WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Damien Kieken, and I'm the game director on the multiplayer of Assassin's Creed III.
WP: We got to play two of the brand-new Assassin's Creed III multiplayer modes, Domination and Wolf Pack. Let's start with Wolf Pack. That's the first time that cooperative multiplayer has been brought into Assassin's Creed. How did that come about? How do you look at a game that's traditionally been competitive, and what was the inspiration for the co-op?
DK: It's something that we wanted to do since a long time ago. You really have the fantasy to play with your buddy against the system, hunting targets together and things like that. It's something we wanted to do a long time ago, but we needed time to find the right formula. We just thought, what would be the best thing to do with buddies? Hunt down targets together, but it wouldn't make a very good mode. So then we came up with the idea of the limited time and having to battle against time, always while keeping track of the score. In all of our modes, we have the score thing so you don't have to do a lot of kills, but you have to do good scores to win the session, and we wanted to do the same thing on the co-op experience. So that's why we came up with the idea of beating the score threshold within a limited time.
WP: What's the minimum number of players that you can use with Wolf Pack? Can you play it with two, or do you need to have four players?
DK: You can start at one so you can train alone if you want, but it's really meant to be played with friends. You can play up to four, so it's one to four players.
WP: You really designed it to require communication because we noticed that if you play together, if you synchronize your kills, you get a much better score than if all four players just run around killing bad guys.
DK: Yeah, that was also one of the big things that we wanted to do, not just do a co-op mode where everybody is playing by himself but you really have to rely on your friends to synchronize your kill with them. If you don't synchronize, the other target will stun you and things like that. So you really have to synchronize to get a better score, to reach higher sequences, but also to not get stunned by the AI or not allow them to throw abilities and things like that. We tuned everything around doing it together at the right time and being cooperative.
WP: Along with the main targets, there are some bonus objectives as well as bonus targets. We saw the time target kills. How do those play into the balance of Wolf Pack? Can you ignore them, or do you need to do those optional things to progress?
DK: You can ignore them, but it's a risk. We wanted to throw in some chaos while you were playing, so as soon as you get your party hunting targets and everything is fine and everything is under control, that's when we try to throw in new things. You have the extra objective, which is a way to gain more points. The game asks you to play in a way that you maybe don't know or you have to learn or you have to see, "How can I play this way?" or "How can I do an acrobatic kill?" or hidden kill or something like that within the situation. This brings variety in how you play. We ask players to play in a variety of ways and that was the idea with the extra target, that when you need more time, it's like a catch-up — it's a really good way to go back in the game. You also take the risk to not handle your targets while you're killing the extra targets. It's a risk and reward thing.
WP: What about map design for the co-op versus multiplayer? Are the maps exclusive to co-op? Are they pulled from single-player, or are they reused versions of competitive maps?
DK: All the maps are the competitive maps, so you play in the same maps for the Wolf Pack. Of course, what is only for Wolf Pack is where the targets are spawning, how they behave, and all of those things. Those are made only for Wolf Pack. In the end, it is a good mix between playing on different maps and having the different patterns for Wolf Pack. For example, Northwest Passage is one of the hardest maps on Wolf Pack because it's a map where you don't have a lot of buildings, so you don't have a lot of objects that break the line of sight with your targets so they can spot you from pretty far. It's one of the hardest maps within the competitive ones.
WP: That's one of the things that we noticed both in Domination and Wolf Pack. Moving quickly was a hindrance. You almost have to move very controlled and conservatively to get far.
DK: Yeah. It depends on the modes, but if you always run, it won't work. So you really have to figure out when it's time to run and go fast and when it's time to be patient, to be stealthy, to walk and to let the enemies come to you to try to surprise them. It has always been like that since the beginning, since the first game that we made. It's something that really makes us different. Sometimes you have to be patient. Even if you see the guy, even if you want to stun him or kill him, you know it's not the right time to do it, so you have to wait for that.
WP: That's what we noticed when playing Domination. Obviously, the Domination play style has been used in multiplayer games before, but with that stealth aspect, as well as not being able to kill if you don't own a point, it really adds a twist. How much of a challenge was it to balance that play style with the Assassin's Creed rules?
DK: We always tried to put our twist on the modes that we do, so even if we try some favorite modes from other games or things that work, then we have to put it with our own formula. Like you said, the tweaking was more on the time of capture of the zone. So regarding the time of when your buddy's stunned, you have to time it right, the capturing. That's where the challenge in design came. How do we time everything so that it feels right when you play it?
WP: How many total maps can we expect to see in the final game?
DK: We are not revealing the numbers now, but it will be a bit below 10 maps. Each map has several versions, so you have a dynamic weather version. You can have a snowstorm or things like that that kicks in when you play, and the change will be to how you play, so the visibility to spot the targets is tougher. You can play with the fog or things like that. Each map has different versions, so you will have a few versions for each map.
WP: If you had to sum it up in 2-3 sentences, what is it about Assassin's Creed III multiplayer that makes it worth playing?
DK: The first thing is that we're different. We are really true to what is an Assassin's Creed game, but we're really different from any other multiplayer mode. It's a really good mode to play next to another one because you have a really different feeling in our game. Secondly, it's the first time you can play with buddies against the system in the Wolf Pack mode, and I think this is one of the big new things. Of course, we did all the improvements that the community wanted since the previous game, and that's also a good reason to come back to the game.
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