Let’s be completely honest here. Some of you adored the economic system nestled within Assassin’s Creed III. Some of you did not. And, alas, a great many of you barely touched it. That’s because, aside from a few fleeting moments, AC3’s robust system of agriculture, manufacturing and trading wasn’t all that necessary to the game. The good news? That all changes in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag.
Why so? Because of Edward Kenway’s ship, the Jackdaw. The newest Assassin to join the Creed starts off as a pirate, and continues to embrace his nautical side throughout the game, to such an extent that many members of the dev team at Ubisoft Montreal have referred to the ship as the “second main character” in the game.
It’s not just a vehicle you’re using – it’s your baby
“Because of the naval element of the game, as you travel from location to location, you have to use the Jackdaw,” says Game Director Ashraf Ismail. “So it was really important for us that you feel like you’re in the U.S.S. Enterprise. It’s not just a vehicle you’re using – it’s your baby.” Indeed, with the Jackdaw being so essential to the gameplay, the team put a ton of effort into how you can customize the ship, including navigational upgrades, new weapons and the crew themselves. “These are all elements that made sense to us in a pirate setting,” Ismail says, “but also for players to feel a deeper connection to the character that they are playing.”
Which, of course, brings us back to Black Flag’s revamped economic system. “We wanted the progression of the Jackdaw, the upgrading of it, to have a lot of value for the players and to be the core element that drives you to explore new lands,” says Ismail. This means both a deeper and a simpler system. “We make it really clear to the players what you need to upgrade and, effectively, where you can get it,” Ismail says. “We made it very transparent with fairly easy rules.” That puts the fun squarely on the activities required to achieve your goals, rather than puzzling out the arcane aspects of an inscrutable economic system. That said, Ismail promises there’ll be plenty to please those fans who crave a deeper economy system, referring to Sid Meier’s Pirates as an example of the kind of depth on hand. “But again, we made things very transparent and easy to understand about the economy because it is the core driver for the upgrades.”
With a massive open world, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag has some big sails to fill when it comes to the game’s economy, but Ismail is confident the game will deliver. “As you’re heading to the next mission marker, we are going to put stuff around the world that’s going to make you constantly wonder what’s around the corner,” Ismail says. (“There are no corners in the ocean,” Ismail then corrects himself with a laugh.)
That means every new event on the horizon, or every new icon popping onto the mini-map, or every new ship off in the distance should serve as a “distraction” in the best sense of the word – tugging at players to navigate away from the story’s critical path and get lost in the larger world. “We really do want players to get lost, to become immersed, to be able to collect resources to upgrade the Jackdaw, to access deeper islands and fight tougher ships,” Ismail says.
We’ll have more details on the economy soon enough, but rest assured: it will better, clearer, and more essential. Because if the Jackdaw will be Edward Kenway’s Enterprise, the captain will need everything he can muster in order to fully explore the newest frontier on offer in Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag.