A week and a bit ago I published a piece about changes which could be made to Assassin’s Creed to make these already good games even better. I said I had more suggestions to be made in a follow up article. This is the follow up article.
Like Assassin’s Creed but without The Assassins. Right. Let me explain. I always loved the assassinations, the hunting, the stalking, and the general vicious bastardry of the Assassin’s Creed game series, and I’m totally cool with these being assassination attempts by members of shady non-governmental organisations, but just because there are/were assassins throughout history doesn’t mean every single one of them was a member of The Assassins™. The monolithic Assassin/Templar battle waged throughout all of time and space is not only unrealistic, it is also boring and confusing and hella stupid. Like – how? Why? What stops these organisations changing dramatically during each generation, let alone over hundreds of years? What exactly is the goal of the Assassins? What distinguishes the Templars from plain old imperialists? So many questions. And I’m sure there are answers in the Assassin’s Creed lore but it’s all buried within pages of unrelated exposition and weird audio files that the player can find. Which leads me to my next point.
Like Assassin’s Creed but with way tighter additional content. I am not referring to DLC here. I mean the letters and hackable emails and memories scattered throughout the game. These are a nice idea but they never properly connect into the gameplay. Often the emails are about characters the player encounters, but they need to be shortened down and could be made a teeny tiny bit interactive. I’ll explain how that could be done.
Instead of just reading a whole load of hacked emails sent by other characters, the PC could get to read a few that were addressed directly to him or her-self. The player could get to send a reply if they want, chosen from a few different options. This could then affect both future emails and cut scenes/dialogue clips with other personnel. The differences don’t need to be immense, but even small consequences let the player feel engaged, like they’re shaping history in some small way. And that is what the Assassin’s Creed games are supposed to be about.
There’s a lot of temptation for developers to add more and more expository text to a game because it feels like it makes the game bigger, but when used as an info-dump, exposition actually makes the Assassin’s Creed games feel more limited, because reading all this flotsam is hard work which must either be ignored or endured, both of which leave players feeling like they missed out on some fun. If the text-based parts of the game were shortened and led to choices with small but affective consequences, then they could be turned into genuine gems. And if some of the conspiracy theory elements were removed, then that would give more space for character development.
Like Assassin’s Creed, but with better characters. For me, this is linked to cutting a lot of the Assassin/Templar jazz. There can still be a bit of conspiracy, but I’d like to see characters with more immediate desires. So maybe the main character is super focused on getting better at killing, and gets upset when he or she can’t make a clean assassination, and treats his or her job like a serious craft. And the character’s boss is a rich businessman who is obsessed with the moral failings of his rivals, and uses these as justifications for killing them. These rivals are bad people who lie and have affairs and they mistreat their servants so the world would be better off without them. The Assassin’s Creed can then be this murky justification for what is inevitably an incredibly morally dubious profession – politically motivated murder.
And the modern world computer game developer/evil megacorporation likewise doesn’t need to be a Templar cover front. The people within the company can be normal humans with flaws and virtues only one or two of whom have world-spanning ambitions. The scary truth about people working for transnationals is that they don’t mean to shape the world in their image, they just do it as part of their job. So there’s a department of Abstergo which is in a long-running sales negotiation with the Secret Service and accepts lots of money to keep their technology secret from the public and to share it with INTERPOL. The person in charge of negotiations does this because she’s going to accept a massive payoff and also because she cares so much about mastering genetic memory visualisation. This is her life’s work. She’s really good at it. And if her department gets this money then they can make six more games and will be able to keep looking into the past for ten more years. It also allows her to set up the Abstergo renewable energy and urban regeneration foundation.
Characters who make difficult moral decisions come across as far more real than plain old murderers who kill for good and murderers who kill for evil.
These are my suggestions. What are yours?