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

While it might be tempting for some to dismiss Assassin’s Creed Revelations as just another annual add-on to the franchise’s ever-more-complicated story, everything we learn about the game indicates that it’ll bring a slew of interesting gameplay additions and improvements when it arrives this November. If you need proof of that, its multiplayer is an excellent example; rather than simply rehashing the unique, hunt-and-be-hunted gameplay from Brotherhood with new characters and maps, it overhauls and fine-tunes everything. Instead of just adding new match types abilities to play around with, it also introduces some surprisingly robust community features, as well as a complete storyline for players to follow. In short, it’s showing a lot of promise.

To find out more about what’s in store when the game releases on Nov. 17, we sat down with the Revelations’ multiplayer director, Damien Kieken, at Ubisoft’s studio in Annecy, France, for a chat about what’s being added, what needed to change and what to expect from the newest iteration of the Animus.

GamesRadar: When you started on Revelations, what was the first thing that you wanted to address with the new multiplayer?

Damien Kieken: By doing Brotherhood, we wanted still to do a bunch of things that we couldn’t, that we do this year for Revelations, like expanding the storyline of Abstergo and the Templars, and things like that. That’s one of the really big strengths of the universe of Assassin’s Creed. Also, we really wanted to expand on everything that’s social. Social features, playing with friends, and all the customization stuff. In fact, the customization was really the feature that players liked the most, like being able to customize their character, and by doing it, you customize the crowd also.

Addressing-wise, we really wanted to address the matchmaking. We did that for Brotherhood, we patched it a lot. For Revelations, we rebuilt a lot of the code, and a lot of the feedback – all the access to the game has been revamped, as you’ve seen by playing. And of course, the balancing – that was one of the main demands from the community, the balance between the prey and the assassin. Even if they get the fact that, OK, the assassin is more powerful than their prey, the prey should have more tools to defend himself. The stun move should be easier. And we did that, and I think I saw a lot of stuns this morning. So the stuns are much easier, and we have the tools to defend ourselves.

And also, the really big thing is the honorable death. Now, the game takes into account that both players pressed the button at the same time, and it’s doing a new consequence. The prey is defending himself, he’s getting points for that even if he gets killed, and the assassin gets a contested kill. So the animation is longer, he gets spotted, he’s hurt, so he’s easier to kill afterward. And what we saw today is that players less and less run in front of the guy as they’re trying to kill him, because they know that it will be contested. So now they really try to sneak behind the guy before killing him.

GR: Other than the balance, were there any suggestions from the community that made you say, “Oh, this is really good,” or “We should definitely do this?”

DK: Yeah, so… also, they felt sometimes a bit like, “when I’m beginning in the game, I don’t have the abilities,” and things like that, so now we’re coming back with default sets. So when everybody starts the game, they have some abilities, and they can compete with the other guys who’ve played a few hours. Also, we’re giving more tools to the players so they can play the way they want. Like, my prey is running on the rooftops, and I don’t want to run on the rooftops, I want to be hidden in the crowd. So I have several abilities, like the [throwing] knife, which we had in Brotherhood but that we improved, that now really stops or makes the guys fall, so that [the assassin] can catch him. We still have the hidden gun and things like that, so players can really play the way they want.

GR: There’s now going to be an in-game store where you unlock perks and things; does that replace the way Brotherhood granted abilities automatically as players leveled up?

DK: Yeah, and because we have much more content now, we really want to do the currency in the game. So now you’re earning Abstergo Credits if you perform really well at the end of the sessions, and this way you can buy items in the in-game shop. And this way we can really give you much more rewards, each time you level up, and so then it’s more the player’s choice what they want to improve, if they want just to look cool, or if they want to buy gameplay stuff.

We also have emblems, that’s one of the cool new features that you see on your character, that you see on the crowd. So players can buy emblems, patterns and colors for those.

GR: What can you tell us about the new kill/loss streaks?

DK: They were in Brotherhood, but we’ve come back with a lot of new ones, a lot of new loss streaks, in fact, because when players are losing, or dying several times in a row, or losing several contracts in a row, we really want to help them to get back in the game, you know? So we give them new clues, like… one of the loss streaks that we have is that your target leaves a trail of glyphs, so this way you can find him easier, or we are saying to you “Hey, over there, there is your assassin, be careful.” So we are really giving you tools to be better, in fact.

GR: Can you say, roughly, how many new perks, streaks, and abilities you’ve added?

DK: No, I can’t say a number. The only thing I can say is that we’ll have more, of course, than in Brotherhood. And that also we’ve revamped a lot of the Brotherhood ones so they are more balanced, and it’s harder for the player to choose which one they want to use, because they all look cool now. And even internally now, we see that a lot of players have different favorite ones.

GR: What’s an example of something that was revamped from Brotherhood?

DK: The throwing knives are a good example, now with stopping the guy and not just slowing him down. And when he’s stopped, he’s easier to kill. Also, the firecracker – so now the effect on the screen, you are a bit slowed also, and the effect is more… the screen is blurred. So even if you can see a bit, it’s harder, it’s not just white. In fact, I don’t see any abilities that we didn’t balance back. So we just went through all of those and tried to fix all the little stuff that wasn’t that good.

GR: With the additions that you’ve made, was it more “These are things we didn’t have time to put into Brotherhood,” or was it just “OK, now we’re doing Revelations, let’s sit down and think about what we need to add to this?”

DK: Both. We always wanted to do the storyline and stuff, and Revelations came back with new things on the single-player side that we wanted to enter in the multiplayer, like the hookblade, like some of the bombs they had. Also maybe the ability to craft your abilities, and things like that. The Middle Eastern era… so we are improving on a lot of those. And also, all the community feedback that we got since Brotherhood were listened to, and we changed things in the game regarding that.

With the hookblade, the idea is that we have the same behavior in multiplayer, so now you can climb a lot faster. Also, the multiplayer has always been faster than the single-player, and that’s still the same, so when they added this tool for Ezio, we took it as a normal behavior for all the characters in the multiplayer.

GR: Can you talk a little about how the Dares work?

DK: So it’s pretty simple – everything is automatic, so while you’re playing, if you do a very good score, a better one than one of your friends, you will send him automatically a dare. So when he will do the same mode as you, at the beginning of the game, he will see, “Oh, you have to beat Damien, he did this score, so you have to beat him.” If he beats me, I will receive a Dare, and I say, “OK, I’m going back to the game to try and beat you.” And the idea is that we do that on all the modes, but also on the completion of the game. So this way I can see areas where I need to improve and try to beat my friends, and I have an overall ladder between my friends to say, “OK, this friend is the better one at the multiplayer of Assassin’s Creed.”

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