects many players' decision making).

Ureh
01-08-2016, 09:17 PM
I think the length of all the cinematics combined and the time it takes for most players to complete the main story is sufficient. I guess one of the idiosyncrasies of games - when compared to movies - is that the story in the game is interrupted by side activities. There are quite a few side missions, (pointless) collectibles, or just roaming around doing nothing but parkour and random assassin stuff. I thought that a lot of the side activities and how almost everything can be tackled in any order you want sorta messed up the pacing of the story. If the game was intended for us to play a story mission, take a break, go do some side stuff, then do another story quest, rinse and repeat... that could mean that the story was written in such a way that the audience is meant to be drawn away from it and come back at another time. That's actually the playstyle that I see mentioned the most often on the few forums that I visit. When they do come back, some of the audience will be like... "Umm... what happened in the last sequence? the last mission? I can't really remember it all. I was helping Elise do something, she told me to meet her there but now I'm taking a detour to collect some chests and help the march to Versailles...?"

I don't know... maybe I'm wrong. But I just get the feeling that the mountain of the fillers in the recent games (except for AC4, imo) are toying with the stories and how they're being presented to us. The stories - which should be absorbed continuously - is broken down into tiny portions and spread apart depending on your playstyle. I think AC1 is the best example of "story comes first", a lot of the bonus investigations were almost carbon copy but they felt like they were part of the main story, even when we exit the animus intermittently it was part of the main story. Collectibles, to me, didn't feel like they were trying to draw attention away.

SixKeys
01-08-2016, 10:07 PM
I think the length of all the cinematics combined and the time it takes for most players to complete the main story is sufficient. I guess one of the idiosyncrasies of games - when compared to movies - is that the story in the game is interrupted by side activities. There are quite a few side missions, (pointless) collectibles, or just roaming around doing nothing but parkour and random assassin stuff. I thought that a lot of the side activities and how almost everything can be tackled in any order you want sorta messed up the pacing of the story. If the game was intended for us to play a story mission, take a break, go do some side stuff, then do another story quest, rinse and repeat... that could mean that the story was written in such a way that the audience is meant to be drawn away from it and come back at another time. That's actually the playstyle that I see mentioned the most often on the few forums that I visit. When they do come back, some of the audience will be like... "Umm... what happened in the last sequence? the last mission? I can't really remember it all. I was helping Elise do something, she told me to meet her there but now I'm taking a detour to collect some chests and help the march to Versailles...?"

I don't know... maybe I'm wrong. But I just get the feeling that the mountain of the fillers in the recent games (except for AC4, imo) are toying with the stories and how they're being presented to us. The stories - which should be absorbed continuously - is broken down into tiny portions and spread apart depending on your playstyle. I think AC1 is the best example of "story comes first", a lot of the bonus investigations were almost carbon copy but they felt like they were part of the main story, even when we exit the animus intermittently it was part of the main story. Collectibles, to me, didn't feel like they were trying to draw attention away.

^ This too, definitely. AC games have had lots of side filler since AC2, but every year they put more in. And you can see why, considering people still complain that the games are too short. I like having a lot of stuff to do, but I didn't like how much of it in Syndicate was about doing the same thing over and over. It's a tough balance to get right, I think Darby talked about it once. You have to write a compelling and exciting story while also keeping in mind that occasionally the player will walk away from the story and do a bunch of other stuff for hours. The story has to be simple enough that it's easy to slip back in and remember what's going on. The other option is to have a story that moves at an exciting, movie-like pace, but leaves the player feeling a sense of disconnect when they're allowed to freeroam while there's a sense of urgency in the story. For example, the second half of Brotherhood is so intense that you kind of feel weird about stopping it, even though you still have Borgia towers to conquer and courtesan missions and tombs to explore. If the last mission you played ends with Ezio saying "oh no! I must hurry before it's too late!", it's immersion-breaking to go off side-questing.

Syndicate would have benefitted from a tighter story, but that might not have left as much room to explore London and all the side activities. It's complicated for the writers.

cawatrooper9
01-08-2016, 10:12 PM
If the last mission you played ends with Ezio saying "oh no! I must hurry before it's too late!", it's immersion-breaking to go off side-questing.


Very true. A recent example of that happened to me in Unity recently. After taking out Marie Lévesque I went around doing some side stuff and building up my cafe empire, not really taking into account what was going to happen next in the story. When I was finally ready to continue the story, it picked up basically where I had left off, with Arno running into Elise after the Lévesque killing and escaping in the balloon.

It was just really awkward, and basically made it seem as if all of the side content that I'd done didn't really happen in canon, at least not in that chronology.

SixKeys
01-08-2016, 10:19 PM
Very true. A recent example of that happened to me in Unity recently. After taking out Marie Lévesque I went around doing some side stuff and building up my cafe empire, not really taking into account what was going to happen next in the story. When I was finally ready to continue the story, it picked up basically where I had left off, with Arno running into Elise after the Lévesque killing and escaping in the balloon.

It was just really awkward, and basically made it seem as if all of the side content that I'd done didn't really happen in canon, at least not in that chronology.

In AC2 you always had that "Accept/Decline" option at the start of each mission. Sometimes when I'd been playing for hours and was ready to take a break, a new mission prompt would pop up and I would hit Decline. It's kind of awkward to have a weeping woman tell you that her husband is in grave danger, will you please save him, and then just cancel the mission like we never had that conversation, lol.

cawatrooper9
01-08-2016, 10:24 PM
In AC2 you always had that "Accept/Decline" option at the start of each mission. Sometimes when I'd been playing for hours and was ready to take a break, a new mission prompt would pop up and I would hit Decline. It's kind of awkward to have a weeping woman tell you that her husband is in grave danger, will you please save him, and then just cancel the mission like we never had that conversation, lol.

Haha, I'd imagine it would be. I never really got the point of those buttons, but that's pretty much because AC2 is so focused on story- perhaps almost to a fault, making it all the way at the other end of the spectrum.

HDinHB
01-08-2016, 10:35 PM
I read an interesting interview with Neil Druckmann, Creative Director on Uncharted 4 talking about the difficulty of open world games:

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/uncharted-4-s-neil-druckmann-we-are-bringing-closu/1100-6428273/

How open-world is this game?

Druckmann: Yeah, I mean the term we use is wide-linear. It's not open-world, because we wanted to tell a very specific story, with very specific tension. The thing I have a hard time with, in open-world games, is that there's a lack of tension. Say if my ally's life is in jeopardy; I can still go off and do five different side-quests, and I don't believe that jeopardy. So I feel we need some way to control the pacing, and it needs to be ways where you are still active as well.

For us, the story is king. I don't mean writing, and I don't mean script. What I mean is, there's a certain experience we're trying to make, and that's going to trump the gameplay, that's going to trump the graphics. This high-level experience we create should, eventually, win that argument of what this game is going to be.

I think, in the first few AC games, I imposed that tension on myself--"OMG, I have to do X before Y does Z." After a while, I became more complacent "Oh, I know is about to happen, but let me just unlock a few more viewpoints, find some chests, do a couple side missions, before I deal with [I]that.

ImaginaryRuins
01-09-2016, 03:48 AM
Whether a game is "short", or "simple / linear", they are two different things. Syndicate isn't short, but rather linear. For each sequence, you have a clear assassination target, and there are no twists, which make it look short.

I do agree that the storyline needs to be longer though, so that there can be more mission variety and interesting missions. Ubisoft really should hire some better game writers to think of the plots.

MikeFNY
01-09-2016, 11:17 AM
You guys summed up to perfection my feelings towards open world games. But what is the solution? I mean any scenario you could think of will include one or problems, such as:

1. Complete the main story, move to the side missions after it's complete
Problem: Some side missions are "Level 1", others are "Level 10". Doing the "Level 1" side missions at the end of the game when you're fully equipped will make them way too easy. You could also end up with that "why am I doing this?" feeling. It makes no sense to complete a side mission that will reward you with a weapon that you will never use.

2. Complete part of the main story, move on to collectibles, then to one or two side missions and then back to the main story
This is how I play them by the way but the problem is clearly that when you return to the main story it's either a sequence that resumes five minutes after the previous one and it feels awkward or else you forget who is who and what exactly had to be done.

3. Complete Sequence 1, take over a borough and then move on to the next Sequence.
This could work but there's still the problem of struggling to remember who is who and what needs to be done.

There was a game where I was lucky in the way I approached it and that's Red Dead Redemption where I completely ignored the side-missions such as collect flowers, kill animals and so on until the main story was complete. The result was nice because I completed these side missions with his son and it made sense, especially since he was trained by his father to hunt animals.

But other than that I always feel that the game could have been played in a different, better way. Such as GTAV, I completed the stock market missions before the end of the game yet then I read online that it would have been better to wait. Now since I try to stay away from forums when I'm playing a game, in order to avoid spoilers, it's not always possible to read such tips.

Finding a solution is not easy, it's not easy to accommodate every gamer out there. Personally, I would completely remove side missions and make them part of the story. For instance in Syndicate there were many "variables" to kill a boss, kidnap a guard, unique kill, etc. Those could be side missions. A templar boss is locked in a very tough-to-penetrate fortress and if you want you can take on one or multiple side missions to weaken the fortress, a similar concept to Far Cry. You could still these side missions and decide not to use whatever they rewarded back in case you want a stronger challenge but at least they would be side missions closely related to the main story.

Another good example from Far Cry are the Outpost Freedom side missions, they made sense because going from point A to point B was easier after the outpost was free. This could be done for Viewpoints in AC, if you want to open a Viewpoint you have to beat a side mission, it shouldn't be as easy as just climbing the building. Why would such a tall building be unguarded?

And yes, If a mission wants you to steal a balloon and the next mission resumes just after the balloon was stolen, there should be no break between the two else one would end up with the problem mentioned by cawa.

I would keep collectibles though, they can easily be collected after the game and all side missions are over. I love to do that incidentally, complete the game, take a 3-4 weeks break and then go back to pick collectibles, a way to revisit the game and remember why it's so good.

Megas_Doux
01-09-2016, 04:19 PM
GTA V and The Witcher 3· have a long stories and TONS of side quests! AC has that potential, come on Ubi!