Home Editorial #E3 2013: Assassin’s Creed 4 multiplayer impressions

If you’re part of the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer community, you’re probably nervous about AC4: Black Flag. It’s not that you’ve heard anything bad per se, just that every iteration of Ubisoft’s social stealth/parkour based acion game so far has introduced as many issues as it has solved.

So when I say “Assassin’s Creed 4 multiplayer is exactly what the community needs,” I understand that is a weighty statement. But, believe it or not, Ubisoft has managed to address 90% of what AC4 needs to live up to its fans’ expectations. And it all starts in the all new Game Lab private match mode.

It’s time for a change or two (or two hundred)

See, when I put on my Backseat Game Designer Cap and dreamed up the changes AC4 multiplayer needed to have, my primary concerns were:

  • Balance changes (ability tweaks)
  • Incentive changes (scoring tweaks)
  • Private match tools to facilitate events
  • Recording tools to facilitate events

Microsoft and Sony basically did Ubisoft’s job on the final point (since both consoles will have live recording and streaming options), but realistically speaking, the odds that Ubisoft would take all of my advice were pretty slim. Lucky for me, it turns out they did the next best thing.

The Game Lab tool in Assassin’s Creed 4 allows any player to create custom versions of any multiplayer mode in Black Flag. Think Pistol is cheap? You can remove it from the game, or decrease the score it awards, or increase its cooldown drastically. Want to reward stealth? Double the Hidden bonus and take away all acrobatic and aerial kills. Bye-bye, roofers.

While the complete list hasn’t been completely revealed, the Game Lab is said to give players “over 200 parameters” to change. Some of the known variables are:

  • Ability availability
  • Ability cooldown
  • Ability crafting (force certain craft configurations)
  • Ability slots (disable one, two, or all ability slots)
  • Action scores
  • Bonus scores
  • Bonus triggers
  • HUD elements (change or disable compass, portrait, etc.)
  • Match length
  • Presence of duplicate personas

Basically, the only things you can’t change are target acquisition and maps, so you can’t for instance play Assassinate in a tiny Simple Deathmatch area. Overall, Game Lab will give Assassin’s Creed 4 players the option to “fix” the multiplayer exactly how they like it. No more forum whining. No more unfair tournament wins. Everyone goes home happy.

“Wait a minute, WiNGSPAN, the Game Lab is just for private matches,” you might interject. And you’d be right in the general sense, but you’d also be wrong in the arguing with me sense. Yes, it’s true that public, ranked matches will still be played by whatever defaults Ubisoft settles on. But you’re missing two important points.

Both casual (playing with friends) and competitive (competing in leagues and tournaments) play are really the only places special rules matter. Do you care if some random scrub uses Smoke Bomb to Poison you online? You’ll never see him again. But if your friends or your clan determine it’s detestable, then enforcing it matters.

The second point is that Ubisoft can learn from the community. Instead of players whining and theorycrafting about balance, they can create game modes and test them over and over. So if, for instance, RaininStormwake finds a way to perfectly balance Assassinate (we’ve briefly discussed this before) and his special mode becomes popular, the Ubisoft devs can use that feedback to patch AC4 or plan for their next game. In the long run, everyone wins.

Hell, everyone wins in the short run, too… because you can bet your assassinations that Top Tier Tactics will be running some absolutely ridiculous contests. Think you can win a match of Assassinate using only Morph and Poison?!

Oh right, the rest of the game

If I’ve been remiss in discussing the rest of the game, that’s pretty much because there haven’t been that many other changes between AC3 and AC4 as far as multiplayer gameplay goes.

The graphics are obviously better on next-gen hardware (lighting and cloth movement are particularly sexy in the Playstation 4 build I tried), but you won’t find any major changes. That said, there were a few things to note that have been switched up:

  • Instead of distinct diamonds, a counter with [skull] X [number] now illustrates how many pursuers you have. I don’t really like this system, but it takes up less space.
  • Contested kills have changed: instead of giving a fixed score to the killer and target, each player’s kill and stun score is halved, rounded down.
  • Ground Finish is now linked to the B/Circle/Shift button, making it impossible to accidentally input instead of a more important Kill/Stun
  • There are some kind of changes to the Approach Meter, but I do not believe they are finalized

Also of note are the things that haven’t changed. Whispers return as they did before. The controls are pretty much the same. The harlequin stand-in character is still an annoying little shit. You know… Assassin’s Creed staple stuff.

Get ready to fly the black flag

As far as single player gameplay goes, I’m honestly not interested. Call me a cynic, but I felt the series lost its narrative magic after Brotherhood. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m also willing to wager that on the value of the single player disc I’ll sell after buying Black Flag!

Even if the single player experience is awesome, the reality is I won’t have any time to play it… I’ll be too busy destroying you in Assassin’s Creed 4 multiplayer. It’s coming, it’s looking awesome, and it’s going to be the best pirate-themed murder simulator ever.



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8 replies to this post
  1. I’ll repeat it a thousand times, Assassin’s Creed should officially have ended after the third game and some people just didn’t get the memo. You know, back in the days, when you weren’t playing as an absolute twathead and could walk down the streets without constantly being forced into “dynamic” combat.

    Ah, enough of that. With the changes made to Multiplayer, they’ve really made it look like they are listening to the community. Then again, they aren’t EA, so maybe they actually did. I have to admit, I did leak a little awesomeness into my pants when I heard the words “balanced version of Smoke Bomb. From laughing, of course. I’m being cynical again, though. Time Warp seems like a decent addition to this game, because it knows that it’s supposed to only hinder your opponents, not call down the Animus finger of god and punch and kill everything in the radius for you.

    Hey, that’d make an awesome killstreak. “Smite”: Costed somewhere just below the hack range, allows you to stun literally anybody by looking at them, as well as everyone in a wide area around you when it’s activated. Lightning bolts for whoever is affected included, of course!

    Going off topic. The only question lies in exactly how much power will be given to the player. In that regard, nothing is too much. I want to create Assassinate lobbies following the Deathmatch rule of no clones, but everyone has superBlender creating themselves two or three clones every time they enter a group, and there are no revealing abilities like Firecrackers (best ability evar! ~Ubisoft), and there’s no LoS, and the only way to score is through incog (focus?) kills, and everybody has Poison, and you can’t acquire somebody for 10 seconds after punching them, but they can reacquire you. I’ll call it Assassinate (No Not The Stupid Broken Version)!

    On that note, it’ll be interesting to see how Assassinate works out without Smoke, though every one of the jerks, I mean players, there has already been running the exact same set of poison, shield, and knives for ages.

    Ooh! Or a mode where everyone is superfast, but loses meter for it, and everybody has a 20 second cooldown version of the new Smoke! We’ll call it “Let’s do it again!”
    Please, Ubi, let us modify constants like movement speed so that I can make bad puns.

    Basically what I’m saying is that there’s literally nothing that can go wrong by giving players more control, so I hope that those 200 variables don’t include crafting, cooldown, and availability of each ability separately. (Even though we know it does.) Well, that, and players being able to modify the game for private purposes is NO excuse to let the official game rot imbalanced.

    Ooooh! Or how about a Manhunt game where you clearly know how your pusuer looks, but for you, every persona looks like them, and all you have to defend yourself is a wimpy Blender? And they have a Decoy which fires off three or four discreet ones with each rapidly recharging use? Of course, only Hidden kills count. Then again, this might lead to some serious pants crapping. Good, because those guys are out to murder you, you shouldn’t be hunting them for punches.

    You see, there’s plenty of fun to be had. I’m looking forward to see how Ubisoft just might save ACMP from itself.

  2. But will you be playing on Xbox one or ps4? Join me on ps4! I wouldn’t mind giving you a run for your money wingspan ^^

  3. I love the idea in general, but I’m gonna have to take issue with you on one point:
    “Both casual (playing with friends) and competitive (competing in leagues and tournaments) play are really the only places special rules matter. Do you care if some random scrub uses Smoke Bomb to Poison you online?”
    Yes, because neither of those conditions applies to me – I am neither competitive (which I imagine applies to most of the playerbase), although I may take part in your tournaments, nor do I play with friends, since they’re all (and by that I mean the one guy I know who plays AC) on different consoles.
    So as it stands, this does nothing for me. What I’d love is the ability to create a custom variant and then put it into the matchmaking system, and then when you join it would list all the changes from vanilla.

    Oh and since the PC community is so small, I’m probably gonna run into that random scrub at least a hundred more times.

  4. I hope they continue the series. While I do agree with the games going downhill after Brotherhood, I’ve still enjoyed each and every Assassin’s Creed game. I’m just that type of person though. Ubisoft could release a game annually within the franchise, and I’d buy each and every one. When I first played Assassin’s Creed II (my first AC experience) there was no going back. The story captivated me, and I want to know how it ends. Brotherhood eventually came out, and the multiplayer hooked me. I later played the first game after Revelations, and I’ve read the novels. I love both single-player and multiplayer, however I always look forward to the story more than the latter. As such, I always make sure to delve into the story mode before ever touching the multiplayer. When I do begin playing it though you better watch out, because YoshiCookiesZDX, The Mercenary, has come with a thirst for victory. :3

  5. Regular reader, but first time contributor here. Played all previous AC games (on PS) and looking forward to Black Flag from both single and multi-player perspective. I love immersing myself in every aspect of the single player including collectables, side missions and all that jazz. But once this is done, I’m an addict for multi-player. However, I believe its too easy to identify and kill your target & I have 2 ongoing issues regarding the multi-player game (which I admit will be debatable). Firstly, you can’t have a stealth multi-player game as long as ‘The Whispers’ are included. In Wanted for example, any half decent player runs like the clappers towards their target, and as soon as they hear the faintest sound of ‘The Whispers’, they stop and run the other way and start looking for their pursuer. By losing ‘The Whispers’, I feel players are more likely to stay in low profile or hidden groups.
    Secondly, get rid of the ‘Line of Sight’. This device makes abilities like Wipe, Firecrackers, MoneyBomb, etc irrelevant – just keep the compass only. With these two improvements, I think you’d have a proper stealth game.

    Another couple of smaller improvements I’d suggest are, when in a moving hidden group, 75% of the time (on PS version, not sure about other versions), you tend to be in the same place (left of the group most of the time). Firstly, this should be random, and secondly, I want the capability to move myself around in the group at any time to put my pursuer off. For instance, if there were two of my characters in the moving hidden group (me on the left, & my blender on point), and I knew my pursuer had locked onto me, when my hidden group walked around a corner, I’d change position with my blender character. If enough time had passed where my pursuer’s lock had stopped, they’d assume I’m still on the left.

    That’s my rant, but admittedly I’ll still buy the game.

  6. Honestly, I think without the whispers most players would still flee. Personally, the paranoia would eat me up, and I’d sprint to a new location nearby. I also think it makes it too easy for pursuers. Players already walk into their ledge-hanging pursuers to get grab killed; that would only add to the problem. :3 I don’t run into a lot of players that book it though from my experience. When my targets do run though, they’ll usually stop once their abilities have reset. If not, you just have to anticipate where they’re going and cut them off.

  7. i think that each new gm that come out always get better thn the previous one in some way,but some time it is good to keep some old move

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