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frodrigues55
03-17-2014, 10:58 PM
Interesting read published by IGN.

Freedom Cry's writters were on the GDC panel to talk about the game and why it wasn't meant to be fun.

The tittle can easily be taken out of context, but I agree with them. The game had some seriously powerfull moments.



Ubisoft Quebec’s Jill Murray and Hugo Giard took the stage at the Game Developers Conference 2014 to explain how “fun” no longer has to be the primary goal of a video game. As the respective narrative and level designers of Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, the pair emphasized how games and gamers are in the process of growing up, and in doing so, can embrace core design concepts like empathy and disempowerment.

Freedom Cry follows the journey of Adewale, Edward Keneway’s onetime second mate who now sails the Caribbean with the sole purpose of liberating slaves. Murray and Giard stressed how the idea of “fun” is irrelevant to movies like 12 Years a Slave, Leaving Las Vegas, Requiem for a Dream, and The Road. As such, they tried to bring that level of thematic weight to Freedom Cry.

Of course, they worried about dealing with a topic as heavy as slavery. It was something they had to handle very carefully, but the team rallied around the idea. Murray mentioned that she would’ve been more worried if video games like Papers, Please and Papo y Yo weren’t already exploring those types of topics.

The pair explained to the audience how playing as Adewale felt different than as Edward, despite the two having fairly similar mechanics and move sets. For example, when trying to clear a plantation as Edward, a misstep leads to either combat, frustration, or having to respawn. As Adewale however, a misstep means that the enemies will take it out on the NPC slaves and execute them because of your actions.

The team realized that players care when others are punished for their actions. They learned from that punishment, and players adapted and tried to take a more stealthy approach. The combination of narrative and game design made players motivated to change not because they were asked to, but because they were compelled to. It might eschew how we normally play video games, but by removing the normal “run-and-gun fun” we’ve come to expect, Freedom Cry was able to deliver a more powerful and complex experience.

In another development anecdote, Murray related how playtesters became uncomfortable when they had to engage in combat and ultimately kill black plantation overseers. The testers were conflicted and confused about what they saw as an unrealistic encounter. But the team wouldn’t budge. They didn’t remove those elements because they didn’t want to deny the complexity of the era. There were black overseers in life, and so there would be in Freedom Cry.

Murray and Giard concluded their talk by diving a bit into one of the later and more memorable missions of Freedom Cry. Adewale makes his way aboard a sinking ship that still houses dozens of slaves shackled to the wood. While you can try to beat the clock and save your fellow men, it’s ultimately in vain. Nothing the player does in this mission will allow them to save everyone. Thoughts of Liam Neeson’s lamentations at the end of Schindler’s List roll through your head as you realize that you ultimately can’t be the flawless hero you sought out to be.

That mission strips away a lot of player agency. It emphasizes strong emotions over positive ones. The team realized that stripping power from the player was extremely effective in conveying their desired message. It plays against decades of systemic expectations that video games have instilled in us. Instead of the Princess being in another castle, she’s lying there dead at your feet.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/03/17/gdc-assassinas-creed-writer-on-games-not-having-to-be-afuna?utm_campaign=ign+main+twitter&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

Dome500
03-17-2014, 11:13 PM
Interesting read.

I agree.

Gaming as a medium grows up, and it should be.

IMO the concepts of empathy and dis-empowerment are beautiful literary elements to take into account.
Games should indeed not always be about fun, but also raise thoughts and sometimes (although not all the time) let you work for a goal.

frodrigues55
03-17-2014, 11:23 PM
IMO the concepts of empathy and dis-empowerment are beautiful literary elements to take into account.
Games should indeed not always be about fun, but also raise thoughts and sometimes (although not all the time) let you work for a goal.

It's really what made my attention turn to AC. I'm a casual gamer and AC3 was about to get released when I became in touch with the series. So to me, the way they wrote Ezio's journey was so unexpected that it really made me love the series for its character design.

Then came Connor, which I understand why many people don't like, but to me, his flaws and innocence regarding his goals and beliefs (all of which failed in the end) connected to me at some level that I can't help but feel sorry for him - a videogame character. I never expected that either.

I like when heroes are flawed and how not everything goes right. A lot of entertainment media has to please the public by presenting ordinary heroes with happy endings, saving days with their flaweless and charismatic ways.

AC is not like that to me.

Regardless of this series flaws, it's their hability to write and develop new people and their strugles through each new game that keeps me interested every single time.

And the way they handled Freedom Cry was top notch. The ideia of seeing innocent lifes being taken just because I was detected was shocking. And that slave ship mission was so powerfull to the point it became disturbing. That's unusual to see on mainstream medias like AC and they were indeed very bold by touching that subject in such an elegant yet raw way.

rprkjj
03-17-2014, 11:29 PM
Sorry, but games should be fun. The story should compliment the gameplay.

frodrigues55
03-17-2014, 11:43 PM
Sorry, but games should be fun. The story should compliment the gameplay.

Did you read the article, though?

They are not saying games should be boring.

Freedom Cry was good entertainment but you can't really say it was fun trying to release slaves from their deaths while most of them drowned chained to a sinking ship no matter how fast you were.

The point they were making is that games can balance engaging gameplay with serious subjects which aren't exacly fun or light hearted. It's the same with movies and books, really.

Sushiglutton
03-18-2014, 12:03 AM
When you can do "real" motivations instead of gamey rules that's always preferable. Using disempowerment in the way they describe has been used in games like Red Dead Redemption and God Of War 2. It can be a cool technique for sure.

However neither of these things can replace sound gameplay mechanics imo :).

rprkjj
03-18-2014, 12:14 AM
Did you read the article, though?

They are not saying games should be boring.

Freedom Cry was good entertainment but you can't really say it was fun trying to release slaves from their deaths while most of them drowned chained to a sinking ship no matter how fast you were.

The point they were making is that games can balance engaging gameplay with serious subjects which aren't exacly fun or light hearted. It's the same with movies and books, really.

I can have fun because it's not real, although I may be immersed in the moment enough to have legitimate feelings about what's not actually happening. I may be misusing the word fun, by which I mean entertaining.

rprkjj
03-18-2014, 12:15 AM
When you can do "real" motivations instead of gamey rules that's always preferable. Using disempowerment in the way they describe has been used in games like Red Dead Redemption and God Of War 2. It can be a cool technique for sure.

However neither of these things can replace sound gameplay mechanics imo :).

I agree.

Fatal-Feit
03-18-2014, 01:24 AM
Sorry, but games should be fun. The story should compliment the gameplay.

Games should be entertaining. Fun is only one aspect of entertainment. Just like story, graphics, gameplay, etc, etc.

rprkjj
03-18-2014, 01:48 AM
Games should be entertaining. Fun is only one aspect of entertainment. Just like story, graphics, gameplay, etc, etc.

This doesn't make any sense. Gameplay can be fun, but gameplay is more a component of a game that may or not be fun.

Fatal-Feit
03-18-2014, 02:20 AM
This doesn't make any sense. Gameplay can be fun, but gameplay is more a component of a game that may or not be fun.

Everyone has a different reason, opinion, and objective that needs to be met when doing ANYTHING. Games are no different from other medias. Some people play it for the competitive edge, the graphics, the story, the humor, or some other weird ones like catching up on an awfully dreadful prequel to a new game. Gameplay and fun are different things. Sometimes the gameplay isn't fun but everything else is. Sometimes everything else is lacking, but the gameplay which was fun isn't. Whatever the case is, it's all about the entertainment a person gets out of it, may it be fun or not.

SixKeys
03-18-2014, 03:25 AM
This article points out exactly why I enjoyed Freedom Cry more than I thought I would - and also why it was frustrating. It looks like another fun time-waster on the surface, since it shares AC4's visual design and some of its mechanics, but feels completely different. The atmosphere is more oppressive, your freedom is limited (for reasons that don't feel arbitrary) and it makes you think about how gameplay and narrative can really support each other.

On the one hand it's frustrating that the same slaves you freed earlier keep spawning really quickly, as if your actions as a player don't matter. The thing is, they don't - for good reason. As gamers, we're used to a Pavlovian reward system: perform action A, get reaction B. Free some slaves, receive satisfaction from having done a good deed. End of story. In Freedom Cry, you don't get that satisfaction. You can keep freeing slaves, but more will always respawn. You, as a player, aren't an almighty god that can solve the problems of that particular game's world. Historically slavery didn't end after a set number of good deeds had been carried out. It leads to an interesting dilemma: after saving the same slaves so many times, you sort of become numb to their suffering. Instead of stopping to help, you pass them by. It's simply too inconvenient to help another escaped slave run away from their murderous master, or to carry a wounded slave to safety. You pretend you don't see them, or that they're not really there. You think to yourself "I've done my part, I'm not going to stop and help anymore".

This numbness is also part of history, and the game's message. At some point even the most helpful people will inevitably ask themselves if they've got the strength to keep fighting other people's fights. The same racist crap keeps happening over and over again and won't stop happening no matter how many times you help. Choosing not to act is an action in itself. Do you choose to keep fighting against odds that you know for a fact you can never overcome? Or do you pretend you don't see the suffering around you and move on to more "fun" things instead?

Freedom Cry is the most thoughtful AC game to date, aside from AC1. Instead of spoonfeeding you the answers, it makes you think about some uncomfortable truths.

Dome500
03-18-2014, 04:38 AM
Wow, not bad Six, I agree mostly. It's that ancient dilemma and they really conveyed that well.... (did they intend to in that special case? (re-spawning slaves) Idk. But they did do it, no matter if intended or not.

Fatal-Feit
03-18-2014, 04:54 AM
The voice actor for Adewale didn't really give a clear answer on whether the constant re-spawning was on purpose or not, but he did point out everything Sixkeys have said. Whatever the case was, it's still an impacting game.

kanga 3d
03-18-2014, 05:15 AM
I agree. Making customers roll through 30 minutes of credits before getting back to the game is definitely not fun so in that respect, they succeeded.

pirate1802
03-18-2014, 08:29 AM
This article points out exactly why I enjoyed Freedom Cry more than I thought I would - and also why it was frustrating. It looks like another fun time-waster on the surface, since it shares AC4's visual design and some of its mechanics, but feels completely different. The atmosphere is more oppressive, your freedom is limited (for reasons that don't feel arbitrary) and it makes you think about how gameplay and narrative can really support each other.

On the one hand it's frustrating that the same slaves you freed earlier keep spawning really quickly, as if your actions as a player don't matter. The thing is, they don't - for good reason. As gamers, we're used to a Pavlovian reward system: perform action A, get reaction B. Free some slaves, receive satisfaction from having done a good deed. End of story. In Freedom Cry, you don't get that satisfaction. You can keep freeing slaves, but more will always respawn. You, as a player, aren't an almighty god that can solve the problems of that particular game's world. Historically slavery didn't end after a set number of good deeds had been carried out. It leads to an interesting dilemma: after saving the same slaves so many times, you sort of become numb to their suffering. Instead of stopping to help, you pass them by. It's simply too inconvenient to help another escaped slave run away from their murderous master, or to carry a wounded slave to safety. You pretend you don't see them, or that they're not really there. You think to yourself "I've done my part, I'm not going to stop and help anymore".

This numbness is also part of history, and the game's message. At some point even the most helpful people will inevitably ask themselves if they've got the strength to keep fighting other people's fights. The same racist crap keeps happening over and over again and won't stop happening no matter how many times you help. Choosing not to act is an action in itself. Do you choose to keep fighting against odds that you know for a fact you can never overcome? Or do you pretend you don't see the suffering around you and move on to more "fun" things instead?

Freedom Cry is the most thoughtful AC game to date, aside from AC1. Instead of spoonfeeding you the answers, it makes you think about some uncomfortable truths.

Really? If you are praising it then It must be something! :eek:

frodrigues55
03-19-2014, 02:27 AM
This article points out exactly why I enjoyed Freedom Cry more than I thought I would - and also why it was frustrating. It looks like another fun time-waster on the surface, since it shares AC4's visual design and some of its mechanics, but feels completely different. The atmosphere is more oppressive, your freedom is limited (for reasons that don't feel arbitrary) and it makes you think about how gameplay and narrative can really support each other.

On the one hand it's frustrating that the same slaves you freed earlier keep spawning really quickly, as if your actions as a player don't matter. The thing is, they don't - for good reason. As gamers, we're used to a Pavlovian reward system: perform action A, get reaction B. Free some slaves, receive satisfaction from having done a good deed. End of story. In Freedom Cry, you don't get that satisfaction. You can keep freeing slaves, but more will always respawn. You, as a player, aren't an almighty god that can solve the problems of that particular game's world. Historically slavery didn't end after a set number of good deeds had been carried out. It leads to an interesting dilemma: after saving the same slaves so many times, you sort of become numb to their suffering. Instead of stopping to help, you pass them by. It's simply too inconvenient to help another escaped slave run away from their murderous master, or to carry a wounded slave to safety. You pretend you don't see them, or that they're not really there. You think to yourself "I've done my part, I'm not going to stop and help anymore".

This numbness is also part of history, and the game's message. At some point even the most helpful people will inevitably ask themselves if they've got the strength to keep fighting other people's fights. The same racist crap keeps happening over and over again and won't stop happening no matter how many times you help. Choosing not to act is an action in itself. Do you choose to keep fighting against odds that you know for a fact you can never overcome? Or do you pretend you don't see the suffering around you and move on to more "fun" things instead?

Freedom Cry is the most thoughtful AC game to date, aside from AC1. Instead of spoonfeeding you the answers, it makes you think about some uncomfortable truths.

Great post. There's a lot of thought put into those gameplay mechanics and they are not on your face. It's something you either miss it or notice, and it directly puts you in touch with what Adewale should be going through.