Late last year, Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft sent a survey to me and other players of their long-running top franchise. They were asking for our reactions to Assassin's Creed IV and oh, uh, just wondering what we might want to see in future games. Well. They weren't really just wondering.
I wrote about the survey last year and made the incredibly safe prediction that they were testing their actual plans on some of us in the Assassin's Creed-playing public.
And it's worth noting the very small number of things they were just wondering about that haven't come true... yet?
The Survey Questions That Were Really Teases For 2014's Games
In a section about "your expectations for future Assassin's Creed games, they asked about the following possibly totally random what-if scenarios:
That sounds like something from this week...
In case you think I'm just cherry-picking, the other expectations they were wondering about were things like whether we'd expect the "ability to extend the game experience on my mobile or tablet," "more assassination missions," "more ship customisation," "a new present day hero character," "the possibility to create and customise my own villa" — you know, things that are either a given or are pretty basic desires for an AC sequel.
While just totally spitballing, they tossed this out there:
Ringing any bells?
CAN YOU HEAR THE CLANGING?
Shall we take a visit to http://assassinscreed.ubi.com/en-US/games/as...?
This survey was full of more hints than a Prima guide.
I mean, look at this:
Compare that to this, which is from my own preview of Unity:
Level designer Bruno Saint Andre told me that a quarter of the game's buildings will have playable interiors, which is a massive increase from previous games.
Again, the majority of things that the survey was asking about for future AC games were no-brainers. Almost all of the ones that weren't obvious seem to have been testing the reaction to actual, planned 2014 Assassin's Creed games.
They were asking things like if we want to play "as a new Assassin, in a different historical time period" or whether we want "more linear and scripted missions" or 'the possibility to influence the look and feel of the city through my progression in the game." These questions appear to be filler.
One more non-filler question:
That appears to have been pretty much about this Unity feature:
Survey? Prophecy? Or Pile Of Spoilers? All of the above!
The Survey Questions That Were Maybe Testing Whether We'd Care About Parts Of 2014's Games
Ubisoft's survey included oddly-specific questions about Assassin's Creed IV's sailing and ship combat systems almost almost as if the mega-developer was planning to make more games with that system.
Of course they were.
This year's new-gen Assassin's Creed Unity appears to have no sailing. The old-gen Assassin's Creed Rogue will. This week's initial previews of Rogue both in Game Informer magazine and on Ubisoft's own blog give a handful of details about how the ship combat will work.
Would you be surprised that this week's previews indicate that the mortar is back?
Maybe that's why they were asking!
Had you played AC IV, though, you may have been wondering why there were asking whether we liked the ram...
The ram was barely a thing in IV.
Ah, but here's the Ubi blog on Rogue:
The frigid Northern temperatures mean you'll be ramming your way through fields of ice to find hidden locations,
And here's Game Informer:
Shay sets course directly at [the enemy ships], softening his targets with mortar fire and then ramming the one closest while firing a barrage from his front-facing cannons...
With those ships out of the way, Shay moves to investigate the wreck of the Sapphire. It requires smashing through a thick sheet of ice (a ship upgrade that will presumably act as a gating mechanism to players as they progress).
Ramming will be important in Rogue!
But why were they asking about barrels?
One possible reason for the fire barrel question would be that Ubisoft was planning something better than fire barrels for Rogue's naval combat. What's better than fire barrels, you ask?
Ubi blog answers (emphasis added):
The Morrigan also comes equipped with a new set of tools to help you take on enemies in the frigid North Atlantic Ocean, including the puckle gun (a machine gun-like weapon) and burning oil, which creates a trail of fire behind your vessel.
Sometimes a survey asks you about things that Ubisoft is going to let you do in the next year's games. Sometimes the survey asks about a thing that they won't. I hope you weren't too attached to AC IV's diving missions.
Here's the deal: there is no underwater stuff in Rogue, as confirmed in the GI article. The developers argue that it's simply too cold in the game's North Atlantic seas, not just for you to dive but to even swim for that long in the game.
Finding out about what people dislike is important. Gauging disinterest as arguably as crucial as gauging interest — especially if you're about to cut a franchise mainstay from your franchise. I speak, of course, of Assassin's Creed competitive multiplayer.
Bear in mind that both Unity and Rogue have no competitive multiplayer modes. Unity has optional campaign co-op. Rogue is solo-only. They are the first Assassin's Creeds since 2009's Assassin's Creed II to omit competitive multiplayer. Ubisoft had to know that would be the case late last year. Knowing that now puts the following questions in a different light.
The answers I gave last year are in these screencaps. Sorry, fans of AC multiplayer!
The Survey Questions That Haven't Led To Anything... Yet
Not everything in the big 2013 Assassin's Creed survey has come true. Given how much already has, though, it's hard not to bank on the few things not currently serving as bullet points for announced Ubisoft games. After all, I think it's clear at this point that none of these questions were all that random.
For example, the survey was asking about the idea of AC IV spawning pirate-themed games that didn't involve the assassins. You'd play as a pirate not as an assassin. They have announced nothing like that so far.
This next question had caught my eye and it was initially what I thought an Assassin's Creed set in Paris might entail.
I asked Unity's designers about this back in June. At the time, they gave me the impression that even though Unity may span the phases of the French Revolution it doesn't seem to involve big switches between time periods. I'd been imagining a game that let you see the same city in a few different centuries, hopping back and forth sort of how you moved back and forth across eras in the classic Zelda game Ocarina of Time. I don't think Unity does anything like that, but maybe a 2015 Assassin's Creed will!
Finally, for this category of Things They Asked About That Were Oddly Specific But Haven't Been Announced, we have this:
So specific. So weird. Any theories?
And there you have it. Dear Ubisoft, please send me a new Assassin's Creed survey at the end of this year. You don't have to include any winking emoticons. I'll infer that they're in there.