The Little Touches in Assassin's Creed

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Edit: Sorry, double post.

thethingthatlurks:

Half-Life 2 is essentially a documentary, except the camera crew is armed to the teeth and doesn't take kindly to the locals in between getting interviews from some important people...

Well, that might explains quick loads..
- CUT! Mike's cam fell off the cliff again!

Good article that, and something I really appreciate and enjoy. Although I agree with some people's comments here about seeing things mattering more than reading them. Fallout 3 and AC:B are providing, in my mind at least, something slightly different. Fallout 3 provides back story for characters you don't meet (The skeletons on the bed for instance) which provides detail for the WORLD. AC:B provides background for the characters. I'm not saying that either game doesn't provide the other type but I'd say that, for me at least, Fallout 3's details were world based and AC:B's were character based.

I haven't played AC2 or Brotherhood yet, but I remember in AC1 Desmond mentioning that he likes motorcycling. Would that qualify as characterization?

One of the little touches I liked was when I was climbing the Colleseum, I stumbled across a couple of guys who were just flicking each other off. You know that thing where you place your hand under your chin and flick the fingers forward - the 'fuck your mother' of the vast array of non-verbal Italian insults. They just stood there, flicking each other off, over and over again. I liked to believe they were practising, rehearsing the insult for later and wanting to make sure they got it JUST right. I'd like to see an entire game about these two guys.

I have a perfect example of this, in Mass effect 1 your able to do kinda loyalty missions for your crew. Specifically Garrus, Tali and Wrex. They aren't required and don't really affect the game besides a quick conversation in Mass Effect 2, but they actually added to the experience quite a bit. Then since people thought it was neat bioware made it manditory to get the best ending in ME2, and at one point just to simply progress in the game... That really took away from the game for me. It felt like rather than getting to say know someone, I was just filling out an uncanny valley checklist of loyalty. (Still a fantastic game, but it feels like between ME1 and 2 Bioware still hasn't found the right groove)

I would've picked Bioshock more than Half Life. The story and philosophy behind it was cool and all. But Goddamn,(!) Rapture was the most amazing city in Video gaming history and City 17 doesn't hold a candle to it. and the most amzing thing about rapture was how you got a sense of the incredible depth of it's concept and how it cam this close to being the perfect place. and while there were no emails, there were Audio logs. ahh.... the audio logs.

WaderiAAA:

A Curious Fellow:
Snip

I actually more often have problem with non-mute protagonists hurting the immersion. Like in Dragon Age when I am in a really hard battle and my character cries "is it just me, or do you actually think you have a chance". I kinda like silent protagonists because you can at least pretend that they have an interesting personality, while many talking characters either come out as bland or dipshits the moment they open their mouths.

I would agree with this. It seemed to me that Dragon Age was trying to have it both ways: the protagonist wouldn't talk when they were actually talking to people, but then wouldn't shut up when you were exploring or in combat.

There were other little things I appreciated in ACB; like as you slowly freed more of Rome from Brogia control you'd start seeing people painting on the street, and couples proposing to each other, whereas before they acted anxious and well...oppressed. Ezio's repressed memories were also really interesting, because while I would never say that his character was shallow, they did give him a bit of extra depth, in a depressing sort of way.

Thank you so so so much man! I have been saying this since I played Metal Gear Solid 1! Its why I always fall into the trap of thinking all big scale RPG's will be great, only to be bitterly disapointed.
small little things make a good game great.
and give the people who love it something to notice the second time round.

Most people might not find this to be the best example, but when reading this it made me think of some of the books from Oblivion. It was cool how a lot of them actually increased your stats just by opening them, but some actually had some interesting stories.

I like the writing on the walls in left 4 dead 1&2 and the interactions between characters.

StriderShinryu:

A Curious Fellow:
Gordon Freeman for example.

Yeah, I found this a little odd as well. There's the mention of how in AC:B an essentially mute character (that obviously does have a pre determined story and personality) who doesn't interact with the world or others in any meaningful way hurts the immersion aspect of the game.. and then HL2 is trotted out as a good example of how to immerse a player via small details, without mentioning how it has that exact same flaw.

I don't think Yahtzee is saying that Desmond is a mute character; I think he's saying that he's a boring character.

The ideal behind a non-speaking player character is that it should seem like the NPCs are talking to the player and not to the character. The effect can be sort of dependant on the player's disposition, but Cave Story is an example that has been known to move players to great acts of passion using the silent protagonist as a device. In these cases, the player and the character are supposed to be the same entity; you aren't supposed to think "Gordon Freeman is a well rounded character" because this would be like thinking "I am a well rounded character".

One would think this to be the intent behind a bland protagonist also, the Every Man with the power to avoid repelling any demographic. While a flat character has one big advantage over a non-character (you don't have to write NPC dialogue that constantly skirts around the fact that one party of the conversation will not be participating in any way and may in fact hop around on the tables instead), it also acts as a separation between the player and the avatar; if having an NPC say "Oh, you say your name is Link?" is a speedbump for immersion, then having the character say in a weedy white boy voice "Yes, that is right." is a deer. Gordon isn't anybody; Desmond is a nobody.

StriderShinryu:

A Curious Fellow:
Gordon Freeman for example.

Yeah, I found this a little odd as well. There's the mention of how in AC:B an essentially mute character (that obviously does have a pre determined story and personality) who doesn't interact with the world or others in any meaningful way hurts the immersion aspect of the game.. and then HL2 is trotted out as a good example of how to immerse a player via small details, without mentioning how it has that exact same flaw.

That's fanboyism for you. It is extra hilarious when Half Life fans do this while bashing Halo for the exact same thing.

Straying Bullet:
I have to disagree with the Fallout 3.

The little things were FLAWLESS in my book regarding F3. For instance, if you decided to check out indoor areas and whatever houses/caves you can find, the scenery and the items are displayed and placed in such manner, you can tell a story from it all without a narrative explaining who/what/why it happened.

Much like finding two skeletons on a queen sized bed, with a single 10MM pistol with them, giving you an indication it might be suicide or they ultimatly decided to starve/die slowly whilst embracing eachother.

This is what makes Fallout 3 so perfect for me. They say a picture says more than 1000 words, if so, Fallout 3 contains millions of pictures just begging to be seen and experienced. The experience was far from shallow, if not, it showed me humanity and invoked real feelings in me.

dashiz94:
See I have to disagree with you on the Fallout 3 bit. There actually is a TON of backstory and little tidbits within the world. For example, there is one medical makeshift camp that has a log of a doctor explaining everything that's happening up until the bombs drop and dying from radiation poisoning.

There's a segment where you find a food packaging plant that has zombified Chinese soldiers in it. Why? Because the plant was actually meant to be a place to gather demographic information for the Chinese government. It's ridiculous, but it makes killing those zombie soldiers seem to have a purpose.

There's also another point in the Dunwich building where you follow the story of a man who winds up in the building after being attacked by Raiders and slowly turns into a Ghoul.

Fallout 3 is filled with small details that flesh out the world. To me, that's what makes the game so much more engaging.

Agreed completely on both points, I loved all those little things that you could discover.

Patrick_and_the_ricks:
I have a perfect example of this, in Mass effect 1 your able to do kinda loyalty missions for your crew. Specifically Garrus, Tali and Wrex. They aren't required and don't really affect the game besides a quick conversation in Mass Effect 2, but they actually added to the experience quite a bit. Then since people thought it was neat bioware made it manditory to get the best ending in ME2, and at one point just to simply progress in the game... That really took away from the game for me. It felt like rather than getting to say know someone, I was just filling out an uncanny valley checklist of loyalty. (Still a fantastic game, but it feels like between ME1 and 2 Bioware still hasn't found the right groove)

As much as I love Mass Effect 2, I do agree with this. Making Loyalty missions mandatory for getting the "perfect" ending made the decisions seem more like an investment rather than an adventure or character/relationship building. I was rather surprised in Mass Effect 2 to discover that Tali is a lot more wary of you in ME2 if you don't help her out in ME; while it didn't affect the game adversely it was a nice little touch that changed the feeling of the characters relationships.

Fleaman:

StriderShinryu:
[quote="A Curious Fellow" post="6.250799.9291460"]Gordon Freeman for example.

I don't think Yahtzee is saying that Desmond is a mute character; I think he's saying that he's a boring character.

The ideal behind a non-speaking player character is that it should seem like the NPCs are talking to the player and not to the character. The effect can be sort of dependant on the player's disposition, but Cave Story is an example that has been known to move players to great acts of passion using the silent protagonist as a device. In these cases, the player and the character are supposed to be the same entity; you aren't supposed to think "Gordon Freeman is a well rounded character" because this would be like thinking "I am a well rounded character".

Oh, I get that completely. The problem is when the character does have a predetermined character, personality and story arc, as in the case of Freeman or Desmond. If you're trying to get the character to be the player you have to either give the character no personality at all or at least make it fairly variable as in, for example, Dragon Age. Trying to have it both ways where you have a semi defined character and then pretend the player has some level of control as well just ends up with a weak and watered down character, which is something that easily fits both Freeman and Desmond.

Falseprophet:
Yahtzee's right, it's hard to buy into the modern day Assassin v. Templar conspiracy in Assassin's Creed when we hardly see any of it. But "The Truth" segments in AC:Brotherhood did more to give it weight than anything Lucy, Desmond or even Vidic have said. Most noteworthy is one phone log where

Now that's a little touch that shows just how pervasive and powerful this conspiracy really is.

Exactly, those puzzles in 2 and brotherhood provided lots of story. Sure some were easy and/or annoying but when you take a closer look at the meaning behind them, it's a mindblowing storytelling tactic.

DarkSpectre:
There was a lot of this in Arkham Asylum. You could zoom in on things like the case files and newspapers scattered around the place and read random information about some of the patients. Some of them the super villains and some of the them just mundane normal crazy people. There is an entire box in one place full of fake letters from Joker to the family of somebody that was committed.

I actually think that there is no game that accentuates the little things as well as Arkham Asylum. They actually made it worth it to find all the Riddle challenges and Arkham's greatest secret. It was enlightening and showcased my favorite character in the game, the Riddler. It also avoided being intrusive on the game itself, being on a "Search them if you want" basis. Finally, they avoided being too difficult to find, with the secret maps and everything, inspiring me to avoid breaking flow and pausing to look up the secrets on the internet.

I never f

Falseprophet:
Yahtzee's right, it's hard to buy into the modern day Assassin v. Templar conspiracy in Assassin's Creed when we hardly see any of it. But "The Truth" segments in AC:Brotherhood did more to give it weight than anything Lucy, Desmond or even Vidic have said. Most noteworthy is one phone log where

Now that's a little touch that shows just how pervasive and powerful this conspiracy really is.

I also thought that was a cool moment, the Truth segments showed us so much about the state of the world in 2012.

Desmond has never really been an uninteresting character to me, he's a bit quick to distrust people, he's not the most empathetic person ever, but he also has this kind of naivety to him. In AC 1 I always talked to lucy just to hear more dialogue between them. I think lucy is a nice character too. I find it funny that Yahtzee thinks she's stuck up and work-focused, since there's a bit of dialogue where Desmond doubts she ever does anything fun and she gets offended.

I think Yahtzee's just sticking with the first impression he got of these two characters, since they have gotten way deeper than from the first and even second game.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
So I suppose the lesson here is that the little things have to stay exactly that, because they lose their charm as they become big things. Sort of like baby tigers.

Or any baby, for that matter.

Or even game reviewers. ZING!

But I kid Mr. Crowshaw. I hope there's more size in you yet, and that's (of course) what she said.

It would have been a little more immersive of Desmond's character if we had seen his sent emails as well. Though, the little notes about the other teams has me intrigued, and those seem like good ways of telling us parts of other stories.

Oh yeah, I agree. The little details were the best thing about Alpha Protocol, a seriously underrated game in my opinion. Like the various house trophies you could pick up throughout the game, or the fact that all of the weapons and armour you buy come from specific people who like you enough, or the way loads of the conversations would be completely different based on your actions without the awkward jump between lines that you'd get in most games...

Yeah, that game is way better than most people thought...

Patrick_and_the_ricks:
I have a perfect example of this, in Mass effect 1 your able to do kinda loyalty missions for your crew. Specifically Garrus, Tali and Wrex. They aren't required and don't really affect the game besides a quick conversation in Mass Effect 2, but they actually added to the experience quite a bit. Then since people thought it was neat bioware made it manditory to get the best ending in ME2, and at one point just to simply progress in the game... That really took away from the game for me. It felt like rather than getting to say know someone, I was just filling out an uncanny valley checklist of loyalty. (Still a fantastic game, but it feels like between ME1 and 2 Bioware still hasn't found the right groove)

I thought that turning garrus and kaiden evil were highlights of my second playthrough of mass effect
(other then screwing the balance so hard I was invincible)

though I don't even know if it has any noticable affect in me2 :/

The little things are always the best parts. Things like the writing on the safe room walls in L4D and the propaganda posters in Gears of War are always interesting to me.

On Twitter:

@YahtzeeCroshaw
I think I might have accidentally typed 'Fallout 3' in this week's XP when I meant to type 'Gears of War'. Perhaps I should drink less.
23 minutes ago

Well, technically, since YOU'RE in control of Desmond when he's reading the e-mails, I think that says more about you reading other people's e-mails than it says about the character.

The emails in New Vegas were more interesting. Especially the building where there were three office workers who were all, apparently, having secret affairs with one another.

pluizig:
On Twitter:

@YahtzeeCroshaw
I think I might have accidentally typed 'Fallout 3' in this week's XP when I meant to type 'Gears of War'. Perhaps I should drink less.
23 minutes ago

Ah, phew. I was worried for a moment that Yahtzee had had a stroke and suffered severe brain damage. Yes, it was the little things in Fallout 3 that really made the Capital Wasteland a joy to explore. Sometimes you have to use your imagination a bit, but it's even better that way, in my opinion.

Note-to-Self: Never, ever buy Gears of War.

ike42:
As with others here I have to say that if he thinks Fallout 3 is shallow, then he didn't put any energy into the game whatsoever. It's so easy to miss things like the town full of Cannibals (Andale) or the little part where you can get a drug addict to pass OD so you can rob him. That game is packed full of stuff that you don't catch unless you're paying attention.

That game is packed full of stuff that you don't catch unless you're paying attention.

unless you're paying attention.

I have a problem with that. I couldn't find anything good until after hours of searching and I was getting tired of visiting abandoned buildings that had a few radroaches, so I asked myself why it took so long to find adventure in the wasteland. The answer? It was too big. I asked myself why it was too big. The answer? Fallout 3 is big because it wants to feel big. Ironically by making the map larger they made the game feel smaller. I could have lived with less open space. Would it have killed the desolate feel? Perhaps it would have, but that's the same reason they made almost the entire game world grey and brown. My ideal version of Fallout 3? Having Bethesda squeeze the game into a quarter of the map. That way when I go exploring I find something quickly.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
That the main character has to be as bland and flat as possible to let the audience project easier?

That's never been done before...Starkiller, Bella Swan, Robert Langdon, Dr Watson...

Nasty little trope that it is.

The problem with Assassin's Creed is that it's that hazy middle ground between silent protagonist and characterized protagonist. You have to pick on or the other. Or make Mass Effect and let the player pick how the protagonist is characterized.

Metal Gear Solid 3 definitely had some nice moments of The Dev Team Thinks of Everything. Your team members will comment on every piece of equipment, camo, weaponry, and behavior available, if you ask them.

I can't figure what Yahtzee was meaning when he mentioned Fallout 3. I hate to play the defensive fanboy role here, but really, saying it didn't have those little things that made the world much more definable just wasn't really true. While, yeah, I can't really think of anything that specifically added real backstory to the main quest, but entering any dilapidated building in the downtown DC area gave certainty that you would find plenty of little odd things that gave an entire atmosphere to the wasteland as a whole: emails, graffiti, remnants of mad experiments or acts of betrayal, anything that would add to the experience.

These were all done not for quick, painless gratification, but for the sake of those who would truly search deeper with a desire to decode the world they entered. Only follow the main storyline, and you would find a few here and there. Stay for the rest of the experience, and you have one hell of a treasure set ahead of you.

very nice article, nice to see some insight outside of the norm
hehe baby tigers grow up to...eat you

feather240:

ike42:
As with others here I have to say that if he thinks Fallout 3 is shallow, then he didn't put any energy into the game whatsoever. It's so easy to miss things like the town full of Cannibals (Andale) or the little part where you can get a drug addict to pass OD so you can rob him. That game is packed full of stuff that you don't catch unless you're paying attention.

That game is packed full of stuff that you don't catch unless you're paying attention.

unless you're paying attention.

I have a problem with that. I couldn't find anything good until after hours of searching and I was getting tired of visiting abandoned buildings that had a few radroaches, so I asked myself why it took so long to find adventure in the wasteland. The answer? It was too big. I asked myself why it was too big. The answer? Fallout 3 is big because it wants to feel big. Ironically by making the map larger they made the game feel smaller. I could have lived with less open space. Would it have killed the desolate feel? Perhaps it would have, but that's the same reason they made almost the entire game world grey and brown. My ideal version of Fallout 3? Having Bethesda squeeze the game into a quarter of the map. That way when I go exploring I find something quickly.

I can understand your point of view, but when I play RPGs I want them to feel big. It can be tedious at times when walking across the entire wasteland, but I want the feeling of exploring a world. If I get an RPG I expect to spend 60+ hours on my first run-through. The problem is that Fallout 3 (and New Vegas for that matter) is an RPG that tries to be a shooter to appeal to a broader audience. Non-RPG fans buy an RPG and then complain about the game's RPG features. It's a classic example of savoring the experience vs. instant gratification.

After reading this I was all like "Hey I want marmite now" (not vegimite becuase I'm English and not Australian) then I remembered how bad it tastes, seconds too late.
On topic however Yahtzee does raise a good point.
It's not so much fun to find small backstory etc. in games, it adds to immersion

Maybe i'm giving Ubisoft too much credit, but I think Desmond is meant to be somewhat of a blank canvas. I mean the games aren't really about him - they're about the Templar war, the origins of man and god, and Altair and Ezio, ASSASSINS. Desmond is an assassin who hasn't yet realized his potential - he's just been floating around, waiting for someone to show him the way (subconciously). Hopefully we'll begin to see a transformation from bland Desmond into ass-kicking Desmond. Maybe in AC3 & 4, where you play Lee Harvey Oswald and Agent 47 respectively.

(Would a Hitman/AC tie-in be cool? I know I love both series of games...)

Sorry double post.

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