Assassins Creed: Black Flag was the sixth instalment in the best-selling franchise. To promote its release and drive pre-orders, we were asked to create an experience which would immerse fans in the all new piratical setting in which the game is based. The experience should excite and engage the existing fan base as well as encouraging people to invite friends to experience the pirate life.
The idea, which we developed in association with our friends at Tea Creative, was a multiplayer game involving 4 main stages, Tease, Recruitment, Explore & Plunder, and finally a Battle to the Death!
We commissioned the artist Vic Lee to create a limited edition pirate themed illustration, which would form part of the overall game prize. Vic created the illustration in stages, as we required it at different stages of completion to form part of our teaser campaign.
The first teaser was a distressed looking card which had an illustration of the Ace of Spades logo, a cryptic series of numbers which were in fact the IP address for the campaign website and a riddle “From flight to spite, where her wicked soul rests”. This was sent to key journalists and bloggers as well as being handed out to fans at Europe’s biggest video game conference, the Eurogamer Expo.
The riddle led people to the shipwreck site of the Queen Anne’s Revenge off of the coast of North Carolina, and if fans searched for this it would lead them to a set of co-ordinates which they could input on our website to gain early access to the recruitment phase of the game.
Once the recruitment phase opened, users were first presented with the option of becoming either ‘Captain’ or ‘Crew’. Captains had the responsibility of filling their ship with 7 crew members by either inviting their friends or inviting people from the pool of available crew, but they also had the privilege of naming the ship, defining the ships articles and creating the ships flag. Crew members could apply to join any vessel with available places or accept an invitation from a Captain to join their ship.
Only once a ship was full did it become ready to set sail…
This phase would last for 4 days and each day the ships Captain would have the ability to plot the ships course around the Caribbean within the allowed mileage limits. New points to explore were released each day, each containing various types of content: questions to answer; riddles to decipher; word or picture tasks; or games of chance – each of which would win or lose you and your ship gold. The idea was to encourage all members of a ship to work together: exploring, and gaining as much booty for their ship as possible, to move them up the overall leaderboard.
To add to the overall pirate experience, and give it a real feeling of authenticity, we added a feature where crew members could mutiny against their captain if he was inactive and preventing the rest of the crew continuing the game. If the captain returned to his ship to plot its course the mutiny would be averted but if he remained absent, the mutineer would become captain and gain control of the vessel for that day.
At the end of day 4 the leaderboard was frozen, and the final phase of ‘Death or Glory’ began. Captains could challenge other ships, within a certain range of themselves on the leaderboard, to a battle where each crew member fired 6 shots at the opposing ship within a certain time, in order to gain the highest overall score. The ship with the highest score was victorious and took all of their booty, removing the opponent from the game forever!
For Ace of Spades the interface and leaderboard were designed to make it easy and intuitive for captains to choose opposing boats to battle against and also see how their crews were performing in each battle. If the crew were not taking their shots this would, of course, affect the ships overall performance, so captains were encouraged to communicate with their crew to make sure they pulled their weight.
We created an immensely detailed and immersive WebGL based game with real environment effects such as wind and waves, which would affect each cannon shot fired. The resulting position of each hit returned a score based on where it hit the opposing ship. All of these factors led to some amazing battles and an amazing response on social media to the game and the overall idea of… Death or Glory!