Ubisoft's Creative Lead Wants To Move Away From Linear Narratives
Taking the Assassin's Creed and Far Cry franchises into account, most open-world Ubisoft games have traditionally carried a narrative thread throughout the experience, littering scores of side quests along the side of this on-rails narrative to entertain players between main missions. If Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoët has his way, he wants to do away with the linear experience altogether.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Monde, Hascoët outlined his problems with the publisher's current approach, which has gifted gamers memorable personalities like Ezio Auditore da Firenze and Vaas. "When there are cutscenes in a game, it bothers me, because it removes my ability for expression," he says. "During these scenes, I'm not doing what I want to do, which is evolve in this world. I don't want us to write one story, I want there to be tens of thousands of stories, that each character has one, and I can speak to them if I want to know that story."
He further explained what he views to be the more attractive alternative: "What interests me is to create worlds that are interesting to me as well as to anyone else," he says. "If I have a game set in San Francisco (like Watch Dogs 2), I'd want even my mom to be able to have fun, drive a boat, helicopter, car... There has to be interesting people to meet, too, and that they come across well. Also, the player has to be able to enjoy themselves. We want to give them many methods: private detective, assassin, hacker, hunter... You can try out these professions along with their problems, and to become more powerful."
As person who believes narratives is the key lynchpin to some of the best games of all time (namely Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us), this news is slightly disappointing. I'm always supportive of developers exploring new approaches, but Hascoët's dream seems prohibitively expensive. This type of game may already exist in Rockstar's popular Grand Theft Auto Online, which was created thanks to the developer's deep pockets no doubt stuffed by the single-player component of Grand Theft Auto V, and years of steadfast commitment to adding new content. Rockstar continually updates the game with new activities for players to pursue. If you ship with too little content and no narrative experience, and players feel underwhelmed, it could doom the project before matures. Risky business.