Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag
Assassin's Creed 3
Assassin's Creed Revelations
Level Design / Level Building
On Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag tutorial, I totally changed my design approach, learning from the mistakes of the previous game. Instead of a senseless chain of gameplay workshops, I built these tutorials like story-driven missions. The trainer keeps the player motivated asking him to accomplish tasks with a pirate mood, while gameplay details are explained through objectives, like in the single player experience.
I also designed a new system of tips, to prevent the player's flow from being broken by pop-ups that freeze the game and brutally stop the action.
To keep the focus on essential things, we created a specific map dedicated to tutorials, with simplified level-building, to focus player's attention on the essential and avoid distraction that may mislead him.
The aim of the tutorials is to show to the players the fun of the game, and give him essential tools to start playing without frustrations. So, to make the tutorials lighter, we deliberately decided not to teach certain mechanics that are not necesery to have fun in first sessions.
To complete this training and tease about abilities, we shooted a video for each ability, available directly from the ability selection menu. Thanks to this, players can watch the effect of each ability, find out how they works and what are their effects. It also works as a teaser, an incentive to unlock the abilites and actually play with them.
Customization & animation
The character customization has always been an attractive part of the game and this year we increased again the scope of customizable items. According to players' feedback on forum and statistics, the design of the feature was slightly updated for a better experience.
Outfits and gears now compatible and usable at the same time for more possibilities
Relics can be selected independently for each character
Face customization has been updated to fit with pirate mood
Taunt moves are now unlocked by playing with the character (the more you play with your favorite character, the more moves you unlock for this characters)
Storyline & medias
On Assassin's Creed III, the story tree was not convincing enough. For Black Flag, we decided to get rid of it and come back to something simple, closer to the usual Animus Database format.
The main Abstergo story arc is made of a video and five text files unlocked through leveling.
One audio file per character can been unlocked. To incitate the players to play with all the characters, and to fit with the "memory" setting of Assassin's Creed, the fils of each character is rewarded after player a certain number of session with the character.
For the maps, two files are available. One is focused on gameplay, with a short description of the map and its top-views with borders and capture zones, the other one visual with a pack of artworks. As for the characters, these files are unlocked by completing sessions on the maps.
As a tribute to previous episodes and sort of fan-service, a file for every map and character that has been released in Assassin's Creed Multiplayer so far is available for free in the Animus Database.
Conflict system and feedback
Assassin's Creed Multiplayer has a simple one-button interaction system that can result in different actions. The understanding of this system and the related frustrations is an essential point I worked on.
With UI team, I worked on new feedback to improve the accessibility of this system: enhanced feedback indicate more clearly when the player succeed his input, what he does (kill or stun), when he failed, or when he cannot interact while in a disabling status (stunned for instance).
I worked with animators to change the animation of the Contested Kill, misunderstood by most of players in previous episoded. The new animation, more obvious and working with the new feedback, helps understanding this mechanic.
I also designed a new system of camera, to offer a smoother progression in the kill types. In rough kills, players do not control anything, in mid-quality kills, the animation is still long and obvious but players can control the camera to anticipate their next move, and in high-quility kills, players have both a very short and discreet animation and full control of the camera.
Behaviors & Crowd
Lot of 3C behaviors and crowd management mechanics has been improved this year. As an exemple, it is now possible to blend with a single NPC instead of a group for more flexibility and consistency. Crowd groups also react more cleverly in objective mode to drive players toward their objectives.
New moves have also been designed and implemented to make the free-run smoother and more reactive, like the trunk around that allows to pass through a pillar or a trunk, or the improved vault move.
Accessibility has always been a tricky point in Assassin’s Creed Multiplayer, which is a complex game with several hard-to-get mechanics.
I designed and built three introductory sessions, teaching progressively the game mechanics, from the overall concept of the game to some advanced features.
The main challenge was to give enough details for the players to play efficiently, without getting them bored. This goal was partly missed as the tutorials were too long and too complex, without enough fantasy. However this first experiment gave me all the keys to change my approach and build something closer to players' expectations for Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, and to give them what they need: essential gameplay concepts and, more important, lot of entertainment.
I implemented myself these tutorials using the visual script editor of the engine to build the flow, and the level-design editor to insert relevant entities in the map and set their parameters. I also monitored playtest sessions to analyze playes' behavior and their understanding of the tutorials, to improve it when needed.
In Assassin’s Creed III Multiplayer, the character customization system was noticeably improved. First, the scope was extended, more specific weapons were produced per character, and every item had a name and a description, fixing the impersonal feeling that was present in Revelations. Then, two new major options were added: the costumes that drastically change the mood of a character, and the face customization, including scars, make up, war paints and their color.
The system of relics was also introduced in this game. Relics are specific items that are given to the player as rewards for certain accomplishements (e.g. reach level 50, complete all challenges) and that they can wear on their characters like a medal, to show off.
Animation & staging
I have designed the new contextual kills feature that give players the possibility to kill their target using the environment under certain conditions. This is a purely cosmetic feature that does not impact gameplay at all: this was a very hard constraints while designing this feature, as kills duration and animation are very impacting for the players in Assassin's Creed Multiplayer.
I have also designed the new warm-up step in the game flow, that allows players to see the characters of their adversaries before the session starts – and taunt them. This is a good way to show players’ characters and their customization, but also to identify the opponents, their level, their ranking and the character they will play, wich is key for advanced players. Then, at the end of a session, a podium staging highlights the winners of the session, giving them the opportunity to brag and a new incentive for everyone to reach the top three.
The abstergo story
Assassin's Creed Multiplayer has a strong context and I have designed the Abstergo Story in order to tie this story to gameplay, to involve players as much as possible. To reach this goal, the story is displayed like a tree, with nodes and branches, the branches being the actual story medias (files or videos) and the nodes the conditions.
These branches are unlocked linearly through leveling for main videos or depending on player’s action for side files. To strengthen the link between story and gameplay, I tried to create links between the mood of the challenge requried to unlock a file and the content of the actual file (challenges based on stealth to unlock the bio of a sneaky character for instance). The idea is also that player will first unlock files related to their way of playing, each player having a different tree at the same level.
For the first time ever, Assassin’s Creed Multiplayer featured in-game events triggered after launch. I have been in charge of designing the system, the planning and the content of these events, for all the game lifetime. To make events interesting and give players strong and different experiences, every event has a specific ambiance and gameplay mood. The ambiance is made by restricting maps and characters (e.g. playing exclusively dark characters on night maps). The gameplay mood is set by limiting the use of abilities and the selection ofmodes, leading the players to new ways of playing they may have not discovered or tried beforehand.
To make these events appealing for each category of players, several rewards are available for each event. A participation gift rewards any player who takes part in the event, a bigger unlock rewards players who get strongly involved in the community effort, and a community unlock is given to everyone at the end of the event.
I joined Ubisoft Annecy during the production of Assassin's Creed Revelations, the second game of the brand to offer a multiplayer experience. Built on the basis set with Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, this iteration add deep improvements and lot of new content, keeping the same concept, the "cats and mice" gameplay that makes the game so original.
As I joined the project quite lately and as it was my first job in the company, I did not have the ownership of the design of a specific feature for this project. However, I did a wide range of tasks and participated in tests and brainstorms to improve, complete and fix the game in the last stage of the production.
One of the first tasks I have been attributed on Assassin's Creed Revelations was to write the eManual of the game, directly available in the in-game menus. This is indeed an ingrate task basically assigned to trainees, but it is actually quite helpful. In order to explain the rules to the players, I had to discuss with the teams and dig into the details of the design document to make sure that I perfectly understand the design myself, to then be able to explain it.
Writing this manual was also a good exercise of accessibility: every single detail of the design is not necessarily useful for the player, so I had to sort the information, select what is the most appropriate and discard the rest, making sure to keep everything consistent and to provide the players with all the information they need.
At Ubisoft Annecy, it is a game-designer’s duty to manage the database of all the unlockables available in the game. Every single customization item, ability, character or game-mode must be entered manually in the game engine and I had to complete this task. Even if it was once again an ingrate task, it opened my eyes on the importance of the efficiency of tools and processes, and gave me a good overview of the massive scope of the game.
I also managed the content of the Animus Database, the menu section that contains all the useful information for the players like tips, options, news, as well as the storyline content. Lot of discussions with UI and GPP teams were necesary to make this part of the game work fine and fit with players' needs.
Debug & tweaking
I did some design tasks focused and debug and tweaking. For instance, I defined the design of the anti-cheat measures that was not totally complete, defining the maximum score threshold using simulations and statistics, as well as the message system to notify the player when a cheat attempts is detected.
We also did lot of tests of the game to find the last issues, playing with other people from the studio to try to identify gameplay flaws or any other major issue we may have missed.
Wakfu is a 2D tactical MMORPG taking place in the universe of French studio Ankama, the World of Twelve. Wakfu MMO is part of a bigger trans-media experience based on TV shows, comics, mangas, trading card game, and other video games on PC and consoles.
I worked on this project as a level-designer/level builder. I mainly used the editor to build environments (details below) and I did scripts for dynamic events using LUA .
The main challenges came from the graphic representation of the game (isometry with 2D assets) that allows low flexibility, the usual constraints of the MMO (especially the number of players that can be at the same place), and from the trans-media aspect of the brand. As some locations were already represented in the TV show or in comics (or both), the game must be as consistent as possible.
The market of Kelba
The market of Kelba is a very important place in the Wakfu universe: it is one of the first environments the heroes find in their travel in the TV show, the place where the famous Black Crow lives, and it also appears in a comic dedicated to this character (Wakfu Heroes 1 - The Black Crow). As it is strongly set in the lore, I worked under strong visual constraints and did long searches to feel the mood of the place, identify what makes it particular and what I can reproduce with the assets I had and considering the gameplay constraints.
I set different kinds of shops to recreate the variety of the location and the feeling of the actual market of Kelba, and tried to reproduce details the players may have seen in the TV show. Amongst all the shops, there is for instance a Boufball shop, a tailor, a fisher, a blacksmith, with for each case specific details added to strengthen the mood of the shop, make it easy to identify and bring a bit more of story.
As a trivia, I would like to add this link to a player's blog, who wrote a big article about the market, telling his own story of every shop according to the details I have set. As a designer, there is nothing more grateful than seeing people enjoying our work, and playing with what may have looked pointless or trivial at first glance. It also strengthens my opinion that level-building is a powerful storytelling tool.
Located at the border of the market of Kelba, Kabrok's shop is an important place in the third episode of the TV show. In this welcoming room, Yugo and his mates meet for the first time Kabrok and his charming wife Miranda. Building an interior is already a big challenge with this technology, but I also had to try to reproduce as close as possible this emblematic place, which makes this work even harder.
Three main steps were necesary to get to this result. First, I built the room, finding the best compromise to give enough room for the players to navigate without any trouble and trying to reproduce the volume we can see in the other medias. Then, I built the stands, using pictures from the TV show as references, then populating with goods and other details, once more to be as consistent as possible. Then, the harder part was about the lighting, to give depth to this flat square room, and strengthen the warm of the place.
Another emblematic place of the World of Twelve, the Flaqueux Village is the location of the fifth episode of the TV show and of a comic book (Wakfu Heroes 2 - Percimol) - a place well known by the fans.
The Flaqueux Village is a big open space in the wild, made of houses built in small hills and trunks with straw roof. The main challenge here was to build the hills in a smooth way, which is not easy with this kind of graphics. A hard work on lighting and color variations was also required to make the relief obvious, to make sure the players understand how to move in the village, where they can go and where they can't.
As the village is located in a plain covered by grass, relief were hard to notice, so I added extra bushes, rocks or mud to improve the understanding of the navigation within the village.
Tavern, torches & wells
My first task was to populate areas with wells and torchs. Both of these items are interactive and are not simply details. They are used as an alternative way to lead the players through the environment, like milestones implicitely acknowledging that they follow the right path: clever level design can give enough information to replace extra feedbacks. So, I set these items in the environment to drive the players to the points of interest, making the props smoothly integrated in the world but visible enough for the players to easily notice and access it.
Amakna is one of the first areas the players travel through and I created the interior of the tavern of this location. Taverns are always a point of interest for players so the inside should not be too jammed to allow easy navigation in this narrow place. However, it should not be too empty neither, to keep a living and warm feeling.
As for the Kabrok's Shop, offering easy navigation with enough props and details to avoid the feeling of an empty place was a hard challenge. Several tries were necesary before I actually found the best compromise, to give a consistent organization of furniture and other props.
Alife is my last year project at Supinfogame. The aim of this exercise was to create from scratch a convincing prototype of a game with a team of six students during 1 year. As a project manager, I have been leading this team for the entire year.
Alife is a real-time strategy game for iPad, based on the microscopic world. The player controls a virus that is spreading his infection within a living body. The user has to use tactics and strategies to play with genetic mechanism to evolve before the immune system gets the upper hand and use the features of the iPad to fight against the immune defense.
Project & team management
Even if we were doing a prototype and not a full game, we passed through all the game creation phases, from early design to polish. To handle the planning and the scope of the game, I took inspiration from agile methods like SCRUM and KANBAN. I set daily stand-up meetings and weekly round tables to keep the team involved and communicating, and to give priority to direct discussions.
I used a backlog to follow the scope of our prototype and its advancement, along with other production document, like a more classical planning or assets listings.
As a project manager, I had to manage a team of five others students as well as the production stuff. A team is made of various profiles and personalities and I have to try different things and spend time to understand how the team was working to find the best way to make them work efficiently in a welcoming environment. Finding the good balance between friendship and authority was quite hard, especially as in a student project, it is hard to have legitimacy as a project manager, as we do not have more experience in this domain than the other team members.
Webdesign & 2D art
As the deadlines were hard to meet and the team quite small, I had to do more than my project manager duties to make sure the projects goes right and to relieve my team from some tasks. First, as I have some skills in web-design, I entirely developed the website of your game and coded also its metagame, as a prototype for a side feature of our game. The principle of the metagame was that certain actions in the game will increase the infection on a world map shared by all players, using geolocation, in the aim of conquering the entire world.
Then, we have been asked to create a card game from our game concept in a week. As our artists were already busy doing trailers for this same deadline, I took the responsibility of doing the design of the cards. Taking inspirations from the 3D assets of our game, I draw all the graphics of the cards using illustrator.
I also created lot of marketing and communication documents, for internal communication or events like open doors days where external people could try our prototype.