All leading to this post, which will be about the time AC2 most immersed me, and how more of the same might be the best way to make a transcendent experience.
When Story Worked
There was a section of the game that really worked for me. I'm not sure how best to describe it, but when I first arrived in a "Thieve's Guild" kind of location and was taught how to do high vertical jumps on walls, there was a string of missions that seemed focus on a specific kill target, and where each mission seemed a stage of prep to that kill. This mission-string format was echoed in former and latter sections, but never as well, and were I doing the next AC game, I would find focus on why.
Previously, I described that planning would make me feel more assassin but that building planning gameplay would probably lead to fail-based progression that disrupts immersion. But playing missions with results that build up to an assassination mission makes me feel like I did the preparation and orchestrated its events, even if they play out in a scripted manner; and the last mission should be a final celebration of these actions more than a complicated gameplay task (though one could arise as a twist).
A proposal for a string of missions leading to an assassination might be:
- Clearly identify the target and obstacle(s) to assassinating it.
- Have each mission end in overcoming or introducing an obstacle.
- In the final mission, trigger events that highlight previous mission activities via action or script.
- In each string of missions, require a choice from the assassin (can be scripted; it needn't be the player's choice) needed to overcome his obstacles and near his (assassination) objective, and that highlights (for better or worse) the protagonist's primary internal struggle. (But Desmond's or the assassin's?)
- In each string of missions, introduce a new obstacle or target in the overall storyline.
Even more requirements -- e.g., that every other assassination be unique -- could also add some nice spice. Having one mission end in poisoning a victim, another driving a carriage to a straightaway towards a cliff, and another in stabbing a cornered villain in an alleyway does more to make me feel like a master assassin than jumping on a guy and stabbing him every time.
Another game I remember pulling off this approach effectively is Sly Cooper 2. The process of implementing story in this way requires planning but the execution is not as costly as re-approaching core gameplay systems; and the result is going a lot further in making me feel like a master assassin.
A few last odds and ends on Monday.