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E3 2013: Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Developer Interview Video with Jean Guesdon
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 11:33am 13/06/13 | Comments
At E3 2013 AusGamers catches up with Ubisoft Montreal Creative Director Jean Guesdon to talk about the upcoming Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

AusGamers E3 2013 Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag Developer Interview Video

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. We’re out at E3 once again, and I have Jean, who is the Creative Director on Black Flag --Not Henry Rollins’ Black Flag, this is Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

It’s a really easy jump-off point, because obviously Assassin’s Creed 3 was a really big undertaking with a lot invested in it. The idea of the naval combat... I remember having interviews where people weren’t really sure how it was going to go, and obviously it became one of the biggest factors, and one of the most loved factors. Was that the reason that you then ended up going with pirates?

Jean Guesdon: Well it definitely helped. We had the same reaction internally, but a year and half before fans; before players could actually play with the naval part. So when we realised (back in 2011) that we had something really, really, cool there with that, we first decided to focus the efforts for AC3, on some missions with very controlled environments, to make sure we developed the tech and the experience properly. Then, we started the development this time with the idea of making it open world.

AusGamers: So, open world. It looks like it’s the biggest open world that the series has ever had, and you’ve got this ginourmous bed of sea for people to move around in. In previous games, there was always loading areas. Is it a seamless transition, as you’re going around the world now... or?

Jean: We realised a few areas where you will have loadings, but the vast majority of areas, like you saw in the demo this morning, will be totally seamless. The idea is really to make the player feel what it was like to be a pirate, and it was about being free, and being adventurous too, and violent. So the way we developed this game --and you’re right, the world itself is the biggest that we’ve ever created; now, that being said most of it is ocean, which is procedural; which is totally systemic.

So we will have the same amount of ground surface statistically, but the main difference is that we’ve sliced it into many, many, different locations. So we have up to 50 I think, dozens of locations; unique locations, not copy-paste; unique locations that players will be able to explore at their own pace, while roaming the ocean.

AusGamers:Now the demo that we saw in there, was that running on PS4?:

Jean: It was the build of PS4, running on a high end PC.

AusGamers: What have you guys done, in terms of the engine overhaul? The water alone is gorgeous, but you’ve got a bigger draw distance now, and much more detail in the environments. I think someone said there was next gen hay...

Jean: Haystack, yes! [laughs] Well the hackstack was maybe a joke, but the power of next-gen consoles will definitely increase even more, the immersion. AC has always been a beautiful franchise with beautiful graphics to immerse people in these periods of time, but with this new hardware, we’ll be able to push it even further. So in our game, the fluidity of the smoke, the ocean, the clouds in the sky, the leaves to improve the feeling of stealth; all of this is really at its best on next gen.

AusGamers: Now one of the coolest factors of the last game, and a sister-game Far Cry 3, had an amazing ecology --especially where animals were concerned, and how you interacted with the world and animals. Obviously we saw the whale breaching, which was beautiful. Can you talk a little bit about the ecology side of this? Is it going to have an impact on the player? Will you be able to interact? You mentioned something about harpooning; will there be dangerous animals? Is there sharks and stuff like that?

Jean: We’ll have sharks underwater; we’ll have big animals like that to hunt, and smaller ones on the ground. So animals are not only part of the ambient life of this living and breathing world, but they’re also gameplay ingredients that you will have to have earnt in order to get some gameplay materials, or to upgrade your ship.

AusGamers: It seems like the series just gets more and more RPG, and more and more open as you guys progress. What sort of grinding and crafting can the player do this time around?

Jean: Well, like I said, the animals for example, will be used for crafting some items. The economy has been revamped to better match the pirate setting, so it will really be about upgrading your ship in order to access new areas, and bigger galleons with tonnes of cargo that would be needed to upgrade it even more.

We made sure, in the first place, that we really wanted this game to be one game. It sounds a little bit simple, but we didn’t want to have an AC3 proposal with a ground game, and a naval part --as I told you, there was a reason behind that choice back in the days, but in our case, we really wanted to build a big game that would feel and play unified. So it’s not a naval game, with a ground game, it’s a pirate game using all of the ingredients that we can have.

AusGamers: Was it hard for you guys... obviously when you’re dealing with pirate ships and naval combat, there’s got to be a level of: “is it fun, or is it boring?” because you can’t actually have true physics involved with that, because it would take forever right? So for you guys, at what point... is it just testing, and making sure you’re iterating all the time?

Jean: Yeah, exactly. It’s exactly that. We knew we can’t be realistic in terms of speed and pace, but neither were the predecessors right? We’re a game in the end, even if we try to push and make it as realistic as possible. So this naval experience, we want it to be first free for the player to decide --to go wherever they want; so for example: just the fact to be able to dock anywhere you want, release the wheel, jump into the water, and explore a little place over there; this is important.

Then we wanted to make sure to create ingredients and tools for players to fasten the pace as they want. So fast-travel points, easy go-back to your ship, and we have this animus travel speed, where our narrative allows us to play with the simulation to make sure for example: that the moment a player decides to attack this ship, or to reach this island, we have a way to shorten the time needed, and also spreading things around in the ocean, to always have something to do.

AusGamers: Players were divided a little bit with AC3, specifically with the amount of time that you spent with Connor in different parts of his life. Did you guys learn from that? Did you take that feedback, and are we basically just playing a smaller slice of...

Jean: Of Edward?

AusGamers: Yes.

Jean: Well, actually: obviously we listen, we always listen to our fans, to the reactions, etc. Now, as you know the game has started, and development of the game started a year before the release of AC3. So when AC3 hit shelves, we were already way deep in production. So we didn’t make our choices based on the reactions of fans, but it totally depends on the character you want to tell the story about.

Altair was about one character. AC1 is about a few months actually, I think. Ezio, in AC2 spanned for almost 30 years, then AC: Brotherhood was six years, and revelations a year, so you know, it all depends upon the story, not reactions.

AusGamers: In AC3, there were some cool little things that the team had put in, such as the alien encounter and stuff like that. You’re playing around in areas where the Bermuda Triangle is right? Are we going to see some crazy stuff there?

Jean: I won’t spoil anything like that, but it’s tempting to play a little bit on the edge with this kind of stuff. I can’t tell you more today.

AusGamers: When you go to the islands, you’ve obviously got enemies, and small emergent missions that come up. One of the coolest factors of the last few games has been the underground temples, the climbing game basically. Will that make a triumphant return, and how far have the artists gone now, with this world?

Jean: Well, it’s not... once again, it’s for the characters; we don’t try to copy-paste. The good thing... we’re very lucky to have five games before us, so we have tonnes of ingredients that we like, or we like less, it’s a choice that we can decide. Then it’s like crafting your own recipe with cool ingredients, and picking the ones that you prefer.

So yes, we will have those types of experience, more linear underground, but maybe less than in the previous ones. It’s just... we want to not come away with a copycat, we want to come with a game which is very special, very unique, about Edward, about this gigantic world that we’ve never seen before. So the game will be really different.

AusGamers: Ok, and finally, in one of the trailers, Edward is going down deep into the water. Is there going to be underwater exploration?

Jean: We will have some areas, yes, where you will be able to go down underwater, using the diving bell that we saw in that trailer. So it will be really focused on limited areas. I would say it’s almost the same strategy we had with the naval experience on AC3. When we want to try something new like that --to bring something to the franchise-- let’s first make it good, focus on it, deliver it properly, and see what we can do, and then “why not... who knows what after?”, but in our game, we will have dedicated places for that.

AusGamers: Alright Jean, well we’ll leave it there. Thank you so much, the game looks really, really good. Cheers.

Jean: My pleasure.

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