AusGamers Assassin's Creed 3 Developer Interview with Lead Writer, Matt Turner
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 02:58pm 18/06/12 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Assassin's Creed III lead writer, Matt Turner, at this year's E3. Read on or watch for what he had to say...
Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly out on the E3 show floor.
There’s been a lot of new games and sequels... they’re everywhere. But I think one of the strongest contenders for game of the show, in my opinion, and game of the year even at this stage -- big call -- but Assassin’s Creed 3 just keeps blowing people away; it keeps blowing me away.
You guys have done such a great job of ushering in an entirely new era for the IP, so let’s talk about that; let’s talk about the era. I spoke over email with Alex [Hutchinson - Creative Director], who is an Aussie -- so go, aussie, go -- but where did this idea of the American revolution come from?
Matt Turner: It came from a lot of places. As you said, it’s a new era, with a new assassin and it was important that the assassin wasn’t just new in his look -- that he was new in the way that he moved and that he was new in the way that he was effective.
We thought that an interesting and natural progression was to have an assassin that was at home in forests and more organic environments. We thought about that; the American frontier during colonial times was a perfect stage for that kind of an assassin to come to life.
Then on top of that, the assassins versus templar narrative had kind of been going there by itself. We weren’t really planning it, it just seemed that it was natural. And the themes that are being talked about during the revolution, like oppression and tyranny, taxation and that kind of stuff, and control, is the same stuff that’s always being talked about between the assassins and templars. So it was a perfect reflection.
So for us, between the assassin we wanted to make, and the story we wanted to tell, the American Revolution was the only place to go.
AusGamers: Now you’re the writer on the game -- or one of the writers on the game. The beautiful thing about this is that you take these wonderful slices of history, then rework them to favour your own narrative ends.
For you guys, how much did you just go above and beyond to kind of bring that era into the Assassin’s Creed cadence?
Matt: We are very conscious of the historical accuracy of the game and all of Connor’s main targets are real people, and they died in the right place at the right time. Obviously not always in the right conditions -- it’s not like all the guys got stabbed in the face -- but outside of that, the historical record of the revolution is vast and deep. So we were able to be quite precise to the things that we were telling.
Like for instance, the battle of Bunker Hill: we knew the weather, we knew the amount on each side; how many guys died -- the casualties -- the topography and with all of that together, we can actually recreate that battle. And it’s the closest thing to being there outside of having a time-machine, which doesn’t exist yet as far as I’m aware.
So we do a little creative stuff with the assassin, but the actual events; everything that’s around him, is as real as we can make it.
AusGamers You mentioned something in there: organic. And it seems like this is probably the most organic approach to the game, from a player perspective and from a development perspective, that you guys have ever done. Little things, like in the demo you just ran me through: just being able to impale a guy’s face on a pitchfork as he walks by, while you’re in a sort of sticky-cover situation. How deep is that entire system?
Matt: We want to really give the player agency. We wanted them to get out there and take Connor and express themselves through him, and that was by redesigning his combat system; by making it a fresh, new one with more options. He’s a dual-wielder so he can manage groups better.
We wanted to have contextual things like that, so he’s more aware of the surroundings. And that’s with keeping with his character. He’s a very conscious being; his aura. He knows where everything is at all times and we wanted that to come through even in simple things like killing that guy with the pitchfork or other contextual kills we have.
They were just part of building him as a character and having all those mechanics and the narrative fit well. Everything he does expresses who he is, and I think people are going to have fun getting to know him.
AusGamers: One of the bigger reveals here is the naval combat component, which looked stunning by the way, when I saw it out at the Sony press conference.
Can you just run us through how that actually works? Can you kind of go into those at any time or are they kind of story-driven moments?
Matt: Yeah, so when Connor gets his boat -- which is a big moment, I’m not going to spoil it -- he then has access to it; it’s his boat that he can go and use whenever he wants.
On top of that, there’ll be major story briefs that happen on a boat. For instance, we’ll experience the Battle of Chesapeake, which was a major naval battle -- kind of a turning point, so Connor will be in there on his ship. But there’s also more systemic exploration with the naval -- it’s all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
You can go around the Caribbean, up to the Gulf of Saint Laurence, and sail ye’ boat!
AusGamers: So wait... you guys have a bunch of systems in your world as well. So can you sail your boat at top-speed, then climb the mast, and dive off into the water if you want?
Matt: Well no, when you leave the helm, the boat goes to full stop. Because we don’t want... you know, no ghost-riding; no ghost-riding! [laughs]
AusGamers: Dammit! That’s all I wanted to do after I saw that.
Ok. So multiplayer, is that back?
Matt: It is back. It’s on the other side of this wall [guestures across the E3 booth], and it looks great. I don’t actually know much about it [laughs] because it’s being developed by the multiplayer team. I know a little bit about the context of it, but I would urge you to go and talk to those men, because they know their stuff.
AusGamers: Alright, I will do that. So let’s go back to the story then. The last three games have been really quite complex in terms of storytelling, and there’s multiple layers there.
Most games try to steer clear of treating the player like they actually know something, but you guys are really happy to do that. And I’m curious to know what’s the complexity level of this one, and how it ties back to the previous games?
Matt: Well the common thread through all of them is of course, Desmond in the present -- Desmond and co -- and that’s no different in this one. We’re in Desmond’s animus and that’s the connection. He is the connection for all the assassins. They aren’t necessarily related to each other, but they are related to Desmond.
And we’re happy to say at this point that -- it isn’t much, but -- we’re going to spend more time with Desmond than we ever have before, in the present, and we want to offer a complete and satisfying story for the fans and the players in that respect. So look forward to having more present action that keeps it all woven together.
As far as the complexity of the story goes, that Universe was designed expertly by Corey May -- in terms of narrative Universe -- and he’s on this one with me, and it’s a pleasure to write. There’s so much amazing tools just there; we get to have fun with. We have obviously Connor’s story, we have the story in the present, then we have the story of the first civilization stuff, and we have all these different parallel things happening and going on. And it’s no different and even bigger than it has been before.
AusGamers: Now, in Assassin’s Creed 2, there was Leonardo Da Vinci -- a famous person, who helped out Ezio with all his gadgets and stuff. It was a really good way to tie in this wonderful figure from history. Do you guys have anybody [who is] going to kind of fulfil a similar role to that in this game?
Matt: We didn’t want to make any characters that were like other characters before. We wanted everybody to be fresh and new and have their own kind of place in the Universe. So there’s no replacement for Leonardo Da Vinci, but we do have lots of historical characters.
We have George Washington, we have Benjamin Franklin, we have Charles Lee, we have Marquis de La Fayette, just to name a few -- there’s many, many more. And it’s just really fun to be able to bring those guys in and portray them as men, as flawed men, not superheroes, which... a lot of textbooks will have kids believe these guys were infallible gods that gave birth to a country.
But you know, they made mistakes, and they were scared, and they had flaws. For us, that’s more interesting; makes them real. It’s better to think of those guys as normal men, in an extraordinary time, and that’s what we try to get across.
AusGamers: Now I’ll wrap it up with one more question. A bit of a complaint I guess from the first game right through until just prior to this game releasing is strictly that the crowd-system was always built around a more calculated, really short amount of time for all of the AI.
They were kind of all just walking... they were pacing more than anything else. What sort of systems have you guys introduced to keep the game more feeling organic and like the city’s actually legit? And two-part to that is, let’s kind of talk about the side-quest emergent gameplay that happens as a result of all of that.
Matt: Yeah, that was a big focus for us from the outset, was to really bring the environments to life and make it feel like the characters -- the NPCs -- are living there, and they have lives outside of Connor. So that was a big focus we have. You saw in the market demo, where you go to buy there, people are actually shopping, and they’re tasting fruit. They all have objectives and that was kind of the easy win for us, was give them a purpose and then they have a purpose.
We didn’t want it to just be aesthetic, we wanted it to be gameplay as well, so we started layering in these, we call them card events, where they will randomly come out of nowhere to ask you for help.
It doesn’t have anything to do with the main mission or the main story necessarily. The player has complete agency whether to do them or not and again, it just brings a sense that these things are active and they’re living.
Then in the forest, the animals are the crowd of the forest, and they have their own objectives and they interact with each other, and they’re moving around these different areas; they have territories.
And that allows the player to be going through the forest and come across a bear, or some wolves, or some dear, and not have them come running around and just circling him. It’s a really magical moment at times, when you come across over a hill and there’s a herd of deer grazing in the forest, it’s pretty cool.
So, all that stuff piling on top of each other is what we’re trying to do, and I think it shows through in the demo is that the crowds are a brand new thing. We can now have two thousand characters on-screen at once. We showed that off in the Bunker Hill demo a little while ago, and that just... the scale of it just goes to a whole new level. So I think we got there and I hope the fans will agree.
AusGamers Well, I’ve always been a big fan of the series. I loved the first game, the second game, and then I started to feel like you guys were losing a little bit of that magic that you had. Then this happened, and it’s a welcome addition to the franchise, a welcome addition for all the fans, so I can’t wait to get into the game at the end of the year.
Matt: Thanks very much for the kind words.
AusGamers: Yeah. Cheers Matt. Have a good show. Thank you.