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Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag writer describes challenges of writing for a game versus a movie

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag is the latest entry in a franchise with an action-heavy, complex story, and lead writer Darby McDevitt described the unique challenges of writing for the game in an interview with GameSpot.

While the Assassin's Creed titles include many cinematic sequences, it's gameplay that drives everything forward, which forces Black Flag's writing staff to collaborate closely with its game designers, said McDevitt.

"I have to end a lot of these scenes with a clear gameplay objective," he explained. "It has to be like, 'Let's steal that ship,' or, 'Let's do this physical thing that the player can now say I know how to accomplish that through the gameplay mechanics.'"

McDevitt also pointed out that game writers have to remain mindful of the constraints of the medium: namely, the limited resources the developers have at their disposal to realize the writers' ideas in the game. He described writing a scene in which a single tear rolls down a character's cheek, and said the gameplay team nixed it because it would've taken eight weeks to put that scene together.

There's give and take on both ends, McDevitt added. If the designers create a thrilling action segment that's a lot of fun to play, the writers have to consider how that could change the story.

"It's like Jackie Chan writing a movie with his fight choreographers, you know," said McDevitt.

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag launches Oct. 29 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows PC, Wii U and PlayStation 4. Check out our comprehensive preview for more details.

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