As good as the the single player portion of Assassin's Creed III is, the designers of the game's multiplayer deserve credit for crafting one of the year's best gaming jokes-and for maybe getting the last laugh.
They've taken some of the most obnoxious things about modern gaming, and they've twisted them. In fact, they've damn near justified them at the same time they're mocking them.
The skewering comes in the form of the creepy video above, the first of several "developer diaries" unlocked as players gain experience playing in the game's multiplayer matches. Does it seem creepy? Creepier than the standard developer diaries that game companies are always putting out? It's supposed to be.
Leveling up more will unlock more official videos, all of which apparently will focus on the "official" story behind Abstergo Industries, the Templar-controlled company in Assassin's Creed games. They're the bad guys, more or less, and the supposed creators of ACIII's multiplayer mode.
You can unlock other videos that show these developers in another light. I've not gotten to these yet, but they're achieved by performing various achievements numerous times, like getting 50 ground finish bonuses or 20 aerial kills.
These videos show you the version of reality unearthed by a mysterious hacker called Erudito. Yes, this quasi-fictional, quasi-evil game you're playing has been hacked, which sort of makes the hacker the good guy.
Here's what a good hacker guy will do for you: he or she will let you access content early that you'd otherwise unlock only by playing the game-if you're willing to pay for it. That's right, this game lets you pay small amounts of real money to unlock taunts, weapons and other items that the game's real developers assure me can all be unlocked through simply playing the multiplayer game. Microtransactions, people… publishers love being able to charge you for stuff like this.
A couple of weeks ago, while I played online with the game's real-life lead multiplayer designer, I was told that the business people at his company wanted microtransactions but that the developers wanted to do something cool with them. Hence the whole hacking plot. Kind of weird, right?
If you want to, say, buy a taunt…
You can get those in-game Abstergo points (the amount next to the white icon) or pay in Erudito credits (the amount next to the orange icon)…
Same with this gun…
You can get your Eurdito credits for a few real bucks…
Microtransactions and slick promotions of games are facts of modern interactive entertainment. They're part of the promotional machine. It's no surprise to see another game embrace them. It's at least refreshing to see a game have some fun with them.
But if they were charging extra for in-game items that couldn't be earned through gameplay? On day one? Then I think we'd have a very different story. Good on Ubisoft for not doing that.