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Assassin’s Creed Revelations – an interview with multiplayer director Damien Kieken

GR: Building on that, can you talk about what you’re adding with the community features?

DK: It’s really… you know, why do you play multiplayer? It’s mainly because you like playing with friends. And we think that’s really the main thing that we should focus on, is how to make life better for people who want to play with [friends]. So we have the group system and things like that, so you can join your friends before starting a new game, and then doing the team-based mode and things like that. You can take the same emblems as your friends, so everyone knows “those guys, they all have the same emblem, so they’re always playing together.” They can take the same titles, the same pictures, you can really do cool things with your friends.

GR: What’s your opinion of working on an annual schedule? Is that more of a challenge, or does it make things easier because you have to finish a certain amount of things on a very narrow deadline?

DK: It’s a challenge, of course, because we’re a very big game, we are triple-A, and everything in Assassin’s Creed must be the highest quality possible. So it’s a challenge to deliver a game every year, but also, you know, with a multiplayer game, you need to have content very regularly, because players keep playing it, and they want new content. So it’s a big mission for us, and we know we have to do that, and we want to do that for our community, so it’s a challenge. But it’s something we improve on every year, you know? And we start really working like that now, so we know that we’ll have a yearly release, so we are starting to really have a pipeline production to be able to really deliver high content every year.

GR: The characters that we’ve seen so far are just the ones that have been announced. Are there going to be more available, is there a possibility of bringing back some from Brotherhood?

DK: We’ll have new characters to reveal in the coming months, and also we’ll come back with the favorite ones of Brotherhood, that will be given in different ways. But I really won’t go into detail. We also really want to reward the players who played Brotherhood, so those guys will have things that the other guys won’t have.

GR: Is there anything we haven’t asked about that you think is really important to get across to readers about what’s coming with Revelations?

DK: The customization is really a big part of the game this year, so we spoke a bit about the emblems that you can show on your characters, and also on the crowd. The parts, customizing, so now you are really choosing which parts you want to customize. Also you can customize your animations, your kill animations, your stun animations, we have the taunt, so really, expanding on this area. And the same thing for the Templar Profile, which is new, the idea that each player has an identity card where you can see what he is good at, what is his favorite ability, favorite skin and things like that, and so you can build tactics before playing against them. We want every player to have his personal identity, and by reading it, knowing how he played the game.

GR: The emblems, those show up in the crowd?

DK: Yes, by customizing your own character, you’re also customizing the crowd. That’s one of the big features that we have, and no other game has. When you play with level-50 guys, the crowd looks totally different from level one. And that’s totally cool.

GR: How is the new deathmatch all that different from Brotherhood’s Wanted mode?

DK: At the start, when we thought about the deathmatch mode, our idea was really, “How can we deliver a game mode that has the same fantasy, that has the same cool features, but that is less complex and easier to get access to?” So we still have the prey-and-assassin mechanics, so you still have a contract that you need to kill and a guy on your back, but we don’t have anymore the compass, we don’t have the chase rules, and it’s really in a more little map, so all the action is more dense. And it’s really changing the pace, and also the tactics, so it’s really a different mode, even though it’s based, in the beginning, on the same mechanics. For us, it’s really the perfect mode to start the game, because it’s still what Assassin’s Creed multiplayer is, but in a more accessible way.

GR: Is it true that player characters aren’t repeated in the crowd during deathmatch?

DK: They’re not repeated in deathmatch, but they can still use the abilities. So they can still duplicate themselves in the crowd, or by using a decoy, or disguising themselves. It’s just, that’s for more advanced players, right? So it’s still a deep mode, with all the abilities.

GR: Have you given any thought to expanding the number of players in a match, or do you think it works best with 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 matches?

DK: It’s a very intimate mode, you know, we think that by having 16 characters, it won’t really change everything. And also you need to consider that we have a crowd of like 100 NPCs wandering the city. So that’s a huge challenge, technically. So also we have to compose with that, you know? Having all those NPCs, and a big city, and players to play with. So it’s not an empty map, right?

GR: So it’s more manageable with smaller teams?

DK: Yeah, yeah. And we did some testing, and [larger teams weren’t] that good. So we have technical limitations, but also… we think it’s a really good number. And we see more and more other multiplayer games doing that. Gears of War is a bit like that, also Uncharted is doing modes with fewer players. I think people start getting that it’s not more players that make the better game, but how you handle those players playing together.

GR: Have you considered adding some sort of cooperative mode? I don’t know if Gears of War’s Horde Mode is the best comparison, but…

DK: It’s something we’re looking at, and something that we really want to deliver on. But it’s something that needs time, and needs to be done really well, because it’s Assassin’s Creed. So it’s not for this game.

GR: With the development cycle, are you already considering ideas for the next one, or are you focused on finishing this first?

DK: We’re really focusing on this and finishing this first, because we want to deliver the best game possible. But we are always thinking about the future, so we kind of do both. But we’re mainly focusing on this game.

GR: Other than the community features, did you feel that anything was really missing in Brotherhood? One feature you really wanted to get in but weren’t able to, or something that you thought of afterward and wished you’d gotten in earlier, but were able to implement this time around?

DK: You know, Brotherhood was really our first copy of the game. And because everything was new, some little stuff had to be changed. I think, really, the accessibility is something today that is key for Assassin’s Creed Revelations. [The play style] is new, and often players don’t have the patience for learning new rules and things like that. So we’re really working on the learning curve, and I’m pretty happy with today, and previous days, with people getting the game more quickly than Brotherhood. We do games because we want players to play with. And the biggest frustration is having players not play your game because they don’t get it, it’s too complex. So that’s really one of the things that we’re working on, but still keeping all the cool complex stuff for the core gamers.

Aug 2, 2011

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.