With the hype and the build for most games now it can often become hard to try and remember just how a game was built after its release. Many of them blur together for me now, trailers and PR stunts mashing together into a mass of game information that could refer to just about anything. However, I have very distinct memories of the build up to the original Assassin’s Creed, the information that slowly trickled out of Ubisoft between announcement and release sticks in my mind.
It wasn’t the story or the hints at the existence of the Animus that intrigued me, it wasn’t even the setting or the fight mechanics. No, it was the scale and the scope of the world they were building, the freedom they were giving you and, very particularly, the way they were building their crowds.
The crowds of Assassin's Creed are really what sold it to me.
I’ve never got this feeling from Assassin’s Creed, there’s a hustle and a bustle to the world that somehow makes it feel like those who inhabit it with you have a purpose, have a destination in mind. That’s not to say they actually vanish at the appropriate times or ever really reach the end of their journey, as far as I know you can follow any character within the game indefinitely.
This new technology that was first on show in the first Assassin’s Creed title was something that just stuck with me during the game’s development, and has been one of the driving reasons that I’ve enjoyed the series since then. It was also one of the games that, to me at least, showcased the raw horse power of this generation, with Ubisoft actually saying that the crowd dynamics which help define the series just weren’t possible until the current console hardware came into being.
There are of course many games that have capitalised on that same processor grunt since, with open world titles seeming to be becoming one of the distinctive flavours of this generation. They’ve always been around really, but the number and spectrum of games employing the mechanic does seem to be on the rise now. That does leave me wondering whether or not they’ll become increasingly common as consoles and PCs continue to improve the hardware that’s on offer.
I’m not sure how I’d feel about that really, it’d certainly be interesting. Would an open world shooter work? Whilst the heavy hitters in the Call of Duty series have become increasingly driven and linear, there have been hints of openness in the Halo series amongst others.
Initially it seemed to me that an open world shooter probably wouldn’t work all that well, but there was Far Cry 2. The open plains of Africa were the setting, and it seemed to be not just a fresh take on shooter but on open worlds themselves to some extent. Perhaps there is hope for completely open shooters, although with the number of games taking cues from Call of Duty at this point it may be a while before we see them.
An open shooter might not seem like it should work, but realistically who doesn't want to attack via hang glider?
I’m not convinced that we’ll ever get close to openness in every game of course, it would be horribly dull for a start, but I do think that the flexibility that comes with added power will make them feature a lot more heavily in the future of gaming than they have in its past. Personally I welcome this open future, although I recognise not every one will. Hopefully the design of open world games will evolve to remove the issues commonly brought up by detractors, typically the story element outlined above or repetition, to improve the gaming landscape for the good.