"Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag in all of its pirate glory and debauchery is just a little over three months away.
To tide you over, MMGN had a chat with senior producer Hugues Ricour about the fourth core entry in the long-running franchise and how its shift to the high-seas is changing things up, while returning to the series roots and what fans love.
MMGN: For any fan or newcomer to the series, pirates is a big thing and itís safe to say that Black Flag is a large departure from the core series with its emphasis on pirates and naval combat. Where does it all fit within the AC continuity?
Hugues Ricour, senior producer of Ubisoft Singapore: Assassinís Creed IV: Black Flag is a sort of sequel to Assassinís Creed III in that Edward Kenway is the father of Haytham and the grandfather of Connor, the hero of AC III. The plot is centered around these empires invading the Americas and the Caribbean, which was a huge political block where the Assassins and the Templars were at war during the 17th and 18th century.
For Black Flag, Edward starts as a sailor and becomes a pirate because he quits the navy. Through the game he becomes an assassin: in the beginning he is not and you experience his journey. Basically youíre going to discover and explore the Caribbeans in the early 18th century, and the promise of the game is a pirate game but a bad-ass pirate game -- not a kiddish one or one people necessarily have in mind -- and then from there, tons of opportunities.
We are actually going back to the roots of Assassinís Creed and as you progress through the game, weíll going to re-introduce players to the skills to become an Assassin and thereís a huge focus on stealth. The designers at Ubisoft are strongly pushing the playstyles of observe, think and then act. Youíll see that in Splinter Cell Blacklist, youíll see that in Watch_Dogs, you see that in Far Cry 3 when attacking outposts, and youíll definitely see that in Black Flag. Itís a big, big push to make sure our fans think and play the way they want.
The ocean is obviously immensely big: how is the team making sure sailing the seas isnít devoid of things to do?
The fact that the ocean and Carribean is such a vast place to explore, is actually one of the core focuses for the designers. They are learning a lot, especially from games like Far Cry 3, with the right balance between the story, side-activities and exploration.
The world is based on a systemic A.I. system that spawns activities, ships, trade-routes, privateers and so on. The weather is also dynamic: you will always have action and activities as you visit and explore our world. As you progress through the game, fast travel options will be unlocked to take you where you need to be if youíre not into sailing to every destination.
We are focusing a lot on accessibility and there will be starting points and explanations. Also, if you saw at E3, the map had red-dots scattered across it, and these are forts. Forts are sort of like outposts in Far Cry 3, and you attack them with your ship, go to land and clear them. Once youíve done that, they become allied forts, and they reveal to you sections of the map in that area and we have several side-activities scattered each time you find a portion of the map or trigger or complete a mission.
What factors inspired the team at Ubisoft to turn to the high seas for the next installment? Was it to explore a new part of history?
From the beginning of AC, there was always this idea that history is our playground and a lot of key moments in history happened at sea. I think what happened in the Caribbeans in the early 18th century, the golden age we used to call it, where tons of sailors and pirates rushed to the New World was interesting, and when we got our first playtest feedback from the naval battles in AC III, as developers we started thinking we should push that way further.
We had ideas for systemic boarding to make sure players can board any ship; ideas to jump from your boat and start exploring any part of the world; and from there it became very natural because the pirate fantasy is just an amazing one to explore.
Say the word pirate and the usual associations are ridiculous wooden legs, eye-patches, Ďshiver me timbersí, plenty of grog and treasure. How does ACIV aim to immerse us in the pirateís life?
We want to depict the pirates that are not the [childrenís interpretation], but rather the mature reality of pirates as itís a mature game. Itís going to have a lot of twists as you progress through the story. The overall message is Edward is a rebel; he has no rules, but as he progresses through the story and becomes an Assassin, he will learn that violence is not necessarily an answer to everything, and that some basic rules are not necessarily compatible with the notion of freedom. I think these freemen (pirates) were living in a world that was not always very inviting and the game will show that.
What sort of new gameplay mechanics and refinements can fans look forward to in the naval combat, expanding from AC III?
Weíve added a lot of new weapons and customisation options for the ship. Your main ship will be the Jackdaw and it really is the second character of the game. Youíll be able to customise it to go faster with sails or to have more armour and of course, tons of new weapons. Youíll have fire-barrels you can throw when youíre chased, and you have a few other options like more cannons and different types of ship-specific weapons.
How will the ship-to-ship naval battles be handled in multiplayer?
The multiplayer is focusing on the ground gameplay that fans are familiar with. The team has come up with tons of new ideas, such as at E3 when we showcased a mode where you can customise your own way of playing, and the reception is really strong, so thatís where the focus is for this year.
How much of Black Flag is set on land versus sea? Will most of the major action take place onboard?
If you follow the main mission and certain amount of the side-missions, the ratio between ground and naval gameplay is probably 60/40. If youíre one of these fans who want to enter that completion loop or attacking any ship at sea and looting and sinking them, the percentage can rapidly evolve to 50/50 or even more depending on your inner pirate.
When you go about selecting crew-members, is there any chance of a mutiny onboard, or are you always in command?
The main objective to recruit crew members is for the boarding, because if you donít have enough men as you start the boarding, you can actually lose the [ship-to-ship] battle because if there are more enemies on the other ship, they can take down your crew and you wonít be able to win that boarding battle. Another one is when you capture a ship: you have to leave some crew to man that captured ship. So there are various reasons why you have a crew and youíll also meet your first-mate and create a connection with him.
Can fans expect some historical favourites from the pirate era, in terms of characters?
A few of them have announced: weíve shown Blackbeard, "Calico Jack" John Rackham and a few others, but expect a lot more for sure! For pirates fans, it will be an amazing time back in a rich time of history!
Thanks for your time!" ~ Source
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Ubisoft talks up the bad-ass, open-world of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
For months Watch Dogs was my most anticipated PS4 title. But this game has taken the crown. Words cannot explain how excited I am for this game.
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The more I see on this one the more I want it. For me I have 2 games in the running for my most anticipated...this one and The Witcher 3. God, between the two I had better kiss the wife and kids goodbye for a few months. I'll miss you my wonderful family but I'll get over it ***evil grin***
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