Ubisoft explains new approach open world game design, world building, story, next AC

#1
Big thanks to Stumpokapow for translating this article. I'm giving a highlights version.

We had a separate thread about it, but it missed almost all of the details.

So, after having a conversation with Stump about what the intent of the statements made most likely were (as opposed to a 1:1 reading of the text), the general sentiment would be:
  • By context, it's clear this interview is more about their open world games than their multiplayer games like Rainbow Six.
  • Ubisoft would traditionally make open world games where they had a specific pre-laid narrative/cinematic experience in mind that the player would then go through. Think Assassin's Creed 2 where you're sent through a series of hub cities and hit the same plot points and set piece as everyone else, and even though you had options, your core experience would be pretty similar.
  • In the future, they want to constrain you far less in their open world games. They want to make it so that their open worlds have a lot of activities to choose from and you have a lot more choice in terms of what you do and don't do. Similarly, they want to make sure their gameplay systems allow you a wide variety of choices in how you go about things.
  • Given the open ended nature of the above idea, their games will have less narrative - or at least critical narrative structure - since they have to allow you to do what you want and have fun. Similarly, if they give you six approaches to a missions, it's harder to tie that all into an in-mission plot.
  • However, they talk about emergent character relationships. During this segment, they basically imply that their games will be more about things like vignettes and area stories than the overarching narrative. Or, put another way, there will still be dialog and cutscenes in their games, but they'll be more localized to what you're doing currently.
  • Ubisoft says this change in decision is driven by both their internal creative direction, but also market trends that favor this type of game design. As an example, he mentions that (basically) no one goes out of their way to share a video of a cutscene as opposed to their awesome mission solution or gameplay clip.
  • They also noted that Ubisoft is working to make sure their open worlds feel as believable as possible. In another interview, a different Ubisoft executive talked about how they will send 40+ staff on a development team to live in the city and/or area they're recreating for six months so that they can really get a feel for it and do a ton of research about the city in order to better realize it.
  • Ubisoft notes that the first game that will really showcase this new approach to open world game design is the next Assassin's Creed title.
  • Please remember that the above is trying to interpret their strategy outlined here, and not a 1:1 Q&A reproduction. A more literal reading would basically be "We're putting less narrative in our games (especially the type present in Assassin's Creed 2), and instead focusing on player stories, believable worlds, and emergent character interaction. We want games with things players want to share, and to allow them to play their way. We're doing this because of both ourselves and market trends. See the next Assassin's Creed for the first major example of this."
Article: http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/articl...ns-en-moins-de-narration_5031610_4408996.html
 
Dec 6, 2015
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#6
You know what is really cool? Finding a balance of both fun and story.

What a shocker.

I used to be really into Assassin's Creed's story until it got really dumb because they knew they had to pad it out for sequels.
Now I've never been so disinterested in the franchise beause I can't even remember any of what made their stories memorable after 3 so why even try anymore right?
 
May 29, 2014
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#7
good, just waht we need. boring fetch quests ala skyrim.
i love myself a good storyline in a game, hell, only reason i bought COD, TITANFALL 2 AND BF1... cause of the sp.
 

benny_a

extra source of jiggaflops
Apr 25, 2009
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#14
I'm absolutely on board for this.

I've said on GAF before that I think The Witcher 3 would've been better if it was just side quests.
Just have him be the Witcher in this world and stumble upon different smaller story lines or in Assassin's Creed have him be the assassin or infiltrator or what not.

Hitman is also showing that you can just make it about the contracts. I know it has an overall story line but it doesn't need to for the game to shine.

The danger with Ubisoft is just that they've shown that they are good at making progress bar gaming, so this is all just hopes and dreams.
 
Nov 21, 2013
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#16
Problem is Assassin's Creed 2 is one of the best paced stories I've ever played so using that as an example of something they want to get away from seems a bit silly.
 
Apr 20, 2012
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#17
[*]Ubisoft would traditionally make open world games where they had a specific pre-laid narrative/cinematic experience in mind that the player would then go through. Think Assassin's Creed 2 where you're sent through a series of hub cities and hit the same plot points and set piece as everyone else, and even though you had options, your core experience would be pretty similar.
Even though AC2 is the best open world game Ubisoft have made in the past 10 years? lol

[*]They also noted that Ubisoft is working to make sure their open worlds feel as believable as possible. In another interview, a different Ubisoft executive talked about how they will send 40+ staff on a development team to live in the city and/or area they're recreating for six months so that they can really get a feel for it and do a ton of research about the city in order to better realize it.
That's really weird because IMO Ubisoft worlds feel so lifeless, especially the ones in WD and WD2.

Fascinating that their designs are just getting more and more homogeneous, with little to no room for creativity. Easily my least favourite AAA developer right now and I can't see that changing with their current attitude.
 
Aug 5, 2011
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#20
Ubisoft Squared.

I get why but for me it sounds like a hell of meaningless side content with no actual focus other than allowing for wacky clips to post on social media.

The relocation research sounds like overkill.
 
Jun 30, 2006
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#23
would i play/enjoy an open-world game, set within a defined scenario, that fundamentally was comprised of a number of interesting, semi-proceedural side-missions, with no over-arching narrative? absolutely, yes :) ...
 
Aug 5, 2011
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#26
I disagree. The virtual tourism is the only redeeming quality in the recent Ubisoft games.
Having played their (and other world) games I'm not seeing it adding anything that a couple of days solid location photography and some research on google wouldn't deliver.

Besides it isn't emergent. They're trying to force a preset view of the city on you.
 
Jun 23, 2013
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#29
Honestly, this might be best. Their stories are all dogshit anyway, and I say that as a person who generally enjoys Ubi games. FC4 is one of my favorites from them. That said, aside from the opening and ending, there's basically no story. No one gives a shit about anything that happens in between. Look at stuff like the Division and they actively avoid saying even one meaningful thing. They could have touched on so many cultural issues, yet there's literally nothing of substance in the game. You just get a bunch of pointless radio blather and some bland stereotypes giving out missions. If you can't hire a single competent person to write, then just focus on the gameplay and design games that don't need a lot of exposition outside the setup and ending.
 
Jul 19, 2011
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#30
I feel like this "less narrative" direction they're going on is a gross overreaction to trends/focus testing. Certainly, personally it makes their games less appealing.

Given the open ended nature of the above idea, their games will have less narrative - or at least critical narrative structure - since they have to allow you to do what you want and have fun. Similarly, if they give you six approaches to a missions, it's harder to tie that all into an in-mission plot.
I'm getting MGS V vibes from this.

Much as I loved that game, plot was shit-tier.
Not a fan of this seeming direction Ubi are going in, and it just makes me more likely to not buy their games.
 
Jun 28, 2013
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#34
If they can make the side stuff meaningful, then sure. They haven't done a good job yet though. Mafia 3 is actually a good example of how it could end up. Remove the bulk of the story from the last couple of games and it looks similar to Mafia 3. Too much repetition, without meaning.

I hope it works out. I want Assassins Creed to shine again.
 

dark10x

Digital Foundry pixel pusher
Jun 9, 2004
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#35
I'm getting MGS V vibes from this.

Much as I loved that game, plot was shit-tier.
Not a fan of this seeming direction Ubi are going in, and it just makes me more likely to not buy their games.
Yup and I doubt Ubi can match the top tier gameplay if MGSV. The loss in story there really hurt my overall enjoyment of the game, though.
 
Apr 29, 2012
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#36
TL DR: This is Ubisoft finally embracing the inescapable micro-transaction future

Destiny, GTA Online...

Not surprising since their digital strategy is, by far, the worst between the big 4
 

ZealousD

Makes world leading predictions like "The sun will rise tomorrow"
Apr 17, 2007
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#40
I vastly prefer the AC2 approach. That was their biggest critical success for this series. I dropped AC Unity not because of glitchiness but because it was full of filler bullshit collectibles and shitty samey side missions. So boring.

Their new direction is exactly what I do not want.
 
Nov 7, 2012
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#41
Sounds amazing! Finally no more crap Ubisoft stories clogging up everything. Just gimme my stabby gauntlet and let me choose what missions I want to do so I don't get stuck doing stupid tailing missions.
 
#45
It's odd as one of their biggest criticisms of their open-world games is its formulaic Ubigame design event horizon, yet this is contextualized as a singlular one way forward for their open world games.
There was a segment where they talked about how they want their games to mechanically feel more different and they pointed to their last two years of output.
 
Jan 29, 2015
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#46
And except Ubisoft's open world games aren't even close to MGS V in terms of gameplay design, depth, or even fun.
What design and depth? Simple homogeneous bases and vast tracts of nothingness, which could easily have been replaced by multiple Camp Omega-like levels? If MGS V's open world is the gold standard for fun and depth, then good luck to open world games.
 
Jun 7, 2013
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#47
Wow people are hella cynical in here...

I'm for this change. Open world sandbox gameplay and strong narratives are often at odds for many reasons. Having smaller, moment to moment worldbuilding and narrative can be very powerful, and I'm glad Ubisoft are willing to give it a shot.

AC2 had an alright story, sure, but that was despite being open world, not because of. If the game was linear it could have told that story a lot better. Story missions in open world games are always linear and have no interaction with the open world anyway.
 
Mar 8, 2016
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#49
Story in open world games is usually fragmented, cause you start a mission here and there and honestly too complex. Can't say what exactly the overarching story in the ac games is one reason that I only play short time intervals with long time between them. They also introduce so many new chars, cause you need some new quest giver.

Short, self contained micro-stories would be welcome.