The Problem With Video Game Crowds

The Problem With Video Game Crowds

Video games are getting better and better at showing us convincing-looking cities. Cities are usually full of crowds, however, and video games aren't nearly as good at handling those.

As I explored a London train station in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, I detected some faint piano notes floating above the din. Curious, I made my way across the tracks (no third rail to worry about!) toward the source of the sound.

I found a pianist sitting at a grand piano right there on the platform. I had my character — Evie, naturally — stand still to enjoy the performance.

Of course, the crowd did everything it could to ruin the moment:

These people! These stupid, fucking people. Yelling the same dumb lines over and over, frantically gesticulating, violently crashing into each other, and taking vocal offence at just about everything. I'm sure the actual crowds of Victorian-era London could be rough-and-tumble, but I doubt they acted like this.

Syndicate's unruly mob illustrates a longstanding problem with video game crowds. In most video games, crowds are meant to be passed through. They're intended to be seen from afar and only experienced fleetingly. Common folk in Assassin's Creed are really good at bumping into one another, because that's their primary function: They exist to be bumped into as you run toward something else. "Look where you're going!" they cry, their voices already fading behind you.

For all the innovations games have managed in other areas, it remains unusual to feel a part of a video game crowd. Watch Dogs' passersby had names and identities, but still behaved as oddly as the crowds in any other open world game. Hitman Absolution featured some unusually convincing overheard cell phone conversations, but the crowds themselves behaved strangely. Grand Theft Auto V has some of the most convincing crowds in games, but the illusion still frays if you stand still for too long.

The limitation sticks out all the more in Assassin's Creed, a game largely built on the notion of letting players vanish into a bustling crowd. We can hide in between these people but we can never truly be among them, because they aren't people at all. However lovely a street musician's performance may be, these shouting, stumbling philistines will never appreciate it.


    why would you even showcase Ass Creed when it's a bug filled shit storm?

      Hardly a showcase, he's highlighting one of the problems this game has. The clue was in the title of the article.

        You seem to be forgetting the rule here - apparently if a game is bad in someone's opinion, we're not allowed to talk about it. I heard that there's a filter in the comments section that doesn't let you type the name of Sonic Bo- /ERROR

        Last edited 10/11/15 4:28 pm

          Are you sure it's not that you get whisked away like if you mention Candle Jack in a po

          Last edited 10/11/15 4:38 pm

      Bug filled? I dunno about that, I've probably played about 10 hours of it so far and I've had one bug where an NPC was invisible, but it wasn't game breaking or anything.

      Conversely I played an hour of Fallout 4 last night and already hit a showstopping gamebreaking bug that stopped me in my tracks forced me to reload to an earlier save. Apparently thats ok though because people give Bethesda a free pass for some reason?

        Assassins creed games are like the toilet water of the industry.

        Apparently Bethesda has a 'worshipping' cult , you know what I mean ? for those idiots calling Assassin's creed games shit , I couldn't see their stupid asses within a country mile when AC 1 , AC 2 , Brotherhood , Black Flag and Rogue was released . They must've had a heart attack back then .

    Why bother attributing a lovely piece of music to that horrid animation?
    Staggering how culturally inept that series can be.

      Eh, it's not even lovely. Ubisoft butchered a bunch of Chopin etudes into a medley for that.

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