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Interview with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Creative Director Jean Guesdon

Jo Wylie ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Writer

This interview was done with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Creative Director Jean Guesdon over email.

Emertainment Monthly: So the last game ended with Desmond gone and Juno’s apparent evil unleashed. How does the new, player-based protagonist interact with Juno’s plotline? Or is Juno’s story put on a backburner this game, on hold for later installments?

Jean Guesdon: We make sure to continue to develop a true, consistent and cohesive narrative universe on all media. Being a “sequel” to AC3’s present day narrative, AC4: Black Flag will obviously refer to the AC3’s ending events. You will understand that I won’t say too much, but be reassured that the Juno’s story is not on a backburner and all what has been said previously is still valid in our own narrative.

Black Flag is in a position to explore the world of the Templars in more depth than most previous games, with the protagonist’s position as an Abstergo employee and Kenway’s apparent indecision between the Templars and Assassins. What parts of the Templar’s world might we be seeing that we haven’t seen before?

In Assassin’s Creed, we’ve always said that none of the Assassins or the Templars are the “good guys” and the others the “bad ones.” It is sometimes hard to convey these nuances and show a “not-too-black-and-white world” but with Black Flag we have the opportunity to follow the life of a man, Edward Kenway, that is not, in the first place, part of one of the two order. This will allow us to re-expose the two groups and their respective philosophies in a more “objective” way. In addition to that, making players Abstergo employees allows us to make them go deeper “behind the curtain” and maybe discover some more information about this secret and important company.

With Black Flag being released on the next generation of gaming platforms, what new opportunities did the next gen technology provide the Assassins Creed team? Were there any previously discarded ideas that were able to make it into Black Flag thanks to the new systems?

Being released on all available platforms is both an incredible opportunity and also a big dilemma. Do we want all players to enjoy the same experience? Do we want to focus our energies delivering the best possible game for everybody or do we want to split the effort creating too different experiences? We made the choice to concentrate our work on delivering the same game but making sure to use the incredible power that the new consoles offer us to bring the immersion even further. Black Flag on Xbox One or PS4 will look SPECTACULAR. When you will have played the game with the smoke of cannons, the ocean simulation, the physic of plants and leafs as we designed it to be played you will find hard to come back to the old gen.

Some of the cinematic trailers have hinted at an increased interaction with Kenway’s surroundings while playing – one memorable moment being when he was shown catching a bottle in midair and killing a man with it. Will there be more interaction with the world in Black Flag? What kind of thing can we look forward to?

Cinematic trailers are mostly created to convey the setting, the spirit and the mood of the upcoming game. We use the freedom that working outside of the game engine gives us to go slightly beyond the game features, to tell an engaging and exciting story that sets up the core concepts of the game. In the E3 trailer’s case: we don’t have complete free environment interaction such as catching bottles mid-air. But, in the trailer, you see one entire mission that seamlessly transitions from a tavern to the open sea, and ends with a boarding: a core concept of our open-world gameplay. You also see a how an Assassin would approach boarding an enemy ship: using the rigging and targeting the captain straight away. And you also, obviously, get a glimpse of one of a pivotal element of the plot.

Speaking of Kenway’s setting, what kind of mood does Assassins Creed 4 create with its pirate setting? Although the Assassins Creed games will always have dark themes, is Kenway’s world closer to the darker, grittier worlds of Altair and Connor, or the more bright and exuberant Italian renaissance setting Ezio inhabited?

One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that we’re talking about criminals that have an ambitious serious goal (setting up a democratic society of their own), but that all this is taking place in the amazing world of the Caribbean with bright blue sky and water, exuberant tropical vegetation and super-colored human life.
Black Flag tells the story of a man in search of himself and his place in the world but in a very beautiful environment that naturally creates an interesting contrast.

What words would be best used to describe Kenway’s character? Stoic? Suave? And how does that character change over the course of the game?

I would personally say that, when we first meet him, Edward is a likable criminal. He’s selfish and motivated by gold and fame but he truly is a good man looking for a better life. During the course of the game we will follow him as he progressively evolves from that very “teenage” attitude of rebellion and authority refusal to a more adult and responsible personality. He will slowly understand duty and the fact that without rules and structure you can’t build anything, including your own life.

Seeing two lovely, uh, wenches in the teaser trailer for Black Flag leaves us wondering – will Kenway be getting up to the same woman-related shenanigans as Ezio often did?

I won’t spoil Edward’s private life here  but be reassured that he is a likable man that has no problem in his relations with women.

It’s no secret that the fans love the, often gruesome, counter-attack combos that are prominent parts of Assassins Creed battle gameplay. Are there any new weapons or weapon combinations that allow for exciting counter attacks in Black Flag?

The combat plays very similarly to AC 3’s combat, but dual swords and the 4 flintlock pistols really take it to a whole new level. The multi-pistols mechanic enables you to shoot any enemy mid-combo, so it gives a whole new dimension to how you approach a combat situation. Free-aim enables you to pick off some enemies before the fight even starts, which also helps a lot.

Are there any characters or settings that hold a particular place in the teams heart from this game, that were the most challenging to create or fun to design?

I think that the entire team LOVES the world of Black Flag. We’ve managed to create a true inspiring, beautiful and attractive playground for hours and hours of adventure and exploration. The gameplay variety is also something we’re extremely proud of and we’ve made sure that everything is relevant to the time period.
About characters beside Edward we all love Blackbeard and a certain character we haven’t revealed yet… and I bet you will do too.

Not to wish away what is doubtless going to be an excellent game by looking too far ahead, but is there any chance of knowing where Ubisoft is aiming for the future of Assassins Creed? Is AC4 the first in a new trilogy?

You will discover this next year!

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With this wonderful set of responses from Mr. Guesdon, we’ve really had the chance to sneak a peek into Edward’s world through the eyes of its creators. There certainly seems a great deal of promise here for a sandbox that players will love to explore and interact with, and the hints we’ve been given into the plot and gameplay are nothing short of tantalizing. We’re excited to explore Abstergo as an employee and get to know the smooth, ‘likable criminal’ that Edward seems to be shaping up to be.

Most of all, though, Guesdon’s hint at a new character we haven’t met yet is very intriguing – what historical character could Ubisoft unveil to join us on our adventures through eighteenth century Cuba? There have already been rumors of famous pirates Anne Bonny or Calico Jack joining the team, and both of them would be excellent additions. Our money is on Bonny; the Assassins Creed has done well with strong female side characters in the past, and none have been revealed for Black Flag just yet. Any guess is just supposition, for now, but Mr Guesdon’s excellent answers have certainly got us looking forward to the game all the more, so we’ll surely be finding out for ourselves later this year.

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