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The '101 Gameplay Ideas' behind the Assassin's Creed franchise

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During a panel at GDC today, Ubisoft writer Corey May and lead mission designer Philippe Bergeron discussed their "balancing act" in crafting the stories of Assassin's Creed. May is focused on building up the story, making the characters and their relationships important to the player, while Bergeron and his colleagues aim to deliver fun mission gameplay, and stay within the various technical and developmental limitations shared by the entire team.

May and Bergeron both focus on research at the outset of the process. For each Assassin's Creed game, the team has picked an era first, and then looked for potential locations, specific events to portray, major characters, "potential Templar targets," and possible protagonists. While May picks characters, Bergeron's team brainstorms various mission ideas for the game.

May said Ubisoft has an internal document containing "101 gameplay ideas." It has been pillaged and refilled since the first
Assassin's Creed game, as designers sample previously unused ideas or add more when concepts don't make the cut during development of the latest game.

Finally, May said, once all the mission plans are completed and his early script scenes are done, he takes the mission design documents and pastes them directly into a file that eventually becomes his finished script for the game. May said this process was "the ultimate expression of our collaboration," and that mission designs created by Bergeron's team are then used as "the skeleton and the backbone that I work off of."

Once the script and designs are all completed, the real work of coding and testing the game begins. May and Bergeron's teams cycle down (or, most likely, move on to the next game in the process).

The talk was a simple look at an undoubtedly complex process, but it did offer some good insight into the marriage of story and mission design in the Assassin's Creed franchise.

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