Deathmatching is easy. Everyone understands Deathmatch, but making players abide by strict rules based around deception and guile in an online game is another matter entirely.
In Assassin's Creed Brotherhood's three online modes players assume the role of Templars in training, hiding in plain sight and moving through crowds to assassinate other human players. It's a game about inaction and observation more than action and speedy reflexes, and a game that could only have been made by the team behind Splinter Cell's unrivalled Spies vs Mercs mode.
By the end of 2007 Ubisoft Annecy had been split in two. After wrapping up their work on Splinter Cell Double Agent's failed multiplayer mode, half of the French team were moved onto Dark Messiah Elements while the other half backed up Ubisoft's core studios on whichever games needed extra hands.
It was a sad end for the team behind Spy vs Mercs, but a chance to work on Assassin's Creed II's campaign early in 2009 presented a new opportunity for Annecy to once again do what they so clearly do better than anyone.
"In January we joined the Montreal Studio helping develop the Villa and a part of the economic system," says Annecy's Lead Designer Arnaud Mametz. "It was an interesting collaboration which provided us with the knowledge required to work on the franchise, and around the same time we had begun the conception of a multiplayer experience around the 'Killer' game."
Played on college campuses around the world, Killer - or 'Assassin' - is a game played 24 hours a day until every target has been eliminated. Players have a target - a fellow student or someone who lives in the same city - and must plot a mock assassination, all the while being hunted themselves.
A squirt from a water pistol while out shopping, a note reading 'poison' taped to the bottom of a dinner plate at lunch, or a ringing alarm clock in place of a bomb under your bed means you're dead.
"Our Chief Creative Officer proposed we use that gameplay mechanic within the Assassin's Creed universe," Arnaud continues. "Assassin's Creed gives us everything we need - an open world, an assassin, and it just feels 'natural'. It was a match made in heaven, and we already knew what it meant to introduce multiplayer to a single-player focused franchise. saw it was a real chance to introduce something unique."
It had been six years since they made Spy vs Mercs for Pandora Tomorrow. The two-on-two game gave Spies all the benefits of Sam Fisher's stealth and agility with none of the firepower and gave Mercs a colossal gun and lead shoes.
With Spies climbing walls and seeing the world in third-person and Mercs armed to the teeth but locked in a first-person view it was a very different game for each side and a game unlike any other. It was an idea created in Pandora Tomorrow, perfected in Chaos Theory, and ruined in Double Agent. Brotherhood would have to get the formula right first time out.
"One of the most important lessons I learned from Splinter Cell is that when you develop a multiplayer mode, you're often creating a very different core experience with different controls, rhythm, pace and game pillars. The player often needs to re-learn everything when they switch from multiplayer to single-player, which isn't optimal."
"We believed that Brotherhood's multiplayer should be an extension of the solo experience, not a different one. We wanted each experience to be seamless, so that you could play each without an extra learning curve - if you had played one, you had to be able to play the other."