Ubisoft will go over "the edge" with Assassin's Creed 5 for next generation consoles - that's to say, the next game in the series won't just be a cosmetic update that crams additional textures, lighting effects and the like into what's fundamentally the same experience as on Xbox 360.
According to Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag lead game designer Jean-Sebastien Decant, possibilities include the ability to "share" your open world with other players, or even participate in "multiplayer stuff" - after the example of new IP Watch Dogs, which will now release in spring 2014 for current and next generation platforms.
"We thought about next-gen graphics and in order to explore that we used the high-end PCs on the side, and then we continued just what we started with the previous games and built upon that," Decant said of the well-received fourth game in an interview with Gamereactor. The result, he suggested, is a game that's "really on the edge" of the generation transition, but one that hasn't fully capitalised on the new hardware.
"I think we're going toward a gaming place where the open world will be shared with other players," Decant added, when the site asked about plans for the unannounced fifth game. "More and more. Socially speaking, but also maybe [in terms of] multiplayer stuff. And we will have to consider the open world much more like a platform that we could sustain for years."
This last bit makes it sound rather like Ubisoft intends to turn Assassin's Creed into something redolent of an MMO, propped up by a steady stream of new content and features. An obvious analogy would be the world of GTA Online, which will expand both geographically and in terms of missions and micro-transactables over the coming months.
Another point of comparison is the aforesaid Watch Dogs. "Absolutely, Watch Dogs is kind of showing us the path for the future," Decant agreed, when pressed on the subject. "Absolutely. But we have to create a... We have to respect our brands. So if we have to go that way with Assassin's Creed we have to think about how it could fit into Assassin's Creed."
As regards how the nuts and bolts of exploring and/or conquering that world will evolve, the jury appears to be out at Ubisoft. "The core pillars are still social stealth being able to blend into the crowd and finding a way to reach your target without being seen. There is this idea of having the parkour - you can jump around - and then the notion of freedom that combines everything.
"These are the roots of Assassin's Creed. We will try and work and build upon them. We cannot tell you that we're happy and this is how we want the game to be and we're going to do ten more games with exactly that same gameplay. No, we are unhappy. We want to do more.
"There are lots of things we want to refine on the combat side, on the parkour, on the stealth. Of course. We managed I think to bring back the stealth in Assassin's Creed, which was something that was a bit put on the side in the previous episodes.
"So on that we're very happy and I also think we kind of totally exploded the limits of the game by bringing the naval and the ship customisation and the ship battles. So we made progress, thanks actually to the thematics that we chose. Next time we will have to find thematics that will help us also to expand the game once again."
A number of hints about Assassin's Creed 5 and the franchise's future at large appear in Black Flag - care to subject them to a grilling? According to other developers at Ubisoft, exclusively modern-day and/or stealth-focused iterations are unlikely for various reasons. Game director Ashraf Ismail would love to visit Ancient Egypt, though.