Assassin’s Creed III – Captain Kidd Missions
- Company: Ubisoft
- Role: Level Design Director
- Period: October 2010 – October 2012
- Tools: 3DSMax / Anvil Engine (In house Engine)
- Platforms: X360 / PS3 / PC
The Captain Kidd Missions, or as they are called in Assassin’s Creed 3 ‘Peg Leg’ Missions are AC3’s version of Linear Gameplay Sequences (LGS). Linear levels focusing on testing the acrobatic moves of the Assassin similar to the Prince of Persia franchise. LGS levels have been in every instalment of Assassin’s Creed since AC2 and have been exclusively developed by the Singapore studio.
When concepting the LGS for AC3 the main challenge I faced was that there were no famous landmarks in the Americas at this point in history, no St Peters Cathedral, no Colosseum, no Galata Tower. The 2 main things that I wanted to achieve with the LGS levels were that they were all real locations and that each of them had some history, legend or mystery associated with it that elevated it above just a random location. By using the Aquila (Assassin Ship) to reach them, it allowed me the whole of the Eastern Seaboard to play with. From these constraints and my research it was logic to tie them all together into a treasure hunt for a Pirate treasure, however the treasure needed to be meaningful enough to divert your attention from the Revolution.
The objective in each LGS is to find part of a treasure map from Captain Kidd that leads to his “other-worldy” (First Civilisation) treasure. Kidd on knowing he was about to be captured by the British had split the map into pieces and entrusted them to members of his crew with instructions that he would retrieve them at a later date. Of course he was hung and never did, so the crew went their separate ways and took the map fragments with them.
My role as Level Design Director was to concept all of the levels and manage the production of them. Once I had the initial pitch for each of the levels (which consisted of Location, Gameplay focus and a Brief description of the narrative content) the level designer was given freedom to add their own flavour to it. My role from this point forward was giving direction and feedback to make sure the level stayed true to my initial vision and that all other departments (Art, Animation etc) bought into the same vision.
LGS1: Fort Wolcott
Fort Wolcott was a British fort located on Goat Island that was destroyed by Rebels (it was actually named Fort George at the time, but as we had another major fort in the game called Fort George we decided to go with its modern name to avoid confusion). In this mission it is revealed Captain Kidd’s crewmember was imprisoned and executed here, so the map is likely to be hidden in the cells. Connor must sneak through the fort undetected, but upon finding the map he is ambushed. The Aquila bombards the fort from the sea and a dynamic escape ensues.
The biggest challenges involved in this map were the scale and destructive nature of the level. To combat the size issue we tried to reuse as much of the areas on the escape out – so although it is a long level we could reuse assets throughout. We also had to be careful to block off some of the more open areas from player exploration to save work. The other challenge was that the level was designed to be destroyed, the level design team worked very closely with the art and animation teams to be as impactful as possible with efficient use of cinematics and framing.
LGS2: The Ruins at Cerros
Cerros is slightly different from the rest of the LGS in that it doesn’t contain a map fragment, but Captain Kidd sword. This mission is only available for Gamestop preorder customers and therefore it must be self-contained as not all players will have access to it. The sword is located in the alter room of Cerros’ Lost Mayan Ruins. Connor must find a path through the dense jungle and crumbling ruins to reach the treasure.
LGS3: Dead Chest’s Treasure
Dead Chest Island is the site of a huge ship graveyard. The crewmember of Captain Kidd had met his fate here, so the map fragment must be somewhere among the rotting hulls. Connor is not the only one searching for it and a gang of smugglers have reached it first – Connor must chase the smuggler through the ship carcasses and retrieve the map.
Chase maps are one of our strongest expertise in the Singapore studio (as you can see I designed one myself on ACB), however the challenge is how to make a visually rich chase when the player only sees each part of the environment for a matter of seconds. Although the end result is a little shorter than I would have liked, the adrenaline is kept high throughout the chase and it is a very satisfying experience.
LGS4: The Ghost Ship
The Octavius is a legendary ghost ship. It was supposedly lost in the North West Passages and there were reports of it being found and boarded by the whaling vessel Herald – the crew reportedly all frozen in position. There were other reports of sailors seeing it trapped in ice at many different locations in the NW Passages. In AC3 the captain of the vessel was a member of Captain Kidd’s crew and Connor must find the map fragment in his cabin. However the presence of Connor here inside the ship causes it to dislodge from the ice and begin to sink – Connor must escape the sinking ship with the map before he is swallowed by the icy water.
The key sequence of this level is the dynamic escape through a sinking boat. We had to approach this knowing we only had a small budget in terms of realization and cinematics (compared to say the sinking tanker in Uncharted 3 which was the showpiece mission of the game), so through clever use of the engine and well placed cinematics we were able to convey the sense of a sinking ship.
LGS5: The Mad Doctor’s Castle
Edinburgh Castle (no not that one, the one in Jamaica) was built by Lewis Hutchinson the first recorded serial killer in Jamaica’s history. The Scottish immigrant known as the mad doctor would entice travelers to his castle before murdering them for sport. As a keen collector and grave-robber, he had found the map fragment you are looking for in the local cemetery and added it to his vast collection of oddities – caught and tried years before you must explore his abandoned castle and solve the mystery of what happened here to find the map.
For me this was by far the hardest LGS to produce. We were aiming for something very different to what we had done in the past – it has an almost survival horror feel to it. The key was to build on the atmosphere and story of the level, as gameplay wise it is not too challenging. I think we succeeded and bought something fresh to the LGS experience.
LGS6: Oak Island
Oak Island was suggested to me as a location by the creative team in Montreal, it is very famous in Canada as a site of hidden treasure. This combined with its pirate links made it the perfect location for the final LGS. Having found all the map fragments, Connor must solve Captain Kidd’s riddle to find the location of the treasure on Oak Island – using Eagle Vision and markings left by Kidd, Connor is able to find where X marks the spot. The intention for this level was to give the feeling of an old fashioned treasure hunt, like the Easter egg hunts many people play as children. The treasure itself is a magnetic First Civilisation device that creates a force field around the wearer and deflects bullets (explaining Captain Kidd almost supernatural powers). This magnetism was the only thing holding the cave where it was left together, and Connor must escape whilst everything collapses around him.