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DESIGNING ASSASSIN’S CREED 2 GDC 2010. DESIGN CHALLENGE: 230+ features to produce Schedule doesn’t allow iterations Must be Commercially successful and.

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Presentation on theme: "DESIGNING ASSASSIN’S CREED 2 GDC 2010. DESIGN CHALLENGE: 230+ features to produce Schedule doesn’t allow iterations Must be Commercially successful and."— Presentation transcript:


2 DESIGN CHALLENGE: 230+ features to produce Schedule doesn’t allow iterations Must be Commercially successful and Critically acclaimed

3 “Fail early, Fail often” CURRENT MOTTO: FAIL

4 Assassin’s Creed = Fastest Selling New IP – 8+ million sold – Mixed reviews THE ORDER AC2: Objective: – Repeat the commercial success – Answer every criticism of the first game

5 230+ features to develop – Economic System – Revamped Fight System – Hiring Factions – Notoriety System – New Assassination techniques – New Mission structure – Villa management – Prince of Persia-like maps – Etc… SCOPE?

6 Short Timeline made even shorter by a Scope revision asking to INCREASE the number of features: – Project started early 2008 – Scope Revision in September 2008 – In stores November 2009 CURVE BALL

7 300+ developers 3 internal studios across the world ENORMOUS TEAM UBISOFT MONTREAL UBISOFT SINGAPORE UBISOFT ANNECY, Linear Missions Core Game Villa FRANCE

8 What can be done: To achieve our ambitious results? Produce everything first pass?

9 1. Identify and focus your efforts on core of your game. 2. Have a Strong Documentation Structure. 3. Use Play Testing and Data Tracking to validate designs

10 Keep the Design focused on the right things


12 Identify your Core Gameplay to create a hierarchy in your features: 1. Guaranties that you game is fun 2. Helps you realize where you can cut corners (and maintain quality)

13 1. Gameplay pillars – Used to create the challenge 2. Supporting features – Give meaning and depth to your core 3. Exotic Features – Change the pace FEATURE CATEGORIZATION

14 “ The road to hell is paved with good intentions” Keep perspective: – What is not part of the core shouldn’t overshadow what is. HIERARCHY IN THE FEATURES



17 Fight – Based on Timing MovesTools AC2 GAMEPLAY PILLARS (1/3) Enemies AC2 Objective – Add Tactical choices

18 Navigation: Focus on Fluidity AC2 GAMEPLAY PILLARS (2/3)

19 Social Stealth: Social Behaviour makes you invisible AC2 GAMEPLAY PILLARS (3/3) AC2 Objective: Crowd as a gameplay tool

20 AC1 Missions = Didn’t use Core Gameplays AC2 Secret Missions = Focus on Navigation BUILD AROUND THE GAMEPLAY PILLARS BORING FUN!

21 Gameplay Pillars have the greatest impact on your game. Other features can have less polish. But don’t cut them!

22 CASE 1: ECONOMIC SYSTEM Don’t let satellite features interfere with the core of your game. Side Features should highlights your strengths, not become your weakness.

23 CASE 2: ASSASSINATIONS Core to what Players expect from our game. However assassinating is not a Gameplay! It’s the end result of the Player using the core Gameplay within the confine of the fantasy. Design Goal: No challenge to execute them Remove needless frustration Reward for the Player

24 Understanding what game you are creating is the cornerstone of a succesful production However, how can you communicate it efficiently to your team?

25 Strong Documentation Process

26 WHY I THINK GAME DESIGN DOCUMENTS ARE GREAT 1. Force you to think 2. Keep tracks of what you have in mind 3. Limit questions - people can focus on deliverables 4. It costs less to fail in documentation rather than in production.


28 Loot Description Gameplay Loop On Spawn/Despawn Controls AI reactions Level Design implications Sound/Music design Camera Player Feedback Menu/Localisation Save Games Looting can be done on: Dead bodies Lootable Objects (ex: Stationary Boats, Treasure chests, box, Final List TB D ASAP) Big Treasure chest Small Treasure chest Covered boats / gondolas (player can't drive them) Looting a body or an object takes [5] seconds. The player can receive money and [keys] while looting. There's no need to loot a body twice to get both. AC2 DOCUMENT

29 [x][x] Identify Variables we need in Data Remove needless debates! BRACKETS

30 Very Time consuming - 2 to 3 hours of approval meetings per day minimum for 6 months. - Documents were kept up-to- date until the very end. NOT THE EASIEST ROAD However, the people Involved aren’t involved in the creation of data: does not affect production.

31 In 6 months: 200 Documents produced Rework was kept to a minimum (only one feature received a 2.0 revision Used by the Q/A team for testing the game, up until close to submission! RESULTS

32 Validation through Playtests Part 3


34 WHAT WAS TRACKED Quantitative – Data Tracking + Usability Reports Provide concrete information Orient the discussion on data instead of opinions. Qualitative – Appreciation Reports Give context to the data you collected Most Important (for me) Having both provide perspective

35 ADAPTED TO PROD CYCLE 2 major stages in Production: Pre-Alpha – Validate your Features. Post-Alpha – Smooth out the experience.

36 CASE 1: NAVIGATION Problematic: Buildings went from 1-2 story high in AC1 to 3-4 in Venice. Climbing felt slow and the players don’t use the Free Running as much as we’d like. Are Layout changes between AC1 and AC2 going to bite us?

37 Player 12 rated this mission BORING Player 13 rated this mission FUN Playtests proved that more Navigation = More Fun

38 …except if the Mission requires it… P9P10P11P12P13P14P15P16 M10 - Fun5Nil4 5455 … and that Mission was rated the most fun No Use of Rooftops…

39 OverallP9P10P11P12P13P14P15P16 Overall Fun52335454 Difficulty24232333 Navigation Ability to navigate his environment?53524455 Casual Hardcore Note that it affected mostly ‘Casual’ Players

40 CASE 1: NAVIGATION Don’t change the layout! Hardcore Players didn’t appear to have problems Our first city (Florence) had lower buildings, so once the Players reached Venice, they would be acclimated with the Free Running Work on the Strong Climb The Character could reach rooftops twice as fast then what Players experienced during early Playtesting – regaining the fluidity of the first title.

41 May 18 th June 22 nd Usage is in line with our expectations. The players learn intuitively to use the Free Running and Climb and maximize the Navigation. Results

42 Playtest 1 Playtest 4

43 CASE 2: BLEND Problematic: Players didn’t understand the Blend ability This affected the difficulty and appreciation of several missions and was putting in question the notion of crowd groups. Playtest 4:

44 Solution: Change the controls – blend becomes automatic when walking in a group. Playtest 10: CASE 2: BLEND

45 Problematic: Players complained about the lack of variety in the fight system – yet didn’t use all the moves… CASE 3: FIGHT MOVES

46 We even compared the Player’s behaviour with one of our Designer Players Designer CASE 4: FIGHT MOVES Result: no solution…  Result: no solution… 

47 Lesser focus on Data Tracking No changes in the layouts possible We had to branch out to Post Launch Data Tracking one month before going in submission Couldn’t afford the time to analyse the data POST ALPHA

48 AC2 production cycle = ZERO time to polish Walkthrough for the main path only = 25 hours Playtests became the main tool to identify problematic areas in the walkthrough POST ALPHA

49 Playtest 15 Playtest 10Playtest 5 41 Issues Flagged: 31 Minor 7 Major 3 Critical 30 Issues Flagged: 13 Minor 14 Major 3 Critical RESULTS 2 Issues Flagged: 1 Minor 1 Critical

50 Conclusion Part 4

51 MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Critically Acclaimed 91% on Metacritic Multiple Game of the Year Awards nominations and awards Developer Awards, BAFTA, AIAS, New York Times, IGN, Gamespot, etc… Commercially Successful 1st week sales 33% higher then AC1 8 million copies sold (sell-in)

52 When creating big budget games, mistakes can prove extremely costly – Lead to lower quality – Create needless work – Lower morale Designers can manage these risks by : – Determining what the core of the game experience is and building around it – Providing teams with solid documentation that fits with their production needs CONCLUSION


54 THANKS! Special thanks to: Charles Randall, Jeffrey Yohalem, Laura De Young, Genevieve Laurendeau, Steven Masters, Philippe Therien.

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